Thanks, Everyone.

In general, I try to express my gratitude to everyone I can, as often as I can. I know how good it feels to have someone tell me "thanks" so I want to return that favor as often as possible. It's sometimes easy to forget the small things I should be thanking people for- but not today! There are plenty of thanks to go around this Friday :)

Thanks, Amanda- for the great recommendation on printing your blog as a book. It's been something on my radar for awhile now but I'm finally pulling the trigger and going with Blog2Print.

Thanks, Blogging- for the numerous opportunities you have provided me. Some are monetary, sure, but the friendships and networking that have come from blogging are something I never expected!

Thanks, Boss- for the raise this week!! I honestly wasn't expecting it at all which made it that much more amazing. Things like that always seem to come at the time I need them most.

Thanks, Disney- for the cruise planning DVD you sent us. I officially cannot stop thinking about vacations now, particularly yours!!

ThanksRachael- for the sweet twitter shout-outs. You give me way too much credit, but you always make my day!

Thanks, Weather- for not dumping too much snow on us this week. I can take 1-2" but please, let's leave it at that.

ThanksKayla- for always praying for me and supporting me. I'm a mess most of the time but you still put up with me and my psycho-brain.

Thanks, Jared- for all you do for me and for our family. I truly feel lucky EVERY single day that I'm married to you.

Thanks, Super Bowl- for being the best weekend of the entire year. Now if only we could get Monday to be a national holiday. (Pst- don't forget your Bingo cards here)

Thanks, FRIDAY- for getting here finally!!!! :)

Super Bowl Party Ideas

Obviously this week wouldn't be complete without some love for the Super Bowl happening this Sunday. Am I still mourning my team's loss in the playoffs? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean I can't still have friends over for food, fun and football. Sometimes, I wonder if I should change my blog name to that instead... gosh, I enjoy food!

Jared and I are still frugal people for the most part, and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money to have a lot of fun. I printed out the team's logos for the game and cut them out. Each guest can pick who they think will win, write a score prediction and their name and hang it up on a fun, simple poster. The person with the closest prediction gets a small prize at the end of the night. It doesn't have to be much, even a $5 giftcard, a few goodies from the Dollar Store or a box of cookies can be a fun take-home for anyone!

I also made up Bingo cards for this year- which by the way, took entirely too long ;) You lucky ducks can scroll down to the bottom of the post to download them for your own parties! They aren't perfect, but they get the job done. I made 10 varieties of the card and guests can either use snacks like trail mix or almonds to cover their squares throughout the game, or mark them off with a pen if they're too busy chowing down to save any for game pieces.

I mixed in a fair amount of commercials to look for, game-related calls and even celebrity sightings. This way if you have guests that aren't as into the game as others, it gives them a reason to watch and participate.

I'm keeping the food simple- lots of finger foods and snacks that can be put out in bowls throughout our house. In a tri-level home, it's inevitable that there will be people in different areas of the house all night long so it's nice to have simple food that can be snacked on anywhere.
We'll have a both salty and sweet snacks which I think is a winning combination ;) Gold Emblem Buttered Flavored Popcorn and Pretzel Sticks plus Soft Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies and Sparkling Fruit Water. If you're looking for lots of tasty treats and don't want to spend a fortune, CVS/pharmacy is the place to shop. Did you know they have more than 250 products in their Gold Emblem line? Well, you do now! Get to one of the 7,800 locations across the U.S., stock up on the goodies (almost all under $5) and print those Bingo cards!

Bingo Card 1
Bingo Card 2
Bingo Card 3
Bingo Card 4
Bingo Card 5

Now I need to know... who are you all cheering for this Sunday??

I’m proud to partner with CVS/pharmacy as a Gold Emblem Super Bowl Party Host. I am being sponsored to help lead this campaign, but all opinions expressed are my own, and all  product claims or program details shared should be verified at or with the appropriate  manufacturers.

If I Could...

Snagged the idea for this post from Katie! Thanks :)

If I Could... Only shop in one clothing store for the rest of my life it would be The LOFT.

If I Could... Teleport anywhere this weekend it would be Bora Bora. 

If I Could... Meet one blogging friend this year it would be Kristin.

If I Could... Have Belle's job I'd take it in a heartbeat.

If I Could... Eat mexican food every day of my life and never gain weight, I would.

If I Could... Be friends with any fictional character it would be Anne of Green Gables. Okay- I wouldn't mind meeting Gil either ;)

If I Could... Go back in time just for the day I'd visit the roaring 20s.

If I Could... Have any pet I wanted I'd get a dalmatian. (Sigh, I'm allergic to dogs) 

If I Could... Compete in one Olympic sport I'd pick archery. Bring it on, Katniss!

If I Could... Give this guy the moon I would. He deserves it!! :)

Not Enough Brain Power

I should probably find some clever or creative way to start a Monday morning post- but honestly that just requires a little too much brain power after a weekend. We all know Mondays are typically going to involve a lot of weekend recaps in our Bloglovin' feed, so I hope that's okay... because it's what you're getting today ;)

Friday evening I had a girls night-in with delicious food and hours of conversation. It was one of those evenings where talking just took over after dinner and when I looked down to check the time it was after 11! It was so nice catching up with other ladies and just enjoying quality time together. Local friends- next time you need cupcakes you must go through Abby Girl Sweets. They've got 2 locations and I have never tasted such delicious flavors.

So of course after indulging a little on Friday night, Jared and I needed a seriously intense workout on Saturday. 60 minutes of cardio absolutely kicked my butt. That means the rest of our evening involved ice packs and re-watching The Office. It seems like every January since we've been married we start the series over again. It's such a great show I just never get sick of them! Jim and Pam are finally dating and I got excited all over again ;)

Sunday consisted of church, a guest-pass to Sam's Club (um- my first time there and we definitely stocked up!) and starting few small projects in our house. There are a million and three things we'd like to do to our house. Some are tiny things like just updating a lamp, or getting a frame for a certain photo while others are bigger things like replacing our carpet and possibly painting a fireplace. The list is miiiiiles long though and it's super overwhelming to look at it all at once. Since our debt is gone, we can finally take some time to focus on the projects little by little, though. We're starting with our bedroom and bought a cute new decorative tree-light-thingy that I'm obsessed with. We rearranged some furniture and chipped away at the room to-do list a little which felt great!
(Top left, going clockwise: Those delicious cupcakes I told you about; our cute new decorative piece; a sweaty-selfie after the gym, our loot from Sam's Club; and my favorite cup & The Office go hand-in-hand

Hard to believe this month is coming to a close already, but I'm definitely okay with that. Let's get these winter months out of the way. Yes, I'm already wishing for Spring ;)

Setting Myself Up to Succeed with Ester-C

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias and its Advertiser. All thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone and should not be construed as medical advice. #24HourEsterC #CollectiveBias

There is nothing better than the first couple months of a new year. Everything has been wiped clean from the slate and you feel ready to tackle the world. I look forward to this time of year and get so excited to reach new goals I plan for myself! I wanted to share a few sectors of goals that I've set for 2015. 
Career goals - This one is basically 'figure out what the heck I want to do with my life.' Unfortunately I have tried with no luck to move up at my current job and it's pretty discouraging at this point. I don't like to share a ton of job details on the internet because I don't really feel it's the place to, but I do know I need to make some decisions in 2015 regarding my career. Fingers crossed I make the right ones.

Financial Goals - While Sallie & Perkins are officially done paying off their student loans, things don't stop there. We plan to follow through with Dave Ramsey's baby steps, but we need to sit down and figure out exactly where we go from here. Finances aren't always super fun to talk about, but being on the same page as Jared and now being debt-free makes it much easier.

Fitness/Health - Last year was a rollercoaster for me. Up and down with fitness and health, all over the board it seemed. I would try to make a routine stick and it would... for awhile. I hope 2015 is the year I really can make those lifestyle changes that will help me be a healthier person for years to come. I want to come full circle with my body-- exercising consistently, putting the right foods into my body and making sure I support my immune system. 

Ester-C is something I pick up at Walmart and have on hand at all times as part of keeping up with my health and fitness goals. I’m also a big fan of the fact that it’s really gentle on my stomach. Other Vitamin-C tablets can often irritate a sensitive belly but these absolutely do not. It’s nice to know I can take it anytime I want with zero side-effects.

I keep some in my purse and some in our super-organized medicine cabinet too ;)

I take them regularly to support my health and help me be prepared. My immune system is ready for 2015! Be sure to check out Ester-C on Facebook and Twitter for more information on immune support and tips on staying healthy in the new year.

Friday Favorites

Happy, Happy Friday!! I now understand what all the hype is about weekends. Since I don't have any weekend hours I am fully enjoying the time away from the office each weekend. Whether that's being super productive and getting stuff done, sneaking away to Niagara falls, or vegging out in front of Netflix I am a big fan of Saturday & Sunday again. (Just let me enjoy it for the few months it lasts!)

And since it's Friday, we talk happy things and favorite things. Like...

- Trying new recipes and having them be a big hit with both Jared and I.

- Pinning the crap outta' Easter stuff. I mean, it's only 10 weeks away, which means I can start decorating in 5 weeks, right? ;) Fun fact- Easter is my absolute favorite holiday, ever!

- This doTerra oil. It's a respiratory blend and it has really made a world of difference for Jared and I both. We are breathing much better at night which results in better sleep! I'm no expert on oils so if you have questions ask Kristin, she'd be happy to help ;) Any other oil users out there?

- Blog friends that just get me.

- Being in mid-conversation and saying "when we're out of debt" because I totally forgot WE ARE! See? It still has not fully sunk-in that our student loans are gone forever!

- Drinking tons of water out of this fun jar I got for Christmas. I easily drink 2 liters of water a day so gosh darnit, it needs to be in something cute. Plus this bad boy holds 25 ounces which is nice.

-Designing blogs! You guys, nothing makes me happier than to make someone else happy with how their blog looks. Can I just do this full-time?? ;)

- And as always, this guy! I'm still thinking about how much fun we had last weekend on our getaway... and daydreaming about where we can head next!

Linking up with Amanda today. Enjoy your weekend everyone!

My Thoughts on EMeals

A couple months ago I was given the opportunity to try out EMeals and I'll admit, I was skeptical at first. I try my best to meal plan on own most of the time, and usually follow through. But football season wrecks my life every year. (How's that for dramatic??) Jared and I order more pizzas in October-November than we do in a year's time due to a lack of planning. The late hours and weird weekend shifts take over and our fridge ends up sad and empty entirely too often. However- EMeals has fixed that! 
Something I noticed -and liked- right away is that you have the option of signing up for 3, 6 or 12-months at a time. It gets cheaper if you sign up for a longer membership, but it's nice to know I could just jump in for 3 months when I need the most help. EMeals lets you choose from all types of meal plan options-- seriously, there are TONS! Then once a week they send you your meals/recipes for the week along with a shopping list and a rough estimate of how much it's going to cost you too! 

Jared and I have been loving their low-carb meal options but we've also dabbled with the slow-cooker meal plan as well as the budget-friendly meal plan. That's right, you can change what plan you're signed up for at ANY time. No fees, no hassle... it's right up my alley. The budget one picks recipes with fewer ingredients and can be a huge money-saver if you're like me and can tend to overspend on groceries.

And you know what else? Every single recipe we've tried so far has been a hit! Every one! I can't count the times I find something via Pinterest that sounds delicious only to have it not turn out nearly as good as we'd hoped. It's nice to be confident in trying new things and knowing they are going to taste great. You can try EMeals completely free for two weeks via their website- another awesome move by the company. And you know who endorses these plans? Besides me, of course ;) My buddy Dave Ramsey! And I'm pretty confident you all know my feelings for Dave by now.
Emeals provided me with a free trial of their services, but no other compensation was involved. All opinions are my own!

Another Stamp on My Passport!

Since Jared was (probably) tired of seeing me mope around, we decided on a whim that a getaway would be a great way to enjoy some quality time together. Our offices were closed for MLK Jr. day so it was the perfect long weekend to go somewhere! We've been to most of the cities within 2-3 hours of us so this time- we got a little crazier and drove to...

Niagara Falls! I had never been there and it had been ages since Jared had been there. Plus this satisfies two things on my 30 before 30 list: spontaneous weekend getaway AND another stamp on my passport. We left bright and early Saturday morning and the drive went incredibly fast since I was so excited to get there!
There was a tiny mishap with our reservations but everything ended up being fine and we could see the falls from our hotel room!

We snagged an incredible deal via Groupon because January isn't exactly the popular time to visit the Falls. Yes, it was cold, but we bundled up each day and absolutely LOVED the breathtaking views. I actually think seeing it it winter might be more beautiful than in the warmer temperatures, but I can only make a fair comparison if I make it back in the summer sometime ;)

Those were the American side falls!

Honestly the views cannot be done justice via photographs, but these will have to do. Standing there with Jared seeing one of the coolest things on this earth was incredibly overwhelming to me. I just felt so fortunate to have the chance to be there seeing this beautiful part of the world with my husband. We stood out in the cold looking at the views and barely felt the frigid temperatures- it was that powerful!

We did the Journey Behind the Falls tour our second day there which let us get super close to the waters. One observation deck was closed for the winter, but it didn't effect anything for us. We were still within feet of the falls and couldn't stop snapping pictures. By the way, I have never seen so many selfie-sticks in my life. It was hilarious to see all these tourists walking around with them and getting selfies from each and every view of the falls. For the record, Jared and I do NOT have one! ;)
It was so much fun being touristy and getting up close and personal with nature. I think all the bad food we ate totally cancels out based on how much we walked (often uphill- omg!) over the weekend. I know weekends like this will be some of the most cherished memories Jared and I share.

Linking up with some great ladies for Tuesday Talk


My brain has been a scattered mess to start this new year it seems. This is supposed to be the time for organization but my brain has definitely not gotten that memo. I kid you not, I think I got less than 2 hours of sleep last night simply because I couldn't shut my brain down. It was like my mind was on overdrive and totally spinning out of control no matter how many times I told myself to just fall asleep already! That also could have something to do with the fact that I had an evening cup of coffee, but that's up for debate.

My point is this- a scattered brain equals a scattered blog. This blog has been feeling like it's in limbo  lately because I feel like I'm in limbo. I'm in that weird phase of life where I don't know where it's going and I also don't have some big life event/change going on. I've been working the same job for five-and-a-half years, so no news there. Our debt is paid off so Sallie & Perkins are taking some time off before deciding if/when they'll come back to visit the blog. There a dozen house projects we want to get started on but it's January, it's cold and it's easy to just want to snuggle up with movies rather than bust out the power tools and paint.

So that explains my accidental disappearance last week. Not that many (if any!) of you noticed, but I just couldn't make blogging happen last week. I sat down once or twice with a half-hearted attempt at it and realized nothing good comes of trying to force a post. Everything I typed felt like a lie, everything felt boring, I just wasn't feeling it. I've definitely been in a funk and just haven't felt like sharing a lot of what is going on. So, I simply didn't.

It was nice to semi-unplug from the world of blogging while I dealt with personal issues and feelings I had going on. While I like to be open on this blog, there is a time and place to share everything- but now it not that time. This post got pretty serious for a Monday, but please, no worrying about me or anything of that nature. I'm just in one of those weird seasons of life, I suppose. One that I know God will get me through if I can just hang on in the meantime.

A week "off" from blogging and most of social media definitely helped though. And you know what else helped? The spontaneous weekend getaway Jared planned- more on that, tomorrow :) Who knows if this blog post even made sense... but sometimes you just need to write and not care if it does.

Let's Get Happy

Sometimes it just feels good to shut out the negative crap going on around you and think about the good. I could focus today on how not-fun my job has been, or how we have home repairs that need to happen ASAP or how I don't understand why I'm not skinny after two workouts ;) But what fun is complaining? It doesn't solve anything, I know, so lets get happy today, shall we? It's Friday, after all, and I for the first time in forever don't have any concrete plans!!

- We cooked healthy meals and ate at home EVERY day this week. I can't remember the last time that's happened! 

- Feeling organized. Things are falling into place and things are regaining order again. And order is just how I like it. Speaking of organized, I thought this was so cute for an office. I found it an article that said 54 Ways to Make Your Cubicle Suck Less, ha! I don't have a cubicle, but lots of these ideas are great and simple.

- I get to see a lot of friends this month! It's so nice to have free time again to meet up for dinner or coffee or have a night-in with friends at our place. Looking forward to making up for lost time.

- Jared got a coffee maker for Christmas and while I'm not a coffee person at all, sometimes you just need a little pick-me-up in the morning. Thanks to this creamer I found at Kroger -and my cute mug- I can handle a small cup without completely hating it when I'm just really dragging.

- We're having a "heat wave" Sunday where Ohio's going to be in the high 30s and I'm hoping to try my new Garmin Forerunner 10 out! I got a few good workouts in at the gym this week but I'm so ready to get back outside and run. At soon as the ground isn't covered in ice ;)

- I'm about to redesign my blog! I know what you're thinking... again?! I can't help it! It's both a blessing and a curse to be a designer. I can change things whenever I want which is great. But... I can change things whenever I want! I can make pretty things for everyone else but I'm just never satisfied with my own. Maybe this go around we'll have a winner.

This weekend I'm looking forward to doing whatever we want, sleeping in when I feel like it and hopefully HOPEFULLY getting a new phone/ plan. If I haven't mentioned it before, my phone is from the stone ages. I only get about half the texts that are sent to me, it has a horrible camera, force closes just about any app I open and when I try to make a call? There's at least a 10-minute delay from hitting call and the call actually going through. I'd say it's time for an upgrade ;)

Creativity Month

Did you know that January is officially known as Creativity Month? Well, I didn't until I saw it on one of my guilty-pleasure websites. Seriously, there is something to be celebrated every single day- and I kinda' love it. What better time to get the juices flowing than in January? There's nothing ever going on in January. Especially if you live somewhere cold like me. I know there are much colder places in the world than Ohio, but it's currently 2° and feels like -14° with windchill. BRR! Sign me up to stay in all month and hibernate, please.

But back to the being creative thing. I have mentioned time and time again that I'm writing a book. Writing has been something I have enjoyed for as long as I can remember. Once, in third grade we had to write a paper on our favorite place. The requirement was at least a 2-page typed paper. My teacher probably got a great laugh when I turned in a 7-pager about our local mall and how awesome it was when my mom took me there. What can I say!? A girl loves her mall.

So since it's the official month and all, there's no better time for me to buckle down and finish this novel, or memoir, if you will. I've been chipping away at it off and on for years. Years, people. However, I think I've finally come to a point in my life where I want to really pursue writing and the world of publishing. My family is so supportive and got me a few gifts for Christmas that really just sparked my desire to actually finish what I've started. The 2015 Writer's Market which I've been devouring already, and Brain Storm, written by the guy who produced the Lion King and Beauty & the Beast.

I know I've got so much creativity to tap into, if I can just set aside the time to actually unleash it. Sometimes it seems impossible to work a full-time job, keep up with a house, chores, errands, spend time with my husband and still somehow find the time to pursue a passion. There have been times I get wild about my ideas and can write for hours on end without letting up, but those times have been few and far between. As I get older I just feel like it's now or never at this time. If I want something bad enough, I'll make the time for it. I'll find time and I'll be the creator I know I can be.

What ways are YOU going to celebrate Creativity Month??

Tuesday Talk

December was so crazy. I didn't even know what day it was most of the time. It was the longest and shortest month of my life, if that is somehow at all possible. So much chaos, so much going on, so much running around...  I don't know how I survived it all! Someone remind me next holiday season to slow it down and make less plans.

I'm not sure if I'll do goals each and every month like I did in 2014, but for the start of the year I figured I would post some and we'll see where things go from there. January is always the most calm month of the year for me (sadly, because the Bengals season always ends here) so I need to take advantage of the extra time and enjoy it!

In January I hope to:
- Finish the book I'm writing. Yes, I should have finished this long ago... that's besides the point.

- Read 3 books. I read 16 books last year which was a lot for me!

- Complete the first few weeks of my training plan. Have I mentioned I've got a 1/2 marathon coming up in March??

- Cross at least 1 thing off my 30 before 30 list. Now to just decide which ones to work on.

- Give up all pop/energy drinks. Why is this so difficult? I know it's horrible for me.

- Send some snail mail to friends/family. Because it's sad when the holiday cards stop coming in.

- Work on my photobooks. A never ending to-do, I know, but I made huge progress on them last year!

- Try 2 new recipes. It's winter and that means more time to experiment in the kitchen.

Short and sweet post today. I know goal posts aren't always the most interesting, but I do enjoy having them on here to look back on month after month, year after year. So now here's where you all come in. What's the best book you've read recently and/or tell me a favorite/new recipe I should try :)

Linking up with some sweet friends at their brand new link-up today! Check it out :)

A New Year

Happy New Year, friends! I have been away and mostly unplugged for a few days and it has felt fantastic. I got the very rare time off last week and loved every minute of it. Jared and I were lazy most of those days, but we also made time to get all our Christmas stuff down and packed away. As much as I love getting all of that out for the holidays, I equally love boxing it back up at the start of the new year. Today you're getting a journal-style post because honestly, if I didn't?! I don't think I could remember what day we did what over the extra long weekend. Time tends to run together when you're not going into the office, apparently. Who knew?! ;) 

12/31/14: New Year's Eve. Jared and I both worked but our offices closed down early. We didn't make any plans this year because of my ever-changing work schedule and we weren't sure I'd even be off NYDay so it was a repeat of last year. Just the two of us in our comfiest clothes saying goodbye to 2014. We put a frozen lasagna in the oven, I made a delicious cheeseball and banana bread for later and we spent the evening starting on a new puzzle and watching some fun shows on TV before the ball dropped.
1/1/15: New Year's Day. We did our traditional Benihana dinner with my parents. We normally do this the night before but again, because of my lovely work schedule things were a little last minute this year. We didn't mind though... anytime I get a hibachi meal I'm a happy gal ;) This tradition has been going on for more than 20 years now with my family and I look forward to it every time! 

1/2/15: A Day of Nothing. Jared had to work this day but I was off. It was the perfect mix of watching chick flicks but also continuing to restore order to our house in the forms of laundry and cleaning. 

1/3/15: Shopping & Game Night. Another day with no plans?! I shouldn't let myself get used to this!! We slept in and then ventured out to do a little post-holiday shopping. Jared got himself a new laptop that he desperately needed (his one from college was barely hanging on) and I got a couple cold-weather running gear items. That night we met up with all our favorite people to celebrate one of our friend's birthday with food and an intense game of The Office Clue

1/4/15: The Brokenheart. My Bengals lost in the first round of the playoffs for the FOURTH year in a row. It's heartbreaking, really. To get so close every year just to fall apart. I'm not dwelling on that game and I really don't want any "Go Colts" comments- please! I can't handle it right now, I'm too fragile! Instead I'll focus on the fun I had with my favorite people pre-game when all was still right in the world ;)
Did I catch everyone up now?? :) I'm excited about what's to come in 2015 both in life and in bloglife. Cheers to the new year! Now that football season is officially over (boo) I feel like I can get on with life and goals and other things that are definitely more important.