A Big Ol’ Monthly Roundup

April and May came and went, and I’m sitting here thinking how the heck is it already June?! Fortunately I can say I actually did things the last two months so they weren’t just withered away binge-watching Netflix, which is more than I can say for those winter months…

Like I said in my previous post, one of my goals for April was to start running consistently. Well, I started running and I’m happy to say I’ve been able to stick to a schedule and do it regularly each week. This may not seem like such a big deal, but it is for this girl. I was worried I would start wheezing and coughing up a fit like every other time I tried to run, but thankfully I’ve been fine! Seems like that surgery is paying off after all!

Also in April news, D graduated Ranger School! This was a big, exciting accomplishment. He likes to act like this was no big deal, but it’s huge. He also got his airborne wings in May, so that was another accomplishment checked off his list, and I am so so proud of him.

I made my way down to Portland in May for a weekend. It was…honestly super weird. I know that’s Portland’s claim to fame/thing, but I really was not expecting it to be as weird as it is. I’m not entirely sure what I had expected, but it caught me off guard. I think it came down to how empty it seemed. It felt like there weren’t any people around us, and we were staying in the middle of Downtown Portland! Aside from that though, I did enjoy the few touristy things there are to do there. This list is great if you’re planning a trip to Portland any time soon. I recommend Voodoo Doughnuts. It is popular and busy but the lines aren’t as bad as you’d expect. Also, the tax-free shopping doesn’t hurt either. I also really enjoyed all the food trucks everywhere. That was pretty cool. Overall, I probably won’t be going back to Portland anytime soon, but it was a nice experience.

I surprised my family and went home for Mother’s Day, and the look on both my parents’ faces when they saw me was priceless. Unfortunately I was only there for 36 hours, so it was a quick trip, but it was still great to see my crazy loud family and spend some time together. Traveling back and forth across the country is not easy, and with my dearly beloved boyfriend staying in Georgia longer than the Army first said he would, it’s safe to say I’ll be racking up those frequent flier miles in the next few months; starting with next weekend when I travel to GA for D’s birthday! Woohoo!

And for the last bit of news, I’m excited (and slightly terrified) to share that this week I completed my first week of graduate school! Going back to school has always been on my mind since graduating two years ago. For a while, I just gave up on it and figured it wouldn’t happen or be a good option for me, but thankfully I have an amazing boyfriend and great friends who encouraged me to pursue my goals and take the leap of faith. So I did! The program is completely online, which fits in with my lifestyle, work and commute schedule. The first week was challenging, and I know it’ll only get hard during the next 10 weeks, but I am thrilled to be starting on this new chapter in my life. That’s going to be taking up most of my life now to say the least!

 

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March; Looking Back and Ahead

Happy April!

A week or two ago, I decided to start a new monthly theme highlighting the favorite or important moments from the previous month, but also a few notable things that I’m looking forward to in the new month. It’s pretty basic, really and not anything particularly special, but I think it’d be a fun way to remember the little/big things that happen each month. So here we are, starting with March!

Take it back now, y’all:

  • Ed Sheeran’s released a new album and IT IS AMAZING!! I was admittedly a little thrown off when I first heard the album; I wasn’t really sure what I had expected from him, especially after the success of his second album a few years ago, but after giving it a good listen (shout out to my long commute to work and Seattle traffic for giving me time to listen to an entire album), I was blown away. Needless to say, it’s been on repeat all month and will be for a while. And I got tickets to his concert in July, so I’m pretty stoked about that!
  • My sister came all the way from New York to visit me for a week! It was so good having her here with me. I knew she would love it, because really what’s not to love. We didn’t get to do too many things since I had surgery and she was here to take care of me during my time of incapacitation, but it made me incredibly happy to have someone from my family finally come and see what it’s like out here.
  • Speaking of surgery, I had sinus surgery last Monday to remove nasal polyps and fix my deviated septum. I’ve had issues with allergies and my sinuses for years, but recently they got so bad I could barely breathe, especially at night when I would be kept awake just coughing all night. It also made doing regular things like going for a run or laughing too much a bit of a hassle. The running part I didn’t mind so much since it gave me an excuse to avoid going on a run with Dalton, but it was pretty embarrassing when I would start coughing if I laughed too much. But after this surgery, I’m hoping most of those issues I had will be gone. I’m still currently in recovery and will be for a few weeks, but I feel rather hopeful. It’s been a long struggle.
  • Dalton passed the first phase of Ranger School this month! He’s 1/3 through at this point, though we find out this week if he passed the 2nd phase or not. We can only communicate through letters during this time, so that’s been a bit of a struggle, and my emotions have been all over the place, to say the least, but I know whatever I’m feeling, he’s going through much worse. I seriously cannot wait for it to be over.
  • I gave up shopping and drinking for wine because those are my biggest vices and for the most part it hasn’t been too bad! I will admit I kind of regretted giving up drinking when I realized how much I missed Dalton, but then again it was probably in my best interest that I did give it up. (wow I sound like I have all kinds of issues). I don’t need wine to cope, but it sure is nice to have a glass after a stressful week at work. I’m looking forward to Easter Sunday in a few weeks 😛

Looking Ahead:

  • I honestly cannot believe I’m even writing this right now, but one thing I’m looking forward to is being able to start working out again after getting the okay from my doctor. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I couldn’t do it at all. Now I don’t want to make it seem like I work out everyday, because I definitely do not, but I do a few times a week. I’d also like to test out my new and improved sinuses and see if I can actually run now. That might be pushing it, but I’ll report back at the end of the month!
  • Tulip Season has arrived! I will hopefully be going to Skagit Valley to see the tulip fields. It’s apparently a big deal around here, so I’m looking forward to that.
  • If Dalton passes the next two phases, I’ll be going down to Georgia for his graduation. I can’t tell you how anxious and excited and nervous I am all at once. Here’s hoping and praying he passes; I miss him so much.
  • I recently purchased a pile of books that I put in a corner and promptly forgot about. I have a bit more time on my hands lately, so my hope for April is to at least finish two books. That might be expecting too much of myself, especially given my reading track record lately, but we’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, that’s all for now! I’m excited for April and have a feeling it’s going to fly by. Hopefully it’s a good one.

Lenten Things

Happy Ash Wednesday! Today marks the beginning of the 40-day journey before Easter. It’s a time marked with sacrifices and tuna fish, and the struggle of giving something significant up for those 40 days. I usually like to do something relevant that is frivolous and doesn’t better me as a person, so this year I decided to give up shopping (my go-to for the last 3 years or so) and wine. These are important because those are the two things I’m well-known for. Those who know me know I love my wine and have a crazy shopping problem, so giving both those things up is going to be a challenge. Also it should be noted that this is a weird time for me to be giving up wine, considering my boyfriend just started Ranger School and my stomach has been in knots 24/7, and will continue to be until he graduates, so wine would’ve been my regular companion during this time. But the fact that it’s going to hurt is what makes it a worthwhile sacrifice.

I’m actually really looking forward to Lent this year. It’s the first time I’ll be away from family and have their support during this challenging spiritual journey, so I have to do a lot of soul-searching on my own. One thing I’m excited to use as a resource is my new Lenten journal and Stations of the Cross cards from Blessed Is She. I purchased them a few weeks and cannot wait to delve into it tonight. I’ve found that  need to work on my communication and personal prayer life with the Lord, so I think this is the perfect time to start. I’d like to have a dedicated time for prayer each night, which is something I’ve been slacking on. I know it’s not going to be easy, and honestly thinking about it sometimes just scares me, but I think the same can be said about any good thing in life.

Put on Love Print
Put On Love Print from Blessed Is She

Figuring It Out…But Not Really

Man, my last post was months ago. Whoops. I wish I had something inspiring or amazing to say but I don’t. A lot has happened since I last wrote, yet also not much has happened at all. I would love to be able to say that my doctors were able to figure out what I have and what is causing it, but unfortunately they have not, and I’ve been in and out of the hospital a few times since October. It’s been frustrating to say the least, but I’m actually doing better after my last hospital visit, so ya know, there’s that.

I’ve spent most of my time lately just getting through each day, and I can’t believe it’s almost May already. Not sure where time has gone but I’m starting to realize that I need to seriously reevaluate my life and work on my goals a little bit harder. And I feel like I’ve been saying that for months, possibly years, but I’ve gotten to the point where my own complacency with my job and just life in general is driving me crazy. I of course have no one but myself for that, but as they say, the first step to fixing a problem is realizing that you have a problem, so that is what I am doing.

I have definitely spoken about this before, and I think that may have to do with the fact that it is a legitimate struggle in my life, but over the last few weeks as I’ve reviewed my finances, it hit me like a semi-truck on a highway…my shopping problem is seriously out of hand. I make ends meet with my paycheck, but now that I have a new car payment each month (oh yeah, I bought a new car in December, super exciting stuff!) I really can’t afford to continue shopping the way I’ve gotten so used to doing over the years. I’ve known this for a while now but I simply chose to just ignore it. That’s what credit cards are for, I thought. But now that mind frame is coming back to haunt me and I have so many regrets, shopping regrets that is.

You see, my problem is if I see something that I like and decide that I want it, I just buy it…because I can. I realized that it was a freedom thing. I have the ability to buy this for myself, so I will and I do. This was hard for me to admit to myself. That might be okay to do for a little while, but now I’ve accumulated a lot of things that I don’t use/need/even want anymore. It’s actually ridiculous.

Now I’m trying a new approach. With the help of a dear friend who also struggles with impulsive shopping, we’re working together on a shopping “fast”. This means no shopping for frivolous, unnecessary things for a few weeks at a time. We hold each other accountable, and when we feel like we want to buy something, we talk each other out of it. It works well, knowing that I have someone else doing it with me. It would be easy to buy something and just not tell her about it, and trust me I’ve been tempted, but the guilt would be too heavy of a burden to carry, so I have been able to resist temptation successfully.

And sure, when the self-imposed fast is over it will be all too easy to go back to my old habits, but if nothing else, this fast has taught me that I do have the ability to say no to something that I think I want, and closing the browser completely and walking away does actually work.

So this is me, deciding now to do something about one thing that I know is holding me back from accomplishing a few of my own goals, because I really don’t need that bag, or those shoes. Really, Mari, you don’t.

Small Moments: Purchases

As noted here, I’ve been trying to get my budget under control. With this goal and my weekly budget restrictions in mind, I make sure everything that I buy now will be worth it. I research, compare, and if I need a little extra cash for it, I save some money from the week before to make up for it. All this prepping has helped me make two purchases within the last month that I am really satisfied with.

1) John Frieda JF2 Salon Shine Hair Dryer

About a year ago, I stopped straightening my hair with the wet flat iron and learned how to use a blow dryer. I’m still not a pro and have to turn to my trusty CHI flat iron the next day to do fix the frizz situation, but I was just using an old blow dryer I found in the bathroom cabinet. I also started getting lazy and going to a DryBar to get my hair done each week, and needless to say, this was not helping my budgeting efforts at all. After a few days of comparing and hesitating, I decided to purchase this blow dryer. I was leaning toward a more expensive, fancy blow dryer, but I’m so glad I didn’t go with one of those, as the reviews with this one and the fancy ones were pretty much the same. This blow dryer is not perfect, but even for a beginner like me, it works really well.

2) Naked2 Basics Eye Shadow Palette

My next favorite purchase was this eye shadow palette. I’ve wanted a Naked palette for a while now, but hesitated against buying it because of the price, and I really didn’t need another palette with multiple colors since I already have others that I don’t use enough as it is. However, this palette is perfection. I use it almost every day now. The colors are nice and neutral, yet can be used to make more dramatic, smoky looks, making it the perfect combination for traveling. With all the traveling I’ve done and will be doing in the future, it doesn’t get any better than that. It is beautiful, and I am totally in love with it.

The best thing about these purchases though: they were both less than $30. It may seem trivial, but making purchases that I feel so good about such as these give me a sense of accomplishment, and remind me that I don’t have to spend $100+ on something just for it to be good quality. Good things come in small packages (or in this case, prices), too! So these are my small moments for this week. I know I’ll have both of these purchases for a while and will get the most out of them both, so that makes it all the better.

What The Budget

I’ve always been a shopaholic, and as my income increased, so did my shopping habit. I knew I had a problem and had to fix it, but then there was a sale at Nordstrom, or Gap, or H&M, etc, and I’d pull out my little plastic card, further increasing my credit card debt.

I didn’t think it was that bad though. I’d always pay my full balances on time, and I used everything I bought, so it was worth it, or so I thought. While my cards were mostly paid off, my savings account was depleting by the minute, and then I was overdrafting my checking account, as well as my savings account, and that’s when I realized that I really did have a major problem. So I did the only thing I knew would help me. I hired a financial advisor through learnvest.com, and got to work.

And boy was it work. First, she helped me create a budget based upon my income and fixed expenses, which left me with some weekly spending money, but it was a lot less than what I was used to, so that scared me a bit. I didn’t think I’d be able to stick that amount, but I knew I had to try. Next, I had to freeze my 7 credit cards. Yup, that’s right, I had 7 credit cards, and I had to freeze them, a-la Isla Fisher in Confessions of a Shopaholic. That was the hardest part, packing them into a plastic bag of water, and sticking them in the back of my freezer. I had a major headache after that.

This was back in July. Now, three months later, I’m doing my darnest to stick to my budget. All but one of my credit cards are paid off, the credit cards are still in the freezer, and I’m putting money into three (three!) savings accounts each month. I’ve also started saving up for my trip to Europe in the Spring, my graduation gift to myself, and I am so happy with how far I’ve come.

I still have a lot to work on. I’ve managed to kick my shopping habit to the curb for the most part, but there are still times when I struggle real bad. It is not easy, but seeing the number goes down on my credit card debt, and go up in my savings is so satisfying. Shopping was my hobby, my safe place. It was what I knew, and it brought me comfort, and maybe it always will, but this is my time to improve myself, for no one but me. It is a great feeling.

Also, for anyone looking to get a handle on their own budget, I highly recommend learnvest.com. It has literally changed my life. While I pay for the financial advisor’s services, they have a free option where you can link up your accounts and set up your own budget. It’s super convenient. Do it. You won’t regret it.

Au Revoir, August. Bonjour, September

While the rest of the summer was considerably dull for me this year, I’m happy to say that the month of August was not so bad. In fact, so much happened this month that I can’t believe it’s already over. This last week of August was my favorite. I celebrated my 22nd birthday, took two days off from work to go to Washington, D.C. and spent the weekend upstate with my sisters and nephews.

On Monday, my birthday, I went to work as usual, had dinner with the family (Mom made lasagna, my birthday request, as is our tradition), went to Coldstone Creamery for ice cream with two of my cousins, and saw Finding Nemo at the park with my brother, his wife, four of their five sons, my sister and her husband and baby. It was kind of awesome, especially the movie at the park. We could see the 59th street bridge in the background, and it was nice to see so many people gathered together. It was so community-like, which was so foreign to me. I didn’t even know they did things like that in the city! But I definitely enjoyed it.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent driving to and from New York and D.C. I love it there. I’ve been there on multiple occasions, but I always had a reason to be there, and never really had the chance to be a tourist. This time though, I was taking total advantage of my tourist status and enjoying all the sights. Walking around the Capitol at night was one of my favorite moments- especially when we found a small garden with a fountain. It was completely deserted and so beautiful. You could see the Capitol building right behind it- it was super romantic, and I couldn’t help but think how great that spot would be for a proposal/engagement. I am such a girl. I also really enjoyed the zoo and museums. The fact that they were free didn’t hurt either. Free? I’m there! I also had to take a selfie with the Lincoln Memorial; it was my most “touristy” moment.

Fact: It seems like every person in Washington, D.C. is a runner. Like every one was running. It was cool.

This weekend was spent at my parents’ house upstate. My sisters and I drove to Albany with our nephews and spent the day in the New York State Museum. My brother-in-law had never been there before, so naturally we had to introduce him to our family’s favorite museum. It’s a tradition by now. I love it, and it never gets old. It was a great day.

So as far as August goes, I’m kind of sad to see it go, because that means my sister and her husband will be returning to Spain in 3 days and taking my adorable nephew with them. The best part of the entire summer was being able to spend two months with RJ. He really is the most adorable baby of all, but I’ll write another post about him another time. (He’s laying down next to me on my bed right now as I write this, giggling at the ceiling. Such a little distraction!)

And now that September is here, I’m looking forward to the Fall, the best season of all. The next few months are going to a challenge as I adjust to life’s latest curveball, but I am looking forward to it. Also, pumpkin everything season is back, so that is kind of awesome. 

Recipe Successes

The weather in New York has been surprisingly pleasant and Autumn-like lately, especially for August. I love it! With Fall weather comes the ability to do one of my favorite things without hearing my father complain about it being too hot to turn on the oven…baking! I love baking, and cooking in general.

So on Sunday, I woke up early and made homemade crepes for my sister, brother-in-law and myself. I used this recipe that I found on Pinterest. I filled it with strawberries, blueberries, and cream cheese. To a sweeter twist to the cream cheese, I added a drop of vanilla extract. I then topped the crepes off with maple syrup and powdered sugar. The great thing about crepes is that you can literally fill it up with anything you want, eggs, cheeses, fruits, meats…and voila- you have breakfast!

We had guests over for dinner that evening, and I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Nothing fancy, I just used a basic but reliable recipe. No need for Pinterest this time, though I do want to try one of the many interesting recipes for chocolate chip cookies on there!

And lastly, I made these power muffins. They’re called power muffins because they’re made with blueberries, oatmeal, and greek yogurt, which equals power! I’ve been trying to cut back on my expenses (I’ll write about that at another time), so I decided to make these muffins for breakfast this week instead of buying breakfast each day. I did things a little differently from the recipe, though. I didn’t have honey Greek yogurt, just blueberry Greek yogurt (go figure, huh?), so I used that instead and added two tablespoons of raw honey. Not surprisingly, with the yogurt and the fresh blueberries, my muffins came out completely blueish/purple. They looked so weird! But they tasted pretty amazing, so the color was irrelevant. And I have breakfast for the rest of the week- yippee! Oh yeah, I found this recipe on Pinterest, too. Yay, Pinterest!

I forgot to take pictures of the finished products, especially the crepes because I was just so darn hungry and capturing that moment was the last thing on my mind, but I think you can get the idea of what it should look like from the recipes.

So, three recipes in one day? You can say that I had a pretty busy Sunday in the kitchen, but I’d say it was a success! 🙂 

P.S. You can follow me on Pinterest here. Happy pinning! 

Family Time

This past weekend, my family on my mother’s side had a family reunion. Aunts, uncles and cousins from many states came over to my parent’s house in the Catskills to spend two nights together. 40 people (30 adults and 10 children until the age of 10) all crammed together in one house with just three bathrooms. It was glorious. And I don’t mean that sarcastically. See, the thing about my family is that we don’t really have that family drama you always hear about, the rivalry between aunts and the dislike between siblings. For some reason, we aren’t about that. Of course we still have familial issues, because let’s face it, who doesn’t?! But ultimately, we all get along well with each other, and gathering together has always been fun. Nothing says family bonding time quite like sleeping on the floor with 25 other people as your uncle and older brother have a battle-of-the-loudest-snore!

Before my grandfather passed away almost five years ago, the whole family always gathered together for basically every holiday. Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays, or any other excuse we could come up with to get together. This was a simpler time. This was before the cousins all went off to college and started their lives in different states. This was when Abuelito was still alive, keeping us together. He was the head of the family, the mold, and he loved nothing more than spending time with all his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. Since he died, it’s been a bit difficult to maintain that tradition of celebrating every holiday together; but one thing has not changed: the love we have for one another. That love is priceless. We have an interesting way of showing it (name-calling and teasing are the go-to love method, jokes about everyone) but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We try to have a big family reunion at least once a year, and so far, so good. There will always be a few people who can’t make it for whatever reason, but the important thing is that we try. So while we may have lost our way a bit since Abuelito’s death, I like to think that he’d still be proud of us for at least maintaining in contact with each other all the time (hello, wattsapp family chat group!) I imagine him smiling down at us from Heaven as we laugh about something silly. I think we do a pretty good job of keeping his spirit alive amongst us as well. He was a joker, and we’ve got jokes for days. And there is never, ever a dull moment. Not with so many people around! And so much food. Seriously, food coming out the wazoo. It amazes me that we somehow manage to feed so many mouths and no one seems to go hungry. Amazing. I love my family, and I am so very grateful and blessed. Definitely wouldn’t have it any other way. 

17 Years Late

I remember watching the movie in Summer camp when it first came out. It was interesting. I liked it, so I borrowed the book from the library, brought it home and sat down to read it. For some reason my 9 year old brain just could not get into it. So I wrote it off as a book that was not for me.

Six years later, the mom of the little boy I babysat at the time made me take the book home and give it another chance. She could not believe that I did not like it. She couldn’t understand that. So I did. I took it home, and gave it another chance. But again, I didn’t get past the 4th chapter.

Here we are again, another six years later, and I have finally, totally given the Harry Potter series a real chance. And I am so disappointed in myself for waiting so long to do so. My coworker/ office bestie, Liz, has been nagging me for months to “just read the first book, trust me”. When I realized I could borrow the book for free on my kindle (thanks, prime membership!), I figured why not. So I downloaded the book to read during my commute to work. I read it in three days. I was so hooked, I could not wait to start on the next one. I was a little bummed out when I realized I could only borrow one book for free a month (darn you, prime membership!), so I waited a few days for July 1st and borrowed the second book for free (take that, Amazon!) Read that in a few days, too. And now I’m half way through Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

I watched all the movies about three years ago, but I don’t really remember much. The excitement of what is going to happen next is still there, fortunately! Honestly, I never thought I would so into these books. I am obsessed. It’s a little ridiculous, to be honest, but I’m so glad I listened to Liz and picked the first book up again. Sure, I’ve waited a long time to join the Harry Potter fandom, if you will, but hey, better late than never, right? 

Also, I’d like to take this moment to point out how much I love Hermione and Ron. Not just romantically, though there’s that as well, but as Harry’s friends. The books would not be the same without them. 

My goal is to finish reading all the books by the end of the summer. At this rate, I think I’ll be done by my birthday in August. Woohoo!