Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Longer the Waiting, the Sweeter the Kiss :)

About a week and a half ago, I received an early Christmas present. And it was not just any Christmas present...it was the best Christmas present a girl could ever ask for:


That is my soldier, stepping off the bus, home from Iraq, after being gone for almost a year...exactly one week before Christmas.

And me...running...like a lunatic...and jumping into his arms:


Best. Feeling. EVER.


There is a song by Josh Turner that I listened to a couple of times over the last few months when I needed a good cry. It is called "The Longer the Waiting." It goes a little something like this:

"The longer the waiting, the sweeter the kiss...the next time I hold you, I'm not letting go."

My soldier and I with his family
This year has been one long, crazy, bumpy roller coaster for me.  Though I am glad that I don't have to experience that kind of roller coaster again in the near future, I am incredibly thankful and overwhelmingly blessed. We have overcome so much this past year, and I am thankful that it has finally come to an end. Here's to conquering the future, getting to finally build our new life together actually TOGETHER, and never letting go of the love God has blessed us with. He is good.

"For what God has joined together, let no man separate." -Mark 10:9

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Shaklee Miracle...

I am rarely one to rave about a particular product. Especially when it comes to cleaning products. Honestly, I am usually one of those people that thinks they are all the same (I'm still convinced most of them are...), and I usually just buy the cheapest thing on the shelf to get the job done, or often times, I just make my own (what can I say? It's that "rocket scientist" in me...I'm a nerd).

About 9 months ago, I read about something called Shaklee on another blog. Shaklee is a company that has a variety of products, from household cleaning products to vitamins. One of the major things they use to promote themselves is that their products are all organic and very safe. Erin at Healthy Branscoms was doing a giveaway for a sample of the Basic H2 concentrate...I entered...and I won!
Get Clean Basic H2® Samples
I got this little guy in the mail a few days later...
The sample I won was enough to make a bottle of window cleaner, a bottle of all-purpose cleaner, and I had a little left over that I used in the concentrated form to clean a spot on my carpet. It worked so well! I loved it!

I'll be honest...I'm not a super hippie-type person that thinks I have to buy everything organic. And don't get me wrong, sometimes I think a good old-fashioned bleach solution is the best option for cleaning some things (like the toilet). But I definitely do love a good product that works well that I can get for a good price. That is really what convinced me to purchase Shaklee. At the time, Shaklee was running a promotion where if you spent a certain amount (I can't remember exactly how much...I wanna say it was around $20?) on Shaklee products, you got a free membership. I had no idea what that meant at the time, but it basically means you can purchase items from Shaklee at a discounted price. I love discounts :) I decided to try out the Shaklee laundry detergent, some scour off paste, and a bottle of the Basic H2. And let me tell you...I have been more than satisfied with my purchase! I absolutely LOVE the Basic H2. I use it to clean just about everything (except the toilet, of course).

This is the 16 oz. bottle of Basic H2 which you can buy for $10.35 at the member price!
Now I know what you're thinking..."$10 for a bottle of CLEANER?! That's not cheap!" That was my first thought at least. But I bought that bottle in April, and it is still more than 3/4 full! I have made at least 2 bottles of window cleaner, countless bottles of the all-purpose cleaner (my roommate over the summer was potty training a puppy, and my current house guest has a 6-month old baby that spits up more than I have ever seen a baby spit up...I can't tell you how happy I am to have found Shaklee....seriously), and I have used the concentrated form more than a few times to get stains out of the carpet and clothes.

Speaking of the concentrated form...

My best friend from college just recently became a Shaklee distributor, and she had asked me a while back to do a review for her when I used one of my Shaklee products. Like I said, I use the all-purpose cleaner all the time...I really don't think to take before and after pictures. But last night I came home to this:

Why yes...that is GUM...ABC gum...smashed into my microsuede couch!!!!
I love my dogs. I love my dogs. I love my dogs....

Evidently, while I was Christmas shopping last night, my dogs found an old receipt that I had apparently used to dispose of my gum...I have no idea how, or where...but when I came home it was smashed into my light, tan-colored, microsuede couch that is just barely over a year old. Disgusting, I know. And normally, I would've probably freaked out. But I already knew I had something I could trust to get it out!

I have actually used the Basic H2 concentrate before to get gum out of the carpet in our truck (I still have no idea how that man of mine managed to accomplish getting gum in his passenger side floorboard, under the floor mat I might add...). And I use the Basic H2 all-purpose cleaner on my couch ALL the time when the baby pukes all over it. So I know it is safe to use on my couch - I know it will not damage it, leave a residue, or bleach/stain the fabric in any way....which is awesome!

Shaklee to the rescue!
 I squirted a few drops on the gum, and started scraping away.

I know...this is gross...but this is what happens to the gum when it meets the concentrated Basic H2...
I was able to scrape all the gum off with my fingernail.  It just balls up and scrapes right off!

Then I used a damp white wash cloth to get the remaining Basic H2 concentrate out of the couch.
 Then I went to bed and waited for it to dry...

And here is what I woke up to this morning! 

It's a miracle! You can't even tell where the gum was! How awesome is that? I was relieved that it worked so well, and my couch is safe and clean.

If you happen to be interested in trying Shaklee, I highly encourage you to do so! I can refer you to a FANTASTIC distributor :) Go visit my friend Missy at The Domesticated Diva and let her know you are interested. Something else that's really awesome that I'd like to share with you...Missy started selling Shaklee when she was pregnant with her son Caleb as a way to supplement her family's income once their beautiful little addition joined the family in September, and THIS MONTH, Missy is going to donate half of her Shaklee income to a family in need. Help her meet her goal to make another family's Christmas season a little brighter! :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Training Update!

I am officially two days away from my first ever half marathon...yikes! 

I told you last week about my progress and goals for myself...so as promised, here is the update of how my training went this week :)

Last Friday was my last day of Boot Camp. I really enjoyed it, but I decided to not sign up for another 4 weeks (at least for now) because I knew I needed to work on my running this week, and next week I am going to be gone for Thanksgiving...not to mention eating WAY too much, and probably NOT working out. haha. 

Saturday - I was a slacker. I just sat around my house and watched football all day. Who can blame me? :)

Sunday - Outdoor season is over, but I did go to my indoor soccer game that night...which involved running :) Well...kinda. We almost mercy-ruled the other team in the first half, so the second half we decided to play keep-away and not shoot the ball at the goal. haha.

Monday - I woke up and did one of the Insanity DVDs - Plyometric Cardio Circuit to be exact. Whew! I've decided that no matter how good of shape I am in, those will always make me feel like I am dying. I survived though...

Tuesday - I was a slacker. I really have no excuse. Just had a really bad day.

Wednesday - I have a confession to make. I did not complete my 9 mile goal this week. I had good intentions though, really. Let me explain:
Wednesday was the annual chili cook-off in the chemical engineering department at school...which means I had lots of chili for lunch. Hello...who wants to run after they just ate chili? Well...I still had really good intentions, because I knew I didn't want to do my 9 mile run at later than Wednesday because I wanted to have time for my body to recover before the actual race this Sunday. So I go home, I piddle around, clean the house some, catch up on some recorded TV...and then I finally convince myself that the chili has settled and it's time to go for a run. This was at about 4:45pm. So I get my gear ready...Garmin watch - check. iPod + armband + search for/locate headphones - check. Running pants (because it's cold out there...) - check. Long-sleeve T-shirt - check. Earwarmers and gloves - check (my hands and ears are always what gets the COLDEST when I run in the cold weather, so these were a necessity). Running shoes - check. So here I am, all set to go, and it's right about 5pm. Great right? So I take off from my house, and just decide to run until I've gone far enough that I could turn around and run home and only have to do one or two smaller circles  around my neighborhood to complete the 9 miles (I like scenic routes...I don't like to run the same route over and over). Genius idea, right? Well I thought so...

So here I am...jogging along, listening to some good Jesus music to keep me motivated along my little trek...and I get a little over 3 miles from my house in about 29 minutes, down this curvy, two-lane, country road. I decide it's probably a good time to turn around...I'll still be able to avoid boredom, and can make it home at a decent time to have something for dinner. I'm still enjoying my run...not feeling like I'm dying yet...and these cute little family of deer run across the street in front of me. At this point, I'm really loving the scenic route, right? 

Until about a quarter of a mile later, I realize it is almost completely dark outside. I'm running in the country, on a two-lane, curvy road...still about two and a half miles away from my neighborhood...and it's going to be pitch black in about 5 minutes. Awesome. 

By the way, in case you were wondering...when it gets really dark suddenly, it also gets really cold suddenly. And then it also gets really windy suddenly. So imagine my panic when I'm freezing, it's dark, I'm running uphill into the wind, and a car flies around a corner of this road I'm running on....

Yeah. I was pretty much terrified. My Jesus music is really just not getting the job done at this point. By this point, I'm pleading with God himself to rescue me and get me home safely. So I basically start "sprinting"...or at least it felt like that. My Garmin still says I was only running at an 8:38 or so per mile pace, but by golly I was going uphill into the wind and I'm on mile #5...so give me a break! Cars are still flying around the curves, causing what I think might have been multiple minor heart attacks...

I manage to make it back to my neighborhood with about six and a quarter miles under my belt, calm down a bit, and tell myself I can keep going. So I start zig-zagging through the streets of my neighborhood, thanking Jesus for his protection, and back to enjoying my Jesus music. I get to about 7.25 miles, and I realize I can no longer feel my legs...and I'm pretty sure that means I'm going to face-plant on the pavement at any given moment. I think I'm going to have to give the credit to the adrenaline rush - and then the sudden crash that usually happens after an adrenaline rush. That, and the fact that I was, in my mind at least, sprinting for the 2.5 miles before I got back to my neighborhood...at a ravishing 8:38 pace. Again, give me a break...I normally run a 9:30-10 minute mile pace...

I was determined to make it to 8 miles just because I would feel like a loser if I didn't...so as soon as the Garmin beeped and told me I had completed lap 8, I stopped that sucker and crawled my way back to my house. 

So...I did not make it to 9 miles, but I did do 8. And I'm fairly certain that I almost lost my life. haha.

Thursday - I got up that morning, a little achy from the night before, but I still managed to do an Insanity DVD. This time I chose Cardio Recovery. It just seemed appropriate after my near heart attack the night before. But can I just say this...just because it gave my heart a rest, did not mean that it did not kick my butt. Literally. My butt hurts today.

Friday - So here we are today, and as promised, I am relaxing and letting my body recuperate. I also had some bowtie pasta for lunch...getting my carbs in :) And tonight I plan on going to my favorite sports bar in town, Louie's, to watch the Pokes play Iowa State and get their yummy Ultimate 3 Cheese Macaroni Bake with Chicken..ahh...I can't wait! :) 

Do I think I am ready for my half marathon? Not really. haha. But I do know I can do at least 8 miles, which means I can probably do at least 10...and then the final 3 I might have to walk...or crawl. haha. We'll see :) But I am looking forward to the challenge and think that whether I run the whole distance or have to take a break and walk a little bit off and on the last 1/4 of the route, I will still feel accomplished and proud of myself for trying! I will let you know how it goes!

On a more somber note, please send your prayers up for the families of the coaches that were lost in last night's plane crash, as well as for the Oklahoma State Cowboy family as a whole. The loss is devastating in and of itself, but it is compounded by the fact that the just recently commemorated the loss of the entire Cowboy Men's Basketball team in another plane crash that happened 10 years ago.

Pistols firing...let's go Pokes!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Warrior Musings

This post is LONG overdue, but hey, better late than never...right? I actually can't believe I never posted it. I actually forgot :(

Remember how I told you about the Warrior Dash that was coming to Tulsa? And I told you all about the craziness leading up to it and then finding a Groupon for it in Warrior Dash...Resurrected!? Well, the weekend after I got home from California in September, I became an official Warrior. I know you're jealous. And you should be.

I ended up recruiting a couple of friends and we signed up for the 4:00 wave. My sister and all her friends were signed up for the 1:00 wave. BUT...we got wind that they didn't really check that closely to make sure people were in the correct wave, so we cheated and jumped waves so we could do it with my sister and her friends. Nobody noticed :) And really...if they would have, what were they gonna do, mess with this?

Warrior Dash Pre-Game at Brett and Andy's House
 And that was only about half of us! haha. And don't ask me when rakes and shovels became warrior weapons... :)

My sister had worked very hard to make us all matching T-shirts...and she did such a good job! Our team name was "Balls and Dolls"...she's so clever :) Our small group drove to Tulsa to meet up with the rest of the group. We parked in a giant field behind some fancy house and had to take a bus to the Warrior Dash location. There we found the rest of our crew. Here is the before picture :)

We were clean...but not for long!

We got checked in, got our chips tied to our shoelaces, and checked our bags in so we didn't have to carry them around during the race and get them covered in mud. Good choice by the way.

For 3.26 miles, we crawled through barbed wire, climbed over the top of dead cars, hopped through tires, climbed up giant wood walls and jumped off big ledges, crawled up and over rope webs, swam through muddy water over spinning logs...and the in-between was filled with lots of running through the woods on a rocky "trail" up and down a giant hill (what we Oklahomans like to call Turkey Mountain)...and at the end we had to leap over FIRE! haha...okay, so the flames were kinda small, but still...this course was intense.

It was totally worth the $30 I paid for the Groupon. I hope it comes back to the area next year so we can do it again! It was so much fun that I might even consider paying full price for it next year. haha.

Here are some after pictures:
We were a little muddy...
Me and my sister modeling our Warrior helmets and medals...and the photo bombers :)

Sister and me showing off our last names :)
I actually had a couple of guys on the course make comments about us because we were "named for the course"...they were just jealous because we were ahead of them the whole time :) 


The girls...Cassie and I apparently wanted to show off some leg. haha.

Some random guys with mullets...

Me and my friend Dee riding the bus back to the cars :)

Me and Liz...she's kinda a stud :)
We had such a great time! I can't wait to get a group together to do it again in the (hopefully) near future! :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Half Marathon Training Update

In my last post, I briefly alluded to the fact that I have been a downright SLACKER in my training for the half marathon I signed up for on November 20th. And by that, I mean I seriously have been lucky if I go for a run once a week...I think that might be pushing it. About a week and a half / two weeks ago, I did a 4 mile run, and I told myself I would increase that by 2 miles in the remaining weeks I had left before the HM. Didn't quite happen. I did a 6 mile run for the first time EVER yesterday. I had actually never ran that far before, so I was excited :) And I kept my time under an hour...I finished in 58:27 to be exact. I was happy with that, because I usually make my goal to run each mile at under a 10 minute pace...so, barely, but I succeeded :) I am officially down to a week and two days before the half marathon...so my new goal is to try to do a 9 mile run early next week, and maybe a couple of short runs between today and next Thursday. I am taking Friday and Saturday off completely to rest, and Sunday, November 20th, is the big day!

In my defense, although I haven't been running as much as I would have hoped, I promise I haven't been completely lazy. I play in a women's soccer league for the City of Fayetteville on Sunday afternoons, and about a month ago, I also started playing in an indoor women's league at All-Star Sports in Springdale on Sunday nights as well. So for the past month I have been playing two soccer games every Sunday. That definitely counts as running. We had our final game in the outdoor league this past Sunday (we got 3rd place! haha), but I think indoor goes through the first week of December, so I have a few more of those games, and then I think another league starts up shortly after that, so I plan on playing again :)

In addition to the little running I've done and the soccer games, I've also been taking a Boot Camp class for the past 4 weeks. I told you here about my LivingSocial coupon I bought for 4 weeks of Boot Camp. Today was the final day of my 4 weeks :) I have really enjoyed it, and I can definitely tell a difference in my strength. It was nice to have a little break from the running too because I had gotten to where I had lost enough weight that I really didn't want to keep losing any more...I just wanted to stay fit and tone up a bit. Here are a few pictures of me at Boot Camp that Suzanne (the trainer) took and posted on her Facebook page:



I promise, I wasn't as miserable as I appear to be in this picture ;)
I am pleased with this LivingSocial purchase, and feel like the class was worth it. I really enjoyed it. If you are in the NW Arkansas area and are interested in trying out Boot Camp, let me know and I will give you more information!

Hopefully by this time next week I will have completed my 9 mile run goal and be resting and drinking lots of water in preparation for the big day. I am also going to try to work in a couple of Insanity DVDs between now and then. I will keep you posted on my progress :)

Also, I am going to try to get caught up on some other group coupon reviews in the next week or two, so stay tuned :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Frugal Clothing Finds and Christmas Shopping on a Budget!

It has been a little while since I've posted, but I wanted to give you an update on some things I've been up to lately...Shopping! I honestly don't like shopping. I know, I'm an abnormal female. But I just don't. I hate spending money, I hate trying on clothes...and on top of that, I'm really indecisive, so it's usually quite the chore.

But two things have caused my recent shopping sprees to be a necessity:

1 - After losing about 50 lbs over the past year and 3/4, I was in desperate need of some new clothes.
2 - I've set out to get all of my Christmas shopping done EARLY this year.

I've mentioned in previous posts about how I've lost weight by (mostly) running and (somewhat) eating more healthy. I started my weight loss journey in January of 2009. At my highest, I weighed between 175-180 lbs...and I'm 5'3 3/4", so needless to say, I didn't carry it well. Since then, I have lost about 50 lbs, so I'm down to around 125 lbs now. Which is awesome. I still have some areas that could definitely use some work, but overall, I am happy with my results. I feel much more confident about how I look, and most importantly, I FEEL so much better.

That's the good news! The bad news is...losing all that weight can definitely take its toll on one's pocketbook. For about the first year, I had to buy new jeans nearly every 1-2 months. Now that I've finally started to stay at a consistent weight, that's gotten much better. However, I never really went shopping for new tops. I guess I put this off because I am usually perfectly content wearing T-shirts, and I have plenty of those from all the 5K races I've done! haha...but seriously...I needed some nice casual clothes. Something I could kind of dress up with and look nice.

As many of you know, I am super OCD about our budget. Over the past 6 months, I have been even more crazy with the budget than normal, because I am determined to get us out of debt. From April to May, we paid off all credit cards, and after that, every spare dime I could find went towards Walter's truck. While we still have some student loans that we are working on paying off, now that we are finally done paying off the truck and the Kirby (probably the most impulsive purchase I've ever made...and though I would now never recommend going into debt to buy one, that dang vacuum is worth every. stinkin'. penny.), I feel like I finally have some wiggle room to splurge a little bit and actually buy myself some clothes that fit.

I have gotten a pretty good amount of stuff, and every single bit of it I have bought either on clearance or with a coupon. I refuse to pay full price for clothes for myself. Especially when I know I can find some good deals with very little effort. Here are a few of my finds:

Old Navy Active Wear
So I know what you're thinking...this isn't exactly cute casual clothes that I can dress up...haha. But I got such a good deal on this stuff, I couldn't pass it up. Plus, between my Boot Camp class I'm doing right now and the half marathon I am should be training for, I was in the market for some good workout pants. I love their fleeces because a) they are comfy, b) they are perfect for the fall weather when it's a bit too cool for t-shirts, but too warm for full jackets, and c) they are also perfect in winter, because I can layer them and wear them UNDER my coats when it is super frigid outside (I don't do cold...). Old Navy had their yoga pants, compression pants and performance fleeces on sale, AND I had a 25% off coupon that I found on their website and printed off. Here's what I paid:
Performance fleeces: originally $19.94, on sale for $15 each  + 25% off = $11.25 each!
Yoga pants: originally $19.94, on sale for $10 + 25% off = $7.50 each! (seriously...can't beat that!)
Compression crop leggings: originally $26.94, on sale for $15 + 25% off = $11.26! 

This next little lot is not for me, but I had to share :) For those of you who don't know, I am going to have a new niece in March! Walter's little sister, Alex, is pregnant with a baby girl, and I am so excited to be an aunt again :) I have decided to start picking up a few things along the way when I find stuff on sale to give her for her baby shower early next year...so I picked up a few steals while I was at Old Navy with my 25% off coupon:
Old Navy Baby Finds!
 Striped pants: originally $8.94, on sale for $2.99 + 25% off = $2.24
Ruffle polka dot shorts: originally $6.50, on sale for $2.47 + 25% off = $1.85
White skirt: originally $6.50, on sale for $1.47 + 25% off = $1.10
Striped shirt: originally $7.94, on sale for $1.97 + 25% off = $1.48
Jelly sandals: originally $8.50, on sale for $0.97 + 25% off = $0.73...yep, you read that right! 73 cents!
I also bought a couple of other items for my roommate's baby girl, but I can't post those on here because they are Christmas presents ;) ...but I can tell you this much - I did the math, and I ended up getting almost $63 worth of baby clothes for about 12 bucks! I have already decided that when I finally decide to have a child, I will shop like this for their clothes as much as possible! They just grow too fast!

Maurice's Clearance Rack Finds!
 I absolutely LOVE Maurice's! Their clothes fit me really well and I like the style. Every time I go in there, I head straight back to the clearance rack to see what kind of goodies I can find. I love that they put stuff on sale, and then they have different clearance racks where you can take an additional percentage off the sale price. I also had an old coupon that I received in the mail or something a while back for 15% off my total purchase. Here is what I found last week on clearance:

Flowery spaghetti strap dress: originally $29.99, on sale for $24.99, on the 75% off clearance rack + 15% off = $5.31
Gray tee: originally $16.00, on sale for $12.99, on the 50% off rack + 15% off = $5.52
Marble looking cocoon shirt: originally $29, on sale for $24.99, 50% off rack + 15% off = $10.62
White 3/4 sleeve overshirt: originally $29, on sale for $24.99, 50% off rack + 15% off = $10.62
White shirt with purple swirlies: originally $24, on sale for $21.99, 50% off rack + 15% off = $9.34
White shirt that fades to blue: originally $22, on sale for $19.99, 50% off rack + 15% off = $8.49
Blue and brown tanks: originally $14 each, on sale BOGO 50% off + 15% off = $11.90 for the first and $5.95 for the second
Black wedge sandals: Regularly $34, on sale for $9.99 + 15% off = $8.49! haha I was excited about those :)
I also bought the brown belt in the picture below...it wasn't on sale, but I really liked it...haha. It was $15, so with my 15% off coupon, it was $12.75 :)

Today @ Maurice's BOGO Sale
Maurice's periodically has a promotion where they do buy one get one 50% off...typically they do this for a particular group of items, such as tops, jeans, sweaters, casual, dressy, etc. But currently they are doing BOGO 50% on everything, which I love :) I also found a 25% off coupon I printed online that could be used on any non-sale items, and used my military discount to get another 10% off my entire purchase. Here were the totals for these three items: 

Sweater dress: originally $44, + 25% off and 10% off = $29.70
Hooded sweater: originally $34, 50% off + 10% off = $15.30
Red cardigan: originally $29, 50% off + 10% off = $13.05
I also bought one other item at full price, minus the 25% and 10% of course, to get the cardigan at 50% off, but it is something I am going to give as a Christmas gift, so it doesn't get to go on the blog :) 

As I was on my way out of the mall from Maurice's, I decided to make a quick stop at American Eagle to browse their clearance rack, and I found this shirt:
American Eagle Clearance Rack
 This was regularly $15.50, but on sale for $11.99, then on the 40% off clearance rack, so I ended up paying $7.19 :) I really love that color!

It has taken me a long time to accept the whole boots inside the jeans style. I still can't do the Ugg boots or fake ones that look like it....I think they are hideous (no offense if you like them...just not my thing!). But I found these cute little boots that I could pass off as cowboy boots just in time for the Reba concert, so I had to get them! And I have been wanting a pair of skinny jeans for a while that I can wear with boots and heels and stuff like that, so there you go:

Boots - Charlotte Russe; Skinny jeans - Wet Seal
 The boots were regularly $40, but on sale for $19.99 - AND Charlotte Russe has their boots on sale right now at BOGO $15. So my sister and I joined forces, and I bought a brown pair and she bought a black pair, and we split the cost of the two, so they ended up being $17.75 each before taxes. The jeans I got on sale at Wet Seal - regularly $26.50, on sale for $19.50 :)

Next up - Halloween sales at Target! 

I have no idea why this picture won't rotate the correct direction...my apologies.
I love raiding the after holiday sales at the store to see what I can find for dirt cheap! I normally am against dogs wearing clothes, but last year on Halloween, I decided to dress up my Pit Bulls in Halloween costumes. Koda was a football that I found on sale for $6 at PetSmart and Aspen was a hippo in a tutu that I found for like $9 at TJ Maxx! But this year, when I looked at Halloween costumes for them, everything was more expensive than I was willing to spend on something that my DOGS would wear only ONCE (although I'm not gonna lie, Koda has totally worn the football again a time or two...I just love it :) So when I went to Target this year the day after Halloween, they had all their costumes marked down 50% off - so I stocked up for next year :) Koda is going to be a cow ($6.50 on clearance!) and Aspen is going to be a witch ($3 on clearance!)...I will probably make her a home-made tutu to go with it :) I also got a little My First Halloween onesie for baby Emma for $2.49 (regularly $4.99) - don't worry, I planned ahead and got the 9 months size :)

I went back to Target today to pick up a Christmas gift for my soldier, and they had all their Halloween stuff marked down to 90% off! So I really couldn't resist...I also picked up a ghost and pumpkin T-shirt for Koda and Aspen...regularly $6.99, so they were only 69 cents each! haha!

Now onto the Christmas goods! I think budgeting is very importantly all the time, but I think it is especially important to create a Christmas budget. I also think planning ahead and shopping early can make a HUGE difference. If you know exactly what you are going to get someone, you can shop around and try to find the best deal. I have tried to compare prices online for a lot of my gifts, as well as checking for sale items. Even if I don't have a specific gift in mind, I have decided on a set amount that I am willing to spend on each person on my Christmas list, and I am determined to stick to it. That way I know exactly how much I am going to need, can plan ahead for it, and not worry about overspending to buy things for people. I have already gotten a lot of shopping done, and I have found some really good deals :)

Obviously I cannot post all of the Christmas gifts I've found, because I can't risk people finding out what their gifts are early, but I'm going to hope my sister keeps her kiddos away from my blog, because I just really wanted to post these! 

TJ Maxx Toys!
My adorable niece, Brooklynn, asked for some FurReal Friends this year. TJ Maxx just happened to have some great ones! I found this little lion cub that you can pet and he lays down, sits up, purrs, and you can feed him his bottle and he gets the hiccups. haha. Perfect for a 4-soon-to-be-5-year-old! I think she will love it. I found that little guy for only $19.99. I can't seem to find him at Target or Wal-Mart, so I don't know the exact price to compare...but I do know this - they sell FurReal Friends Newborns that are similar to him, only about half the size for $15-17, and I have seen the big FurReal friends - like the dogs you can walk on a leash - for around $46 on SALE...so I feel like 20 bucks for this was probably a pretty good deal! I also got her a Furry Frenzies Playset, and I am certain that I got a STEAL on it! Again, I can't find this exact one in other stores, but I found others that were similar, just a little smaller, for around $25. This one was at TJ Maxx for $14.99, but it was on sale for $10! She will love it! See the little bunny rabbit in the lower right-hand corner? I actually looked at Wal-Mart tonight to see how much some of the other little animals like that are - they were 10 bucks - just for the animal! Without the playset! I was pretty proud of that find :) 

My nephew, Jaxon, is 8 years old. He has recently decided he wants to be a scientist when he grows up, just like his Aunt Lauren ;) So I found this little at-home science kit at TJ Maxx for $12.99 and picked it up for him. He can do fun things like make fake ice cubes and create green goo! haha. I had looked for kids science kits online prior to finding this, and all of them were really expensive. I did manage to later find one exactly like this for around the same price online, but I like this one better because I didn't have to pay for shipping :) I hope he likes it! I also got him an Xbox Live points card - he asked for that specifically. I am cheap, so I could only afford the smallest amount, which was 1600 points - they normally sell for $19.99 at Target and Wal-Mart, but I found one on walmart.com for $18.96 with free Site to Store shipping! I know it's only a dollar off, but hey, I'll take whatever I can get :)

I also found some great stocking stuffers at TJ Maxx for the puppies! I got Koda a rope and Aspen a tennis ball dumbbell rope thing - each for $3.99 - which I felt like was a good deal, because my little terrors destroy the cheap crappy ropes in record time, so I normally have to spend at least $6-8 when I buy them a new tug-of-war rope (their favorite!) that will usually last them 2-3 weeks...haha. These were good quality, and for 4 bucks, really can't beat it! We'll see how long those last after Santa comes for a visit! haha

Aside from sale prices and clearance racks, I have also found sites like eBay and Amazon very beneficial this Christmas season. I would specifically recommend these for things like video games, CDs (you can sometimes find some cheaper than on iTunes!), and movies. Hopefully some of my gift recipients don't give a crap that their gift is not still wrapped in the plastic...haha. The way I see it, if you can get something that's been very gently used for so much cheaper, why not?! If I can find something for cheaper, it means my money can stretch further and I can get more gifts for the amount of money I have in my Christmas budget. Sounds like a win-win :) 

Do you have any frugal shopping tips or and ideas for planning for Christmas spending?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Frugal Wedding Frenzy - Part 4! :)

It's been a while since I have updated about the wedding planning, and I've made some pretty fun progress this past week...and today officially marks 200 days until the wedding, so I think now is a good time! :)

I showed you my bridesmaids dresses in Frugal Wedding Frenzy - Part 3, and I couldn't be more satisfied with my choice. My groom actually got to see those...I showed him a picture that I took of myself when I tried on one of the girls' dresses, and his comment was, "You should get one of those for yourself..." haha...so even he liked them :) So I definitely decided to go with turquoise for one of my colors. Then I struggled with deciding between orange and red for the other color...but I found the perfect solution :)
Red-Orange and Turquoise!
That was actually what I wanted all along, I just had a really hard time finding the right shade of orange, so I thought I was going to have to go with red. Which would have been okay...I love red...but I am much happier with this...I think it is going to look perfect on the beach! I also showed you my inspiration for my flower girl ensemble in Part 3, but in case you forgot...for your viewing pleasure:
weddingtutu.com
I fell in love with these as soon as I found them online. But I wasn't crazy about the price...$50 per tutu, not including the leotard. Yikes. Especially since I was planning on having both my adorable niece/flower girl and my 10-year-old sister, who I plan on having her hand out programs, wear one. So I found this template for a filled tutu online, and my mom is going to make them for the girls. She is also going to make one for my new baby niece that is currently on the way...she will only be 2 months old at the wedding...it is going to be precious :) And even better, I can have it custom made with the exact colors I want. I found that overlapping red and orange tulle accomplishes the perfect red-orange color I am going for :)


I got the materials to make all 3 tutus for around $40 from Jo-Ann Fabrics...and I probably bought more than enough just to be on the safe side. I can't wait for mom to make these and see how cute they turn out! Now I just need to find the leotards...I will be sure to post pictures when they are complete! :)

I also told you in Frugal Wedding Frenzy - Part 2 about getting my wedding dress that I got on sale at David's Bridal. I ended up getting a size too big, because the zipper was sticking on the one dress they had that was actually in my size, and I've always been told that it is easier to take something in than to let it out...so I figured getting the next size up would probably be the safest bet :) So naturally, I had to have the dress altered. I got a quote from the seamstress at David's Bridal while I was there, and to take it in around the top and through the waist, tailor it to the right length (I'm a shorty...), and it has a little bit of a train, so I asked her to do a simple bustle for when the wedding is over and I'm dancing the night away :) ...she quoted me approximately $110?!? AHH! No thank you. I was honestly a little bit shocked that they would charge so much considering I bought the dress there, but I guess I should've known better.

I was determined to find something better....and I did! I happened to just post something on Facebook to see if anyone had any suggestions for alterations, and one of my sorority sisters from college contacted me and told me her mom could do it! She used to work at a bridal shop, so she knew what she was doing and I knew it would turn out great. Sure enough, I picked up the dress on Friday, and it fits me perfectly :) She did exactly what I wanted and was super fast in getting it finished...and she only charged me $42! So I got my alterations done for less than half of what the bridal shop was going to charge me :)

I obviously can't post a picture of the full dress on here...can't have my groom getting a sneak peak ;) ...but I will give you this much:

I loved the dress, but it had this really ugly sash/belt thing around the waist that I wasn't a huge fan of. It wasn't sewn onto the dress, so I knew it would be something that would be easy to replace. I found some wide ribbon from Jo-Ann's in my perfect red-orange color :)

I also found these flowers for $2.49 at Michael's in my colors...I haven't decided if I want to have flowers on the sash yet, or if I just want the ribbon sewn into a belt. My mom is also going to make my new sash, so either way, that will end up being a pretty inexpensive addition to the dress :)

Next up...I decided I didn't really want to wear a veil. I didn't want to be fighting with it if the wind was blowing on the beach, and veils can be SO expensive! On top of that, my groom actually told me once that he thought veils were creepy...haha. I think he really just means the kind that go over the face, but still...that sealed it for me. I really don't want him to see me walking down the aisle and think, "Yikes, she's creepy," ya know? So I decided to make a fun little hair piece. The problem with that is...I am not terribly creative. At all. So I didn't know what I could make...but as I was wandering around Jo-Ann's yesterday, I found this fun little flower that was pre-made, and I found a random feather thing at Hobby Lobby that was funky and just looked like fun...so I bought them both.

The flower was $2.50, and the feather was $0.99...I also bought a package of alligator clips for $1.47. I glued it with my hot glue gun and called it good...I am pretty happy with how it turned out! :)


I absolutely love pearls. I wanted to wear pearls for my wedding jewelry, and I got the absolute best deal on these: completely free! :) These pearls were my great-grandmother's, who passed them on to my grandma. She had them for years and had them restrung and passed them onto my sister, Sarah, who was named after my great-grandma, for her 16th birthday. Sarah offered to let me borrow them for the wedding! I am so excited about these...they are simple, which I love, and absolutely beautiful. They are perfect. My grandma passed away 3 1/2 years ago, and other than a couple of pictures, this is one of the only things any of us have of hers, so that makes it that much more special. They get to be my something old and my something borrowed :)


I had to include SOMETHING Razorback in my wedding! haha...I found these on ebay and they were $19.99, which isn't bad at all, considering I got two of them, so I have one I can toss, and one I can hold onto as a keepsake :)


I told you about Walter's custom suit in Part 2 as well...I thought I'd throw in a picture, just so you could see it :)


Last but not least...here are the pants I found for my nephew, who is going to be my ring bearer! I found them at oldnavy.com, and they were $19.94, but I was able to use an online coupon code that gave me 20% off, so I got them for $14.96 + tax. They are a linen-cotton blend, and they have an adjustable waist, which is perfect because he's one of those tall, skinny kids that has a hard time getting his clothes to fit. haha. And they are something that he could wear again, so that's always a perk! Way cheaper than buying a little man tux! I still have to find him a shirt...but I am excited that I found these :)

I think that is the latest for now. As of today, we have 13 rooms and 30 guests (including us) booked for the wedding! Things are coming together quite well, and I am really enjoying it...I will keep you posted as I come up with new ideas and new ways to save money :)

199 days!! :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Update on My Life: Bullet Point Style

I hardly ever post anymore...I guess I just haven't felt "inspired" lately. But I thought I'd give all you faithfuls a little update to let you know I'm still alive :)

Here are a few of the things that have been going on lately - in no particular order:

  • I have, by far, the worst luck when it comes to roommates. People suck.
  • That being said, I refuse to become jaded. I have a new roommate and a half! Actually, the new roommate is an old roommate and one of my dearest friends. The half is her 5 month old baby girl, Amelia. I feel like I should start new TV show: Two Girls, Two Pit Bulls, a Baby and a Soldier. 
  • When I got home from California, I had new neighbors on the other side of the wall (I live in a duplex). For at least the past two weeks, they have been using my trash service. I'm annoyed. But what can I do about it?
  • The new neighbors also have pit bull(s?)...there was just one up until this morning. Now there are two. This results in LOTS of early morning barking between the fence.
  • The good news is: Both of my pit bulls LOVE baby Amelia. However, they haven't quite figured out that licking her when she cries is not the cure-all...
  • I was so blessed to get to spend two whole weeks with the love of my life. Saying "see you soon" all over again...not the easiest thing in the world...but I am so very happy that the separation will be coming to an end hopefully sooner rather than later :)
  • Now that I am revamping my dissertation topic for my PhD, I have to rewrite my proposal. AHH. Where is the motivation?
  • I have recently started to consider offering my services to help people create a budget that can work for them/their families, with a focus on establishing savings and getting out of debt. Apparently I'm pretty good at this whole budgeting thing, and even more weird, I actually enjoy it. 
  • We officially have a wedding registry! Two actually...Bed, Bath & Beyond and Target :)
  • Plane tickets for the wedding-moon are officially booked! 
  • I'm going to be an aunt again in March! Glad the pressure to produce a grandchild has been lightened a bit ;)
  • It's a really good thing I don't want to have kids anytime soon. I'd probably go broke. With a lot of my friends already having babies and my sister-in-law pregnant, I have kind of established a slight obsession for finding good deals on baby clothes! So far, I'm really good at it. Just wait til I get started with thrift stores and garage sales for baby goods and toys...
  • Old Navy is having a good sale this week on their activewear and fleeces. Go check it out...and print of their 25% off coupon from their website first. I bought a pair of yoga pants for $7.50 earlier this week :) 
  • I started a fitness Boot Camp last week. It is 3 times a week (MWF), and so far I have gone to every session. Some of them, I even woke up at 4:50am for. I might be crazy. I think once this class is over in 2 and a half more weeks, I am going to start working on my goal of completing the Insanity DVDs! 
  • I officially started my Christmas shopping this week! My goal is to have ALL Christmas shopping finished no later than December 15th. 
  • Yes, I am dressing up for Halloween this year :) 
  • In case you missed it, the Pokes are ranked #3 right now! ::insert visual of me waving my pistols here::
  • The Hogs are #10, which isn't a bad deal either! WOO PIG SOOIE!
  • I have been a complete SLACKER in training for the half marathon I signed up for in November. So far, I have worked my way up to four miles. Is it sad that my new goal is to actually run HALF of the half marathon, and then walk/jog the second half until I finish? That's gonna be a long day...
  • We apparently have a mouse in the house. Not just any mouse...a smart enough mouse to eat peanut butter off of a snap trap without setting it off, but a dumb enough mouse to chew through an unopened box of poison under the sink. I just hope I find the dead, poisoned mouse before my dogs do...Wish me luck.
  • I have been thoroughly enjoying the Lauren Alaina CD over the past couple of weeks. Kudos to her :)
  • Criminal Minds is my new favorite TV show.
  • I really need to start going to bed at a decent time...It's after 1am...WHY am I still awake?
There you have it...a brief-ish update on what has been going on in the wonderful world of Lauren. Thrilling, I know. Maybe one day soon I will come up with a more fun and exciting post for you all to read :) For now...goodnight!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Walgreens Savings

I have been a slacker, I know. It has been a while since I've posted, and I've had a really good excuse - promise! :) I'll fill you in on some of those details at a later date...but for now, I wanted to tell you about some fun I had today shopping at Walgreens :)

Let me start with this: I love coupons. Though I could never be like those crazy people featured on the Extreme Couponing show (I could not dedicate 40+ hours a week of my time to do it...nor would I want to)...but I do love saving money. Therefore, I love coupons, and I also love finding a good deal.

One of my favorite things about Walgreens is that they have a weekly ad that comes in most Sunday papers. It is full of in-store deals, as well as Walgreens coupons for select items each week. Even better...Walgreens honors both their store coupons as well as manufacturer coupons that you can get online and/or from Sunday paper inserts.

When I cut coupons, I cut just about anything I think I may use or could use at some point. However, I do try really hard to not buy something just because I have a coupon....the point is the save money, not spend it on things you don't need. So when I use coupons, I try really hard to only use coupons on stuff I would purchase anyways.

All that being said, I had a good time when the Walgreens weekly ad came out this week. I looked through it and found quite a few things I can use :) There were a few things in the ad that I already had coupons for, in addition to the sale prices being offered. And even better, they had some things I could get cash back for! In case you aren't aware, Walgreens also have select items each week that they give you what they call "Register Rewards" for when you purchase them. When you purchase these items, the printer spits out coupons after your receipt that are good only at Walgreens. It's a little bit like getting paid to shop. A little...you can use your Register Rewards on your next visit, not your current one.

IMAG0667.jpg
Here is my little haul for the week :)
2 bottles of scrubbing bubbles foamer
2 bottles of pledge multi-surface cleaner
2 sticks of degree deodorant
2 bottles of Organix shampoo/conditioner
2 5oz cans of tuna
Neutrogena face moisturizer
Neutrogena make-up remover towelettes
Venus razor with 2 blade cartridges
6 pack of Venus razor blades

This little pile here cost me $70.16...I know, ridiculous right? It doesn't look like much. But when I think of what it could have cost me, it makes me feel a little better. According to my receipts, I saved $15.86 by buying things that were in the Walgreens weekly ad, $1.40 in Walgreens coupons, $4 in manufacturer coupons, and $10 in Register Rewards. And more importantly, ALL of these items I use anyway, and most of them I even needed currently. So according to Walgreens, I saved a total of $31.26

I actually did this in two trips, but in the same day. I happened to be driving by a Walgreens on the opposite side of town this morning, so I stopped in and got a few of the things that I knew I could get Register Rewards for. That way, when I was on my way home this afternoon, I could stop by the Walgreens that is right on the way to my house, and use my Register Rewards for some of the items that didn't offer rewards :)
I normally buy all of my stuff at Wal-Mart...food, toiletries, household items...you name it, I usually get it at Wal-Mart. I know, I know...capitalism...but as a consumer on a budget, I really can't help it. I'm cheap. And they really do almost always have the lowest prices. Almost. One thing I just started doing (as of this week actually) is comparing prices at Wal-Mart and in the local store ads that come out weekly. I'll be honest...it took me quite a while to do this thoroughly...and will either be something I get more efficient at, or will end up have to neglect most weeks because I simply don't/won't have the time to invest. There is a fine line between how much money/time I'm willing to spend at the expense of the other...saving 50 cents is not worth an hour of my time to do so.

But this week, I did have a little time for an experiment, so I took advantage of it :) For a couple of the items above, I had done a buggy drive-by at Wal-Mart when I was there yesterday picking up some groceries to look up some prices. I already knew some of the prices that Walgreens was offering because of their ad, so I had something to compare them to. A few others, I looked up online this afternoon because I was curious as to how much I had really saved.

I estimated that with my manufacturer coupons, I would've spent a total of approximately $83.27 at Wal-Mart on these exact same items. So Walgreens lied a little...I didn't really save 31 bucks. But I did save $13.11. I'm happy with that...$13 is worth 20ish minutes of my time ;)

So now I have some toiletries and such that will get me through the next...ohh, I'd say 2-3 months or so...and some cleaning supplies that might last through the next year. haha. Who knows...maybe when I finally run out of those two, I'll let you know ;)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My $1.50 haircut and other exciting deals :)

I love finding a good deal. Because of that, I find Groupon and things of that nature to be websites that I frequent. I wrote a blog a while back about some good deals I had found on websites like Groupon, LivingSocial, etc. I told you in Sweet Home Oklahoma - Part 1 my story about how Arrowhead irritated me with their false advertising on their LivingSocial coupon...to the point that I will probably never go floating with them again...but so far, that's really the only one of these group coupons I've had the chance to use and write a "review" about.

BUT...since those posts, I have found some other really good deals, and I got to use one of them yesterday! :)

NWA DealPiggy is another website that comes in really handy if you are in the Northwest Arkansas area. I actually really like them, because Groupon doesn't have Fayetteville, AR as a city option...the closest ones are Tulsa and Little Rock. So DealPiggy is nice, because I can usually find some things that are more local for me.

I told you here about how I was supposed to go to Florida to visit my friend Sarah (this coming weekend actually...), who has also been my hair stylist for the past 3 years, but my flight got cancelled, so I no longer get to go. Sarah tries to come back to Fayetteville to take care of her old clients about once every 3 months, so even though she lives in Florida, I typically will wait for her to come here and don't let anyone else touch my hair. Sarah was in Fayetteville in August, but I was still in Ridgecrest at the time, so I missed out. I was in DIRE need of a haircut...so I had to make an exception. Shortly after I found out my flight had been cancelled, I found this deal on NWA DealPiggy for a haircut for $11.50, regularly priced $23. I figured it was worth a shot...one of the things I have learned in my 25 years is that even bad haircuts do grow out. AND on top of that, I had a $10 credit with NWA DealPiggy for referring someone, so I only had to pay $1.50! Can't beat that! I couldn't even get a bad haircut a Supercuts for that! So I decided yesterday that it was time to take care of this mess I call my hair...I called Leslie at 10am when the salon opened to make an appointment, and she had a cancellation and was able to fit me in at noon :)

The Before Picture...
 It really wasn't THAT bad...it had just gotten longer, uneven and was looking kinda stringy. I also was starting to get split ends...yuck. I am trying to grow my hair out nice and long for the wedding...so I really just needed a trim!
The After Picture :)
It feels so good to have a fresh, clean cut. The lighting kinda makes it look like I had highlights or something, but I didn't...just a trim. And I love keeping my hair long enough to go in a ponytail...for sure. Overall I was pleased. Leslie was really friendly and she did a good job, and though I hate having to cheat on my favorite stylist, I am starting to come to terms with the fact that sometimes I just can't have everything just like I want it...you know, with her living in Florida and all...And like I said, for $1.50, you really can't beat that :) I tipped her too, so technically I did pay more than $1.50, but I felt like the service was very good and I had already gotten an incredible deal on the fact that it was supposed to be $11.50. So my second "cash-in" for a Groupon/LivingSocial/DealPiggy deal was a success! :) Leslie also said that if I referred anyone to her, she would still honor the deal, even though it is expired...so if you are in the Fayetteville area and in the market for a haircut, give Leslie a call :) That being said, here's a tip for all you group coupon shoppers: If you find a deal that is already sold out or the time has expired to buy it, don't be afraid to call the person/company directly to see if they will still honor the deal. The worst they can tell you is no, so it can't hurt to ask :) I have actually found a couple times now that some places will still honor the price of the deal after it has technically ended.

I also told you about some of the other deals I had purchased in my older post in August...and I haven't used any of them yet, but I will be getting the chance to in the very near future, so I will keep you posted with a review of how those turn out :) In the meantime, here are a few more recent purchases that I look forward to using! :)

$30 for a 1 hour Swedish Massage at Tramps Salon and Day Spa ($60 value)
This one was on NWA DealPiggy recently too. I rarely would treat myself to something like this...mostly because I hate spending money, especially on myself, but I could really use a massage...and I thought this was a great deal :) With this one, I'd like to share another tip: I know I have mentioned this before, but don't be afraid to call ahead and ask questions about the deal. I really thought this would be more fun to do with a friend, rather than just get spoiled all by myself, but the fine print said, "Only one voucher can be used per visit," so I wasn't sure if that was an option. I looked up some info on their website, and they had a "Couples' Massage" listed for $120, where you could bring in a friend or your significant other and do it together...so I just called to see what they would say...and they were completely fine with me buying two and using it for two people to come in at once. I am pretty excited about this, and I'm planning on going for my massage here in the next couple of weeks, so I will keep you posted :)

I already told you about my Warrior Dash Groupon that I got for $30 ($60 value)...and that is THIS Saturday! So get excited...you can definitely expect a review on that one :)

The Wizard of Oz Musical for $23 at the Claremore Performing Arts Center ($46 value)
I am super excited about this Groupon! AND it is actually still on sale, so if you are in the Claremore/Tulsa area and are interested, you can find it by going here. The Wizard of Oz was one of my favorite movies as a child, and I'm really excited because I get to go with my two sisters and my niece on next Tuesday! We're off to see the Wizard, and it's going to be a good time :) And even BETTER...I had referred two friends to Groupon recently, so I had a $20 credit...so this ended up only costing me $3! That is my kind of bargain! I just have to remember to call tomorrow to reserve my seat...haha.

I had also found a really good deal on LASIK eye surgery that I had bought, but I decided to get a refund for it, so I won't be getting LASIK quite as soon as I had hoped. It was a REALLY good deal....$549 per eye, so $1098 total, which was about half off...but it was in Oklahoma City, which is about a 3.5 hour drive for me. The place only did the surgery on Thursdays or Fridays, and there are quite a few follow-up appointments you have to do...so I figured it would end up making me have to miss too much work, and by the time I spent the money on gas and potentially hotel rooms if I had to stay multiple nights, I probably would've only ended up saving a couple hundred dollars...not to mention the time I would spend driving and the wear and tear on my car. So I decided to get a refund and wait it out. Hopefully something better will come along...a similar deal in the Tulsa or Fayetteville area wouldn't hurt my feelings...here's to hoping :) 

One more deal I found was on Saveology.com. This website doesn't really have cities near me (at least not yet), but every once in a while they post a good "National" deal that you don't have to use at a specific location. Recently, they had a deal where you could buy a $10 gift card for $5 that you could use for food or beverages at any Chili's, Macaroni Grill, On the Border or Maggiano's. I actually got my gift card in the mail the other day...the gift card never expires, so I'm sure that one day it will come in really handy when I end up going with someone out to eat at one of those restaurants :) 

When I get a chance to use more of my deal purchases, I will certainly give you a review :) What about you? Do any of you have any experiences with Groupon/LivingSocial/DealPiggy/etc.? Do you know of any other hidden treasures of websites like these that may not be as popular? I would love to hear about them...I always enjoy finding bargains! :) 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm coming home, to the place where I belong...

Today is the day! I officially get to leave Ridgecrest, and start my trek back to God's Country. I am so excited :)

The Silver Bullet got a bath on Wednesday and a good vacuuming on the inside. I have checked my fluids and the air in my tires in preparation for our cross-country road trip. I have plans to detail it when I get back to Arkansas, but I figured I'd give Aspen and Koda a chance to drool and shed all over it one more time before I put forth all that effort...

A few of my coworkers were super nice and took me out to dinner last night to say goodbye :)

I have everything packed, and most of it loaded in the car. The only thing I have left to do is to clean my bathroom (bedroom has already been cleaned!) so that my roommate doesn't have to deal with my mess when I leave, load the last few things in the car (like my computer, toiletry bags, a bag of groceries, etc...things I didn't want to get too hot by being in the heat all day), pack up my ice chest, load up the 4-legged children, and stop for some ice, fuel and bottled water on my way out of town. Hallelujah!

Only one part about leaving California make it kinda bittersweet. I have really enjoyed getting to spend so much time with my grandpa while I've been out here. He lives near Palm Springs, which is about 3 hours from Ridgecrest, and I spent most weekends driving down to visit him. I went and visted him one last time this past weekend, and when I left, he told me to be careful, drive safe, keep in touch...all that stuff that grandpas say...and then he said, "I'll see you in eight months! I've already got it figured up!" He's right. In about 8 more months, I will be back in Ridgecrest for Internship: The Sequel (hopefully...if my extension doesn't get granted, I have to graduate in May and move back out here completely in 8 more months...). He dang near made me tear up when he said that...but thankfully I was able to make it to the car before that happened. I have a pretty darn cool Grandpa, and I am really going to miss those weekends with him. I know he has enjoyed me coming down to visit too, which made it that much harder to leave. I'm glad that it will only be 8 more months before I get to hang out with him again.

I am leaving work early today, and heading to Flagstaff for the night. Then I will get up tomorrow morning and drive to Amarillo to stop for the night. Then I am Claremore bound Saturday morning! I am really looking forward to getting my life back. I'm going to start it off with going to meet my best friend from college's brand new baby boy and watching my little niece play soccer on Saturday. Depending on what time I get into Claremore and how long Brooke's game lasts, I may try to make it to Fayetteville Saturday night in time for the Hogs game against Troy. Otherwise, I may just stay the night in Claremore and spend some extra time with the fam. Sunday is my soccer team's first game of the season, so I'm going to try to make it back for that...hopefully I won't be completely worthless after being in the car for 3 days straight! Then Monday it is back to work to continue working on my PhD! Tuesday is when my phone meeting is scheduled with my scholarship office to see about getting my award extended so I can stay in Fayetteville for an extra year. Wish me luck :)

I have a lot of work to do for my research at school. I also have a house that is in need of a good cleaning, and I'm going to clean both vehicles inside and out...those things will probably be my priority for the first solid week I'm back. I just want to feel like I am at home again :) One of my roommates is moving out soon, and I have another one moving in shortly after I return, so I'm sure I'll be helping with that as well :) Really, I just have a big long list of things I'm going to do when I get back to God's Country. I can't wait to get started :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sweet Home Oklahoma - Part 2! :)

Again...long overdue. But...again...as promised :)

Warning: This post might be a little long, BUT it's mostly pictures :)

Labor Day weekend I got to fly home again and spend time with my family and friends. I flew into Tulsa on Thursday, and waited for my mom to get off work so she could pick me up from the airport. We drove to Claremore and met up with my aunt and one of my sisters so we could go shopping for our 2nd annual Labor Day weekend family camping trip. I think we ended up buying far more food that was necessary...or that we even came close to eating...but hey, you win some, you lose some :)

After the shopping trip,  my sister was nice enough to let me borrow her truck so I could drive to Fayetteville. I had to go by my house and pick up my camping gear, and my red shoes I was supposed to wear in my friend Jesse's wedding on Friday. Thursday (September 1st) happened to be my good friend Clint's birthday, who also happens to share the same birthday as my favorite 4-legged man in the world...my son, Koda, turned 3 that same day! Mom of the year - I had to leave him in California...turns out Pit Bulls aren't allowed on airplanes...so I didn't even get to celebrate it with him :( Clint just started grad school this year, and he had class until 10:00, so when he got out of class I took him out for a beer. Our friend/one of my roommates at home, Erin, ended up meeting up with us later for some fun out on the town :) It was so good to see them both. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my camera in the truck...so no pictures of that night :(

I went home way too late and crashed in the guest room at my house (Erin has been using my bedroom while I've been away)...then I got up way too early so I could run a couple errands in Fayetteville that morning and then drive to Wagoner, Oklahoma, to get ready for my friend Jesse's wedding. She got married at a children's camp that she had worked at over the summer. It was such a quaint little setting and it was perfect for their wedding :)
The view from the room we got ready in. It took every bit of self control I could muster up to not run outside and jump in...it was such a perfect day for the lake!
 Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks to being in the wedding, is you can't exactly take pictures of the ceremony itself. So I don't have a lot of that...but I do have some of us getting ready for her big day :)
Me - pre-makeup, and during my feeble attempt to make my hair look decent...Let's just say I am not a hair stylist...at all. Lucky for me, my good friend Sarah, who doubles as my hair stylist when she's home visiting from Florida, has already booked her reservation for my wedding in May. Thank God for her! :)
Jesse wanted us to all wear low side-ponytails. With a little help from Kristin (one of the other bridesmaids), here is the final product. I always feel the need to take pictures of myself when I'm all dressed up so I can send them to Walter. I almost never have makeup on in the evening when we talk on Skype, so I like to let him know I can still make myself look decent ;) Though he always tells me I'm beautiful...even through the horribly pixelated webcam when he can hardly even make out my eyes vs. my nose. I love him :)

Me and Kristin :) We were sorority sisters at one point, but I didn't actually meet her until the bachelorette party. She's a sweetheart. And she does much better at self-portraits than me...I cut people's heads off because I'm short and I think everyone else should be too...

Me and the Bride :)

The beautiful Bride :)
 The wedding was really nice, and though my feet hurt pretty bad from hiking through the woods for some pre-wedding photography and standing for the entire ceremony, the reception was a good time. I changed to some flat sandals and danced the night away :) I also got to see Deb, who was one of my mentors in college at NSU. I hadn't seen her in a while and it was really nice to catch up and talk about what's new in life. I admire and respect her so much. I failed to get a picture of us together, but I did manage to get one of her dancing...though I'd probably be in big trouble if I posted it on here :)

Anyways, after a little clean-up at the reception, I packed up my stuff and hit the road. I drove to Claremore and stayed the night with my sister, and we got up early Saturday and drove to Spavinaw to go to the lake for our family camping adventure. We got there just in time for breakfast, so we ate some campfire breakfast burritos and set up our tent before going out on the lake. My nephew, Jaxon, had his 8th birthday the same day as Jesse's wedding...I was pretty sad that I missed seeing him on his actual birthday, but I did give him his present that morning - Indiana Jones Legos XBOX 360 game :) He seemed pretty excited about it. I think he liked Cassie's birthday card for him even more though...it was one of those that said something like "I know a pretty rad kid" on the front, and then you open it up and it had one of those mirrors that didn't really give a very good reflection...but he thought it was just the coolest thing ever :) After the breakfast/birthday festivities, we went out on the water.

My aunt brought my grandparents pontoon boat, and my other aunt and uncle have a much faster boat that they brought. The pontoon boat became known as the party boat for some reason...I'm not really sure why Jaxon named it that, but he did. The faster boat has been dubbed "the fast boat" since last summer...and it's the one that nearly killed me. Well...that, or Tubby (my uncle), nearly killed me. Anyway, we had a good time :)
Sarah and me on the party boat :)

Me and Cassie on the party boat :)

My beautiful sisters :) Just so you know, the bottle of Jager was not ours...but I don't mind that it's hiding my gut in the picture ;)

Me and Brooke swimming at the back of the party boat :)

The party boat would be incomplete without a floppy hat and a ridiculous brother-in-law, right?

Brooke fishin' off the side of the party boat with her Barbie fishing pole :)

Austin and Sam on the party boat :) I had to throw this picture in here...in all my 25 years my cousin has never brought a girl home to meet the family. We like her :)
The fast boat...with el capitan, Gordon, a.k.a. Tubby...a.k.a. the one who tries to kill... ;)

Cassie, Brooke and me on the tube...no casualties :)

Cassie and me on the tube...
 Well...Cassie is on the tube. I'm pretty sure this was at the point when my entire lower body was dangling violently in the water, I was about to lose my swimsuit bottoms, and right after this Cassie pulled me back up to safety...if you want to call it that. I think me and Cassie took the trophy for hanging on the longest...but then our uncle decided that was unacceptable and decided extreme measures were going to be needed to get us off the dang tube. The next thing I know, we are literally FLYING through the air...Gordon actually said he saw the entire BOTTOM surface of the tube we got so high...Cassie and I both landed that one...when we landed, my body bent in a position that I am certain it was never intended to bend. And if you would for a moment, imagine a rock skipping across the water...well that was kinda like me and Cassie on the tube. We landed that jump/launch with style, but we went right back up in the air again, and I decided my back was more important than proving myself on the tube, so I let go before the next painful landing. Even still, I thnk me and Cassie dominated the tube. It was Gordon that could not be defeated. When I got back on the boat, Gordon says, "It looked like you kicked yourself in the back of the head!" Just in case you needed a visual of my body position during landing...

After he wore Cassie and I smooth out...we decided to break out the kneeboards.

Gordon on the kneeboard. He was doing cool stuff like 360s and what not. Show off. haha.

My second time to kneeboard in my entire life...the first being when I was about 12 years old. I was going slow and steady, but managed to move in and out of the wake a couple times.
 Kneeboarding was a good time, until I nose-dived into the water...both the nose of the kneeboard, and my nose. I inhaled a lot of water, and my arms were already limp from hanging on to the tube for so long...I decided to call it quits after my first crash on the kneedboard :)

Jaxon, the birthday boy, and Brooke on the fast boat. Tell me I don't have the most adorable niece and nephew...I dare you :)
 After a nice long day on the water, we decided to go back to camp and cook dinner. We had some campfire burgers and hot dogs. After that, once the sun started to set, we went back out on the lake. That time of night is my favorite time on the water...it's cooling off outside, but the water is nice and warm, and it's so smooth it looks like glass. I just love it :)

Since I had a nice big meal to replinish my energy, I decided to try my hand at tubing again. Only this time, I decided to play it safe and go with the 4-year-old ;)

Me and Brooke on the tube :)
 I guess I was wrong in thinking I would be safe with the 4-year-old. Shorly after this picture, we achieved the impossible. We had taught little miss Brooklynn the signs for speed up, slow down, and "good" while tubing. We got to going kinda fast, so she sent the signal to slow down. Tubby slowed down quite a bit, then Brooklynn decided it was TOO slow...so she gave the thumbs up. Tubby took off, and thanks to all the waves he had created around us by taking us in circles, we decided our tube was a submarine instead. The entire tube, plus me and Brooke, went completely under water. I got my head above water as fast as I could and swam to Brooke as quickly as the waves would let me. Of course we both had life jackets on, but the force was still enough to keep her under there for quite a bit of time when you have no oxygen...She was scared, but she was a trooper...only cried for a few seconds and then she was okay :)

After that, we decided to call it a day and headed back to camp.

I had to get a sunset picture of course...how peaceful does that water look? :)
 We hung around the campfire for a bit before going to bed. The next morning we woke up, and the weather was not so cooperative. It was pretty cool outside, crazy windy, and rained off and on througout the morning. We managed to get in some breakfast in between rain showers, but we spent most of the morning like this:

Cassie and Brooke in the tent, hiding from the rain. Jaxon and I were on the other side, hence the camera angle :)
Since it was a little too cold and windy for the lake, we decided to pack up camp and head home early. Of course as soon as we get the cars loaded up completely, the sun comes out and it warms up...it was still pretty windy though, so the water would've still been really choppy anyhow. We all headed back to Claremore. We decided to have a family outing and go to a movie instead since our camping trip got cut short. A few family members ended up cutting out, but we still had a good time. My aunt Kathy, mom, Cassie and me went to see The Help. I had heard about it, and knew a lot of people were suddenly reading the book so they could go watch the movie, but I honestly didn't even know what it was about. It ended up being a pretty good flick though...long, but good. I enjoyed it, and I was glad I got to spend a little extra time with some of the family. After the movie, we had a late night dinner at Chili's, where my uncle Ronnie, Sarah and the kiddos joined us. That poor waitress probably hated us coming in with a party of eight 30 minutes before closing...but I promise, I tipped her well, despite a few errors on her part :)

Cassie and I went back to her house and slept. The next morning we got up and around, and we made use of some of that leftover food by having a family Labor Day chili lunch at my grandparents' house. I was glad I got to see them while I was in town too. After hanging out one last time, Sarah took me to the airport to catch my flight.

I was bummed that our camping trip got rained out, but all in all it was a good weekend. Sweet Home Oklahoma: Part 2 was still a success! :)