Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Warrior Dash...Resurrected!

I mentioned in my last post that I was super bummed because I was not going to get to do Warrior Dash in Tulsa on September 24th. My sister and some friends were already signed up for the 1:00 wave, and I couldn't find anybody to do it with me in a different time slot...and something like that would not be nearly as fun to do by yourself...so I pouted a little, and finally accepted the fact that I was going to miss out on all this:

Running through fire....(photo source)

Swimming over logs...(photo source)

Crawling through mud pits...(photo source)

And getting to wear one of these fancy warrior helmets...(photo source)
But my hopes and dreams have been given a second chance! (Don't act like you're not jealous...)

I got the email early yesterday morning with the good news...a $30 Groupon for Warrior Dash! Warrior Dash was originally $50, but after August 28th, it went up to $60 if you registered through the Warrior Dash website. So by this time, had I registered yesterday without the Groupon, I would've had to pay 60 bucks...to potentially kill myself...yikes! Needless to say, I was really excited. $30 for potentially killing myself is far more worth it ;) And even better...turns out it is easier to recruit people when it's $30 vs. $50-$60! My sister is still doing the 1:00 wave, and when the Groupon went on sale, there were only a few waves left: 9:00am, 3:30pm and 4:00 pm. So I found a few friends...two of them were in my sorority during my undergrad years, one I am in grad school with...and one of my sorority sisters recruited her roommate too...so we are looking at a party of 5 for the Warrior Dash! I'm pretty excited :)

The $30 Groupon for Warrior Dash - Tulsa is still available for about 9 more hours, so if you want to join in on the fun, act quickly before all the slots open up! The 3:30pm and 9:00am time slots are now full, but 4:00 is still available AND they actually opened a couple more slots at 8:30am and 4:30pm. And go figure...I just looked at the website, and there just so happens to be 1 new opening for the 1:00 wave...the one my sister is doing...but oh well...you win some, you lose some. And I'm just happy to say that I now consider my Warrior Dash crises a win :)

I am really looking forward to the race. Now it is time to get my game face on...I have been a serious slacker in the running department lately (I'd like the thank the 110 degree heat for that...). BUT I did get up a little early this morning to go for a 2 mile run, and I'm planning on swinging by the gym after work for some weight lifting. Bring it on Warrior Dash! Let the training begin! :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Airlines 2, Lauren 0.

I have decided that the forces in the airline universe are working against me. Really, it could just be life in general...either way, I don't like it. I don't really believe in luck...I believe you create opportunities or your decisions cause you to miss them. But I have been feeling extremely unlucky lately...

Let me explain.

Situation 1:
A few months ago, I found out that Warrior Dash is coming to Tulsa. I have always wanted to do one of these events, and I was so excited! It is scheduled for September 24th, which worked out great, because it would be just a few days after I returned from my internship in California. I waited to sign up because we were in the process of trying to get a group together, and you have to sign up for a particular time...they had waves every 30 minutes starting at 11am.

My good friend Sarah lives in Panama City, FL, and I have been looking for a good opportunity to go visit her. She had told me about a relatively new airline that has direct flights from Destin (about an hour from Panama City) to Little Rock (about 2 hours and 45 minutes from my house), sometimes for really cheap!  (I know right now it seems entirely unrelated to Warrior Dash...bear with me...). A couple months ago, I happened to be browsing on the website for Vision Airlines hoping for an opportunity to go see her. I found a flight that left Saturday evening, September 24th, and returned Tuesday evening, September 27th...all for under $200 round trip, including taxes and fees! Something in my head told me that I had something else going on the 24th, but I couldn't for the life of me think of what it was at the time...so I somehow convinced myself that  I was thinking of September 21st, when I am going to the Taylor Swift concert in Tulsa. I decided September 24th was free (I really should get better about putting stuff down in my calendar...), and booked my flight!

Soon after I realized that Warrior Dash was the same day as my flight. At first, I thought I could still manage to make both...if I did the 11am wave for the Warrior Dash in Tulsa, I thought I could still make the 4.5 hour drive to Little Rock by 6pm to check in for my flight. It's only about 3.23 miles, so I thought, "Heck, I'll be finished in 35 minutes!"...but then my sister brought me back to reality when she reminded me that I had to consider the fact that it was not only 3.23 miles...it was 3.23 miles through a crazy obstacle course. It would probably end up taking me at least 3 hours to complete. This left me roughly 4 hours to shower and drive to Little Rock. Yeah, not happening. So I was bummed, but I accepted the fact that I could not do Warrior Dash; at least I was going to the beach and to visit my good friend Sarah, who also happens to be my hair stylist, and I am in dire need of a haircut.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from the airline stating that there had been a schedule change to my flight, and that I needed to call and find out my new itinerary. I called, and they had pushed my outgoing flight back to 8:30pm. Initially, I got really excited, because this meant I could still do Warrior Dash! I went back and checked...and the 11:00 wave was full. Not only that, but they had also added a 10:00 and 10:30 wave...also full. Bummer. The 1:00 wave was the earliest one available, and back in the same boat I started in...I couldn't swing it. Even more bummed, I went on content with the fact that I was still going to the beach and to visit my good friend Sarah.

Yesterday morning, I got super excited when I realized that I was exactly 1 month from my trip to Florida! I even posted on Facebook about it. Sarah was excited too. Then, just a mere two hours later, I receive the email of death. I get the same email from the airline that I did a couple weeks ago. I call. I wait on hold forever for them to actually answer my phone call in the order it was received. Finally, a man answers, and gives me the awful news: My flight to Florida has been cancelled. Apparently the airline cancelled all of the flights on that route after September 15th. Now I want to cry. My sister and friends signed up for the 1:00 wave for Warrior Dash, which is now full. So now, I have no vacation to Florida to see my good friend Sarah, AND I have no friends to do Warrior Dash with. At least the airline is refunding my money...other than that, I am having trouble seeing the good in this situation...

Situation 2:
I booked our rooms for our wedding-moon stay in Cozumel in May 2012 back in May of this year. Airfare was not available yet, so I didn't book that at the same time. When it did finally come out in late June/early July (I can't remember exactly), it was $476 per person. Considering I had just flown to Cancun last summer and the tickets were only $298 per person, I had a hard time spending that much on our flights. I thought, "Surely they will go down between now and May." I had actually read something online that said airfare is generally at it's lowest point approximately 6 months before travel. So I had been watching airfare prices like crazy lately, just waiting for it to go down. I had come to terms with the fact that airfare is simply much more expensive that it was a year ago, and decided that if it dropped below $450 per person, I would go ahead and make my purchase. About 3 weeks ago, the cost of our plane tickets went up to $513 per person. I wanted to kick myself. I even looked up random dates, anywhere from now until April, to see if there was a particular time that airfare was cheaper. Nope. $513 was actually the cheapest airfare to Cozumel for the next 9 months. I was so mad at myself that I didn't buy it earlier...it would've saved us $37 per person, or $74 total. When you're paying for a wedding on your own, $74 can make a big difference somewhere else...

So I decided to bite the bullet and pay the $513 for the stupid airfare in case it went up again. I bought my plane ticket 2 days ago from Continental. I checked the prices today, and found one on American for $474...it was over $600 two days ago. REALLY??!

I guess I just need to not look at the prices, ever again.

So now I have my overpriced plane ticket to Cozumel, and no plane ticket to Florida. I also don't get to do Warrior Dash, because I can't find anyone to do it with me that's not already signed up for a wave that's full.

Okay, I'm done complaining. Now I'm just going to go pout :(

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sweet Home Oklahoma - Part 1

Oklahoma is by no means God's Country (a.k.a. Arkansas), but when your family is there, and you have been living in the desert for the past 8 weeks, practically isolated because you don't really know anyone and therefore have no friends, it is a close second :) I don't think I've ever been so excited to go home for a visit in my life. It was good to be home :)

I am calling this Part 1, because I get to go home for another visit in just a couple of weeks over Labor Day weekend...looking forward to that one too :) One of my best friends, Jesse, is getting married that weekend, and I bought a plane ticket to go home for that...and she scheduled her Bachelorette Party for two weeks before the wedding, which worked out great, because I had a 3-day-weekend this past weekend and was off Friday! Jesse was nice enough to offer to pay for my plane ticket for her wedding, but I really wanted to buy it myself - so she agreed, and offered to buy my plane ticket to come home for her Bachelorette Party instead. I felt really bad to ask her to pay for that, but there was no way I could afford two plane tickets so close together when I have been watching our pennies very tightly in order to get the truck paid off...so we compromised :) She and her husband-to-be were very generous and paid for my one-way flight home for the weekend, and I had built up enough airline miles for a one-way flight home...so I only had to pay $5 in taxes. It saved us both some money, and made it where I could come celebrate with her, so I think it was a good compromise :) It worked out really nicely, because Friday also happened to be my sister's birthday, so I got to celebrate with her too!

I found a good deal on a flight from Orange County, CA to Tulsa. In case you weren't aware, airfare is outrageous right now...and flying out of the airports near Ridgecrest are even more outrageous. Google told me that the John Wayne Airport was 135 miles and a 3 hour and 1 minute drive from my house. I figured the significantly cheaper airfare was worth the drive and the gas money to get down there. I was very blessed by my better half's cousin, Bo...he has an aunt in Long Beach (about 15 miles from the OC Airport), and he called her and asked if I could stay the night with her Thursday night because my flight was at 6:45am Friday morning. She was such a sweet little old lady, and kindly agreed and let me stay :) So Thursday evening, I left work, swung by my house and picked up my bags, kissed my 4-legged children (I always hate having to leave them behind :( ...) and made the 2 hour and 45 minutes drive down to Long Beach. Shorter than I expected :) I went to bed pretty soon after dinner because I had set my alarm for 3:45am the next morning so I could leave by 4:15am. I had heard horror stories about freeway traffic in that part of California, so being that it was my first time to a new airport, I wanted to play it safe. Ended up being a little too safe, because it only took me 20 minutes to get to the parking lot at the airport, and then just a few more to unload the car and have a nice shuttle driver take me to the terminal. So I was there super early, but it's better to be safe than sorry, right?

A very nice skycap got my bags for me immediately when I exited the shuttle, got me checked in and gave me my boarding pass. I felt horrible, because I had just given my last dollar bill to the shuttle driver as a tip, so I had nothing to give him, and he was super friendly and helpful. So I asked him where I could find an ATM, went downstairs by the baggage claim, withdrew some money, got change, and went back and gave him 3 bucks. He was so surprised and told me thank you and actually gave me a hug! To me, it was not a big deal at all...to him, it made his morning, and possibly his day. It kinda made me wonder how poorly he gets treated by most of the people he helps... :(

After that, I made my way through security and had a long wait before my plane started boarding. So I took the opportunity to read a little bit of my most recent iPad purchase, Confessions of a Military Wife. I had purchased the Kindle edition from Amazon.com for a mere $8.69, and let me tell you, so far, it has been worth every penny.

If you are a relatively new military wife, or are dating or engaged to a soldier, sailor or airman, I highly recommend this read. Although I must add this disclaimer: If you read it in a public place like an airport terminal or airplane, be prepared for lots of weird looks when you are trying to stifle the uncontrollable laughter coming from within you. It's pretty darn funny :)

I finally boarded my 6:45am Southwest flight to Phoenix where I had about an hour and a half layover. I read more of my book. And eventually I made it to Tulsa. My birthday sister and brother-in-law picked me up and we headed to Claremore to pick up the kiddos. I have the most adorable niece and nephew...and can hardly believe how fast they are growing up! It makes me sad that I have to miss so much of their lives. I hate the idea of them thinking of Aunt Lauren as someone who wasn't around often when they were growing up :( But it was great to see them! After picking them up from school, we dropped the boys off at the house, and the girls went to visit my other sister at work so they could try on their bridesmaids dresses. Brooklynn insisted on going because she "LOVES dresses!" It was cute :) Unfortunately, my $30 bridesmaids dresses are not going to work out after all...my oldest sister is 5'8", and it was a bit too short for her (and my) taste. So...back to the drawing board on that... :P

After that, we went back to Sarah's house and I got ready for Jesse's Bachelorette Party. Lucky for me, her dinner party was at On the Border in Tulsa, which is literally right across the street from the mall. I had bought the dresses on July 19th from the Charlotte Russe website, so I BARELY made my 30 day window that I could return the dresses for a full refund. I made a quick detour to the mall, returned the dresses for everything except the shipping, bought Jesse one more gift on my way out the door, and headed to the dinner party! We ate dinner, played a few games and Jesse opened her shower gifts :)
The Bachelorette :)

After dinner, we made our way to the Hard Rock Casino to go to Friction to dance the night away. We got there a bit early, and Friction was kinda dead, so we found a table near the bar to hang out until the dance floor picked up. I tried to tell Jesse that now that WE had arrived, we WERE the party...but we sat for a bit anyways...
Me and the Bachelorette, once the party finally got started :)
My lovely sisters were so good to me and came to Friction too. Since it was Sarah's birthday, and I was already by default going to Friction, her and Robbie and Cassie and Brett all decided to join me for a double celebration. Other than the bride, I had never met any of the other girls at the party, so I was excited that they came :)
All we are missing is my better half ;)
I had seen an old friend of mine from across the room that I actually used to live with in high school. I hadn't spoken to her in years, and we haven't exactly remained friends...but her birthday was Saturday, and since it was officially Saturday morning by this point, I decided I should go say hi and wish her a happy birthday. I was a little nervous, because to put it mildly, I'm not her favorite person...but I was glad I did. It went well, she was very surprised, thanked me and congratulated me on my engagement. I had seen her a little over a year ago, and it wasn't nearly as pleasant. It makes me happy to know that we can move on and put our past grudges behind us. It was actually nice to see her and talk with her for a few minutes :)

After that, I headed to the parking lot to get in the truck my sister let me borrow for the weekend. As I was walking out around 1:30am, I passed a couple that was on their way in and clearly in a good mood from the alcohol...and the man says, "You're leaving too early! You even have your dancing shoes!" So I, carrying my heels in my hand because they had done a number on my feet, holler back at him in my best southern accent, "My feet are tired!" I had been in Oklahoma for a whopping 11 hours, and my country girl vibe was already sneaking out in true fashion...

I went back to my sister's house, we stayed up way too late visiting and finally went to bed around 3:30am. This made 7:45am came really early...We got up and around, loaded the car with ice chests and camping gear, and headed to go float the river with my whole family for my sister's birthday celebration! I, unfortunately, did not get to stay and camp after floating, but my sister, brother-in-law and the kiddos did. After I almost got into a huge fight with the guy behind the counter who insisted I was wrong about his fine print, we finally got to use our Groupons. I don't know what is with customer service these days...or the lack thereof...but whatever happend to the customer is always right? The fine print for the $11 Groupon clearly stated, "Limit one per three people." As anybody with a brain would assume, I took this to mean I can use the Groupon, and up to two other people have to pay full price. So by default, if we had a group of 4 people, we should get to use 2 Groupons: one for the first set of three, and one for the 4th person. But rude man behind the counter told me multiple times that I was "terribly wrong" and that I HAD to have 3 people to be able to use every Groupon. In other words, I had to have 6 people in order to use 2 Groupons. I call this false advertising. It said "limit 1 per 3 people,"...NOT..."MUST have 3 people in order to use 1 coupon." After arguing with him for a bit, getting really frustrated that he had the nerve to tell me I couldn't read, I finally decided he wasn't worth my time and walked away. Thankfully, there was a nice girl behind the counter that ended up allowing us to use all of our Groupons after all (we had 14 people, 3 of which were children that only had to pay $7.50/child to float anyways, and 6 Groupons). If it weren't for her, I may have never gone back to Arrowhead to float...ever again.

Anyways, after that ordeal and a long wait for my sister and her family to get checked into their campsite and get the ice chests packed for the float trip, we finally made it to the river :) Minus a few immature incidents, it was a good time overall. I had a good time with my family and was happy that I got to spend some time with them :)
My niece, Brooklyn...a.k.a. my little diva ;)

We docked the boats and let the kids get plenty of play time in :)

Me with the birthday girl :)
We finally got off the river around 5:45pm. I had to rush back to Claremore (an hour drive from the river), shower, get dressed and drive to Pryor (a 20 min. drive from Claremore) for Bachelorette Party, Part Deux by 7:00pm. This clearly did not happen. But, I did manage to take a shower and get completely dressed in less than 15 minutes, and I made it to Pryor only 20 minutes late. Thankfully, the party hadn't started just yet :) This was my first experience with a For Ladies Only Party, and it was interesting, for sure. haha. I accidently left my camera in the car, so I did not get any good pictures. All in all, it was a fun experience and Jesse seemed to enjoy it!

After eating nothing but a donut, a small sandwich, some doritos, a piece of cake and a few chewy chocolate chip cookies throughout the entire day, I had nearly sent my body into shock and was craving something with substance, so I stopped by Arby's for some late night chicken strips on my way home. I ended up only eating one and a half of them because I was too tired to function...haha. I made it back to Claremore around 10:30 and stayed the night with my mom so she could take me to the airport for my 6:00am flight the next morning. Bless her :)

All in all, I had a great weekend with my family and my dear friend. I was sad to leave. BUT it makes me happy knowing that I get to go back in less than two weeks for another visit, only this one will be for five days and four nights because it's a holiday weekend! ...Stay tuned for Part 2 - the wedding and the annual family camping/lake trip! :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In Memory of Sgt. Anthony Peterson

I did not know Sgt. Anthony Peterson personally, but he was from a town right outside of where I grew up. He was a member of the Oklahoma Army National Guard and his life was cut short at 24 years old when he was killed in action during his second tour in Afghanistan on August 4th. His funeral was held today at First Baptist Church in Claremore, Oklahoma (the church I grew up in).

From what I have heard and read, he was a great man who loved Jesus, life, and his country. A friend of mine that I have known since 2nd grade told me that Sgt. Peterson was a good friend of his and will be sorely missed.

There was an article in my hometown newspaper two days that absolutely broke my heart. It stated that Westboro Baptist Church had planned to protest at the funeral. You can see the article here.

For those of you that don't know what Westboro Baptist Church is, they are a group of people that picket at events, namely military funerals, across the country with signs that say things like "God hates fags," "Thank God for IEDs" and "Thank God for dead soldiers." They even twist scriptures from the Bible around to "back up" their claims. They were going to picket at this funeral just to cause even more sorrow for his family and friends to have to bear. Why, you ask? Here is the "reason" they put on their website:
"First Baptist Church of Claremore in Claremore, OK    August 16, 2011  9:15 AM - 10:00 AM
WBC to picket nearby in lawful proximity to the funeral of Army National Guard Sgt. Anthony Del Mar Peterson.  This young man was cut off in his youth by a vengeful God for the sins of Oklahoma.  The State of Oklahoma is a vile place full of hatred for God and His word.  The Lord is not slack concerning His promises, but will repay Oklahomans to their faces for the misuse and abuse of His servants at WBC at the hand of your citizens. 

Deuteronmy 7:9  Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
10  And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.
11  Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them.

You seem unable to connect the dots between your treatment of God's servants and the multiple GodSmacks you receive.  Let WBC help you connect those dots up through the bringing of these words which are health and life to you!  God's word for it.  It is not coincidence that the Lord made this the deadliest week for Oklahoma soldiers so far."

(For those of you that were unaware, there were at least 5 soldiers from the state of Oklahoma that were killed within a weeks period at the beginning of August. Four of them National Guardsmen, one was a soldier in the U.S. Army that was stationed at Ft. Hood, TX, and was deployed to Iraq. This was before the helicopter crash that killed 31 U.S. Troops, most of which were Navy SEALS.)

My immediate emotion when I read the above article was pure anger. I thought to myself, "If only I were home right now, I would go and let them know what I think of them and show them where they can stick their pickets!" But then I was reminded of 1 Peter 3:9...

"Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing."

From what I have heard about this brave young man who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country, he would probably have 'turned the other cheek' (Matthew 5:39) and would not have chosen to repay evil for evil.

After anger, came disgust. I couldn't believe that these people could actually do this. I have decided they clearly don't have a conscience. After I decided that shoving their pickets up their you know whats would be a bad example of the Jesus I strive to represent, I at least wanted to remind them what gave them their 1st amendment right to protest in the first place....

Then my emotion just shifted to where it should've been all along: to the family that was mourning their fallen soldier. My soldier is also only 24 years old, also a member of the National Guard...and I cannot even IMAGINE what I would do if something happened to him. It brings me to all out tears just THINKING about the possibility. I always pray and hope for the best, but I know that there are no guarantees.

I wanted so badly to be home today to show my support to this family as they mourned this tragedy. I'm not sure I could've contained myself had I actually seen these evil people in person...maybe in some weird way, God was actually looking out for me by keeping me away in California...I don't know.  Right now, my emotions have reached a state of deep sympathy for his family and friends, as well as peace in knowing that the God I know and love is a just God that will follow through on his promises. I have complete faith that those "Christians" from Westboro Baptist Church will have to answer directly to their creator someday for their actions (I kinda wish I could be a fly on the wall when it happens...). I found this picture earlier, and I had to share it:
found photo here.
 This is Westboro Baptist Church protesting at the courthouse in Claremore:

stole photo from a friend on facebook.
I do have to say that I am very proud of my hometown and the neighboring citizens. Not only did the City of Claremore arrange it with the funeral home to where the funeral procession would not even go by there on their way to the church so the families would not even have to see them, hundreds and hundreds of citizens lined Route 66 (the highway between Chelsea and Claremore) and downtown Claremore all the way to the church with American flags and signs supporting our troops.

I also heard that the Patriot Riders also showed up. Take that WBC... :) Below are a couple of links about the soldier and his funeral procession:

Honoring Valor: Residents Pay Respects to Fallen Soldier (this one has a video and lots of pictures)

While I hate being at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, I love my soldier deeploy, and I stand behind our troops with everything that I am. I want them all home, and safe, and with their loved ones more than I want just about anything. If Westboro Baptist Church ever decides to make an appearance in your area, please go support the family in their loss and support your troops....

Until they all come home...

Monday, August 15, 2011

5 more weeks.

Week 8 of my internship has officially started, which means - including this week - I have 5 weeks left.  I don't know whether to say, "Praise Jesus, almost there!" or "Really? I still have FIVE more to go?" I really can't decide.

I feel bad saying that. I don't like complaining. And while Ridgecrest is not the most exciting town, I really do like the people I work with, and can definitely see myself enjoying my job long term. Things have just been going by soooo ssssllllllooooooowwww.

There are very few things that can make the week go by faster. I have been doing a lot of sitting at my computer desk, waiting on chemicals or equipment to come in. I bring my lunch every day...and I've started slowly eating pieces of it anywhere from 11am to 2pm...just to stretch it out and make it last longer - something to do! I spend entirely too much time on Facebook, blogger, etsy, ebay, Craigslist....you name it. I check my email approximately 437 times a day. I'm not even sure that's an exaggeration.

I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss being busy. And I especially miss my better half.

Koda is even sick of this place (literally...he randomly throws up 1-2 times per week). I know what you're thinking...."Take your dog to the vet!" Well thanks for the advice, but if I were really concerned that something were wrong with him, I certainly would. But it's very inconsistent, happens at completely random times, and other than the barfing...he's completely normal: eats, drinks, sleeps, poops, plays, sleeps, repeat. I really do think he's fine. I can't help but be a little worried, of course, but I even called my vet today after he woke me up about 10 minutes til 6 this morning dry heaving...apparently it can take some dogs up to a few months to adjust to new surroundings. In other words, he's probably going to be completely adjusted on the exact day we leave. Then I'll throw him in a car for 3 days and 1500 miles...and he'll probably stay sick for the next 3 months. Awesome.

Anyhow. I'm trying really hard to just pass the time. During the week, the best I can usually come up with is going to the gym after work (always a good stress reliever) and taking my dogs for a run (sometimes more of a stress enhancer than reliever...but they need it, and I love them :). Tonight, I've pretty much already decided on going to the gym, getting a movie from Redbox on my way out, stopping by the grocery store on my way home only to get a pint of Ben & Jerry's and some bananas (I could do without these tonight, but I know I'll regret it in the morning if I don't have them for my smoothie tomorrow morning).

The weekends are really what keep me going.

Last weekend (Aug. 12-14) = hung out with Grandpa in Palm Springs. He always feeds me yummy food. I try to pay sometimes, but he won't let me. He gives me golf lessons (poor guy...he's got his work cut out for him), takes me swimming, and watches movies with me on TV. This weekend in particular, we raided the grocery store for sugar free goods to help with his diet as directed by his doctor. He's pretty good company. That has by far been the best part of being out here so far away from home...I at least get to spend some quality time with Grandpa.

This coming weekend (Aug. 19-21) = flying to Tulsa. Hallelujah! Friday night - my best friend's bachelorette party, part 1. Saturday - float trip with the fam for my sister's "29th" birthday party! Followed by Jesse's bachelorette party, part 2. Sunday - flying back into Orange County. I'm thinking a detour to the beach on my way back to Ridgecrest may be in order. Yes, by myself. I would be perfectly okay with that. I'm also tempted to go to IKEA that's only a few miles away from the airport on the way home because I really want this picture:

Unfortunately, my common sense tells me this is a bad idea. That or the fact that it's 5.5 x 3 ft and there's no way it's gonna fit in my car... :(

Next weekend (Aug. 26-28) = Camping on the beach in San Diego! Not by myself this time...my old roommate is from San Diego, and though she is not there (lives in Little Rock now), her family was gracious enough to invite me to tag along. I am so looking forward to that!

Weekend after next (Sept. 1-5) = I get a long weekend! I actually get to take off a day early and I'm flying back to Tulsa again on Thursday. My nephew's 8th birthday and Jesse's wedding are Friday, and my friend Brittany is also getting married in Fayetteville on Saturday. Plus, it's Labor Day weekend, which means 2nd annual family camping trip at the lake! I can't wait! I get to be gone for a whole 5 days! It's also the first game of the season for Razorback football, but I will be at the wedding, so unfortunately I will miss it. Who knows, maybe I can catch the second half?? :)

The weekend after that (Sept. 9-11) = TBD. Will keep you posted. Maybe I'll go see Grandpa again...maybe I'll stay home and pack....because....

THE FOLLOWING WEEKEND IS MY LAST WEEKEND IN CALIFORNIA!!!!! (Sept. 16-18). (Sorry Missy, please excuse my overuse of exclamation points. I really am that excited :) September 15th is a glorious day. It marks the end of my summer internship. I plan on stopping by to see Grandpa one last time one my way out of town...although I do have to find a convenient, decently-priced place to board the puppies in the town of the rich and shameless in order to do so (cross your fingers), and then it is time to head back to God's Country!

I plan on leaving this state no later than September 18th, which would put me back in Oklahoma by September 20th. Just in time for Taylor Swift at the BOK Center on the 21st :) I will spend 2 glorious days in God's Country, before going to visit my friend Sarah in Florida for a few days. At which point, I will stop wishing my life away. I promise :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Big Kid Lunch Box

Since I am kind of a dork, slightly lacking on fun things to post about at the moment, and sitting here bored at work...I figure I'd just take the opportunity to talk about food. I like food. It makes me happy.

Since me and the better half are trying really hard to watch our pennies and get completely out of debt, I have really been looking for ways to discipline myself and cut back expenses and stick to our budget. The past three months, we have successfully spent either the exact amount or less than we budgeted for in almost every category. One of the categories I did REALLY well on this month was my "Food: Dining Out" category. I originally budgeted for $120, then about halfway through the month I realized there was no way I was going to spend that much, so I changed it to $100 and moved the other $20 into the "Extra Truck Payments" category. I set up our monthly budget to run from the 15th of the month to the 14th of the next. It is just more convenient for our pay schedules and when the bulk of our bills are due, since he gets paid bimonthly, and I get paid monthly on the 3rd Friday of the month. Since we are approaching the 14th, I decided to look at our budget and put whatever left over money we had in any of the categories towards the truck. I ended up only spending $65 on restaurants this past month! Of the $65, only about $7 worth was spent at fast food restaurants...and those were times I was on the road. And my favorite part...we were able to make an extra payment of $195 today just from the leftovers in this and other categories! (I still left a little money in the food and gas category to get me through the weekend :) I am really excited, because that amount brings us to just over $3600 we were able to pay on the truck this month (including the regular monthly payment of $460).

Don't get me wrong, I like to go out to eat once in a while...it's a good way to hang out with friends, or just give yourself a break when you just don't feel like cooking. But I have been trying really hard to only eat out a few times per month to keep costs down. Being away from home right now, sometimes I find it to be a little bit of a hassle to cook meals at home because I really don't love cooking just for myself. But this is where that whole discipline thing comes in...I suck it up and do it anyways. One of the major ways I have been able to save money is by taking my own lunch to work almost every day. I say almost because sometimes we have group lunches with people at work, so I feel like there are times that I need to go out with the group and not be a fuddy dud sitting at my desk. I also like bringing my lunch because I have been eating much healthier than I would if I went out to lunch every day.

All that to say...let's face it, sometimes you just get sick of sandwiches for lunch. There is really only so much PB&J (unless you're Walter) and turkey and cheese one can take. So I have been trying to come up with simple, healthy ideas that I can put together quickly in the mornings when I am getting ready for work. Here are a few things I've done so far:

Wheat tortilla wrap with turkey lunch meat, swiss cheese slice, lettuce and honey mustard. Raw baby carrots, triscuit crackers (I love the rosemary & olive oil flavor), and apple sauce. I also carry my water bottle around with me pretty much everywhere I go, so water is always what I have with lunch. It holds 24 oz., and I probably go through about 3 bottles full per day.
  I have really trying to be good about eating more fruit lately. It takes a little more prep, because you actually have to cut it...and you have to plan around when it gets ripe and cut it before it goes bad. I usually try to do this the night before to save on time in the mornings. Plus, a whole pineapple will last you at least a few days. I have also used watermelon :)

 Chicken salad: here I used romain lettuce (I also really like spinach leaves), cut up half a gala apple, added some walnuts and about 1/4 can of canned chicken, topped off with raspberry vinaigrette dressing. I came up with this salad all on my own one day, and it is one of my very favorite meals. An alternative to the canned chicken is grilling 1-2 chicken breast tenderloins (I use this as a dinner meal a lot, and marinate the chicken in balsamic vinegar before I cook it) and cutting it into bite-size pieces. Cut up pineapple, baby carrots and triscuit crackers.

Again with the pineapple...what can I say, it's my favorite fruit :) Turkey and swiss cheese on honey wheat sandwich thins, complete with honey mustard, of course :) And strawberry light and fit yogurt.
I have to be honest...I'm not a huge yogurt fan. I like it, don't get me wrong, but I have a really weird thing about textures. I really hate chunks of fruit in my yogurt. I'll eat it, but it's not my favorite. I don't know what it is...I like yogurt, I like fruit...I just don't like chunks of mushy fruit in my yogurt that's been sitting in a package for weeks....I also hate things like tapioca pudding. I just don't think the smooth texture of yogurt/pudding should have chunks of stuff in it.  Weird side note/random fact about Lauren. So...I found this alternative that I really enjoy :) I really like just plain vanilla yogurt. So instead of buying the individual packages, I decided to just buy a tub of the vanilla light & fit yogurt. While the little individual tubs might be more convenient, buying in bulk is always cheaper, and I have more control over how much of a serving I give myself.

Again with the turkey and cheese on sandwich thins, and the baby carrots (I am not much of a raw vegetable eater...so carrots are about all I do in lunches. I eat more vegetables for dinner when I'm at home and can actually cook them...I promise :) Some of my vanilla yogurt, topped with a few walnuts and fresh cut strawberries :) I love this! I get the yogurt that is good for me, and the fruit that is good for me, but without the soggy chunks mixed in my yogurt :) I also like this little packs of yogurt covered pretzels.
 *Disclaimer: I usually refuse to buy the 100 packs of things, simply because I think it is such a waste of packaging, they are usually more expensive this way, and thank you, but I am quite capable of counting out calories myself if I really wanted to only eat 100 calories worth. BUT, I can't seem to find these little guys in a bigger package so I CAN divide them up myself. If anyone knows where to get them, please let me know! They are a good snack when my sweet tooth takes over :)

A few other things I do that I don't have pictures of are actual sandwiches (sometimes I really do JUST want some PB&J), lean pockets - I really like the meatballs and mozzerella ones - and I feel like that's a good alternative because I almost never take anything beef for lunch when I pack my lunch myself. Those don't always fill me up, so I will usually take a snack or two of fruit or carrots or whatever to have with them too. And lately, I have been on a bit of a kick with the white cheddar cheez-its...I just take a small ziplock bag and portion those out myself....because trust me, there are times I could probably just sit and eat half a box at a time. haha. Leftovers are also really good...anytime I make something like spagetti, stir fry or tuna helper (not a huge fan of hamburger helper...think I ate it too much growing up, but I really do actually like tuna helper - plus it keeps well and it can feed me for at least 4-5 meals...haha) that will keep for a few days, I will take leftovers for lunch.

And sometimes, when I really just don't have time to make my lunch, or I just feel like something warm instead of something cold on a particular day (doesn't happen to often when it's 106 degrees outside, but hey, gotta be prepared when the urge hits ;) - I really like these steamer meals. They are generally around 280-350 calories each, and generally have some type of meat, pasta and veggies inside.

This is my favorite one by Healthy Choice (picture stolen from walmart.com)...I LOVE me some squish (zucchini and yellow squash for those of you that don't understand my slang).

I also just found out recently that Marie Callender's makes steamer meals too! I don't have a favorite yet of her's, but I have really enjoyed both the ones I've tried so far (honestly couldn't tell ya which flavors they were though...).
I don't usually love frozen meals, but these are actually remarkably good. They are just the right amount to fill me up without making me feel like I've eaten to much, and they actually taste good. I would definitely recommend trying them out sometime :)

Do you have any yummy "big kid" lunch ideas? I would love to get more tips on things I could take to keep some variety in my life :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

My Phoenix Adventure

Okay, so I flew into Phoenix, but really the point of the trip was to go the Mesa, AZ, to visit my friend Gentry. She is my Little from my sorority days at NSU, and I just love her. She recently got accepted to dental school there in Mesa, and started last month. I decided since I was so close and found such a good deal on a flight, I needed to go visit her while I had the opportunity :)

My schedule with my internship works like this: We work 9 hours days Monday-Thursday every week, an 8 hour day every other Friday, and then we get the alternating Fridays off. So basically, I get a 3 day weekend every other week. Awesome, right? :) So I picked a weekend that I had a 3rd day, and went to visit Gentry.

So Thursday evening after work, I rushed home, packed the rest of my things, loaded my things and my dogs in the car, dropped the dogs off at puppy jail, and made my 2 hour trek to the Ontario airport to catch my 9:00pm flight. Ontario is not a huge airport, but it is certainly not small. And compared to my little XNA airport in Arkansas, it took some adjusting. I've discovered I am completely spoiled by the $5/day economy parking lot at XNA, that only requires a walking distance equivalent to you getting a bad parking spot at Wal-Mart...They had two parking lots at Ontario: one was $18/day, one was $9 day. Right...like I'm going to pay twice as much for parking. So of course, I head to the $9 lot, which it even hurt a little to pay that much. What can I say? I'm cheap.

Me and the Silver Bullet get parked around 7:40pm, I unload my small rollie suitcase and make my short hike across the parking lot to the shuttle. Yep, that's right. I had to take a shuttle from the $9 "economy" lot to the airport. After waiting almost 15 minutes for a shuttle to arrive, I was beginning to think there were not shuttles. So I start walking in the direction that I think the terminal is (to be quite honest, I'm not entirely sure where that is...it's too far away for me to know with complete certainty...but I tried :) ...Finally as I get to the edge of the giant economy lot, I see the shuttle! Woo hoo! So I get on the shuttle, and it takes about 5-10 minutes to get to the terminal. Not too bad, but still...so different from what I'm used to. It is just after 8pm at this point, so I'm starting to get a little nervous when I walk in and see the GINORMOUS line at the ticket counter to print off my boarding pass. Another thing I'm not used to...XNA is so small that I can usually just walk right up and print it off at one of the little electronic kiosk things. Fortunately, I realize there is another check-in point outside, with a slightly shorter line, so I hop in that one. That one seemed to be going much quicker...maybe because most of the people in front of me didn't seem to be checking any baggage. So cool. I now have my boarding pass. Now onto security. Another long line. I'm starting to worry at this point because I think perhaps I am cutting it too close. In Arkansas, I never have to worry. I can literally show up 35 minutes before my flight, get checked in and through security before they even start boarding...which usually takes place 25-30 minutes before departure. Yet another reason why I love God's Country. So I get through security (where they make me go stand in one of those body scan things...which to be honest, kinda creep me out), rush to get my shoes back on and my laptop back in my bag...get out and see the screen...flight is delayed 15 minutes. Awesome. In reality, the plane (and all of it's 30 passengers - apparently 9pm is the time to fly!) left right on time, but it made me feel better than I wasn't running as late as I thought :)

So I have my short 45 minute flight to Phoenix and it takes roughly 30 minutes for Gentry to find me when she gets to the airport. Phoenix is an odd airport. There are actually two exits from the baggage claim area...a north side and a south side. I was on the south side, Gentry was on the north. I finally figured out where she was and walked back across the baggage claim. We still never figured out how cars actually got to the south side...but oh well. Now I know to exit stage right at the Phoenix airport in order for Gentry to find me :)

We head back to her apartment, visit a little, and then I promise to go to bed and leave her alone so she can study for her dental school exam that takes place the next morning. She made me watch an episode of Jersey Shore. I must confess, I think I am dumber now...

I wake up around 8:15 Friday morning and Gentry is already at her test, so I just lounge around the house, balance my checkbook, eat a little snack, turn on the TV for some mindless entertainment (NOT Jersey Shore)...things like that. She gets back around 9:45 and picks me up to go have brunch with some of her dental school friends. We went to a place called The Good Egg. It was delicious. And she has a pretty fun group of friends :) After brunch I had to take her back to her school because she had to go back to class.

I decided to take a little mid-day trip to Glendale to go assess the damage at my sister's rental property they still own there. The renter just moved out, so I offered to go check it out and see how bad she left it. It wasn't completely horrible, but I do feel sorry for my sister and brother-in-law. Renters can be so crappy. I try really hard to be a good renter. But basically it's nothing that some new carpet, paint, a new piece of trim here and there, and a good cleaning won't fix. A friend of my sister's is actually moving into it once it is habitable again...so I'm sure she will take much better care of it :)

I drove back to Mesa just in time for Gentry to get back from her class. We lounged around the house for a couple hours, then we decided to go have some sushi :) It was only 4:30, but we had breakfast around 10am and never ate lunch, so we thought it was appropriate :) Plus, the place we went to had sushi Happy Hour, where some of the rolls were half price before 6pm. You know me and how I love discounts and good deals...so I ordered a $14 roll for only $7 :) I also had my first ever Mango Margarita for $5...I can't remember what it was originally, but it was on the happy hour menu for 5 bucks. haha. After our sushi date, we went on a little adventure at Hobby Lobby. I didn't buy anything, but I don't have a Hobby Lobby or Michael's or anything of that nature within an hour and a half driving distance, so I was happy to get the opportunity to go look around a bit. I just wanted to try to get some DIY ideas for my wedding, and Gentry is always a good person to have with you to just browse :)

Next stop was a place called Relax Station in the mall. I typically don't do malls, but for this I could make an exception. Gentry and I decided to have an hour long session of acupressure and foot reflexology. I didn't know what either of those were exactly, but basically we had a killer body massage. I liked the acupressure because they didn't hurt me, but they also didn't just pet me...it was just the right amount of roughness you hope for in a massage. When I walked out of that room, based on the look on Gentry's face when she saw me, I can only assume I looked like a zombie. It felt delightful.
I got to sit in one of these really awkward chairs for part of the acupressure portion. Then I got moved to a long padded table with a hole in it for my face.
 Then I moved to my half hour portion of the foot reflexology. It felt good, but I am a little too ticklish for some of the little Asian guy's techniques. 
This is the type of chair they use for the foot reflexology. The little Asian person sits on the small stool in the front, and I sat in the chair with my legs propped up on the ottoman. He laid a towel over the upper half of my legs, washed my feet in a hot water bath, then gave me an lower/leg foot massage with vaseline. haha.
After that, we pretty much went home and passed smooth out...it was MAYBE 10:00. haha. We were old ladies...and I am completely okay with that :)

Woke up the next morning and Gentry was nice enough to make us breakfast...scambled eggs, pillsbury cinnamon rolls, and crispy bacon. Yum :) We ate breakfast and lounged around the house the rest of the morning and early afternoon waiting on her friends to wake up from their mid-day naps or get back from their shopping trips so we could go float the river.

Spending 3 years in Tahlequah, OK for college, I'd like to think of myself as a seasoned veteran when it comes to floating the river. But not this time. It was a whole new experience for me. We went to this place called Salt River Tubing. On this river, you do not use rafts or kayaks...you float down the river in your very own tube.

Well, sort of your own. You rent them.

Or if you're a local, you can bring your own.
 Gentry and all her friends brought their own tube. Which makes sense if you're going to go somewhat frequently. It is $15 to float the river if you rent a tube, and $12 if you have your own. So if you go floating there with any degree of regularity, might as well own your own tube. Plus, if you own your own tube, you can buy one with a mesh bottom in it. This comes in handy, because the holes in the center of the tubes you rent are a little wide and it's easy to fall through....Gentry actually warned me in advance and we took a sheet for me. Sounds weird, huh? I floated down the river with a sheet wrapped around my tube as a makeshift seat. But it really did help.

From what I'm told, apparently this river only has water in it for part of the year (during the summer) when they open up the dam. The rest of the year, it is completely dry. The fact that the water was from a dam makes sense, because the water was painfully cold. 115 degrees outside, but the water was dang near freezing.

I must say it was a very pretty trip, in one of those "desert pretty" kind of ways. The river was basically in the canyon, so the scenery was fun :)

Occasionally the water got a little rough and we actually had some rapids! Warning: Be sure to lift your butt up out of your raft hole. Rapids typically = giant rocks!
 All in all it was a good day, and we wrapped it up by having dinner at a yummy Mexican (my favorite food) restaurant. I had something I had never had before in all my 25 years of eating Mexican food: chicken mole enchiladas (pronouced like mole-A). I can officially say I've had chocolate enchiladas. I know, that sounds disgusting...but it was actually very delicious. And no, it wasn't straight up chocolate sauce or anything...it was some sort of enchilada sauce made with cocoa I guess? I don't really know, but it was yummy. I will add a picture later...I have one on my phone, but I can't get to it at work :)

We went home and crashed shortly after dinner, then woke up the next day and had some leftover cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We lounged a bit, then finally got up and around and went and browsed around Ross for a bit. I really like that store...if only I had a way of getting it home from Mesa back to Arkansas in just 5.5 more weeks, I would've bought some really cute things for our house back home. Which is even more disappointing, because we don't have a Ross in Fayetteville. But I guess I'm just going to have to try to find one nearby...I know there is one in Tulsa. Hopefully they have as cute of stuff!

After our Ross trip, we made a quick stop at Taco Bell and got me some lunch before she took me to back to the airport. So there you have it...that is all for my weekend adventures in Phoenix/Mesa! :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My New Motto

I have found myself saying this a lot lately, so I've decided that it might as well be my new motto:

"You win some, you lose some."

Especially when on the hunt for frugal wedding planning ideas. I suppose you can't get everything for as cheap as you want it. But don't worry, I still plan on trying.

I always hate it when I miss out on a perfectly good deal. I didn't miss out entirely, but it was definitely a deal disappointment.

Let me explain.

So I found these linen-blend khaki pants from Old Navy a couple weeks ago when I was on the hunt for what I want my ringbearer/7-almost-8-year-old nephew to wear in our wedding in May. I know, I may be a little ridiculous buying things in August for a wedding next May for a kid who is probably going to grow 4 inches by then (okay..4 may be a slight exaggeration. But you never know with kids and their growth spurts), but don't worry I planned ahead and got him a size bigger than he wears currently. Now let's just hope he doesn't suddenly change his mind and decide to be a midget...

Anyways...my sister was kind enough to look at the Old Navy back home last weekend during the tax free weekend (that I missed out on because California is a jerk...), but to no avail. Apparently the stores don't carry them. Bummer.

But, good news! I get this email in my inbox ridiculously early yesterday morning that says, "One day only! 25% off online orders with this promotion code!" So you can imagine my excitement. That would amount to almost $5 off since the pants were about $20. Sidenote: It amazes me that by the time he is fully dressed, I'm going to end up spending more on my ring bearers clothes than my bridesmaids dresses. But hey, you win some, you lose some.

So I get online yesterday at work, find the pants, add them to my cart, type in the promo code...and voila! 25% off! BUT then they slap the $7 shipping charge on there. Lame. So I realize you can get free shipping for orders over $50. So I justify the extra expense by deciding that I would rather spend an extra $35 to buy actual items rather than $7 on a box and some postage. Due to the fact that I am approximately half a person smaller than I was a year and a half ago, I could use some new shorts anyways!

So I start trying to browse on Old Navy's website to find some clothes for me. And unfortunately, my internet at work is not only painfully slow, it is very tempermental. It was not being cooperative to say the least yesterday. So I think...Oh well, I'll order it when I get home. I even put it on my grocery shopping/to-do list so I wouldn't forget.

Well...I didn't forget. But I left work, went to the commissary only to find them closed (I didn't realize they are closed on Mondays), so then I had to go to Wal-Mart instead. As I've mentioned before, we have a baby Wal-Mart here in Ridgecrest, so definitely not equipped with all the necessities. Example: no produce section. Fail. So I got everything on my list that I could at Wal-Mart, then made my way to Stater Bros to get some fruit and veggies for the week. If I had not let mother hubbard's cupboards get so bare, trust me, I would've waited til today to go to the commissary. It AMAZES me how expensive regular grocery stores are. It actually kinda makes me sick. But I had absolutely no food to make for dinner last night, or breakfast and lunch today, so I kinda had to get it done. I'm still deciding if missing 3 meals might have just been worth it based on the extra expense of shopping at the regular grocery store instead of the commissary...

Anyways...I digress (you're probably used to that by now...). So I get home, unload all my groceries, start picking ticks off my poor dogs, which by the way, is a difficult task when:
This is what a tick looks like...don't worry, it's a google image find. I did not take a close up picture of a tick on my finger...
This is what Koda looks like. Horrid color resemblance = very difficult finding pesky little creatures! P.S. I know, my dog is weird. I didn't put him in the bathtub...he did that all by himself. I guess he felt dirty...

Then I proceed to making dinner and having my evening Skype date with my other half...

We talk until about 9:15pm, and he is tired so he says he's sorry, but he needs to hang up and go to bed. So I say, "No problem, I actually need to get on the Old Navy website to buy these pants for Jaxon," and share my excitement about my 25% off one day promo code. His exact words, "Are you sure it doesn't expire at midnight Eastern Time?" Which of course, my immediate response is, "Surely not! Most of those things are based on whatever time zone you're in."

I was wrong.

I get on the Old Navy website, do my shopping, find a couple of cute things for me in addition to the pants for my nephew, add them to my cart, type in promo code and proceed to checkout. It only gives me 20% off. 

Have I mentioned that I hate being wrong?

I go back to my email and read the fine print, only to find that the 25% off was good on August 8th until 11:59pm Eastern. You could use the same promo code and get 20% off on August 9th, and 15% off on August 10th. So I still at least got 20% off but still...I missed the extra 5% off by like 30 minutes! So frustrating.
Anyways...I'm done complaining. Here are my final purchases :) (looks like I'm going to have to add pictures later...my work computer is not cooperating...again...)

Boys Linen-Blend Khaki Pants - Size 10, with adjustable waist. I really wish they had these in slims, because Jaxon is a skinny minny, but I guess I will just have to settle for the adjustable waistband :) - regularly $19.94 - 20% off ($3.99) = $15.95

Silver Earrings - I could use some new earrings, and these look kinda fun :) Regularly $7.50 - 20% off ($1.50) = $6. I better like these though, because I am stuck with these. No returns on earrings apparently.

Cuffed Khahi Shorts - Gray. They come in navy, gray, khaki, and white colors, and I kinda wanted white shorts, but I ended up going with gray because they only had size 18 in the white...those won't fit. The gray had either a 0, 6, 10, 18 or 20...so I went with the 6. I'm really not sure what I wear in Old Navy sizes, so I'm hoping the 6 fits...if not, at least they helped me qualify for free shipping, AND they can always be returned :)  These were regularly $22.50, but were on sale for $16.50 - 20% off ($3.30) = $13.20

Pleated Charmeuse Shorts - Black. I have been wanting a pair of "dressy" black shorts for a long time, so I really hope they fit well. I also ordered a size 6 in these, so here's to hoping I picked the right size. If not, I can always exchange/return them :) These were a little pricey, but I have been on the hunt for a pair, so I figured it was still a good find with the 20% off. Regularly $26.50 - 20% off ($5.39) = $21.11

So with tax, I ended up with all that for $60.81, with a savings of $14.18, plus the tax would've been on the $14.18. Not bad if I do say so myself :)

Now I still have to find just the right color of a turquoise shirt for my adorable nephew to wear...I think I like this one (minus the tie...not what I'm going for..) but I am still on the hunt. I also haven't entirely decided if I want to just have him wear a white button down shirt instead. I found this one at Old Navy for $10. Quite tempting. And it would probably match my groom and his best man better, because I believe they are wearing white shirts...but I just really love the turquoise! Oh, decisions decisions...

By the way, the Old Navy 20% off sale is going on today until 11:59pm ET, and 15% tomorrow until 11:59 ET. Don't miss out. Just use the promo code ONSCHOOL at checkout. And don't forget...You win some, you lose some :)

Completely random sidenote: All documents are officially off to the scholarship company that has to approve my extension request that, if approved, would result in me getting to live in God's Country for a whole extra year. Cross your fingers, and let's hope this turns out to be in the "you win some" category ;) I will keep you posted!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Southwest Raves and Ridgecrest Rants

I will start of with my rants...so that way I can get my complaining over with and finish up with the happy notes :)

So this past weekend, I went to Arizona to visit a friend of mine that just moved there a little over a month ago. I figured it would be a good time to go since I am so close (literally took a 2 hour drive to the airport, and then a 45 minute flight to get there) and I found an incredible deal on a flight (more on that later...I'm ranting right now).

The sucky thing about traveling when you are a pet owner, is finding a place to keep them and/or someone to take care of them. Let's face it, nobody will take care of your pets like you do (unless they are my friend Cortney. She probably takes BETTER care of my dogs than I do when she doggy-sits for me...haha :) When I'm home in Arkansas, I can usually get one of my roommates to take care of them, or a friend to just come by a couple times per day to feed them and let them poop. Not when you're in a town where you know practically no one, and your roommate goes out of town the same weekend you do. So...to the kennel (a.k.a. Doggy Jail) they go. I hate boarding them...but sometimes I have no choice. I found this little place down the road from my house that only charges $10/night/dog...which is pretty outstanding compared to pretty much any other rate I've ever  found. The downside...you get what you pay for.

I picked my dogs up yesterday evening and brought them home to find them covered in ticks. My dogs have never had a tick on them in all their 3 and 4 years. I used to keep them on Frontline, but just recently switched to Sentinel because I was informed by my vet that Frontline was loosing it's effectiveness, as medications usually do over time, due to the pesky little insects developing an immunity to them. So I thought, "Well, surely my vet knows what he's talking about," and switched them to Sentinel. One of the major downsides I found to Sentinel, was that while it was a worm and flea preventative combined, it was not a tick preventative. My vet assured me that this would likely not be an issue, being that they are predominately inside dogs and I keep my grass mowed. So I made the switch.

I am now regretting it. Painfully regretting it. While I am told there is a good tick collar out there called Preventic, it is NOWHERE to be found in Ridgecrest. In fact, I had multiple vets tell me today when I called about it tell me, "There is nothing that is purely a tick preventative. All of them are flea and tick combined, or just flea only." I'm not retarded, but thanks anyways. And because I already have them on Sentinel, I cannot give them any other flea/tick combined preventative, because I just gave them their monthly does of Sentinel yesterday (I always give it to them on the 7th of the month), and I will cause them to overdoes if I give them anything else containing flea preventative. Awesome. The vet tech also informed me that they don't even have so much as a shampoo or dip that would work for just ticks. Even better.

On top of that, there is not a pet store for approximately 100 miles. And though I haven't had a chance to check at Wal-Mart yet, I'm guessing the lack of supercenter-ness is going to mean they probably don't carry anything all too effective. I will look this evening, but I'm not holding my breath.

So here I am, 1500 miles away from home and my vet (so I could give him a piece of my mind), 100 miles away from a flippin' PetSmart or Petco or something of that nature, and not one of the local vets carries a freaking tick killer. Fantastic. One vet told me I could bring my dog in and they would remove the ticks by hand...hello, but I'm quite capable of ripping the little creatures out of my dogs skin, without paying you the $50 or whatever you're going to charge me to do it. Thanks anyways.

So...I found the Preventic tick collars online from entirelypets.com and ordered a 2 pack for roughly $25 with shipping. They are supposed to kill all ticks currently present on the dog in the first 24 hours, and then they are supposed to work as a preventative for 3 months. I will probably only put the collars on my dogs initially to get them tick free, then they will only wear them when they go to the kennel to prevent this disaster from happening in the future. I hate that it is going to take 4-7 days for them to get here, so I'll probably have to resort to pulling the little pests off by hand, one by one. Yuck. Rubbing alcohol is definitely on the grocery list for this evening. Thank goodness I only have 6 more weeks in Ridgecrest, and then I can go back home. I also plan on switching vets. (*Disclaimer: Not just switching vets for this reason...there is a vet down the street from my house that has much better prices than the vet I have used for the past 3.5 years)

So now that I'm done with my ranting, I will finish up as promised: on a happy note :)

Southwest might possibly be my favorite airline. I have not had the opportunity to fly with them as much since moving to NW Arkansas, because they don't fly out of the airport there...but they do fly out of both Tulsa and Little Rock, which is just a hop, skip and a jump away from both my family and my soldier's family. And they fly out of Ontario, CA, which is only about 2 hours away from Ridgecrest. I know...only 2 hours...but seriously, if you've ever been to Ridgecrest, you understand why 2 hours really doesn't seem like that bad of a drive...

I'll admit, it can be a little bit of a hassle if you're traveling with a family...because they don't assign seats. But I think maybe that's why I like them. If I'm flying alone, it is really convenient. I just check in, they give me a boarding pass with a group letter and number on it, and I board when it's my turn. The seats are basically first come, first serve.

Additionally, I'm pretty sure they are the only airline that a) does not charge you for checked baggage, and b) still gives you free peanuts. While I didn't actually have a need to check any bags for my short weekend trip to Phoenix, the option is still nice. And they actually gave me TWO free bags of peanuts. And they were the honey roasted kind. Yes, please :) If peanuts aren't your thing, they also have pretzels available for free. I like it. The staff is also very friendly (at least in most of my experiences). I actually had a super nice flight attendant on Southwest a few years back take my crying nephew and hold him as she walked around the airplane until he fell asleep...Now THAT is some service. (*Disclaimer again: Jaxon was only a year old at the time, and he was just flying with me as a lap child...his momma was not present on the airplane, and he was NOT having it one bit....that woman was a godsend). On top of the good service, my round trip flight to Phoenix was a whopping $159. I don't think I could've made that trip just in gas for that much, much less factor in the time that it would take me to get there. My $159, 45 minute flight across the desert was well worth it.

Anyways...all that to say, I am very pleased with Southwest Airlines. They may very likely end up being our airline of choice when me and the future hubby move out here for good in a year or two. I will share more of my adventures in Phoenix in a later post. This one is getting awfully long.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's almost time...

That's right. We are officially one month away from


I can't quite describe the feeling I get when I get to call the Hogs with 70,000+ other Razorback fans.

A new trip to Houndstooth will definitely be in order.

Student tickets have already been purchased :) Although I am super bummed that I will still be in California for the first games in both Fayetteville and Little Rock, and still en route to Arkansas by the time the 3rd home game of the season rolls around against Troy...the good news is, I will be back in Razorback Nation just in time for an Alabama watch party! And at least I will be in Fayetteville for 3 of the 5 home games. Sadly, I will not be in Fayetteville when the Little Rock student tickets go on sale, nor will I be able to make the road trip down to Arlington this year to watch the Hogs show the Aggies how it's done.

Regardless, I will gladly cheer them on from home, or from a local sports bar with some good friends!

I cannot wait for the 2011 season of college football to get started. I have a good feeling about this one :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Groupon Anyone?

I admit it. I've been on a bit of a Groupon kick lately. Well, really more of a LivingSocial kick it would seem. As you already know, I love finding a good deal. It's even better when they just come to my inbox and I don't even have to look for them :)

Here are a few of my recent purchases:
*Still Waters Lakefront Resort in Branson, MO - $129*
Comes with fully equipped kitchen  :)
King size bed - perfect for cuddling! haha

I decided to take a little vacation when I return from California, and treat myself and someone special to a two-night stay in a cute little resort. Here are some of the amenities:

• New Island Oasis
• 3 Outdoor Swimming Pools
• FREE Paddleboats & Kayaks
• FREE Bikes
• FREE Zoom the Flume Water Slide
• 3 Hot Tubs & 2 Kiddie Pools
• Boat & Jet Ski rentals
• Game Room & playground
• Sand Volleyball
• Boat docks & 2 launches with fishing and swimming platforms
• Picnic tables and barbeque grills throughout property
• Hiking trails

I had been looking into taking a fun little vacation somewhere when I got back just for a couple days. I had looked at lots of places around Eureka Springs (where I REALLY wanted to go), other places around Beaver Lake, and other places in the beautiful Ozarks...but everything that wasn't just a plain ol' hotel room was pretty pricey. I was looking for something a little more quaint with a lot more value. That's when I came across this Groupon Getaway deal :) For $129, we get a two-night stay! I felt like this was a good deal, considering the condo I reserved is regularly priced at $129/night. I could've got it for $116.10/night with my AAA discount, and it appears that they now have a special for the fall for $89/night, but still...$129 is cheaper than $178! While I realize it might be a bit chilly for the lake by the time I get back to the Midwest in late September, I know there is plenty of fun stuff to do in Branson. I'm hoping to hit up Silver Dollar City, and of course the new Titantic Museum! If anybody has any info on how to get cheap tickets to either of these things, please let me know :) I am looking forward to my little outing before hitting school really hard this fall!

Next deal:
*4 weeks of Boot Camp classes!*

Awkward picture, but all I could find was the one listed on the deal website :)
I have heard really good things about these classes. They offer a new set of classes every four weeks in Fayetteville, at two locations. I bought this LivingSocial deal for $49, and the regular price is $199...yikes! I would've never paid $200 to try this class, but I have really wanted to do it, so I'm looking forward to a chance to do it for only $49 :) Classes are 3 days a week - Monday, Wednesday, Friday - and you can go either at 5:30am or 6:00pm. Since I think 5:30am is only supposed to be for sleeping, I will most likely opt for the 6:00pm classes, but hey, flexibility is nice. You can even switch up which times you go on different days for whatever is convenient for your schedule :) I even checked before I bought it to see what the schedule was like for when the four week series begins...looks like a fresh one will be starting October 10th, so shortly after I get back from my internship! Perfect timing, especially considering the expiration date for the deal is in mid-November :)

Slightly disappointing, but still a good deal:
*Illinois River Raft Float Trip from Arrowhead Resort!*

This one was for $11, and it is regularly $22 to float the Illinois River. I should know, because I used to be a river rat in college at NSU. Although I think it used to be $20 and they've increased their rates....jerks. Anyways. This one had a downside: You could only use one coupon for every three people on your trip. It expires at the end of the summer (obviously), but since I knew I was planning on making a trip home in mid-August, I went for it. I convinced my sister that it was what she wanted to do for her birthday celebration (which happens to fall on the weekend I will be home for my friend Jesse's bachelorette party)! So I convinced my mom and other sisters to join in on the fun too. One cool thing about these Groupon/LivingSocial deals, is that most of them have it set up to where if you buy one, then you refer other people and 3 of them buy it, you can get your deal for free. I got really close to getting mine for free, but as my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Thomas, always told us, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." I made a mistake though...I bought one for me and bought one as a gift to give to my birthday sister...what I should've done, is bought one for me, then bought my second gift one through my link...then I could've gotten my free one. Oh well, I learned a valuable group coupon purchasing lesson, right? ;) Anywho...we are excited for the trip! Hopefully we have enough people come out that we actually all get to use our coupons...haha. The party foul: Groupon had a coupon just about a week or two after LivingSocial offered it, but for $10 instead of $11. Bummer.

Last but certainly not least:
*$10 Photo Book!*

This was actually the first internet group coupon purchase I made, and I was particularly excited about this. These books can be a little expensive, but I saw one a couple years ago at a friend's wedding, and I really wanted one! She had a photo book made with pictures of her and her husband to be, and left white spaces around the edges of the photos for people to sign as their guestbook. I thought it was a great idea...because while I'd love to have a record of the guests at my wedding, I can't imagine that years later I'm going to want, much less actually look through, a book full of nothing but signatures. So I really wanted one! They can be a little pricey though, so I really was looking for a way to save some money. Can't beat 10 bucks! This was regularly $34.99, but NWA DealPiggy had it for only $10. I have until the end of December to use it :) Weird thing about this one...is that most of the deals on NWA DealPiggy are only for the northwest Arkansas area (like restaurants and stuff), but this company is actually based out of San Diego. They make the book and just mail it to you. Makes me wonder what other "regional" coupon deals are out there that I could actually use anywhere??? Hmm...

That's all I've bought for now. But I have subscribed to deals from Groupon, LivingSocial and NWA DealPiggy, so I wake up every morning with an inbox full of new deals. Most of the time I just browse, but you never know when you'll find something you can't pass up!

Now for some tips on group coupon purchasing:
1) Always read the fine print. Sometimes they'll getcha on something like a limitation of how many coupons can be used, expiration dates, etc.
2) Call ahead and ask questions. For example, if it says you can or need to schedule something, call ahead to make sure the dates/times that you want to use the group coupon are in fact available.
3) Share your deal after you purchase it. Most of them have the offers where you can get yours free if 3 people purchase it from your referral. Can't beat free.
4) Double check ACTUAL prices online or something before you go for the purchase. Sometimes they fib a little on the pricing...like when I bought the Branson Resort deal, they said it was a $129 coupon that the original price was $289. Keep in mind that some prices are seasonal, so you might not actually be getting as good of a deal as they claim. Just do your research :)
5) Read comments/questions from other customers. Most deals have a link to some sort of discussion board. This is a good way to find out what kind of service you can expect once you make your group coupon purchase, and you can tell in advance if the company you're are buying something from is actually someone you'd like to do business with.

Anybody else out there fond of group coupon deals? What good deals have you come across? And what experiences have you had when you actually use your coupon?