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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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's to hoping :) 

One more deal I found was on 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. 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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'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 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 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 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! :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Camping + Beach = 2 of My Favorite Things :)

So this post is long overdue, but I did promise it to you, so here you go :)

Three weekends ago, I had one of the best weekends I've had since being in California! One of my old roommates from Arkansas, Linnea, is originally from Escondido, California (near San Diego), and most of her family still lives around there. Linnea lives in Little Rock now (although not for long! More on that later...), but her family was nice enough to invite me to tag along for their family camping trip on the beach. They were going for a whole week, but since I had work, I just drove down for the weekend. It was such a great time!

I left work early on Friday thinking I would get a head start on some of the weekend freeway traffic. Much to my dismay, I had some car trouble...I got about half a mile away from my office building, and my temperature gauge was shooting up like crazy...since it's never good to blow up your engine by letting it overheat, I turned on my heater full blast (mind you, it was roughly 110 degrees that day...) to get it to go down. It was still warm, but it seemed to at least be helping. I drove off base, and found a mechanic I could stop at to have them take a look at it...I figured my fan was going out or something. I walked in and asked if they could take a look at it, and he said they were swamped and the earliest he could get me in would be Thursday (umm...hello...dying car. Thursday is almost a week away. Not gonna work...) So he said, "You might try such-and-such automotive down the street." So off we went, the Silver Bullet and I, and we drove down the street, heat a-blazin'. I walked in, told them my problem, waited 20 minutes for them to actually get to me (apparently Friday afternoons are busy for mechanics...who knew?). This guy comes out to my car, writes down some info like my VIN and license plate number, the mileage, make and model of Bullet. Then he takes forever to punch all this information into his computer...I'm sitting here thinking, "Geeze, all I asked is for you to take a look at the dang thing to tell me WHAT needs to be fixed...not fix it." Then he proceeds to print out this slip of paper, which happens to be a receipt for 1 hour of labor for $80 and tells me to sign it. I said, "You're going to charge me 80 bucks to LOOK at my car? Seriously?" I said no thank you and walked to my car...I was devastated. It had been a really rough week, and I was beyond ready to get out of town for the weekend. At that point I thought my life was over and I was going to have to go home and sulk... that time I figured my car had been sitting there long enough for me to at least pop the hood and have a look for myself...the hood was still really hot, but I managed to not burn myself. I open it up and realize my coolant reservoir is bone dry. I had just gotten my oil changed a couple of weeks prior, and evidently they did not put my cap on the reservoir all the way and all the coolant evaporated out. I was relieved, because this meant it was an easy fix. I could not believe that guy was going to charge me $80 to figure that out...

I went in and asked if they sold coolant, and they sold me a gallon for $14.75. I am actually still beside myself at what happened next...the lady charged my credit card and printed off the receipt for me to sign...She hands me two pieces of paper and says, "Sign both of these please." So I sign the top one, for $14.75, and I look at the bottom one and it's the $80 receipt. I handed it back to her and kindly said, "Nice try, though." I walked out to my car, poured my coolant in and went on my way. Looking back, I should've just asked if they had an empty jug somewhere that I could fill with water just to get me down the road to Auto Zone...but hey, you win some, you lose some. Me and the Silver Bullet made it home just fine, I loaded up my bags, drove around town for a bit to make sure it was, in fact, a simple fix and nothing else was wrong. Bullet did great, and we hit the road to head to Oceanside.

It ended up being about a 3 hour drive, which was actually less than I expected...I must've gotten lucky with the freeway traffic despite the forces of the universe working against me. I decided to tell myself it was a Godsend...maybe something horrible, like a head-on collision, would've happened to me had I left "on time." I told Jesus a little thank you when I arrived safely :) I made it to Camp Pendleton, a Marine base in Oceanside, and made my way to Del Mar Resort, where we were camping. Linnea's parents, grandparents, sisters, brother-in-law, nephew and a family friend were there. Her parents and grandparents both had an RV, and the rest of us were sleeping in tents. They were so nice and had my own little private tent set up and ready for me when I got there :) They had already eaten, but they saved me some leftover chicken fajita meat and I made myself some tacos...they were delicious :)

We didn't do anything in particular, just enjoyed each other's company and the beach, got some sun and had a good time camping. I had never camped right on the beach before, and I LOVED it! I already told my soldier we are going back next summer :) I hunted for sand crabs, boogie boarded, worked on my tan, played shutbox, watched the Charges/Cardinals pre-season game with a crew of die-hard Chargers fans, ate some yummy food and sat by the campfire just chatting with her family. It was such a relaxing weekend and I really enjoyed getting to know her family! They were so sweet and welcomed me with open arms.

Here are a few pictures from the trip:

Campgrounds at Del Mar Resort - Camp Pendleton

My home for the weekend :)

The fire pit at our campsite. Unfortunately I wasn't smart enough to break out the camera when there was actually a fire in it...but it was nice :)

The beach! The water was pretty, but it was SO cold! I didn't go in past my knees until the last day I was there...and that was because it had warmed up a couple degrees!

I am an early riser...not by choice, I just happen to wake up with the sun. So one of my favorite things was to get up in the mornings and go walk down by the beach. The waves were bigger then than during the day, there was practically no one out there, and it was just so peaceful.

Had to get a picture of some surfers. I have tried a couple of times, but I am no good. Maybe some day :)

I love sunsets, especially at the beach. That is actually one of the primary reasons we picked Cozumel for the wedding...we get the Caribbean water AND the sunset OVER the water :)
All in all I had a great weekend. I even decided it's time to become a Chargers fan. I am not used to having all these professional sports teams all over the place, but I figure it's only appropriate now that I'm moving to southern California, and San Diego might very well be my favorite city I've ever been to :) My only regret is that I didn't take any pictures of myself with the fantastic people that invited me to join on their family vacation. Maybe next year :) For now, I have decided that falling asleep to the sounds of a crackling campfire and the waves crashing in the background, might be one of the single most peaceful feelings in the world. I cannot wait to go back and take Walter with me so he can experience it too :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Frugal Wedding Frenzy: Part 3 - The Bridesmaids Dresses!

I told you in Frugal Wedding Frenzy - Part 2 that I had found my bridesmaids dresses for my beach wedding in Cozumel in May. I later explained that I lied, because those dresses ended up being too short for my tall, long-legged sisters (I did not get those was I supposed to know? ;) I have mentioned in a couple past posts that I was having a hard time finding the color I wanted...I originally had wanted turquoise dresses, but then when I couldn't find the right shade of turquoise, I decided I would do orange instead. Then when the orange dresses were too short, and I couldn't find a single dress other than that one that was the right shade of orange, I contemplated changing my colors and going with red dresses and nixing the orange completely. It has been a bit of an ordeal, but....

I have FINALLY found my bridesmaids dresses!  :)

Here it is! :)
I am actually very excited about these :) In addition to the color dilemma I was having, I was also having a hard time finding dresses that weren't too formal. I'm having a beach wedding...which to me, clearly means I want my wedding to be a little more on the casual side! That's why I had originally planned on doing short dresses for the bridesmaids, in hopes that it would be take away some of the "formal-ness" of the dresses. I had been hunting for a chiffon fabric, because my dress is chiffon and I figured that would compliment well, and I thought it would be nice and flowy on the beach. But even the chiffon dresses were a little too formal for my taste...turns out if you do any type of search for actual "bridesmaid" dresses, it's hard to find anything casual.

So a couple days ago, I was getting really frustrated. I really wanted to find something that my bridesmaids could wear again if they wanted to. That's when it hit me...Why don't I just search for cotton/jersey knit dresses??? So I did.

I stumbled upon this dress (along with a few others) on the Victoria's Secret website (you can click the link if you want to see more about the dress, including the back view :). My initial thought was, "Perfect color! But I wanted short dresses..." I found a few others that could be decent short dress options in red, but not turquoise. But the more I went back and looked at this dress, the more I decided I really did like it the best, and I could stick with my original plan: turquoise dresses :) I think they are perfect...they are casual, yet still classy, rewearable (at least I would wear it again!), and so far, 3 of my 4 bridesmaids have confirmed that they like the dress! (the 4th is actually in labor with her baby boy as I type this, so I think she gets a pass on not getting back to me yet... ;)

I've always hated being in weddings where I had to wear a dress someone else picked out, that didn't even really fit me well, I had to pay a small fortune for it, and it is now in my closet collecting dust. On top of that, I'm having a beach wedding, but unfortunately I simply do not have the means to pay for my bridesmaids travel and room at the resort...I wish I could, but I just can't. So I really wanted to buy the dresses myself...I feel like that's the least I could do to show my appreciation for them. The problem with that is...I'm cheap. I like to think I'm just incredibly frugal. are you ready for the best part? :)

These dresses were originally $79.50, and were on sale for $69.50. That wasn't as cheap as my $31 bridesmaids dresses that didn't fit, but I was still okay with it. Especially considering the other dresses I had found before I started looking for cotton ones were over $100 per dress. Yikes. So here I was, all ready to pay $69.50 per dress, and right before I checked out online, I decided to do a quick little Google search for Victoria's Secret offer codes...and this is what I came up with :)

I always try to look for coupon codes before I buy anything online. Most of the time, I either find expired ones, or ones that just don't fit what I'm purchasing, but today was my lucky day! I was able to use two codes:

SHIP50VS - This one gave me free shipping on orders over $50...the shipping would've been $19.99 total for the 4 dresses! AND it expires tomorrow! Just in time!

FA1127085 - This one was for $15 off $100, $30 off $150, $75 off $250 or $150 off $500 or more...$69.50 x 4 = $278, so I got $75 off!

I ended up paying $221.27 total for the four dresses with tax, which means I saved almost $100 total, and the dresses ended up being $55.32 each, tax and all. I practically got a dress and a half free...I kinda wish I would've ordered one for myself now...haha

You win some, you lose some. I definitely think this one qualifies as a win :) Now let's just hope these ones fit...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My 3/4 Year's Resolutions

I have never really been the time of person to make New Year's Resolutions. I don't know why...I guess I just feel like if I say there is one thing I am either going to do or not going to do for a whole year, I'll probably be setting myself up for failure. But more importantly, while I understand "New Year's" is a good time for these types of resolutions, I think if there is something I really want to accomplish, there is no reason for me to wait for the beginning of the year to get started on working towards my goals.

Earlier this year, I did actually post some New Year's Goals, although I didn't do it until almost February...and I also posted my Hopes, Dreams and Plans for the Next 365 Days back in April as part of my 30 Day Blog Journal. I always enjoy going back and reading those...seeing what I can mark of the list and take pride in what I accomplished, recognize that I still have work to do, and sometimes, even see how my thoughts and goals have changed, even over a short time.

To start off, we'll briefly review and see how I've done on my New Year's Goals: Though I have not defended my PhD proposal and have yet to run a 10K or more, I can say that I have been somewhat successful. I have lost at least another 5 lbs since then, and I have been doing really well at saving all of my receipts and keeping them organized for when I am ready to do my taxes. I am not completely debt free yet, but we are taking big steps towards it. We have a good little nest egg for our savings, and I have been creating and sticking to a monthly budget really well over the past few months. We have absolutely zero credit card debt, and though I do have a couple of credit cards, I do not use them for anything I do not have the money to pay them off with before the next due date, so we never accumulate any interest whatsoever. The truck should be paid off by the end of October, and after that, all we will have left as far as debt is some student loans. Considering we are both still in school, I think that's pretty good. I am proud of how well we have worked together to get our finances in such good shape :)

I'll be honest...since my post in April, I have not gotten much of that accomplished. However, a lot of it has either changed, has been put on hold a bit due to my internship, or is in the works. The wedding planning has been coming along quite nicely, and that has probably been my biggest focus of the things on that list so far this summer! I blogged about it some here and here. Right now I am on the hunt for some bridesmaids dresses because the first ones I bought ended up being too short...I am kinda at the point where the rest of the planning will be centered around the bridesmaids dresses (because of the color I end up choosing), so once I solve that dilemma, I can continue my planning. Because I am in the works of changing my dissertation topic and moving my graduation date back a year, the timelines for my proposal and dissertation writing can be extended a bit :)

So I decided since we are about 3/4 of the way through the year, it was time for an updated list of things I'd like to accomplish in the next few months...we'll say before my wedding in May :) In no particular order, here they are:

1.) Run a half marathon.

2.) Finish writing and defend my PhD proposal.

3.) Pay off all debt, except for the student loans (when we both have big kid jobs, those will go quickly), and build up a solid savings of 3-6 months worth of expenses.

4.) Complete the entire 60 days of INSANITY by Beachbody.

5.) Spend more quality time with my family. After ten and a half weeks this far away, I realize how much I have taken for granted the fact that I am typically only an hour and forty minute drive away. Knowing that I will have about 8 months back home in Arkansas before I return to California next summer, and then another 8-9 months before we move out here for good, I want to take advantage of the time I do still have.

6.) Plan a stunning beach wedding in the Caribbean in May! (8 and a half months!)

7.) Do some serious downsizing of our junk and getting rid of things we don't need, particularly in the office/spare bedroom. Maybe even have a garage sale!

8.) Buy a sewing machine and learn how to use it, at least to make simple things.

And here are a few more specific goals that I want to accomplish before the end of the year, again, in no particular order:

1.) Get LASIK eye surgery done.

2.) Watch at least 2 of my nephew's football games this Fall.

3.) Watch at least 2 of my niece's soccer games this Fall.

4.) Participate in Warrior Dash on September 24th.

5.) Run the 10K at the Chili Pepper Festival on October 15th.

6.) Complete the Route 66 Half Marathon on November 20th.

7.) Complete 4 weeks of Boot Camp, using my Groupon :)

8.) Start eating bigger meals so I don't wither away with all this running and exercise...haha

9.) Defend my PhD proposal by the end of the semester (I was going to try to do it by October, but now that I am changing my project a bit, I'm going to need a little more time).

10.) Have my 2nd first-author publication submitted by the end of the year.

11.) Pay off the truck no later than the 1st of November.

12.) Get my wedding dress altered in time to do some bridal pictures when all the trees are pretty colors :)

That's all I can think of for now. I will update the list accordingly, and I will try to give you an occassional update of how things are going :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Two Week Countdown

In some ways, I can't believe that 10 weeks of being in Ridgecrest have already others, I can't. believe. I'm. STILL. here.

As if being apart from the love of my life is not enough, I've also been separated from my family and friends. I'm not normally one to shy away from meeting new people and enjoying my new surroundings, but to be honest, I have had a hard time here.

I have had a short fuse...both with things that make me angry or make me sad. I get really frustrated really easily, and I cry at the stupidest things. There have been times that I have kinda just felt...I don't know...stuck. Like I don't know what I should be doing and like I can't wait to finally turn the page and start a new chapter. I hate that, because I really want to be the type of person that lives to the fullest no matter what their circumstance is.

This summer has definitely been a battle for me. The only way I can even think to describe it, is just feeling like my life has been put on hold. I have never in my life been REALLY homesick. But I absolutely cannot wait to go home. I'm ready to sleep in my own bed. Catch up with friends. Go get a chocolate mix with Reese's from Braum's. Go watch my 8-year-old nephew play football and my 4-year-old niece play soccer. Get to start making progress toward my PhD research again. Wear a sweatshirt and watch the leaves change colors. Cheer on the Hogs live in Razorback Stadium. Help my sister with her house remodeling. Go meet my college best friend's brand new baby boy. Mow my yard (that one might be weird, but when you live for 12 weeks in a place that has no grass, you'd probably feel the same way...).

I just want to go home to God's Country. I got to go home to Oklahoma this past weekend and spend some time with my family, and it was so nice to be back to that part of the country. Two more weeks and, Lord willing, I'll be there. And I think God was being nice to me by giving me two 4-day weeks for my last two weeks...with Labor Day yesterday, today was the start of Week 11 of my internship, and for my last week next week, a flex a nice little break this weekend to go visit my Grandpa in Palm Springs one last time before I head home...Hallelujah...It's really not even two weeks. In exactly 1 week and 2 days, me and the pit bulls (they really are such troopers) will be headed for Flagstaff for the first leg of our 1500 mile trip home. I absolutely cannot wait.

Sorry today was kinda...blah. I have some exciting things to post about in the near future, I just wasn't in the mood tonight. Things like my camping trip on the beach, Sweet Home Oklahoma - Part 2 and some more Groupon finds. I'll get there, I promise.

Week 11 - I can do this.