Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Ahead to 2014

I always like to take time on New Year's Eve to review the previous year and make some goals for the New Year ahead. A lot of you are doing year-end reviews for your blog; I just started mine 3 months ago, so I guess I don't have much to share. It's just been exciting getting this off the ground, figuring out my voice in the blog world, and finding a bunch more new blogs to read! I'm excited to keep this blog going in 2014 and to see what path it takes me!

But I will share with you a few of my goals for 2014 (blog and otherwise).

1. Have a healthier year. I'm not talking about loosing weight per say, but just in general making healthier choices for my body. I'd like to try to work out at least 3 times a week (I WILL be signing up for Zumba classes and hopefully start running again! I'd like to run at least 1 5k this year!). I also need to make healthier choices in regards to eating. Instead of reaching my hand into a bag of chex mix when I get home from work as I'm cooking, maybe a piece of fruit or some veggies would be a better choice :)

2. Read at least 25 books. I have 90 more pages to read today and tomorrow and I will have read 27 books this year! At night, especially, I really need to work on putting my phone away and picking up a book before bed instead.

3. 2014 will be a year of organization and home projects! I recently made a list of each room in our house and all the projects I want to do to said room. My plan is for this to be a blog series for the next year, but I'm still deciding on how I'm going to do that: 1 room a month or a couple projects a week? We will see.

I have a few more personal goals I'm keeping to myself, but I'm hoping to keep myself accountable for these 3 goals especially on this blog- get me to blog more too :)

Happy New Year! I will see you next year! 

Monday, December 30, 2013

What I Wore: Final Outfits of 2013

I'm back after my short break over Christmas! I hope everyone had a relaxing time with family and friends. I know I've enjoyed the time off of work.

I'm linking up with The Pleated Poppy today to share a few outfits I wore the last weeks of December. I'm really trying to wear things I haven't worn in awhile. One of my goals in the new year is to go through my closet and get rid of a lot; then be more mindful when I do get pieces get things that are of better quality that will last me a long time. This way, trying out some of my clothes I haven't worn in awhile I can see what I really can stand to get rid of, or maybe find some 'new' items I forgot about!

1. I got this purple top when I worked at Old Navy maybe 4 years ago now. I like it, but I'm not really feeling the 3/4ish sleeve length anymore. It gets so cold at work that I can't wear it on it's own and it can be too bulky under a cardigan :/ But I am liking the red and purple together :)


Pants: The Limited
Top: Old Navy
Tank underneath: Old Navy
Scarf: Birthday present
Shoes: Hand-me-down

2. Here is another sweater from my Old Navy days. It's fine; but it is starting to pill quite a bit. Oh well.


Pants: New York and Co.
Sweater: Old Navy
Tank underneath: Old Navy
Scarf: Birthday gift
Shoes: Target

3. It was still light enough outside when I got home that I had hubby take my pics outside! But it was a challenge to wear heals in the snow :) My coat I got at Turn Style (I think) for $15! It doesn't look the most flattering, but it has nice big pockets, a big hood, and it keeps me warm. I guess that's all that really matters.




Coat: Turn Style
Pants: The Limited
Sweater: Old Navy
Button up: Old Navy
Necklace: Forever 21 (the flowers are part of the necklace- it's not a pin like a lot of people think)
Shoes: hand-me-down

4. I wore this on a relaxing Saturday when I didn't do much. Casual and comfy with a splash of style :) Also, my hair is finally long enough to kind of do a side pony. Thoughts? I think it would look better if my hair was longer but oh well.


Jeans: Gap
Sweater: Old Navy
Tank underneath: Gap
Slippers: Macy's
Necklace: Target



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas [Eve]! I hope you all have a very enjoyable holiday celebrating with your family and friends and having some time to relax. But don't forget why we celebrate! Jesus is the reason for the season!



Monday, December 23, 2013

Tex Mex Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Hello all! I hope you all had a relaxing weekend! We definitely did. Had time to relax and saw some old friends (actually the person who introduced me and hubby- which is actually the daughter of the couple who introduced my parents!- and saw where we first met in her parents kitchen, haha)

Is everyone ready for Christmas? After all, there's only one more sleep till Christmas! [Eve] (points for whoever knows where that's from!) Anywho... I have a really good recipe for you today and probably a scheduled post today and tomorrow, then probably taking a little time off to enjoy the holidays. But I will be back to regular posts after the New Year! I have some series I'm working on which I'm looking forward to. Hopefully I'll see you all back in 2014! (and maybe some new faces?)




I had a speghetti squash last week I wanted to use. Usually I just use it in place of regular pasta with sauce and meatballs, but we had just had that for supper the night before and I wanted to try something different, so I tried the following recipe (which is delicious!!)

Tex Mex Spaghetti Squash Casserole
  • 1 spaghetti squash 
  • 1lb ground meat (we had some elk in our freezer, but you can use whatever you like)
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I used regular but you can use the kind with the chilies for extra kick)
  • 2 cups of 2% shredded Mexican cheese
1. Cut your squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and put it flesh side down in a microwave-safe dish with a little bit of water in it. Cook in the microwave for about 12 minutes, or until soft.
2. In a large skillet, cook your meat until done. Once it's done, stir in the seasonings, onions, corn, and tomatoes, and cook for about 5-10 minutes.
3. Stir in the beans, squash, and 1 cup of cheese. Mix it together until the cheese is melted.
4. Pour mixture into a greased baking pan (I think mine was 8x8) and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.
5. You can serve it with salsa or sour cream on top, or with tortilla chips. I had it with chips and it was super good! Kind of like a hearty taco dip.

Enjoy!

Linking up at Saturday Night Fever  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Five on Friday

Happy Friday! Only one day left of work for me on Monday then it's Christmas break! (Actually the office I work in is closed until the 2nd, but I still come in once in awhile to check on the phones and the mail. But it's a much shorter day than normal!) I'm linking up with the Five on Friday posts for the first time so I'll jump right in and get started!

1. Getting our Christmas cards done before Christmas! (Actually they'll be mailed out today, so hopefully most people will get them before!)

2. We are going to the Holidazzle parade tonight! If you are in Minnesota, I think it runs on the weekends throughout December and goes down Nicollet Ave in downtown Minneapolis. This is the last year of the parade!! So if you've never been before, go! It's a fun tradition for us Minnesotans :)

3. This starts off as a sucky story, but turns out good. I'm sure you've all heard of the security breach at Target in which debit and credit card information was stolen over a period of a couple weeks just after Thanksgiving. Well, I'm pretty sure our credit card was one of the ones that was stolen. I saw on our accounts yesterday that our card was locked and we found out that there were 2 attempted transactions that were actually declined right away. But they were swiped transactions! So whoever stole our number actually made a fraudulent card... But I'm happy that our bank was keeping an eye on things so that none of the fraudulent transactions went through and everything was sorted out! What a pain. I'd never had my card information stolen before, but this is the second time this has happened since I've been married! haha

4. I found out today that I was featured on two different blog's link party's for the week! Show Off Friday and Fun Friday Blog Hop! It was a really awesome surprise, especially since I'm still figuring out my place in this blog world :)

5. The 'warm-up' we had! And by warm, I mean it was in the 30's as opposed to the single digits or teens. But we will take whatever we can get! (especially in the winter)


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Saving Money on Groceries #1

Hello! For today's money conscious post, I'll talk a little bit about how to save money by grocery shopping! (Or at least start to- there is so much to say it will probably take more than one post!) I think I'll start off with the tools I use to get started and next week talk more about how to implement them.

Earlier this year, I watched a story on our local news about a blogger in the twin cities who shared some tips for saving money at the grocery store. I was very interested! Up to that point, I had been couponing a little bit, but knew there were more ways I could save more money in that budgeting category.

I actually started off my research by reading a bunch of books from the library on how to save money on your groceries.

1. Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family







They all have their own strategies and I think I implement different ideas from all these sources. Definitely worth it to read!

There are also a few websites I learned about in my reading that are dedicated to couponing and finding good deals at grocery stores: Passion for Savings, The Coupon Mom, and Deal Seeking Mom

Passion for Savings is a blog that posts deals at grocery stores, online, drug stores, chains like Target and Walmart, etc. I usually check in there about once a day and can usually find good deals to add to my grocery list each week!

The Coupon Mom is a site that lists deals by store as well as printable coupons. You do need to sign up for a free account, but I like it because you can search for stores based on the state you live and it gives you a list of all their weekly deals paired with coupons that are available for those products.

Deal Seeking Mom is one of my favorites that I use every week. They have a coupon database on their site where you can do a search for a specific product or brand and a list comes up of all the coupons available for it- both printable ones and ones in the newspaper.

Also, a good starting point is to get a Sunday paper (or I think some areas do Wednesday papers). It not only has weekly ads for stores in your area, but it usually has 2 or more inserts of manufactures coupons. The paper is what I use each week to start my journey to saving money on groceries.

Now that you have the tools you need, I'm going to keep you hanging until next week to show you how I use them every week to save money :)

So now what about you? Have you used any of these tools to save money at the grocery store? Are there any other good resources out there to get started?



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What I Wore

Happy Wednesday aka one week until Christmas! How crazy is that?! Well, here are some of the outfits I've worn in the past week (and it's more than one this time!)


 1. You can't really tell from the picture very well, but the shirt I'm wearing has a really cute leopard print on it. I found it on super clearance at The Loft when we went to the Mall of America last week. $7!!


Pants: The Limited
Shirt: The Loft
Sweater: Old Navy
Scarf: Birthday gift
Shoe(s): Target? I guess I'm wearing just one... 

 2. The red striped shirt is another great find from the MOA. I got this shirt and a tan striped shirt for $8.50 each, originally $29! Yeah! I love finding a good deal on clothes :) (Sorry the first picture is crooked- I just really wanted to get a good picture before the boat sank...) Zoe wanted to join in the fun too :)


Pants: The Limited
Stripped Shirt: The Limited
Sweater/Jacket: Roots
Scarf: Birthday gift
Shoes: Target
Zoe: Sporting a pink collar from Fleet Farm


 3. I'm not sure about this dress. I nicknamed it the pregnancy dress, haha. It's pretty loose in the middle so I wore it on a day the office went out to lunch :) But seriously, there is so much extra fabric in the middle it's just super unflattering on its own; I'm deciding between getting rid of it or saving it for a future pregnancy!! haha :)


Dress: Old Navy (NOT the maternity section!!)
Sweater: The Limited
Boots: Just Fab
Leggings: Target
Scarf: Etsy

 4. Not much to say about this outfit. Although I'm not quite sure about the scarf in the pictures? Not sure if it just looks too tight around my neck or what. Oh well.


Pants: The Limited
Shirt: Old Navy
Sweater: The Limited
Scarf: Maurices
Shoes: Hand-me-down from my aunt-in-law

Remember, if you like what you see, feel free to follow me either on Bloglovin or Google plus!




Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another Super Easy Recipe!

Hello all! Sorry I was MIA the past couple days. Just didn't feel the inspiration to blog. I'm sure it happens to all of us!

So today I have another super easy recipe to share! It is literally only 4 ingredients! It is super quick too so I make it when we are short on time or don't have anything else planned.




Ingredients

  1. 1 box pasta (any type you like)
  2. Broccoli (I used the kind you steam in your microwave)
  3. Kielbasa (I used turkey but any type you like)
  4. Pesto (about 2-3 tablespoons, depending on how strong you like the flavor)

  • Boil the pasta according to the directions on the box
  • Cook the broccoli, aka throw it in the microwave :)
  • Cut the kielbasa into 1/2-inch slices and fry them in a pan until browned
  • Once everything is cooked, mix everything together in a pot (the same one you cooked the pasta in), add the pesto and stir until combined

See, super easy! If you can't make this, there might not be any hope for you in the kitchen ;)

It's also SUPER economical!! (I pretty much stole all these ingredients they were so inexpensive) You can get pasta for under $1 (sometimes free!), I always find bags of frozen veggies for under $1, I got my kielbasa for probably under $2.50, and I used homemade pesto, so that was relatively inexpensive too! Score for easy and cheap!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Countdown to Christmas #14

Buzzfeed had a list this morning all fun facts about the Muppet Christmas Carol so I decided to use that for day 14 :) I haven't seen it in a long time but I remember that being one of my favorite movies when I was younger! Anything with the Muppets in it you can't go wrong :) So enjoy some songs from the movie!


It Feels Like Christmas:

One More Sleep Til Christmas:

Scrooge:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thrifted/Dollar Store Centerpiece (Day #13)

We are having hubby's mom's side of the family over for a get-together tonight and I wanted to do something festive for our kitchen table. Better yet, most of these items I used are either from the thrift store or the dollar store! Score!






The table runner was made for us as a wedding present, the candle holder was part of a Christmas basket we won at a Church silent auction, the two vases we got for our wedding (probably $1 each), the ornaments came from the dollar store ($1 for each tube of ornaments), the garland came from the dollar store ($1), the ribbon came from the dollar store ($1), and the little reindeer ornaments were $1 for a pack of 5! So a whole centerpiece for under $10! Can't get much better than that :)


IHeart Hands On

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Countdown to Christmas #12

Happy Thursday! Almost the weekend :) For today's Christmas Countdown I'm sharing my tree (with wonderful pictures taken by hubby!) Our tree has a mix of old and new ornaments we've both collected over the years (a few are featured below!)



 I love these two ornaments below! I got the panda bear one when I turned 4 and found out hubby got one that same year for his 5th Christmas!



And we can't forget the classic homemade ornament I made in kindergarten :) Merry Christmas from little Maria!


I think Zoe and Sadie wanted to be in the pictures too- we tried to get them to move but they wouldn't budge :)


Linking up my tree here today

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What I Wore/Christmas Countdown #11

Happy Wednesday! I only have one outfit this week! Hubby worked late last week and I was going to have him take pictures of all of my outfits from last week yesterday, but we ran out of time. Oh well. Hopefully I'll be back up to my normal number of outfits next week :)

This is my typical Saturday outfit for running errands. We also had my b-day dinner at my in-laws so I wanted to look a little nicer :) This isn't my favorite outfit of all time (all the bulk around my middle kind of makes me look preggers- I'm not!!), but the only one I have to post! haha




Sweater: Old Navy
Chambray: Old Navy
Jeans: Gap
Boots: Just Fab
Earrings: The Limited

Don't forget, if you'd like to continue to see my weekly outfits and other fun things, make sure to follow me on Bloglovin or Google plus! (both links to your right!)

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For day #11 of my Countdown to Christmas (2 weeks from today! What!!) I'm sharing another of my favorite songs, Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming. My parents are church musicians and I grew up hearing the choir sing this every year at Christmas.



Linking up with The Pleated Poppy and Tucker Up






Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Easy Crock Pot Recipe & Christmas Countdown #10

Hello Friends! I'm back after a long weekend :) It was nice and relaxing to be off for 3 days. We went to the Mall of America yesterday, and Monday mornings definitely are the time to go! No crowds!

Well, today I have the easiest recipe for you! Like it's seriously dumping a bunch of things in the crock pot, leaving it for a few hours, and dinner is done! Even if you're not a good cook, you can't screw this up :)

Ingredients

  • Chicken breasts (or whatever type you prefer- there were 3 in my package)
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 jar salsa
  • 1 package taco seasoning


1. Put all ingredients, except for the chicken, into the crock pot. Mix together, then add chicken. Make sure the chicken is kind of nestled into the mixture.

2. Turn your crock pot on low and leave it alone! Mine ended up being on for 10ish hours, which was a little too long. I'd say 7-8 would be perfect.

3. Once the chicken is done, shred in the pot, stir together, and continue cooking for up to 30 minutes more.

4. Serve over rice with cheese, avocado, sour cream, or whatever else you like!


See, easy!! You literally can't screw this up :)

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Alright, on to day #10 of my Christmas Countdown! If you'd like to catch up, you can do so here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.



This weekend we watched "A Christmas Story." A classic, set in the 40's, telling the story of Ralphie, who just wants an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle for Christmas! (But he'll shoot his eye out) I have seen this movie hundreds of times before, but I feel like I find new details every time!

From Randy not being able to put his arms down, Flick sticking his tongue to a pole, Scut Farkus, Oh fudge, and Jingre Berrs, this is a movie the whole family will love! (This was supposed to be my parent's first date, but they arrived too late so they had to see something else!)

Also, don't forget to follow me on Bloglovin or Google plus to see more of my weekly recipes!




Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Countdown #9: O Holy Night

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a good weekend! 

Today's Christmas Countdown feature is one of my favorite songs for the Christmas season, O Holy Night. Enjoy!







Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Countdown #8: Home Alone

Happy Sunday! I am now 3 years away from turning 30... yikes. But I guess 30 isn't as old as I once thought it was.

For today's countdown, I'm sharing Home Alone 1 & 2. Classic holiday movies I'm sure all of us have seen! (If you haven't, you need to stop looking at my blog and watch them right away!)


  
                                              Source                                                  Source

I'm sure we all know both premises, so I don't have to write those out. I definitely think these movies stand the test of time, they are funny, and have lots of Christmas classics in them! (Don't tell me when "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" comes on the radio you can't list exactly which scene in the movie it's from :) )






Saturday, December 7, 2013

Christmas Countdown #7: Night of Silence/Silent Night

I'm sure most of us know the song Silent Night, but you may not be as familiar with the song Night of Silence, which is sung along with Silent Night. It has been one of my favorite songs to sing at church during Christmas since I was young! It is such a beautiful song and I think this video below just adds to it's beauty! Enjoy!



Friday, December 6, 2013

Christmas Countdown #6: St. Nicholas Day

Happy Friday!! I'm very excited it's almost the weekend because my birthday is on Sunday and hubby and I took off Monday so we get an extra long weekend :) And since we don't have internet at home, I've planned ahead my Christmas Countdown posts through Monday. I hope everyone has a good weekend and I'll be back on Tuesday!

Today is December 6th, or St. Nicholas Day. It's not something widely celebrated here in the United States, but it is celebrated more around the world. We know him more as Santa Claus. You can look up a more detailed account of his life, but here is one story from his life: 

A poor man had three daughters and could not afford a dowry for any of them in order to marry well. Because of this, they were destined to be sold into slavery. However, on three different occasions, they found a bag of gold at their home, which was enough for each dowry. The bags of gold are said to have landed in socks or shoes left out to dry. This is how we get the tradition of hanging stockings out on the mantle for Santa. Other versions of the story tell St. Nicholas leaving gold balls instead of coins. Three gold balls, or sometimes oranges, are one of the symbols of St. Nicholas.


              
                                           Source                                                               Source

When we were kids, my mom liked to acknowledge St. Nicholas day in a fun way. I remember waking up on December 6th and there was a shoe outside our bedrooms filled with little treats and sometimes oranges. This is a tradition I'd like to keep up when I have kids! It's a fun way to celebrate another day leading up to Christmas as well as learning the history of who Santa Claus originally was.

Does anyone else celebrate St. Nicholas day?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Money Matters #3/ Christmas Countdown #5

Hello bloggy friends! Welcome to post #3 in my money series! If you missed the first two, you can find them here and here.

Instead of following the same format I used in the other two posts, I wanted to talk a little bit about how I earn extra money. With the Holiday season upon us, who couldn't use some extra money? Now, I don't get rich by doing these things; mainly get some extra pocket money which is always nice to have :) I will also say I'm not getting compensated for this post- these opinions are my own.

1. Inbox Dollars 

This site I have been using for about a year. It's a very easy way to earn a little extra money! You get paid for reading emails, taking surveys, playing games, watching videos, printing coupons, and the list goes on! They have a bunch of free things you can do, and they also have paid offers. For example, I signed up for Just Fab through Inbox Dollars, made my first purchase, and earned $15! How easy is that! 

The amount you earn really depends on the time you spend on it. I check their emails everyday, take surveys once in awhile, and get a payout about twice a year. You need to earn $30 to request a check sent to you, so in total I've earned about $70ish with them. Again, it's not a lot, but it's nice to have a little extra cash on hand :)

If you're interested in joining, click on this link:


  

New members get a $5 signup bonus on your account! Putting you that much closer to your first check!

2. MyPoints

MyPoints was the first program I ever signed up for, almost 7 years ago! They are a points-based site that rewards you for checking emails, playing games, printing coupons, taking surveys, shopping, etc. Much like Inbox Dollars, but this rewards you with points instead of money. You can then redeem your points for gift cards to retailers such as Amazon, Gap, Home Depot, Panera, Old Navy, etc. Over 75 merchants to choose from!

Again, the rewards you get depend on the time put into it. I probably earn a $25 gift card every 6-9 months. 

If you want to sign up, check out their website.

3. Taste Testing

This is a super fun and easy way to earn money! Getting paid for eating food?? Okay!!

I go through the company, Food Perspectives, which is based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN area. Under this program, you are allowed to do a test every 2-3 months and you earn about $30-35 per 45-minute test. I've earned up to $45 (I think) for about an hour and 15 minute test. 

During a test, you are given different samples of food to try and you answer questions based on the sample and your thoughts on it. Initially, you have to take a test online or over the phone to see if you qualify for a particular test. They have different centers all over the twin cities and I try to only do tests that are close to home.

If you don't live in the Twin Cities, simply search for taste testing in your area and I'm sure you'll find a company close to home!

I hope you find some luck with these ideas! If you have any questions on any of these methods, feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email!

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And now on to my Christmas Countdown! Day #5! The days are sure flying by, don't you agree? This is a cute little video my dad made. He has an interesting talent of being able to whistle and hum at the same time. He made this cute video a few years ago whistling and humming Jingle Bells :)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Countdown #4: Merry Mantle

For day 4 of my Christmas Countdown, I am linking up over at Ten June and Our Fifth House for their Merry Mantle link up party! (before I continue, I will apologize for the quality of these pictures- I took them on my iphone 4... that's right, not even a 4s but a stone age 4- maybe it's time to upgrade??) 

A good chunk of these decorations (the stocking holders and garland) we got at Target the day after Christmas when everything's marked down! That's really the time to buy decorations to get the best deals :)



The wreath was a project I did with my mother-in-law last year; hubby's grandma crocheted him the stocking with the snowman on it! The one with the dog is for Zoe :) Now we need to find one for Sadie! (Does anyone else do stockings for their pets?) The noel basket we are using for Christmas cards we get in the mail. (don't mind the plug either... I should probably cover that up) You can see our manger at the bottom of the picture, but I think I'm going to feature that in another post.



What I Wore

Happy Wednesday! Half way through the week :) Here's a few outfits I've worn this past week:


Dress: New York and Company
Sweater: Target
Boots: Just Fab
Scarf: Pashmina from farmer's market


 

Pants: The Limited
Top: Target
Sweater: Gap
Shoes: Target



Sweater: Old Navy
Button-Up: Old Navy
Pants: The Limited
Shoes: Target
Jewelry: The Limited


Linking with The Pleated Poppy and Tucker Up