Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Show & Tell Tuesday - How We Save

Today we are talking about what we save on & what we splurge on. I'm sure if you talk to my husband, he'll tell you that I'm much better at splurging than at saving, but I'm trying. A few things that I'm currently doing to save money...

  • I use a lot of rewards programs, particularly for things that I buy often. For instance, I get at least 2 free drinks a month with my Dunkin Donuts app. It's something that I buy anyways, so I just use my app instead of swiping my card each time. Since the price of iced tea is different locations - it can vary as much as $1.07 in one place versus $2.91 in another! -  I save up my free drinks for when I know I'll be in a place where it costs more! 
  • Like the rest of the world, we do a lot of our shopping at Target and there are tons of ways to save there! First, I always use the Cartwheel app. With their scan feature, I take a picture of the barcode on each item and check to see if it is on sale. These offers stack on top of other coupons and in store offers, so they're awesome. For instance, I just bought a box of diapers that were on sale, plus 25% off with a coupon, plus had another 5% off in the Cartwheel app. The box that is normal $28.99 cost me $17.75! And if you have a RedCard, you can save another 5% on every. single. purchase. I used to have the RedCard that was a credit card, but I now use the debit version, which comes right out of our checking account. It's the exact same as using my bank card, but I get 5% off, which is awesome! 
  • I use Ebates whenever I shop online! I have the Chrome Extension installed so that whenever I even open a website like Gap or Nordstrom, it pops up & asks if I want to activate cashback. It's usually only 1% or 2%, but that adds up quick!  If you aren't signed up, trust me, you need to! 
Now... moving onto what we splurge on! You can basically categorize our splurges into two categories - electronics. 
  • Eric & I love Apple products, and look at them as an investment. We know they're more expensive going in, but we've always had such excellent customer service it's totally justified. All our our computers, tablets, phones, & watches are Apple. Worth every penny. 
  • As far as vacations go, we splurged big this past year & went to Disney! My parents paid for a big chunk of this trip, but that didn't make it cheap. We really had to save to cover airfare, food, and souvenirs for the kids. We are already saving to go back to Disney though because it's so worth it! 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Favorites

Praise the Lord it's Friday! Between a stomach bug and a last minute observation at work, this week was a bit much for me. We have no where to go this weekend, so I'm looking forward to relaxing with the kids & reading a book at home while Eric watches football all weekend :) 

First favorite of the week? Having Monday off! My mother-in-law Nancy & my two sister-in-laws came up for the day and we had the best time! We went to Moe's & met Eric for lunch, then did some bargain shopping together. My girls just LOVE their aunts & were over the moon that they got to spend the day with them. I must say, it was nice to have extra hands on deck to help while we shopped too! 

My next favorite is a total epic fail from last weekend. Every time I think about it, I laugh. Here's the background - for every competition, the coaches buy each team a themed gift. It's nothing fancy, just something small to motivate them. So last weekend's theme was "Knock Their Socks Off" and Nicole (the coach who took over my JV team for the winter season) was in charge of buying the socks. We texted back & forth on Friday as I cut out the tags to tie on each pair for the girls. She was SO excited that she found Minion socks. She texted me a picture & I thought they were cute too, so we went with it. We passed them out as normal to the girls on the bus Saturday morning & Nicole insisted that they wear them for good luck. Well.... fast forward to our performance & I'll just say that it did not go as planned. We still took second, but things that never go wrong, went haywire. As I was riding the bus home with the Varsity team, I got this text from Nicole... 

She had bought them socks that said DANGER! MISHAP! FAILURE! What kind of coach does that?! We were all dying laughing because she obviously had no idea & those words actually sum up our day pretty perfectly. Next weekend - no socks. 

Love Me Now

Next favorite is John Legend's new song - Love Me Now. I cannot get enough of this song. The beat. His voice. The soul. The passion in the lyrics. I'm obsessed. I've been listening on repeat & find myself humming it all day. 

Happy Weekend Friends! 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Commitment... or Lack Thereof

I'm at a stage in my life right now where I'm really struggling with commitment. I want to do so many things, but staying consistent & committed is my downfall. It isn't that I lose interest, or that I purposely back out of things, it's that something else always seems to come up that derails my plans, my goals. 

I was thinking about this as I was logging my food this morning. Something I only seem to be able to manage doing 3 or 4 days a week versus the 7 that I used to. I thought, "If only I were more committed to this. The weight would be coming off. I'd feel better." It's the same conversation I keep having with myself about exercise. "If only you were more consistent with your workouts, you'd be in such good shape." It's the same conversation I have about coaching, blogging, reading my devotional, creating materials for TPT. The lists goes on & on. I have the desire to do so many things, but lack the time to do them well. 

All those little conversations throughout the day, all those little, "if only I were...."'s have started to weigh on me. I don't feel like I'm good enough at anything right now. I feel stretched too thin on a daily basis. If I want to be a good teacher, I have to miss Ella's field trip. If I want to be a good mom, I need to cancel cheer practice for dance class. If I want to be a good coach, I need to be at the gym 15 hours a week & drag my kids with me. If I want to eat healthy dinners, I need to leave the gym at a reasonable hour. At what point do I say enough is enough? What do I let go of? I'm not sure I'll ever have an answer. I struggle with prioritizing the many things I love. No matter what I choose to leave behind, I'm afraid I'll be left with a hole in my life.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. It just needed to come out. In the meantime, I'm just going to keep breathing. Keep reminding myself that I am enough. 

 Image result for you are enough
Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Favorite Books of 2016

One thing you may not know about me is that I'm an avid reader. I enjoy reading a wide variety of novels, as well as blogs & magazines. The teacher in me just feels better about life if I read every day. I'm always looking for new books suggestions & generally find them from my favorite bloggers' book reviews, recommendations from friends, and recommendations from Amazon. I also have a thing for series, so don't be surprised when you read through this & I'm not just recommending one book, but an entire series :) 

I am a big Nora Roberts fan. It all started with The Bridal Quartet series & I've been hooked every since. So that is how I stumbled upon The Inn Boonsboro Trilogy. Now, I have to tell you that as much as I love Nora's flair for romantic, I love her even more when she gets a little dark & twisty - which is exactly what she does in this series. It's a romance, but has some true suspense & action with it too - which is my favorite of all favorites. The series is about a group of brothers renovating an Inn in a small town and the families they create as the story line evolves throughout. The series is incredibly charming & perfect for romance fans. The Next Always is the first book in the series. 

Weekday Brides Series (7 Book Series) by  Catherine Bybee

Next up is another series that I absolutely adored because again - suspense & romance. The Weekday Bride series by Catherine Bybee had me hooked! I especially loved it because the characters build throughout the entire series, so the people you fall in love with from the first book, just keep evolving as you continue reading the series. I read the whole series between Thanksgiving & Christmas - it was just so good! 

Mrs. Kennedy and Me: An Intimate Memoir by [Hill, Clint, McCubbin, Lisa]

Mrs. Kennedy & Me by Clint Hill totally enraptured me. As a history major, I just loved the behind the scenes perspective of life with one of our most famous First Ladies. Clint Hill is very candid & honest about his time with Mrs. Kennedy - what he enjoyed, what annoyed him, and all of the events he was a part of. Reading his book was like listening to my grandpa tell stories about the good ol' days & I just loved it. With that said, I tried to read Five Presidents also written by Clint Hill, but just couldn't get into it because it was far too similar to Mrs. Kennedy & Me in content. 

First Comes Love: A Novel by [Giffin, Emily]

I'm pretty hit or miss with Emily Giffin books. Some I love, some are meh. This one... I loved. It centers around sibling rivalry, family dynamics, and loves lost because of secrets kept. This is definitely a must read! 

My last two picks throw it WAY back to last winter, when I picked up a copy of Loraine Moriarty's Big Little Lies. OMG. Hands down one of my favorite books ever. So much suspense. It kept me guessing the entire novel. It's currently being made into an HBO miniseries too & I cannot wait! 

After reading Big Little Lies, I had to read another one of her books, so I picked up What Alice Forgot. Totally different from Big Little Lies, but still so amazing. I absolutely loved watching Alice piece her life back together & figure out where things had taken a turn! The disappointing thing is that I tried to read Truly Madly Guilty & couldn't even get through it 😞 I guess every author has a few flops though... 

So those are my favorite books of 2016. 
What were yours? 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday Everyone! I'm so looking forward to this weekend. My parents are in town from Virginia, we have our first cheer competition of the season, and it's a long weekend for MLK Day! 

It's been forever & a day since I've done a Friday Favorites post, so I'm super excited to share some of the things I'm loving with you all today! 

My watch is in competition mode today with my navy band & yellow font!
So up first is my absolute favorite Christmas present - my Apple Watch. Ever since reading Shay's post on how much she loved hers, I've wanted one. I held off almost a year though because they aren't cheap & I just didn't truly need it. Well, right around Halloween, my FitBit started acting up. It was apparent that I was going to have to replace it, and when I looked into prices for the new models, it made more sense to spend a little extra & just get the Apple Watch instead. I waited for it to go on sale on Black Friday, and then I had to wait until Christmas to open it. And I've only taken it off to charge it since! I absolutely loving all of the features that it has & I completely agree with Shay that I spend less time on my actual phone because of it. 

Image result for zella live in leggings

Next favorite. Leggings. I truly can't get enough of leggings right now. I wear them at least 3 days a week, plus every night when I get home. Now you may be thinking it's because I gained a few pounds over the holiday & my pants won't zip. And I'm not going to lie to you, that is definitely part of it. The biggest part of it is that nothing else seems to keep me warm lately! It gets cold in my classroom after lunch & tights/dress pants just aren't cutting it! My absolute favorite leggings are the Zella Live-In Leggings. I get them in the high waisted version, which helps to keep everything in place. I am also a big fan of Old Navy Workout Leggings. Since they're less expensive, I tend to buy these in trendier patterns that I won't wear as often, and then I tend to buy my Zella leggings in black. 

My next favorite is my MantraBand that my sister got me for Christmas. It says "It Is What It Is" - which truly is my life mantra. I already have  a sign that says it in my house, so when she saw the bracelet she said she immediately thought of me. I'm big on not crying over spilled milk. I try to accept things, move on, and make the best of the situation. I love wearing my mantra on my wrist all day & they have TONS of other sayings available too. Just this weekend I saw that my mother-in-law was wearing one that said "Enjoy the Journey" which I loved too! 

theBalm Manizer Sisters, 0.11 oz.

And, my last favorite is totally out of my comfort zone but I have to share it. My sister in law, Hannah, is in cosmetology school, so she's always bringing home cool stuff to try. While I was at their house this fall, I tried her bronzer palette & was obsessed. So, she got it for me for Christmas & I still love it! It comes with two bronze shades, plus a blush/bronzer shade too. It's perfect for my super pale skin right now! 

Happy Weekend Friends!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Life Lately...

Life lately has been cold, and snowy, and icy. I know it's only January but I find myself dreamily staring at my sandals from across my closet. It probably doesn't help that my family is planning our summer vacation right now too, so I keep looking at beach houses in my spare time. #Ineedwarmth

Livy has been a wild child lately, so I was excited to capture her in a rare moment of peace while we were at the mall over break. I just love her little personality, but some days she really tires me out. 

On New Year's Eve, my mother-in-law came up for the day. We all went to lunch, then Nancy & I took Ella to see Sing! I personally loved it, but Ella wasn't as into it as I expected. I think that the plot was a little over her head, but she still enjoyed herself.

Ella's homework over break was to take a picture of us reading together as a family. I had Eric take the picture, and this was the best one. My eyes look funky & Livy isn't looking. I figured it was for Ella's class though, so she should be the shining star of the picture. 

Ella's biggest accomplishment of 2017 is learning to write her last name!! She is so proud of herself & writes her full name on everything now! It was literally the first day back from break, so her teacher & I were both surprised when she did it! 

This past weekend, we had one last Christmas celebration to attend. We drove to Eric's dad's on Saturday & got to hang out with Miss Ophelia! We all had lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, then went back to spend the night at Grammy Mary & Grandpa Dan's house. These two were pretty excited about it! 

They love to eat all of their meals together at this little picnic table. Their conversations are just adorable & hilarious. 

And after we left Grammy & Gramps house, we went straight to Aunt Britt's to see Baby MJ! I don't get to see her nearly as often as I'd like because of my cheer schedule & the fact that it's freezing, so I was more than happy to snuggled with her, eat chili, and watch football. 

And yesterday, Eric got to go with Ella on her field trip! They visited a toy library & she absolutely loved it. She had a half day too, so daddy spoiled her & took her to McDonald's for lunch, and then she got to have "the whole house to herself" while daddy worked from home. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Family Time with Goldfish

Our family is notorious for being on the go. We are always off to visit grandparents, practice at the gym, or participate in an activity. This winter though, we've really made staying at home a priority. We're all about hibernation right now. And the best part of hibernating? Snacks. 

Our favorite snack right now is Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. It's a snack that Ella absolutely loves and it's something that I feel good feeding her. Each Goldfish cracker is always baked with real cheese, has no artificial flavors or preservatives, and has 12g of whole grains in each serving! And if we're being honest, I love to eat them too. 

One way we've been spending family time while snacking is by practicing Ella's counting. Our goal for the end of her Pre-K year is to be able to count forwards to 20 and backwards from 10. Goldfish make practicing a lot more fun! I simply have her count out 20 Goldfish, then we practice counting them. Then, we separate the Golfish crackers into two groups of 10 - one group for her & one for me. Finally, we eat our Goldfish as we count backwards from 10! It's such a simple, yet fun way to spend time one on one with Ella. 

Another great way to spend time with your kids on cold winter days? Make a video together! Even the simplest smart phones have the capability to make awesome stop motion videos these days & Goldfish is offering a great incentive for you to get creative. $5000! Yes, you could win $5,000 for creating your very own stop motion video. To get all the details, just click here

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Christmas Eve Eve & Christmas Eve 2016

Christmas 2016 was unique in that I taught right up until 3:45 on Friday, December 23rd. That means that I essentially dove head first into Christmas as soon as the kids walked out the door! I left school, drove to Eric's hometown, and arrived late to a dinner with 28 friends. Legit - 28 people that we love - sitting at a huge table in one of our favorite pubs. It was the best possible way to start break. 

After dinner, we headed to a huge charity event hosted by two of our friends. It was an Ugly Sweater Party & we had the best time! Almost everyone was home for it & we were just all happy to be together. (Side note - my amazing hat was made by my Kindergarten friends at school!) 

Eric's sister is a SENIOR this year! I can't even believe I'm typing that! She worked the door to the event as part of her community service & apparently I was quite a hoot that evening. We did manage to snag a good pic at the beginning of the night though :) 

The next morning came quick & we headed to the country house for a Christmas Eve lunch with my extended family. It was super low key, just appetizers & dessert. We really just focused on enjoying one another's company... and football. There was lots of football happening.  

After lunch, we let the girls nap & then headed back to Eric's mom's house for the night. (We do a lot of driving back & forth for holidays.) We ate a huge pasta dinner then a special surprise arrived for the girls! 

One of our very best friends arrived in his elf costume to read the girls a bedtime story & give them gifts! Our kids absolutely LOVE their Uncle Bedford. Livy was a little skeptical about the elf costume, but she warmed up after a bit!

This is the second year that he has come to the house & I just love this little tradition. I'm definitely going to make him keep doing it. It's just too cute! 

After the story & his presents, it was time for the rest of us to change into our Christmas pjs too. By that time both of Eric's sisters had joined us too & we were all getting ready to settle in. And by settle in, I mean haul hundreds of gifts upstairs from the basement into the living room. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Lots & Lots of Diapers = Saved Money

Yesterday I touched on my resolution to eat healthier in the new year, so today I thought I'd talk about my other resolution - which is to spend less money. I know, they're such stereotypical resolutions, but after Christmas, I always feel a little fluffy & a lot poor. Kids are NOT cheap - especially around the holidays - but thankfully SAMS Club offers amazing deals on diapers to help us stay on budget. 

While I was at Sam's this weekend, I stocked up on the HUGE pack of Huggies Diapers. This is a 2 month supply - aka 312 diapers - and the value can't be beat!! An added bonus, I never run out of diapers! I used to dread texts from our babysitter saying that Olivia needed diapers by tomorrow, but now all I need to do is run down to the basement!  

Even if you don't have kids, the value at Sam's Club can't be beat. There are so many benefits to a membership! There is FREE shipping on select items & regular savings on many household staples! Even if you don't have a large family, the savings on items like paper towels, toilet paper, peanut butter, toothpaste, etc. adds up fast! 

I've had a lot of people tell me that they just never have time to get to Sam's Club, and what they never seem to realize is that you can get the same deals online! For instance - the same deal is available online & they can be shipped right to your house in no time! Free shipping too! 

And if you didn't notice before there's a $6 instant savings on this already amazing deal! To find a Sams Club near you & get stocked up, just click here
Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Grab & Go Breakfast with BelVita

Ok people, we're back from Christmas Break & it's time to refocus. Many people look forward to this time of year to refocus themselves & let life slow down a little. Not the case here. I definitely want to refocus on healthy habits, but life is not slowing down any time soon. We're headed right smack dab into competition season & life is going to be busy! So while many people might focus on meal prepping or weekly yoga sessions as their resolutions, I'm focusing on healthy, yet convenient on the go snacks. 

Image result for belvita breakfast walmart
tons & tons of options to choose from!

So this past weekend, I ventured out (without kids!) and did some grocery shopping! While at Walmart, I stumbled upon these BelVita Breakfast Biscuits & decided to give them a try. I've seen lots of my co-workers eating them in the hallways & they look super convenient. What's more? They don't break the calorie bank! So far I've been really impressed with how they've kept me full all morning long - which is important when your lunch period isn't until 12:30! 

I picked up a few boxes & so far the Vanilla Yogurt is my favorite! There are tons of options though, so I plan to keep exploring. And the perfect way to taste a bunch of flavors is happening this weekend! Select Walmart stores will be demoing Belvita Biscuits on both January 7th and 8th between 12:30 & 6:30! To find out if your local store is participating, just click here

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