Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Buying a Car is a Lot Like Dating

Adam and I had to buy a car recently, since my old one decided to bite the dust.  Neither one of us were really looking forward to this process, but it turned out to be easier than we thought.  As we were going through the car-buying process, I realized that buying a car is a lot like dating.  While the following suggestions may not be the best dating advice, they do make buying a car a bit easier.  

Ask your friends and family to set you up.  

Much like you can rely on your friends and family to set you up with suitable dating prospects, they can also give you car suggestions.  Adam and I talked with friends and family and got their opinions on solid, reliable cars.  While everyone is bound to have different opinions, it can give you a place to start.  They can also have valuable tips to dole out.  My mother-in-law's husband used to be a car salesman.  He was able to give us some good negotiating advice, like buying a car towards the end of the month when car salespeople are trying to reach their quotas.   

Stalk your prospects. 

Facebook-stalking potential dates can help give you some insight into their personalities.  Stalking car prospects online can also give you some insight.  There are tons of resources to check out.  Websites like Edmonds and Consumer Reports were helpful to us.  There's also a wealth of information on individual listings on dealership websites.  Most dealerships have Carfax reports available for each listing, which can tell you about any accidents or maintenance issues for each car.  

Play the field. 

You should see what's out there before you settle on a mate, just as you should before you settle on a car. Look at different models and makes.  If you are buying a used car, test drive different cars of the same make and model.  The same make and model of a car can drive dramatically different, depending on how the previous owner drove it.  See what's out there, you may be surprised at what strikes your fancy.  

Don't give it all away too soon.

Just like you shouldn't give away the goods too soon when you're dating, you should also hold off when car-buying.  When you start going to car lots and talking with car salespeople, don't give away too much information too soon.  All that small talk you make is not just polite; salespeople are trying to gain information that might hurt you in the end.  Don't tell salespeople your exact budget, how much you plan to put down or what you want your monthly payment to be.  Be guarded in what information you share. For example, if you let on that all you care about is a small monthly payment, they might give you that, but up the overall price which requires you to pay monthly payments for a longer amount of time.  So be guarded about what information you share.     

Play hard to get. 

While I don't agree with this in the dating world, it does help you in car-buying.  Adam and I were offered "a one time only" deal on the first trip to a dealership.  We did not accept it and left.  We told them that we would think about and get back with them.  Both the car salesman and the general sales manager of the dealership called us and told us they would love our business after the fact.  We had the edge at that point, even though we ended up going with a different dealership.  

Think with your brain, not with your emotions.

Just like you can get wrapped up in your emotions when dating, the same can happen in car-buying.  Adam and I really liked the first car that we test drove, but we had to think about all the aspects of the car, including the price.  When we were offered the "one time only" deal, it was very tempting to accept it and be done with the process.  Plus, we liked the car.  Thankfully, Adam's sensible, practical side stopped us from accepting the first deal we came across.  We thought with our brains, and ultimately ended up with a car that had more features, lower mileage and a better price.  

Hopefully these ideas will help make car-buying a bit more simple.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Stand Up, Boots!

This past winter, I saw an idea on Pinterest for boot stays.  Boot stays are inserts you put in your boots to make them stay standing up.  They help your boots keep their shape, make them easier to grab and they make your boots look prettier in your closet.  Boot stays can run you up to $20 a pair, which can add up quickly if you love boots like me.  So, the ever-so-helpful Pinterest told me to use pool noodles to make your own boot stays.  Since it was the dead of winter when I saw this idea, I tucked it away in my mind. Now that summer's here and pool noodles are available, I pulled the idea back out.  

Here were my sad, floppy boots before their boot stays.  Please ignore the layer of dust on the top shelf of my closet.  My excuse is that I'm not tall enough to see the top shelf, therefore I am not required to clean it.  

All you need for this project are some pool noodles, a sharpie, and some scissors.  You can get two pairs of boot stays out of one pool noodle.  

Once you have your pool noodles, just slide one in a boot and mark where you need to make your cut.

Then, poke one blade of your scissors into the line you made to get you started.  Continue cutting all the way around the pool noodle.  The noodles were really easy to cut since they are hollow in the center.  I just used some little scissors that were handy, so you don't need heavy duty ones.  

Once you've made your cut, slide your boot stays in and put your boots back in your closet.  Doesn't it look so much nicer?  

The best part of this project was the price.  I bought two pool noodles for just under 8 bucks, and ended up with 4 pairs of boot stays.  Not too shabby! 

Friday, June 26, 2015

4 Years

Yesterday was our four year anniversary.  While it wasn't the most exciting one, it will certainly be memorable. 

In some ways, it's hard to believe it's already been 4 years since we got married.  It feels like just yesterday it was our wedding day.  And in other ways, it feels like we've been married a lot longer than just four years.  We've been through a lot together.  We've been through exciting times, like buying a house.  We've been through heartbreaking times, like losing our baby girl.  We've been through happy times, like adopting Jazzy.  As much as I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be married, I really had no idea.  I didn't understand how much you could possibly love another person or how much you would need to lean on each other from time to time.  I didn't know about all the fun times in store or the devastation we would go through together.  I just knew I wanted to find out what marriage was all about with Adam.  I am incredibly lucky to be married to him. 

Our 4th anniversary was very steamy.  No, not that kind of steamy.  Steamy because it was like a sauna in our house since we're waiting on our air conditioner to be replaced.  I don't understand how there can be so many people needing air conditioners that there's a waiting list to pay lots of air conditioning companies lots of money.  Oh well, at least we'll get ours soon.  

Luckily, Adam's dad lives in town and we were able to take refuge in his house.  He's also been kind enough to lend me his extra car while we look for a new one to replace my transmission-failing car.  We are fortunate he's been so willing to help!  So we took Jazzy over to Adam's dad's house for a cool evening.

One of our anniversary celebration traditions is to watch our wedding ceremony.  We always seem to find something funny that we never noticed before.  And it's nice hear the advice our pastor gave us about marriage.  It's always a good reminder of what we should be focusing on.  

While this anniversary wasn't as glamorous as years past, we very much loved getting to spend it together with Jazzy.  We even ended up with some pretty good gifts this year.  I'm going to get Adam an air conditioner and he's going to get me a car.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

It's Getting Hot, Hot, Hot!

Well, I've had a bit of bad luck lately.  First, our air conditioner decided to break.  The heat index yesterday was 99.  It was more than toasty in our house.  Poor Jazzy wandered around, trying to find the coolest spot to lay.  

First, she tried the family room.  But she just panted away.  

Then, she tried the living room.  It wasn't any better.  

To make things more exciting, as we were boiling away in our house, I found out I needed a new transmission in my car.

Not exactly a good day, but I tried to find the silver linings.  First of all, looking at the big picture, these are not big problems.  Yes, we'll have to spend lots of money fixing the air conditioning and fixing my car or buying a new one, but we have money saved up for situations like this.  

Another silver lining is that we went to get ice cream at Poppy's to help us cool off.  Adam and Jazzy were equally excited about getting ice cream.

We all enjoyed our ice cream, including Jazzy.  She ordered a puppy scoop.  

Jazzy gobbled up her puppy scoop and then sad patiently waiting for me to give her some of my ice cream cone.  We probably should have told her she had a little ice cream on her lip before we snapped her picture.  But look how cute she is!  

It was a good ending to a crummy day.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

4th of July Decor

Summer's here and that means the 4th is nearing.  It also means our air conditioner decided to break.  I'm trying to ignore the sweltering heat by working on some small projects around the house until we get it replaced.  The key word is small; I don't want to work up a sweat doing anything too strenuous.  So I decided to dig my 4th of July decor out of the basement.

I hung my rag wreath on the front door.  This was a super simple project and turned out really cute.  All you need to do is tie strips of 1 inch fabric around a Styrofoam wreath.  Add a little ribbon to hang it up with and a painted wooden "4" and you're all set!  

I put my stars and stripes mason jars out next.  I just used some acrylic craft paint to paint stars and stripes on some mason jars.  Once the paint was dry, I used some sandpaper to scuff up the paint a bit and make it a little more rustic.  I added some flower and plant clipping from my yard and ended up with a pretty cute centerpiece.  

I also wanted to make my rustic mason jar centerpiece in the dining room a little more patriotic.  I used some stuff I found around the house to make some cute pinwheels.  Here's what you need to make your own:

-Scrapbook paper cut into 6 inch squares
-Straight Pins
-Glue Stick
-Little tiny sticks (I'll explain.)

After you have your 6 inch squares, glue two pieces together so you have a two-sided square.  Then you will cut diagonally from each corner to the center of the square, but don't cut all the way.

Then you'll fold one corner of the resulting triangles to the center of the square, like so. 

Once you've got all four corners in the center, put a straight pin through the whole pinwheel.  Then put the straight pin through the straw.  Here's where the tiny sticks come in.  The straight pin needed something to keep it from sliding out of the straw.  I wandered around the house trying to think of something I could use.  I looked out the window and a tree branch started calling my name.  I broke off a little piece to put on the end of the straight pin to keep everything in place.  

I made 5 pinwheels, but it looked too busy once I put them in the mason jars.  So I took away two of them and kept three.  I put some pebbles in the bottom of the jar to keep the pinwheel standing up straight.  Here's the final result.  

And there's nothing more patriotic than an American flag.  


I'm ready for the 4th! 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Lovely Week

I am very spoiled.  I got to spend a week on the beach with my parents and my brother.  Thank you Mom and Dad!  It was so nice to get to spend a whole week together, even if it did take 13 hours in the car to get there.  There was much reminiscing about vacations past and laughter.  The only thing keeping it from being perfect was Adam and Jazzy's absence.  There's always next summer...

We spent the week in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  We have fond memories of previous family vacations there, so it was nice to go there again and make some more memories.  

We stayed right on the beach and had a gorgeous view.  Not bad, right?  

Our vacation was the perfect mix of relaxation and activities.  We spent lots of time on the beach, soaking up some much needed sunshine.  My dad and brother went fishing and played golf.  My mom and I went shopping at the outlet mall and hunted for seashells.  

We drove down to Pensacola, Florida for a day and went on a dolphin cruise.  

My favorite part of the whole vacation was just getting to spend time with my family.  We don't usually get the chance to spend extended time together and it was so nice to have the opportunity to do so.  

I'm so lucky to have such a fun-loving, goofy, caring, sweet family! 

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Simple Gift Idea

It's always tricky to come up with meaningful gifts for birthdays and holidays.  It seems as though everyone has everything they could possibly need or want.  But I found one simple gift idea that could work for anyone.  

For Father's Day this year, I gave my dad a homemade notebook as part of his gift.  He makes and bottles his own beer (this makes Adam very happy), so I created a homebrew journal for him to write down all his beer recipes.  I saw similar journals online and on Etsy that I thought my dad would like, but they were a bit pricey for being just a notebook.  I thought to myself, why don't I just make one?  It wouldn't be that difficult or time-consuming, plus homemade gifts always feel more special.  

Here were the supplies I used:

-Paper for front and back covers (I used craft paper cardstock.)
-Paper for inside pages (I just used plain copy paper.)
-Cardstock or cardboard for hole punching template (I used old cardboard.)
-1/8 inch hole punch
-16 gauge wire
-Binder clips
-Needle-nose pliers  
-Corner Rounder (This is only if you want pages with rounded corners.)

The first thing I did was design the front cover, back cover and inside pages.  I used Google Drawings for the covers and Google Docs for my inside pages.  You could also use Word or even design them by hand.  I printed the covers on craft paper cardstock using my printer and had the inside pages copied at Office Depot.  I used a corner rounder to round the corners.  You don't have to do this step, but I like the look of the rounded corners.  

Next, I made a hole punching template using scrap cardboard.  This will help you get all the holes punched in the correct spot on each page.  I looked at a regular spiral notebook to figure out my spacing and then I just eyeballed it on my template.  Once I had my template, I lined it up with about 10 pages at a time.  I highly recommend this hole punch, because it is heavy duty and can punch lots of sheets at one time.  Then I just punched holes where there was a hole in my template.  I repeated this until all my pages had holes.

Once all my pages had holes, I used binder clips to hold everything in place.

Then I needed to make my spiral.  I used 16 gauge wire and wrapped it around a pen.  You need to wrap it around the pen as many times as you have holes.  I had 27 holes, so I wrapped the wire around my pen 27 times.  

After I made my spiral, I started threading it through the holes.  I'm not gonna lie, this part took a bit longer than I thought it would.  Just keep Netflix on in the background to keep you entertained.

When I had my spiral in place, I trimmed the ends and tucked them inside so the sharp ends wouldn't stick out.  

It turned out pretty cute!  You could make a notebook to fit anyone's interests.  It's easy and it means something to the receiver that you took the time to make something just for them.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Jazzy's Father's Day Gift

Just as Mother's Day is a bittersweet day for me, I'm sure Father's Day is a hard day for Adam.  So Jazzy and I wanted to make Adam's day full of happiness instead of sadness.  We decided to make Adam a photo book on Shutterfly.

Jazzy was very excited about this and wanted the book to be all about how much she loves Adam.  She told me all the reasons why she loves him and then I found pictures that would go along with each reason.  

It turned out darling and Jazzy can't wait to give it to Adam.  

I'm sure he'll love it! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Coupon Organization

I adore coupons.  I love a good deal and coupons bring you lots of good deals... if you actually use them. My coupon organization needed a bit of a change.  At one point, Adam and I began putting coupons in card sleeves in a binder.  It was a good system, but we never took the time to put the new coupons in the sleeves and throw away the old, expired coupons.  We ended up just sticking them in the front pocket of the binder.  Not very helpful.  And then I started keeping some coupons in a little envelop in my purse.  So we had two spots for coupons and I never seemed to have the right coupon in the right place.  

When I was at Target the other day, I came across this adorable little coupon organizer and thought it would be the perfect solution to our coupon troubles.    

With a new coupon file, I decided to merge all my coupon collections into one system.  First, I took inventory of the coupons I currently had.  I threw away about 90% of them because they were expired.  I found coupons that expired in 2013.  I also found some good stuff, like movie passes and gift cards I forgot I had.  

After I threw away all the expired coupons, I sorted the remaining coupons into categories.  I ended up with:
-Home Improvement
-Health & Beauty

Each category got a labeled section in the coupon organizer.  

Our coupon organizer lives by the microwave.  That way we can grab it anytime we're going out to eat or shopping.  All the coupons are in one place and we both have access to them.  I made a promise to myself to only put coupons in there that I will actually use.  And I also promised myself to look for expired coupons when I put new ones in.  

This certainly isn't a huge organizational development, but it will save me some time looking for the right coupon.  Plus, it brings a little more order to my life, which always makes me happy.  

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Whole Week Without Jazzy

Adam and I got to travel to Colorado for some summer vacation fun recently.  We had a blast, but there was one big drawback: we couldn't take Jazzy with us.  So we had to spend a whole week without our sweet little Jazzy.  

Much of our conversation on vacation was about Jazzy.  "Jazzy would love to smell all these smells!"  "I could have just put Jazzy in my backpack while we climbed up the mountain."  "Jazzy would love to walk around and go shopping with us."

Denver is a very dog-friendly city.  It seemed like everyone we saw walking around downtown had their dog with them, which made us miss Jazzy even more.  Lots of shops had water bowls out front and there were lots of restaurants with patios for dog-owners.  Denver's the place to be if you want to have your dog with you all the time!  

While we missed her terribly, we knew she was being spoiled rotten by my parents.  They even sent us proof.  (I apologize for the photos.  I still have a very old phone that slides open and shut.  So I had to take a picture of the pictures on my phone.  Adam still has a flip phone.  We like to save money where we can.)      

Jazzy got belly rubs.  

And treats.  

Jazzy even told my mom that she wanted to send us a little note. 

We were very fortunate that my parents watched her for the week.  She had lots of fun! 

Jazzy was super excited to see us when we picked her up.  It was so sweet.  She's lucky to have so many people who love her.

Here she is enjoying her souvenir.  

Friday, June 12, 2015

Denver Endeavors

After spending a few days in a cabin in the woods, Adam and I ventured into Denver for some civilization. This vacation was the perfect compromise: Adam got his nature and I got my city life.  

We started our time in Denver with a visit to Casa Bonita.  While the food was terrible, the atmosphere lived up to its promise.  I remember going here as a kid and I think I had just as much fun this time.  We enjoyed the cliff divers, arcade and Black Bart's Cave.  

The following day, we visited Red Rocks Amphitheater.  Then, Adam kindly took me to ride the Alpine Slide.  I love visiting tourist traps!  You get to ride a ski lift up a mountain and then ride down the mountain on a track on a sled thing.  It was pretty fun racing down the mountain.  I think even Adam had fun.  

We had Little Man Ice Cream for lunch.  For two days in a row.  It was delish!  I had cupcake ice cream the first day and salted Oreo ice cream the next.  

While we did not visit any of the many marijuana dispensaries, we did partake in some craft beers.  We visited Denver Beer Co.  Apparently, that was the place to be!  Chelsea Clinton had been there earlier that evening to meet with some people about the Clinton Global Initiative.  Adam enjoyed the beer there.  I'm not really a beer drinker.  I hope we didn't offend the bartender when we asked which beer tasted the least like beer.  In case you're wondering, it was the Osaka Blonde.  

No vacation would be complete without shopping for souvenirs.  We stopped at lots of cute little shops and boutiques.  We ended up with some gifts for Jazzy and my parents to thank them for watching Jazzy, and this cute dish towel.  

It was lots of fun to get away and enjoy ourselves!  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Roughing It

Adam talked me into a vacation in a cabin in Colorado.  I'm not really an outdoorsy gal, but I ended up having a wonderful time roughing it.  

Roughing it is a bit of a stretch.  We stayed in a friend's family cabin, that had electricity and running water for a kitchen sink and a shower.  

The cabin, however, did not have a toilet.  Yep, I got to use an outhouse for the first time in my life.  It wasn't too terrible, as long as you didn't breathe through your nose.   

The outhouse was a small price to pay for the beautiful views.  

We hiked and climbed some of the peaks near the cabin.  It was only slightly terrifying when I got to the tops.  I just tried to look forward instead of down to my death.  

The weather was perfect for us.  We had mostly sunny skies, with only a few rain drops here or there.  It did get cold in the evenings, so we had a warm, crackling fire each night.

Good thing Adam was around to chop up some firewood.  

We also took in some sights around the area, including a Buddhist temple that was built in the middle of nowhere.  We didn't have to be Buddhists to appreciate its beauty.    

We had a blast and got to be a part of nature, which Adam loves to do.  I must say, I am starting to understand why Adam loves it so much.