Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 121

Well, it's been a morning.  I'm sitting at home even though it's a work day, recovering.  This morning I got out of bed, tripped over the laundry basket, and fell nose first into the door frame.  It took over an hour for the bleeding to stop, yuck.  I'm pretty sure my nose isn't broken (it's still straight, and according to John it would hurt lower on the nose if it were broken) but now I have blood all over my pajamas, all over my bathroom sink, a scratched-up and swollen nose, and a cut toe.  Fantastic.

But moving on to the actual point of this post.

1.  We got a gift on Christmas that I forgot to mention, but will actually help me a lot with one of my goals.  A brand new wireless printer!  Why will this help?  It has a fax machine.  Goal 55, finish changing my name, has remained uncompleted in large part due to my lack of access to a good fax machine.  Basically, if a company required faxed notice that my name changed, they still are addressing me by my maiden name.  Yes, a year and a half later.  What can I say, I'm a bit lazy.  But not anymore!  Maybe this will be done by our second anniversary, haha.

2.  We also got Christmas money to buy ourselves some fun stuff.  So after I got the completely frivolous things I wanted (i.e. 3 bottles of OPI nail polish!) I started thinking about things I wanted that could help me finish my goals.  Yes, really.  Should I get Rosetta Stone (goal 12)?  What about saving the money to travel?  A cute duvet set (goal 44)?  A sewing machine?  Finally get my wedding gown cleaned, or put the money into my business?  Buy all released seasons of Bones (goal 95)?  All of these ended up being a no, because I ordered the only thing I got jealous over:  A Kindle!!!  My Kindle should be here between January 6-January 10, and I'm going to start off right away by ordering some classics.  Sherlock Holmes, Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Phantom of the Opera are on the top of my list.  Goal 2 will be done in no time!

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go tend to my nose.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day 117

Hello, hello everyone!  I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas and is enjoying the remainder of the weekend.  Gift-giving/receiving went really well... our gifts to my grandmother and John's mom made them tear up (we gave Grandma a framed 11x14 photo of her and her 4 sons at our wedding, and Mom P two Willow Tree figurines).  My sister gave me a really cute sweater, and thanks to my parents I have my very own set of Spode Christmas dishes (yay!!!).  My brother will be seriously disappointed that we did not drink the Thunderbird he gave us at Christmas dinner (yes, seriously).  He also got us a nice bottle of wine, haha.  John's dad gave us a wine subscription that will send a case of wine to our house every month (soooo pumped about that). 

John gave me a new sweaterdress, a pink Express sweater, and a Vera Bradley wallet.  I gave him the stainless steel wallet he wanted and a new Kangol.  The puppies are thrilled with their new bed and blanket, and ran around all day showing off their new rawhides.

But on to the relevant stuff to this blog...

15. Host a holiday
46. Learn to make a perfect pot roast.

15. Host a holiday
46. Learn to make a perfect pot roast.

Christmas went really well all things considered.  We had 8 adults, 2 children and 2 dogs in our 817 square foot apartment (thank goodness it has an airy layout!).  We successfully fit all the adults at our dining room table, that John set up beautifully, intermingling my new Spode dishes and my great-grandmother's china.  We set up a kids' table in the living room.  Trevor and Darcy behaved surprisingly well... after some initial barking when everyone came in, they calmed down and pretty much behaved for the rest of the night (except for the whole trying to steal food thing, but hey, you can only ask for so much).

John and I woke up at 7:15 to work on cooking the pot roast and the Swedish meatballs... this after not going to bed until after 2 since we went to midnight Mass.  It was worth it though... the Swedish meatballs were a hit (as always, if anyone wants the recipe I'm willing to share!) and the pot roast really was perfect.  I used:

5 3/4 lbs of top round roast
1 bunch of celery (the term is stalk, but I just picture one of the stalks not the whole bunch when I say that)
3/4 bag of baby carrots
1 bag of pearl onions
a whole lot of small red potatoes, can't remember how many
1/4 of a bottle of Cabernet Franc

After browning the roast, I coated it in 1/4 cup of flour, 2 teaspoons of salt and a pinch of white pepper.  I then stuck it in the Crock Pot with all the veggies except the carrots (I only put a few of those in at first for flavor), poured in the wine, and cooked it on low starting at 8:00 AM.  At 5:00 PM, I added the carrots, so they wouldn't get soggy.  I took the roast out at around 7:15-7:30 PM, then thickened the remaining liquid for gravy with hot water and flour.  It was amazing.  The meat just fell apart, and was so flavorful.  Yum.  We also had sweet potato pie, mashed potatoes, peas and bread.  For dessert, my MIL made an apple pie, and I stuck a frozen cherry pie in the oven (hey, it was yummy).  My SIL helped me make whipped cream (thanks, Laura!).

All in all, I think it went really well!  And if you're keeping track, I've now finished more goals in December than I did in September, October and November combined.  Wow.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 115

"It's Christmas Eve Day!  Both an eve and a day.  It's a Christmas miracle!"  Seeley Booth

Christmas has given me a few opportunities to cross items off my list!

57. Clean the kitchen without John mentioning anything.

57. Clean the kitchen without John mentioning anything.

It was a long, long process (complicated by the need to start prepping for tomorrow's dinner!) but with the exception of some drying glasses, a few things that are currently being cleaned in the dishwasher, and the ingredients/cutting board that we left out, our kitchen is clean.  All I need to do is put away those glasses and dishes, and have John take out the trash :)

And in case I don't post tomorrow, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day 114

"I get by with a little help from my friends."  -Ringo Starr

I'm sure Ringo included family in that.

26. Get 4 digits in our savings account

26. Get 4 digits in our savings account

This is one of the harder posts for me to write, because I'm pretty private about money.  However, I'm chronicalling my goals, and finances are part of those goals, so here goes.

Every year my mom's side of the family has a pre-Christmas celebration, usually about a week before Christmas.  We eat pizza and open gifts.  Although we always spent every Christmas with my mom's parents (we spent Christmas Eve with my dad's family), when my uncle got married splitting the holidays became a little more difficult.  Hence, the pre-Christmas celebration.  Chances are no one else was asking you to celebrate with them a week before.  We had our annual pre-Christmas celebration last night, and on top of generously giving us the bedsheets we asked for, my grandparents gave us a rather generous check.  Seems Patty decided she wanted to pay for Trevor and Darcy's kennelling... and then some.

Have I mentioned recently how awesome my grandmother is?  Because she's awesome.  This might be a good time to mention that she was also the person who took me to get my navel pierced.

But a little more on why it took so long to get here (because just now crossing this off is a little embarrassing).  Rewind to June... massive, massive car problems.  All our savings went to that.  Fast forward to about October.  I was looking at our savings account and realized that at our current savings rate, we'd get 4 digits by the beginning of November.  However, a good part of that was the money I was saving for John's birthday gift (I decided that since I was saving so long for it, I might as well earn interest on the money).  Once I took that money out, we'd be under 4 digits again.  So John and I talked about it, and decided that the money in our savings account only counted towards this goal if we had no intentions of spending it in the next 12 months.

So in other words, I could have (and I'm making up numbers here) $1500 in savings, but if $200 is marked towards a gift and $350 is marked towards a future vacation, only $950 would count towards the goal.  Thus, the money I've been putting aside for our 2012 vacation (to be booked in mid to late 2011) didn't count towards the goal, either.

But let me just say, it's a huge weight off my shoulders to be able to cross off the first financial goal on my list.

Oh and PS... people are getting their Christmas cards :)  WIN.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 112

Well, holy crap.  I was wrong.  I did it.

56. Mail Christmas cards before Christmas

56. Mail Christmas cards before Christmas

30 Christmas cards went into the mail today, plus the two we hand delivered.  Now, I'm aware that many of my cards won't make it to their destinations by Christmas, but that wasn't the goal, now was it? :)  This actually is an improvement over last year, when I think the Christmas cards went out in January.  I'll strive to do better next year (i.e. Mail Christmas cards so they arrive before Christmas) but I accomplished another goal!  We made a list of the people that we needed to send cards to, and got addresses of everyone on that list.  We also had a list of people who we'd like to send cards to, but not everyone on that list gave me their address.  Oh well.  All the necessary ones are out prior to Christmas :)

I also shipped out our travel insurance claim.  That thing was 40 pages long!  Ok, to be fair, I think closer to 20 pages were actually relevant.  I printed a lot of emails (booking confirmations) and a few press releases from Mexicana, and the pages were numbered.  In a bunch of cases, only a few of the pages were relevant, but I was really worried about only including like, page 3 of 4, even though pages 1-2 were ads that didn't format right and page 4 was a privacy notice.  I'd rather send irrelevant pages than have the person looking at my claim go "Page 3 of 4.  What happened to pages 1, 2 and 4?  Is she hiding something?"  So I think my work there is done... we'll see.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Day 109

And trip recaps!!  Sorry for the hugeness of the pictures, but the one size was too small and the next was too large... no just right, sigh.

Ok, John and I stayed at the Crown Paradise Club Cancun from 12/11-12/15, in the Crown Club rooms.  We left early early early Saturday morning (our flight departed at 5:45 AM) so we were really tired/hungry by the time we got to Mexico.  The good news was that because we left so early, we had all day at the resort (we got to our room at just past 11 AM local time).  The place was stunning.  This was the view from our room:

And here's a little more of the resort.

The place was stunning.  We spent most of Saturday relaxing... sunning on the beach, swimming a little in the Caribbean, making tour arrangements.  We went to the resort's Mexican restaurant the first night, which was really, really good (no surprises).  They had a Mariachi band serenading the customers.

On Sunday we woke up around 6:45 because we didn't close our curtains, but there's nothing like sunlight to make you feel awake.  Sunday was also John's 25th birthday, so I gave him his gift... a Bulova watch.  He LOVES it.  And he really had no idea it was coming!  So after I gave him his gift we went to breakfast.  Like I mentioned earlier, we stayed in the Crown Club rooms, which were an upgraded adults only area.  This gave us access to a bar that served a really nice breakfast, and free internet :)

So we spent most of Sunday just hanging out at the pool bar (also adults only) drinking Miami Vices.  Yum.  We had reservations at the French restaurant on the resort that night, and they made him a birthday cake :)  The food was ok, but no real complaints.  Anyway, here's us looking cute on John's 25th birthday.

The other half of my birthday gift to John was an excursion while in Mexico.  We went to Xel-Ha and Tulum.  Xel-Ha is a really, really pretty natural aquarium.  We snorkeled for a little, but it was 20 C (about 68 F) and windy, so it felt pretty cold.  So we got lunch.  Xel-Ha had this AMAZING indigenous buffet and the best margaritas I've ever tasted.  And let me say, I'm not a margarita person, but I loved these.  After that, we went and hung out on the hammocks, then rode bicycles around the park for a bit.  One of my favorite parts was the floating bridge.  Fish just swim right up.  The guy in this picture is right next to a huge school of fish:

Yeah, all the dark stuff in front of him?  Fish.  Anyway, here's another stunning pic of the place:

So at 2:30 we left Xel-Ha to go to the ruins at Tulum.  This was a major port for the Mayans, as well as their astrological temple.  You can't go into the buildings anymore because people would vandalize them (freakin people) but you can still walk around the city.  It's built on a cliff right next to the sea.  I found it kind of funny that there were ropes around the buildings, but you could literally walk right up to the edge of the cliff.  John and I explored that for about an hour and a half, then it was time to go back to the resort!

 Tuesday we spent almost the entire day in the hot tub next to the swim up bar... it was the only heated pool in the entire resort.  Yay for free-flowing Miami Vices.  Wednesday we got up early, went down to the sea for the last time, and then had one last Miami Vice before leaving the resort at 11 AM.

So my travel advice since I've taken this trip:

1. They take dollars in Mexico, but it's really best to get pesos instead.

2. Knowing some Spanish is a good thing.

3. Know what you want in a vacation before you pick a resort.  This really was a nice resort, but we probably won't go back until we have kids.  It's not that the kids weren't well-behaved (we really didn't see any bad behavior, just kids being kids, and there's a huge difference) but resorts aimed at families typically only have a few adult-only things (largely 'mommy and daddy's get-away').  So if you're looking for a quiet, romantic vacation, this would not be the place.  If you're looking for a family vacation, GO THERE.  We spent a lot of time thinking "Oh, this would be great if we had kids!"  (In a good way, not in a 'but it sucks now' way).

4.  Once again, travel insurance.  We're starting into the process of filing a claim, I'll keep you updated on that.

5. If you're going to Xel-Ha, bring either cash or a credit card.  It says all-inclusive, and technically it is, but you need a deposit to rent snorkel gear.  No one tells you this at the resorts.  We had no idea, and lucked out that we had our card.  We saw another family that was having a lot of trouble because they didn't know either, but they didn't have a card on them.  Once again, the $20 deposit per person is returned, but no one tells you about it until you're there.

6.  Seeing Christmas trees in 70 degree weather is the wierdest thing.

So all in all we had a good time, and it's a great place for a family vacation.  As for romantic couples vacations... well, I'm still giving that title to Couples Negril :)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 107

And... back!  With not one, but TWO completed goals (yes, this is equal to October and November combined).

84. Go to Mexico
21. Truly surprise John with a gift/event.  Just once.

84. Go to Mexico
21. Truly surprise John with a gift/event.  Just once.

John and I stayed at the Crown Paradise resort in Cancun, Mexico.  It was a really, really nice, clean, pretty place, and we'll probably go back again once we have kids.  It was a family friendly resort, and I felt like it was more aimed towards that than towards adult couples, but we still had a really good time.  I'll post a full vacation recap later.

As for the surprise, I gave John a watch for his birthday, which he celebrated while we were on vacation.  All he'd figured out prior to his birthday was that his gift wasn't something we needed to declare (as he put it "So it's not a horse") and that it fit in my carry-on luggage (we didn't check any baggage).  He thought he was getting something else entirely, and honestly had no idea whatsoever about what his birthday gift was.  Normally, by that point I've either given the surprise away, or he's deduced what it is.  So this is a huge accomplishment for me!

I also ordered our Christmas cards... hopefully we'll put a few out in the next few days.  We have some addresses from cards people sent us (phew!).

So, in recap: 2 goals crossed off, recap when I upload our pictures!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 101

One up, one down.

I emailed Kristi to follow up on the interview from a few weeks back.  The bride decided to look elsewhere.  I'm trying not to take it personally, but it's kind of hard.  I've also been trying to get in touch with a bride who said she wanted to work with me at the beginning of the year (her wedding is this coming July) to no avail.  So I'm not sure if she still wants to work with me... we hadn't drawn up a contract.  I'm going to have to get used to these things, but they kind of hurt.

On the other hand, I had a bride I talked to last month call me today to book my services, so that feels pretty nice :)  And I get to travel to Bethany Beach for that one!

So 3/7 for the weddings.

Final post before vacation :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 100

Triple digits!  I think that on every hundredth (is that how you spell the word?) day, I'm going to look back at what I've done in the last hundred days, and look forward to the next hundred.

So my first 100 days.

I completed 5 goals in my first hundred days.  Goal 37, I finished furnishing the apartment.  Goal 58, Trevor and Darcy went on a walk and didn't bark at people.  Goal 59, Trevor and Darcy graduated from beginner obedience training and were recommended for intermediate.  Goal 63, Darcy didn't bark at a stranger.  Goal 74, I got 100 fans for Infinite Joy Weddings on facebook.  I also worked on my 'numbered' goals... Goal 8, I've complimented 5 strangers (out of 10) and Goal 70, I've booked 2 weddings (out of 7).

I'm actually pretty pleased with how it's going, even though I would be thrilled to have more goals crossed off.  I've been working on it, and that's a huge start for me.  The list has made it through 100 days without being abandoned, and it's something that I now think about on a semi-regular basis, especially before I take a leap.

I'm proud that I've made a good start on the 'dogs' area.  I love my dogs, and I really want people to get the right impression of them.  This has helped.  I'm also really glad that I put down the 100 fans goal... it's really pushed me to spread the word about my business, and I think it's working (as is evidenced by the 2 booked weddings).  I also LOVE that my apartment is done... it really makes me feel less transient.  Like the apartment is our home, not just a place we're living for now.  It's a good feeling.

So looking forward to the next hundred days.  Last night John and I offered to host Christmas for the Posey family, and if that offer is taken, goal 15 (host a holiday) is done.  I might even make the perfect pot roast for that, haha (goal 46).  We're leaving for Cancun in less than 48 hours (eeeek!!!!) so good-bye goal 84!  And believe it or not, we might actually make goal 38... our apartment has been clean for 4 days.  That's kind of huge for us, and knowing that we'll be having people over (plus the fact that we'll be out of town!) adds a lot of incentive to keep the place clean.  I'll probably take the Christmas opportunity to get the Posey side filled in on our family tree, and then bring my grandparents over later to talk about their sides (goals 5, 19, 22, 23).

I think we might get Trevor to shake hands soon, too (goal 62).  He'll lift his paw when he's given the 'shake' command but he's still iffy about letting you take his paw.  I think he's worried people are trying to trick him into having his nails clipped.  That's Trevor's least favorite thing.  I know we'll hit 4 digits in savings (goal 26).  I'm also going to try to launch a website and start advertising for Infinite Joy Weddings on Craigs List (goals 68, 69).  I have a re-evaluation on my back today, and I'll get the results next week... if Dr. Nick bumps me down to one visit per week, I'm declaring goal 101 completed.

The next hundred days look ambitious.  I'm up to it.

100 down, 901 to go.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 98

I'm now certain that our Christmas cards will not be out before Christmas this year.  Damn it.  I had all my addresses on the knot guest list.  I really should have backed it up, but I didn't (and even if I had, my dad recently cleared all my stuff from the computer at my parents house, with my permission).  Well, I guess they had an upgrade or something and all my information there was lost.  I'm pretty upset about that.

Sigh.  Now I guess I need to start hunting down addresses :(

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 97

My husband is awesome.  Just sayin'.

I organized a Zeta event on Sunday (more on that in a bit) and he cleaned our apartment while I was gone!  We still need to work on the bathroom and the bedroom, but it looks so good in the main rooms.  I'm thrilled.  Pictures soon, especially because we're planning on taking our Christmas picture in front of our tree any day now!

As for the Zeta event, I'm kind of disappointed about how it turned out.  I really (really, really) wanted to do a holiday tea, fought for the event/date, our VP of programming sent out the evite about 2 weeks in advance, and as of Friday I had 5 yeses.  Small, but manageable.  Cool.  I'd reserved a table for 6 at the Ritz, so it was fine.  Late Saturday night one person changed their RSVP to a no.  Ok, life happens.  Then 2 more just didn't show up.  So it was just me and one other person :(  I was pretty disappointed.  Granted, I had a great time with that sister, the tea/food was delicious, and they moved us to this cute little table with big cushy seats next to the fire place, so it worked out, but I was still disappointed about the turn out.  Anyway, Heather, if you're reading this, thank you, thank you, thank you for coming out :)

That did, however, lead to me being convinced that hosting a tea party in my home (goal 50) would be completely amazing.

Six days til vacation!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 94

Today is a big day: It's the day we finished saving for/paying ourselves back* for our vacation!  (More on that asterisk in a bit).  As such, I thought I'd write a post on my new vacation knowledge that I've gained prior to the vacation.  BTW, as much as parts of this might sound like an ad, it's not.  I highly doubt these companies would pay me to advertise lol.

First, how to afford a trip.  John and I booked this trip back at the beginning of February.  We sat down and figured out what we could afford to put away weekly (because at the time I was still temping, and therefore getting weekly paychecks).  We also looked forward at how our bills would be changing, and figured out a battle plan.  $27/week, adding $25 at the end of the month after May, when our rent dropped.  Our Virtual Wallet helped with that a lot.  It's one of the best features: you can save for specific things within the account.  We set up 2 savings areas: the money we paid out right away (deposit and flights) and the money we hadn't paid yet (the balance).  It made it really easy to track how much we still needed to save.  We paid the balance on the trip back in August, and today we finished paying ourselves back for the money we paid out right away.  Woohoo!

Part 2 of that was finding a good deal.  We're Costco members, and on top of the awesome warehouse deals, they have a great travel section on their webpage.  We found a deal that was only like, $700 for 5 days, 4 nights at an all-inclusive resort in Cancun.  It didn't include flights, but we jumped on it.  We then scoured the internet to find flights on our own, and found 2 roundtrip, non-stop tickets for only like, $600.  WOW!

*Lesson 2.  Luckily, only learned in the mildly difficult way, not the hard way, period.  And yes, now we're getting back to that asterisk.  Always, always, ALWAYS buy travel insurance.  As I mentioned, we bought our great deal plane tickets right away (February 9), and so Costco included them in the trip insurance.  On August 27, the airline ceased operations indefinitely.  Yes, they're still grounded.  We had to buy a second set of tickets (luckily, we were only out an extra $70).  We also immediately applied for a refund from the airline.  The airline said they'd "let people know" about the refund by 12/15.  By that, they mean you'll either have a refund or you won't on 12/15.  As of right now, we haven't been refunded.  Our credit card company won't help us because it's been more than 60 days since we purchased the tickets, and they won't dispute charges over 60 days old.  The insurance has been a saving grace... if there isn't a refund in our account on 12/16, they'll cover the refund for us.

I'll let you all know how that saga finishes, including with the insurance, but let me say one more time: ALWAYS BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE.  As of right now, it's looking like the best $54 purchase I ever made.

Lesson 3: Also think about the other expenses.  This is where things are actually getting really expensive for us: kenneling the dogs.  We started saving for that a couple weeks back, but between all the pre-emptive medical stuff (like vaccines we don't normally have to give our dogs, and the shockingly expensive fecal exam) and the cost of the kennel, it's actually one of our larger expenses as far as this trip is concerned.  I wish I'd thought of it a little sooner.

Lesson 4: Alert your bank early to your travel plans.  I didn't know (prior to yesterday, when I called) that it took 48 hours for the note that you're traveling to appear on your bank account.  Luckily since I did it early it wasn't an issue, but I just thought I'd let readers know in case you didn't :)

Ok, so there are all of my travel lessons prior to my trip!  I can't wait to write my trip recap!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 93

I changed my mind.  We will not be fully contributing to our 401K as of January.  I've thought this out, I swear!

HR re-sent the paperwork (I can enroll now, but they destroyed my paperwork 2 days ago, awesome).  I looked at the quarter dates, and looked at the calendar, and realized that there would only be one paycheck in between my anniversary date and the second quarter start.  In other words, only one paycheck with the match on 6%.  I'm already enrolled in the 401K program (contributing 2%) so it's not like I'm not saving for retirement.

Anyway, here's why I decided to change.  As I mentioned, we'll be hitting 4 digits in savings this month.  Yuck.  I think we actually have more in our retirement savings than we do in our savings account.  And that worries me.  It's not that I don't feel that we should be saving for retirement... I had too many people tell me when I graduated from college that they wished they'd started saving earlier for retirement so they weren't scrambling as it got closer.  But I don't like the fact that if we have car trouble, if one of our pets has an accident, or if one of us makes a math error in the checkbook (that was a fun recent experience) we're screwed.  We need to have savings we can use if we need, not wait 40 years to touch.

I want to have at least 10K saved up before having a baby, and at our current savings rates, that will push back our current plans by four years.  FOUR YEARS.  That's not ok.  So if putting that 4% into my 401K isn't the best way to save it this quarter (and I don't believe it is) I want to put it into our savings.  Hence, this goal won't be completed until at earliest, April 1.  But I'm at peace with that.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 92

Happy December!  I can't believe I've been working on this for 3 months already (and admittedly not doing as well as I would have hoped, but oh well).  I'm hoping to get my apartment clean so I can show off our (ok, mainly John's) decorating job for the holidays!