Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Christmas Letter - Part Three

We really closed this year out with a bang. These past couple months have been busy busy. Let's jump right in, shall we?

September - We celebrated my 26th birthday, nothing fancy, just a dinner out and then a night out with friends. I took Tony to his first NASCAR race. We drove down to Richmond for the day to see the last race before the Chase started. I met Brian for the first time and had a blast.

October - We went to yet another wedding. This one was friends we had made in our condo building. These two are hilarious and good times ALWAYS ensue with them. A couple weeks later we went out with them and a few more couples for a wine tour for the bride's bithday the next weekend would be a surprise dinner out for her new husband's b-day. Those newly weds, so cute. We also welcomed a new nephew into the family. He was born on the 13th and so far is a pretty easy baby. I was in the room for the birth and added Labor to the reasons why we do NOT want any children. My sister did great, I was the one that almost passed out.

November - We started the month celebrating Wilbur's 3rd birthday, I can't even remember life before him. We made a trip to Pittsburgh for a weedend with our favorite Manhattan couple. He got her Steelers tickets for a Christmas present and asked if we would like to join them. We jumped at the chance and bought tickets to see the Penguins play the Bruins on Saturday night and Steelers play the Bengels on Sunday. The Pens won, Steelers lost, but the whole weekend was a blast. We also bucked our Holiday routine from year's past where we would split Thanksgiving and Christmas half and half with our respective families. We spent all day with Husband's parents on Thanksgiving and had a relaxing day and a great meal!

December - We picked the only weekend of football season where neither the Steelers or Cardinals played on Sunday. Penn State football was over, so this gave us the whole weekend to PAINT! We repainted the whole place (minus the bedroom) and it looks AH. MAH. ZING. The next weekend was a girls' night out on the town. We went out on Friday night and the Blizzard of 2009 started while we were out. It snowed Friday night and ALL day on Saturday. We got 2 solid feet of snow, which made for a couple interesting days of walking the dogs. We then had a White Christmas at my Mom's house and enjoyed relaxing with her and my sister's family.

Tonight we ring in the year with some friends. It'll be a low key night at the October Newlyweds' house, wearing our pajamas and taking the dogs for a sleepover. I hope you all have had as great of a 2009 as we did and are celebrating the New Year with your loved ones. Have a safe and happy New Year!!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Christmas Letter - Part Deux

Welcome back! What a whirlwind 2009 started off as. It was just the beginning of what we've dubbed "The Best Year. Ever."

So that brings us to....

May - We travelled to Philly once again, this time for the main event. Laura was getting Married!!!! This was actually the first friend wedding I had ever been in. After being the bride in March, it was easy to make sure Laura had everything she needed. The wedding was a blast. We had so much fun and got to see a ton of people I had known at Penn State. It was a class act. We also rang in husband's 31st, he's getting old.

June - Boy was this a busy month. I had my other bestie to get married off. We had her bridal shower and bachelorette party all in one day. We watched the Penguins sail through the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup (a Super Bowl and Stanley Cup in the same year? And all this time I thought I was the reason for Hubs' "Best Year Ever"). We decided to repaint the bedroom, this made such a huge difference that I decided we would have to repaint the entire house to match the new standard we had set. At the end of the month we attended the 3rd wedding for the year, but just as guests, so we got to sit back and enjoy the festivities.

July - Hubs made his first trek to Barbados. My mom bought a timeshare at the resort where my sister got married about 5 years ago. When we got engaged she realized that the week we went every year would never work for Husband as the week before the 4th of July is the busiest in the Beer business. She purchased a second week to ensure our presence there each year. We joined my mom, sister, and nephew on the island for their second week of vacation. We enjoyed a romantic night out at one of the premier restaraunts on the island, The Cliff. It was AMAZING. We did the Chef's tasting menu and loved every single bite they put in front of us. I look forward to going for almost two full weeks this coming summer!

August - 2nd Bestie wedding of the year. This was also an absolute blast. Almost all of our favorites have joined us as Old Married Couples now!!! This was another classy affair starting at the couples' Alma Mater, Georgetown. The scenery was gorgeous and made for some amazing photo opportunities!

Tune in next time to see how we finish out the year!!!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 Christmas Letter - Part 1

Happy Holidays friends!!!

I wanted to do a Christmas card this year, but ran out of time. Darn, was going to milk those wedding photos one more time. So in lieu of a Christmas letter mailed out to friends and family, we'll do a little recap here to ensure we commemorate what Hubs calls "The Best Year Ever".

2009 was a BUSY year for us. It was filled with friends and family and celebrations. Lets just start from the beginning...

January - We rang in 2009 3 times on an airplane heading out to the West coast. Every time zone, another new year. We began our trip in Dulles Airport having drinks with Lavar Arrington, who was making the same trek to the Rose Bowl as we were. Almost everyone on the flight was Penn Staters, I was actually surprised when We Are...Penn State didn't get started. We went to the game on New Year's Day (Penn State lost :( ) then spent a couple more days in Los Angeles exploring the city. We can't wait to go back when it'll be a bit warmer next time.

February - Kicked off this month with our teams going head-to-head in the Super Bowl. The Cardinals should have won, just sayin'. Husband traveled to Pittsburgh with his buddies for his Bachelor party, it would be the first Penguins game he would see in the Burgh this yeah. I kept it local with my besties all coming in from out of town for a bridal shower and Bachelorette party.

March - We spent the month running around prepping for the wedding and then on the 28th we became Man and Wife. All of our hard work paid off. Best. Day. Ever.

April - We returned from our Honeymoon to Puerto Vallarta and immediately I jumped into wedding activities for my bestie from Penn State. Traveled to Philadelphia 4 weekends in a row. The first two were Bachelorette party and bridal shower. The third weekend was an impromptu trip to compare Pat's vs. Geno's Cheese steaks. The debate started at about 11PM after a full day of watching the NFL Draft with some friends. With Philly only about 2 1/2 hours away we walked the dogs and piled 5 people into a car and hit the road. We got there about 2:30 AM and were in line at Geno's. After waiting in line at both places, and the votes split for best cheese steak, we hopped back in the car and were home by 7:30AM. We also celebrated Sidney's first birthday on the 14th.

Stay tuned for what other adventures we got into this past year!!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Diet Tips

I saw this on Crafts and Cardigans and had to share with you all!!! So funny and I am definitely living by these rules for the next 10 days.

10 Holiday Eating Tips
1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare. You can't find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat step #3.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello!

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table--like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa--position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Reread tips; start over. But hurry--January is just around the corner!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The One Where He Gave Me a New House (#s 64 & 66)

I basically got a new house this weekend. We painted the entire place except for the bedroom (which we repainted this summer). I finally like the house I live in. Finally, after living there for almost 4 years, I like it.

When I moved in I painted the living room orange. Like Home Depot orange. I was trying to be bold. It was fun to have a bold room like that for a little while, but somewhere in the past two years it started grating on me. Everytime I walked into the house, I was disappointed. The original bedroom was a bluish grey, it was supposed to be relaxing, it reminded me of a cave. The original bathroom? PINK, bubble gum pink. Painful for Husband to even exist in. The kitchen and foyer were unpainted with the thought I would get to them one day. One day, four years later.

The painting projects began last Thanksgiving. The bathroom was challenging Husband's manhood. So we went from pink to blue. BLUE BLUE. We couldn't tell where the painter's tape ended and the walls began. It was BRIGHT. After painting that room I was so sick of the blue paint it took me FIVE months to finally pull it out again to do touchups. It was a mess for FIVE months and I still was not happy.

The bedroom was next to go. The bluish grey was depressing. I needed something more classic. We (I) chose to have a chocolate brown accent wall and ivory on the other three. I love love love it. I was finally happy with one room in the house. I created a little corner where I had pulled together a couple of online finds and was happy with the decor. There was hope that I could exist in this one bedroom condo for a bit longer.

I started daydreaming about painting the rest of the house. I knew we would have to bring in backup. We could not accomplish this alone and make it look good. With Husband's cousin being a contractor and professional painter, we offered him some money to oversee the project. We recruited some friends, picked a weekend with no football, and picked out colors. I had painted samples all over the house. I tried about a dozen colors until I settled on the palate.

We started with a DARK olive in the kitchen (Cosmopolitan Olive to be exact), went two shades lighter for the entry way, and then tried a couple of more neutrals for the living room. We ended up picking a greenish khaki color that complimented the olive tones nicely.

We prepped Friday night by moving EVERYTHING out of the rooms to be painted into our bedroom and decided all of our stuff could be smashed into 250 sq feet. Saturday everyone showed up ready to work! We took direction from the pro and jumped right in. By lunch time on Sunday we were cleaning up, amazed that we finished before the Redskin's kickoff at four. We were so excited about the new look that we went out to buy curtains to replace the awful blinds that were (accidentally) a casualty of the project. We hung the curtains, shampooed the carpets and were ready to "move" back in!

I took Monday off to help put everything back together. With all of the furniture back in and most everything rehung on the walls, it really feels like a new place. Everything is in it's place and I'm determined to keep it that way, for a little while at least. I love my new house and am so excited to go home now!!! This also crossed two things off of my 101 in 1001 list!!!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Total Money Makeover

I heard about Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey from Not Quite Betty Crocker. She mentioned reading it and then paid off all of her debt in 12 weeks. Alright, that got my attention.

So I checked the book out from the library (bonus points for not increasing debt by paying for the book, right?) and sat down to read a few chapters last night. I ended up reading almost the entire thing, I stopped when I got to the part about being so wealthy you don't have to worry anymore, lets tackle that topic when we get there.

So Dave breaks down his plan into baby steps to conquer your debt and to become entirely debt free. He has a lot of comparisons in his book to dieting and losing weight. All the weight won't come off right away, you won't be able to run a marathon without training, you have to start somewhere. I did some mental math as I was trying to fall asleep and figured it would be about 6 years and our condo would be paid off. That would be a huge accomplishment. No mortgage, no car or credit card payments, just wealth accumulation. The only caveat would be that we are still in a one bedroom condo. I can't be there in 6 years, I just can't.

Dave's first baby step is to immediately get a $1,000 emergency fund. The next step is to start your Debt Snowball, which tackles ALL of your debt but your house. He calls for you to empty your bank account if you already have more than $1,000 to but anything above and beyond towards starting the snowball. This would mean that our Downpayment fund would be gone. GONE. We would have a great start on the debt, (over a third there!) but would set us back from moving.

I love his approach and think it makes a logistical argument on how to get started, but maybe not for us right now. If getting out of debt is like starting a diet, starting this right now would be like starting a crash diet the night before Thanksgiving. I think Dave would say "Stick it out in the condo to become debt free before upgrading the house", he advocates suffering now to live it up later. I can't Dave, I just can't. So I think we're going to go all out to save for this house, while not accruing any MORE debt, and start this whole deal once we have some room to breathe. In the process we'll have a couple loans that will expire and will free up money anyways!

Are we just setting ourselves up for disaster?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Adventures in Cooking

So I started out slow in the kitchen with baking. I love baking, exact measurements, exact timing, if you can follow a recipe, you can bake. Cooking, however, was a different story. I think it scared me to try an entree or meal that wasn't chicken and vegetables or anything that required any prep work.

I discovered Sandra Lee and her Semi Homemade cookbooks. Her recipes include 70% pre-made ingredients, 30% fresh. This is right up my alley. So we checked out her Weeknight Wonders cookbook from the library and picked out a couple things to try. It came time to take the book back and we hadn't tried anything yet. I quick scribbled down the recipe for one of the front runners we wanted to try and dashed to return the book.

We decided to try the Ham Meatloaf with a Pineapple glaze. Since ham and pineapple is just about my favorite pizza ever, can't go wrong combining them in another recipe, right? I am happy to report it was super easy to make and turned out amazing. The sweetness from the pineapple threw me off at first, but a couple bites in and it was confirmed to be delicious! Sorry no pictures, we gobbled it down as soon as it came out of the oven!

Ham Meatloaf with Pineapple Glaze, from Sandra Lee Weeknight Wonders
For the Glaze:
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup brown sugar
2tsp stone ground mustard
1 tablespoon horseradish
1/4 cup cider vinegar

For the Ham loaf:
1 lb of smoked ham, chopped
1 lb lean ground pork
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup crushed Ritz
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 325, spray 9x5 loaf pan with non stick cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl stir together pineapple, brown sugar, mustard, horseradish, and vinegar. Spread half of the glaze in the bottom of the loaf pan. Set the other half aside.
3. Place ham in food processor. Pulse briefly scraping the bowl, do not over process or it will turn to paste. Transfer ham to mixing bowl, add in ground pork, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, egg, and milk. Stir until combined.
4. Press the ham mixture into the loaf pan. The glaze will rise up the sides. With a sharp knife make slashes on the top in several places. Bake for one hour. Brush on remaining glaze and bake for another 30 minutes.

We served with some mashed potatoes and veggies. The leftovers reheated very well for another delicious meal!!!

Have you tried any new an delish recipes recently?