A Weird Non-Habit

Jay and I might be one of the weirdest couples I know. There're a lot of reasons I say this (we're both major weirdos), but one thing that ALL of our friends in relationships do is watch movies or TV together. We don't!

Over the course of our 5 year relationship, we've been to the movie theater three times. We saw Lincoln, The Great Gatsby, and some indie documentary that I can't remember the name of. The only movie we've watched at home is Dancing Outlaw, which is a ridiculous documentary about a folk dancer from Appalachia. We did watch HBO's series, The Newsroom, together, but it took us about two years to finish.  

We don't understand this concept.

We don't understand this concept.

We're definitely not anti-TV or screen time, and we both have a couple shows we keep up with. Sometimes I think it would be nice if we had a show we watched together or saw a new movie, so we wouldn't be the couple that literally has nothing to contribute to a conversation about TV, movies, or pop culture in general. We do spend time together at home in the evenings - we linger over dinner on our covered porch, walk the dog, work on house projects, eat ice cream, read in bed, etc. 

How do you and your significant other spend the evening? Do you have any strange habits or non-habits?

 
 

How to Battle the Post-Vacation Fog

Aww, man! Every time I open Instagram or Facebook, I'm bombarded with everyone's pictures of their toes in the sand or fruity cocktails on a tropical island. I'm jealous and itching to get to a beach this summer! We just got back from a long weekend in NYC, and we are heading to the Canadian Rockies next month and have a few lake trips and long weekends planned. I actually just looked at my calendar, and we only have one weekend we won't be traveling until September. Yikes! Summer is the time for travel and making the most of every weekend!

Shameless tourist selfie on the way to meet some friends for dinner. 

Shameless tourist selfie on the way to meet some friends for dinner. 

But... does anyone else get in a funk after a trip? While I’m usually ready to come home after a nice vacation, the relaxation or excitement or whatever magical feeling the trip inspired is usually zapped the minute the trek home begins. I start thinking about laundry, groceries for the week, picking up the dog, the long work meeting on Tuesday, any a slew of other unpleasant or mundane tasks. As a type-A worrier (not to be confused with warrior) who likes to start each week on the right food with a clean house, full pantry, and the right mindset, I've developed a few tricks for making this happen, so I can fully enjoy traveling.

Me while traveling - relaxed, happy, and, frankly, a little nauseating. 

Me when arriving home from a trip - scary and lashing out at loved ones.

  1. Plan your meals for the week after your trip a couple days before you leave, and schedule a grocery pickup. You can check out my meal planning tips here, and this is such a relief after a trip. My sanity is worth the $5 service fee to schedule a grocery pickup either near the airport or on the drive back home. After traveling, the last thing I want to do is go to the grocery or think about our meals for the week. It's also great to add prepared foods to your grocery list for dinner after you arrive home, so you're not overwhelmed with making dinner or forced to order pizza.
  2. Clean and do laundry a day or two before you leave. It can definitely be a headache to do this before traveling, but it is worth the effort on the front-end of a trip to come home to a clean house and just the dirty laundry from your trip. While I know not everyone will agree with me on this, but for me, having fewer chores around the house seems to makes arriving home from traveling easier. 
  3. If you have the time, plan to come home a day before you have to go back to work. Regardless of how much planning ahead I do, there are always errands or chores that I need to take care of after taking a longer vacation. It is usually worth it to me to allow for extra time at home, so you don't feel rushed before returning to the real world.
  4. Plan something to look forward to for after the trip. Half of the fun of traveling is the anticipation of the trip, and it can be a bummer to come home and not have anything fun on the horizon. Whether it is another trip or long weekend in a few months or just a happy hour or yoga class with your best girlfriends, it is nice to have something to look forward to.
  5. If all else fails, brew a strong cup of coffee and start hustling.

How do you ease back into your normal routine after a vacation?

 
 

Linking up with Annie and Julie and Natalie.

Passports and Glamorous International Travel

On a cold, rainy day in the spring of 2007, I took the worst photo ever. To clarify, I didn't actually take the picture, it was the worst picture that was ever taken of me. When my own mother saw it, she said it looked like a mug shot taken after I'd been picked up off a street corner drinking a bottle of Ripple. Then I had to clarify what Ripple was, and let's just say, being found with Ripple isn't attractive. 

This photo was my first passport photo.

 
 

At 19, I had never been out of the country and was preparing for a trip to Ghana. For some reason, my dad was in town when I was planning to get a passport picture taken at the post office. He picked me up at my dorm room to take me to the post office and then out for an off-campus lunch, but all of this took place after I had walked to and from my classes and been put through the rain and wind ringer. 

I'm not sure why I didn't think to put myself together a little bit, at least from shoulders up. It didn't occur to me until I was standing in line at the post office. When I was finally called back to take the picture, I immediately assumed the appropriate position and smiled. Then the lady taking the picture said I wasn't allowed to smile in passport photos. What?! A smile makes everyone look better, even on a rough day. Instead of assuming a neutral facial expression like a normal person, in my surprised confusion, I looked downright pissed. 

Click! There was no warning as she snapped the picture nor was there an offer of a redo. They at least give you a three seconds heads up at the DMV, for goodness sake!

The whole trip planning experience continued in the same unpleasant vein. I had to visit the campus clinic for a series of inoculations against multiple diseases one might contract in Africa. The first trip ended with my debit card being rudely confiscated and cut up at the front counter because my bank account had been compromised earlier in the day, and I hadn't been notified yet. The second visit to the campus clinic included a stern and very uncomfortable lecture about not having sex with African men while abroad. 

I finally made it to Ghana, and it wasn't glamorous. We stayed in a primitive house in a small village that sometimes had electricity. By the end of the trip, all of my clothes were a little stinky and a lot dusty. Regardless, it was a great trip!

What I thought I'd look like in Ghana.

How I actually looked in Ghana.

Over the following years, I was fortunate to go on a few other international trips. I'm thankful that many of these trips were taken before the omnipresence of WIFI and iPhones and Instagram because I may not have had as many authentic experiences. I may have been too consumed with capturing the most glossy or polished image to post and missed out on the true beauty of a place. 

We're taking a trip next month where I'll need a passport, and I was all too eager to take a new passport photo since my name has changed since using my original one. Let's just say I put on some mascara, did my hair, and made sure my neckline was flattering this go around. When the new passport arrived in the mail, I was excited put it in a cute passport case that I received as a gift a couple of years ago but had never used because the previous one wasn't worthy of a nice leather case.

Wouldn't you know, a week later I received another piece of mail from the Department of State, and they sent the darn thing back to me! Oh well, I'll file it away as a memento from my first international trip and as a reminder to not take travel so seriously and to savor the REAL experiences. 

 
 

Steps to Saving

Today I am going to embrace the "tacky" and talk a little bit about money. Money has been a huge topic on my mind lately. And while most of us grew up learning that it is rude to talk about money, I think that it is incredibly important to learn how our young adult peers handle their finances in order to figure out what works best for you. In the past 6 months, Ryan and I have purchased a house, purchased a ton of new furniture, and dealt with some unforeseen emergencies, including some expensive vet bills when Lou tore her shoulder and an urgent need to buy a new car. Because of this, we've had the very adult experience of building up our savings, blowing through our savings at lightening speed, and starting all over (nearly) from scratch. Today I'm sharing a couple of my tips for how we prepared for these events and entered into what I am lovingly calling "the recovery period."

1. Manage Your Savings Account One of the things I was most shocked to learn the few times I've discussed money with friends is that not everyone our age has opened a savings account. On some levels, I get it. It can be intimidating to have another account, especially if you anticipate it sitting somewhat empty. I am so fortunate that my parents had a savings account open for me from the time that I was little. I can still remember my mom helping me from a very young age to deposit a portion of my birthday and Christmas money each year into my savings account. While I certainly didn't understand or appreciate this when I was younger, those sorts of little savings over time add up, and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome whenever I began to play a bigger role in my personal finances. The moral of this story is that it doesn't matter how much you have to save - even if it is just a little bit here and there, having a dedicated place to store it is essential!

2. Embrace Having Multiple Accounts Between my personal accounts and my shared accounts with Ryan, I have a whopping 6 bank accounts to my name. Before you think I'm completely insane, this is pretty standard for the way that my bank handles things, and while at first I thought this was a bit much, I have come to totally embrace the freedom and flexibility it gives me. Top priority are my shared accounts with Ryan - we have joint spending, reserve, and savings accounts. The first bit of my paycheck is sent directly to our savings and my 401k through direct deposit. The second bit goes to our spending. Then, each paycheck, I budget out the expenses we have coming in the next couple of weeks weeks and allocate a significant portion to be moved to our reserve, which is exclusively used to pay our mortgage and bills. Anything leftover in spending is used to pay for groceries, household items, and entertainment. In addition, I also have a personal spending, reserve, and savings account. A much, much smaller portion of my paycheck goes to my personal spending account, and I move it into spending, reserve, or growth depending on what is coming up in the near future. This is the account I use if I want to buy clothes or if I'm buying gifts for Ryan. It's my own personal judgment-free allowance I give myself every few weeks. It may seem like a lot, but with the beauty of direct deposit and constantly keeping an up-to-date budget, I'm able to save and allocate my money down to the detail.

3.  Always Have a Buffer One of my goals is to always have a buffer in my savings account. That means that no matter what I'm saving for in the future, I never let myself touch that buffer amount because it is there solely for emergencies. Even after I've made a big purchase, that buffer should still be there. And boy, did that buffer come in handy recently. As you can imagine, after buying our home, our savings took a serious drop, and we certainly were not planning on making any other big purchases anytime soon. However, life happens, and one of our cars was totaled, which meant ready or not, we had to buy a car. Thanks to our buffer, we were able to swing it. And here comes the tacky again: We like to keep a buffer of at least $5k at all times. That may be way too high or way too low for you, but that is what works for us at this stage of life.

4. Create Savings Goals This includes long-term, short-term, and in between goals. Usually I have several short-term savings goals and maybe 1 or 2 long-term. Short term saving goals for me are typically house/decorating or travel related. Since we have gone through some big expenses lately, I'm currently working on redefining on our long-term goals, but probably the next big ticket item in the works is a new car for Ryan. He'll be happy if he reads this post!

Do you have any money tips that help you to plan and save?

 

Best Dog-Friendly Places in Lexington

So I'm definitely one of those crazy dog people. Since moving into our new house about 6 months ago, I can't tell you how many neighbors start a conversation with something like, "I see you with your dog all the time." Yep, that's me! I'm always walking to the park or heading to meet a friend with Annabelle in tow.

Heading to an outdoor concert downtown. Annabelle carries her own water and treats in her Outward Hound pack. 

Heading to an outdoor concert downtown. Annabelle carries her own water and treats in her Outward Hound pack. 

Especially when the weather is nice, we love taking Annabelle with us to outdoor events or just to dinner. We're fortunate that she's mostly well-behaved and gets along with people and other dogs. During spring, summer, and early fall, we almost always try to eat outdoors, so we always keep an eye out for good patios that we can enjoy. If the weather is less ideal, we typically head to a brewery since most of them in town are dog-friendly and serve food.

Favorite Patios: 

Favorite Breweries:

We obviously don't take Annabelle shopping very often, but she will ride along with us to our local pet shop, hardware store, and plant nursery. I found this list of national stores that allow pets, and the last time I was in the Container Store, I purchased a dog product and was informed by an employee that they are also dog-friendly. However, I'm not sure if Annabelle or I would enjoy if she tagged along to the Container Store or Pottery Barn. I'm pretty sure I'd be tugging her away from breakables the entire time.

Annabelle's favorite store is Chevy Chase Hardware. The store employees always give her treats and pets! We obviously don't take her shopping with us very often, but she frequently rides along with us to the hardware store or local plant nurseries. 

Where are your favorite places to bring your dog?