Monday, November 08, 2010

Blogging Break

Hi friends.

I'm taking a little blogging and twitter break.

I'm dealing with some tough personal stuff right now and I'm just not to the point where I can blog about it. I don't want to continue my happy-go-lucky posts about traveling, decorating, or cooking when I know that's not where my heart is.

Just to squash any rumors...
- My marriage is fine. The Mr. and I are not divorcing (or even close to divorcing :) ).
- I am OK. I don't have cancer. I'm not dying.

I hope to return soon. Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Newlyweds Divorcing?

No, we're not getting divorced, silly.

But I did recently find out that the Mr.'s best friend from college is getting a divorce from his wife of 3 years. And this comes on the heals of his best friend from childhood getting a divorce from his wife of 4 years this past spring.

Um, that's enough to make a happily-wed girl feel pretty nervous when I see marriages crumbling all around me. And while I don't know all the reasons these couples split up (dudes tend to be more tight-lipped about these things), I must say I am shocked. We're too young to know divorcees!

How could 20-something, basically "newlyweds" be getting divorced so quickly?

Well, according to a USA Today article the medium duration of first marriage, when first marriage ended in divorce is 8 years. And according to the CDC 43% of first marriages in the U.S. end within 15 years. Wow. Sad.

So I was right, these couples DID get divorced early.

So I googled to try to find out WHY young couples would get divorced. And while I could not find out specifically why newlyweds would get divorced, I found out the top reasons overall for divorce are:
1. Poor communication
2. Financial problems
3. A lack of commitment to the marriage
4. A dramatic change in priorities
5. Infidelity

Yeah that about sums it up.

So, what's MY chance of divorce, I thought to myself? I'm committed, faithful, manage money well, and I like to think I'm a good communicator.

Then I found the "Divorce Calculator" on

It told me people with similar backgrounds to me who are already divorced = 1%
And people with similar backgrounds to me who will be divorced over the next five years= 4%

Ok, we have 96% chance of still being together in five years. That makes me feel a little bit better. But this whole thing was a good reminder to not take my marriage or husband for granted and to work every day at making my marriage just a little bit better.

Do you know 20-something couples who got divorced in the first few years of marriage?

What does the Divorce Calculator say your chance of divorce is?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Halloween Recap: USC vs. OR, Cookies, and Little Red

Happy November everyone. Hope you all had fabulous Halloween Weekends!

Ours started out with USC's Homecoming Game against #1 ranked Oregon.

USC lost, but we had a great time at the game. We tailgated with USC Alumni and our friends from Oregon who were in town.

Now I'm rooting for the Ducks to go all the way to the National Championship!

Sunday morning I made Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Chip cookies. It's a little tradition of mine to make cookies on Halloween, I think it satisfies my Halloween sweet tooth!

I think I need to buy some new baking sheets. Why?

I made 1/2 the cookies on one kind of darker color cookie sheet and the other 1/2 on a lighter cookie sheet and they turned out totally different.

The cookies made on the darker sheet turned out like this:

The ones on the lighter cookie sheet turned out like this:

The ones from the darker sheet were much fluffier and rounded. I never realized the kind of cookie sheet matters so much! That said, what kind/brand of cookie sheet is your favorite? I am totally going to buy a couple of new cookie sheets.

Finally, my Little Red Riding Hood costume turned out pretty cute!

This is me before heading over to our church's Halloween Carnival to pass out candy to the kiddos.

The Mr. was an "80s Rock Star" like Axel Rose or something. Hilarious.

You can't really see my boots, but these are my new suede boots from DSW. I love them! DSW is go-to place for boots.

How was your Halloween Weekend?

PS - My CSN Stores giveaway ends today. Enter here!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Exciting Friday!

Happy (almost) Halloween, friends! This is going to be one fantastic weekend! Why?

1. ESPN GAMEDAY is coming to USC!

That's right, my mighty, underdog Trojans are taking on the #1 Oregon Ducks at home. AND it's our Homecoming! I'm so excited to see the Trojans potentially unseat Oregon in our "red-out" stadium. Look for me in the west endzone!

2. Halloween

Last night, I finally decided I'd be "Little Red Riding Hood" this year (a costume I wore only to a work Halloween party 3 years ago). Because hey, free cute costume! It looks kind of like this (but less racy):

We're going to try to make it to a Halloween party Saturday night (if the big game doesn't last all night) and then we're serving at our Church's Halloween Carnival on Sunday evening.

3. A fun giveaway!

I'm giving away a $45 gift certificate to CSN Stores. Enter here!

CNS Store have over 200 online stores where you can find everything from contemporary coffee tables to fantastic fitness equipment to cookware!

What are you doing for Halloween?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Digital Scrapboking & Photoshop Elements

One of my the items on my "to-learn" list (and Baby Bucket List) is Photoshop Elements. Particularly to learn how to do digital scrapbooking.

Since High School I had loved to do paper scrapbooking and scrapbooked all of my pictures from 1996-2007. But a couple of years ago I just lost my zest for paper scrapbooking. I figured, if all of my pictures are digital, my scrapbooking should be too. But clearly I've dragged my feet on actually learning Photoshop Elements.

So this weekended I watched some YouTube Tutorials, downloaded some free scrapbooking papers and elements and went to town creating my first few pages.

I started with our 1 year anniversary pictures to test out my skills. Here's how I did...

Not too bad for a beginner, right? Right?

My plan is to do layouts for all of my 2009 pictures, and then put them into a Shutterfly or Blurb Book. Then do 2010. And eventually 2008 and 2007. Yikes! How did I get so far behind?

Are any of you digital scrapbookers?

If so, where do you like to get your scrapbooking elements?

I found a few places that have free elements for personal use that I really liked:

But I'd love to hear if there are more out there (I am sure there are).

Also, what Photoshop Elements advice do you have for me?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Reviews - Summer Edition

The good news is that my 2010 Reading Plan has encouraged me to read more books this year. The bad news is that I've definitely deviated from the plan somewhat. But regardless, I wanted to share the books that I read in July, August, and September with you.

I Will Carry You by Angie Smith

I actually won this book in Pretty Whitty's giveaway, and I was SO glad that I did.

Even though I've read Angie's blog and know the story of Audrey Caroline, the book was still amazing.

Angie is a fantastic writer and I absolutely love how she wove in the biblical story of Lazarus in with Audrey's story. This book touched my heart and grew my faith.

My rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

I read this book in August as part of the Book Beginnings and Bookends Book Club. I'm guessing that many of you did as well.

I did a crap job of responding to the weekly questions -- but I loved the book and really enjoyed reading the weekly comments by Erin, Rachel, and other bloggers.

This book was a total page turner! I basically could not put it down. It was thrilling, touching, suspenseful, and fascinating. Just a great read overall.

My rating: 5 stars out of 5

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Believe it or not, I think I've had this book my bookshelf to read for almost nine years. That's one epic reading fail.

So I finally read it this Summer (which is fitting because it's about Summer in the Appalachians). It weaves together three distinct stories of people living life one Summer in the 1990s. I really liked how by the end all of the stories and characters were tied together. Of the three stories I loved one, liked another, and really didn't like one of them. I found myself almost skipping the chapters about Deanna, but the chapters about Lusa were enthralling. So overall, I liked but didn't love this book.

My rating: 3 stars out of 5

PS- I still feel that Barbara Kingsolver is an amazing reader, and I highly recommend The Poisonwood Bible, which was written a few years before Prodigal Summer. It's one of my favorite books EVER.

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin

I know this book is a favorite of many bloggers out there -- so I knew I would like it and it seemed to be an easy read for the last month of Summer. It was definitely an easy read and I zipped right through it. Overall, I liked the storyline, but I found the characters to be pretty one-dimensional and almost caricatures. Nevertheless Baby Proof is a fun, summer, beach/pool read.

My rating: 3 stars out of 5

What books have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This & That

For some reason "this" and "that" makes me think of that Kia Hamster Commercial. I don't care what people say, I love that commercial.

I know I've been an MIA blogger -- I've had a lot of things on my mind that I can't blog about. Maybe sometime later I'll blog about it.

So here are some random things on my mind...

1. I've already started working on our Christmas cards. I think Shutterfly has the best cards for the price. I really like some other sites (like Minted) but Shutterfly is almost as good for 1/2 the price. I'm probably going to use our Europe pictures on the card since that was the biggest thing for us in 2010. Maybe something like this:

What do you think? Where do you get your Christmas cards done? I have no affiliation to Shutterfly, I've just used them before, so I am open to suggestions.

2. Simply Bags sent me a fun, personalized, insulated lunch bag to share with you all. It's so cute and it definitely helps keep my lunch cold at work. Good stuff.

3. I'm thinking about jumping on the Skype bandwagon so that the Mr. and I can Skype with our families far away. My FIL recommended the Microsoft LifeCam Cinema Web Camera so we may be purchasing one of these soon.

Do you Skype? Do you have a webcam that you like?

4. I used to love scrapbooking, but now I never do it. I'm moving more toward digital scrapbooking (I'm sloooowly learning Photoshop Elements). Should I sell my old scrapbooking supplies on my blog? Do people still do paper scrapbooking?

5. I've been slogging through changing my name. Trying to get all of my Credit Cards, Frequent Flier Accounts, etc. moved to my married name. This has only taken me a lightening-fast two years. What I love about the process is that the only thing that is consistent is inconsistency. Some Credit Cards you can change your name over the phone, some you have to fax a form, some you have to mail a form. I love it.

What's new with all of you?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Portland Trip Recap

Last weekend we traveled to Portland to attend the Mr's 10 year High School Reunion and see a bunch of his friends and family. The reunion was a lot of fun, but the stuff we did with the Mr's friends surrounding the reunion was even more fun.

On Friday we went wine tasting in Dundee Oregon. We tasted a lot of great Pinot Noirs and some other pretty good Pinot Gris and Blancs. It's definitely a Pinot region up there.

The landscape there is beautiful up there!

Here we are at Bella Vida.

One of our favorite places was Torii Mor Winery. Here we are at Torii Mor with some of the Mr's HS friends who came tasting with us.

Another vineyard that we loved was Winderlea. In fact, their Pinot Noir was our favorite. And they have a gorgeous view off the back deck of their tasting room.

We visited at total of 5 vineyards/wineries in Dundee. Bella Vida, Erath, Torii Mor, Lange, and Winderlea.

Our favorites by far were Torii Mor and Winderlea. The rest were good, but those were great!

Friday night 12 of us went out to dinner at the Mr's favorite Portland Restaurant, Ringside Steakhouse. So good and so fun to really get to see people and connect! In fact, it was such a great time that I forgot to take any pictures at dinner.

Saturday morning went on a hike with the Mr's Mom and Dad and we then met up with the Mr's brother and his fiance, Katie, for lunch. At lunch Katie asked me if I'd be in her wedding party! I was so touched and honored!

So after lunch Katie and I headed over to David's Bridal. Here we are, all smiles!

We tried on a ton of dresses. This is Katie's sister and me in a couple of our favorite chiffon ones.

Then the Mr. and I headed to The Nines hotel to get ready for the reunion.

We took a couple of pictures by the elevator and then my camera battery died. So I didn't get pictures at the reunion (sad!)

Dressed and ready for the reunion...

The reunion was at the Jupiter Hotel. The Mr. and I agreed that Facebook has made reunions a lot less climatic, but it was a lot of fun nevertheless.

Have any of you attend your 10 reunion? How was it?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Portland Bound!

We're heading out this afternoon to spend a long weekend in Portland, Oregon.

The occasion?

The Mr's 10 year High School reunion!

We'll also get spend time with his family and friends, as well as go wine tasting out in Dundee and eat dinner at an amazing steakhouse in Downtown Portland.

Full recap when we return!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dream Jobs

Lately, work has been killing my free time! Sorry for being so MIA.

Although I love my job and it would take a lot to get me to leave it, I sometimes think about what I would do if I could have any job in the world.

I came up with five dream jobs that I'd love to have...

1. Professional Organizer


I live for organizing. The Container Store is pretty much my heaven. When I was young I'd help my friends clean out their closets.

I'd love to help people organize their homes and lives for a living.

2. Winemaker

It's no secret that I love wine -- tasting it, buying it, drinking it. I love visiting vineyards -- seeing the grapes, the barrel rooms, the tasting rooms. I just think it would be so fun to own a vineyard and make our own wine.

3. Restaurateur

I'm also a foodie. I'd love to come up with fun restaurant idea, pick the menus, and entertain patrons. I know owning a restaurant is a tough and risky business but if I could make it work, I'd love it. Plus this is something that I think the Mr. and I would love doing together.

4. Party Planner


I had SO much fun planning my wedding. I make inspiration boards and help people come up with party and wedding ideas. There are just endless amazing ideas out there for parties.

5. CEO/Leader/Owner of a Small Business

I know, this one is vague. But I think it would be amazing to start some kind of small business with friends or associates. I'm not talking about starting the next Facebook or something, but owning some kind of small business where we can make a living, have fun, and do something meaningful.

Now tell me, what are YOUR dream jobs?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

It's Game Day Baby! Trojans!

Today is the University of Southern California's first home game.

The Mr. and I are huge USC fans. We met there. We go to every home game. We pretty much bleed Cardinal and Gold.

2009 was definitely not the best football season in USC history, but we still had a blast at all the games -- tailgating, cheering, and lovin' our alma mater.

{Best-of 2009 USC games montage}

But the 2010 off-season was downright awful, with Pete Carroll leaving and the insanely harsh NCAA sanctions against USC (note: I don't know who I loathe more, the greedy jerk Reggie Bush, or the NCAA for making an example out of USC). I know lots of people are happy to see USC fall from grace and that a lot of fair weather fans have abandoned the Trojans. But you know what....

I'm just happy that I can once again put my USC gear on and loudly declare that IT'S GAME DAY BABY!

Heck, even Judah's ready for the game!

(Maybe we'll leave the game on TV for him at home so he can watch. Just kidding.)

Seriously, for me there is almost no greater feeling in the world than walking through USC's campus as it's teeming with tailgaters, and then stepping into a jam-packed Coliseum to watch USC take the field.

I love the fall. I love USC. Sanctions be damned. IT'S GAME DAY BABY!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

More on Money

Work has been crazy, so I don't have too much to blog about. So, I thought I'd talk more about one of my favorite topics that I know everyone loves... money and savings.

First of all, thank you so much for all of your awesome comments on our "Year of Money Tracking and Budgeting" post. And thank you to the fantastic money-saving blog, "Lean with Green" for the praise as well! You guys all rock.

Many of you asked about the spreadsheet I use to track our money. So I "scrubbed" our money tracking and budgeting spreadsheet of all of the real numbers and made every number equal $100 and posted it to google documents here.

Note: You must have basic knowledge of MS Excel and Excel formulas to use this multi-tabbed spreadsheet. But if you do know how to use Excel, you'll see that the formulas are already in there for you. You just need to download the document and plug in your own numbers. You'll need to add more tabs for each month of the year.

Our big financial goal this year is to do steps 1-4 of Dave Ramsey's Seven Baby Steps. We've already completed step 1! And step 2 shouldn't be that hard because we don't have any credit card debt.

Have any of you done Dave Ramsey?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A Year of Money Tracking and Budgeting

Today is September 1st, which means it's the first day of our "fiscal year." That's right, the Mr. and I, as a "family", have a fiscal year. Yup, we're crazy like that.

This all started on our first wedding anniversary where we decided that every year we'd set goals for the following year. One of our goals for last year was to start tracking our money spent and start managing to a budget.

So for the last year I've been tracking all of the money that come in, goes out, and is saved in a giant excel spreadsheet with formulas. Every. Single. Dollar. Yes, it was tough, but so worth it!

Now today marks one year of finance tracking and budget management! To celebrate I ran some "analytics" of our year of spending to share with the Mr.

I always think it's interesting and helpful to understand how people spend their money, so I wanted to share some "fun facts" from my personal financial analysis with you all:

  • We spent 45% of our take home income* on our mortgage, HOA dues, insurance, property tax, utilities such as lights, internet, etc. (Yup, home ownership in California is expensive!)
  • We spent 12% of our take home income on food and drinks (including eating out and groceries/wine)
  • We spent 10% of take home income on traveling (much of that was the Europe Trip)
  • We only saved 5% of our take home income this year (one of this year's goals is to improve that next year!)
  • The biggest single purchases of the year were plane tickets to Europe, the kitchen backsplash, the new Stearns and Foster mattress, the Mr's snowboard, USC Football Season Tickets, the iPad, and the new kitchen lighting.
  • In a year we made 13 trips to Costco, averaging $217.52 per trip.
  • In a year we made 35 trips to Fresh & Easy, averaging $20.63 per trip.
  • The restaurant that I most frequented this year was Speciality's. I went 20 times this year! That's because it's right by my client's office in Northern California.
  • Other restaurants that we frequent are Subway, Starbucks, Pinkberry, and Buonos (a little pizza place near our home).
  • The clothing stores I shop at the most at are DSW (all of my work shoes!) and Nordstrom.

The best part about tracking spending for a whole year is that now I have great data to plan this year's budget. I'll drink to that. Cheers!

Another item is crossed off the Baby Bucket List!

*Take home income = money after taxes, 401Ks, medical insurance, and tithing

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Saturday Caturday Pictures and "Fetch" Video

You all I know that I'm a crazy cat lady and I realized that haven't featured my "sweet beast" (as the Mr. calls him) on the blog lately, so it's time to fix that!

What's Judah been up to lately?

Sometimes he sleeps in his bed...

Sometimes he sleeps in our office/guest room.

Sometimes he plays with his toy mouse.

And sometimes he plays fetch!

I'm so excited that I finally got a video of him playing fetch with me! He's so hilarious!

Friday, August 27, 2010

What's in your Fridge Friday

My blog friend, Jessica, is doing a fun Friday feature called "What's in your Fridge Friday."

I think this is so funny and so perfect for nosy people like me types!

So what's in the Newlyweds Next Door's Fridge? ...

The main shelves contain: Milk, salsa, cranberry juice, Brita, a half of an onion leftover from last night, Parmesan cheese (for these potatoes I'm making tonight), Trader Joe's yogurts, bagels, bread.

I warned you before, we tend to not have a lot of food on hand.

The meat drawer contains: Turkey lunch meat, ham lunch meat, procsutto.

The produce drawers contain: apples, limes, oranges, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, corn, and arugula.

Our produce drawers are a little lighter this week because our CSA came last week, not this week.

The door contains: Pacifico beers, 3 kinds of cheese, PB&J, and a whole lot of condiments.

Now I know it doesn't seem like we have a lot of food on hand but I did cook two meals this week! I made Thai curry chicken and veggies stir fry on Wednesday and Gazpacho on Thursday.

How did I cook without a lot of food on hand?

I've been doing a new shopping technique where I buy staples that keep a long time (like rice, condiments, soups, cereal, frozen food, etc.) once a month at Costco. And then when I'm not out of town working, I do lots of small trips to Trader Joe's and Fresh & Easy on my way home from from my office and only buy fresh food for the next 2-3 days out. It keeps me from getting overwhelmed with shopping and keeps me from wasting food. I'm lucky that I have to drive by a Trader Joe's to get home from my office.

Now, tell me, what's in YOUR Fridge? Or better yet, link up to Jessica's blog, My Beatles Babies.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Identity Crisis Solved

A year ago I went to the DMV to change my name to First Name, Maiden Name, New Last Name.

And they would NOT let me.

My two choices were First Name, Middle Name, New Last Name or First Name, Middle Name Maiden Name, New Last Name. I blogged all about that drama here.

So for over a year my Social Security Card (which has my name as First Name, Maiden Name, New Last Name) and my Driver's License (which has my name as First Name, Middle Name Maiden Name, New Last Name) did not match.

Um yeah, that caused some problems!

Well, on Monday night while I was out celebrating my work promotion with the Mr. I somehow dropped/lost my driver's license. Ooops.

I decided that if I was going to go back to the DMV to get new license I should try to get my correct name on that license.

I'd heard from Mrs. Kiwi on Wedding Bee that the Culver City DMV let her get the name she wanted, so today I went over there to get a new license. I waited about an hour an half before they finally they called my number. Then I explained to the nice lady that the Long Beach DMV "accidentally" left my middle name and maiden name on my license and explained to her that I needed to drop my middle name to match my Social Security card. And guess what?! She let me! Hallelujah!

So in about seven days I'll be in possession of a California Driver's license that reads: First Name, Maiden Name, New Last Name. YAY!

Speaking of Monday night's promotion celebration here are some pictures from it.

The Mr. congratulated me with flowers, a card, and champagne. So sweet!

Hilarious card!

I changed my clothes and was ready to celebrate!

We enjoyed wine at District Wine, a fantastic new wine bar in our neighborhood.

And we ate sushi and drank sake at Wokano!

Does anyone else out there have any name change horror stories?
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