Hodge Podge Monday

Today’s post is rather hodge podge as there is so much I want to share.  First off, who has seen this commercial?  I cried the first time I saw it and it still gets to me every time…

It’s really a beautiful take on life but it makes me happy and sad all in a one minute commercial.  Darn you Lowes!

This weekend was a lot of fun but also consisted of a lot of hard work.  Friday night Neal and I went to the National baseball game at Nats Park.

This weekend was their last home series of the season, so we had to make it out there (and buy their nachos…. sooo bad for you good).  We had a wonderful time and the park was just beautiful that night.

Pretty nice considering it rained all day!  Although the Nats lost, Neal and I had a fantastic time… right Neal?

Saturday morning I went to the Annapolis, MD Amish Market with my Aunt Danielle and had a wonderful time!  Remember you still have a chance to enter the Amish Market Giveaway!  A winner will be selected Wednesday morning.

Sunday Neal and I both woke up late so we didn’t go out for our scheduled 4 mile run.  Instead we stopped at Grounded Coffee, went grocery shopping and then made our way back home.  I had a lot of graduate work to do, so I spent the after working on a project.

Around 5PM Neal and I went for a 1 hour walk, which was a really nice change of pace.  I’m really proud of our 15K training so far, but it was really nice to just go for a walk.  Confession: I really have a hard time running!  I always feel great afterwards, but it really is challenging for me.  What I’ve learned though is with time, your body will adapt and running will become easier!

We made up our 4 mile run this morning, running at just over a 10 minute pace.  We finished 4 miles in 43:51 (running on a 2 minute run, 1 minute walk interval).  Neal had a great run and I’m really glad he pushed me this morning.

Tonight the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys in Monday Night Football, so I’m making Chunky Beef Chili and Jalapeno Cornbread for the occasion!  I’m really looking forward to sitting back and watching some football.

Happy Monday Everyone!

Any fun plans this week?  Last week of September…

Only 9 More Weeks?

Yesterday I received the most startling e-mail… We are only 9 weeks from Black Friday!! AHHHH!  I’ll be honest, I had a small panic attack as I haven’t even thought about the holidays yet.  They creep up on me every year and every year I think to myself, “self, next year you’re going to start saving, prepping, and shopping in September/October for the holidays”.  Well now is my chance!


Ways To Save

  • Use resources like Mint.com to help you to create a holiday savings plan
  • Make a list of who you want to shop for this holiday season and create a spending budget per person.  This will help you create an overall budget.
  • If you have a large family or group of friends, ask if everyone is interested in doing Secret Santa or creating a rotating schedule each year that way you only have to shop for 1 person/couple/family instead of multiples.
  • Set aside $10-$20 (or any amount you’d prefer) a week, placing the savings in an envelope labeled gifts/party/decor/etc..  The trick is to shop only using the money you’ve placed in the envelopes.  This helps you to budget and to use your savings wisely!
  • Take advantage of the fall festivals as they often have local vendors selling adorable handmade gifts (earrings, paintings, photography, etc.)
  • Etsy anyone?
  • Keep an eye on current sales!  Sales don’t just occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas.   You’d be surprised what you can find cheaper in October vs. in December.
  • Check out Ebates!  What’s better than cash back?
  • Begin creating handmade gift!  Knitting scarfs, baking baked goods, or making homemade thank you cards are great ways to wish someone a happy holiday without breaking the bank!
  • Shop for that “ugly sweater” or a cute holiday outfit at a local consignment shop or thrift store.
  • Don’t hesitate to go into gifts with multiple people.  Instead of spending $60 on that new purse for your Mom, see if your siblings or significant other want to chip in.

Although it’s only 9 weeks away, I am extremely excited.  Black Friday shopping is a HUGE family tradition of mine and I haven’t miss a Black Friday in 14 years!  This Thanksgiving my sister is coming into town and I can not wait!  I’ll definitely miss having my mom there, but I know she’ll have fun in Texas.  I’m also hoping to drag Neal Black Friday shopping, as I did last year!

Black Friday 2010

So around 4:30PM yesterday I was overwhelmed with the craving for a bison burger.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried bison, but it’s wonderful and is incredibly lean.  My go to Bison burger restaurant is Ted’s Montana Grill.  I texted Neal right away in hopes that he’d be up for an evening out and thankfully he was totally game.

Neal ordered our favorite burger, the blue creek burger, which has blue cheese and bacon on top.  I ordered a new burger called the Avalon.  Although it sounds like an apartment complex, the toppings sounded delicious; blue cheese, bacon, garlic aioli, arugula and caramelized onions!! I was so excited.

We had a wonderful dinner together and were able to talk lots about blogging and book writing.  We’re both really enjoying our hobbies and it’s so fun to share our experiences and joys with each other.  After getting my bison fix, I headed home and tackled homework.  Graduate school is kinda kicking my tail this semester, but I’ll get through!  4 more classes… 4 more classes… 4 more classes….  That’s what I have to keep reminding myself.  May 2012 can’t get here soon enough, in regards to school that is.

This morning Neal and I ran for 30 minutes.  Hopefully we got a little under 3 miles in, but I’ll have to use Map My Run later to know for sure.  It’s really interesting how different we both can feel on a given day.  I’ll have an off day and he’ll feel great and vice versa.  This week I learned that either way, it’s just about getting out there and doing it.

Well, off to work I go with Dunkin Donuts Keurig brewed coffee in hand.  Hopefully the rain will let up today that way Neal and I can make it to the Nationals game tonight!  I’m going to miss baseball season….  Happy Friday Everyone!!

What’s your approach to holiday shopping and savings?

A Little Punkin’ In My Life

After Iowa lost to Iowa State yesterday afternoon, Neal and I just had to get out of the house.  After an impromptu haircut for Neal, I convinced Neal to go see Contagion with me.

I’m going to give it 4.5/5 stars!  I thought it was a really good movie and gets you thinking about if a breakout where to occur.  I thought the movie was realistic and had just the right amount of suspense.

After the movie we went to one of our favorite restaurants, Lost Dog Cafe.  This restaurant has an extremely unique menu, featuring tons of sandwiches and some of the best pizzas in DC!  They also have a wicked good beer selection, both on tap and bottled. The Lost Dog Cafe is also where Neal and I went on our second date, so it holds a place not only in our stomachs but also in our hearts!

When I saw these little beauties staring at me from the beer case I knew what I was ordering…

As they had Dogfish Head Punkin Ale on tap, I opted for an ice cold glass and bought a 4 pack to take home.

Neal and I ordered a Greek salad to start

and The Italian Pie for dinner.  I really prefer cheese or veggie pizzas, but I thought I’d compromise and get a meat pizza to split with Neal.  Oh the sacrifices we make for our partners.

The pizza was fantastic actually, topped with homemade tomato sauce, genoa salami, hickory ham, pepperoni and sliced onions covered with mozzarella cheese and a pinch of oregano.  Neal picked well and I was thrilled that it wasn’t overly greasy!  My favorite pizza of theirs is the tomato and feta pie.

For a spontaneous date night, we did really well and had a fantastic time!  I was home around 10PM, asleep by 11:30PM and woke up at 7:30AM on the dot.  I felt GREAT this morning!  I felt well rested and ready to enjoy a beautiful Sunday!

This morning Neal and I met up for our weekly long run.  We’re in the beginning stages of our 15K training, so although we’ve run longer distances this summer, we had 3 miles scheduled for today.

The run was actually really rough today.  It was rather hot out and Neal and I were both pooped 1.5 miles in.  I thought we were running really fast and Neal thought we had run a lot further than we actually did.  I mapped our run when we got home, just in case, and we definitely only ran 3 miles.  Granted we are run/walking on a 2:1 ratio but we were running really slow today!  After our run we walked around Old Town Alexandria and wandered over to Le Pain Quotidien.

Although this restaurant is a little more expensive, they have a wonderful menu filled with vegan, organic, and super fresh products.

I started off with a pot of coffee.  Caffeine!

and Neal started out with a Mint Lemonade.

After looking over the menu, Neal and I decided to order two things off their seasonal menu and to split them.

We ordered the Bacon, Scallion, and Sour Cream Omelet and the Whole Wheat Cherry Scone.  Both were FANTASTIC!

Neal loved the omelet and I loved the cherry scone.

After walking around the hoity toity Old Town Alexandria Arts Festival, Neal and I headed to Giant for some grocery shopping.  Now we’re watching football, I’m blogging and working on graduate work and Neal’s working on book number 3.  It has been a beautiful weekend… I’m sad to see it end.


Flying High

Who says you can’t drink wine out of a straw?

OK, maybe not but it was a fun picture!  Last night Neal and I went out to dinner with his parents at the new Italian restaurant in town, Napoli’s.  As they don’t have a booze license yet, we brought our own wine… which was awesome!

The meal started with hot rolls and dinner salads.  For dinner I ordered the chicken cacciatore with spicy marinara sauce.  Neal ordered the sampler, Neal’s mom ordered lobster ravioli, and Neal’s dad ordered a seafood dish (can’t remember the name).

We also ordered a cannoli and piece of strawberry cheesecake for dessert.  The cannoli was so awesome!  I just loved the filling.  I could totally do without the fried pastry, but the filling is just amazing.

This morning Neal and I got up early to get in a run before breakfast.  We headed down Main Street and ran over to Grinnell College.  The campus is beautiful and it is also the site of the first University of Iowa football game.  Although Iowa, formally known as the State University of Iowa (SUI), lost that game it was really cool to see the field where the Hawkeye’s first played.

We ran for about 40 minutes, burning 453 calories and running about 4 miles, give or take (this is why I need the forerunner).  We also ran past some gorgeous houses with beautiful gardens.

After our run Neal and I had breakfast with his parents.  I ordered an omelet with an English muffin and Neal ordered a breakfast combo (pancake, eggs, hash browns, etc.)

I love dining with Neal and his parents though I must admit, I’m looking forward to getting back home to my oatmeal, eggs, salads, and new recipes!

Now we’re at the airport, waiting to fly back home.  I had a wonderful time in Iowa and am so grateful for Neal’s family.  They are so welcoming and it’s amazing to have a great relationship with them!

Weekly Plan







20 min run (E) in Iowa (Check!)

Omelet and an English muffin

At the airport…

Traveling back home


Spin AM

Homemade smoothie pre workout, oatmeal and iced coffee post workout

Vegetable stir fry (Trader Joe’s), apple sauce, granola bar

Quinoa and asparagus

Back to work… grocery shopping and organizing things at home after work


2 mile run (E)

1 egg, 2 egg white sandwich, fruit

Leftover quinoa and asparagus

Grilled veggie and goat cheese sandwich

Cooking and graduate work



Homemade smoothie pre workout, oatmeal and iced coffee post workout

Grilled veggie and goat cheese sandwich, Figs

Taco Soup and seven layer dip

Dinner with the gang: Planning on making Taco Soup


20 min run (E) and weight lifting

1 egg, 2 egg white sandwich, fruit

Grilled veggie and goat cheese sandwich, Figs

Leftover taco soup

Enjoy a relaxing Friday night!



Pumpkin oatmeal and coffee

Lunch at Neal’s

Leftover taco soup

Alexandria’s Festival of the Arts and Iowa vs. Iowa State game


3 mile run with Neal

Protein bar pre workout, post workout ??

Leftover taco soup

Homemade pizza with Neal

Redskins vs. Giants and plenty of graduate work

It looks to be a busy week, but it’ll be good getting back into the swing of things.

Happy Labor Day Everybody!

Iced Coffee Heaven

I love coffee and am currently on my iced coffee kick. In an effort to save money, I’ve been brewing coffee at home, keeping it cool in the fridge, and then pouring it over ice before heading out the door each morning.

Pitcher, Keurig, Brita Water Filter, and Coffee Pods

I’ve been tempted to bring my Keurig to work, but for now, having it at home has worked well for me!

My Keurig

After brewing a cup of coffee, I pour the cup into a fun pitcher and repeat the brewing process.

yumm yumm

When the pitcher is full (about 5 cups) I throw it in the fridge to chill.

By making iced coffee at home, I am saving myself a little more than $2 a cup!!  Each coffee pod costs .44 cents and each serving of creamer is about .20 cents.  So I am having an iced coffee at home for roughly .64 cents compared to my iced coffee at Starbucks which costs $2.80.  That is so worth the “hassle”.

Today I even brought a second helping of coffee to work in a thermos!  I slept horrible last night, so 2 servings of coffee was totally in order this morning.  This is my last full week of graduate school for the summer and have been pretty busy working to get it all done.  Crunch time is always the most stressful for me, but in the end it’s always worth it!!

It has also been an emotional month for me so far.  Lots on the docket and with my Grandmother passing, this month has had its ups and downs.  Sunday morning though, my BF and I took our stresses to the trail and ran 5.8 miles.  It was an awesome run, though the sun was blazin’!  We ran from our apartment over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and back.  It was great!!  Isn’t it amazing how working out can just change your day and how you feel?

What things do you do at home to save money?  Any tips?