Thursday, August 28, 2014


I have a picture hanging up of my mom in my office now.. In it I'd say she's about my age, actually. She's wearing a black gingham shirt, high waisted jeans, and red suspenders. She's got what appears to be black freckles painted on her cheeks, and is holding a toothbrush up to her teeth. The photo was given to me at the hospital by one of her high school friends and I'm assuming was for Halloween or some school play.

It's easy for me to look at this photo and I can do so without next to any emotion. It's just a cute photo of a young girl. I think it's easy to look at because I didn't know her then. She wasn't my mom then. It's the same as looking at any old photos for me, there's a sort of strange detachment from who I know that person to be today.

When we were looking through old photos, photos like the one in my office, for my mom's services I remembered vividly something Sarah had written about losing her own mother, and photos.  That every time she went looking for photos she thought about how few they had and how there will never be a "new" photo. I can already tell that's going to be one of my big life regrets.. how few photos I have with my mom. In fact, I can count on one hand it seems the number of photos of us over the last 5 years (and that's including my wedding). One of those photos is the picture at the beginning of the post. It was from Mother's Day last year. I was scrolling through my camera deleting pictures in anticipation of the thousands I plan to take in Italy and this photo reduced me to a crying mess. It's the really recent photos that get to me the most. How can this feel like it just happened yesterday and she looks just the way she did in them as she did the day she died. How can it be that in such a short period of time, so much has changed? She just stopped existing. It's hard to wrap my mind around.

I'm sure as time goes on and the "newest" photos become old, and become "the last photos" I'll have an entirely new set of feelings surrounding them.

This unusual double-emo posting this week brought to you by the fact that I realized, sitting in my dad's living room yesterday before heading to dinner, that it's been exactly 6 months to the day (yesterday) since she passed away.

How is that possible?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


During my mom's lifetime.. I understood there were just things we couldn't do.
We couldn't easily go for walks.
I never went to the mall with just her to pick out clothes.
We never had solo lunch or dinner dates (early on because I didn't see the value in these things as a teenager, then was gone for college, and later because I couldn't physically transfer her alone).
I knew as her disease progressed there would be even more limited opportunities and that as the doors to these facets of normal relationships closed.. they would never open again.

I really didn't start to feel the loss of that acutely until this past Mother's day.
It was difficult to put my finger on, but I started to feel really sad about the relationship I never had with her, not in the "I wish we were closer" way (although that's intertwined) but the things we just physically could never do with each other.

As people announce pregnancies and plan for babies and talk about how instrumental their own mothers have been; what a constant source of knowledge and support they've been.. it fills me with an incredible sadness. Even if my mom were alive and I were giving birth tomorrow (no, not pregnant), she would not have been in a position to thoughtfully answer questions about, "OMG I'm having a kid, what do I do." It's just how it was towards the end. It's difficult to even explain, but cognitively she was very hit-or-miss: some days she could tell stories about her dad, other times you'd ask a question and the answers wouldn't make sense. So while I'm not as sad for missing the way it would have gone in reality, I'm sad for the way it would have never even been to begin with.

Even if she hadn't died, I never would have had that mother-daughter-grandmother relationship with her. That's reality, and it seems so fucking unfair. I can wish her back to life (and while her body would be here and she'd still have facets of the personality that made her who she was), it wouldn't change a ton for the better.

That's the part of it that's hitting me now, and that's the part that's hardest to live with.

Monday, August 18, 2014


I was going to refer to this as some sort of weekend recap but in looking at the few photos I took/am posting I notice a theme: cats. My life, in one word, really.

Friday night M and I made dinner and had a couple over for some impromptu drinks when I happened to see them while driving home from the grocery store.
Weekends (and really every day, now) means tootie gets to snuggle, so here we are spooning before bed.
This is actually how we sleep (minus the eyes open and the light on)- he's my little spoon. Love him.

Saturday I was pretty spectacularly worthless. 
I had every intention of being productive but when M left for an all-day golf tournament with my dad, brother and cousin I found myself on the couch watching back-to-back(-to-back) episodes of Sex and the City on HBOGo. [As an aside, it's amazing what I see when I watch them in order and after all these years I can finally say I sort of understand why people hated Big so hard. I get it.] 

I did manage to put away heaps of laundry that had been sitting in my closet for most the summer, but this picture of TJ pretty much sums up the day: 

I had plans to go over to my dad's and hang out with them after the tournament but I should've known what I was in for when I got a text from M as I was heading over that simply read, "sleepy." .... sure enough I drive 25 minutes and find 2/3 of them passed out on the couches. My 1/3 being one of them, my brother the other. Oy. I lasted 40 minutes before telling them I'd see them the next day (which was consequently my brother's birthday) when they were all more conscious, and I dragged M home. 

Sunday we lounged, I went to the gym and Costco, and we ran errands to Goodwill and Target. I got some new flats for Italy, since my other ones have the bungee-heels that KILL my ankles after a long day, and I actually bought 2 shirts at Goodwill (LC|Lauren Conrad top and a brand new with tags on top from Target for a total of $11 !!!!)-- I need to shop here more often. I exercised some self restraint in re-shelving a top from Banana Republic and American Eagle as well. I have to say I'm usually not big on Goodwill because I hate picking through the racks but I may be a convert (also, see the previous post on the B word..). 

Sunday night we picked up a small strawberry tort and headed over to my dad's for a birthday dinner for my brother. We plopped Lucky at the table and he thought this slice was his. #cruel 

Don't feel too bad though, dad snuck him a lick of whipped cream (in case anyone is wondering why this cat is like.. 100 lbs.)

The big 2-4!

Overall a low key weekend. 
The next 2 weeks feel packed- tonight we're using a Let's Dish gift card to make ourselves some freezer meals for when we inevitably return from Italy and are jet lagged and lazy; a HH on Jess's patio is on deck, and another HH/movie night with book club to discuss Courtney Robertson's book, "I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends" (#BachelorNation- yes, it's true) and watch If I Stay, which was last month's book. 

So, stay tuned. Maybe I'll take photos. 
I've also been thinking about my mom a lot lately.. per usual, but have a post drafted and a few others stewing so maybe I'll publish those as well. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


This past weekend M and I sat down and had a conversation I'd never had before.
It wast he Budget conversation. Big fat capital B.

M and I have never been wild spenders, but we've also had the luxury of not really having to track what we spend too closely. We've been able to pay our bills, save, and have fun while we're at it. I understand how incredibly fortunate we've been.

Last year right before our wedding I had signed up for Income Based Repayment for my student loans. My payment was calculated based on my 2012 income- the bulk of which I was working only half time, while studying for the bar exam. My income was pretty itty bitty, and since M and I were not yet married, my payments were itty bitty as well.

I've had a reminder set that by the end of this month I needed to recalculate my IBR payments and resubmit them. I had been avoiding it in part because I knew it was going to skyrocket. I now made significantly more than when I first reported..and unfortunately (fortunately?) I got married to a man who is doing well in his career so I knew that number was going to go up. I plugged in some simple numbers for an "estimation" and was reduced to hysterics when I saw the number go up by approximately 500%.

This prompted a very serious conversation about our spending.
Like I said, we're not bad by any means, and both decently frugal all around.. but when it comes to dining out, there's significant room for improvement. I won't hesitate to order out lunch, even if I have a perfectly fine lunch in the fridge. M does the same. We both grab drinks, dinners, and happy hours with our friends without even a second thought and some nights will eat out just ourselves when we don't feel like cooking. Food is a huge part of my life, I LOVE trying new restaurants and have a list a mile long of must-visits. Unfortunately for the time being we've made a deal to rope that in and be way more intentional when we DO decide to dine out. We've set a budget for that, as well as reduced our "personal spending" fund that we had been pulling from our joint account.

We put everything into and set estimated allowances for things like utilities, gas, groceries, etc., to see how we do month over month on that.

We also decided to cut cable.

Yep, we went there. Really I don't think it'll be too terribly hard for us since we have access to a LOT of "live streaming" accounts (Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon, Comcast streaming/Xfinity..whatever that one is-- and most are family that have let us use their log ins). We'll have basic TV, so really the only struggle for M will be sports. My cable watching basically consists of throwing on episodes of Big Bang Theory, or any of the Law & Orders in the background or to veg out to. I do love me some food network, but I can always get my fix at the gym if I need to (worst case scenario we can beg M's mom to come over and just lay on her couch and watch crap..haha).

I don't want to give the impression we're super hard up as a result of this increase in my loan payments. We will still have a good sized surplus left over every month (or we SHOULD, we'll see how our budget works!) but we wanted it to STAY that way for the foreseeable future.

We're also fortunate enough in that our only really "bad" debt is my student loans. M has a very small amount left, but mine induces hives. Ohhh law school, the gift that keeps on giving. I won't ever get into numbers on here.. because, well, this isn't a personal finance blog and it's personal to our family. We have 1 car lease and 1 car loan, but that will only last a few more years (knock on wood). We do have a mortgage but know our house has appreciated in value since we bought it so we don't look at that as "bad debt" in the same way we do my loan. We have zero credit card debt- although we both have credit cards- we treat them like debit cards and pay them down every month.. basically just using them to build credit and earn rewards points (we earn travel miles and hope to use them to take vacations in the future more economically).

We're definitely looking at this as a challenge and this is something I've been wanting to do for a long time. I struggle with balance though- I don't want to venture to either extreme and deprive myself of some of life's smaller indulgences. I realize it may come to that if we were ever that hard up but honestly, we could die tomorrow and I don't want to miss out on my 20s because I wanted to save literally every.single.penny. That's not living.

I feel like I should add as a footnote:
yes, we're still going to Italy in a few weeks and yes that's costing us some $$$ but that will be our last "exception" for a little while.

Basically what I'm wondering is, do any of you have any tips, tricks, good blogs, resources, on personal finance, budgeting, creative ways to save/make some money?

Monday, August 11, 2014


Life lately: a snuggly cat who soaks up all the "open door weather" he can get, early morning kayak trips through the channels on the Minneapolis city lakes, relaxing summer nights reading in bed (and a clean house- rare!), and of course a visit from Scruff McGruff on National Night Out- in which we crash our neighbor's block party every year because our block is boring. 

Just some little snaps from every day life. 

I'm currently plowing through some blogs looking for nuggets for Italy. Not that I've planned a ton of "big" trips in my day but it appears my preferred method of doing so is, Step 1: jot down the must-see-attractions (you know, Pike Place Market in Seattle... The Colosseum in Rome), Step 2: find some maybe lesser known but just as magical attractions (scored a tip on the "key of Malta" church in Rome from my aunt and the Boboli Gardens from a blogger living in Malta); Step 3: very specific recommendations for food and "local" type stuff (stumbled on a blog of a woman who lived in Florence and had tons of recommendations).

Other than that I have quite the depressing post in the queue about budgets and debt...sooo stay tuned for that! 

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Once upon a time I went to Seattle. 
I think I mentioned in my Tacoma post, I'm ashamed to say Seattle didn't rank too high on my "must see" list until fairly recently, and I regret that immensely. It was such a beautiful city, and reminded me at times of MN. The waterfront felt like Duluth, Bainbridge Island felt like the north shore, with all the pine trees. I felt like we really squeezed a lot in to our roughly 30 hours there, but would love to go back and explore more like a local. 

We started off the morning heading to the iconic Pike Place Market. 
My only regret here, and it's difficult to do with a group as large as we had, is that we didn't wander around more and just take it in. There was a slight mentality of "okay, this is the market, now what?" and I felt silly saying, "well, that's it. and I just want to wander around like I'm at home at a farmer's market." We actually ended up eating breakfast in the market at Lowell's- highly recommended if for no other reason than the spectacular waterfront views! Go to the 2nd floor, where you can actually sit at a table. The other 2 floors are more cafeteria style and you can only stay for 15 minutes once you get your food. 

After breakfast we wandered down to the waterfront.
I still wanted to see the gum wall but rather than hiking all the way back up to the market we decided to take a ferry to Bainbridge Island. (Another shout out to Sar who basically planned this trip for me!) Sar gave us the heads up that the ferry was only $7, and a good way to see the city from the water. If nothing else, how often do you get to ride a giant ferry!? 

I'd done some research and realized Bainbridge Island has a TON of little wineries/wine tasting rooms. 
We hopped off the ferry and strolled up through town, which was exactly as Sar described it as a "little hippy downtown." We were "rushing" back to the ferry at one point so as not to miss the next departure when I had everyone stop and check in and asked why we were rushing back. 
We'd only been on the island for about 35 minutes at that point and everybody agreed we didn't know why we were doing that. 
Thankfully we all realized this as we were standing in front of an adorable tasting room, so we popped in for some cheese (do you even know me) and wine flights. 

After heading back to Seattle we just had one last place I wanted to stop, the infamous gum wall. 
I'm really not easily grossed out so to me it was nothing but a colorful neat spontaneous piece of art in a tiny alley in the Pike Place Market.

After the gum wall we headed back to the hotel for some cat-naps, and to rest for a bit. We'd done a TON of walking by this point! 
After recharging we headed to Serious Pie for dinner... this was a Sar recommendation and OMG did it deliver. I am a pizza fanatic and I also fancy myself a bit of a foodie..this place was the perfect marriage of both pizza and foodie. If you want a gourmet but no fuss meal, and you're in Seattle, head to Serious Pie. 

We decided to squeeze in the 3 "need the car" items all on Sunday before our later flights. 
Not before heading to breakfast at Portage Bay Cafe, though. I got the tip on this place from Iowa Girl Eats.  (also a GREAT source for Seattle tips- and doubled up on a ton of what Sar gave me!) 

After breakfast we grabbed the car and drove up to Kerry Park in Queen Anne for, as promised, SPECTACULAR views of the city.  It's literally only a boulevard of grass along the bluff but it's so worth it. 

Next stop was the Fremont Troll. This is a quirky art installation under a bridge.. the troll is clutching a real Volkswagon, too. To give you a scale for size (well, us sitting on it helps, too). 

From there, we made the long walk (and should have drove, woops) to Gas Works Park. 
Familiar with the paintball scene in 10 Things I Hate About You? (RIP Heath.) This is where it was filmed. 
It's a cool old plant of some sort that was turned into a modern park. 
The views also didn't suck. 
I wish we would've driven over here, or left more time for this, as it was beautiful and breezy and amazing. (the cover pic up top with "Seattle" on it was also a view from Gas Works Park). 

If you're ever heading to the PNW and have any questions- ask Sar.
No but seriously, haha.
Thank you so much for all the tips, Sar, it was fantastic!

Until next time. :)