Goodbye, 2016

And good riddance, I think most of us would say. What a year this turned out to be.

Christmas 2016

This was our second Christmas as Mr. and Mrs., but our first to share quietly together in our own home, something we've been looking forward to since we became engaged.

Homemade Grain-Free Dog Treats

Because it's Christmas, and puppies need Christmas cookies, too.

Meet Brenna!

Yes, our family has grown again!

I Did the Daniel Plan 10 Day Detox and Here's What Happened

Checking Off Some Easy Ones- #4, #5, #33, & #76

While I have some free time (still waiting to begin work; I've received an offer but it's "processing"), I've been trying to accomplish some of the things on my new 101 Things in 1001 Days list. You know, the easy, low-budget ones. Like these.

Facing the Truth

I haven't blogged about my weight loss journey in a long, long time. And there's a reason for that.

I've gained over 30 pounds.

#75- Do Whatever I Want to Do for a Day

I don't remember the last time I did whatever I wanted to do, without receiving input from anyone else, without worrying about anyone else. That's why I put this selfish goal on my list. 

16 Things I'm Thankful for in 2016

#101- Write Another List of 101 Things

Life was too hectic to share this when my 101 Things in 1001 Days officially ended (October 28; can you believe it's over?!?) But, I did complete the final goal before the deadline: #101- Write another list of 101 things to do for the next 1001 days. Now that we've moved and things have settled down a bit, I thought I would take a minute to share my new 101 Things list.

Maximizing a Small Kitchen- On a Budget

We just moved from a two-bedroom duplex with an attached garage and a full basement to a two-bedroom apartment.

One of the biggest space losses was in the kitchen. The kitchen here is very nice, but we're down several cabinets and, of course, we've lost counter space. So we've had to get creative with our storage options.

Our One-Way Trip to Huntsville

In case you were concerned due to my lack of updates, you can rest easy. WE MADE IT!

Onto Another Adventure

Not much time to go into details here, but...MATT GOT THE JOB AND WE'RE MOVING TO HUNTSVILLE!

Also, we're moving FRIDAY.

Yes. This Friday. November 4.

While Waiting

According to this, I have no patience. I'm terrible at waiting.

Waiting drains me. It kicks my anxiety up to all-time highs, and it makes me an all-around horrible person. I hate waiting. I. Hate. It. HATE. IT. 

That's where I am right now, though.

#57- Buy Myself Flowers

I've been saving this one for a time when I needed it, and that time came this week.

Financial Update: September 2016 - One Year of Debt Snowballing

I can barely believe it, but as of this month, it's been exactly one year since my husband and I decided to start digging ourselves out of debt

#87- Read 5 classics I should have read but have never got around to

As an English major, there is an endless list of classic novels I feel I should have read by now. For my 101 Things list, I made it my goal to tackle five of them. Here are the ones I chose.

Free Weekend Adventure: Treasure Hunting

I was supposed to be an archaeologist. 

When I was a kid- a chubby, nerdy little girl digging holes in my backyard- I fantasized about uncovering the truth of the lost colony of Roanoke. Could the meaning behind Croatoan be found in a pile of dirt beneath a pecan tree in Oxford, Alabama? I didn't see why not.

The End of My Comfort Zone

Between missing my family and feeling unbearably overwhelmed at work, I have felt, lately, that everything is coming to a head. The pressure is rising. Something must change. 

Financial Update: August 2016

Another month in the books!

#72- Leave Post-It Notes in Unexpected Places

Recently, I shared that the end of my 101 Things in 1001 Days is swiftly approaching, and nothing gets me moving faster than a deadline. Here's one more thing I've just checked off the list.

Annie's First Year

On August 17, 2015, I got an unexpected text from my husband.

#60- Leave an Inspirational Note for Someone to Find

As the deadline for my 101 Things List draws closer (October 28, 2016), I'm trying to refocus on checking some things off.

Financial Update: July 2016

July was a pretty ordinary month except for the fact that it was the first month without a credit card bill. Woohoo!

#7 - Grow My Hair Out

Come along for an epic journey through time and hair...

2016: The Halfway Point

Tomorrow, it's July. You know what that means. It's hot. It's time for cookouts and watermelon. And 2016 is 50% complete. Remember those New Year's goals? Guuuulp. Yeah, it's time for a midway reality check.

Financial Update: June 2016

Remember how last month's post was so late because of my shame? This month's is early due to joy and excitement!

Financial Update: May 2016

There's a reason I've been dawdling around for two weeks, putting off last month's debt-free-journey update. I've been stalling because I'm embarrassed. Embarrassed. Ashamed. Frustrated. Fed up. Done.

What I Learned from Our First Cash-Only Vacation

For our first anniversary, we decided to take a little weekend trip to St. Louis to celebrate. We were both hesitant to go on a mini-vacation just as our debt snowball was really beginning to roll, but we felt that we needed to get away and enjoy having fun together as newlyweds for a while. Throughout this first year of marriage, we've been so intently focused on working hard, getting out of debt, being frugal, and getting healthy that we haven't set aside much time for fun. This seemed like a good time to change that, albeit cautiously.

Our First Anniversary: A Weekend Getaway in St. Louis, MO


We spent our actual first anniversary wearing stretchy pants, eating fatty food, and watching Netflix. But that was okay, because we had big plans for the following weekend: a 3-day trip to St. Louis! Get ready for allll the deets.

#46- Bake and Decorate a Cake

On Monday, May 9, 2016, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. We both had to work that day, but we wanted to do something to make the day special.

So, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. Do something special and check #46 off of my 101 Things List: bake and decorate a cake.

Financial Update: April 2016

Get ready for it. This month's update is bittersweet, and heavy on the bitter. I'm pretty bummed to share the details, but I am simultaneously excited and hopeful.

Getting Rid of the Stuff: Papers

Papers. They're everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

Natural Relief for Tired & Achy Feet

As a nurse, I know all about some sore feet. Day after day of running around on a hard, industrial floor, not always able to squeeze in even a thirty-minute lunch break, takes such a heavy toll on the feet.

Getting Rid of the Stuff: Books

I believe I have been, unknowingly, aspiring to live by the words of Dr. Seuss:

"Fill your house with stacks of books,
In all the crannies and all the nooks."

2016: 1/4 Review

The arrival of April means many things. Warmer temperatures. Budding plants. Rain. 25% of the year gone. Gulp. Yes, for those of us with yearly goals, it's time for a quarterly check-up.

Financial Update: March 2016

Not gonna lie. March was difficult. These five-week months are KILLER for those of us on a budget. Basically, we blew it.

Getting Rid of the Stuff: Clothes

We've been married for eleven months. We've lived in this house for a mere nine months. Therefore, I am continually deeply perturbed by the overwhelming amount of stuff we have managed to accumulate in that short time.

Meal Planning Made Easy

Today I'm gonna talk about something that has changed multiple aspects of our lives for the better: meal planning!

Financial Update: February 2016

March is nearly halfway over, and I'm just now talking about February. Oops. Life has been kinda hectic.

Money Saver: Make Your Own Clean-Eating Veggie Broth for Free

This is a slightly random topic, but it could change your life. (At least a little bit.)

#64- Give a Fake Name to a Starbucks Barista

In the throes of working full-time (with overtime), slaying debts, and kicking prediabetes' fanny, it has been far too easy to forsake my 101 Things Challenge.

It's been so long since I've posted about it, I can't even remember what the last thing I checked off the list was. Homemade pasta, maybe. And I for darn sure haven't had time to make homemade pasta since I've had this job. So, it's been a while.

That said, I did do something on my list that I forgot to post about. Back in October, I did #64: Give a Fake Name to a Starbucks Barista.

Such a dumb one.

I don't know why I put it on this list, actually. It's so ridiculously silly alongside "#95: Get married" and "#92: Finish my bachelor's degree." But, then again, considering "#99: Pick berries", anything is possible.

Hey, you gotta have some fun, easy ones on there alongside the big life milestones.

I suppose #64 stems from my teenage years, when I would hang out with my more adventurous friends at Starbucks. They, unlike me, had the courage to order their coffees with goofy pseudonyms.

Venti iced mocha for Clarence! 

Tall vanilla Frappucino for Hildegard!

Tall decaf caramel macchiato for The Dark Lord!

I would just giggle to myself, somewhat enviously, when the best I could sputter out was Jen. That was pretty daring, right? Since everyone called me Jennifer?

So lame.

I guess I've been secretly wanting to make up for my timid adolescence ever since, because when I made this list, there it was. Give a fake name to a Starbucks barista.

Ten years after Clarence and Hildegard, my moment arrived. October 2015. I, and everybody else, wanted to indulge in the yearly treat of a pumpkin spice latte.

This was my chance.

I walked into Starbucks with butterflies flitting around inside my gut. I didn't have any name ideas. I tried not to think about it. Instead, I focused on the PSL.

I stepped up to the register and placed my order, the same order as the girl in front of me and likely the person behind me as well.

A venti pumpkin spice latte, please.

Then came the big question:

Okay, and what's your name?

I tried to play it cool, but my brain went blank. Finally, after a too-long pause, I stammered out the first thing that popped in my head.


I internally face-palmed.

Out of all the amusing names I could have chosen, from all the fictional people I could have been in that moment, my mind went to my favorite Doctor Who companion. Amy Pond.

Actually, if you think about it, that's pretty revealing and insightful.

So yes. That was me, being wild.

one month in

We're officially over a month into 2016, so it's time to evaluate. How are your goals looking? I'm excited to say I'm still pretty focused and determined to accomplish (at least some of) mine. Allow me to give you the deets.  

Financial Update: January 2016

These debt-free journey updates are so very satisfying. Sharing our progress at the end of a long month gets me so pumped. So let's get to it!

I mentioned in my December update that, with our Citi card now paid off (YAY!), January would be our first month fully experiencing the debt snowball plan: that $50 monthly minimum payment to Citi automatically rolled over to our next debt, the Chase card. Our monthly minimum payment to Chase was also $50, but with that extra $50 from Citi, our new minimum is $100.

This happened at just the right time. Chase was our zero-interest credit card...until December 31, 2015. Yeah. For the first time since opening that account, our Chase balance is now racking up interest.

And simultaneously, for the first time, we are focusing all of our extra income and energy on demolishing said Chase balance.

Extra income for January included $100 in birthday money from my parents (I turned 27 on the 18th, yippee). I kinda wanted to take that $100 and buy myself something special, but my debt-killing ferocity outweighed that desire this time. I set 10% aside for tithes and put the remaining $90 on the Chase card.

Our regular "snowball money" (the monthly leftovers after paying all the bills and withdrawing cash for our envelope budget) for January ended up being $750.

So. When all was said and done, this happened:


January's biggest accomplishment? Dropping the total sum below $70,000! That far, since September 2015, we've paid off $6,681.86 in debt!

Yep. Feels pretty good.

Making Goals: And Checking Them Off

It's been twenty-three days since January 1. If you set any goals for 2016, are you still focusing on them? Have you forgotten/given up/stopped caring already, or are you actively putting in the work to pursue them?

I am still pursuing. For the first time in a long time, I really am. 

Three weeks ago, I shared my list of goals for the year. (I called this list a work-in-progress, because the majority of my goals were so low-bar and basic, I know I'll need to step them up as the months pass. But they're my goals for now.) While a list of yearly goals is great, it's so...big. The goals in themselves may not be, but the idea is. We're talking about goals, resolutions, and changes for an entire year. It seems so intangible. 

Typically, 365 days go by before you check your progress on a yearly goal. Most of us who set goals on January 1, 2016, won't start worrying about whether or not we've actually accomplished them until late December rolls around. Unless you stay focused.

And here's how to do that.

The First Two Weeks: A Health Update

I'm immensely proud of these first two weeks of 2016. Matt and I have truly gotten serious about our eating habits together, and we're already seeing some benefits.

As I said at the beginning of the year, we've decided to follow a "Paleo-inspired" diet. The Paleo diet is ridiculously excessive in meat consumption, and, in my opinion, a bit too restrictive regarding nutritious whole foods like rice and beans, basic staples that have sustained human life for centuries. But, as the primary goal here is to control my blood sugar and prevent my prediabetes from becoming full-blown Type 2 Diabetes, I'm mostly concerned with limiting carbs, and the Paleo diet does just that.

However, we'd been accumulating a decent supply of white potatoes, pasta, and dried rice and beans, and with our tight budget, we aren't going to just toss food out. Matt did donate the pasta to his work project's field house for the technicians to eat, but the other things we are slowly phasing out and cooking as healthfully as we can.

But to set us up for success, I went shopping on December 31 and came home with all o' this:

Isn't it lovely? So much color! 

We've been meticulously planning all of our meals and snacks ahead of time, using awesome resources like to find meal ideas, and in doing so, we've found some really delicious recipes. Like this one for Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Scampi. That was a seriously impressive dinner to a true pasta lover like myself. 

For the past few years, Matt and I both have defaulted to oatmeal or whole grain cereal with almond milk for a healthy breakfast, but since those aren't exactly low-carb/Paleo options, we've had to get creative. We've been busting out all kinds of variations on the Paleo Grubs Broccoli Egg Bake. It makes six servings at one time, so it makes for the easiest, quickest breakfasts ever. And it's really warm and filling, which is a must for these wintry days.

Honestly, the biggest struggle so far has been making it work financially. Our current budget sets aside $400 a month on groceries, which typically gives us $100 per week. We'd just been getting the hang of it and were beginning to come in under budget regularly. But now we're buying meat. And we're in agreement that if we're buying meat, we're getting only grass-fed, antibiotic-free, good stuff. And unfortunately, the good stuff is crazy expensive. Like, $9.99/lb for chicken breasts expensive.

So. It's negatively affecting our budget, but we'll get it. This is a priority, so we will make adjustments to our budget to make sure we're putting out health first.

And like I mentioned, we're already seeing some results. Matt has lost around five pounds. And me?

Yeah, I'm pretty pumped about this.

I've been weighing daily and entering my weights into the Happy Scale app- a really cool (and free!) app that plots your weights on a nice little chart like this:

Isn't it awesome?!? Look at that trend line! Happy Scale also uses your data to make predictions on when you will reach your milestones and ultimate goal based on your current rate of progress. According to the app, if I keep up this momentum, I'll reach my first goal of 170 (4 pounds under my wedding weight) by March 18, 2016. That's pretty hopeful. And doable, I think.

So. Health and fitness goals for the rest of the month:

1. Continue eliminating sugar, breads, and pasta. Cut back a bit more on rice and beans. 

It's been working wonders so far. I already feel better, and it's showing up on the scale. 

2. Begin adding exercise into the plan.

I haven't done a single workout since January 1 ('s actually been waaaaay longer than that, but it's a new year; we're talking about 2016 now.). I'm blaming it on the cold weather, but I know I've gotta move past that excuse. From doing yoga to having a solo dance party to breaking out the ol' P90X videos, there are tons of indoor activities I can do, even without a gym membership. I just have to do it.

My workout goal for the year is to "just move" for at least thirty minutes three times each week, whether it's biking, running, dancing, whatever. That's such a low-bar, beginner-level goal; so far below where I used to be. But this is me starting over. I'm not doing any type of formal exercise now, so I have to start somewhere. 

My goal for next week is to get in at least one 30+ workout. That's as basic as it gets. I'll secretly aim to do more, but one workout is all I'm requiring for now. That's more than I've been doing. 

How are your 2016 goals going so far?