Freedom from Debt

Hi Friends 🙂

Are you having a lovely day?

I am, because I took the day off of work. Jason and I decided to take a little trip tonight/tomorrow down to Kansas City, MO – which is all part of his birthday gift. We are going to see Dave Ramsey speak:

(I realize that is a banner for a different date, I couldn’t find the correct one) It is a one day seminar about leadership. Although I am looking forward to the trip/seminar, this is totally more for Jason. He loves this sort of thing. The seminar is geared towards small business owners (which we are not) but the principles taught can apply to anyone.

We love Dave Ramsey, because it was his book The Total Money Makeover that helped us get our finances in order. Averie recently wrote a post about paying off debt, and to be honest, it is a subject that I have wanted to write about for a long time, but I felt so ashamed and there seemed to be this sense of guilt hanging over my head.

When Jason and I got married we had tons of debt – a mortgage, a car payment (thankfully my car was paid for), and credit card payments up the wazoo. I never told anyone (except for 1-2 friends who had as much if not more debt than we had) because I was ashamed. I felt like we had both been so terrible with money and I was embarrassed!  I also knew that if we had asked our parents for money they would have helped us in a heartbeat. But I didn’t want that. I wanted us to pay off the debt ourselves. And we did!

It took us about a year and a half to pay off 4 credit cards that totaled over $35,000. It was not easy. I am working on a few more posts detailing how we paid off that money, but basically we only bought what we absolutely could not live without and we budgeted every penny we earned. There were some months that we were able to pay lots of extra money onto the cards (garage sales, 3 paycheck months, tax returns), and some months we didn’t have as much extra money (car repairs, replaced washer/dryer, etc)

We still have some debt (mortgage and car payments), but it isn’t hanging over us and being such a stressor in our lives. We have built up our savings (and we are continuing to build it!) Our cars will be paid off before the end of this summer and what a relief that will be!

Seriously if you have debt (especially credit card debt!!!) I urge you to visit Dave Ramsey’s website – his Total Money Makeover book is usually only $10-$15 on his site and is well worth the money. I’ve heard Suze Orman is a good money/debt advice person as well, although I haven’t personally read any of her books.

Even though I still feel shame when it comes to having credit card debt, I feel so much better after sharing with someone how far we have come! You remember that we took a weekend trip to Las Vegas last November – that was to celebrate paying off the credit cards and saving enough money to pay for the entire trip with CASH. We haven’t charged ANYTHING in almost 2 years. It feels great!

If you have any questions that you’d like me to address in future Debt Relief Posts – feel free to email me at couchpotatoathlete (at) gmail (dot) com.

Hopefully our car trip will go quickly – have a great day!

~Holly

Posted in Life. Tags: . 37 Comments »

Results & March Goals

Hi Friends 🙂

Well I’ve finished Catching Fire and tonight I will start the 3rd book Mockingjay. I am in love with these books and you will not regret picking them up.

Anywho – I did pretty well with my February goals, here is a quick recap:

1. Follow Marathon training plan – CHECK!

I do need to continue to work on stretching/foam rolling each day. It does help me, I just need to do it!

2. Read 2 books – DOUBLE CHECK!

Love and Respect

In Defense of Food

The Great Fitness Experiment

The Hunger Games

3. Try 2 new recipes per week – CHECK

Microwave Banana Cakes

Spinach Pancakes

Orange-Cilantro Black Bean Salad

Salmon Patties

Quinoa Burgers

Strawberry Bread

Vegan Alfredo

Eggs baked in Tomato Sauce

Egg Souffle

Avocado Pasta

Tortilla Casserole

4. Stay on budget – CHECK!

Jason and I were able to save a good amount of money this month. By the way we use Mint.com for budgeting/money planning purposes.

5. Blog more consistently – CHECK!

I think I missed 2 days of blogging in all of February which is definitely a success for me.

*

March Goals:

1. Get new blog up and running (!!!)

2. Continue with Marathon training & foam roll every day.

I have to do it – it helps my leg feel better while running and after running. Don’t worry, this is not something I will update you on every day!

3. Try 2 new recipes each week

I liked this one from February so I’m going to keep it going. As always, I will take suggestions on what to try!

4. Have at least one fun date night with Jason each week.

Don’t get me wrong – I love going out to eat once in a while or making a nice dinner at home – but this sounded like a fun goal to have, so we’re going for it. I also have seen some great Groupon deals lately (like scuba diving lessons and rock climbing!) and I thought it’d be fun to turn those into “date nights”.

5. Read these two books

Omnivore’s Dilemma

 Born to Run

(any other book on top of those coughtheothertwohungergamesbookscough is great, but I for sure want to get through those 2 books)

6. Stay on budget and save $XXX

I don’t want to get into specifics here, but I know what the X’s stand for and we will save that amount. One of our big goals for 2011 is building our savings, so every month counts!

And that’s it for now! I’ve got a book to go read.

What is one goal you are working on this week?

Posted in Life. 19 Comments »

Help Me Decorate (AKA where should I hang our race medals?)

Hi Friends 🙂

Happy Humpday!

Over a week ago, Jason brought me these love tulips:

And now they look like this:

They look super fragile, but they are still super strong! (and even in a super tall vase they fall over like that) I changed the water and trimmed the ends this afternoon and not one petal fell off – I hope they hold on tight because they are one of the nice reminders that Spring will be here soon. Here is my reality:

(Yes they have plowed since this picture was taken, but it gets my point across!)

I tried to keep dinner light, fresh and somewhat Spring-y:

A TJ’s chicken burger with grilled pineapple, romaine and avocado.

After dinner and hitting the gym to run 3 miles (I love the short midweek runs in Hal’s plan) – I came home and saw this staring me in the face:

This is a race medal holder that I ordered from Allied Steel (and I first read about these on Healthy Tipping Point) – for part of Jason’s birthday gift. His birthday is in March, so yes I gave him this gift early – because I want to hang it up! Right now it just sits on the kitchen table. Here are a few ideas of where I’d like to possibly hang it.

Option #1 is next to our front door:

I want to hang the medals in a place where people will actually see them! I am proud of them and so is Jason – so why not, right? We can definitely take down the picture to the right of the door and hang it there. But then it will technically hang in the dining room, which I don’t like the thought of.

Option #2 is at the top of the stairs:

We could easily move that painting of the Colisseum (that Jason bought in Italy) to a different room. Then, when people come in, it is one of the first things they see. However, I wonder if walking up/down the stairs or vacuuming the stairs would disturb it/make it scratch the wall/knock it down? although I have never knocked down that picture so I’m not sure why I’m concerned…

Option #3 is in the living room: 

I *love* my crocodile and hippo pictures (no I’m not kidding so don’t make fun, thanks!) – but these could get moved. Here the medals wouldn’t be disturbed – but they wouldn’t be seen much (by guests or by us!)

Any input?

If you see Spring will you please tell her to come to MN?

The Holly Llama Gets New Shoes

Happy Saturday 🙂

Did you see the beautiful Full Moon last night? Jason and I were on our way to Running Room when we saw it. I didn’t bother taking out my camera – I just decided to look at it instead of scrambling to get my camera. I hope you saw it!

I have bought shoes at Running Room before and now that almost an entire year has gone by, I decided to get a new pair. Plus my knee has been hurting when I run, so I figured I’d try new shoes to see if that helps.

I was amazed when I opened the door – Bill – one of my parents’ neighbors (and the father of my childhood friend) was working there! I had to tell him who I was, but he immediately remembered me! We had a nice time reminiscing – I don’t think I’ve actually seen him/talked to him in well over 10 years. But he still looks the same! He laughed so hard when I reminded him that he used to call me The Holly Llama (Dalai Lama…)

He fitted me for new shoes – meaning he had me lunge, squat and walk across the room. He determined (as have every other running store employee)  that I am an over pronator (click to learn about the different types) and recommended a few different shoes. I decided to get the Asics GT-2160 – they felt great on my feet!

I also picked up a few other things: sport beans, Clif shotblocks, and a Hammer gel. I have used sport beans before, but they upset my stomach sometimes, so I wanted to try a few different products to see what works well for my body.

After leaving Running Room (which I recently learned that Cathy works for them too!), we headed to Trader Joe’s. I only get to TJ’s about once per month at the most – the closest location is only 15-20 minutes away, but it still feels so far away! We picked up the “essentials”:

Three Buck Chuck, Bean/ Barley soup, stir-fry mix, almond butter, low sugar jelly, trail mix, brown rice pasta, chicken sausages, goat cheese, dates, larabars, sushi

And by “essentials” I mean anything that looked good at the time!

Well I’m off for an 8 mile run! See you tomorrow!

*Anything fun going on today?

*Do you stay loyal to a certain brand when buying running/exercise shoes or workout clothes? Why or why not?

February Goals

Hi Friends 🙂

How is your week so far?

I just got back from the gym — ran a few miles on the treadmill. I cannot wait for this snow and ice to melt. According to the Groundhog: Spring is right around the corner!

A few months ago I posted my monthly goals, and I think that really helped me focus on them. Lately I’ve made goals but I haven’t put much work into them at all.

 Here are my goals for February:

1. Train for Grandma’s Marathon. We have our hotel room for that weekend booked. We registered for the race. Now we just have to train! I want to continue to post my workout results here on the blog.

2. Read 2 books. I have heard so much about The Eaters Manifesto and I decided I just need to read it for myself! I also want to finish Love & Respect.

3. Try 2 new recipes each week. I have officially gotten back into my food ruts (or grooves as Averie calls them!) but I am in need of some variety.

4. Stay on budget. This is a goal every month! We are still trying to build our savings account while trying to quickly pay off our two car loans. Jason and I have paid off a lot of debt over the past few years and budgeting has helped us do just that! Now we are using our budget to save, save, save!

5. Blog more consistently. I’m going to put up posts when I can. Maybe that will be every day for a few days, then maybe I’ll take off 3-4 days. I need to figure out what works for me! But please know that I appreciate everyone who stops by to read, comment or email. This community is wonderful.

***So what are your suggestions for me? Any new recipes that you’ve tried that I should try? Feel free to leave me a link!

***Have you read any good books lately? I’ll need some ideas for March!

Posted in Life. 34 Comments »

That Damn Bear

Hi Friends! I hope you’re having a great morning so far.

Around Holidays or special occasions (anniversaries, etc) Jason and I usually sneak out to buy each other gifts (or we buy online!). Before Christmas, Jason had cleaned part of his office at work and brought home a few bags of stuff.

I naturally thought my gift was mixed up in the bags, so jokingly, I reached for the bag and asked “is my gift in here?” and Jason replied “nope, go ahead”. I reach in the bag and find

I said “what is this?”

Jason obviously looked bummed and I could tell that the bear was a part of my gift. He told me he forgot he had it in one of the bags. And I know I sound totally ungrateful, but never in a million years would I guess that Jason would get me a stuffed bear for a gift. It just isn’t my thing!

We don’t really have stuffed animals (they drive me nuts because where do they go? On the bed? On a shelf?) Stuffed animals from my childhood are stuffed in this bin:

Out of sight, not cluttering up my house!

So back to the bear. What do I do with this? At first I told Jason to take him back to work (jokingly, but I was kind of serious too!)

But he’s still here. And Jason keeps “hiding” him in my car each morning before work:

He is always someplace new every morning when I leave for work.

And then when I get home from work I return the favor:

I finally found a great place:

That way Jason will see him as soon as he parks his car (he backs his car into the garage)

I really hate that damn bear, but I’m starting to like him more and more 🙂

Have a great Thursday!

Holly

Posted in Life. Tags: . 21 Comments »

Do you have Pooped-Out-Itis?

Hi Friends!

Thanks everyone for the warm welcome back!

I’m sure most of you have heard by now that Jack LaLanne died a few days ago, right? 

 (source)

I remember watching his infomercials for his juicer – and I really wanted one for the longest time. Then, when I finally did get a juicer, I never used it so I sold it on Craigslist. I don’t really miss it, but every once in a while I wish I had hung onto it. Too bad it took up so much space in my kitchen!

On the radio Monday morning they were playing clips of him speaking, and one of the quotes was Jack talking about how so many people are struggling with Pooped-Out-Itis. I agree! And somedays, I struggle with Pooped-Out-Itis too!

 Here is what I do to try to prevent POI:

1. Get plenty of rest. Some nights I go to bed at 9pm or even earlier. It feels good to wake up refreshed and not have to literally pry open my eyelids when my alarm goes off in the morning. There are nights that it takes me a while to fall asleep – if I am stressed or worried about something. Those nights, I find it helpful to tell myself to “think about those things tomorrow” and I mentally cross them off my “list”. Then I actually tell my brain “goodnight”! This may sound crazy, but it really helps me calm myself down and fall asleep.

2. Drink plenty of water. Whether it is hot (for tea) or cold, fluids keep me awake and energized. I drink at least 4 refills of this bottle per day:

And I have 2-3 cups of tea in the morning as well.

3. Exercise. For a few weeks there I was really not consistent with exercise, but I have my mojo back big time. I think getting a new yoga mat and kettlebell for Christmas lit a spark under me – as did signing up for Grandma’s Marathon! But also with exercise, comes a few days of rest. I love my rest days (Mondays and Fridays) and they help me exercise longer and better! (A few of you asked me about my kettlebell, I hope to do a whole post all about mine, what I like and don’t like, etc)

4. Eat well. When I eat junk, I feel like junk. And I feel sleepy and like a blob.

5. Caffeine. I try to limit caffeine by only drinking it before 1-2pm, but to be honest, most days that doesn’t happen. I’ll have some diet coke or a small cup of coffee mid day to give myself a boost.

6. Take mini breaks throughout the day – every couple of hours (when I am at work) I will stand up, stretch, and move around. Usually I just need a few neck rolls to keep myself from feeling so stiff. 

Do you suffer from Pooped-out-itis? What do you do to fight it?

I’m currently writing this post and watching The Biggest Loser. I know, I’ve written before how I really don’t like the show and it is unrealistic, etc but I can’t stop watching! Have you been watching this season? What do you think of the new trainers?And, guess who I saw at Mall of America on Saturday?

(That is Bob Harper for those of you who didn’t know!) No I didn’t get to meet him, the line was too long 😦

Enjoy your day!

Holly

Turkey Bingo

Hi Friends!

I got home late last night from Turkey Bingo 🙂

Here are some pictures to sum up the evening:

I WON A TURKEY AND A WHOLE CHICKEN!!!

How do I prepare such beasts? Jason thinks we should buy a duck and make a Turducken…I saw no way.

My new turkey weighs 13.7 lbs:

For now, both birds are getting stored in the freezer, since I have never prepared a whole bird on my own.

Question: Have you ever prepared a whole bird on your own? How did it turn out? Is it as daunting of a task as I imagine it to be?

Have a great weekend!

Posted in Life. Tags: . 23 Comments »

Nutella Burger

Hi Friends 
 
I have been MIA lately – sorry for not reading/commenting much, oh and sorry for no post from me yesterday! Wednesday morning (at work) I suddenly felt very sick. It just hit me like a ton of bricks! I couldn’t keep anything down (not even water) so I went home and slept. I slept all day long, got up to eat some soup that Jason brought me and then went back to bed.
 
I went into work late on Thursday and now I feel much better. I could barely stay awake and walking across the room was a workout, so there was no way I could read/comment or write a blog post!
 
Vegas Recap (here is day 1 if you missed it)
 
Saturday morning we got up pretty early – we were still on Central time (and tried to keep it that way!). Jason had some homework to finish up, so while he worked on that I got a quick workout in: Jessica’s At Home Cardio Blast. Seriously, this is such a nice, quick workout and you don’t need any equipment, which is great for traveling.
 
Afterward we set out to see the other side of the Strip. We started at the Wynn:

This place was gorgeous!!! There was a wedding later that day so most of the garden area was blocked off.
The Venetian was lovely as well:

I loved going into all of the shops. We thought about taking a gondola ride, but we were ready for lunch. Jason’s brother proposed to his wife on one of these gondolas, how romantic, right?
OMG we ran into Harrison Ford!!!

We walked over to Caesar’s Palace and headed to Mesa Grill (Bobby Flay’s restaurant!):
I love watching Bobby Flay on Iron Chef, and I figured he’d have a great menu. We needed good Vegas food after the big letdown the day before… On the weekends they have a Brunch menu, and I chose the Blue Corn Buttermilk Waffle with Blackberry Bourbon Syrup and Crème Fraiche:
It was unbelievable!!! Doesn’t look like much, but it was very filling. Jason had the Spicy Scrambled Eggs with Ham: 
This meal totally made up for the crummy buffet the day before!!! With full bellies we continued our venture:
Finally, a place I really wanted to visit: M&M World! Jason got a tie and I got some PJs:
4 floors of M&M merchandise. It was such a hilarious place:
We started to head back to the hotel. I wanted a chance to take a nap before going to dinner and then to the show – I did not want to be yawning the whole time! We caught the end of the Bellagio water show:
I also made a new friend:
After a quick hour long nap, we got ready to head to dinner. One of my favorite chefs/judges on Top Chef is Hubert Keller – so we made plans to eat dinner at his Burger Bar in Mandalay Bay.
This place was amazing! We started off with some beer, Blue Moon for me, Fat Tire for Jason:
I got the Hubert Keller Burger:
(Buffalo, caramelized onions, baby spinach, bleu cheese on a ciabatta roll)
And Jason got the Kobe beef burger with zucchini fries:
I can’t even describe how good this food was. The spinach and caramelized onions AND bleu cheese tasted so amazing. I wish I could go back and eat this all over again!
 
But the best part of dinner hadn’t even come out yet:
The Nutella Burger. Oh yes.
 
A bun made of a glazed donut, a Nutella mousse patty, topped with passion fruit gelatin (cheese!), strawberries (tomato) and kiwi (lettuce)
 
!!!
!!!
 
We grabbed a cab and headed to the Bellagio to see “O”.
I wish I could have taken some pictures, but I understand that it can be dangerous for the artists to see flashes, etc during their performances. Just believe me when I say that I was in awe the entire time! The stage was a large pool of water that opened/closed many times throughout the performance – so sometime the artists were in water, and other times not. Here is a picture of the stage from the Bellagio website:
As you can see, the center of the stage is a pool of water — the artists would perform in the water and on the stage (and in the air!). I was amazed the entire time.
Absolutely amazing. After the show we walked back to the hotel and called it a night.
 
I would go back to Vegas just to see O or another Cirque show and to eat at Mesa Grill and Burger Bar again. Ok, I’d go just for Burger Bar!
Have a good weekend everyone!

I Walked 9 Miles for Trump Pizza

Hi Friends 
 
Aaaaaaaand its Hump Day! The week is flying by!
 
If you missed Day 1 in Vegas click *here*. Onto Day 2:
 
We got up at about 2:30am. This was really rough for the both of us. We had tickets to see the KQRS morning show (a local MN radio station was broadcasting live in Vegas that weekend) – I listen to them every morning so I thought it would be fun.
 
I was wrong.
I figured the entire audience would be drunk, and I was right, but they weren’t “funny drunk” like I thought they would be. They were “annoying-won’t-stop-talking-super-loud-drunk”. Plus the show had really lame guests. PLUS we had to take a $40 cab ride to get to the casino (it was in downtown Vegas, not on the Strip).
I did like the Golden Nugget Casino/Hotel though. Lots of Dave Chihuly art pieces (or Chihuly knockoffs!)

So, our trip was not off to a great start. We headed back to the hotel and took a long nap. After a few hours we got up, got ready and headed towards the Strip:

A friend suggested that we eat at the buffet in Caesar’s Palace. He claimed it is “the best buffet in Vegas”. I thought it would be a great place to eat.
 
I was wrong. Again.
 
I didn’t even take any pictures because it was so sad – the most pathetic salad bar you could ever see: iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, olives and 2 kinds of dressing, and other foods not worth mentioning. The dessert bar was ok:
I was in a really bad mood after such a mediocre lunch. But we kept walking… 
Finally we got to the Bellagio and bought our tickets to see O on Saturday night (my mood improved after that!) There we saw more Chihuly art on the ceiling and some HUGE pumpkins!!!
It finally got dark and we got to see the lights! We continued to meander through the casinos and hotels:
Finally we got to the “end”: The Luxor and Excalibur. I think Excalibur is the cutest casino – I just love the design.
We were so tired from getting up early to go to the lame radio show that we headed back to the hotel.

9 miles!!! No wonder our legs were so sore. We ordered room service for dinner (again!)

Cheese/Tomato Pizza for me:

Turkey sandwich/waffle fries for Jason:
Looking back, it doesn’t look like we did much on our trip so far. To be honest it was just such a relief to get out of our house, to get out of town, to not have to work and to spend some time together! It felt great to be outside and just to explore a new place!
Trump Pizza was pretty good — tell me about your favorite pizza!