Archive for July, 2010

Living Like No One Else

July 29, 2010

Mark and I have been bitten by the Dave Ramsey bug; we’ve decided to live a life free from debt from this point on. We first discovered Dave on the FOX Business network and soon after we read his book, The Total Money Makeover. In a world that has become unnecessarily over-complicated, Dave’s teachings and advice are a simplistic breath of fresh air. You see, I like things that make sense; I used to hate dealing with money and budgets because it was just too much of a hassle but now I actually enjoy it. Plus this guy is hilarious! {20 things broke people say}

We have both been working hard towards our goal of getting rid of debt since we got married and I’m happy to announce that we are now officially, 100% debt free! We dominated over $40,000 in student loan and car debt in just 10 months!

Now you may be wondering how in the world we were able to do this in such a short period of time, let me tell you this: it involved a TON of self control. Most newlyweds jump straight to buying a home after tying the knot…not us, we still live in an apartment and we’re actually downsizing in a couple of months to save even more! Most college grads would loosen their budget and spend more once they start a new job…not us, we are living off of less than what I make and saving everything that Mark is bringing home. Most people with a 10+ year old car would upgrade…not us, I’ll happily drive my {paid for} car into the ground.

So now that we’re done with debt, we’re going to start saving to pay cash for a house. It sounds crazy and it’s definitely not the norm but with our dual income we’ll have enough saved in just 3 years. Sure, I’d love to be in a house now but by waiting just a little longer we’ll end up saving ourselves over $75,000 in interest, not to mention we will own our house as soon as we move in.

We are going against the grain; living like no one else so that later we can live like no one else. We’ve learned so much about ourselves and each other over the past 10 months and there’s no one else that I would rather be on this journey with than my wonderful husband.

In the words of Dave himself:

Stuff will never make you happy.

More is never enough.

Contentment comes from within.


New England 2010

July 18, 2010

We’ve been back home in Austin from our trip to the northeast for about a week now and I still can’t stop thinking about how great of a time it was. We got to visit a lot with Mark’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins that we don’t usually get to see very often {some of which I had never met} and also experience as much of Boston and Maine that we could squeeze into just one week!

July 3rd

Our flight from Austin got into Boston pretty late the night morning before but we were up and at ’em by 8 o’clock, ready to start the day. We began our morning with a wonderful breakfast prepared by Jan which included some potatoes from my dad’s farm that he had shipped to Grandpa and Jan just the day before!

Then Grandpa gave us the grand tour of their house, yard and his shop. I was pretty impressed with his basement shop, everything little thing had a place {including the caulk stored in the joists above} and he is really creative with his limited storage.

Jan is quite the gardener, she has planted everything in their yard and surrounding their house; I just love how she turned this old wooden chair into a planter.

The four of us went for a nice, long morning walk through Bradley Palmer State Park. The weather was great, the trail was shaded and the air just seemed really fresh. There were tons of fallen trees and spiky stumps near the river that the beavers had gnawed and left behind. I was hoping we would see one but no such luck.

For lunch we met up with Mark’s other grandparents, Nana Jude and Leonard, and Aunt Polly at Supreme Roast Beef in Danvers. The place is run by a Greek family and the lady taking our order had a hilarious, thick accent. Mark has been hyping this place up ever since we were dating and I thought it was pretty good…maybe I just don’t know what good roast beef is.

After lunch, we started our two hour drive up to Maine. We were the first to arrive at camp so Mark walked me around and gave me the tour. Shortly after Mark and Pat arrived and we made a quick run to Tony’s Foodland for some groceries.

Then came our first visit to the Dairy Bar. Notice I said first…as in, of many, many more to come. You see, people in the northeast love their ice cream; apparently Massachusetts has more ice cream places per-capita than any other state. Who knew? We got a tip from Mark’s Aunt that the Dairy Bar had introduced a new flavor just for the summer: soft-serve black raspberry and cake batter swirl…and yes, it was as good as it sounds.

We walked around downtown Naples for a little while and found a putt-putt golf place; somehow we ended up getting to play for free.

July 4th

First thing in the morning, we drove to Naples to pick up the boat that we were renting for the week. Once we got back to camp we went on our first boat ride around Brandy Pond and Mark did a little wakeboarding.

After lunch, we headed back to Naples and staked out a spot on the second deck of Rick’s, overlooking the main street where the July 4th parade would be.

After the parade, we went for a nice swim in the lake and I took a nap in the hammock {hammock naps are the best}. Then dinner was at Bob’s where I had my first whole lobster. It definitely tasted good but it’s a lot of work to get all the meat out!

Once again, we boated back over to Naples to grab some Dairy Bar before the big fireworks show. When we arrived there was a huge line and we soon found out that the entire town had lost power, rendering the Dairy Bar’s soft-serve machine out of order and allowing their hard-serve to begin to melt.

After grabbing our ice cream we headed back to the boat and picked a good spot to anchor before the show started. The sunset was so beautiful and the horizon was covered with little lights from all of the parked boats along the lake.

The fireworks are shot off from a barge that is anchored in the middle of the lake and we were able to get a great spot just about 100 yards away. It was by far the best fireworks show I’d ever seen, especially the finale.

We ended the night with a slow cruise back to camp and a few rounds of card games.

July 5th

Mark and I woke up around 6:30am to find the lake looking incredibly pristine. I couldn’t believe how calm the water was.

Mark and his dad were quick to take advantage of the glassy water; it made for a great morning of water sports. I tried my hand at water skiing and it didn’t go so well; I made it up once for about 3 seconds…oh well, I’m willing to admit it’s just not my thing; I’ll stick to sunning in the boat.

For lunch we had guacamole, grilled hot dogs and s’mores followed by another, relaxing swim in the lake.

Following an afternoon of hanging out at camp we took a long boat ride all the way up Long Lake to Harrison.

We spotted 5 loons on the ride back including a pair that had a baby. They are such beautiful birds; much bigger than a duck and very striking black and white feathers.

Of course we had to have some Dairy Bar on our way back and we ended the night again with some card games.

July 6th

Mark and I once again woke up early and this time decided to take a quiet canoe ride along the shore. With the water so still we could easily see to the bottom, spotting a few fish and lots of big rocks.

Pat and I left the guys behind at camp while we went out and did a little shopping in the nearby small towns. We had lunch at a little gourmet deli where I had the most delicious panini made with shrimp and artichoke hearts.

Back at camp, we went out on the boat so Mark could use the infamous disk. Mark’s grandpa made the disk himself at least 20 years ago; it’s a large, flat circle of wood about 4 feet in diameter that the family has been towing behind a boat for years. You can sit on it, stand on it and the guys have even mastered the 360 while riding it.

I think the best thing about camp is all the history it encompasses. The cabin was built by Mark’s great-grandfather and has been a family summer vacation destination since Mark can remember. Hanging on the wall of the screened porch are two water skis that Grandpa made.

One of my favorite things in the cabin is this great old poster map; it illustrates the connection between Long Lake, Brandy Pond and Sebago Lake, showing all of the main buildings and sights surrounding them.

Our last night at camp was a relaxed one, we had sandwiches for dinner followed by our last trip to the Dairy Bar. Then we rode the boat around Brandy Pond on a sunset cruise where we spotted quite a few loons again.

July 7th

After another early morning ski and wakeboard run, we said goodbye to camp and snapped a picture of us in front of the porch. This unfortunately is when the Canon camera decided to die unexpectedly. At first we just thought the battery needed to charge, but after talking with tech support we were advised to ship it back to Canon for repairs…I believe the words “hmm, that light isn’t even designed to blink,” were involved. So the remainder of the photos were taken with Mark’s iPhone.

We drove from camp to Harpswell, Maine to spend the day with Nana Jude and Leonard and their friends who were renting a house right on the Atlantic coast. They had a dock that led down to the water and Mark and I went for a long kayak ride around the bay. The water was a crisp 73 degrees; Mark and his dad got in but I just got my feet wet.

For dinner we drove half a mile down the road to Allen’s Seafood where we bought lobsters that had just been unloaded from the boat literally hours before we arrived. Their boathouse was decorated with old lobster trap buoys and guarded by a friendly old Pug named Wrinkle. There were 3 or 4 other dogs roaming around too, one of which was the largest lab I had ever seen in my life and all of which happily accepted an ear rub from us.

We ate our lobsters outside on a picnic table overlooking the ocean while the sun was setting. The lobster was so buttery and sweet all on it’s own; absolutely delicious. That was probably my favorite meal of the entire vacation.

After dinner we drove back to Ipswich where we would stay for the rest of the trip.

July 8th

We spent the morning catching up on sleep and doing a little laundry. Then we met up with Grandpa and Jan at the Clam Box for lunch. This is another one of those “it’s a tradition” places that we just had to eat at while we were up there. Basically we ate a platter full of fried stuff and it all tasted very similar.

Then we visited Cider Hill Farm, a very nicely kept place run by one of Grandpa’s former students and her husband.

The view was amazing, you could see their rows of fruit trees and produce for what seemed like miles. Scattered throughout the whole farm are multiple wind turbines and groupings of solar panels; we found out that by the end of this year they will be producing over 80% of their own energy. Overall just a really cool place.

Of course we couldn’t skip out on our daily helping of ice cream so we stopped by a place called Hodgie’s, where a quarter kiddie is more than enough and a large is basically asking for a gallon of ice cream. I’m going to go ahead and say that theirs was the best ice cream I have ever had, sorry Blue Bell.

Back at Grandpa and Jan’s house I just had to have my picture taken with a snow blower because you know those things don’t even exist in Texas

For dinner we picked up some Thai food and headed over to the Waybright’s house. We spent some great time catching up {for me, getting to know} Aunt Debbie, Uncle Eric and Shelby.

July 9th

Today was our big trip to Boston. First we drove about 30 minutes to Salem where we walked around town for about an hour while we waited for the ferry over to Boston. We didn’t have time to visit the witch museum but it was still a good time walking around and ogling all of the pretty houses.

At 11am we rode the ferry around the coast to Boston’s Long Warf where we began our 8 hour tour of the city.

First, we walked to Faneuil Hall and had lunch at Quincy Market which is basically a huge, long building with small restaurants on both sides of the long hallway that runs through it.

One thing I love about big cities is seeing the old, historical buildings completely surrounded by all the new, taller skyscrapers.

We continued our walk down Beacon Street to Boston Common which is to Boston like Central Park is to NYC. Just down the street we stopped in at the bar where Cheers was filmed to have a beer and take a break from walking in the heat.

Walking down Boylston Street we came across Boston’s Apple store and of course we had to stop there.

We then made our way to Copley Square where there was a big farmer’s market going on; we perused the stands and then walked across the street to the Boston Public Library. All I can say is wow…that building is so beautiful, I absolutely loved the coffered ceilings and the ornate mosaic tile work.

We made it all the way to Fenway Park before beginning the long walk back to the warf.

During our walk back we stumbled upon Boston’s Victory Gardens. These gardens were started back during WWI and WWII to reduce pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war efforts. Basically it is a large plot of land divided into smaller, more manageable gardens which anyone can rent and grow their own food in.

We grabbed a bite to eat then hopped back on the ferry headed for Salem and then drove back to Ipswich…what a long day.

July 10th

On our last full day we had breakfast with Grandpa and Jan at the Village Pancake House

Afterward, Mark and I drove to Rowley and did a little antique shopping which we both enjoyed. We ate lunch at Supreme Roast Beef again and then following an afternoon of packing and relaxing we met up with all of the family for a big group dinner. It was so great to spend our last night with the entire family enjoying ourselves, definitely the perfect ending to a perfect trip.

Goodbye Austin

July 2, 2010

Mark and I are headed to Boston and then Maine for 9 days on our first vacation together! It’s been pretty nasty in Austin for the past few days thanks to hurricane Alex so we’re looking forward to the 70-something degree weather up north. Our flight was running a little behind but it shouldn’t affect our connection in Atlanta; we’ll be arriving in Boston at midnight. More to come as we explore the northeast!