Happy hearts and happy bellies

Sitting across from my best friends at breakfast Sunday morning, I’m struck by how beautiful they all are and how lucky I am to have them in my life. Yes, they are all pretty women, I’ve always known that. But over the past year or so I’ve realized that my friends are all around beautiful people: they are strong, smart, funny, kind, driven, loyal, caring, comforting people and my life wouldn’t be the same without them in it.

In high school and through college I think I took my friends for granted–often opting to spend time Mike and his friends instead of my girlfriends.  It’s not until I graduated from college and moved away from them all that I realized how precious friendships are, how much girlfriends add to your life.

We had an amazing weekend together.  Planned about a month ago to celebrate Jordyn’s birthday and her return to the east coast (she moved from LA to DC in January), we were all so looking forward to the girl time. We each had our own reasons for looking forward to the trip, and I think it was exactly what we needed.

The girls got to DC on Friday night and the grown-up slumber party began with dinner at my apartment. (I made this.) Having us all around my kitchen table was a bit surreal. If it was in a movie a slow happy song would play as the camera slowly pans over each of our faces as we smile, throw our heads back in laughter, and raise our glasses for a toast. It’s crazy to think that we’re all adults now and our conversations focus on work, serious relationships, being moms some day, finances, goals, and dreams.

Saturday morning my living room was covered in air mattresses, blankets, and luggage just like my bedroom was in middle school when these slumber parties began. I made my favorite pancakes and we went to my favorite yoga class. We got back around lunchtime and Mike made us all homemade pizza. Then we just veged in our gym clothes for the afternoon, read magazines, books, took naps, watched a movie. Because we really didn’t have to do anything.  We just wanted to be together. 

We put ourselves together on Saturday night for a night out on the town. We had an 8 o’clock reservation at Zaytinya and after two sketchy cab rides we all arrived at our destination. We shared a few carafes of the Pom Fili (white wine, vodka, and pomegranate juice) and sampled a lot of menu items: salads, fritters, spreads, meats. We left dinner with happy hearts and happy bellies.

Next, we headed to POV at the W Hotel just a quick walk away from the restaurant.  We felt pretty baller walking in and when we got to our table I was so excited we were there.  POV, the rooftop bar, is one of my favorite places in the city and I’d been wanting to take girlfriends there for a while.  Unfortunately, our stay was short-lived.  As we began ordering our first drinks, the server said “did anyone tell you about the policy?” “No,” we said, “what policy?” “It’s a $50 per person minimum or you have to do bottle service.” WHAT?!?! Since we were all pretty full and not wanting to spend $60 on drinks alone, we left our table and headed back to my neighborhood. We had a drink at a neighborhood bar before coming back to my apartment, making Pillsbury cinnamon buns, and going to bed.

And so quickly it was Sunday morning.  Of course, I had to take my friends to my favorite breakfast place: Open City in Woodley Park. As we chat over coffee, I get a bit emotional at the joy of the experience and wish that I could be surrounded by these girls all the time.  These are girls I’ve liked since middle school but have come to truly admire in the past few years.  Luckily, the conversation quickly turns to when we can have another weekend like this and we brainstorm places we can travel together.

As I gave them hugs at the train station, I had to fight back tears.  I really hate to see them go.

Luckily, one’s still here for good and we’re already planning our next girls weekend.

Our pace: what we’re not saving for

If you missed the post I wrote last week about going at your own pace, I highly recommend reading it here. It’s a good reminder for all of us.

Along the same lines, here’s an example of how Mike and I are going at our own pace.

As a young married couple, the next big step is to buy a house or at least save for one. But, during our money conversation, Mike and I decided to not save money for a house right now.

Prior to this conversation, we had been saving for a house.  That was our big goal. But at the rate we were saving, we wouldn’t be able to buy a house for quite some time, 8 years according to Mint.com.

And besides, we essentially already have a mortgage: my massive student loan debt.

Right around this time I found personal finance guru Dave Ramsey (thanks, Words of Williams!) and started listening to his daily radio show and did a little bit of reading on his website. And I got motivated to pay down my student loans. I couldn’t wait to get my debt snowball rolling.

So as we walked to meet friends for dinner, I suggested this to Mike.  That instead of saving for a down payment, we start putting extra money toward my student loans each month. And Mike agreed. He said he’d been thinking something similar.

As we walked through the city we discussed that we could probably stay in an apartment for another few years and that we probably won’t need or want a yard until our kids are 5 or 6 (which, since they’re not born yet is still quite a bit away).

Our money will add up so much more quickly against my student loans (bye-bye compound interest) than it would in a savings account.  So not only will we feel like we’re succeeding at this goal as we pay off some of the smaller loans but we’ll also be saving ourselves money in the long run.

When we’re ready to buy a house, we’ll have more money to put aside for a down payment because the monthly payments on the loans will be less (and hopefully we’ll make more money each year) and we’ll be more motivated to do it when we feel like it’s in our reach.

So–here we are–a newlywed couple that’s not saving for a house. Probably a little odd.  But we couldn’t be happier with this status.  It feels great that we’re going at our own pace.

Another bonus of this decision is that if we’re not saving for a house, we don’t have to decide where said house will be–something that we felt a lot of pressure to figure out.

I’d love to know:

How are you going at your own pace?

February focus

January went out with a bang!

The last few days of January I…

–chose 100 items to get rid of in support of my January focus, made a box to go to Goodwill, the DC Library, a piles to trash, and to freecycle,

–sent packages to two of my sisters including some things I wanted to get rid of that I thought they could use,

–successfully made cake balls (after a failed first attempt),

–did our taxes (including doing our DC taxes BY HAND to figure out a discrepancy and get us money back–oh yeah!),

–made some extra money babysitting and put the money toward my credit card, and

–started making some moves towards my business–reading/researching/brainstorming with others.

I’m feeling that our household is organized and while I work to keep it that way (and continue to stick to my resolutions) through February, I have a new focus for this month.

My focus for February is…my blog!  I’m excited to put some serious energy into Things After the Rings this month.

I’m working with Julie of Savvy Eats to give Things After the Rings a fresh look. So stay tuned for that!

I’ll be doing my first giveaways–yay for free stuff!

And I hope to post a little bit more often.  I have a huge list of post ideas and I’m going to make a concerted effort to stop thinking about them and start writing/posting them!

I’m looking forward to a good month!

I’d love to know:

How did your January end? What’s your focus for February?