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?

Rain cloud and hair spray

Here’s a funny story for your Saturday. I couldn’t wait to share this story with Mike on our date a few weeks ago.

I was rushing to an appointment that I thought was canceled but wasn’t (I hate being late), left the deal for our date on my desk, had some anxiety about the appointment, and was just fuming while riding the metro. I was so mad and grumpy and couldn’t think about anything except my grumpiness.

I’m standing in the doorway on the metro totally in my own head when this man comes and stands in front of me facing the door.  He’s between 40 and 50 with a big belly. He’s wearing a thick royal blue and white patterned knit sweater from the late 80’s/early 90’s, faded black pants sitting kind of low and baggy and he was far from attractive.  Though I have to admit his hair was kind of nice.  It was completely gray and though he had a full head of hair it was kind of thin but it was styled like someone my age.  Like standing up and nicely combed.

We’re just riding along when all of a sudden he takes out a can of hair spray and starts spraying his hair while looking at his reflection in the train door. “Just need some hair spray,” he says to me as I look at him in disbelief, speechless.  “This can cost me $7,” he continues nodding at the pocket size spray in his hand, “but luckily the guy that owns the shop gave me a discount.” He mutters a few more things as I look around to see who else has witnessed this, trying not to burst out laughing. He gets off at the next stop and I exchange glances/laughs/head shaking with some on-lookers.

I couldn’t stop laughing to myself for the rest of the ride (I probably became the spectacle after that). And that was it.  The cloud I was carrying over my head was completely gone. I think God or the universe sent this strange man to me so that I’d stop stewing and lighten up.

I’d love to know:

Have you ever had a strange or funny experience on public transportation?  This wasn’t my first.  Remember the best bus ride ever?

What’s for Dinner? Wednesday: Risotto

Back with another What’s for Dinner? Wednesday! Tonight I’m sharing one of our favorite meals to make together and eat together: red wine risotto with peas!

Risotto is a great meal to cook with someone.  Not because it’s extremely complicated (it’s not really at all) but because it’s a time consuming meal and gives you time to chat in the kitchen (without the distractions of phone, computer, TV). It’s pretty much just stirring constantly for 25-30 minutes and it’s nice to have someone to keep you company.  Oh, and you put like a cup of wine in the recipe and drink the rest 🙂

Mike and I love to make risotto together because it gives us time to connect. We’ll take turns stirring and sitting, talk about things that are on our minds, and drink wine. Sometimes, though, much of the conversation is “mmm, this is going to be so good” or some variation of that statement.

Risotto is really just a fancy comfort food.  It’s warm, creamy, and you eat it out of a bowl with a spoon. What’s not to love?

Our go-to risotto is Giada’s red wine risotto with peas.

I’d love to know:

Do you like risotto?  Share/link up your favorite risotto recipe in the comments!

Are there any meals that you bond over with your significant other/family/roommates?

Go at your own pace

While waiting in line at Starbucks yesterday morning, I overheard a conversation between a teenager and a middle aged woman. I imagine this was a college admissions interview and the woman was an alumna and the young man a high school senior. While the senior was talking about his experience running cross country, I was struck by two things he said and how they apply to so much more than running.

Keep your own pace

He said that in cross country it’s important to find your own pace and keep your own pace.  That when someone passes you it’s very tempting, almost innate, to want to run faster to catch up with him and then pass him, but you have to know your own pace and not use up all of your energy in one burst sprinting to beat the person in front of you. That you need to figure out a pace that you can maintain and just keep it at that.

You don’t have to be first to win

The teen also said that in cross country, you don’t have to be the first to win.  That simply hitting a personal best is an accomplishment in itself.

I think I may have gotten tears in my eyes as I heard this, thinking “wow, this is a great reminder for life.” It can be so easy to compare yourself to friends, coworkers, people from high school or college that you’re not friends with in real life but are friends on Facebook. If they’re getting married, buying a house, having kids, getting promoted, getting a Master’s degree, traveling, buying x, y, or z. And when we see people “passing” us it’s easy to want to sprint to catch up, and to put pressure on ourselves to find a boyfriend or buy a home or whatever. But doing so only expends unnecessary energy. It feels so much better if you’re doing it at your own pace, not sprinting to get to catch up to the person in front of you. And remember that just because you’re not the first doesn’t make crossing the finish line any less significant.

Household organization

My focus for January is household organization because I’ve been feeling unorganized and not on top of things for the past few months (thanks bed bugs!). We had our last bed-bug treatment on January 3, so this focus is fitting and timely. And what a great way to start a new year.

Organized Space

My best friend Amanda came down the weekend after the treatment and helped us put all of our belongings back in their homes. Without her, it would’ve taken Mike and I days to put everything back and it would’ve remained unorganized even after things were in their places. It can be so paralyzing to make decisions about your own things and I can get totally lost in the weeds over-analyzing where things should go.  But as I combed through all of our belongings making decisions on what should stay and what should go, Amanda found homes for them in our closets, on our desk, and in our bookshelf. I honestly couldn’t believe how organized things were when she was done.  She just has an eye for this sort of thing. (I told her she should start a side business to make some extra money while she’s in law school.)

Our space is organized (minus our bedroom, we decided to let the treatment sit for an additional week), and I’d like to keep it that way so I’ve paid special attention to putting things back where they belong.  I’d also like to keep our apartment clean.

Clean Space

To be honest, I’ve never been great about keeping our place clean.  Aside from dishes and laundry, cleaning has never been super high on our priority list. We’d both clean the apartment but not on a regular basis. It was just something we never thought about, until things got so gross that one of us got fed up and decided to do something about it.

To get us organized I made a Cleaning Checklist and taped it to the wall in our kitchen.  This way we’ll both remember what needs to be done and if we have some time we can tackle one of the items on the list.  Honestly, each of the tasks on the list takes 20 minutes tops and I’d rather spend 20 minutes here and there than an entire afternoon on a weekend cleaning. I proposed we adapt the Williams’ 10-minute rule but it hasn’t caught on just yet.  Next week is the first week this month that our schedules aren’t crazy so maybe we’ll pick it up then. But even 10 minutes a few times a week is better than what we were doing before.

Money in order

The other aspect of our household that we wanted to get organized was our finances.  We had a nice conversation about our money and then on January 1 we sat down and worked out a new budget. Then I posted a tracker on the wall in our kitchen to track variable expenses throughout the month.  And so far, we’ve stuck to our budget! I think just having the awareness helped.  I’m not sure we’re necessarily spending differently than we did in the past but we’re more on the same page about where we are with our budget, what’s been spent, etc.

Still to do

In the last week and a half of the month, we’ll get our bedroom cleaned and organized, I’ll look through our apartment for things to purge, add them to the pile above, (inspired by Jess’ challenge, I’m hoping to get rid of 100 items), and then get them out of our home either by freecycling, donating, giving to friends, or trashing.

I’d love to know:

How’s your January? 

Do you ever feel not-on-top-of-it when it comes to household/personal tasks?

Girl time/guy time

I’m back from a long weekend in Florida with my friend Lauren. We planned this trip in the fall and I was so looking forward to the girl time and the sunny weather. We had a great weekend: went for long walks in the morning, did quite a bit of shopping, ate good food, and just talked a lot. As always, it was so good to spend quality time with her.

I love spending time with my girlfriends and I think it’s really important for men and women to have time with their guy friends and girlfriends on a regular basis.  I’ve said before that I think spending time with girlfriends is good for the soul and I truly believe that.

When you’re in a relationship, it’s really important to prioritize your friendships and have girl time and guy time. Honestly, I’m having a hard time articulating why this is important but believe me, it is. It’s good for me to talk and talk and talk with a girlfriend over a glass of wine and dinner. And it’s good for my husband to chat with a buddy over beers and wings.

Because I value and crave girl time so much, I wonder if I may have isolated my husband from my friends.  In the past, friends would ask if Mike was coming along and I’d say “nah” because I just wanted the girl time and quality time with my friend. Now that we’re married I truly do want my friends to know my husband and my husband to know my friends. But I still crave the girl time so I’m not sure how I’ll find that balance.

I’d love to know:

Can you articulate why girl time and guy is so important? (I’m hoping you’ll have the words that are escaping me at the moment.)

How can I bring my husband and my friends together?

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PS–Check out my article on staying cheery in the winter over on Healthy Living Blogs!

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Date Night

Back again with another What’s for Dinner? Wednesday and tonight happened to be date night! We haven’t had date night in quite some time: either since my birthday date or when we went to the Nationals’ game. It’s one of my 2012 resolutions to go on one date night per month so tonight not only did I have a nice dinner with my husband but I also got to check a box on resolutions spreadsheet. Win-win!

Mike’s trying to “get into sushi” and we had a Living Social deal for Sushiko in Chevy Chase (Friendship Heights) that expires at the end of the month so we decided to go to Sushiko for our first date night of the year.

We started with some drinks: a rum and Coke for Mike and a mangotini for me.

Then I had a house salad with ginger dressing to start (which I pretty much inhaled and then had to tell myself to slow down, that I’m not in an eating contest, I’m on a date).

Don’t you love how vibrant and fresh that looks?

Next we ordered two rolls to share: the rock shrimp cilantro and the crunchy spicy salmon.  Mike chose both of these and I was happy to oblige.  Sometimes it feels so good to just trust your partner’s judgement. And it paid off.  Both rolls were delicious. The cilantro in the rock shrimp cilantro roll was so bright and fresh, it was awesome!

We topped off our meal with a soft shell crab roll.

Good meal.  I imagine we’ll be back again soon.

I’m glad we both enjoy sushi now.  Sometimes if we need a quick dinner we’ll stop at Whole Foods and grab some out of their pre-made case. It’s so funny how tastes can change.  If you would’ve told me 3 years ago that I’d like sushi by now I probably would’ve said you’re crazy.

I still kind of struggle while eating it though.  I feel like it’s a lot to put the whole thing in your mouth at once but it’s really poor sushi etiquette to not take it all in one bite.  (I learned that on a Bobby Flay Throwdown I think).  And honestly it just looks bad if you don’t. But I feel like it’s a lot to get down and I start to swallow it before I even get to taste it. Does anyone else have this problem?

I’d love to know:

Are you a sushi fan?  

What did you have for dinner?

Resolutions: set yourself up for success

On Friday, I shared my 2012 resolutions and my 2012 resolutions spreadsheet. When deciding on my resolutions, I thought about my intentions for this year and what I wanted to achieve and then thought about what steps I could do to make them be my reality this time next year.

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions or goals yet? It’s not too late, you know. But I’m sure you don’t want them to be like this:

If you haven’t made your 2012 resolutions yet (or if even if you have), here’s some tips to help you set them (or revise them) to set yourself up for success.

When writing resolutions or setting any type of goal you want it to be SMART:

Specific–make the goal something very specific

Measurable–make the action item something you can quantify

Attainable–you want a goal that is actually within your reach

Realistic–set goals that you know you can meet or are just a bit of a stretch

Time-bound–set a time frame for your goal

For example: If your intention for 2012 is to lose weight, you’ll want to set SMART resolutions that support that intention coming true. So instead of saying “go to the gym” a SMART goal would be go to the gym 3 times per week for 45 minutes. This is

Specific–saying what you will do for how long and how often

Measurable–you can say whether or not you achieved this

Attainable–if you have a gym membership or means to get one this would be attainable

Realistic–3 times a week is do-able whereas every day may not be

Time-bound–there’s a time period in which to measure this.

And that’s that. Then you go on working toward it.

I’d love to know:

What are your SMART resolutions or goals for 2012, this month, or this week?

If you want help setting smart goals, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at thingsafterrings@gmail.com. I’m happy to help.

Resolutions 2012

I’m sure my friends will find it hard to believe that I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution before.  I’m a pretty goal oriented person and I’m all about making myself better so you’d think New Year’s resolutions would be right up my alley. But it’s true, I don’t think I’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution before.

For some reason I’m really excited for 2012.  I think it’s going to be a really good year and I’m excited to see what opportunities it brings, and what I can accomplish this year.  But I want to play a part in what the year holds and what my life will look like on January 1, 2013.  Last weekend I used my Saturday morning to draft a letter to myself in which I described exactly what I want my life to be this time next year. I used the intentions I described in my letter to form my 2012 resolutions.

My 2012 Resolutions

  • Contact each member of my family once per week
  • Entertain once per month
  • Two HH/lunch with girlfriends per month
  • Contact two out of town friends per week
  • Go shopping twice per month
  • One item off blog to-do list per month
  • Do something toward my future business once per month
  • Stick to weekly/monthly cleaning schedule (more on that later)
  • Put extra money to my lowest student loan each month
  • One date night per month
  • One item of love-to/mean-to list (a list of things that I’d love to do or have been meaning to do and just haven’t done yet)

There they are!  I’m excited for these.

None of my resolutions are earth shattering, at least I don’t think so.  But in meeting each of these resolutions I will be a little bit happier. And isn’t that what resolutions are all about?

I’d love to know:

Do you make New Year’s resolutions?  What are your resolutions for 2012?

 

PS–I’ve created a spreadsheet to track my resolutions throughout the year:

Resolutions Spreadsheet

Thanks to my friend Jen for that idea. I modeled my resolutions spreadsheet after hers.