Friday, February 29, 2008

New Living and Dining Rooms

After a week of living like this, we found some "takers" for our old furniture and they came last night for it. And a super sweet guy from church came with his truck and helped out, which was really nice.

And we now have our home back!

Here is the look at our living room, complete with a beautiful leather sectional couch, great end/coffee tables, and fabulous Frank Lloyd Wright-style lamps. The area next to our front door (upper right corner) is a little cramped, but it is well worth it for the new living room set-up.

And here is a shot from the living room into the dining room (our extra small, cramped kitchen is off to the left of the dining room, fyi). The sofa table doesn't quite (or really at all) fit behind the couch, so we've found a home for it next to the bathroom (which is off to the left of this picture). I LOVE the extra space for books! And so what if you have to turn sideways to get into the bathroom?

Back to the lamps. Isn't this great? Josh and I love this style! We have two table lamps and one floor lamp and they're beautiful.

All in all, some excellent hand-me-downs! We're really excited.

THANK YOU MOM AND DAD BROWN!

The only family member not exactly thrilled with the new furniture is the little fur-ball. He misses his chair and is currently experiencing a little bit of identity crisis.

He now thinks he is a cat.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Grocery Bill

Does anyone else wonder how in the world you spent $350 last month in groceries and yet never ate at home?

This is what rolls through my mind each and every month as I'm paying bills: We went over our grocery budget. Again. So frustrating... especially at a time when we're trying to be frugal.

We're just two people. We don't buy steak or fish that often. We eat normal food like cereal and oranges and pasta and sometimes chicken chili. And yet we're both frustrated by how much money we're able to spend buying groceries. What is the solution? Should I start cutting coupons? Shopping discount food chains? Powdered milk?

I'm looking for some advice here.

#1 What should two people expect to spend on groceries for a given month?
#2 What are your best money-saving-on-groceries tips?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ugly Clothes Week

Yesterday I set a rule for the two of us:

Wear only clothes you don't like. And that goes for jeans, shirts, underwear, and socks. And jammies.

We're headed down to South America in just 6 days (yay!) and I'm trying to get everything clean and packed. Then in just 2 days we're headed to (where else?) West Michigan to spend the weekend with college friends. We'll also get the chance to drop Riley off to "grandma and grandpa's house" and I'll work for a bit in the Grand Rapids office on Monday. We'll return to Bloomington Monday night, then leave Bloomington again at about noon the next day. Talk about whirlwind.

And since I'll have limited time to do laundry between our trip to Michigan and our trip to South America it is officially "Ugly Clothes Week" around here. We aren't allowed to wear ANYthing we're planning to take on either trip. And my goal in the meantime is to get through all of our current laundry before we leave.

So if you see us in old sweatshirts and ugly jeans, don't judge :).

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Current State of Our Apartment

So our home is in a temporary (I hope!) state of disarray. Basically, we have 2 couches (both quite large), 1 oversized chair, 2 decent sized dining room tables, a Poang chair, 6 coffee/end/sofa tables, and 12 dining room chairs stuffed into our little 1000-ish square foot townhouse. Not to mention a bookshelf, bedroom furniture, desks, and a futon.

Getting to the kitchen or the desk in the office takes some significant effort. Kind of like an obstacle course. So why in the world do we have this much furniture?

Well, my super sweet and generous in-laws decided to move and redecorate, and no longer needed some BEAUtiful furniture that we'd always liked. So they shipped it to us! We're thankful they have such good taste. The wood pieces are a great dark cherry color and a cute prairie style look. Plus a nice big leather couch. I'll take more pictures once it is all in place :).

The only problem is that it all arrived sooner than expected. Josh got a call at 7pm one evening while I was gone last week and was told they'd be there at 7:30 the next morning. So he shoved all of our existing furniture wherever he could and then loaded the new stuff around it. You can see our dining room piled high, and our office packed wall-to-wall with dining room chairs. It definitely makes things interesting!

I think some of Josh's fellow students may take the extra stuff off of our hands... thankfully!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Looking to Rent - St. Joseph, MI

So we found out that finding an apartment to rent in St. Joe for the summer is easier said than done. For one, we are not ideal tenants. True, we don't smoke, we pay rent on time, and we don't play loud music. However, we're finding that we have two significant strikes against us:

1. We only want to live there mid-May to mid-August.
2. Riley is coming with us.


And something I didn't think about: St. Joe is a resort town! EVERYONE wants to be there for the summer. There are tons of vacation rentals, but we certainly don't need a new 2500 sq. ft., 3 bedroom, on-the-beach, with-a-pool, type of place. Not by a long shot. AND we don't want to pay vacation rental prices.

And then there are a couple of complexes that gave me the heeby-jeebies. You know the kind. And I don't mean to be snobby here AT ALL. But I don't want to live in a place that isn't both:

1. Clean
2. Safe

We've simply not found anything in between "way too nice" and "kind of shady." So the search is on! We did drive through a couple normal-looking neighborhoods and found some "for rent" signs around. I'll be making some calls this week. We don't need a large space, but would like to live in a place that doesn't smell in an area where we'd feel comfortable walking Riley around.

So...

If you know of anyone with rental property in Southwest Michigan, LET ME KNOW.

Also, I'm worried that I'm wrong in all of this. Is it being snobby to want a nice-ish place to live? A part of me thinks that white, middle class folks like me tend to insulate ourselves from the problems of poverty and hunger and homelessness by choosing to live in areas where that stuff doesn't happen as much. I think it is awesome when middle/upper class people intentionally live with and serve underprivileged folks. What an awesome way to demonstrate the love of Christ. And when I read about the life of Jesus it seems like he was often intentionally spending time with and serving the poor. Shouldn't I try to be like that?

I don't know what is the right thing to do, honestly.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

One More Day!

This week I've been out of town (and yet back in my hometown) for work. I've been able to do some training, learn about some new products, and catch up with coworkers. It has been a time to get re-energized about what I do. And I love doing something I'm passionate about. I'm very thankful for this blessing.

It has also been nice to be back in the home I grew up in. Great to spend time with my parents and Benny. We even went out for sushi as a family last night to celebrate a couple of birthdays - and we had a blast!

Grand Rapids is filled with friends. I got to spend time with Kara and Natalie, am planning to meet up with a high school friend tomorrow afternoon, and tonight I spent a great time with Sarah and her family (more on that later!). Wonderful, encouraging times, and I'm thankful my business trips take me to a place where I get to see all of these people.

And I even got to take Riley with me this time.

But I MISS MY HUBBY. Can't wait to see him... TOMORROW!!

And then we'll spend a fun weekend checking out St. Joe (and hopefully finding somewhere to live all summer!) and dinner with friends we haven't seen in months. *Smiles*

Monday, February 18, 2008

Jesus For President


My Copy Came In Today!

I'd been waiting in anticipation for this book to come out. I really enjoyed Shane's last book and had long looked forward to #2.


And I have read like 2 words and am already very impressed. For one thing, the message of such a book resonates clearly with my feelings and attitudes toward politics and church and Jesus (at least I think it does... I should read it first to make sure!) And just flipping through it here at my desk... I think the amazing color interior will add volumes to the message. It just looks scrumptious. Can't wait to dig in.

In case you're curious, here is part of the Z recap:

"Jesus for President is a radical manifesto to awaken the Christian political imagination, reminding us that our ultimate hope lies not in partisan political options but in Jesus and the incarnation of the peculiar politic of the church as a people “set apart” from this world.


Drawing upon the work of biblical theologians, the lessons of church history, and the examples of modern-day saints and ordinary radicals, Jesus for President stirs the imagination of what the Church could look like if it placed its faith in Jesus instead of Caesar.


A fresh look at Christianity and empire, Jesus for President transcends questions of “Should I vote or not?” and “Which candidate?” by thinking creatively about the fundamental issues of faith and allegiance. It’s written for those who seek to follow Jesus, rediscover the spirit of the early church, and incarnate the kingdom of God. "

Stay tuned for an actual review. This is more of a preview.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

IU Flags

Seriously, this is the most excited I've ever seen a big group of people (including Lora) get about cheerleaders running around in circles with flags. SUPER big tradition at IU basketball games. It is a little crazy how much people get into it.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Movie Recommendation: Juno

For those of you who haven't seen it, this movie is terrific. One of the best that I've seen in quite a while.

Pro-life without being judgmental. Quirky without being forced. Unpredictable and HYSTERICAL. The acting and dialog are excellent. I love how the movie depicts teen pregnancy in such an honest way - and fleshes out the messyness and angst and hope and unknown about it all. It isn't overly harsh on the teenagers, but doesn't gloss over the rough aspects of such a situation either. And I have to say that I loved Rainn Wilson's (think Dwight Schrute) cameo (which you can see a portion of in the trailer below).


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What To Pack?

So we're getting super excited about our South American adventure - less than three weeks away. 10 days in a foreign country - yay! Our itinerary is filling up with horseback riding, whitewater rafting, city touring, and checking out the beautiful countryside!


(this is a big street in Buenos Aires)

And this week we found out a couple of details about the trip that made me get a little worried.

#1 People in S. America (especially Buenos Aires) don't wear shorts, baseball caps, or really anything overly casual. We'll be in there in temperatures that are similar to August/September for us. End of summer. No shorts? That limits me a bit! And if it is hot out I'm not going to be wanting jeans/pants each day. Hm... maybe I'll have to check out Target for some skirts (not that I REALLY mind an excuse to go shopping).

#2 We can each take only 1 bag. Weight limit? 33 lbs. THIRTY-THREE?!? I have a hard time with the 50 pound limit we have to abide by when we visit my in-laws in Phoenix. This will be a "bare-bones" trip, clothes-wise. Just the basics. For ten days. Hm...

So I'm wondering - if you had the limits that I have for this trip, what would you bring? Is there a "non-negotiable" piece of clothing you'd HAVE to take? Or something that is super versatile? Or that can be easily washed in a hotel room sink? What would you bring?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Valentine's Day, Continued

So after reminising with Josh last night about our first Valentine's Day as a married couple, I realized that I'd left out an important detail. After he saw my disappointment over not receiving flowers, he went to the computer and printed one out. He then traced two others and colored one in red (see above).

You see, he'd gotten me one rose our first V-day (dating), two on our second V-day together, and I figured he'd get me three on our third, which also happened to be our first V-day married. All day at work I was SO looking forward to coming home to them! In his defense, I'd told him "no presents" beforehand and he took that to mean "no flowers" either. Looking back, I can see his point.

But then, in a super sweet, cute gesture, he made me three flowers that evening. And I stuck them to the fridge.

We ended up having a bunch of fun that night, watching a movie and making/decorating cookies. Aren't they cute? We made so many I think we still had V-day cookies in our freezer in June.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Valentine's Day Date

We're not huge into Valentine's Day around here, but like to celebrate on a small-ish scale.

Actually, on our first married Valentine's Day we decided, in light of a limited budget, to let the holiday pass us by - we didn't need it, right? Then that night I came home from work and cried because I didn't get any flowers. One of my more shining moments - ha! We then decided to bake heart-shaped cookies and watch a romantic comedy. Much more my style!

Anyway, this year we're going to help out with a "Parents Night Out" event with the business school - basically providing free babysitting on Valentine's Day. Should be fun. So to celebrate the holiday we just spent the day together on Saturday. Wonderful! It involved a trip to Archiver's (yay!) and a real mall in Indy and lunch at Stir Crazy, which we decided that we liked. Our gifts? New shoes for each other (Josh's were needed, mine - not so much).

There is something so romantic for me in simple times spent together. I love it.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I Am NOT Smarter Than A 5th Grader


So last night we got together with some friends and played this new board game, based on the tv show with the same name. It involves answering grade school-type trivia correctly to move forward.
So I got to a 2nd grade geography question:
What is the capital of Canada?
A. Toronto
B. Ottawa
C. Quebec
And got it WRONG (I chose A).
How is it that I am 24 years old and do not know the capital of the next nearest country? What is my problem? Indeed, I am not even smarter than a 2nd grader.

Friday, February 8, 2008

College Days

For work this week I've been instructed to hang out at bookstores (I know, a tough life) and yesterday I spent some time in the bookstore at the IU Memorial Union. I then hiked across campus to check out another bookstore, and that walk (in the rainy nasty cold) REALLY brought me back to my own college days. The Big Ten campus. The hoards of undergrads everywhere. The long walks to class. The backpacks, UGG boots, and North Face coats. Students haven't changed much since I was at school!

Since then I've been thinking about things I miss and don't miss about college. And while I'm on the subject, include some pictures from those days.

MISS
-Christmas break and summer vacation!

-Having available time during the day - for a trip to the grocery store, to take a nap, to watch tv with roommates, etc

-Michigan football every fall

-Let me go back to NAPS during the day

-Dorm dinners (not the food - see below) but the big group of people sharing meals each evening

-Not really having bills to pay. Not many, anyway.

-My roomies! I love living with Josh, but I had a blast living with 7 other girls in a big old house - well, most of the time. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't trade it for married life for anything! I just miss seeing my friends everyday.

-Being super involved in Campus ministry. I grew SO much as a person and especially in my faith through my involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ. I even spent amazing summers in Virginia Beach and Istanbul, Turkey with them.

-Rolling out of bed, throwing on a sweatshirt and flip-flops, and heading to class. No need to get any more ready than that!

DON'T MISS

-Walking to class in the cold, the rain, the snow, and anything in between.

-Studying and writing papers - yuck. Especially on weekends.

-Being broke. All the time. $150 in a checking account (and no savings to speak of) was a good week.

-Petty arguments with roommates...

-Not being able to find parking near my house

-Cafeteria food when I lived in the dorms (except for taco night!)

-Some rough times with certain boys I was interested in

-The draftyness of the big old house we lived in.

Can anyone relate? What do you think of when you think back on your college days?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Trying To Remember This

O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

Don't be concerned. There isn't anything especially painful going on around here. I'm talking about the stress of house work, busyness, travel, running (which has not been going well lately), leading a women's group, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary. But still, I'm so prone to focus on all of those things and all there is to do and get completely overwhelmed.

Thankful for a God that cares about the grit, the mundane, and the everyday. And that He allows me to dump it all at His feet.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Monster Cookies

These are our favorite cookies and since I made a batch recently I thought I'd share the recipe. They are hearty, flavorful, and who doesn't like a mix of M&Ms, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips? I'm a huge oatmeal fan already so the combination of so many favorites is certainly a hit for me. The trick is to bake them until they're just faintly brown but mostly look undercooked. That way they stay a little gooey on the inside. We enjoy eating these (and most other cookies) frozen.




A family friend gave us a copy of her family cookbook for our wedding, and we've enjoyed great meals, desserts, and appetizers from it ever since. This is one of her recipes, with a couple of modifications.

  • 2 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 C white sugar
  • 2 sticks margarine
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 Tbl corn syrup
  • 2 1/4 C peanut butter
  • 9 C oatmeal (4 C quick, 5 C rolled)
  • 4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 bag chocolate chips
  • 1 bag butterscotch chips
  • 1 C M&Ms

Cream sugars and margarine. Add eggs and beat, then add peanut butter and corn syrup. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Drop by large tablespoons onto a cookie sheet. I sometimes leave out the M&Ms from the mix and press a couple into the top of each cookie before I bake them. Bake at 350 degrees from 8-10 minutes.


As this makes a "monster" batch I often half it and still end up with 5 dozen or so cookies :).



Sunday, February 3, 2008

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Back At It

Sorry folks... I feel like Kara for letting this blog go so long without an update.

And this will be short.

I spent Tuesday evening - Friday evening last week in Grand Rapids for work. When I worked there I always took going into the office for granted. It was a treat to work from home for the occasional afternoon. But now going in is actually kind of fun! I get to see people and catch up with co-workers. I really enjoy the people I work with, but I think it would be weird to call them on Friday afternoons from my home office and chat about weekend plans. Much easier to do when you sit across the row from them (hi, Alex!) in an office.

GR was fine except the 4ish days I was there the entire state was buried in snow. Not the most fun for driving around, especially yesterday when I had a 5.5 hour drive to look forward to. Thankfully I had no big issues and the roads were mostly fine. I DID love getting to see my brother, cousins, and friends for a little bit... it makes me miss home! It felt like "old times" to watch LOST (yay, it is back on!) with the Telmans and Buurstras. Bryan and Erika, even though you don't care for the show, we still missed you!

And now it is blissful to be back home doing homey things... grocery shopping, snuggling with Josh and Riley, watching a movie... *smile*

Tonight we're off to what is usually refered to as the "MBA Prom" (the MBA Gala) so I'd better start getting ready! Thankfully Lora came through with a dress I could borrow at the last minute. Nothing like putting things off until the last minute! But I really hate dress shopping (nothing ever fits!) and am thankful I didn't have to spend today trying to do it in a less-than-exciting mall.

I'll post some pictures of the event tomorrow :)