The Beauty of the Northern Mitten

My absolute favorite picture from my trip

My absolute favorite picture from my trip

Spring Break 2014…

After the kids’ Christmas break from school, I decided that we should probably NOT be cooped up in this house again together for another whole week, so I planned a getaway.  Most people from Michigan head south for Spring Break.  But I am not most people.  😉

I reserved a week at the Shanty Creek Vacation Club II (I think this is actually a timeshare, but I get deals on unused rooms through work).  The room had a full studio apartment-type kitchen with a balcony and fireplace so it sounded like a perfect spot to me.

Our original plan was to take a couple of day trips to Traverse City and then across the Mackinac Bridge and maybe head to the island.  Well, I didn’t realize that NOTHING is running or open during the first week in April.  And to make matters worse, the ungodly cold winter meant much of the water was still solid ice.  I got a little worried that I really messed this up and that we would be totally bored.

Boy was I wrong.  🙂

Not only did we have an amazing time, I saw my home state in a way I never have before.  I have been MORE than vocal about the “beef” I have with Mother Nature after this winter.  But I found that I not only enjoyed the cold and continued winter weather on this vacation, I actually found sheer and utter beauty in it.

I also learned quite a bit about myself.  I realized that I am even more of a creature of creativity than I thought.  I also realized that I enjoy being an artist.  I am usually horrible at taking pictures, but I apparently developed my “eye” for Kodak moments on this trip.

If I had to sum up this vacation in one word, it would be appreciation.  This getaway helped me appreciate my family, the weather, the state, other people, and myself.

There was no sun, flip flops, or drinks on the beach, but it was my best. vacation. EVER.

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DISCLAIMER – I expect the Peninsula “Purists” to point out that I never crossed the bridge so this technically isn’t Northern Michigan.  Noted.  Thank you.  Now shut up and stop ruining my vacation memories.  😉

DISCLAIMER #2 – To add a little perspective in case you aren’t completely in awe, I took all of the pictures with my phone.  About half were from a moving vehicle.  You may now gasp, oooh, or sigh.  😀


28-Day No Spending Challenge

Nerd  ;)

$$$ Mo’ Money $$$

Near the end of January, I stumbled across an article titled Why I Make My Bed from a cool site called Living Well Spending Less.  The article made a lot of sense to me and got me really motivated to get more organized at home.  As I started to peruse the site, I came across 31 Days of Living Well & Spending Zero.  It described a challenge to spend no money, with the exception of absolute necessities.  You may recall that one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to recognize my wants versus needs regarding my finances.  So I was GEEKED to read about the challenge and how much people were able to save over just one month.  I got pretty excited, and realized that February is only 28 days, so I decided that we would try it!  (See what I did there?  I decided that WE – my entire family – would try it.  HA!)

On the site, there are 31 days of ideas and activities to save money and get more organized.  For example, one of the first activities is to clean out the pantry.  This meets 2 objectives – you get to organize your pantry AND you inventory what you have in there so that you can plan meals with the food you have instead spending money on more.  HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!  After reading through all 31 days, I was IN!

Here are some of the tactics I used:

  • I cashed in my credit card reward points for $200 worth of gas cards
  • I planned meals around what I had in the pantry, fridge, and freezers.
  • We took back cans and bottles (embarrassingly, these had been accumulating for quite some time and totaled nearly $50).
  • We used any coupons and gift cards we could get our hands on.
  • I gave up buying my morning coffee at work.  DH gave up lunches out as well as after work age appropriate beverage gatherings.  (Was that clear enough?  😉 )
  • We explained to the kids what we were trying to do and they used their own Christmas money for anything they needed money for at school.
  • We cut out all of our entertainment costs – no movies, restaurants, or other non-essentials.
  • We also submitted for reimbursement of one of our flexible spending accounts we paid into the year before.  (I’m aware that this isn’t something available to everyone, but the point of this exercise was to get stuff paid off so it made sense to do it at the same time.)

I saved 30% of my grocery costs, 100% on gas costs, and all but $40 of entertainment costs (Valentine’s Day – Got each of my girls the Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bows with Arrows.  We had so much fun with them that I decided they were worth every penny.) and I paid off all of our medical bills, credit card balances, one school loan, and extra on the mortgage payment.  I estimated that we saved nearly $1000 over the course of those 4 weeks.  BOOM!

The other part of the challenge is about getting organized and de-cluttering.  Although I didn’t have as much time for all of the changes recommended my the site as I would have liked, I found that I am much calmer in a cleaner, more organized, free-of-junk mail/Legos/Barbie crap-type of environment.  I’ll have to try and tackle more of that another month.

What I found really interesting through this challenge is what I learned from it.  I realized that when I forced myself to stop spending, my perspective changed… A LOT.  I realized how easily I justify spending money.  I also realized that it’s much easier to stop spending than I thought.  When I forced myself to stop, I came up with all sorts of ways to save money.

All in all, it was an excellent experience and I did exactly what I hoped I could.  GO ME!!!  🙂

Random Thoughts – 4/4/2014

Hi there!!!!!  I missed you guys!!!!!  Today’s thoughts…

  1. I had the craziest dream about sweeping up ants with my vacuum in my living room.  I woke up and went to the kitchen to make coffee and there were ANTS on my COUNTER!  How freaky is that?!?!
  2. Eating bone broth soup for breakfast is my new “jam.”  It’s become one of my favorite things.
  3. Related note #1:  Except for fried plantains.  That is my true new favorite thing.  And I also had some of those for breakfast.
  4. Related note #2:  And Melanie Fiona.  She is my true TRUE new favorite thing.
  5. Related note #2a:  I’m aware she is not new.  She’s just new to me.  I’m getting old so I have no idea what is cool until it’s already “so last year.”
  6. My youngest told me this morning, “Mom, sometimes you act just a little bit crazy (this was complete with finger measurement) and you kind of don’t act like a mom.”
  7. Related note again:  That was a HUGE compliment to me.  😀
  8. It’s super foggy and weird outside here today.  Kind off surreal.
  9. I miss writing on here.  I’ve been so busy and tired.  But I have several draft posts that I am hoping to work on and publish this week because I’M ON VACATION.  WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  10. Related note (srsly?):  That “woo” just made me sound like a college student on Spring Break.  Yuck.  (And now my daughter’s comment makes much more sense to me.  Doh.)