Book Challenge by Erin: Book Choices

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


 I've had a really crap reading year this year and I really want to change that next year.  So starting January 1st, I will be participating in Erin's book challenge.  These are my picks for this challenge, which are subject to change, of course.

Book Challenge by Erin 8.0 - Categories
• 5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages:
TBD

• 10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “L”:
Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay

• 10 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) red cover:
The Royal We by Heather Cocks

• 15 points: Read a book with a character’s name in the title (i.e. Jane Eyre, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, We Need to Talk about Kevin, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Harry Potter books, etc.):
Marlena by Julie Buntin

• 20 points: Read a book from this list: Book Riot’s 100 Must-Read Books with Plot Twists https://bookriot.com/2017/04/11/100-books-with-plot-twists/ (who doesn’t love a good plot twist??): Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

• 20 points: Read a book with the words “house” or “home” in the title:
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout

• 25 points: Read a book by an author whose first and last name begins with the same letter (i.e. Cassandra Clare, Melina Marchetta, Ransom Riggs, Chris Cleave, etc.):
Ashfall by Mike Mullin

• 30 points: Read a book that was originally published in a different language than your own (submitted by Kirsten)
  Bear Town by Frederik Backman

• 30 points: Read a book where most of the action takes place on a form of transportation i.e. bus, boat, car, plane, etc. (submitted by Bev):
TBD or Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

• 35 points: Read a book with a character that suffers from a debilitating physical illness (submitted by Amber C.):
 Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

101 in 1001: November Update

Monday, November 13, 2017


Since Josh and I are committed to getting out of debt before we PCS from NY, a lot of the items on my list are not going to happen.   I'm still going to see how far I can get with this list before the end date despite financial limitations.  These last few months haven't been too productive for me as I have spent so much time working and counting down the days until the end of deployment.

Completed

Visit Syracuse: My sister and I went to Syracuse when she came to visit.  We really didn't see anything, we just went to the mall, Destiny USA, for a comedy show.   We really enjoyed the Comedy show, and the mall is huge!

Do the Declutter Challenge: I didn't do the challenge that I originally planned to do, but I did do the 30 Day Minimalism Challenge.

In Progress

Pay off one student loan: I am so excited to say that we are halfway through paying off my first student loan!  I was hoping to have it paid off by the end of the year, but with Christmas coming up I think the end of January is more realistic.  

Book Reviews: August - October

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


To put it lightly, I'm having a crap reading year.  I just haven't had time or focus.  So, I decided to do reviews a few months at a time rather than once a month.


I loved this book and I can't wait to finish the series!  My favorite part of this book was definitely the characters - mostly Lila.  There are very few female characters like her.  I also really love the world (or worlds, I guess) that the author is building.  I've never read anything quite like this before, and I highly recommend this book.

I gave this book 4/5 on GoodReads


To be honest, the whole time I was reading this, I was picturing the old guy from UP.  I loved reading Ove's story getting to know the man behind the curmudgeon exterior.  Its a great story about how different life events shape us over the years.  I also loved meeting all of the quirky people that came into Ove's life.  The characters are what really makes this book great.  I highly recommend this book to anyone.

I gave this book a 5/5 on my GoodReads.


This was one of those books I just did not want to put down!  I really love how to book is done - you kind of know what happens because the book begins with a raid on Clara's home.   However, the switching between "now" and "then" really helps the reader understand Clara and get a better look at her life and her situation.  This book was a bit hard to read at times and a bit disturbing, but a powerful look into the horrors of human trafficking.  I'd recommend this book to anyone looking for a good and different thriller.

I gave this book a 4/5 on my GoodReads


These books are typical teen romance Twilighty types of books.  However, the writing is better and the characters are so much better.   Katy can be a bit annoying but isn't as much as a pushover as Bella and Dee is the kind of friend everyone wants to have.  I also like the idea of Aliens better than vampires.  This series is not super fantastic or anything but it's enjoyable enough for me to keep reading.   I liked the second book better than the first, so I hope the series keeps getting better.

I gave these books a 3/5 on my GoodReads.


I was a bit let down by this book.  I decided to borrow this book because I read that it was "13 Little Blue Envelopes" meets "Gilmore Girls", but I totally didn't get that from this book at all.  The main character was a complete spoiled brat and I found her to be totally annoying though the whole book. I did enjoy the supporting characters and the traveling, which I think is what saved the book for me.  I wouldn't pick this up if you're looking for something great, but it was fine to pass the time. 

I gave this book a 3/5 on my GoodReads.


This isn't my normal kind of book but it was enjoyable enough.  It was a slow burn romance - emphasis on SLOW.  It was about 150 pages longer than it really needed to be, so some parts were a bit boring and it got a little repetitive at times.  I found it hard to get through until about halfway through, then it got more enjoyable and not quite so monologue-ish.  It was an OK book but I wouldn't recommend it unless romance is your thing.

I gave this book a 3/5 on my GoodReads.


Everyone raves about this book but I really don't get the big deal.  I feel like this book was trying to do and be too much all at once - I felt like I was getting whiplash reading it.  I didn't really like any of the characters and I feel like the ending was rushed.  I gave this book 3 stars because I thought it started out pretty good.  I just feel like there was a lot of potential for this story but I'm not thrilled with the direction it went.

I gave this book a 3/5 on my GoodReads.  

Book Reviews: May 2017

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


I know, I am WAY far behind on book reviews! Hopefully I'll catch up soon, but until then, here are my book reviews for May.


This book was not at all what I thought it was going to be, but I still enjoyed it.  While I think it could have been better, I do like that they go into some of the parts of life that are important to living a minimalist lifestyle.  This book is a good starting point for anyone interested in or curious about minimalism.    I feel like it could have been better if they didn't constantly repeat the "we left the corporate world for the simple life" thing.  I got it after the first 3 times.  I also feel like they could have gone into much more detail regarding each of the five core values.  Overall, I feel like this book is worth reading, just don't expect all kinds of tips and tricks to getting rid of things - it's not that kind of book.

I gave this book a 3/5 on my Goodreads.


This is every book lovers dream! I mean, how cool would it be to be able to jump into books?!?  I really liked the main characters and the Scottish setting of this book.  I really love how, even though the jumpers couldn't interrupt the story, they were still able to interact with characters in the margins of the books.  This book was translated from German and I do think some things were lost in translation which left some plot holes, but overall an enjoyable book.  The ending was a big rushed and a lot was left unresolved which makes me wonder if there is going to be a sequel.   I'd definitely recommend reading this book :)

I gave this book a 4/5 on my GoodReads.

Life Update

Thursday, October 5, 2017


I have literally not been in the mood to blog for weeks!   Other than my debt free updates and a few book reviews, I honestly don't know how much I'll be blogging in the next few months.  Who knows, maybe inspiration will strike soon.  For now, here is what's been going on in the last few months.

At the end of August I had some visitors.  My Mom, brother, and mom's boyfriend came for a few days.  They were here for 3 nights and we packed quite a bit of activity into those few days.  The night they got here we met at Maggies on the River for some dinner since the drive took longer tahn they thought.  The first full day we were expecting rain (which we did get) so we went early to the Thompson Park Zoo, which I'd never been too.  It's small but also inexpensive and my brother really enjoyed it.  Since we knew it was going to rain, we decided to do something super quick afterwards and went to the Burrville Cider Mill for some apple cinnamon donuts and waterfall pictures.  We spent the rest of the day at the house catching up.   The second day we did the boat tour of the Thousand Islands along with Boldt Castle.   After that we did wine tastings at Thousand Islands Winery and Coyote Moon.  Bolt LOVED having visitors and soaked up every second of extra lovin's.


At the end of September I went home to Maryland for 5 days.  The main event was my friend Laurie's wedding, but I packed so much into those five days.  Thursday I arrived around 230, got my eyebrows waxed and headed straight to Rosedale for the Rehearsal.  They had the rehearsal dinner at their house which was nice because it was super laid back.  The next day was supposed to be a relaxing day but that didn't end up happening.  I made an appointment to get new tires at 830 which was fine because the place was less than 2 minutes from my Mom's house.  I ended up walking across the street to Kohl's which wasn't open so I read outside until it did open.  Once I was done there I got some breakfast at Panera, deposited a paycheck at the bank, and walked back to NTB right as they were pulling my car out of the garage.  Talk about perfect timing!   I got home and read for a bit before going shopping for wedding and baby shower gifts with my sister.  We had spaghetti dinner with Mom before I had to head back to Rosedale to get my nails done with Laurie and the girls.  Saturday was wedding day!  It was a great day and everything went great - I'm so happy for Laurie and Rupert!  And for Bella who gained a Step-Dad.  After the wedding my sister and I went to see my Dad and then went to dinner at Applebee's with my Mom.  Sunday was another super packed day.  I started the day at Breakfast with Melissa and Nicole (my old co-workers), then my cousins baby shower (she is due in November), and ended the day at Vicky's house hanging out with her and Heather.  I also got to meet Mason, Vicky's newest little one.  It was a super packed day but I'm so glad I was able to see everyone!  Monday morning I went to see my Dad before heading back home.

Friday morning I woke up with Mom before she went to work and she told me that my Dad was in the hospital.  Once I was able to get hold of him I found out it was a heart attack.  This is his second one so if prayers are your thing, he could definitely use them.


The following weekend Rupert and Laurie came to stay for the weekend.  They didn't do a full honeymoon because they couldn't spend the whole week away from Bella.  I had offered my house to Laurie a few months back and she decided to take me up on the offer.   We did pretty much the same things I did when mom came up.  We did wine tastings, went to the castle, they did the boat tour, went to the cider mill, and ate at Maggie's and Texas Roadhouse.  We also took a short detour to Sackets Harbor so they could see Lake Ontario.   It was a great weekend and they had a good time exploring.  I also tried to give them some time to do things themselves (such as the boat tour).


Other than those three weekends my life has pretty much been nonstop work, and finally getting back to the gym.  But on the bright side, this deployment is almost over!! :)

Getting Out of Debt: Second Update

Monday, September 4, 2017


It's time for my second Debt Free update!  I still feel like quarterly updates are best for right now so that is what I'm going to continue to do throughout 2017 and I'll re-evaluate in 2018.

June Progress:  

Unfortunately, the weeks at the end of May and beginning of June were not very good for my debt snowball.  Mostly because I wasn't getting any hours at Fridays and that is where most of my snowball income comes from.  I also had a friend visit, so some of the money from the snowball went towards activities and gas while she was visiting.  We also had some Army stuff come up that we had to cover (big surprise there).  I was able to pick up a few hours here and there and put about $101 towards the debt.   Not much progress, but better than nothing ... and we didn't add any debt, so that's always a win!

July Progress: 

On July 7th, I put $530 extra towards the debt which accumulated between June 23rd and July 6th.   In July, I decided that I was being dumb and that I should go back to Dave Ramsey's original plan of ordering my debts smallest to largest.  I looked at what I put on my $6000 debt last quarter combined with what I put on my lowest debt this quarter, and I was just shaking my head.  I could have just about had my lowest debt paid off by now.  So, hopefully by next update, I can say I paid off debt #1 and made a significant dent in debt #2 (this part was written before we got our back sep pay)!   In July I also cut up all of my credit cards and closed every account accept the one I still owe on (which is the one that should be paid off soon).

On the 10th, we had what could have been a major issue.  Josh was in Budapest at an ATM and a drunk person bumped into him and he accidentally withdrew $550!  Of course, it's going to be weeks (possibly months) before he can put that money back in the account (story of my life).  Luckily I had the emergency fund and could transfer the money over to cover the bill that was set to come out the next day.  Despite that, over the course of the month I was able to put an extra $535 onto our debts this month!  $16.45 was from sales at the thrift shop (they distribute checks on the first of each month) and the rest was a mix of pay from Fridays and money left over in our budget.  I also put $200 back into our savings to help replenish our emergency fund after the Hungary debacle, just for my peace of mind.  Once he is able to put the money back, I'll take $200 of it and put it on the snowball.

August Progress: 

In August,  WE PAID OFF OUR CREDIT CARD!!!  When I decided to switch back to Dave Ramsey's original plan and go smallest to largest, we had about $1915 on our credit card.  This all accumulated during our move and we're over it.  We had so many unexpected expenses when I didn't have a job and it all went on the card. We put a washer and dryer on it, then both our registrations came due which we forgot about, and the last thing was my cell phone randomly dying - I had to pay off my old phone.  We finally got our back-pay for family separation, which was enough to pay off the credit card and then some!  I had trouble deciding what to do with the extra money and decided it was best to put it to the side for a bit since I'll have the expenses of boarding my dog in September and I had his shots and physical appointment at the end of August.  I just want to be sure everything is covered and then if we're all good, I'll throw that money back on to the snowball!

Since we paid off our credit card, our next debt is my federal student loan.  This loan is $3,778 as of August 1st.  We are hoping to have it paid off before Josh gets home or by the end of the year at the latest.   So far, we've been able to put an extra $345 towards that student loan.  That's after I saved the money I'll need to board Bolt in September, and after I paid for his checkups and shots.  I was also able to budget for my Mom's visit at the end of the month.

Goals Update

I feel really great about my goals since the last update!  We've really started working together on this (even from halfway across the globe!) and I feel really good about our chances of getting this debt paid off before we PCS in 2019, or slightly after at the latest.

Start Meal Planning// I wouldn't say I meal plan, per se but I am much more intentional with what I buy.  I've gotten myself in the mindset of "the commissary is literally 1 minute away, you can go back if you forget something".   I was in the habit of buying more than I needed "just in case" and this mindset has really helped me to get out of that.  The commissary is literally right down the road and Walmart is only a five minute drive.

Sell Things We Don't Need/Declutter//  Still majorly winning with this one! Through June and July I was definitely purging things, but I really kicked it into high gear in August when I did the 30 day minimalism game.  I was able to (just about) complete the challenge and get rid of about 465 items!  I am so happy with my progress on this.  I am also happy to say that I have made money each month from the thrift shop on post - some months more than others, but I'll take what I can get! 

Work on a Written Budget// Win!  Dave Ramsey says to do monthly budget meetings, but because my income is highly irregular, we do a budget every two weeks.  The first few times were rocky, especially since Josh has to buy food every day in Europe.  I started keeping track of his food spending and was able to work it into the budget and talk to him about trying to stay around a target amount.  I do always budget for a bit more than I think he'll need, just to be on the safe side.  Anything left over just goes towards debt, so it works out.  Now I've pretty much got it down to a science.  It only takes me a few minutes to work out the budget for two weeks.  I get paid every week, so my second paycheck in the two week budgeting period is used for unexpected expenses (like someone accidentally pulling out $550), and whatever is remaining goes right onto debts the day Josh gets his next paycheck.   I love budgeting and it's working out really well (up until the very end of the month which I don't want to talk about right now)!

Work Two Jobs// I really can't win with jobs in New York and it's frustrating AF!  I still have the new job but it's very seasonal so I know I'm hardly going to get any hours over the winter which is fine by me because the management is the worst!  I went down to 2 days per week at that job and am currently training to be a server at Fridays, which will be more money.  I took an interview for a security job, but it just wasn't for me for a lot of reasons, so I turned it down.  I am still actively searching for something in the Criminal Justice field, but after a year of searching I'm pretty close to giving up.  It's more than a little discouraging.  I am happy with the decision to start serving, even though I know it's going to be a major test of my very limited patience for people.

When We're Debt Free

Monday, August 28, 2017


One of the things that has really been motivating me in our debt free journey is thinking of what we'll be able to do once we aren't giving our money to lenders every month.  I listen to people doing their debt free screams talk about how they now can do things they never imagined and I can't wait to be at that point.  I can't imagine not having to scramble to find a job next time we move, but we're sure working hard to make that our reality!

Volunteering

There have been several volunteer positions that I applied for and "interviewed" for but they always conflicted with my work schedule.  Work at a job I really didn't like that did add any value to my life other than monetary.   I wanted to volunteer at the SPCA up here in New York but I work way too much and I can't just leave Bolt for 15 hours a day while Josh is gone.   The one that killed me the most was having to turn down an opportunity to volunteer at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.   I ended up starting my old job back in MD right around when I was supposed to do orientation to volunteer.  I just couldn't work out my schedule.  It killed me to not be able to do something I really wanted to do, in order to make money to pay lenders.

Traveling

This has to be the most obvious one on the list. The first thing we're going to do when we get out of debt (besides get our emergency fund together) is save for an epic trip!  I want to be able to travel and not be stressing about money the whole time I'm planning the trip.  I want the entire trip to be paid for before we go.  I want to really enjoy each experience and not have to say no to things we really want to do just because we don't have the money.  Top on my list are a trip to the UK and Ireland or an Alaskan Cruise - where we end up moving next will determine where we travel to.

Donating

 There are so many organizations I want to donate to! Beagle Freedom Project is a big one.  To be honest, pretty much any organization that helps animals is something I want to donate to, haha!  Once we have no payments, we'll be able to allocate a percentage of our monthly budget towards donating to a worthy cause.

Taking Time to Find a Job

When we moved to Fort Drum I NEEDED to find a job, so I took the first one that was offered to me.  Don't get me wrong, most days I enjoy working at Fridays and I love my coworkers, but it's definitely not where I wanted to be working at 28 years old.  When we move, I want to be able to take the time to find a job that I enjoy and hopefully one that utilizes my degree.  As The Minimalists say, I want to find a job that adds value to my life, not a job I hate that pays good money so that I can pay lenders.

School

I really want to go back to school, like, yesterday.  After taking a few Law classes while getting my Criminal Justice degree I decided I really wanted to go into that field.  I don't want the cost or the time it takes to go to law school, so I'm going to go for a Paralegal degree.   Josh and I decided to get out of debt before I pursue a degree.  The MyCAA program will cover a good bit but we will have to cash flow some of it.  I think this is the one thing I'm most excited about, besides travel, of course.

Building Retirement

Along with Dave Ramsey's podcast, I have been listening to Chris Hogans Retire Inspired podcast.  I really can't wait to start investing in our future.  Now that I really understand the areas of investing that I want to get into, I am excited rather than nervous!  It makes me so happy to hear about people who make the same amount of money as us who have worked hard through the years and are now really enjoying their retirement!
Hayley Larue Design