Friday, May 28, 2010

no ticks, please

Tomorrow morning we go camping. 

I wouldn't really call us outdoorsy people. We hate fishing, hunting and I hate all things water. I'm more of a s'mores, hot dogs and lemonade kind of camper. Basically a weekend-long picnic. I find the concept of camping quite odd, in general. We load up our car with an entire apartment worth of supplies, spend hours setting it all up, eat crappy food, refuse to shower and come home only to peel ticks from our scalps and have our hair smell like smoke for days.

As I was writing this, we found out Shea has to have an emergency root canal for an abscess tooth. Which explains why he was swigging alcohol the last few days. I just thought he was trying to fit in with our neighbors. Anyway, this might change the plans, or at least the menu. Any suggestions for soft, main dishes? I'm thinking grilled cheese and tomato soup. And lots of pudding cups.

Away we will go to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, after dropping the yappy dog off at his own weekend resort.

Hello, beautiful. 

Memorial Day weekend goals:

1. Rent bikes and ride by pretty things. Ride enough miles that my butt is sore but not enough that I fall off and get scrapes all over my body.

2. Eat watermelon, s'mores, hot dogs and grilled cheese. Also, I want some soft-serve ice cream.

3. Buy local picture book for our vacation book collection. We will be spending a day in the adorable town.

4. Do not get any ticks in my body. Or near my body. Or on my clothes.

5. Slow down and enjoy the pretty Ozark mountains. Do not think about work, things I need to do or any upcoming trips. Just enjoy the fact we're alive, outside in the summer and happily married.

Have a fabulous weekend, my friends!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

seed-spittin' craving

All I can think about is watermelon.

I've had little tastes during  meetings where I selfishly fish through the fruit bowl for those watery red cubes. And since we're going camping this weekend where I can let the juices drip all over the ground instead of my clothes, eating as much as possible is my top priority. Plus I am fairly certain I can spit farther than the hubs.

Turns out, watermelon is also good for you and not just for hydration.

Health benefits
- Excellent source of Vitamin C and beta carotene. Also, watermelon is the lycopene king which is a potent antioxidant. The concentration is highest compared to any other fruit or vegetable.
- High in citrulline, which is a necessary amino acid to make other amino acids. It also relaxes the blood vessels along with its partner arginine, which is the same effect of the drug Viagra. So if you're in need...
- High concentration of Vitamin B6, which promotes brain activity that helps you cope with anxiety.
- Sweet taste but very low in calorie = great for cravings!

Or you can infuse it with vodka if you don't care about the hydration factor. Find out how here.

Fun fact: Most commercial watermelons are grown in Russia though the watermelon originated in Southern Africa. Want to know more? Check out the World Healthiest's Foods site for nutritional info and history of what you're eating.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

finding a love for healthy food

Like anyone needs to read another thing about dieting. That being said, in the last year we've really developed a rhythm of eating healthy. So to continue eliminating lame excuses, here are the battles I face and why they don't need to be so tough.

Breakfast isn't that important. 
I always thought when I didn't eat breakfast and ate a small lunch that I was doing myself a favor. After all, that's a lot of calories I am eliminating. Turns out, I actually lost weight when I ate breakfast because my body wasn't freaking out that I would lose my wagon's food supply while fording the river. I had to find my magic calorie range that made my metabolism confident it was in good hands. One of my motivations for running in the morning is that I have time when I get home for an awesome breakfast. My favorites: poached egg, half an English muffin with peanut butter and cut up bananas or old fashioned oatmeal with almonds and brown sugar.

I'll start eating healthy tomorrow.
Except you'll say that the day after tomorrow, too. And you've probably been saying that for years. Adding just 100 calories each day will give you 10 more pounds on the scale at the end of the year. That's two cookies, a piece of sliced cheese or a handful of chips. Plus as the years increase, the metabolism decreases. Five years ago I could put away five pieces of pizza and a Dr. Pepper and never gain a pound. Now after a weekend of crap eating, I'm up by three or four pounds. Word on the street is it only gets worse.

As long as it's healthy, I can eat as much as I want.
This is my biggest trap. I'll make whole wheat spaghetti, and then eat double what I would normally. Although it's better when it comes to categorizing carbs and providing energy during my morning run, it's not really any less caloric. Then I try to bargain with myself. "Well I had an apple for lunch so I can have this cupcake for dinner." Which, I can. But, it's all about the bottom line. If I go over my body's calorie needs, I will gain weight. I can run off a cupcake in the morning but two servings of spaghetti plus garlic bread is more than I can run before I have to get to work. So I play tricks on myself. I put away the leftovers before we sit down to the table. I use salad plates instead of dinner ones. I send cupcakes to work with Shea so we only have a few for ourselves. And we just don't buy junk. No cookies in plastic trays, no boxes of crackers (surprisingly horrrrrible for you), bags of chips or juices/sodas. I don't miss it either, and now I've even been known to crave fruit. The thought! 

I don't like how healthy food tastes.
I LOVE healthy food, now that I know what to do with it. I'd never cooked with butternut squash, kale, turnip greens, fresh herbs, whole wheat flour or  ground turkey before this year. But I've learned how to delete and replace. I much prefer the taste of whole wheat to white. I can't tell a different between egg whites or margarine and their higher-fat counterparts. And if it will make a difference? I just don't make it, at least not often. Aside from spaghetti and turkey burgers, I haven't made the same recipe twice in a month. That's how many healthy ones there are out there!

I'd rather enjoy my life than live longer.
I would argue that we enjoy life more now that we're eating healthy and working out. Earlier this week, we went to Coldstone Creamery. But instead of ice cream, I got fat-free sorbet (only 160 calories) with chocolate chips. I don't miss fast food. When I eat healthy, I truly do feel better. My skin looks healthier. I have more energy. I don't get bloated (except when I eat carrots). And when we do get dessert or go on a Sonic run, it tastes 10 times better. Plus, I am more confident and when Shea tells me I have a sexy bod, I believe it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

you are not too tired

The more committed we get to working out and eating better, the more I notice lame excuses for eating junk and being lazy. I wouldn't really call us disciplined - I spend way too much time on Facebook and watching Arrested Development for that to be true. And it's not like we don't have cravings or get tired. We do. But we've decided it's important to us and really, we just feel really amazing when we work out consistently, and who doesn't want to feel amazing?!

So, on your quest to be amazing, let me render your excuses lame.

I don't have time to work out.
Even though the exercise recommendations can be intimidating, every little bit helps. Walking on your lunch break, taking the dog around the neighborhood to do his business rather than right outside the front door. Bonus: He pees on someone else's grass! I'm a strong believer in creating a routine, and for us that's worked out to be 5:45 a.m. - 7 a.m. is exercise time. What would we be doing otherwise? Going out with friends and seeing movies? Working? I don't think so!

A gym membership is too expensive.
Luckily God created the outside. And exercise DVDs. And Wii fits. And magazines and books that tell you workouts you can do in  your living room. Then there are the walking trails, swimming pools and backyards. Plus, large bouncing balls. Often gym memberships aren't that bad. We pay $35/month for two of us. I know people who pay less than $20. If you're cutting out the chips, crackers and cookies anyway, there's your membership fee!

I work hard enough in my everyday life.
You probably don't. Even with our amateur running routine, we struggle to create the calorie deficit needed to lose weight, and we run 45 minutes five days a week, at least! The American College of Sports Medicine says you need at least 50 minutes of exercise five days a week to lose any weight. If you're just looking to maintain, you still need 30 minutes each day, and that's only if you're eating the right amount of calories. Which, you're probably not. (more on this tomorrow) The Institute of Medicine actually recommends 60 minutes per day. That's moderate exercise, which means at least walking, and it doesn't count if you're walking toward a candy aisle. Bottom line: going about your daily life is probably not enough unless you've really worked at creating exercise in your normal activities. The guidelines change every year but you'll never hear that you actually need less exercise. You can stop waiting for that one.

I'm too tired!
Perhaps valid, but Mayo Clinic (the royalty of health care) would tell you that exercise actually gives you MORE energy and makes you sleep BETTER. It's true for me. When I don't work out, I want to sleep at my desk. Sleepiness makes me want to eat things like Doritos. And since I don't have Doritos, that would require me to go to a gas station to buy some, which is a waste of money and gas and calories. And when I don't work out, I watch TV til 11 p.m. because I am not tired. And then I am too tired to work out the next morning. Then? I get fat.

It hurts too much.
Yep! But then it won't as much and then it won't at all. And when it does, you'll actually like it. Unless you have old running shoes like me and your toes won't uncurl. Reversible don't worry. Running shoe store here I come! If running hurts, then start by walking fast. If walking fast hurts, then walk slow. If walking hurts, then swim or bike or lie in bed and kick your legs up in the air.

I just need to go on a diet.
What you eat IS more important than what you do for exercise if you're trying to just lose pounds. But, dieting alone won't do it. A study done this year showed that combined with a good diet, exercise was a key factor in weight loss. When you reduce calories but don't work out, your body actually slows down to conserve energy because it thinks there is a potato famine. This study was done on monkeys not the usual rats. Totally more legit.

See you on the other side of lazy ;)

Monday, May 24, 2010

LOST characters + Bruce Willis --> OMG, we're dead.

Obligatory caveat: I know that I am in the minority for saying that I think LOST is a terrible, terrible show. I'm glad most of you find joy in it. Yay for you! The comments in this post are not meant to attack you personally so don't get all defensive and call me an "other."

I am snobby when it comes to TV shows. My favorites are West Wing and Gilmore Girls because of their fast, snappy dialog. I tried LOST. The first season ranked somewhere between my love for Cake Boss and reruns of Boy Meets World. I stopped watching sometime in Season 3, and surprise, did not have any withdrawal effects. I've never felt incomplete not knowing what was up with the jungle whispers, the smoke monster or weirdo Jacob. Nor did I miss the incredibly intelligent dialogue; "I'm going to kill you. How? That's a surprise."

But alas, I love my husband more than I hate LOST so I attended a finale party. (I got a free t-shirt that I am auctioning off. $5 anyone?) We had the displeasure of sitting in front of a family who loved LOST and didn't understand the difference between a private living room TV watching and public viewing.

They were a script writer's dream filling in the dramatic silences with "uh oh!" "Go Jack!" "you go girl" "bottoms up" and "he sure doesn't look happy." 

My favorite, though, being when Jack opens his father's coffin and annoying mother yells, "It's empty!!!" Really? You didn't see that coming? Has Jack's father not appeared in various degrees of aliveness throughout this entire stupid show? Not only is he "OMG alive" but he eventually exits the church through Jesus-like rays of sunshine. Death, resurrection...that's been done.

Speaking of light. As our hero Jack was lying on the side of the mysterious light which is never to be explained  and seems to have little significance because surprise, we all died anyway, I got the incredibly strong urge to yell "DIE, Jack, DIE." So I wrote it in big letters on my napkin. Which as a fan of the show, I am sure Shea really appreciated my support.

Then the dramatic ending with all that hugging, smiling and deadness. Thank goodness the hugging fest only went on for the last 10 minutes of the show because I was getting a bit worried for the lady next to me whose shoulders were convulsing as she was gasping for air through her tears. I hope she hasn't watched The Sixth Sense yet, because (spoiler alert!) Bruce Willis is dead, too.

It's all over. *Tear* I'm so pleased that the island did not fall off into the ocean due to the fact Jack placed the giant pistol back into the hole of light. And I'm extremely relieved that every character realized they are in fact dead, and they are in some parallel reality. Or are they? Is there really a "now?"

Now we can start planning for LOST: The Lost Years!

P.S. I genuinely enjoyed the Target commercials. Props.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

welcoming summer in style

I don't know if I could have really asked for more in a weekend.

For starters, it's 85 and sunny, which is pretty much my perfect weather. Sadly I didn't think ahead and wore a little t-shirt meaning I have a super sweet tan line across the middle of my arm. Note to self: must get rid of this before I wear sleeveless dress in two weeks.

Friday night we celebrated various occasions such as grad school admittance, passing classes, moving to Italy, and general summer euphoria with a Boulevard Sampler pack, tacos and a dueling piano bar. Somehow I ended up dancing on stage due to a well-intentioned blond girl despite the fact I tried to convince her it was Layne's birthday. Another horrified victim pleaded with me to stay on stage, so I did until I saw my opening and exited stage right.

Saturday, after I got my $1 flip flops at Old Navy, we went to the Great American Barbecue Festival where for an unknown reason we "came at the right time" and got in free. Forty bucks in savings! Woo! Plus there was this dude who kept wanting to take pictures with us. He looks oddly like the guy who won Biggest Loser a couple season ago. If it is you, Jerry, maybe you should stay away from things like barbecue fests.

We ate yummy sandwiches, drank real root beer and people watched, including a rib-eating contest - a great display of American culture.

After the sun and meat, Shea and I headed to KC Juice, which might be our new favorite treat. (Sorry, Sonic Chiller.) It's like Jamba Juice but even healthier. I got the World Cup which was cranberry, raspberry, orange sherbet and bananas. SO good. Kansas City peeps - it's a great locally owned place in Westport. Plus does the body good! Go there.

Sunday after our run, I had brunch with one of my favorite friends, Wendy, at Mama's 39th St. Diner known for their 66 omelet choices which come with "browns or grits." 

LOVE summer. I missed you.

Friday, May 21, 2010

random thoughts friday

Hello there, Friday. I've been waiting for you and  your sunshine all week.

life updates
We're still running. My goal for Sunday is seven miles, which is probably stupid to post here because I am against public failure. Regardless, if I make it, that's 20 miles this week.

I've made a vow to use my crockpot every Monday. We have a small group we go to and knowing dinner is ready when I get home and I don't have to hurry is super fabulous. Our favorite recipe so far is 
barbecued pulled chicken. We ate it for five meals with sandwich thins (also a new favorite).

My goals this weekend are to eat as much barbecue as possible, go to church to hear about women of the Bible which is appropriate considering immediately following our church service I am vowing to be genuinely excited for the LOST finale watch party. Shea and I are excited for the finale for different reasons, but look at me being all supportive!

Old Navy is having a $1 flip-flop sale. You should go tomorrow. Luckily my feet are oddly small so I do not have to go at 7 a.m. After getting cheap shoes, go by Wal-Mart for free ice cream.  I'm not going, because even I have limits.

Chick-Fil-A might clog my arteries but I do not turn down free food (except at Wal-Mart). Go here and reserve your free sandwich.

need travel advice
We're thinking of going on a cruise as our second honeymoon - which really is just an excuse but in all fairness Disneyworld is not the most relaxing and delicious honeymoon destination. Especially when the groom gets sick and the bride wants to eat nothing but ice cream and popcorn. But fun if your week goal is to fill two autograph books with character pictures and signatures (mission accomplished). Anyway, we can't decide between Norwegian or Carnival. Both would be Western Caribbean departing from either Miami, Fort Lauderdale or New Orleans. Any opinions out there?

boost my self-esteem and follow me!
If you read my blog regularly, you should actually become a follower - check out the box on the right. Why? Because it makes me feel popular and loved. And there are days when I need that.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

need summer now

The best part of moving to Kansas City was knowing that I would experience some measure of heat from May until October at the minimum. Unlike my former state of Minnesota where it was perfectly reasonable to wait til mid-July to pack my sweaters away. This damned city, however, is foiling my plans by hovering in the 60s and raining. EVERY day.  For TWO weeks.

I really need summer to come. I thought this one would be much calmer than last year's wedding planning bonanza, but the weekends are filling up fast.

Camping in Eureka Springs, Ark.
Excited and nervous about this one. The area is gorgeous, but our first camping experience together was NOT fun. The highlights included the dog barking constantly, rain, finding a tick on the dog, finding a tick on me followed by me crying that I wanted to go to a hotel. This time we have more supplies, no dog and mental preparation. Hopefully that'll be enough.

Six, all at a minimum of seven hours away. So glad our wedding was the only one last summer. Looking forward to dancing with Shea in our dress-up clothes. Right now this is my motivation for running/eating healthy because I can't be one of those girls who gets married and fat. You know, have to be a role model and all.

Weekend trip to St. Charles with the fam
My mom has been wanting to go to St. Charles, Mo. for her entire life. So I slapped the family into gear, and we're going. Bed and breakfast lodging and wineries are always a winning combination.

Canoe trip with some favorite friends
We made some amazing friends through our church in Minnesota, and then we moved. But we miss them so now we're going on a day-long canoe trip on the St. Croix river. I haven't been in a canoe since Girl Scout camp. And I am fairly certain I was paralyzed with fear of falling in and getting stuck under the canoe. Then drowning.

Twins game, fifth row behind the dugout
Our jeweler is awesome. Not only does he provide great rings but he loves us and gives baseball-obsessed husband amazing tickets to a new stadium. There will be ice cream in plastic hats.

K-State football
We got season tickets. I am looking forward to the first game of 100-degree blistering heat. And hearing "K-State"

Our first anniversary
They say the first year is the hardest. If this is true for us, this marriage is going to be shockingly easy. Plans still in the works for a celebration but it better involve all the popcorn I can eat because that was definitely a honeymoon in Disneyworld highlight.

Weather for this weekend and next week: Close to 90 degrees and sunny. Digging out my tank tops and flip flops now!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

from another mother

I grew up an only child. But today I would tell you I have a brother and sister - Chris and Layne. 

I started babysitting them when I wasn't even old enough to be a full-fledged babysitter. Instead, I was a mother's helper while their mom worked upstairs. Then I started babysitting after school. And then evenings. Sometimes I'd stay for Saturday night pizza or cheese and crackers Sunday. Then we started taking vacations together, and celebrating holidays, graduations and a wedding. They became my family with a different last name.

We've experienced crazy sickness, buckets of mac and cheese, hours of homework followed by reenactments of Power Rangers scenes. There's been broken hearts, new puppies, an engagement, softball games, moves to college and abroad, endless nights of Ghosts in the Graveyard, a 21st birthday, dinners and beer. Last weekend, we got to celebrate Chris' graduation from college, and next year it's Layne's turn.

We've been super close, and we've been not so close. But now we're all adults, and connected in a way that doesn't always involve our parents. Plus, no one has to pay me to hang out with them. Two years from now, we could all be in different parts of the country - all three in graduate school. (Hello, I'm the slow one.)

My relationship with these two is precious. One I will work hard to maintain and grow for the rest of my life. We may have different last names (and clearly different height genes), but I'm claiming them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

dark-haired midget children

Shea: "Well, I think I'd like to be 27 before we had a baby."
Sarah: "ummm...what?"
Shea: "OMG! Am I 26 right now?"
Sarah: "Yes, yes you are."

We've been talking about babies. And their timing. And whether we want one of those. Basically because it's a requirement that after you get married you start having baby fever - the kind of fever that two Tylenol does not cure, and you still have to go to school.

Somedays I really want one mostly so that I can buy it clothes, and little blankets with ducks on them. Plus it'll be neat to see what happens when our genes merge though our kids are most likely going to be dark-haired midgets. It's like one big science experiment! And then I get to name it, which I've been doing for decades with stuffed animals and dolls as fill-ins. Peter the rabbit, Shaggy the dog, the Bad Gorilla (he never did well in fake school) and Brownie the brown bear. With this trend, we'll probably be introducing our kids as Short the boy and Pigtails the girl.

There are other days when I am fine waiting. First, because I cannot imagine a baby coming out of there. But mostly because sometimes I really enjoy my time with Shea. It's not really the happy hours or vacations. It's more just being able to come home, make dinner, have a glass of wine and watch back-to-back episodes of whatever TV show we're going through. I like getting up at 5:30 am to run and going to bed at 9 p.m. without interruptions.

I worry about no sleep. About the fact that I do not really like little babies. Except when they are on Etsy with their teeny tiny arms folded underneath their head with a cute knitted hat. Those ones are cute. But when they are spitting up on my shoulder, which is possibly the worst smell ever, I do not like them. I worry about miscarriages and SIDS. I worry that when we start trying (dear family members: we are NOT trying so back your truck right on up.), it will take forever. And then I will have to be on fertility drugs. And then I will have EIGHT babies. Or maybe we'll try, and it will never happen. Then I will have to do a lot of research on how to adopt children from Haiti without being jailed for kidnapping.

Also, I have a tilted uterus.

Monday, May 17, 2010

if I had blogged five years ago...

I just graduated from college, woo! The events leading up to the final graduation ceremony were exhausting. 

The final newspaper edition followed by long, deep sobs in the editor's office. They were tears of sadness at leaving behind four years of hard work, fun and passion. But they were also tears of anger and disappointment at the way this place let me down by instilling idealistic yet completely unrealistic notions of journalism.

And then there was the post-production party, the pub crawl, the graduation parties with the kegs and the graduation parties with the great-grandmas. There was the display of articles, awards, certificates and press passes. And the congratulations cake of me marrying the First Amendment because at this point in my life, it's my greatest marriage prospect.

Then the graduation ceremony at the exact same arena where I graduated high school. But this time I was surviving on four hours of sleep and running a fever of 101, later to determined as a bad case of strep throat. I sat there in the aisle in a sweaty robe feeling dizzy and nauseated by the odor of my classmates, whose scent indicated they did a few jager bombs before affixing their cap. But all this was forgotten when I accepted my diploma from my very own father. 

My sent e-mail folder from this time is filled with job applications, job advice, and clear confusion of whether I wanted to work on Capitol Hill or in a newsroom. 

All was forgotten, though, when I hopped on a plane to Brazil the next day. Doped up with antibiotics and hallucination-inducing malaria medication (true story), I left the job search, the pub crawls, the 1 a.m. newspaper deadlines, the 4-hour/night sleep schedule, the papers, the finals, and the friendships behind.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

banana toast and diet limeade

Two super awesome discoveries today.

First, Shea made me breakfast this morning. I rejected the usual pancakes and requested bananas and peanut butter toast. Instead, I got an English muffin with peanut butter and cut up bananas on top, which solicited an "ummm...thanks..." from me. But instead, it is quite possibly my new favorite meal. He's goooood.

Then we ran. And ran and ran. I ran an hour or six miles in a gym that was at least 80 degrees. Which, my body is now punishing me with throbbing toes on my right foot. Oh and my legs and back have had better days. Still, very glad to see motivation is back, and aiming for seven miles next weekend.

After dinner we did our Sonic run (hate the food, love the drinks) and there I made my second discovery of the day in diet cherry limeade. A medium has..wait for it... 18 calories. Eighteen, that's it! Love.

Friday, May 14, 2010

my self control went on vacation

I'm usually quite good about my eating habits, and I frequently tout the fact I rarely ever get cravings. Except certain times of the month where I am dying to poor the jar of salt straight into my mouth.
So these past few weeks I got kind of lazy with the working out. This was not helped by the fact that when my alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m., Shea magically is awake enough to roll over and pull me in close but not awake enough to work out with me. Last week I actually got up, put my running shorts, socks, and shoes, then got into bed to kiss him goodbye. And then I woke up an hour later with my shoes on. Completely under the covers.

Along with this laziness came the inexplicable need to eat everything in sight coupled with the fact my work had an extraordinary amount of leftover catered food just sitting there, waiting for someone to eat it all. Then I made brownies on Tuesday, and we ate half a pan in one sitting. (I am blaming most of this on Shea because it makes me feel better about myself. Especially since I don't even like chocolate. Ooof.)
In the last three weeks I have gained like two or three pounds. Which is really nothing because I could eat healthy for a week and be back to my normal weight. Or run a few miles and ta-da! And I realize that because my jean size is somewhere between 0 and -1, you think I don't have a right to whine. But now it's all I can think about. And despite this awareness of the fact I am eating like a teen-aged boy, yesterday I still had a 3/4 bag of kettle corn, a cappuccino-flavored cup of sugar and ice (because it was $1, and now that's a good reason to eat something..), a tall beer and banana bread (fruit, right?)

After my whining and moaning of really annoying things like "uhhh, I feel bloated and my stomach is touching my waistband" or "I can't run because I just ate half a pan of brownies for no reason," we made a pact. We're running everyday (or working out in some fashion if my knees give out) until we attend a wedding on June 5.

So far seven miles in two mornings (8 miles for Shea; he's better). The bad news is we have two graduation parties, a camping road trip, and the Great American BBQ Festival before then.

The good news is that my acid reflux/inability-to-digest-normally syndrome is kicking in. So if my mind can't control my appetite, the bubbling acid in my stomach will.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

bye, bye car payment

We met with a financial adviser a week ago and faced the hard reality that we can't really consider buying a house until some major loans are paid off. We knew this, although it was fun to dream. By dream I mean spend hours online look at house listings, drive by the cute ones, plan to go to open houses. Now, Shea is banned from sending me "cool!" links to houses. Because when I get those I start dreaming about things like closet space, and this is a gateway drug to hallways, pantries and yards.

We did get confirmation that we're on the right track. That we're living below our means and saving a lot, which was pretty cool. And then we took our pretty sizable house fund and used it to pay off some loans. First up, the car loan. It was set to be paid of in January 2013. It's May 2010. You do the math. No seriously, it's too early for me to do math. Compound and simple interest is knowledge I left safely in a high school classroom where it belongs. But those handy dandy online calculators, which have eliminated the validity math teacher's claims of "you'll need this someday," tell me that we saved almost $1,000 in interest.

Do you see those big fat zeros? Does it make you want to do a spontaneous happy dance at your desk?