Monday, April 18, 2016

Weekend Wrap Up 4/17

Cody was away for a bachelor party so I had a whole weekend wide open to spend however I pleased. It was also 70 degrees all weekend and could not have been more beautiful.

Friday Night

I saw Cody off and then went for a walk around Lake Calhoun with my sister. It was definitely windy but the temperature was amazing.

Then I met up with my friend Abby for dinner at Rusty Taco.

I called it an early night and enjoyed sleeping in the middle of the bed with the cats.


I got a blissful 10 and a half hours of sleep and then spent the morning in the sunroom with some books, a bagel, coffee and kombucha.

We had a girls night that evening and had snacks and cocktails on my friend's patio. Then we headed out for drinks at a new bar that is styled as a "speakeasy" with no marked entrance and 1920's decor.

Moscow Mule
Strawberry Cheesecake Cup
Fizzy Lemon Drop Martini

It was really good to connect with the girls and laugh all night. Somehow we didn't even take a picture together.


I made a meal for my friend who is a brand new mama. I'm so excited to meet her new baby girl tomorrow.

I also tried InstaCart for the first time. It's a grocery delivery service that uses your local stores. The shoppers use their own cars and are paid as independent contractors. You pay the price of the groceries and a delivery fee (between $4 and $10) and then you tip the shopper/driver. What I don't understand is how they make money. I read some people said online that they charge above store prices but their website claims that they are the same. Has anyone else used them? Anyway, it was nice to have groceries just show up at my door!

Linking up with Biana!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Super Easy Paleo Meal: Zoodles with Meat Sauce

I love to cook. So making most of my meals at home hasn't been a huge transition in eating mostly Paleo. However, I can see how this could be a big barrier to changing the way you eat. It's definitely nice to have a few meals you know will be super simple and quick.

Zoodles with Meat Sauce

1. Spiralize 3 zucchini.

Do this slightly before starting everything else, or even that morning. Then salt the noodles and let them sit. This will make much less liquid in your noodles when you serve them. Depending on size, 3 zucchini should be good for two people. We had leftovers this time but not enough for a whole meal. For this you'll need a spiralizer. I own this one. But I covet this kind. Either way, you can get really quick at this. 

2. Brown ground beef.

3. Saute zucchini noodles.

I've seen some people throw these into boiling water the way they do with traditional noodles. However, I like to just saute with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder.

4. Mix red sauce with beef.

Here are two of my favorite brands that have no sugar added.

Thrive Market

5. Serve sauce over zoodles.

And that's it! 

I also saw someone recommend recently to sprinkle Nutritional Yeast on top to get a cheesy yet non-dairy taste.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Finances: Public Service Loan Forgiveness

In February, I first blogged about our finances and revealed the ghastly amount of debt that we have. At some times I would think about that number and feel nauseated. But now I truly feel much more at peace because of the plan we've laid out. Do I complain about it regularly? Yes. But it doesn't make me want to curl up in a ball and give up.

Also, proud to report that we've paid another nearly $3,000 to our loans since February. And that number would be much higher if we weren't saving for over $10,000 worth of trips this year.

I've spent a significant number of time researching what to do about my student loans, from which payment plan is the best to what loan forgiveness for which I am eligible. Coincidentally, my local teacher's union did a seminar called Degrees, Not Debt. Since I have an excess of degrees and a far greater excess of debt, I made sense to attend.


I learned some new things. But first, a rant. Amongst other disturbing statistics I learned that while the average debt after undergrad in Minnesota is $30,894, it is over $50,000 for teachers. Over 70% of Minnesotans have student loan debt. While the costs of healthcare have increased 387% in 30 years, the cost of tuition has gone up 1000% in the same time period. In our country there is $1.3 trillion of student debt. Trillion. Student debt is also unique in that it can't be discharged in bankruptcy and can rarely be refinanced at lower interest rates.

All of this debt has terrible impacts. And not just in the obvious personal ways. All of that money that could be going into our economy, buying houses, cars, and other goods, only goes to student loans. It also has a terrible impact on the public sector, because who the hell would want to become a teacher or go work for a non-profit when they have to incur $50,000 of debt and having a starting salary of $35,000? Many teachers have to take 2nd and 3rd jobs, as I did my first and second years of teaching, just to make ends meet. But that time is directly taken away from time the teacher could be spending to better the educational experience of their students.

Fortunately there are opportunities for forgiveness.

Sometimes I feel like I should just suck it up and pay off all of my debt. But then I think about the above information. I really encourage people to embrace that they deserve this and take advantage of these programs.

The two that I learned about were:
1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
2. Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Public Service Loan Forgiveness


This program is open to anyone that works in public service, not just teachers. And some non profit companies qualify as well. That means nurses, city, state, federal workers, and many more people are eligible. 23 million people in our country are eligible for this program but only 3 million are enrolled. It's just because they aren't aware of it.

So how's it work?

  • You make 120 (10 years) qualifying payments
  • On Direct Loans and payments made after 10/01/2007 (find out your loans types here:
  • On qualifying repayment plans
  • While working full-time at a qualifying employer

What's a qualifying repayment plan?
  • 10 Year Standard (hint: don't do this one because then you'll have no debt left for them to forgive!)
  • Income Based Repayment
  • Pay as You Earn
  • Income Contingent Repayment
  • Repaye (new)
Summary of repayment options here:

Basically, all of these but the first help lower your payments to a certain percentage (usually 10, 15, or 20%) of your discretionary income (fancy word for amount of the poverty line).

Loan servicers are not always exceptionally helpful and definitely don't want to lose you as a client so they might not jump to help you understand the PSLF program, but it is definitely their job to help you understand their payment plans. I live chatted with a representative at my servicer for hours to figure out which repayment plan I wanted to use.

So what if they get rid of this program?? (That's what my husband asked) Good thing is, if you enroll now, then you're guaranteed the forgiveness at the end of the 10 years, as long as you follow all the rules.

What should I do next:
1. Find out if your loans are eligible:
2. Get enrolled in the best payment plan for you
           Contact your servicer
           Remember to re-enroll every year (how annoying, right?)
3. Fill out the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Certification Form
           Follow directions carefully because they're picky!

Also, look at or even call them at 855-265-4038 because it's their job to explain it to us.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness is different. I will write about that soon, as well as how to make the decision between which to choose.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dream Trips

We're so lucky and I'm so excited to have so much travel planned this year. However, that doesn't stop me from constantly concocting other dream trips. Here are a few I'd love to take:

1. Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand

I lived in China for a year and traveled frequently to Hong Kong. In my opinion, it's definitely one of the best cities in the world. I'd love to see how it's changed in six years. Macau is like the Vegas of Asia but also very interesting in that it was colonized by Portugal. I've never been to Thailand and I feel like I NEED to get there. I was surprised that round trip flights to Hong Kong were cheaper than some to Europe. And round trip Hong Kong to Bangkok was only $159 last I looked!

Hong Kong via
Macau via
Chiang Mai, Thailand via

Phuket, Thailand via

2. Belize

I hear it is like Mexico 30 years ago when there was less tourism. For being a decent Spanish speaker, I've been to very few Spanish speaking countries.


3. Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Germany

This would be a huge trip. I'm hoping one day that I won't teach summer school and that Cody will magically have a large amount of vacation and we could do upwards of a month in Europe. I've been to Amsterdam and Paris, each very briefly and would like to go back, as well as extend the trip to some new destinations.

Paris via
Amsterdam via
Brussels via
This is what they do in Germany, right? ;)
4. Napa Valley

Wouldn't it be an awesome 30th birthday trip?!

5. A Cruise!

I actually lived on a cruise ship when I did Semester at Sea in college. But I've never been on a commercial cruise. I can't believe some of the ships! I don't even really know where I'd want to go, but it seems like kind of an easy ship. You just get on board and they'd take care of most of it from there.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Bridal Shower High Tea

On Sunday I threw a bridal shower for my friend Melissa. I use the term 'threw' loosely because, while I technically invited everyone and planned it, the amazing Saint Paul Hotel took care of most of it.

I love this hotel. It is where I stayed with my sister the night before my wedding, got ready on the morning of, and spent the night with Cody on our wedding night. My coworker also threw me a shower there shortly before our wedding. It was absolutely the cutest thing ever, so when Melissa and Ryan got engaged, I knew I needed throw her one as well.

The hotel hosts afternoon high teas several times a month and they book up quickly. I made sure to make a reservation back in December. Our reservation was on a Sunday afternoon from 2-4pm.

There were five courses. (Of course I'm kicking myself for forgetting to take a picture of the 3rd course).

1st- Spicy Egg Salad on Endive, Smoked Salmond and Asparagus Sandwich, and Shrimp and Pancetta on a Rosemary Skewer
2nd- Petite Chicken Pot Pie
3rd (not pictured)- Blue Cheese Scone with Apricot Butter
4th- Cashew Shortbread, Dipped Chocolate Toffee Bar, Mini Carrot Golden Raisin Muffin
5th- Warm Berry Bread Pudding with Creme

They were small courses but we were completely stuffed in the end. There was also Black Currant and Chamomile teas and we order champagne.

I planned a couple little games but we were pretty busy with chatting and fawning over the tea festivities.

I also made gift bags for the ladies. They included a mini bottle of wine with a customized label, a jar of mints, and an Eos lip balm.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Weekend Wrap Up 3/11-3/13


Cody came home and declared that because of the 65 degree weather he wanted a Mai Tai.

Quinn liked it, too.

Then we used a Groupon to get a pizza.

I was about ready to settle into my PJs on the couch but Cody suggested we check out a newly re-opened restaurant and cocktail bar, The Commodore. So I reluctantly got ready and we met my sister and her boyfriend.

I'm so glad he convinced me because it was so cute! The decor was straight out of the 1920's and the cocktails were all delicious.


The weather continued to be amazing so we went on a long walk to get brunch at the Longfellow Grill.

We spent an inordinate amount of time at Target and then went to our friends' house to grill and have a fire.


I threw a bridal shower for my amazing friend Melissa. It was a high tea at a hotel nearby and it was so cute we could hardly stand it. I plan to do a full post about it tomorrow.

Linking up with Meg for Mingle Monday and Biana for Weekending! 

Friday, March 11, 2016

10 Things that Make Me Happy This Week 3/11

I'm linking up with Lindsay and Krysten for the first thing for 10 Things that Make Me Happy. I love the focus on positivity. And also linking up with Liz and Andrea.

-one- It's been between 40 and 65 degrees here all week. In March. In Minnesota. That is completely unheard of. I don't hate winter, but it's been so nice to get out and take three long walks this week.

-two- This graffiti I found down the street from our house on one of my long walks.

-three- We have a day date planned tomorrow. Brunch on a patio and another walk to take advantage of the weather.

-four- Ordering this many beverages at brunch.

-five-  Our colorful dinner last night. I made Paleomg flank steak stir fry. It was pretty good but I think I'd cut down the honey a little bit and add some crushed red pepper to make it less sweet and more spicy.

-six- I'm making the last preparations for my friend's bridal shower on Sunday. A high tea at the St. Paul Hotel. Can't wait to shower her!

-seven- This

-eight- Emailing with our travel agent to start planning our winter break trip!

-nine- Conferences are over! And our principal got us a food truck for dinner during our long night.

-ten- It's Friday!