16,000 and counting

Back in 2016, a few of my friends and I decided that we were going to do some traveling together, two of us ended up booking our first trip to San Diego, California, where we’d then rent a car and drive up to Portland, Oregon.

I have decided to show you a little bit of where I’ve been, what it cost me and how I have tried to keep the costs down as much as possible.

I was able to book my flight to and from for free, only paying the $5.60 each way for airport fees. Our car was around $220 each because we upgraded to a Hybrid. We’ve decided it was probably a wash but it was nice not having to stop every few hundred miles to fill up again. We spent about $70 each on gas for a 1,900 mile trip.

A very sweet gal I met at my local CrossFit gym gave us some Friends and Family discounts to a hotel chain, so we spent about $200 for eight nights on hotels (it also helped, in a way, that we ended up staying at a place that apparently allows their tenants to party throughout the night OUTSIDE the next rooms door. So I disputed it with my credit card and got us a refund saving us some $$.)

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At the Golden Gate Bridge

                Parking fees, in my mind, were the priciest expense we had to just park our car to then walk, I will probably never stop complaining about the parking fees- ha! They totaled around $100/person (this includes our parking fee for the airport.)

                We decided before we flew out that we were going to pick up the rental, go find a Walmart and pick up sandwich supplies, fruits and snacks to help us to a) not eat out as much  b) watch what we were eating as we were holding each other accountable to lose weight. We had already brought paper goods and other snacks in our luggage. Yes, we had an entire suitcase for food. I love food- can’t and won’t ever deny it.

                Of course, we also had other purchases of tickets to see things that cost, like Alcatraz (a must see at night!)

                All of these numbers are rough estimates, and I probably estimated high on some of them so altogether my 8 day trip cost me $600.  That is all it took for me to catch the Traveler’s Bug.

                After that, I asked my mom if she would like to go on a trip with me somewhere. We decided on a cruise starting out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Whaaaaaaaat! Let me just back up and say that I was adamant about never flying, never traveling anyway besides by car and that would mean I would never be crossing an ocean…. Well, fooled me!

                This trip was a bit more costly but 110% worth it.

Our flights were a little over $700 each, our cruise expense was right around $750 each, but the cruise expense included all meals, shows, etc. If you wanted to purchase alcohol that was extra. Then, once you arrived at each port you had the expense of doing the excursions. I honestly didn’t write down everything that we paid for as a lot we paid for in cash. But I would say we probably spent $60 each at all 5 ports.  We just had an interior room, people kept telling me how small and cramped it was going to be. I didn’t notice us being cramped at all. We were only in there to sleep and shower, the rest of the time we were out wandering. We also had plenty of room for our suitcases.

                We also brought a suitcase just for snacks again :). My mom and I each brought a backpack that we packed our snorkel equipment (that we bought off of Amazon prior to sailing so we didn’t chance getting someone else’s germs from a shared snorkel. Gross!) towels, sunscreen (that we apparently did not use enough of,) and snacks to try and help us from eating out when at the ports. But let’s face it, once we tried that oh, so delicious Caribbean food there was not much eating of snacks that we’d brought.

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My mom and I at the Pitons in St. Lucia ❤

I almost forgot! We arrived in Puerto Rico two days before we set sail. We didn’t stay at a hotel right off the beach so we took a taxi to one of the beaches, before being dropped off we asked will there be taxis to pick us up when we’re ready to head back? “Oh yes no problem!” Uhm… no, there wasn’t. we started walking, no cell phone service to try and pull up maps, nothing! So we started walking- had no idea if we were headed in the right direction though.  We saw this lady stretching at a resting point along the way, so I asked her if she was from there, “yes”, Great! I said we don’t have cell phone service, we can’t find a taxi and we are completely lost! She was so very kind, she told us to wait right there she would go get her car around the block and take us to our hotel. We will forever be grateful to her, Suely. I have tried to find her on Facebook but have not had much luck.

                We arrived back to our local, haha- okay so our ‘local’ airport is 3 hours away from where I live for those of you who do not know, airport around midnight; get to my car and the battery is dead. I left a light on…The airport parking people came and jumped the battery and back home we went, we arrived around 3am, for me to get up the next morning and head another 3 hours away from where I live.

This cruise, along with many others, is definitely on my list to do again. ❤

                My next trip involved the city, New York City… Cities, they aren’t my favorite, but I still think they must be seen by all if you get the chance. I just got back from my most recent trip to New York City with my neighbor, who was also the one I did the road trip through California with. We were there for four days. We spent about $340 on our Air B’n’B, flight, Uber and Lyft rides, parking at the airport and some meals.   Ever spend money on a stupid item? My stupid item this trip was $30 on a 2 pound bag of M&M’s… what? Who does that. Apparently I didn’t read the part about the price being per HALF pound.

                We sight-seed Ground Zero Memorial, what a tribute to those who lost their lives, Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, Empire State Building, Central Park, we walked Brooklyn bridge, Times Square, you name it we probably walked to/by it. One of ‘Susan’s’ friends works at the Empire State Building so we got VIP access up to the 102nd floor!

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At the top of the Empire State Building

                Literally the evening we got home from our NYC trip, my parents and I booked our flight and car for our trip into Canada to see Niagara Falls.  Our flights cost $210 each, the car rental $60 and we’ve already been able to book our hotel the night we get there and the night before we fly back costing us only $35 a piece. All thanks to a wonderful gal!

                I may be frugal when it comes to trying to get my monthly expenses as low as I can get them but it’s because I want to be able to continue to afford seeing the beautiful places on earth.  This is the first time I have ever figured up what I have spent so far on traveling this year so if I just stop writing it’s because I had a mini heart attack. Here we go! Ok. Honestly, I’m good with this number (again it’s an estimate) $3,000. This amount is from my road trip through California to the booking of the flight, car and 2 nights of hotels for my upcoming Canada trip.  I’ve traveled approximately 16,200 miles since January 1, 2017.

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Farewell 2016!

First off, where did 2016 go?! I feel like it just flew by! Many exciting things happened for me and my family this year, so I can’t say that it was a bad year at all!

My sister and nephew rode the train out to my moms in Colorado to celebrate my nephew’s 3rd birthday! I took a week off and went home to help celebrate. My cousin and her four kiddos and Grandma all came up to celebrate as well.  We walked to the park almost every day, while my nephew rode his trike that my mom got him. As you can see in the photo below, he decided to be a big boy and help grandma make his cupcakes and turned the KitchenAide on high…. cocoa powder everywhere!

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Charlie and his Cocoa Mess 🙂

 

Two of my friends and I took a girls weekend up to Colorado Springs, we climbed the Manitou Incline, walked across the Royal Gorge and the rode the gondola back to the other side. I tried sushi for the first time, well my food was cooked but still rolled up like a sushi dish. I can honestly say it’s something I never care to have again. If you haven’t bought a selfie stick. Do!!! It is one of the best inventions ever- you almost never have to worry about finding someone to take a photo of your group!

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That same weekend of the girls trip, a friend and coworker blessed us with a sweet baby boy, who she got to bring to work for the first six months of his life. We thoroughly enjoyed coming to his beckon call, or squeal :-), we didn’t realize how much we were going to miss him until he left the office. He still comes and visits us sometimes during our potlucks.  They are neighbors to me, but I’m probably the worst neighbor, I’ve only ever been to their house once since they moved to this side of town.

We brought home our new kitty,Linda! She is a handful but we wouldn’t have it any other way. She is the Houdini of cats, some nights she has to sleep in her kennel and we will wake up to her meowing by the door as she has found a way to get out of the kennel. We have no idea how she does it as the kennel door is still locked when she is out of it. She was absolutely tiny! Now she has a pot belly- ha ha!

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I can’t believe she was ever that small!

I took a different job with the agency, but ended up deciding it wasn’t the right fit for me so was able to take my old job back. Funny thing is I told the supervisor of the job I decided wasn’t the right fit, that I’d help out until the positions was filled. To this date, they’ve hired two people who are coming along great, but I am still helping cover. Which I don’t mind- I love being needed.

A majority of my moms side got together in the summer to enjoy some time together, no cell phone service or Internet! It was a great weekend to get refreshed and remember to be thankful for all that I take for granted. Here is a photo of most of Grandma’s grandkids and great grandkiddos.

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Grandma Nichols with 2 other generations

We found out that my sister is expecting a baby girl in January! I am planning to go up with my mom to see her after Baby Girl is born… They live about 7 hours away from where I live, so we don’t get to see them too often.

I met a sweet lady who has blessed my life more than she probably knows. She has 3 sweet kiddos that I just adore, I got to help throw her an adorable “moose” baby shower for Baby T! My mom helped me make a 3-tier diaper cake, have I ever mentioned my mom is badass?!?!? She super creative, she did not share that gene with me!

My mom, stepdad and I went down to my aunt and uncles to see my cousin before he and his family left for Germany for the AirForce. It is always a joy to be around this group of people- the stories they tell will never get old.img_2332

My mom,sister, nephew and I took a week long vacation to Branson, Missouri. I think we figured it up that we saw twelve shows, took a ride on “Ride the Ducks” and on the Branson Belle. Both of which I highly recommend. We rented a condo right on the lake. One day while walking around the marina, I noticed that you could actually see the Branson Belle from it, I thought that was kinda neat because to get the Belle we had to go all the way around the lake to get to it.  One of the shows we went to was the Amazing Pet Show! I’m sure my nephew thought we went to it for him…. But I know it was for me! 🙂

My boyfriend started back up with roping, and I try to sneak a ride on one of the horses whenever I can. Being back in the saddle does something to me it’s such a relaxing and therapeutic time.

Kayla, a good friend and neighbor, and I booked our flights for a road trip through California into Oregon in April 2017.

My best friend from college just had a beautiful baby girl who I am very excited to go meet. We are pretty lucky in that we both work for the same agency so we get to see each other for work through out the year.

Crossfit is something in my life that I hope never goes away, I was able to accomplish a few more movements I’ve been working on. 1) pull up, 2) new PR on my Power Cleans, 3) HSPU Handstand push ups with an ab mat and 10# plate. I’ve also started working on hand stand walks, I’ve got five “steps” so far! Woo!  While I haven’t done the best with eating habits and maintaining my weight like I had done the past couple years, I have definitely increases my muscle mass and am able to lift more than I had been able to.  Crossfit has brought many new friends into my life that I’d probably have never met if I and they hadn’t joined!

A group of friends decided to try our hand at a Painting Party. It was mostly a success!

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Jen, Kayla, Paige and I with our Give Thanks paintings

The next weekend, Kayla and I completed a quilt wood block painting. I am not completely happy with the colors I chose. I am thinking about redoing it someday when it’s nice outside!

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I love how Kayla’s turned out!

Thanksgiving was a nice and long five day weekend for me. My boyfriend cooked/smoked a turkey on the Traeger and I made the fixings- homemade mashed tators, gravy, rolls, and green bean casserole.  During the long weekend, I went home and helped my mom decorate for Christmas- a cherished pastime of mine.  She gave me her old tree and my boyfriend and I were able to donate our old tree to a family in need.

I applied for my passport and received it within a few days of submitting my application! But soon realized they put a space in my middle name so had to send it back to get fixed. I am so excited to be able to go see the world now!

Christmas time was just her, usually I go down to OK City with my mom to her side of the family but we didn’t this year. My in-laws came over from the West Slope. My boyfriends dad and him enjoyed a few days of roping-  have you ever got that pitter patter in your heart when you know life is good? I definitely felt that watching those two rope again.

To date, I haven’t ended up in the ER like I did about this time last year! I’ve stayed pretty healthy with a few odd issues, but I’ve just decided that that’s just how my body is! This time last year I more than meant my $2,750 deductible, this year I’m happy to say I’ve barely even spent $300! It was a nice change to watch my health savings account grow rather than deplete by a big chunk!

Money, you know I couldn’t write a post without talking about it! By today’s date, I am accruing $.91 in interest A DAY! That’s approximately $333 in interest a year. Free money people!  I had to move some money around to a cd get that $.91, but I am comfortable putting that X amount in a cd for the period of time to accrue such interest.   I was thinking of my 2017 financial goals this morning and I said I wanted to make $1.00 in interest a day, but now that I just added up what I’m currently making, I feel that I can achieve that in just a few months assuming that I won’t have any major issues with my car, etc.

I hope you all have had a great year, and are ready to take on 2017 and all that it has to bring! You are in control of your happiness do whatever makes you happy!

-The Price to Say Hello-

Why I switched over to a prepaid phone plan:

                Where I live, Verizon is about the only provider who has service in our area, unless you go with Tracfone or possibly another cell phone contract like them. So we are very limited on our choices and therefor I was paying out the wazoo for cell phone service (text, calling, and data.)

I was paying $95 for 3GB of data at one point in time! I just want to slap myself for ever even paying such a ridiculous amount for so little in return, but it’s done, it’s past. Time to move on Allison! I called up Verizon one day and told them that I was looking at ways of reducing my expenses, and how I had been a loyal- paying on time- customer. They were so generous in giving me a discount of $15 to make it $80 a month. Ok, I told myself- take it- it’s better than nothing.  Well then a few months later I called again and got it dropped down to I believe it was $75 after taxes.  But then… I started going over my data and ended up paying the colossal fee for going over. There were months that I went over by .005 GB and I got charged the $20 overage fee… No matter what, if you went over .001 GB of the 3GB you get charged. So I called them up again, asked if they had any better deals. They had what they called something like Verizon best customer plan (don’t quote me on that). I would now be paying $70 for 5 gb of data.  Ok, 2 more gigs for an extra $5? Great!

Great… until I found out Verizon had a prepaid plan and I could get 5GB of data, plus an additional 1GB if I put my plan on automatic payment, for $50! 6GB for $50 you guys. I believe this ‘promo’ has ended and now their $50 plan is still 5GB but any data you don’t use rolls over to the next month. Either way, their prepaid plans sound a lot better than their ‘regular’ plans.

                Their regular plans are, in my opinion, OUTRAGEOUS. Let me just put some numbers out there as I look at their website. Their “Medium” plan is 4gb for $50, PLUS their $20 fee for having a phone ( one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard of..) so you would be paying $70 (before tax) for 4GB or we can jump to their “Large” package which is 8gb (plus they have a promo going on for 2gb of data extra- so 10GB total) for $70,plus again their $20 line fee, making it $97.  I guess, if you used that many gigs in a month this plan may not be too bad but I can’t see myself paying $100 (because it’ll be over that after taxes) for a cell phone each month! That is $1,200 a year!

                So even if I didn’t persuade you to switch over to the prepaid plans, I hope that you will maybe call up your phone provider and explain to them how you have been a loyal customer to them, and you are looking to save a few extra dollars. Put those savings into your savings account, or splurge and put them in your travel account if you have one set up!  Everyone deserves a vacation somewhere sometime! J

Keep the Change

Have I ever mentioned I hate change? I hate it! But sometimes I have to accept it knowing that it is for the better.

My most recent change that I am trying to tell myself to quit worrying over is that I recently saw that a bank I bank with was having a 11 month no penalty cd with a 1.25% rate. I am sure there are better rates out there but I know this bank, I like to keep my money in as few banks as possible and I know how easy it is to open and move money from one account to another.

I did some math figures because I wanted to get the best bang for my buck, but I also wanted to make sure I still had a ‘decent’ amount in savings just in case for some reason I needed it to be readily available.

The exciting ‘aha’ moment came when I realized I could comfortably be making $.71 in interest a day, $.59 from my CD, and $.12 from my regular savings account, instead of the $.59 I was currently making with all my money in the savings account.

Why did I choose the amount I did to put away for those 11 months? Really no rhyme or reason. When doing the math, it was right at 72% of my regular savings so I can’t say that it was exactly ¾ of my savings or anything. It was just a number that I felt comfortable with setting aside, not being able to touch for awhile, now that I think about it, I also remember thinking at the time that “I could be making $.59 a day in interest with X amount in a CD plus this other I still have set aside if an emergency arises will be making $.12?!

I chose their 11 month no penalty CD because, well A) Hello, no penalty if for some very unforeseen reason I needed to dip into that CD I wouldn’t have a penalty… B) it was .20% better than even their 12 month CD (that has a penalty if you dip into it), C) even their 5 year CD rate of 1.65-1.75% is not that great of deal for having to put it away for that long!  I will be curious to see what rates are around when my CD matures, to see if I want to put all of it in another go round or pull it out and put it into my save 1% savings account rate.

While, I do want to support and keep my money local, I do not keep most of my money at local banks, my quarterly interest at a local bank is less than what I make in a day at my nationally known bank.

A new change I am looking forward to is the day I make a $1.00/day in interest! There are so many ways I can make that happen in 2017, and I plan on challenging myself to reach that goal as early as I can in 2017!

Money Back in My Pocket

In the past I have written about ways to save at the grocery store here is a quick link to that post.

Today, I wanted to just talk about a neat app I have found that I really enjoy- it’s called Ibotta.

                Most any retail chain grocery store is partnered up with this app, along with some clothing stores and restaurants to help you save even more when you are shopping.

                Ibotta allows you to get money back on items you normally purchase. The items selection on Ibotta always varies, but I can almost guarantee you that every time you go to the store, you will be able to get some sort of money back once you get home and skim through the items- select the ones that you bought and then take a photo of your receipt.

                To start out, if you use a referral code (like mine! J go ahead and use it! qbv7w )  you will receive an additional $10 towards your account after your first purchase and scan of something that Ibotta has as an item. Some items are only worth $.25 while others I have seen (for the grocery store part) go up to at least $5.00. Once your account has atleast $20 you can withdrawal it into a PayPal account, Venmo or you can ‘exchange’ your money for gift cards that they’ve partnered with- just a few are Starbucks, Target, Applebees, etc.

                Once you have started your account with Ibotta, share your own referral code that you’ll get with your friends. They too will get a $10 bonus towards their account and you’ll receive $5 after their first purchase! It’s a win-win for everyone!

                This great app also has bonuses available, they are always changing but they will also help you add money to your account if you buy the items required for the bonus and meet all the rebates requirements.

                To use this app, you can check for any deals before you go shopping, purchase the items, come home scan the UPC on those products and then take a snapshot of your receipt (receipt must be within 7 days of the day you are on the app redeeming the extra savings). Once you have submitted your receipt photo, it can take up to two days for them to submit payment to you- but honestly I’ve only ever had that happen once and it was when a product’s UPC code wouldn’t scan so I had to type in manually.

                To date I have saved $216.75!  Everyone could use an extra couple hundred dollars for their grocery bill right?!  I have always just transferred my money over to PayPal and then from PayPal to my bank, I have never tried to redeem a gift card, if you have though- I would love to hear your feedback on it!

 

$1,250 for Coffee?!

 

If I could afford to go to coffee shop every day during the work week I most definitely would. But I can’t- it’s just not in my budget. So I decided to go online and search for some at home recipes I could make each morning that wouldn’t break the bank but still taste very similar to the ones I enjoy at the coffee shop.

                My usual total at the coffee shop was always right at $5, and if there is roughly 250 working  days ( I am using Monday-Friday as those are the days I always work..) in 2017 I should save around $1,250- granted I will not want coffee every single week day but there may also be days I want more than one cup!

             This girl does not drink her coffee black.. yuck!   I have bought all the ingredients needed to keep my coffee habit going for a few months at least and all that is cost me was roughly $27! I would have spent that much in a week going to get my sugary concoction with a little coffee in it at the coffee shop. Frappuccino’s will certainly be on my mind in the warmer months and hot coffees will be for the colder days.

Currently I am making a white chocolate peppermint mocha coffee and oh my lanta is it to die for! Check out the easy recipe here. The recipe does call for heavy cream, but I just used the milk we had in the fridge and it tasted just fine to me! We have a Keurig so I save a little extra money by using a refillable k-cup and buying my own coffee grounds. My sister has suggested buying the actual beans and then using a grinder to make it extra fresh… but I haven’t purchased a bean grinder to date.

I began writing this blog a few days ago but got caught up in my 8-5 job and had to work on that so did not have a chance to post it yet. So today, I have a somewhat guilty thing to tell you. I woke up, checked my email and saw that Starbucks is currently having a promotion until 12/22. If you reload your Starbucks account with at least $10, and pay with the Visa Checkout, they will give you an extra $10.   I could have kept writing and told you a big fat lie that I was never going to go to Starbucks again, but I know that wouldn’t be true. So I took up this offer and purchased $10 and in return got $20. My plan is to only go to Starbucks when I am out of town and am not able to make my own coffee from ‘scratch.’

Coffee breaks are a way some of us at work get out of the office for a couple of minutes, and with that comes a little bit of peer pressure. “Hey! want to go grab a coffee with me?!”  I used to always say sure, let’s go! But now, I am able to say no thanks or maybe still go with them but not purchase anything.  I have seen and heard of too many people breaking the bank, racking up credit card debt to keep with the in crowd. I have no desire to go into debt to be ‘cool.’ No thanks!

 

Tis the Season!

Christmas is by far my most favorite holiday of the year. It is not because of the Christmas presents under the tree, to tell you the truth; I really don’t like getting presents. I would much rather just spend my time with my loved ones- most gifts given anyway are things you will hardly ever use and will sit on the shelf to collect dust.

                The Christmas season is my favorite because of many reasons:

The lights!! I enjoy putting up the Christmas tree and lights with my family, I am like a child that grins from ear to ear when I see Christmas lights lit up on people’s houses- so that when it snows the lights glow ever so perfectly against the snow falling. It just brings a different kind of happiness to my heart.

Family is very important to me and Christmas is usually the only time all of my mom’s side can get together unless we plan something in the summer. As kids, seven out of the nine grandchildren all lived within a fifteen mile-ish vicinity and that meant we went to Grandma and Grandpa’s every Sunday after church and for all holidays.  We spent many hours on their farm crawling in and out of the hay bale stacks, around the corrals where the horse and cows were to sinking knee deep in the sandy creek called Bear Creek.   Now all of our families are spread out by the states, so we are lucky to gather everyone at Christmas time- but we all still pick up where we left off and reminiscence of our childhood memories of each other.  Most of the stories involving me are not blog appropriate J Let’s just say I gave my mom a run for her money!

Thankfulness, Christmas reminds me to be thankful for all that I have- I’ve always thought my brain/heart is about 20 years older than my body (although… my body is starting to show signs of it not being taken care to the best of my ability…). I have always had a soft heart and want to give back as much as I can within reason. This Christmas, I was able to give our Christmas tree away to a family in need. When the lady came to pick it up she was talking about how her kids were going to be so excited to have a tree this year, they didn’t care if anything was under the tree they just wanted the majestic glow that the tree brings. She said they haven’t had a tree in the past few years. It made my heart happy that I was able to give back in some way, even if it was ‘just’ a tree.  It meant so much more to that family.  I always try to donate food to the local food bank and take my clothes to the local second hand stores if I don’t know of a family in need right away.  When my boyfriend got home, I told him that we were able to brighten up a family’s day/Christmas by giving them our tree and he asked if they needed anything else, lights/decorations. I said I gave him all the lights and decorations I had at the time. We talked about if we knew of a family in need we could go buy them their Christmas turkey dinner.

Time off! Who doesn’t enjoy a few days away from their 8-5 desk job?! *raises hand!* I know I sure do.  I always come back to work feeling refreshed after taking some time off to enjoy my friends and family and am very thankful I have the kind of job that allows me to build up some time do that.

The music! I know, I know I hear so many people the day after Thanksgiving say “They’ve already started the Christmas music?!” Well, I am one of those people who can’t wait for the Christmas music to start! I grew up listening to Mannheim Steamrollers so that is what I put on Pandora and play as soon as I get home the Wednesday before Thanksgiving while I am cleaning. It puts a girl the Christmas spirit!lindas-first-christmas

If you know me personally or have me as a friend on Facebook. No doubt you have seen a photo or two of Linda the Cat! This is Linda’s very first Christmas! She was being a typical ‘child’ and wouldn’t sit still under the tree for a photo so I caught this photo of her while she was napping. If you are wondering where we came up with Linda for her name just watch this video. Linda does NOT listen 🙂

Oh and who could forget, the FOOD! I always start out the new year a few extra pounds heavier than I wanted to. But really, come on… Christmas food only happens once a year! What is that saying?… YOLO- you only live once! J

Cheers to you and your family. Enjoy the time spent with them. Remember the reason for the season!