Tag Archives: married life

Free & frugal ways to say ‘I love you’ on Valentine’s Day

This post was originally published on February 10, 2010. Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’ve never been a Valentine’s Day believer. I’ve always believed that you don’t need a special day to celebrate love. We should be celebrating every day, right?

It’s hard to avoid the Valentine’s Day hype, though, and any excuse to do a little something special for your partner is a good thing. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on flowers or jewelry, though. Try some of these free and frugal alternatives to celebrate the one you love today.

Do more than your share.

I would much rather come home to a spotless house than a dozen roses. This Valentine’s Day, show you care by doing your partner’s half of the household chores. Whether it’s bathroom duty, trash, cooking, dishes, or waking up early with the kids, your valentine will feel pampered if you give her a break for the weekend.

Share a small treat.

Early in our relationship, I assured Tony that I’d always prefer chocolate over flowers. Chocolate is dangerous for me, though, and I’d rather have a little treat than a huge box of candy. A little goes a long way, so surprise your valentine with a single serving of his or her favorite treat this weekend. It doesn’t have to be chocolates — maybe it’s trail mix or cupcakes. The important thing is that it’s his or her personal favorite. Bonus points if you bake it yourself (just make sure you bring the leftovers to the office or give them to your neighbors).

Write a love letter.

Love letters may seem cliche, but if you write something heartfelt and honest it will seem anything but. It costs absolutely nothing, but it means the world to the recipient.

Make a compromise.

Sentimental movies aren’t your thing, but your wife has been dying to see “Big Miracle.” Maybe you hate broccoli, but your boyfriend has wanted to try a new recipe for broccoli cheddar soup forever. It’s certainly not healthy to force yourself to do things you don’t like to do for your partner all the time, but you can make a compromise in the name of the most romantic day of the year.

Take a walk down memory lane.

Rent a movie that you saw in the beginning of your relationship. Make a mix tape of the songs you listened to on repeat for the first month you were dating. Do something that reminds you of how it felt when you first fell in love. Not only will it make you feel warm and fuzzy all over again, but it will serve as a reminder of why you fell in love in the first place.

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day, and that whoever you share it with makes you feel very loved.

Photo by butterflysha

The cure for a case of wanderlust

Tony and I have spent a good deal of our young lives being responsible. We save our money instead of spending it. We take short weekend trips instead of traveling to exotic far-away lands. We spend our weekends at home watching movies instead of drinking at bars with other 25-year-olds.

I’m not complaining. This is the life that I want, the life that makes me happy. There’s only one thing about it one thing I would change: I want to travel more.

Neither of us was very responsible with money in college, but we didn’t travel, either. We didn’t go on extravagant spring break trips or study abroad. It remains my only real regret about the way I handled my education.

Now that we’re so close to finally settling down, it’s made me think a lot about this one aspect of young life that I feel I missed. I know that we’re still young. We still have plenty of time. But I also know how much will change.

Because we know what’s coming, we’re trying to pack a lot of young living into a very short time. It’s why we decided to go to Europe. It’s why we spent much of the summer taking short little trips to the beach and the mountains.

All of this is to tell you that Tony and I did something a little crazy last week. We booked a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas. We’re setting sail in just 52 days — roughly two months before the week that we’ll move and board a plane for Europe.

We paid in cash, and we can absolutely afford it even with the trip to Europe and the move coming up. And yes, we got a very good deal.

We can afford it because we spent the last three years hoarding money, saving as much as we could for what will come once we arrive in Indiana. We’ve worked hard to put ourselves ahead of the curve when it comes to our finances. It won’t hurt our long-term goals to make a few spontaneous decisions in the short time we have left as a married couple without children.

I’m not saying that we’re going to spend the next few months blowing our hard-earned savings. I’m well aware of our limits and our goals. But we’ve got a little extra money, probably for the last time in a long time, and I intend to have a little fun with it. The important thing is that we keep our goals in mind, and we enjoy ourselves without getting too far off track.

We plan to pack a lot of living into the next few months. :)

Photo by rednut

I must have done something right

familyYesterday was rough. I floated in and out of consciousness for most of the day, delirious with high fever. I spent a painful half hour in the waiting room at Urgent Care desperately wishing I could lie down on the floor, or lie down anywhere for that matter, as sitting up was just too taxing.

I struggled to fill out the new patient forms, and I know I would have cursed myself for never getting around to finding a primary care physician if I’d had enough energy to think of anything but keeping myself upright.

Tony took the forms from me, filled them out, helped me get to the exam room once my name was finally called, and took care of payment when my appointment was over. He drove me home, made a bed for me on the couch, and left to fill my prescriptions.

He woke me gently every 4 to 6 hours to give me my medicine. He called my boss to let him know that I wouldn’t be in for the next couple days. He made me toast and chicken broth to make sure I was eating something. He kept my glass full to make sure I was getting enough fluids.

When he went to bed, he left my cell phone on the coffee table and told me his would be on in the room just 30 feet away. “If you need anything at all, and you’re not feeling well enough to get up, just call in case I can’t hear you.” It seems ridiculous now that my fever has broken, but at the time, I probably was too sick to walk to the next room or even call loudly enough for him to hear me.

My dog, who usually sleeps soundly on the cushion next to our bed, kept silent vigil at my side through the night. He spent most of the day at my feet, and slept on the end of the couch beside me all through the night.

The day was foggy with fever and illness, but one thing remained incredibly clear through it all: I am so so lucky to have a husband who cares for me so much and so well. Yesterday was rough, but I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without my little family.

Step out of your comfort zone

booksLast month after some encouragement from my favorite blogger friend Kacie at Sense to Save, I joined a book club. We still had 15 months left in North Carolina, and I was homesick and lonely for some girlfriends — or any friends other than my wonderful husband.

Last week I attended my first book club meeting, and I’m so sorry I didn’t do it sooner. We’re moving in just seven months now, but I plan to continue attending book club meetings until we move. It felt so good to get out of the house and do something social without my husband. When I came home, I was so happy to see him, and it felt good to tell him all about it.

I love sharing experiences with my husband. There’s no one else in the world I would rather spend my time with. But going out without him made me realize how much I miss doing my own thing, too. When you’re married, especially when you’re happily married to your best friend, it’s so important to do things every once in a while just for you. It’s healthy to have experiences without him so we can continue to learn and grow as individuals. After all, we fell in love with each other as individuals.

I was nervous about it. I didn’t know if I would fit in. I almost backed out at the last minute, telling myself, “Well, we’re moving in seven months now. There’s no point.” But I’m so glad I went.

Now it’s your turn. If there’s an interest or hobby you’ve been wanting to try, do it! Even it if means stepping outside of your comfort zone. Take a cooking class, join a book club, find a moms group.

I found my book club at Meetup,com, which was great, because I was able to look through the other women’s profiles before joining to make sure it was the right group for me. Most of them were in their 20s and 30s, married, with no kids. Just like me! It made the whole process a lot easier.

The most important thing wasn’t getting together and talking with other women about a book (even though that was fun). This experience taught me that I can do this. I can meet people outside of work and outside of my relationship if I’m willing to put in a little effort and step out of my comfort zone. It’s unlikely that any of the women in my new book club will become my new best friend, but that doesn’t mean I won’t look forward to getting together with them once a month to talk about books and drink a glass of wine.

It felt so good to do something by myself, to meet and talk to people who don’t know me as half of Karen and Tony, but now know me only as Karen. And most importantly, when we move and I find myself in a new place again, it won’t be so scary to step out and make some friends on my own.

What have you always wanted to try on your own?

Photo by foolstopzanet

Life through the lens

camera face

Now that we know our time here is finite, I’ve been slowing down to appreciate the beauty around me a lot more. As much as I complain about the heat and humidity in North Carolina and as much as I miss fall in the Midwest, there is a lot of natural beauty in this part of the country. But it’s not just North Carolina that we’ll be leaving behind when we move.

The next chapter in our lives will be as parents and home owners. I’ll (hopefully) be a work at home mom. Tony will be working full time. Our time as a family of two is limited, and I want to appreciate every second of it. I also want to see as much of North Carolina as I can before we pick up and move on.

I’ve discovered a new passion for photography, and it has allowed me to slow down and cherish more of these beautiful moments.

In the coming months we’ll be traveling a little more, photographing a little more, and taking the time to prepare ourselves for the most important job title we’ll ever hold: parents.

We’ll also be cherishing every moment of this time of our lives. I know that someday we’ll look back on this time together and realize just how precious it was. I want to appreciate it now even though I’m so excited about what’s next.

How do you remind yourself to slow down and live in the now?

Another change in plans, but this time it’s good news!

for rentI’ve been pretty open about my struggles with homesickness. Last week, we had a change of plans that will bring us home sooner than we planned.

Last spring we decided to stay in North Carolina until December 2010 so that Tony could pursue a high school teaching license in addition to his master’s degree. A problem with his scheduling brought on by some crummy advice from the education school has made it impossible for him to finish his high school teaching certification any sooner than May 2011 now. So we have made the decision for him to drop the high school teaching certification so we can move in May 2010. That means we’re moving back to Indiana in as soon as 7 months!

This is a big change of plans. We thought we had 15 whole months before we’d be picking up and moving again, but this means we’ll have to start making plans now. How does this change our financial plans? Well, luckily, not a lot.

Tony will finish his master’s degree in May 2010. At that point, he will stop receiving his monthly teaching stipend. Student teaching is a full time job, so he wouldn’t have been able to work while finishing the licensure program. That means we would have had to live on my salary alone. It would have been extremely tight for 8 months. We may have been able to get through it without spending any of our savings, but I doubt we could have saved much money between May and December 2010.

Now that we’re moving early, Tony will be able to find a full time job right away. I may decide to find a job, too, so that we’ll be able to save more for a new house in Indiana.

Right now, we’re hoping we’ll be able to move in the beginning of May, and then we’ll celebrate our new start with our trip to Europe. If it works out that way, the move could take as much as $1,000 off the cost of our trip to Europe. We’ll save $400 on kennel costs by leaving Howie with family, and we’ll also save $200-$600 on air fare because it’s so much cheaper to fly out of Chicago.

The only problem is that the lease on our apartment won’t end until July. I’m hoping we’ll have some options for early termination, but if not, we may have to stay for the extra two months so I can continue working and pay the rent without dipping into our savings.

As far as long term plans go, Tony has decided to continue his education so he’ll be qualified to teach at the university level. Except this time, he’ll be attending school part-time while working full-time so that we can start a family.

This is all very exciting for us. We can’t wait to move back to the Midwest, closer to our families, and begin the next chapter of our lives. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on our moving plans!

Photo by thetruthabout

Dancing with myself

Yesterday was one of those days when our city didn’t seem so bad. A huge block of the historic downtown was closed to traffic for an annual Art Walk. Artists displayed their work, and we were free to stroll from tent to tent viewing everything from paintings and photography to crafts to homemade candles and soap.

We finally had a chance to stop at the record shop around the corner from our house, where we found four great vinyl albums in the $1 bin. We’ll be taking all of our CDs there sometime soon so we can sell them and make the switch to all digital music. We’ve started rebuilding our collection of vinyl albums, but we’re only buying those when we find them cheap.

We spent the evening sipping wine, listening to our new albums, and dancing in the living room. Well, I danced in the living room anyway. Tony isn’t much a dancer. Howie tried, but he decided he’d rather wrestle than waltz, so I gave up on both of them and danced by myself.

Click the photo for this week’s slide show.

Howie dance

Proof that we’ve been to the beach at least once

Even though Tony and I live 10 minutes from the most beautiful beaches on the East Coast, we’re just not really into the beach. I don’t like to be wet, Tony doesn’t like to be hot, and we’re both too paranoid and neurotic to allow ourselves to get sun tans.

But I just found these pictures of us at the beach from June, and I had to post them to prove that we’ve actually been to the beach at least once.


On a whim one Sunday evening we packed up some books and a blanket and went to the beach for approximately one hour before the sun and the sand and the bugs got to us. Using the parking meter as an excuse, we packed up our books and left, but not before I made Tony pose for at least one picture of himself at the beach smiling. If we’re leaving North Carolina, we should at least have that.

The picture above was my fourth attempt. I kept telling him, “Let’s take it again. SMILE! You look like I’m torturing you!”

This is a more accurate depiction of Tony at the beach:

beach tony

And here I am pretending to LOVE my casual beach lifestyle. Soon I’ll jump into the dirty, fish poop infested water for a dip or maybe even jump on a surfboard despite the high probability that I’ll be attacked by a shark. It could happen. I’ve been watching Shark Week.

beach karen

Searching for a place called home

This month marks the two-year anniversary of our move to North Carolina. We’ve managed to thrive in our relationship and in our finances, but our social life is still at a standstill. We haven’t made many friends, and we really just don’t feel like we fit here. Being home last week only made that clearer to me.

I miss having a place to go for Sunday dinner. I miss getting together with friends for dinner or drinks. I miss having a support network of friends and family close by to help us through the tough times. Being with so many people who love us last week made it clear to me just how hard it’s been for us to get through the last two years alone.

Tony and I are blessed with a wonderful, supportive relationship, and for a long time I thought that we were enough for each other. But the closer we get to starting a family of our own, the more sure I become that we can’t do it alone. We want our kids to know the kind of childhood that we did — surrounded by grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends.

I’ve written before about our tentative plans to move back to Indiana when Tony graduates in December 2010. Last week pretty much cemented our plans. Even though it’s been two whole years, I’m more homesick than ever. I can’t imagine going through a pregnancy and my first year with a newborn without my mom, sisters and best friend there to hold my hand.

Every time I come home, my nieces and nephews have grown into entirely new life stages. The tiny infants I left behind two years ago are walking and talking and looking at me suspiciously because they don’t know me. It breaks my heart.

We’ve struggled with this decision since we began planning our lives together three years ago. We’ve dreamed of living as ex-pats in Europe for a few years or trying life in a new part of the country. But the older we get and the closer we get to starting a family, the more I know we need to be closer to ours. I’m craving a place to call home.

Between college and grad school and the time in between the two, we’ve been living in transition for seven years with another year and a half to go. We’re ready to find a home of our own.