The Rosy Wanderer

Wandering with a purpose

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Welcome 2017!

The New Year is exciting because it’s a chance to look forward and see what is going to happen in life. I plan a list of goals, look at my calendar, and try to make a plan to accomplish it all. It’s also a chance to reflect to see what went well in 2016 and where you can improve.

One of my main focus areas this year is personal finance. I do a relatively good job, but I could be doing much more. The last several months, I’ve been reading about how people saved a million dollars in their 30s, retired early, and achieved strong financial independence. I want and can be one of those people.

Get Motivated

Hopefully, these will inspire those of you with a financial resolution this year. I’m also addicted to the Dave Ramsey podcast. I’ve listened to hours of it over the last week. It’s what I needed to kick myself into gear. I agree with a lot of what he says, but I can’t imagine eliminating my credit card. I always pay mine off, so in my world it’s okay. Security for online shopping and rewards points are too important for me.

This is a hard change to make – it will significantly affect two areas I enjoy – eating out and traveling. If I make the sacrifices now, I think it will have a large payback later on. I do have three major trips and events this month and February, but I’ll do what I can to get started before then. This will be a wandering all on its own.

So, cheers! Bring it on 2017! Until then, happy wandering!

Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving! Besides delicious food, this day is a great reminder of what we have to be thankful for. No matter how busy things are or how stressed you can be, Thanksgiving is a chance to slow down and reflect on what is really important in life. Of course, family and friends are at the top of the list, but the other things that I am blessed with this year are…

Puppies

The loves of my life. I love them to pieces. I am also thankful that all of my foster pups found good, loving homes.

Best Friends

The Cubbies

Go Cubs GoFinally, after 108 years, the Cubs broke the curse and are World Series CHAMPIONS!! I mean, no more needs to be said. #gocubsgo

America

Even though there is a lot of divisiveness in our country now, I hope everyone remembers what a wonderful place we call home. Our freedoms are unmatched anywhere else in the world. If we work together and do our parts, we can continue to make America the best place in the world. I am incredibly proud of my country and thankful to all of the men and women who serve to protect us.

North Carolina

My home and favorite state. I love our mild fall days. I love that the color on the trees is peaking for Thanksgiving day. Whether spending time in the city or the country, NC has so much to offer. Blue skies to make you smile for days.

Nice view for a run
Running

Can’t believe I’m saying that, but last year I was recovering from a stress fracture. This year, I completed a half marathon and just finished running a Turkey Trot. I don’t necessarily love running, but I am so grateful to be able to do it. Some people don’t have the ability to do this, so I am appreciative of being able to walk and run.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to you! Enjoy the day with your friends, family, and delicious food. Also, did I forget to mention how thankful I am for pumpkin pie?! I must go get some now!

 

2016 Charlotte Marathon

I wouldn’t consider myself a runner, but I do love how it feels after I run. I used to think running a half marathon would be impossible for me, but today I proved myself wrong – I finished running the 2016 Charlotte Half Marathon!

In 2010, I had my first chance to see a half/full marathon. It was my last day in Las Vegas, and my friend and I were drinking on a patio outside of Paris watching the runners. By the time we were on our way out that evening, the marathon was still finishing. My second time watching one was the NYC marathon in 2013 – talk about good runners. Something I liked about watching these events was anyone (who trained) could do it. It’s not like watching a basketball game; we can’t all play basketball. I am lucky to have a lot of friends who run, and their advice and experience persuaded me to try it out. I had gotten out of shape and was looking for something to motivate me – that’s when I signed up for my first half.

The first chance…

img_0181Savannah was my pick because it was flat. I was nervous to run it, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t have added obstacles to block me from finishing. When training for this race, I made sure to do all of my long runs, but I didn’t always do my short runs. Long story short, I did a long run in NYC one weekend (one of my dreams was a long run in Central Park) where I pushed myself harder than expected AND then continued to walk around. Turns out, I developed a stress fracture in my foot. I wasn’t supposed to run the half, but I decided to walk it because my brother was running. It was a great experience.

…and the next!

But Charlotte 2016 was my chance. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick to my training plan. I ran short runs, but I just couldn’t get motivated for the long runs. As is the motivation for all procrastinators, the deadline started approaching, and I had to get serious!! Two weeks ago, I did a 10-mile long run and then again last week. I did well to mile 8, then it got tough.

half marathon bibThere were no words to describe my nervousness for the actual race. An additional 3 miles is a lot, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I woke up this morning at 5 am to each breakfast and have a little coffee. Before I run, I have a waffle with peanut butter and cinnamon. I usually put a banana on it, but I forgot to buy some. I walked my dogs and hung out before driving Uptown. Charlotte isn’t as big of a race as Savannah is, but it sure is cool being in your home city. Soon enough, the race started. It’s hard at the beginning –

Soon enough, the race started. It’s hard at the beginning – everyone is excited and full of energy. Since I’m not a strong runner, I have to watch myself because I can’t go too fast. It’s literally a marathon, not a sprint! It’s tough to have people pass you, but I just zone into my podcasts and worry about myself. I did a great job running to mile 8, that’s when things got tough. I had to run/walk the remainder of the race. My legs were like Jello!

As I went up Mint St. and could see the Panther’s stadium, I got excited. I had a pick up in my run. Then – there it was! The finish line! “Keep going, keep going,” I told myself. As I did, I started to increase my stride and sprint! Then VICTORY! I was over the finish line. 13.1 miles were conquered, and I could say I ran a half marathon. My goal was to finish in less than 2:45 – I finished in 2:35. A MAJOR accomplishment for me.

half marathon finisher medal

2016 Charlotte Half Marathon Finisher Medal

Takeaways

half marathon victoryI do enjoy these races. Disney is my next event, which will be fun because I am doing it with a group of friends. And it really isn’t impossible. If you want to run a half, you can! If I can do it, I truly believe anyone can; you just have to want to do it. Halfs are nice because you have to commit to training, but you don’t have to modify all of the details in your life.

I have a lot of respect for full marathoners, but I don’t have a desire to run one. If my finish line was the halfway point, I don’t know if I would have made it. A marathon is also different because you have to watch your diet and long runs are more than a half marathon. It’s a great goal, but I don’t think it’s something I’ll do. More halfs, on the other hand, yes, I will definitely do this!

Schatzi Resting

Such a cute face to look at when recovering

Reward Points – the start of a new adventure

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, but today I finally jumped and took the plunge! I’m going to figure out how to maximize using reward points to help me travel. Since I make less money than I used to, but my desire to travel is as big as ever, I need to find a way to make it happen. When I bought my first house, I used my credit card points to buy towels, pots/pans, and other decor. It worked out nicely!

First off, this world is pretty complicated. I mean, there are probably thousands of credit cards out there. It’s not like you can sample cards and figure out which one works best. You can’t continue to open and close cards either because it can affect your credit score. Two big sites helped push me over the edge – Mint.com and The Points Guy. I’ll have a separate blog post about Mint.com, but I’ve been a fan of The Points Guy for a while. He has a beginner’s guide that I found very interesting and helpful. Stay tuned as I start to learn more, but so far I decided to take the following steps…

  1. Applied for Chase Sapphire Preferred card (crazy how fast you can get approved!) which is supposed to be great for travel. Plus, it doesn’t have foreign transaction fees which I need for my trip to Zurich in February.
  2. Made an account and started linking my reward programs to AwardWallet. It’s a free site (there is a Plus version), but essentially it tracks all reward programs (airlines, food, hotel, etc). I had tried TripIt Pro‘s program in the past, but I didn’t like it. One day in, and so far I like AwardWallet. More to come!
  3. Researching other ways to save or grow money. Currently looking at Acorns, Wallaby, Mint.com, and general budgeting techniques.

Once I start to figure things out, I’ll keep you posted. Any tips or experiences would be appreciated! I have some big goals…I can’t wait to turn these clip art pictures into my real pictures! Switzerland, Paris, and Machu Pichu – here I come! Until next time, happy wanderings!
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Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Shark Tank is one of my favorite TV shows because it promotes entrepreneurialism and small business – what America stands for! I am always very excited to try new Shark Tank products, so when I found a cookie kit at Target, I had to try it.  Scratch and Grain Baking Co. was featured in season 6 where Barbara gave them a deal. Scratch and Grain designs natural and organic baking kits for cookies, brownies, and more.

The Process

I love to bake, but I haven’t really baked in the last 3 or 4 years. Even since moving into my new house, I haven’t bought sugar and flour to bake! I was in a baking mood this weekend, so now was a great time to try.

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All of the ingredients (except butter and an egg) are included in this box. You don’t need to use measuring cups, so it makes clean up easy!

 

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All you have to do is add the ingredients in the correct order, and they are even color coded and numbered. I was able to mix everything in less than 10 minutes. A helpful hint on the box reminds the baker not to overmix the flour. A helpful hint for all baking projects. Once you have your batter, you just need to arrange the dough on the cookie sheet. They bake for 10 minutes, so this whole project takes only 20 minutes or so. Take them off the pan to cool, and I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious they were! Had I still lived in NYC, this would be the perfect fix for when I wanted to bake!

 

Time to Enjoy

My cookies turned out perfect! I am always careful not to over bake any good since a little gooey is always better. This was such an easy process, I will definitely buy this again. I can’t wait to try some other products from their line.

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Yummy goodness!

I even packaged them for mimg_2280y friend and me to eat at the theater. If you have a chance to see First Date do it! It was hilarious. I wouldn’t suggest it for children (language and some crude humor), but great for any adult. I can’t imagine someone not enjoying it. The cookies made for a great treat. Until next time, rosy wandering!

#tbt – “Home on the Range” in South Dakota

Two years ago (wow, I can’t believe it was that long ago!) my travel buddy, Irene, and I went on a long weekend to see North and South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming. It was our first time to that area of the country, and I couldn’t be more excited. There is something about the apprehension of a trip when you have no expectations. I mean, one of the best feelings! This trip surpassed anything I could have imagined.

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  • Stay: The Bullock Hotel, Deadwood, SD. The Wild West come to life!
  • Saturday: Fly into Rapid City. Explored South Dakota’s Black Hills and Deadwood
  • Sunday: Roadtrip through the Badlands to Medora, ND, for lunch before heading over to Makoshika State Park in MT to look for dinosaurs
  • Monday: Visit Devil’s Tower in WY before heading back to the airport in Rapid City

A Closer Look Into South Dakota

Even upon arriving at the airport, the landscape was breathtaking. The world was open, the air was fresh, and adventure was calling. We rented a car, which was a 10-15 minutes shuttle ride away.

An interesting tip is that all car rentals from Rapid City have a fee for additional miles. You can’t rent for a flat rate in that area because there is so much space to cover. Pay attention to this for costs!

img_2897Our first planned stop was to visit Mt. Rushmore and see a buffalo. For my SD experience, I really wanted to see both of these things. I truly believe in my travel philosophy; you have to have a plan when you travel. You have to know what you want to accomplish, but you cannot be too strict. You’ll never know what could come up! Case in point, as we were driving from the airport, we saw a sign for “Red Ass Wine.” I mean, a winery in South Dakota! 1. Who would have thought and 2. how can you say no?!

The winery (Prairie Berry) was a fun stop. Red Ass Wine was a rhubarb wine. I knew of rhubarb, but I had never had it. The wine at this winery was made from a variety of berries and fruit; it wasn’t traditional grape wine. We really enjoyed it and spent a good amount of time drinking another glass with lunch. The trip was already a success.

Mt. Rushmore

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving to Mt. Rushmore. img_2894We saw img_2892buffalo and order rhubarb pie from Purple Pie Place on the way. (Road Food recommended them on one of my favorite podcasts Travel with Rick Steves). Seeing buffalo was amazing! I can’t imagine what it was like to be a pioneer or cowboy moving West in the mid-1800s when buffalo numbered about 35 million. Today’s number is closer to 400,000. We drove around forever trying to find them. We gave up and decided to make our way to Mt. Rushmore – that’s when we saw them! One even walked right by our car.

buffalo for miles

Look at all of them! And we weren’t even at a zoo!

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He got so close…and yes, I was scared he was going to ram into the car.

We finally arrived shortly before the sunset, and it was even more awesome than I expected that it would be! Mount Rushmore is an enormous sculpture made during the Great Depression. It features faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. As a history fanatic, it was overwhelming to see something in person I had dreamed of seeing since I was a kid. We were there through dark so we got to see it lit up, as well.

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There it is! Such an amazing feeling to actually be there.

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Irene and I with the NY state monument. We had both recently moved from the Big Apple.

Goodnight from Deadwood

img_2948Next stop was to check into the historic Bullock Hotel in Deadwood. What a cool place to stay! Gambling is legal (brothels didn’t close until the 1980s), so there is a small casino downstairs. We were exhausted after such a long day, so it was time to find some food. Based on Yelp ratings, we went to dinner at a close hotel. Let’s just put it this way,  you can’t expect much from a culinary perspective in Deadwood. After that, we decided to call it a night. We had an early morning for our Badlands road trip in the morning and prayed we wouldn’t be woken by a ghost…

More to come on the next #tbt post! Until then, rosy wanderings!

#tbt – Fall into Apple Picking

Three years ago today, I escaped the bustle of NYC to have a girls’ weekend with my friend at her New Jersey home. I got off the train near Rutgers in a breath of fresh air. I love New York, but there is something about getting away and being in a more open space. Traveling from NYC is so easy. After grabbing a coffee, we were off to Princeton for apple picking at Terhune Orchards!

img_0886There is nothing more iconic of fall to me than apple picking. I may have gone as a kid, but this was the first time that I remember…and it was awesome! It is such a relaxing activity where you can literally enjoy the fruits of your labors. We had a great time, got a TON of apples, and went home to cook dinner.

I haven’t gone back since, but I am tempted to go this weekend. I’d love to do some “apple” baking. I’m getting into the fall spirit, and I need to embrace it! It is now time for apple crisp, pumpkin spice lattes, watching football, and enjoying the cooler air. Nothing is better than fall!

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Foster Pup – Luigi

“Oh, Luigi.” I’ve been saying this several times a day for the last month. Exactly a month today, actually. I thought he would have found his fur-ever home well before this point. I mean, he’s cute as a button (I call him Buttons sometimes).

img_1862They say Luigi is 2-3 years old, but I really think he is younger. He is all puppy. Everything about him is puppy, and if I had that expectation and more patience, it would be adorable. There is a big difference between a puppy and a mature dog, and through this experience with Luigi, it frustrates me that people don’t know the difference. People, if you plan on adopting a puppy please know they want to play and their energy is boundless! Even the cute ones can be crazy!

When Luigi got to our house, his skin was irritated and he had kennel cough (actually passed it on to Schatzi and Amie). It turns out he had a flea allergy, so we had to doctor him up and get him healthy.

Finding a Home

Luigi needs an active home. He loves to be involved in everything in your life. Whether it is going on walks, riding in the car, sitting with you on the couch, I mean, he even swam in the laimg_2022ke to be with me. He didn’t love it, but he didn’t hate it either. The boat on the other hand…he loved the boat. I’ve never had a dog who wants to be a sidekick. It’s the only word I can think of to describe him. Even when he rides in the car, he perches next to you (see picture!) I mean, he is just so darn sweet!

Since he has so much energy, and his previous family didn’t do any training (besides house training), we are working on commands. He is doing well with them. He lays down and stands up now. He’s catching on quickly.

If you or anyone you know is looking for an adorable, sweet-tempered puppy, Luigi is on PetFinder.

But let’s be real, he’s too adorable to not post a bunch of pictures. How can someone not love him?!

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He loves, loves to play with toys. He can’t get enough of them!

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What a boat dog! He loved the wind blowing in his face

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Even puppies need their sleep! It’s tough boating all day. He was too sweet looking…but I woke him up because you should sleep at night.

 

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Just a funny guy

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Luigi loves the furniture! This is one of is favorite places to sit…he even taught Schatzi how to sit like this. Oh dear…

 

 

It’s Here! The Apple Watch 2

So, I am not a technologist, but I wish I was. I appreciate technology. To think about the creativity and logic that goes into creating a new application or piece of hardware blows me away. I don’t understand the hardware side as much, but I love the user experience side. This likely explains why I am a huge Apple fan – but who knows, maybe my interest in Apple lead to my appreciation. I’ve been an Apple fan since high school yearbook in the early 2000s when I worked closely with the color iMac.

Yes, it’s early…

So I am posting this because I woke up early to pre-order the Apple Watch 2. I know it’s crazy, but that hype always gets me going. I woke up to pre-order my rose gold iPhone 6s, Kate and Will’s wedding, and I prefer early morning flights. Oh well. I don’t think they will sell out of the Watch 2, but I’ve been waiting for the second edition since the first one was released a year and a half ago.  Even though I’ve been waiting for a long time, I don’t make them lightly. I made my (probably) fifth visit to the Apple store this evening to confirm the color and size watch I wanted. My iPad purchase was equally bad; at least I had 1.5 years to think about it. I don’t take decisions likely.

Why I’m Excited

In 2013, I bought an UP Band and loved its. Unfortunately, it disappeared after a night of drinking in Tampa. As a less expensive alternative, I bought a Fitbit. Fitbit was okay. I liked

My final decision. Such a hard decision, but I decided the silver 38 mm sport version with a white band will be the most versatile.

My final decision. Such a hard decision, but I decided the silver 38 mm sport version with a white band will be the most versatile.

how many people had it to share information, but it wasn’t as reliable as the UP Band. A year ago, my Fitbit stopped charging, and I couldn’t fix it. My cheap, stubborn self decided to wait for the Apple Watch – and viola! Here we are! These are my main reasons I can’t wait!

  • I want a running watch. I feel the Apple Watch 2 (with GPS) is even better than a running watch because you can wear it all the time and do lots of things.
  • I miss tracking my steps/activity level
  • I’m not good at texting and paying attention to my phone (only millennial with this problem), but I hope I’ll be more alert to messages and action items.
  • Time travel – basically, I can see my schedule on my wrist. Since I live for my calendar, this would make things a lot easier
  • Geeking out my house – one of my big projects I’m researching is figuring out how to make my house “smarter.” I’ll share my findings in my blog, but the watch is another option for controlling the house.

Get ready! I’ll let you know how I like it starting next Friday (September 16). In the meantime, all Apple users, mark your calendar for Tuesday, September 13, to download the free upgrade to iOS 10. If you enjoy texting, you’ll love its enhancements.

#tbt – Labor Day

With Labor Day weekend upon us, I figured I should highlight a Labor Day outing for this week’s Travel Back Thursday (#tbt). This year, I’m heading to a wedding in Cincinnati, OH, for a high school friend. Labor Day the last several years has been consumed with weddings, which doesn’t make for a great #tbt tip. I mean, everyone’s been to a wedding. The last good Labor Day weekend was spent at Topsail Beach.

THE WEEKEND

My college friends rented a large house on the inter-coastal across the street from the beach on Topsil. It was basically a weekend of hanging out, playing, and drinking adult beverages. We did this the first two years out of college, and to this day, they top the list. We all lived in different cities, so it was a chance to all hang-out and pretend we were back at school. There were about 20 of us in one 3-story house.

TIPS for PLANNING

If you haven’t done a large group trip with your friends, then put that on your must do list and plan immediately! There is nothing better than just relaxing and having fun with your friends. Topsail Island is off the coast of NC. There is a small town with a few restaurants, but we didn’t go to them. It’s more fun to just stay at home. When doing a group trip, keep the following in mind:

  • Rent with a reputable company and make sure to pay attention to: security deposits, cleaning fees, check in/out times, and what is required for you to do at checkout. Keep in mind you are renting someone’s home. Keep it nice and make sure to clean up after yourself or expect to pay a hefty fee!
  • Everyone likes different things. Keep it open and fun. Keep planned activities to a minimum so you can take in the day and the weather.
  • Bring footballs, beach chairs, books, and other fun items. Board games are fun for any age and can always be adapted to increase competition or even a drinking game!
  • Depending on your kind of trip, meals can be important, but they may not be the most important. When my friends and I beached it, it was more about having fun and spending time with each other. We had dinner, but it was always easy so clean up was minimal and it didn’t take hours to prep. Assign meals to people to everyone has responsibility. Don’t forget to ask anyone in the party about their dietary restrictions! Coming from a “simple” eater – nothing is worse than being hungry. At least give a heads up to people of what dinner will be. I don’t want people to adapt to my eating habits, but I would want to bring my own food on hamburger night!
  • That being said, experience the local. On a different beach trip, we visited a local seafood market then came home and cooked up a feast! It was amazing – everything from crab to fish to shrimp. Best of all, it was FRESH!

BOTTOM LINE

Have fun! You’re on vacation – the most important thing to do is to relax and not take things too seriously. Pack your fun hat and leave the drama at home!

Happy Wanderings and Happy Labor Day!

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