Since coming back from the beach, I've been on a huge cooking spree. I picked up the book Julie & Julia before we left for PCB and read it while we were there. The book, I thought, was even better than the movie, and it made me want even more to try some new things.

I picked up groceries Wednesday night. Something that's helped out with my quest to eat more fruits and veggies is that the past couple of times I've gotten groceries, I went ahead and cut up almost all my veggies immediately when I got home so they were ready for use. This has made cooking considerably easier, and I can just throw an awesome salad or a veggie pita together at lunch.

Anyway, Wednesday night, I decided to do a take on the balsamic glazed pork chops I made last week. I had bought boneless pork sirloins, and they were HUGE, so I chopped up one of them in small pieces and stuck the other back in the fridge. Then I salted and peppered it and sauteed it in olive oil. I added the balsamic vinegar and sugar like before, but I used a little more this time, and it helped me not burn it like I did the first time. I also added in carrots, red peppers, baby portabella mushrooms and shallots. Then I served it over Zatarain's Caribbean-style yellow rice. All the flavors ended up working really well together.

Thursday night I did hamburgers. I mixed the meat with A-1 Sauce, and that was just about all I did to it. I also sauteed mushrooms for my burger, and added Colby Jack cheese to both mine and Bobby's. I served it with dirty rice and salad. Sadly, we didn't have hamburger buns, but I enjoyed mine on white bread, and Bobby had his without bread.

Tonight I decided to find a recipe that involved figs, because I bought some figs on sale at Publix. I found this recipe for chicken with a balsamic fig sauce. The recipe took a little prep but was actually fairly easy, and it ended up being delicious! I also tried some oven-roasted broccoli with olive oil, kosher salt, ground pepper, garlic and red pepper, thanks to a recommendation from my online friend Sharon. I decided to do some sauteed veggies, too, so I put together some carrots, red peppers and mushrooms and added a little Italian dressing and some parsley. I also did sauteed squash and onions. Dinner tonight was really yummy!

I'm pleased with doing a little more cooking in the past week, and I feel good about learning to cook some new stuff!
Beach trip -- August 29, 2009
11:41 PM | Author: Misty
Bobby and I took a much-needed vacation last weekend. We went down to south Alabama and spent some time with my dad for his birthday (early -- his is Sept. 4) and with Bobby's mom for her birthday on the 23rd. Then it was off to Panama City Beach for a few days of relaxing. It was awesome. Here are a few pictures:

This was our condo at Origin at Seahaven. We loved the view, and the bed was so comfortable!

Sunset on the beach

This was such a great trip for us. It was nice to get away for a few days and have some time together without the normal day-to-day stresses and worries of work, keeping the house clean and all the other little things that come up here and there.

As for my eating healthy mission, I honestly pretty much ate what I wanted while I was on vacation. I was definitely more active with lots of swimming and walking, so that may have helped offset some of that. At the same time, I was proud to find that I still stuck by my efforts to control my portions; I ended up taking leftovers back from dinner each night and eating them at lunch the next day. So basically I got two meals out of all my dinners (with the exception of the last one, which I didn't take with me since I knew we'd be driving home the next day). Bobby also noticed my efforts and was very encouraging!

We were a little sad to come back to Tuscaloosa, but now we're saving toward our anniversary trip in March. We're hoping to go to Savannah!
Amidst craziness at work and getting ready to go out of town for a few days, I did manage to work in a new recipe this week!

Last night Ashley came over, and I made balsamic-glazed pork chops with mushrooms. I wasn't sure how this would turn out, because I took the balsamic glaze part from a recipe from Southern Living's cookbook for Balsamic carrots. But it sounded like a good idea, and I think it turned out pretty well.

I salted and peppered three bone-in pork chops and sauteed them in olive oil until they were cooked through, then I dumped in the mushrooms, balsamic vinegar and some granulated sugar. I can't remember the precise measurements, but it wasn't a whole lot (like 1 1/2-2 tbsp of each), and it worked well on the three chops and mushrooms. I do think I overcooked the glaze a little bit, because I ended up with something of a mess clinging to the pan afterward.

I definitely want to make this recipe again. I'd like to get the timing right so that the leftover balsamic is still more liquid than goo. And next time, I think I'm going to add shallots and chopped carrots.
I saw this last weekend and hadn't really thought about writing it up until now. All in all, it was a fairly solid chick flick -- not a whole lot of substance but reasonably good acting and writing.

Meryl Streep was easily the highlight of the movie as Julia Child, and I also appreciated Stanley Tucci's turn as Paul Child. The relationship between Paul and Julia was happy-making and a nice contrast to marital issues faced by Julie (Amy Adams) and Eric (Chris Messina).

The concept of the film is that Julie, a modern woman who has aspirations of being a writer, decides to break from her humdrum life as a government office worker by using her evenings to cook through Julia Child's (et al) "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Julie's story is juxtaposed with that of Julia learning to cook and struggling to get "Mastering" published.

It was fun to watch Julie, whom I'd classify as a pretty average woman, fight her way through the recipes, some of which were very difficult and even weird (aspic, anyone?). She blogs about her struggles and successes, in the kitchen and in her marriage, which takes some hits thanks to her newfound hobby. But in the end, of course, love prevails and Julie gets the book deal she has longed for.

The good part about it, I suppose, is that it's based on a true story, and obviously this woman really published her book. As a writer and the spouse of a writer who's hoping to get his first novel published in the (fairly) near future, I can identify with this part of the story. Knowing that this average person managed to do something extraordinary and make one of her dreams come true gives me some sense of hope.

And the movie made me want to cook, try more new recipes. I don't really think I'll ever do what Julie Powell did, if for no other reason than the massive amount of money it'd take (I think she eventually set up a Paypal account via her blog to offset the cost). But I now have a goal of trying one new recipe per week. We'll see how that goes!

Altogether, the movie was enjoyable, and I appreciate that I walked away from it feeling a little better about life and driven to cooking action. I've heard the arguments that Amy Adams' acting is weak, whiney, etc., but I think it's a portrayal of a character, and when it's held up against Meryl Streep's Julia -- well, it's hard to even compare. Streep does such a phenomenal job with a larger than life character that it's sometimes hard to come back to the modern-day (and sometimes a little boring) Julie, but it's real life.

I'd give the movie a B+.
Creative eating -- August 20, 2009
9:09 AM | Author: Misty
I had some fun last night trying to get the amount of veggie servings I wanted. Not sure that I quite made it, but I gave it a good go!

I completely forgot to take any meat out of the freezer for dinner. Bobby was working, and I was sorely tempted to just hit up Chick-Fil-A. I resisted that urge, more for our budget's sake than for any healthy eating reason, and pulled the good ol' fallback from the freezer -- frozen pizza.

We tend to buy at least one frozen pizza per week for lazy nights, and I was glad for it last night. But a pepperoni Red Baron left me with the challenge of figuring out how to incorporate veggies. I'd had a salad at lunch AND at dinner the previous night, so I really wasn't in the mood for more greens, and I didn't feel like chopping up and cooking the squash and zucchini in my fridge.

The good news for me is, for once, I worked ahead with some of my veggies. Last week when I bought groceries, I immediately chopped up tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers. The cucumbers wouldn't so much work on a pizza, but I tossed on some bell pepper and tomato, adding in some chopped mushrooms and black olives. I also added a little extra (reduced fat) cheddar cheese to hold everything on the pizza.

I thought the end result was actually very good! I got in some more veggies, and the pizza tasted better.

Anybody out there have creative cooking ideas to share?
Healthier choices update - 8.19.09
10:23 AM | Author: Misty
I'd love to say I've been able to completely rid myself of unhealthy habits in just over a week, but unfortunately this is not the case. I am, however, extremely proud to report that I'm making some progress. In fact, I really have not tried to rid myself of all my unhealthy habits at once, and I think this is a good start for me.

My intent is to focus on one or two of my unhealthy ways at a time, and this past week, my efforts have revolved around eating healthier portion sizes.

I love good food, so when I get it, I want it -- all of it. Right now. The result is that I often walk (more like waddle) away from the dinner table feeling bloated and unhappy with what I've just done. This is especially true when there's pasta involved.

So I've been re-educating my belly on the difference between being stuffed, being full and being satisfied. Whereas before approximately 5 out of 7 days in a week I'd leave the table stuffed, I think in this past week I've left the table stuffed maybe once. I tend to vary between being full (which I define as having eaten a little too much but not to a point where I feel like I'm going to explode) and being satisfied.

This is a definite improvement, and one I feel good about. Bobby and I went out to O'Charley's the other night for a date. I ordered something I might typically get -- a bowl of soup and a "Pick Two" plate that consisted of a small-ish steak, chicken tenders and onion rings. I also ate rolls, and we ordered fresh cinnamon donuts for dessert.

Normally when I go to O'Charley's, I could make a pretty good run at finishing all of that. I like all those foods. A lot, in fact. But after eating 2 1/2 rolls and polishing off a bowl of loaded potato soup, I managed to eat about half my chicken fingers and onion rings and a bite or two of steak before calling it quits. And I was full at that point. I downed a couple of the little donuts, but we ended up with four of those left over, too.

I can't even fathom how I could eat the portion of the meal that I ended up taking home with me. Yet I know I've done it time and time again. It makes me sort of disappointed in myself, because I'm choosing to value a very temporary, feel-good food taste over my long-term health. It doesn't even make sense!

It's a struggle, but looking at it in these terms makes it a little easier. I can see that I am not meant to eat that amount of food at a single meal. And that in itself is progress.

The next thing I'm planning to turn my attention to is incorporating more fruits and vegetables into my diet. I've really already gotten a start on this by buying and eating more fruits this past week, but it's definitely a small start. My goal with this is to eventually (and hopefully within the next few weeks) be eating at least five servings of fruits and veggies per day.
Hard to believe that Bobby and I have been married for almost five months. The days have flown by.

There have been a lot of hard days, and there have been a lot of good days so far. When we got married, Bobby did not have a steady job; he was doing freelance writing here and there. Unfortunately, the economy was not friendly with his job-finding efforts, and for several months we toughed it out on one salary.

I'm not sure I can do justice to the range of emotions we experienced during this time. There was the obvious elation of being newlyweds, living together for the first time and searching for our first house together. But there was also worry and stress -- Would he get a job? What if we started falling behind on our very first mortgage payment? And for him, there were the feelings of helplessness at not being able to contribute. For me, pressure to do great at my job and worry that my income would not get us by.

It was hard, but God has been so good to get us through that. About a month ago, Bobby finally got a solid lead on a job, from an unexpected source: a bowling alley. They were looking for a part-time bartender, so he went in, interviewed and was pretty much immediately offered the position. I'm surprised at how good this job has been for him. He's very much a people person, so he's very good at it, and the tips and hourly pay are more than enough to fulfill our budget.

Having the weight of financial stress lifted has done wonders for both of us. I would love to say that I was 100 percent supportive during his job hunt, and I would also love to say that he never got discouraged or wanted to give up. But honestly, that's not where either of us was a lot of the time. But we made it through, and we have learned valuable lessons.

These days we're able to do a lot more of what we want to do, which is nice. We've gotten our budget into better shape through taking a Dave Ramsey financial seminar at our church. We did buy the awesome house that there are pics of in some previous blog entry on here. And we've gotten plugged in with an awesome small group at church.

I'm really proud of my husband, and I'm happy to be married to him. I've seen him grow and change over the years, and I'm excited about the person he is and who he is becoming. And I feel the same way about me, too.

I told him the other day that I'm glad to be married to my best friend, and that's the truth.
An open letter -- August 9, 2009
5:17 PM | Author: Misty
The more I think about it, the more I realize that holding on to bad things that have happened can really ruin your life.

It seems easier to stay hurt and angry. It's hard not to when things keep happening to keep the wound from fully closing. But I am learning that sometimes the best remedy is not to put a bandage over the wound. In fact, many times it's better to get it out in the open, let it breathe, even if it's an ugly wound.

Some wounds have been inflicted quite purposefully in the past few years, while others have been accidental. They have hurt. I have grieved. I have been angry. I have felt alone. And it's time for that to stop.

You are not going to hurt me any more. I firmly believe that the kind of wounds you cause can only come from a heart that is bruised and damaged itself. You would rather I be mad at you and lash out at you, because it's what you deserve, and somehow it would validate the way you feel. You justify your thoughts and actions by holding them up against the things I have done, or at least that you think I have done. I am forgiven, and I'm not ashamed. I don't have to hide.

I hope you can find a way to be happy in life. I hope you can understand what God's grace really is. And I hope that you find whatever help you need to get there.
Those of you who know me likely know that my weight has always been a struggle for me. When I was in high school it wasn't such a big deal, because I was active, especially during softball season. But college came around, and it's been downhill (and up-scale, if you get my drift) since then.

Being from the South, I was raised on fried foods; my daily veggie servings have always come breaded and dripping in oil. My mom, who has a similar body composure to mine, had flings with several different diets. The most memorable was the Atkins -- admittedly, mostly I remember lots of pork rinds and cheese.

My dad is pretty much on the opposite end of the spectrum. He's pretty skinny. Always has been. When I was in middle school, he told me I was too overweight to play basketball and had me run sprints in our yard in an effort to slim down. It really wasn't as cruel as it sounds, but for a 13- or 14-year-old girl, it was pretty hard-hitting.

Needless to say, my perceptions of food, fitness and body are all kinds of screwed up.

The big weight gain that led to where I am now (for anyone who doesn't know me well, I'm certainly not gargantuan, but I am overweight) was a gradual thing. It's like I woke up one day, realized that none of my jeans fit any more and knew I needed to do something about it. That was sometime around 2005. I joined Weight Watchers then and had really good success with it. But I fell off the wagon at some point, and sadly I've gained back what I lost.

These days it's pretty easy to make excuses. After college, I started a job at a newspaper. The hours were tough, and I was living 30 minutes away from my work, so it was really simple to justify eating McDonald's or Chinese food every night. I needed something fast and cheap, right?

The tough thing is that this became habit, and it's carried over to my eating now. I don't eat McDonald's nearly as often, but I do crave fast food or Mexican or Chinese several times a week, and this even carries into the foods I cook at home. Combine all this with stress from changing jobs, moving, getting married and buying a house, and it adds up to even worse eating habits.

I want to change, but I am a pretty lazy person. I think that changing is more important to my health than anything, though I am unhappy with the way I look many days. I consider myself a pretty girl -- but a pretty overweight girl. I'd like to be able to buy clothes wherever I want. I'd like to be able to run a 5K if I want.

Something I've been thinking about in all this is that I need to learn to be happy with myself, no matter what. I was reading Kate Harding's Web site (found via online friend ernie bufflo), and the writers there focus a lot on learning to love yourself as a "fat woman." I have a hard time calling myself a fat woman. I cling to the title of "overweight" because it doesn't seem as ... harsh. But their point is that it's nothing to be ashamed of; in fact, some women's body types are just always going to be fat. They do, however, emphasize that there's a different between having a fat body type and having a sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle.

So I'm trying to look at the decisions I make as ones that can make me healthier. As a result I likely will lose weight, because I don't think my body is designed to be this size. At the same time, I'm trying not to focus on a number. What will my goals be? I will certainly have some, but I don't know exactly what they'll be yet.

For the timebeing, I'm trying to be happy with who I am, and I know that I'll be happier by displaying discipline and becoming a healthier person. Maybe I'll even be a healthy fat woman.
2:01 PM | Author: Misty
Random posting, but for those of you that read (or stumble across) my blog, check out Common Sense with Money's Back to School giveaway! You can win $100 Visa gift card just for leaving a comment!
I did my weekly grocery trip yesterday afternoon (it's about 2 a.m. right now on Friday), and I was able to find some great deals at Publix! Here are my favorite deals this week:

Near East Rice Pilaf or Couscous or Taboule or Whole Grain Blends, Assorted Varieties, 5.25 to 10-oz box BOGO $2.19 (totally bought 4 boxes of this because I can't remember the last time it was BOGO, and we love couscous)

Hostess Sweet Sixteen Mini Donuts, Powdered or Frosted, 12 or 13-oz pkg BOGO $2.99 (used $.50 coupon from 6/7 newspaper; coupon doubled, and the package was only $.50!)

Lysol All Purpose Cleaner, Assorted Varieties, 40-oz bot. BOGO $3.19 (there's an internet printable coupon for $.50 off on this; coupon doubles to make these $.60 each)

Hebrew National Kosher All Beef Franks, Original, Reduced Fat, 97% Fat Free, or Jumbo; or Knockwurst, 11 or 12-oz pkg BOGO $4.99 ($1 off makes these $1.50 each, and these are probably our favorite hot dogs)

Chef Boyardee 15-oz. can, assorted varieties $.85 ($1 off makes these free, plus $.15 overage)

There are lots of other good deals, and you can read more about those at I Heart Publix.

Another cool giveaway - June 29, 2009
3:33 PM | Author: Misty
Check out this Crocs giveaway from Common Sense with Money! I thought Crocs were all ugly, but I'm surprised to find that they have some pretty cute styles these days!
Stretching a Buck -- June 15, 2009
3:44 PM | Author: Misty
Just wanted to share another great resource I've found in my search for deals on the Web. The Stretching a Buck blog is great for finding good deals, coupons and awesome giveaways. Marcy is currently giving away a $100 Home Depot gift card, so check it out!
Some free stuff -- June 2, 2009
8:45 AM | Author: Misty
There are a couple of great giveaways on the Web right now that YOU should know about.

First, Mars is giving away free chocolate! Every Friday morning, go to the Mars Real Chocolate Relief Act Web site, enter your info, and if you are one of the first 250,000 people to do so, you will get a coupon in the mail for a free single-serving chocolate bar -- M&Ms, Twix, Three Musketeers, etc. You can enter each Friday between 9 a.m. and midnight ET, so hit Mars up for some free candy!

The other giveaway that I'm loving is for a free tube of Burt's Bees chapstick. Burt's Bees is doling out 1,000 free tubes of their famous beeswax chapstick daily through June 20 in honor of its 25th "Burt day." The giveaway starts daily at a random time between 9 a.m. and noon ET. Visit the Burt's Bees site for more details and for your chance to win. AND, as of this posting at 9:52 a.m. ET, today's giveaway hasn't started yet, so you've got a good shot at being one of the first 1,000 visitors!
It's people like Frugal Dr. Mom who really challenge me to do what I'm doing as far as savings on groceries AND doing even better with money-saving. For the month of May, Dr. Mom fed a family of five and four pets for $78.03 TOTAL. For the whole month. She bought $1,051 worth of groceries, pet food and other household items but only spent $78.03 (after an FSA reimbursement). That's AMAZING.
I had the chance to share with my small group last night about what I'm doing with coupons and money-saving. I really enjoy telling people about it and (hopefully) helping them save a little money, too! I promised the group that I'd post my notes on here, so here they are:

Why use coupons?
Any amount of savings from your normal grocery budget is an improvement!
With some time and effort, you can save 50-75% on your grocery bill!

How did I get started with couponing?
I was reading the blogs of some friends of mine, and they were talking about how they'd
started getting into saving money on their groceries. From there I started doing research on
my own and found a whole bunch of folks on the Web sharing about the ways they are saving
ridiculous amounts of money on their grocery bills -- and seemingly in ways that I could
pretty easily do myself! If a mom in Tennessee can feed herself, her husband and their three
kids on a grocery budget of $50/week, then I should be able to do that for just me and my

How do I do my grocery shopping?
I choose to shop at Publix (of the stores we have in Tuscaloosa -- Publix, Wal-Mart, Winn
Dixie, Bruno's, K-Mart, Super Target) because of great buy-one-get-one deals, good sales on
produce and meats, stackable coupons, double coupons up to $.50 and the penny item offered
every Sunday and Monday. I also prefer the overall quality of Publix's products.

The Publix sales paper comes out on Wednesdays, so I usually start my shopping list on

I usually visit Publix 4 Pennies, along with looking at the sales paper, to make my list. P4P
lists all the ongoing sales at Publix, PLUS the coupons that match up with them.

I make my list primarily based on what's on sale with other items added in as necessary.

Finding coupons
Publix accepts three types of coupons:
Manufacturer coupons - found in newspapers, online and in-store
Store coupons - Good only at Publix; found in-store or sometimes by mail
Competitor coupons - Target, CVS, Bruno's, etc.

You can stack one of each of these types of coupons on one item. Also, when you buy BOGO
items at Publix, you can use one of each of these types of coupons on each item.

You can also find coupons by buying/trading online.

Maximizing savings
As much as possible, base your list on what's on sale.

Try to find a coupon for everything you buy. You'd be surprised what you might find one for.
I've found coupons for things like fresh pineapple and strawberries, hamburger meat and
packs of chicken.

Be willing to put a little time and effort into it; it's going to take a little longer than simply
writing out a list. I usually take between two and three hours per week preparing my grocery

When you find a great deal on something you use a lot, stock up on it. Don't feel silly buying a
bunch of one thing. At one point I had seven boxes of cereal, six boxes of 100-calorie packs
and six boxes of pasta in my pantry -- and I just started doing this about 4-6 weeks ago!

Be willing to shop around. I do most of our grocery shopping at Publix, but I also look for deals
at Target and CVS.

Some good Web sites for finding coupons and deals:
Publix 4 Pennies
Fiddle Dee Dee Mom
A Full Cup - Featuring Target Coupon Generator
Teri's Message Board
Attention Target Shoppers
I Heart CVS

There are dozens more sites out there, but these are some of my faves. This is most of what I talked about with small group. We did a Q&A session afterward, but I didn't write any of those down!
I recently finished Girl with a Pearl Earring, another book read as a result of our lack of Internet and cable at home. It’s one of those books I’d sort of been meaning to read for a while, because I’d heard it was good, but I just never got around to it until now.

The story is a fictional idea of how Vermeer’s famous painting may have come to be. Author Tracy Chevalier does a nice job of putting together a story that is almost believable, particularly in that she does not over-glamorize the lives of the characters in the book.

The main character is Griet, who goes to work for the Vermeer family after her father is blinded in an accident and can no longer continue in his livelihood of painting tiles, which apparently was a common Dutch occupation at that time. At the age of 16, Griet must become the primary provider for her family – mother, father and little sister Agnes. Her brother, Frans, is apprenticed to a tile painter, learning his father’s trade.

Griet slowly acclimates to life with the Vermeers, learning to stay out of the way of the elder maid Tanneke (who is only 28 but has aged rapidly thanks to her years of servitude), to maintain the appearance of wanting to please her mistress Catharina and to be wary of the wise Maria Thins, the matriarch of the household.

That Griet is allowed into Vermeer’s painting studio to clean quickly becomes a point of contention with Catharina, and her position in the household seems constantly in peril – until Vermeer begins to use her as something of an assistant. The fact remains hidden from Catharina, and Griet, in her efforts to please her master, whom she feels a strange attraction and kinship to, works long hours to ensure all her chores are completed.

Through the two years in Griet’s life covered in the book, she undergoes many changes. Her sister dies from the plague after Griet has refused to speak to her in the marketplace; Griet carries this burden with her for the rest of her days. Frans runs away from his apprenticeship and is nowhere to be found. And Pieter, the son of the butcher the Vermeers use, becomes more and more interested in her, despite her efforts to deflect his attention.

The story eventually climaxes with Vermeer’s decision to paint Griet because one of his clients, a perverted man who can’t keep his hands to himself, requests a portrait of the “wide-eyed maid.” When Vermeer declares that Griet must wear his wife’s earrings in order for the portrait to be complete, she knows that she will lose her position, but she can’t say no to him.

The story resonates because it’s not a fairly tale by any means, and it feels like real life. There is suffering, disappointment, anger, hatred and so many other things. The characters don’t all come to a happy ending, but they come to a real ending. Chevalier did an admirable job of making a story that was a fictional account of a factual event into a believable tale. Grade: A-
CVS trip -- May 28, 2009
8:29 AM | Author: Misty
Yeah, the CVS trip ended up being a pretty big flop because I couldn't find some of the stuff. I got the Beggin Strips and the toothpaste, but that was it. I may try the CVS by where I work tomorrow.

The exciting news was that I got another $4 off coupon that I should be able to use at Publix!
Deals this week -- May 27, 2009
3:41 PM | Author: Misty
Sadly, this week doesn't look to be quite as good a grocery week as last week was, but the good news for me is that I'll only need to pick up a few things. I'm really aching to hit up the Tuscaloosa Farmers Market, but Bobby and I are going to have company this weekend (Chris and Allie are coming up for the Hillsong United concert Friday night), plus my small group is doing yard work Saturday morning for Ms. Annie.

Still, there are a few good deals I'm planning to take advantage of this week, and here they are.

Purina Beneful 3.5-lb. bag of dog food
BOGO @ $5.49 ($2.75 each)
Using 2 printable coupons for $3.50 off each from Give a Bowl
Total cost: FREE for 2 bags

Glad Plastic Wrap
Advantage Buy Sale price: $1
Using $1 off coupon found in Publix green summer flier
Total cost: FREE

Sale price: $2.50
Using $1 off printable Target coupon
Total cost: $1.50

Blueberries (to make the blueberry pie Bobby looooooooves -- I'll post a recipe and pics soon)
Sale price: $2.99
Total cost: $2.99

Sale price: $.99/lb.
Total cost: ~$2

Green beans
Sale price: $1.29/lb.
Total cost: ~$1.29

I've also heard that some Oral B toothbrushes may be on clearance at Publix, so I'm going to try to take advantage of that to get a free new toothbrush for Bobby. I have a $1 off coupon from Publix and a $.75 off manufacturer coupon I'm hoping to stack!

Transaction #1:
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunblock SPF 55 1 oz. (2)
Sale price: $1.99 each ($3.98 total)
Extra Care Bucks (ECB) to be received: $10
Total cost: $3.98

Transaction #2:
Colgate Total
Sale price: $2.99
Using $1 off manufacturer coupon
ECB to be received: $2

Gain Detergent
Sale price: $5.99
ECB to be received: $3

Acnefree Pockmark Filler (don't need -- just buying as filler/for ECB)
Sale price: $1.99 (if still available)
ECB to be received: $5

Total for Transaction #2: $10 (paid in $10 ECB from first transaction)
ECB earned for Transaction #2: $10

Transaction #3:
Speed Stick Pro Deodorant (for Bobby)
Sale price: $3.99
ECB to be received: $3.99

Purina Beggin' Strips
Sale price: $2.99
Using printable coupon for $3 off for getting a pet insurance quote (use code B3KCA)
Total cost: FREE

Filler - $1

Total for Transaction #3: $5 (paid in $5 ECB from previous transaction)
ECB earned for Transaction #3: $3.99

Total spent out-of-pocket at CVS: $3.98
Total ECB left after all purchases: $8.99

Of course, this may change if I can't find some of the items I'm looking for, but ideally this is everything I'll buy at CVS.

I don't have any current plans to make any further purchases at Target, but I may peruse the meat sales there. I'll make a post later in the week if I find any good deals!

I'll likely post an update after my shopping trip to detail how successful (or not) it was. This is really the first time I've worked at the CVS deals like this, and several of these items are good stock-ups for us, so I'm eager to see if it works out. If nothing else, I'll get free dog treats out of the deal!
We haven’t hooked up cable and Internet at the new house yet, and this has led to a dramatic increase in my offline reading. Seriously. We moved less than two weeks ago, and I’ve finished two books and started a third.

I want to start sharing some thoughts on the books I’m reading here, so this is the first book review installment.

The first book I finished in the new house was A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Thanks to Oprah and Frey’s aptitude for the not-so-little white lie, most of you are probably familiar.

I was skeptical. Going in, I knew that what I would be reading had been passed off as truth and revealed to be mostly made-up. Even so, I got lost in the story. The story is of Frey’s trip to rehab after nearly killing himself through drug and alcohol abuse. He wakes up on an airplane, not knowing how he got there, missing teeth and with sores and wounds galore. His family has sent for him, desperate, bringing him to a rehab center that will be his last chance.

The first half or so of the book is painful, because fact or fiction, it’s a look into the life of an addict. Frey portrays himself as angry, stubborn and woefully lost to substances that have taken over his entire life. He doesn’t remember chunks of time. He doesn’t remember the last morning he woke up and didn’t vomit.

Throughout, Frey displays resistance to the program the rehab center is attempting to help him through. He declares that he doesn’t want to substitute one addiction for another by looking to a “higher power” to help him. He breaks the rules by entering a relationship with a female patient, Lilly. But he manages to grasp on to the fragile remaining tendrils of a relationship with his family, learning to suppress a rage he has felt since he was a child and to accept and give love. He makes it through the program in his own way and with help from friends and family, sometimes unwelcome but wanted more often near the end of his time in rehab.

I can’t imagine a deeper look into the mind and life of an addict, and I don’t doubt that Frey struggled with a horrible addiction. The book also called attention to the fact that addictions aren’t just to drugs – they can be to anything.

In the end, though, I was disappointed that a story that asks for so much investment from the reader isn’t real at all. Frey casually includes a list at the end of the book of where the “characters” are now; more than half of them have died. It made me rather angry to read their information, knowing that Frey most likely defiled their memory by formulating interactions, relationships and possibly even entire people that never existed.

The book was well written and a good read, altogether, but I found I just couldn’t get past Frey’s dishonesty. Grade: C+
Grocery shop -- May 21, 2009
3:16 PM | Author: Misty
This week’s shopping trip was a VERY good one. Bobby and I had $40 budgeted, and so far I have spent $37.10. In order to help out somewhat with folks who are interested in how we are saving, I’m trying to include detailed info about the coupons I used and the sales I took advantage of.

Here’s what we got:

Lays Wavy Potato Chips
2 packages
Buy one, get one free (BOGO) at $3.49
Used $4 CVS Extra Care Bucks coupon from previous visit, so total was $0.
(**CVS Extra Care Bucks is an incentive program. You fill out paperwork, get a CVS discount card for free, then when you buy certain advertised products, you get coupons for dollars off your next purchase. You will also save money on other items with the card and get other coupons that print out from the register, including ones like I got today: $4 off a $20 – which I have been able to use as a competitor coupon at Publix.)

Publix Cola (4)
On sale for $.50 each
Total: $2

Cole’s Bread Sticks/Garlic Toast (2)
BOGO at $2.79
Used two $.50 off coupons from
Total: $.79 for 2 (~$.40 each)

Gallon of Publix Milk
On sale for $2.89
Total: $2.89

1 lb. Filet Mignon steaks
On sale for $10.19/lb.
Total: $10.19

18 lb. Kingsford Charcoal Bricks
On sale for $6.99
Used $3 in-store coupon from Summer is Here booklet
Total: $3.99

KFC Masterpiece BBQ sauce
Regular price: $1.50
Used manufacturer coupon from newspaper: Buy Kingsford Charcoal, get BBQ sauce free
Total: FREE

Pork sirloin cutlets
Regular price: $5.63
Used $6 off pork when you buy Kingsford Charcoal, KFC BBQ sauce at
Total: FREE

Mueller dry pasta (6 boxes)
BOGO at $1.29
Used $1 off 3 printable coupon at
Total: $1.87 for 6 (~$.31 each)

Betty Crocker Premium Brownie Mix (2)
BOGO at $2.55
Used printable coupon for $.50 off two at (coupon doubled to make it $1 off total)
Total: $1.55 for 2 (~$.74 each)

Bush’s Baked Beans (the medium-sized cans) (2)
BOGO at $2.29
Total: $2.29 (~$1.15 each)

Kraft BBQ sauce (2)
BOGO at $1.49
Used two $1 printable coupons at
Total: FREE for 2

Near East Couscous (2)
BOGO at $2.19
Total: $2.19 for 2 (~$1.15 each)

Glade Plug-In Gel Warmer
Regular price: $1.99
Used FREE manufacturer coupon from newspaper
Total: FREE

Pedigree Dentastix Dog treats (2)
BOGO at $3.79
Used two printable $2.50 off coupons at
Total: FREE for 2

5-lb. Red Potatoes
On sale for $2.99
Total: $2.99

Heluva Good Dip (4)
BOGO at $2
Used four printable coupons for $.50 at – coupons doubled, making it $1 off each
Total: FREE for 4

Kraft Singles American Cheese (2)
BOGO at $2.59 (and I actually just realized I bought the wrong kind and paid $6.98 instead of $2.59 – called Publix, and they said I can swap it!)
Used $1 off 2 printable coupon at
Total: $1.59 for 2 (~$.79 each)

Cover Girl lip gloss
Regular price: $3.59
Used $2 off coupon from Publix Green Health and Beauty Flyer, $2 manufacturer coupon from newspaper
Total: FREE

14 lb. Tidy Cat litter (3)
BOGO at $6.99
Used three $2 peel-off coupons available on Tidy Cat containers in-store
Total: $4.49 for 3 (~$1.50 each)

Publix Hot Dog Buns
On sale for $.99
Used printable $.50 off coupon from (does not double)
Total: $.49

Publix White Bread
Regular price: $1.17
Total: $1.17

I also used a printable Wal-Green’s coupon for $5 off a $25 purchase and a CVS coupon that I got at the CVS register for $4 off a $20 purchase for a total of $9 extra off.

Total shelf price of all groceries: $137.22
Total paid: $32.31
Total amount saved: $104.89
Becoming a saver -- May 21, 2009
2:29 PM | Author: Misty
OK, I’ve had several people ask me how in the world I’m saving so much money on groceries these days, so I wanted to do a slightly more detailed blog post on this week’s spending.

First off, I don’t think I could save what I have been without the help of sites like, and I especially love the Publix 4 Pennies site because it not only tells me about the sales and coupons, it also lets me select the items I want to create a printable shopping list.

Another thing those reading should know is that I do most of my shopping at Publix, with supplemental trips to CVS and Target. Publix accepts manufacturer coupons (the kinds you can find in a newspaper or print online), competitor coupons (such as printable online grocery coupons from Target) and in-store coupons (these are usually found in the magazines and sales papers at the front of Publix, right when you walk through the door). I try to buy things that are on sale, especially buy-one-get-one-free, which Publix has a lot of.

Something to remember about buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) items: You can use a manufacturer coupon on both. So if I wanted to buy two packs of crackers that were BOGO and had two coupons for $1 off one pack of those crackers, I could use both those coupons to get a total of $2 off.

Publix also will stack one of each type of the aforementioned coupons, so you can use up to three coupons on each item. On those BOGO crackers, in addition to the manufacturer coupons, if I had a Target printed coupon for $1 off each pack and an in-store coupon for $1 off each pack, I could stack all the coupons (6 total) and get $3 off each pack of crackers.

Keep in mind that not all Publix stores will take competitor coupons because it is generally at the discretion of the manager. Many Publix stores also double coupons up to $.50 (for some reason, though, none of the Florida stores do), so when you are using small-value coupons, keep in mind that they will double when you are figuring out your grocery budget.

Beyond knowing how the system works and figuring out where to get coupons, the biggest thing for me is just making some time to sit down and plan out my shopping trip. The Publix 4 Pennies site helps greatly with this, but I also usually sit down with the Publix weekly ad (which comes out on Wednesdays) to start my planning. I probably spend a couple of hours a week figuring out what I will buy and how much I will spend. The good news is that this is helping lower our monthly grocery budget. This week, as opposed to budgeting $75, I budgeted $40 – so far so good. See my next post for the details on the shopping trip.
Well, we’re at least partly in the new house and loving it so far!

Bobby and I signed our papers Friday morning bright and early, and I was lucky enough to get the day off work, so we quickly set about moving our bed and some of the boxes we’d packed up. Over the course of last weekend we managed to get nearly all our kitchen supplies and food, about half our clothes and most of the small stuff (photo albums, books, DVDs, etc.) from the living room.

The moving was tedious with just the two of us doing the first stretch (we have people coming to help with furniture and everything else that’s left this weekend), but I was proud of all we got done. We unpacked most of what we could and are looking forward to getting completely moved in.

On Sunday friends from our church small group came and helped us paint! We had picked out our colors Friday and picked them up at Wal-Mart on Sunday right after church. We went with “casual blue” for the living room, “almond” something-or-other for the hallway and “citrus spice” for the spare bedroom. We left all the other rooms the same.

Funnily enough, I think the most drastic improvement was in the hallway, which Stephen and Susanna took primary responsibility for. They seriously went all out and did two coats over the old wall, which was a drab off-white/gray color with these odd box-shaped designs. The difference makes the hallway look much lighter and bigger.

Ashley, Benji, Megan, Ryan, Bobby and I tackled the living room and knocked it out pretty quickly. It’s a bright, calm blue, and I’m really happy with the way it turned out. I think it’ll look even better once we get our couches in. It also lightens the room up a bit, whereas the previous off-white color was just pretty boring and uninviting.

Everyone except Megan and Ryan had to leave as the afternoon wore on, but they were able to hang around and help us finish up the bedroom. The citrus spice color is a really nice yellow with some orange-y tones; it’s a happy color and a nice fit for this bedroom. We’re planning to use it as an office/library, and I’m actually looking forward to spending time in there because the color makes me feel good and warm.

I really can’t express how much Bobby and I appreciated having that much help with painting, because we know it would have probably taken us AT LEAST three times as long to do it by ourselves. We felt so loved and cared for because these folks took their Sunday afternoon (a time when most people are napping) and spent it helping us just because we needed help and they’re our friends. It’s a nice feeling.

Now we’ve been in the house for almost a week, and we are all starting to get used to it. Ranger and Rosie love the backyard, and they’re completely exhausted (but also very stinky, unfortunately) when we bring them in at night. Nom Nom likes having more space to explore. After a few days of not sleeping well thanks to the new surroundings, Bobby and I are setting in, too.

Some friends are also coming this weekend to help us get our furniture moved in, as I mentioned previously. I’m really happy to have the help and excited to grill out afterward! I picked up some baked beans, chips, dip, brownies and sodas to share and am also planning to buy a watermelon. It’ll make for a fun first Memorial Day weekend in the new house, and I’d imagine the combination of visiting friends, grilled food, laughter, sunshine (hopefully) and finally having all our stuff moved will really make it feel like home.

Here are a couple of pics from painting. The first is Megan painting in the living room, and the second is Bobby and me making our first roll in the hallway. You can sort of see the before and after effect there. I don't have pictures of the bedroom/study yet, but I'll take some soon!

My Target haul - May 13, 2009
1:33 PM | Author: Misty
Just hit up Target for some freakin' sweet deals! Here's what I brought home:

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers 2-pack (2) - $4.98 - BOGO coupon = $2.49

100-Calorie Packs (3) - $6.12 - $3 Target coupons - $3 manufacturer coupons = $.12

Triscuits (2) - $4.08 - $1 Target coupon - $2 manufacturer coupons = $1.08

Simple Harvest granola bars - $2.74 - $1 Target coupon - $1 manufacturer coupon = $.74

Kraft dressing (2) - $3.28 (on sale) - $1 Target coupon - $2 manufacturer coupon = $.28

1 lb. Ground sirloin - $3.99 - $1.50 Target coupon = $2.49

Gold'n Plump 20 oz. Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (2) - $6.98 (on sale) - $2 Target coupons - $3 manufacturer coupons = $1.98

Gold'n Plump Family-Size Chicken Drumsticks - $5.99 (on sale) - $2 Target coupon - $1.50 manufacturer coupon = $2.49

2-Liter Diet Dr. Pepper (5) - $8.45 - $7.95 manufacturer coupons = $.50

20-oz. Diet Dr. Pepper (this was filler) - $1.49

Total shelf price: $60.04 - $5 off $50 Target coupon
Total out-of-pocket: $13.60
Total saved: $46.44 (about 77%)
So I'm really getting into this saving money thing! I've had fun this week planning out my list and getting together coupons and figuring out the best deals, and I think I did really well. I have shopped at CVS, Wal-Mart and Publix so far. Here's what I got at Publix:

Hotdog buns - $1.15
White bread - $1.17
Pineapple - $2.99 - $.75 printable coupon = $2.24
Cubed steak - $2.09 (on sale)
Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter with Honey - $2.99 - $.35 coupon DOUBLED = $2.29
Cascadian Farm granola bars - $2 (on sale) - $1 printable coupon = $1
Red grapes - $2.67 (on sale)
Sour cream - $.99 - $.50 coupon DOUBLED = FREE
Cream of Tartar - $2.69 - $1 coupon = $1.69
White corn (2 - fresh) - $.50 (on sale)
Baby carrots - $.85 (on sale)
Bacon-wrapped scallops - $4 (on sale)
Hebrew National jumbo franks - $2.50 (on sale) - 1 = $1.50
Oscar Mayer lunch meat (2) - $6 - $1 Target printable coupon = $5
Keebler Chocolate Lovers cookies - $1.99 - $1 printable coupon = $.99
Green Giant Green Bean Casserole - $1 - $.50 printable coupon DOUBLED = FREE
Green Giant Broccoli and Cheese - $1 - $.50 printable coupon DOUBLED = FREE
Milk - $2.29
Stouffer's Grandma's Chicken family  meal - $3.99 (on sale)
Post Trail Mix Crunch cereal - $2.10 - $2 printable coupon = $.10
Gravy mix - $.49 (on sale)
Publix premium ice cream (Chocolate Trinity, YUM) - $2.50 (on sale)

Then in addition, I had a $4 off a $20 purchase coupon from CVS. Because Publix accepts competitor's coupons, they accepted this one (though they are sometimes iffy about the $ off total purchase ones).

Total out of pocket: $35.65
Total value of products purchased: $77.75
Total amount saved: $42.10!!

I went to CVS during my lunch break today because I've been reading a lot about their Extra Care Bucks program. Here's what I came up with:

Transaction #1:
12-pack of Coke Zero (3) - $12 (on sale) - $3 printable coupons = $9
Vitamin Water 10 (6) - $8 - $5.50 coupons = $2.50

Total for transaction #1: $13.31
ECB earned: $10

Transaction #2:
Kellogg's Cereals (3) - $10 - $3 printable coupons = $7
Toothbrush - $2.99 (on sale)

Total for transaction (after applying $10 ECB): $.28
Additional ECB earned: $7

I walked out of the store with three 6-packs of Coke, three boxes of cereal, six Vitamin Water 20 oz. drinks, a new toothbrush, $7 toward a future CVS purchase, a $4 off coupon that I was able to use at Publix and a coupon for a $25 gift card if I fill a prescription at CVS. My grand total at CVS was $13.58. But part of that comes from my personal money for the month because I bought the Cokes to keep in my office.

Grocery total for CVS: $7.58
Non-grocery total for CVS: $6
Total out of pocket: $13.58
Total value of stuff bought: $46.24
Total saved: $32.66 (plus I still have $7 in ECB)

My purchases at Wal-Mart are a little more difficult to quantify as far as savings, because Wal-Mart doesn't provide that info. Here they are anyway:

Cheese crackers - $2 (on sale) - $1 coupon = $1
Purina 7lb cat chow - $6.98 - $1 coupon = $5.98
Angel hair pasta - $.74 ($.45 cheaper than Publix)
Centrum vitamins - $9.97 - $2 coupon = $7.97
Mac & Cheese crackers - $1 (on sale)
Garlic salt - $1.04
1/2 dozen eggs - $.52

Grocery total: $20.25
Approximate value of items: $28.70
Approximate amount saved: $8.45

Cake pan - $9.97 (doesn't count against grocery budget)
Mother's Day cards (2) - $.88 (don't count against grocery budget)

Non-grocery total: $11.83

Total spent for groceries: $63.48
Total budgeted: $75
Total value of all grocery items purchased: ~$152.69
Grand total saved: $89.21

That's a savings of about 59%!!

I am very proud to be $11.52 below our grocery budget for this week! This is the first time this has happened since we've been married, and it definitely won't be the last!
Online coupons -- May 2, 2009
11:15 PM | Author: Misty
I forgot to mention in my last post, but there are a few places I go when I'm looking for online coupons. I usually check the Slickdeals forums first because it's pretty easy to search for what I want. There's also Coupon Bug and SmartSource, among others. Target usually has some good printable coupons on its site, too, and as I mentioned, I was able to use one of these at my local Publix today.
Being a cheapskate - May 2, 2009
10:53 PM | Author: Misty
So a while back I went through this phase where I was really into coupons and saving money when I was grocery shopping, and thanks to reading some friends' (Chrishtan, Jana, Lauren) blogs about how they are trying to save money, I am back in the game!

I checked out The Grocery Game after reading about it on the first two of the previously mentioned blogs, then Lauren also mentioned it in her blog! So apparently it's a pretty popular site (or we all read each others blogs). The concept is pretty cool. Basically someone has found a way to compile a shopping list of all the sales from the stores in a given zip code. So, for example, for Northport, I am provided with a list for Publix, Wal-Mart, CVS, Winn Dixie and Walgreen's. The list not only includes in-store sales, it also includes coupons that have either been available in the newspaper, in-store or online that can make the sale an even sweeter deal. The first four weeks are $1 and after that it's (I think) $10/month for a single store's list. As Lauren pointed out in her post about this, it does seem a bit silly to pay for info that could easily be attained with a little legwork. The nice thing about the site is that it basically puts together my grocery list, and I can take off things I don't want before I print. It also makes it easier to find coupons for the items already on sale.

I went grocery shopping for the first time today since joining the site, and I guess I have mixed feelings about it. I think the site helped some, but I also was able to pick up a Publix sale paper and primarily made my final list from that and the coupons I had on hand. I had a pretty decent stockpile from a few weeks of newspapers, in-store Publix coupons and the Internet. I also found out that some Publix stores will accept a competitor's coupon for a specific item; today I was able to use a coupon I printed on to get $1 off a box of 100-calorie packs (which became a pretty sweet deal -- $.99 after the sale price + coupon!). From what I understand, though, not all Publix stores do this, but at the ones that do, you can usually stack a manufacturer coupon, an in-store coupon and a competitor coupon for a really good deal, if you happen to have all three.

All in all, I think I did pretty well. I spent $85 total and saved $50 total (coupons and sale prices) on a week's worth of groceries for Bobby and me. I was able to get good fruits and veggies (2 ears of corn for $.50, a bag of carrots for $1.50, a bag salad for $.79, strawberries for $2.50, a bag of about 10 Fuji apples for $2.50 -- and a few other things) and meats (Polish sausage, a family pack of pork chops that we'll freeze part of, pot roast and hamburger meat), and those were probably the items I spent the most on. We got three boxes of cereal (buy 2, get 1 free + $.55 cent off coupon for Lucky Charms) and a free gallon of milk with those, thanks to a coupon in the Publix sale paper. I also snagged toilet paper and cat litter at low prices thanks to coupons. Oh, yeah, and I had a very nice $5 off coupon that Publix sent out with its mailer last week.

It took more effort, but saving $50 in one trip to the grocery store feels really good. I also feel like once I get the hang of "being a cheapskate" and figuring out how best to work the system to save the most money, I will be able to see even bigger savings on some trips!
As I think I mentioned in my previous post, we went to Paris for our honeymoon, and it was WONDERFUL! Seriously, it was probably the best honeymoon I could have asked for. We flew out of Atlanta on Sunday, March 22, and after a horrendous (and unnecessary) trip through customs in Amsterdam, we made it into Paris and actually took a really long nap. Oh, yeah, and on our flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam, we got some special treatment from KLM Airlines once they found out it was our honeymoon! This is us drinking champagne on our flight:

We got up that evening and did some walking around near our hotel (Hotel Bastille de Launay), which was near the Bastille. We had dinner at a nearby restaurant, and it was DELICIOUS:

We had cabbage with different types of pork -- a couple of sausages, some really thick bacon and ham. There's also a random potato on there. We also had some pate (I don't know how to do the special character over the e), bread, a kir (a wine drink) and a Bordeaux (red wine).

For dessert, we had the most delicious creme brulee either of us had ever had!

The second day we were there, we were a lot more mobile, so we headed out in search of a market, which we never found. But we did have a pretty decent steak-and-potatoes lunch. I was irritated about not finding the market, so Bobby took charge and decided we'd go see Notre Dame. We figured out which Metro station to stop at thanks to our handy Moleskine Paris Guide and ended up almost right at the doorstep of Notre Dame. We ducked in a little patisserie for some tartlets (Bobby had a chocolate banana tartlet, and mine was white chocolate raspberry -- delicious!), then examined the Hotel de Ville before walking on to the cathedral. Bobby had said he wouldn't mind only looking at the outside, but I told him we had to walk through. He ended up being glad of my insistence. Here are some of my fave pics from inside Notre Dame.

And a few from the outside of Notre Dame (the first one was taken by Bobby):

Yeah, he had to lay down on the ground to get this shot, but it looks awesome!

We were amused by the statue (we think of John the Baptist) holding its own head and the one angel that looks like it's going, "Oh, it's OK, John the Baptist." The other angel looks like, "Stay away from me, headless freak!"

Picture of us taken by a Japanese tourist. He did a great job. Hint: Always look for the touristy guy with the biggest camera. Bonus points if he speaks English.

Shakespeare and Company book store, which is apparently pretty famous (though I'd never heard of it) is just across the river from Notre Dame, so we headed there next. I definitely think this was one of Bobby's favorite places we went, and I really liked it, too. It's an English book store with one floor of books for sale, another floor of reference books and a sort of dorm where writers can come and stay for free while they work.

Top is Bobby outside the store, middle is some of the books on the reference floor, and the last is Bobby sitting in one of the reading areas, looking out the window at the Seine.

We had dinner that night at one of the best restaurants we visited on the trip: Ambassade D'Auvergne. The food was tremendous, the restaurant itself was beautiful and the service was outstanding. Bobby had the world's best mashed potatoes and chocolate mousse (along with some other stuff). We also had a bacon and lentil salad that was very good.

We spent Wednesday at the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. I'm going to skip the pictures from the Louvre because there are a whole bunch of them, and this is already ridiculously long. Actually, if I were reading this, I'd probably have skimmed through the pictures and already left the site!

So on our way to the Eiffel Tower after our Louvre visit, we strolled along the Seine, stopping to take pictures along the way. We even talked a French woman with a dog into taking our picture in front of the tower.

Then Bobby tried to hug the Eiffel Tower and proceeded to take a great picture from the top:

The rest of our trip included lots more food and a trip to see the Arc de Triomphe and a stroll down the Champs Elysees.
There are so many more details about the trip, but given that it's taken me over a month to get this far, I think I'll just let you enjoy the pictures. You can see more on my Flickr page:
It's been so long, and so much has happened since I updated! I hope to at some point come back and share some thoughts from journal entries from my wedding/honeymoon weeks, but for now, I'm going to settle for sharing some pictures!

The wedding day started bright and early with a trip to Southern Reflections Salon in Ozark. My cousin's fiancee, Amanda, agreed to do my hair for free. I was a little scared about how it was going to turn out at this point:

But thankfully the end result was much ... tamer. My bridesmaids also had some interesting hair experiences:

But theirs also turned out really pretty:

After we got our hairs did and I got a sweet early morning text from Bobby, we headed back to my parents' house to finish getting ready. We were running a little late, so we hurried and still ended up being late for pictures.

Here I am leaving my parents' house for the last time as a single woman:

Bobby and I had a few moments alone before pictures since we decided to do the pictures before the wedding. We met in the sanctuary of the church (Sykes Creek Baptist -- my Meemaw's church). It was really special to walk into the sanctuary in my wedding gown and see him standing there in his tux. We exchange hugs, kisses, encouraging words and I love yous. There may have been a few tears involved.

And here are some faves from before the wedding (captions below photos):

This is the entire wedding party. Far left are my sisters Kristy and Amy, then my dad and my mom on the bottom row. The top row on the left is my bridesmaids Lauren, Ashley and Holly. Jerred and Sarah-Grace, my niece and nephew, are in the front. Bobby's parents are bottom right, and behind them (from right) are our ushers Chris and Brian (Elmo) and Bobby's groomsmen Chris and Bobby. We're in the middle, and our preacher, Matt, is standing behind us.

Me with my niece and nephews. Drew, the one on my lap, wasn't in the wedding, but he wanted to sit in my lap for a picture.

Bridesmaids? Or secret agents/angels?

Apparently this came from a movie. It was our photographer's (Stephanie's) idea. It turned out really cute, even if I have no idea what movie it's from!

Bobby: I'm going to make a goofy face at your flowers now. Me: Quit messing around!

This shot was Bobby's idea, and I think it turned out hilarious.

This is probably my favorite shot of us.

Me and Drew in between the formal pictures and the ceremony. We were having a good time!

And here are some from the actual ceremony (captions below photos):

That's my dad giving me away. Yes, that is a tear. Bobby and I both pretty much alternated between laughing and crying for the entire ceremony.
Bobby was doing a lot of giggling. I don't think either of us could believe our wedding day had finally arrived and we were really getting married.

Bobby had a little trouble getting my wedding band on my hand. And I laughed at him (then helped him, of course).

Having learned from Bobby's ring issues, I used both hands to guide his ring onto his finger.

Then there was the kiss. We got some catcalls. Bobby said later that he figured if he was going to kiss me, he might as well do it right and make it memorable!

Matt did a wonderful job with the ceremony. We had tons of people tell us afterward that it was one of the best weddings they'd ever been to. We wrote our own vows, and we also each sent Matt a write-up about why we love each other and wanted to get married. He preached a sermonette about this and tied in Bobby's pursuit of me with the way God pursues us --
even when we don't think we want to be pursued, he's persistent.

We had the reception in the church's fellowship hall, so after our recessional (Mna Mna -- people didn't quite know what to think, but it was so us!), we headed over and formed an informal receiving line. We hugged a whole bunch of people and then headed in for some cake and food.

Here are a few other shots from the reception:

Some members of the old T-town crew were able to make it: Matthew, Jessica, Holly, Lauren, Bobby, me, Renee, Dianne, Chris and Austin. Wish more of that group of friends could have come, but we're spread out all over the country now!

A handful of folks from Vineyard, our church in Tuscaloosa, made it, too. This is Katie, Ashley, me, Bobby, Benji and Rob.

Lauren caught the bouquet and was very happy about it.

Brian (Elmo) caught the garter and was not nearly as happy.

And finally, we were off. In our nasty car. Courtesy of Beau Freakin' Rainwater. Thankfully Rob and Benji came to my parents' house and washed it off while we were changing clothes. I don't think we can thank them enough for that!

After Bobby and I changed clothes at my parents' house, we headed to Georgia for the evening. We ate dinner at a restaurant in Griffin, Ga. (where Bobby used to live), before checking into our hotel. We were exhausted! We got up the next day and piddled around for a while before heading to the airport to catch our flight to Paris! I will post some pictures from Paris soon, but that'll definitely be for another blog entry!

Looking back on our wedding day, I'm really amazed at how smoothly everything went and how stress-free the day was. When people ask us about it, that's the biggest thing Bobby and I remember about the day -- we never once felt stressed. Nervous, yes, and excited. But it was a beautiful day, and it was really everything I could have hoped for.

By the way, if you want to see even more pictures, they are posted on my flickr account,