Halloween Weekend 2016

Who doesn’t love dressing up for Halloween? For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed dressing up and playing a different role for just a few hours. This year was no exception. Our small town held their first Halloween festival, which included games for children, animals up for adoption by the local Greenbrier Humane Society, snack and craft vendors, live music, a costume contest for attendees, AND a pet costume contest. It was only appropriate that Matt and I enter our pups. Well, they won as a tie for Most Original Costume! Needless to say, I’m glad our cheap Amazon purchases and homemade costume from a pillowcase and some buttons were worthwhile 😉 Here’s our 2016 family Halloween picture!

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A Jedi Knight, Rey, Leia as Princess Leia, and Miner as R2D2 🙂

Of course there were other Star Wars attendees there, so it was only fitting that dueling went on.

And of course, a couples selfie had to happen. Couples who nerd together stay together!

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The force will keep us together.

While Saturday was a day of running around and having fun, Sunday was lazy. So lazy that, in fact, we slept until 11:00, ate breakfast at 1:30pm, and spent an hour driving over a one-lane road (if that’s what you want to call it) ON TOP OF the Greenbrier State Forest trying to find a hiking trail. We ended up at the exact same spot we always go (from a different direction). It was worth it though to see the autumn beauty that was all around us.

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My world in one picture<3

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Lastly, I couldn’t help but take a picture of the fall setup on our front porch. I enjoy decorating (to an extent), and I absolutely love fall. I’ve really gotten into wreath making too. Thanks to Hobby Lobby for their cute decor and awesome sales!

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After an exhausting weekend, it’s only appropriate to end this entry with a picture of Harper, our kitten rescued from the horrendous flood this past summer. If only we all could relax like her after a busy day!

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The #1 Grocery Shopping Mistake and Ways to Overcome It

I know I’m not the only one who’s ever gone to the grocery store without a list. Even worse, I’ve gone without my list AND hungry. Bad combination. If I’m planning a regular grocery shopping trip, I look at Kroger’s or Walmart’s sale ads (depending where I am planning on going, although it’s usually Kroger), looked at what coupons I already have, and then search for more online. If there are any, I print them. Otherwise, I grab my shopping list and reusable bags and head out.

Now as stated previously, that’s a regular shopping trip, which means stocking up and purchasing enough for about two weeks or so of meals, not including drinks and perishable items. My average grocery trip costs between $150 and $180 every two weeks, which may seem like a lot for two people. However, that does include toiletries, household items, and pet supplies (cat and dog food, litter, etc). There are some months I go over and others I go under, depending on what is stockpiled in our small deep freezer. We invested in this one a few months after moving down here and I am so glad we did! The bulk of every shopping trip goes in the freezer and then we write the items on a dry erase board that tells exactly what and how many of each item we have on hand. Sounds time consuming, but it really isn’t. Keeping the list on the dry erase board keeps us in check as far as what we have, need and don’t need. About 2-3 times a year we empty the freezer and check to make sure the list is still accurate. I would highly recommend this trick for anybody who has a deep freezer, especially since items can shuffle to the bottom and you don’t know what you have after a ton of shopping trips.

Despite my typical shopping trips where I try to save as much as possible and I set aside two hours of my day where I could totally be doing something else, there are those times where I go to Kroger or Walmart for 1-2 things and come out $50+ poorer. The culprit is usually hunger. Yes, not having a list is at fault too, but if I’m hungry, forget it. All thriftiness and shopping responsibility goes out the window. Well, thanks to cash back apps, I feel less guilty for dropping my hard earned money on items I most likely did not really need at that time. If you are unfamiliar with cash back apps, they are just what they sound like: Apps for your phone or iPad where you earn cash back for your purchases. If you shop and have a smartphone, there’s almost no reason why you wouldn’t want these apps, even if you’re not a crazy coupon lady like me. Simply check the apps to see what’s available and then after scanning the item and receipt after you get home, you wait for the money to be put in your account. The checkout amount varies depending on the app, but I’ll explain those below.

My number 1 favorite cash back app ever is Ibotta. I find it has the most rewards and the most categories. Matt and I had a date night at Ruby Tuesday’s a few weeks ago and after submitting my receipt, I earned $5 in my account! The items change every few weeks, so it’s good to check ahead of time what’s available. Today was one of those shop-while-hungry days, but I was still able to get $4 back. Pretty nice since I didn’t even have any coupons with me. Once your account reaches $20, you can cash out for either a gift card or have the money put into your PayPal account. It is a great way to earn some extra money, which I know we all could use. Here is a referral code that you can enter when you create an account: kiqiglb. With that code, you’ll get an automatic $10 in your account! Also, Ibotta has the option to have team members, and more members mean more money earned. It’s a fantastic app all around. Information can be found here.

My second favorite cash back app is SavingStar. The nice part about SavingStar is you can cash out after only $5, which adds up quickly when you grocery shop a lot. The concept is similar to Ibotta in the fact that you scan your item’s barcode and then upload the receipt, except there aren’t as many options. Easy enough, right? Information can be found here.

Another cash back app is Checkout 51. As with Ibotta, you cash out when you earn $20, but they mail you a physical check.I recently found out that checks cannot be deposited via a mobile device because the checks are Canadian, but you can still deposit or cash them at your local bank. Information can be found here.

Although there are a couple other apps I love and use frequently, I will touch on them more later. For now, go ahead and check out the apps mentioned. I guarantee you’ll be earning money soon enough!

A Mindless Task

Does anyone really enjoy cleaning? If you do, I commend you. I clean A LOT because we have five pets and a day without cleaning makes our house look like a tornado went through it, but that doesn’t mean I fully enjoy it. Sure, I put on loud music and sing obnoxiously to make it bearable, but ultimately, I wish the task would do itself.

I want the cleaning process to be two things: Quick and as natural as possible. I work full-time, which includes traveling a lot. Matt is a full-time student currently on rotations. We do not have the time to spend hours cleaning our house only to have it be dirty again the next day. I’ve started do to one to two tasks a day so I don’t feel overwhelmed when the weekend comes and I feel I need to clean everything.

Today was oven day. I have pushed it off for MONTHS because seriously, who wants to spend a Saturday morning cleaning their oven? I tried a baking soda cleaning recipe last year that, despite how much I swear by baking soda for almost everything, DID NOT work. It left a crusty brown layer of crap inside my oven that probably just baked along with the food every time I turned it on. I did not want to purchase some chemical filled cleaner, especially I would be using it where I bake my food, but my usual All-Purpose Cleaner wasn’t strong enough to do the job. Alas, this is where Dr. Bronner saved the day. If you haven’t heard of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap, click on that link and purchase it right now. The stuff is pure gold. I have it in three scents: Peppermint, Lavender, and Rose. Peppermint is perfect for cleaning because it adds a subtle fresh scent without making you feel nauseous. Trust me, you won’t want to clean with anything else once you’ve discovered this product.

What makes it so awesome is a combination of things. For starters, let’s talk about the packaging. It has tons of reading material on it if you are bored and feel like learning random facts. Second, it is 100% natural. It’s made with organic oils, is fair trade (meaning those involved in production are paid an acceptable living wage), is non GMO certified, and is cruelty free and vegan, meaning it is not tested on animals nor does it have animal by-products in it. Lastly, IT WORKS. It’s a win-win all around.

When it came to my disgusting oven, I diluted the castile soap in a bowl of hot water (Did I measure? No. Should I have? Probably). I’ll guess I used 1/4 cup or so of castile soap with 2 cups or so of water. Trust me. You don’t need a lot. I added water until the mixture was extremely soapy and I knew I had enough water for my whole oven. I used a scrub brush dipped in the mixture and basically scrubbed all the gunk out of my oven the best I could. Warning: Put a towel or something on the floor because the stuff that drips down is filthy. I took the oven racks and cleaned them separately in the bathtub (with the same mixture) after the oven itself was done. After the entire oven was covered, I let it soak for 3-5 minutes and then wiped everything away with a towel. I started with paper towels, but quickly realized I would need a whole roll, so I used an old towel we hardly use anymore. The difference between pre and post-cleaning was incredible. It’s not perfect, but it’s 10x better than it was before. I don’t even have a before picture because I don’t want to gross anyone out. The bowl below does show the gunk though, so just use your imagination of how the oven looked.

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Below are the two products used along with a picture of my recently cleaned oven. The whole process took me about 15-20 minutes and now I have a clean oven to use. If it ever gets as bad as it was before (I’ll try my hardest to not let it get that way), I now have my go-to method to get it clean again. This cleaning method can be used on pretty much anything, as long as the scrub brush doesn’t scratch what you’re cleaning. Good luck!

*This is a referral code if you’re interested in purchasing anything off of Vitacost. I get $10, but you also get $10 off your first order. http://goo.gl/ykAyVW

Medical School: Will It Make or Break You?

Do you enjoy reading? I sure hope so because you’ll want a cup of coffee for this entry. It’s going to be a long one! I’ve been a slacker since my last post and soaking up Matt’s “normal” schedule during this OMM rotation at the local clinic. During this time of having him home at a “normal” hour, aka 5:30, we’ve been granted more time together than we have since our summer trip to Asheville. I will not lie when I say I am soaking it all in because I know when his surgery rotations start, the wife gets kicked back to the curb, at least for four more weeks.

Getting kicked to the curb may sound harsh, but it’s the honest truth. Med school is an experience like no other, and for those who have been in it long enough, you’ll realize two things: It will make you or it will break you. When Matt first started in July 2014, we were petrified. We weren’t yet married and had packed up our entire world into one Subaru (I don’t call it The Beast for nothing) and a 20 foot U-Haul. If we didn’t last, guess who was packing up The Beast, grabbing her cat, and hauling her butt back to PA? To make my already anxious self even worse, I heard a statistic at orientation for SAA (more information to follow) that roughly 85% of couples do not make it through the medical school process, whether it’s the first four years or residency. Where that speaker got that statistic I have no idea. Are there couples who won’t make it? Sure; I’ve witnessed it and it sucks. Talk about getting kicked to the curb. However, there are even more couples who make it, and it’s wonderful when they do.

Tonight was the first meeting of SAA (Student Advocate Association), the organization on campus designed to promote inclusion and a friendly community for significant others and spouses of medical school students, for the 2016-2017 school year. I have been active in the organization since I moved down here and can honestly say I’m glad I joined when I did. Having others to vent to and cry with who know exactly what you’re going through is fantastic. At the meeting tonight, there were some women there whose husbands are both first and second year students, along with myself and another whose husbands are third year students. Boy, do they have a lot to look forward to. Being in a room with young women who are just now diving into this experience made me reflect on how far Matt and I have come since we moved down here.

The President of the group this year shared the following paper with everyone in attendance, and it couldn’t be more accurate.

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Although every single one of these is accurate, the one that I find the most applicable to me is #8. When we got here, I was so set on working with the elderly, making big bucks since I deserved it with a Master’s degree, (I should have known that wasn’t going to happen in West Virginia), and keep every single friendship I had in high school and college. Well, guess what? I’m not working with the elderly, I certainly do not make big bucks, and friendships have come and gone. You, as a medical school spouse, will grow just as much as your partner, except in a different way. Question things. Make new friends. Get out and do stuff you’ve never done before. I would have never known how much animal rescue and advocacy would mean to me if I hadn’t started volunteering at the local humane society. I wouldn’t have known that I want to settle down in the mountains somewhere if I had lived in the same state all my life. Most importantly, Matt and I now know we can handle anything. Throughout our time here, we have been handed a lot of cards; a lot of crappy ones, that’s for sure, but also a lot of good ones. I feel we’re stronger than we would be if we had married and stayed in PA because we weren’t ever tested. Although I could choose to hate medical school for many reasons, allowing my husband and I to draw closer is definitely not one of them.

Below are photos throughout our two years in West Virginia, obviously including our furry companions. Our second wedding anniversary is next week (October 18th!!), so I’m also kind of sappy and overly excited. It’s awesome to see my best friend work hard to achieve his dream of becoming a doctor. When he earns the title D.O. in May 2018, he’ll have deserved it. Through it all, I’m forever thankful that medical school isn’t breaking us, but instead making us into better humans, a better couple, and overall, giving us a better marriage. Love you future Dr. Matthew Smith!

Outfit of the Week #3

Matt and I had our two year wedding anniversary photos taken this morning, and we couldn’t resist taking some photos when we got home. For any good picture, it’s important to color coordinate, not entirely match. If we both had worn plaid, it would have been too “busy” in the photos. Jeans are always a good option too, especially when boots are involved 🙂

Looking good doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Although Matt’s sweater is Banana Republic, a store we would never ever buy anything full-price from, he uses his Banana Republic credit card to earn points toward his purchases. I believe his sweater was under $20 when he bought it a year or so ago. The jeans were bought on clearance for $16. My shirt is from Factory Connection and cost $15. My American Eagle jeans were $20 and bought two winters ago during an after-Christmas sale. I was also wearing boots from TJ-Maxx, but don’t remember the price of them.

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Sweater: Banana Republic. Jeans: American Eagle Outfitters

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Shirt: Passport, sold at Factory Connection. Jeans: American Eagle Outfitters

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Love fall, love him, love this adventure we’re on<3