Thursday, September 21, 2017

The A to Z of Me: A Birthday Post

I thought it would be a lot of fun this month, my birthday month, to go through from A-Z of my favorite things. It's easier than coming up with 32 interesting things about me (Finding 30 for my 30th birthday was hard enough!).


Amazon is crazy addicting. I love the power to sell your products, Prime, how easy it is to compare pricing. I even enjoy their original programming. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was one of the funniest pilots I've seen in a long time. When is the entire show going to be available, please?


Okay, so September IS my birthday month. Even as I get older, I absolutely ADORE my birthday. It's almost always a good day, and my family and friends always make me feel special and loved, even when they're not nearby. 


I love my kitties. They're all so interesting and weird. They show affection on their terms, and their personalities make me laugh so hard. Tris is the Queen, Henry's a cocky knight, and Jane is my meek princess. I love them all, and can't imagine life without them.


Daddy's girl in the house. I've always been close to my dad, but we've become very good friends as I've become an adult. I enjoy his company, and he'll watch old movies with me. He's the best dad in the world. 


I don't know why, but I've always loved Elephants. I think they're beautiful, gentle giants. We recently got a new African plains at the Henry Doorly Zoo, and it's absolutely amazing. These elephants have so much room to roam now.


When you're a kid, you think the number of friends you have is more important than the quality of friends. I've been burned so many times by people I thought were friends, but it has helped me take a step back and realize how lucky I am for the friends I have now. I'd rather have a small close set of additional family members that I've adopted, than tons of people who only know me on a superficial level. 

G-Game of Thrones

Yeah, okay. Game Of Thrones is very polarizing. And with Season 7 having just completed, I'm pretty tired of all of the articles on why you shouldn't watch it. I'm rewatching the entire series because I watched it all months apart thanks to sporadic availability at the library. I'm able to see just how intricate the plot is, and I'm even realizing just how enmeshed everything really is. It's such an interesting show to see people's motives and actions. It was intense watching it without spoilers with the rest of the world this year. 

But of course, viewer discretion is advised.

H-Halo Top

How did I ever live without HaloTop? HaloTop is low-cal, high protein ice cream. It is so tasty that it's incredible. My mom and I found an epic sale on it at HyVee a few months back, so we're pretty well stocked. I even have some Birthday Cake ice cream I'm saving for my actual birthday. It's only about 200 calories for an entire pint (varies based on flavor). You DO have to let it thaw for about 10-15 minutes, but trust me. It's worth the wait.


Instagram is just a lot of fun. I don't use it for anything much, except taking pictures of Chuck, Frisket, Jane, Henry, and Tris, but it's still a blast. I follow a lot of people, and I'm amazed at the caliber of photographs people take. I'm always trying to up my own photography game, and I recently started using Tailwind to schedule my posts, and even to get help using hashtags for further outreach.


I've been using Jamberry since 2014. I've been a consultant since 2015, but more of a hobbyist in the last year or so. but I absolutely love Jamberry nail wraps. I love how many designs I can mix and match to create a unique look. They're heat-activated vinyl, so they don't chip, I don't bite my nails when I wear them, and they even have Disney, Marvel, Peanuts, Wonder Woman, and Star Wars wraps. What's not to love?


Time to get gushy, but I absolutely ADORE my sister. She knows it, but it always bears repeating. She and I used to hate each other (well, there was that sibling rivalry thing), but since we got to college, graduated, and became adults, she is probably one of my closest friends. We tell each other almost everything and actually enjoy spending time together. We hear these stories about siblings that practically kill each other, and we just don't get it. We honestly can't think of anything that would make us stop talking. We don't even have the same taste in men, so we don't have to worry about petty romantic squabbles. 


Oh, my college best friend, Lauren. My little sister, my short twin, my fellow misfit toy. Where would I be without her? Lauren and I met in college and bonded over the fact that our screenwriting classmates hated our scripts. We both have an affinity for quirky movies and romantic comedies, plus she shares my addiction to Jane Austen (though she's not as obsessed as I am). She's the Leslie to my Ann, the Amy to my Tina. Love her so much. 


My mom is made of sunshine, rainbows, happiness, and starshine. We've been really close since I was a baby (obviously). Over the years our friendship has gotten stronger and stronger. I mentioned last week that most of my friends growing up didn't like their parents, but I've always enjoyed spending time with mine. I never understood how someone couldn't love their mother. Mine is awesome, from her puns, to her absolutely ridiculous behavior when faced with her heroes (Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Bugs Bunny), to her positive support of my dreams as a writer. She and my dad made sure to read to Kiri and me as children, and we're book lovers to this day. She's absolutely everything. I'm glad she's mine. 


So, don't think I'm trivializing nut allergies because it's very serious business, but I've always said that if I ever discovered that I had a nut allergy, I'd probably die a happy person because I would never stop eating them. I love peanuts and peanut butter, and walnuts in my brownies, cashews in everything, and Ferrero Rocher candies (my favorite candy in the world). People say that they don't like the chocolate sets with nuts, but those are the ones I prefer. Anyone else?


Everyone loves otters these days, but I've almost always loved them. Ever since I saw the movie The Beverly Hillbillies, and Ellie Mae had a pet otter that was swimming with her in the cement pond, I've wanted one, too. When I turned 23, Lauren, our friend, Jess, and I went to the St. Louis Zoo and each got otters at their Build-a-Bear. We love our Otters, and they're just the cutest animals. I mean, they're basically water cats. 


I flipping love puppies. How could you not? With their big eyes, and their paws that somehow grow faster than the rest of their bodies? I forgot what it was like to have a puppy until I got Chuck. It's just so funny to watch him grow and face plant when he runs all over the dog park. Puppies are stinking cute and no one can convince me otherwise. Plus, watching him and Frisket run outside together is one of the cutest things in the world. Frisket didn't like Chuck at first, but I think he loves his little buddy now.


My mother is quite artistic. She's been sewing since before I was born and made about 75% of my clothes as a child. I didn't appreciate them as much then as I do now because sewing is hard work. Quilting is on another level, and my mom excels at it. I've got four quilts that my mom has made me, and they're all very special and beautiful. I took a page out of her book and made a strip quilt for Lauren, which she adores. If you ever get a chance to go to the Quilt museum in Lincoln, I recommend it.

R-Renaissance Faire

This is more my sister's thing than mine, but I do enjoy a good Renaissance Faire. I love shopping at all of the little stores, because the majority of them are artisans as small business owners, and their products are so nice. It's amazing what people can do and sell as a product or service, and aside from all of the history involved, Renaissance Faires are filled with people wanting to make a living at their hobby, which is the story of my life. Plus there's jousting. 

S-Stephens College

It was expensive, and I know my parents regret my decision to go to Stephens, but I absolutely adore the school. It was my home for five years, I met my best friend there, I learned so many lessons there, and even got the greatest compliment ever (my voice teacher, Harry, said when I was at my peak, that my voice sounded like a young Julie Andrews). Yes, I had some hard lessons that I learned, about who to trust, and which direction life should go, but I don't regret it. Except for the cost.

The day I graduated, with my two favorite littles, who aren't so little anymore (2009)


Tacos are one of the greatest foods ever invented. Spiced meet and yummy veggies and cheese in a corn wrap? Yes, please! there's a restaurant that we order tacos through at work, called D'Leon's that makes the best tacos with grilled onions and fresh radishes. They're just the best. And you get a lot for what you pay for. 


I'm going to admit something here that I know isn't a popular opinion, but I've always gone against the grain: I didn't hate the How I Met Your Mother finale. In fact, I saw it coming all the way back in season 1. What I loved most about the last season, though, was that we got to meet Tracey, the mother, who was a musician, and played a ukelele. Ukeleles are really fun, and quirky, and they just make a lovely, casual sound that still manages to sound special. Love it. 


I know. Everyone loves vacation time. But it's still something that I love doing because I get to explore the world. My next one is to the Mexican Riviera with my family, the first cruise that's just us four since 2009, and I can't wait. 


No-brainer, right? Well, it's true. I absolutely adore writing. It's been something I've done every day (almost) for over twenty years. I tried to stop for a bit to see if I really was meant to write, but no. I got antsy and had to get back to it. I love writing, and can't wait to publish my book.


I honestly couldn't think of an X. I thought about going with a 10, because X is the Roman Numeral for 10, but...I got nothing. Maybe next year.


If you're not familiar, YouVersion is an app that has a ton of different Bible studies on it. I always get behind on my Bible reading, but they have a lot of studies that only last a few days to a week, which helps. And anything that will get me into my Bible more consistently is a good thing in my book.


No surprise here. I love animals, and I love zoos. Omaha has the best zoo, and I'm not even being biased. I've been to the Kansas City Zoo, Denver Zoo, and St. Louis Zoo in the last ten years, and while they're all pretty nice, they don't hold a candle to Omaha. Omaha has been named #1 zoo in the country for a reason. They're always building something new to further animal comfort and patron education.

Anyway, Happy Birthday to Me! I hope you all have an amazing Thursday.

Your turn!

  • Pick an A to Z and tell me what your favorite thing is!
  • Birthday cake: What is your favorite flavor? I'm a chocolate girl all the way. MAYBE Marble if I'm feeling fun.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Seasonal Bucket List: Fun Fall Activities

I still find it hard to believe that it's been 16 years since the horrible event that changed our country. I stand in solidarity with the victims, their families, and everyone affected by the horrible 9/11 tragedy.

God bless America.


It's no secret that fall is my favorite season, and with good reason. My BIRTHDAY is in the fall (actually, the last day of summer, but I'm totally a fall baby!), I love the cooler temps (though we've been experiencing a lot of those in America's Heartland this late summer! Crazy town!), and I really enjoy when it gets darker earlier.

Anyway, I thought it'd be fun to make a list of things to do this fall.

Visit An Apple Orchard

I LOVE Apple Orchards. We used to go to Martin's Apple Orchard when I was a kid on school field trips (No relation to me, and sadly they're closed now), but there is still a nearby orchard, Ditmer's, that I'd love to visit and get some apples, cider, and donuts. They make AMAZING donuts.

Carve a few Halloween Pumpkins

I absolutely love carving Jack-O-Lanterns. I went to Vala's Pumpkin patch with my cousin and niece a few years ago and brought home a big pumpkin to carve. My cat, Henry, was so interested in the entire process, and he even enjoyed eating the pumpkin pulp (It's not bad for cats, is it? I couldn't stop him! but he didn't get sick).

I also like to name my pumpkins. That one ended up being called "Donald O'Connor" after the singer/dancer/actor/sidekick in Singin' in the Rain. Maybe this year I'll make a Disney or a Debbie Reynolds. I've also made a Kermit the Frog Jack-O-Lantern that turned out really well.

Have a Harry Potter Movie Marathon

I've actually been planning this one for awhile since I'm re-reading the books, but with Halloween right around the corner, re-watching the Harry Potter movies is just the perfect next step. I recently got my dad to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Wonder if he'd watch these with me this festive, spooky season?

Dress Chuck Up for his First Halloween!

I need to preface this with, I really want to be Cruella DeVille for Halloween this year. Like, really really really want to be Cruella. When I got Chuck, I had this brilliant idea of making him a little Dalmatian coat so we can participate in our church's Harvest Fest and Trunk or Treat. I'm also trying to talk my parents into dressing up as other Disney Villains and joining me. 

Your turn! 

  • What are your Fall Plans?
  • Any Halloween party suggestions or recipes?
  • What is your favorite fall/Halloween movie?
  • I want to see your fall photos! Instagram with #MJAFall

Post Contains Affiliate Links

Friday, September 8, 2017

Guest Post: "Comparing the Dave Ramsey Method to Others" by Josh Wilson

Hi guys! Today I've got some interesting money facts to share with you, written by Finance blogger, Josh Wilson.

I've written about my own debt journey in the past (And recently discovered Income based repayment that made my student loans affordable!), and I'm always looking into new options that can help me focus on budgeting.

Without further ado:

Financial guru Dave Ramsey has gained a significant following for his no nonsense advice on handling money, particularly when it comes to debt. Ramsey advocates paying off debt using the “snowball” method, which is a strategy that asks users to focus on the debt with the smallest balance first. Other financial advisers claim that the debt “avalanche” method is better, because a person pays off a debt with the highest interest rate first. Both strategies ask users to focus on paying off one debt at a time, and to just pay the minimum on all other debts. So which one is better — the debt snowball or avalanche method?

The Debt Snowball Method

With the debt snowball strategy, championed by Dave Ramsey, you pay off your debts by starting with the debt with the smallest balance and eventually working your way to the debt with the largest balance. The debt snowball method does not require users to pay attention to interest rates; instead, the only concern is which balance is the smallest. Users start by paying off that debt, and once that is paid off, they work their way up their list of debts until they pay off the debt with the largest balance.

The advantage of the debt snowball method is largely psychological. Having debt can be incredibly stressful, and seeing mountains of bills come in each month can be discouraging. When you use the snowball strategy, you eliminate some of these bills fairly easily, scoring quick victories. For example, you may owe $250 on a hospital bill, $5,000 on a credit card, $20,000 on a car loan, and multiple balances of several hundred dollars each on store credit cards. When you pay off your debts from smallest to largest using the snowball method, you may be able to eliminate several of these smaller bills before tackling the larger debts — giving you confidence when it comes time to pay off these bigger debts.

The Debt Avalanche Method

In contrast, the debt avalanche strategy targets loans and debt with the highest interest rates. With that said, it typically targets pesky credit cards, some personal loans, and high interest student loans. This strategy is generally considered to be the best way to get yourself out of debt since it allows you to repay your debt in the shortest period of time. It also saves you the most money on interest. However, it does not give users the same psychological boost because it may take longer to eliminate a debt than with the debt snowball method.

To use the debt avalanche method, simply make a list of all of your debt, ranking it by interest rate from highest to lowest. Then start paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first, making the minimum payments on all of your other debts. Each month, whatever extra money that you have should be devoted towards paying off your highest interest debt. Once you have paid off that high interest debt, you will have even more cash available to put towards the debt with the second highest interest rate, which is what gives this strategy its name: your money will “avalanche” to the next debt, making it that much easier to pay it off.  

While the debt avalanche method typically will result in paying less in interest over time, it can be more difficult to stay motivated when using this strategy because it will usually take longer to pay off the first debt on your list. However, once you have paid off the first debt on your list, it will become that much easier to pay off the remaining debts.

Which Method Is Better?

There is a fierce debate about which method of debt reduction is better: the debt snowball or debt avalanche strategy. Each requires you to focus on one debt at a time, with the main difference between the two methods being the order in which you pay off your debts. The debt snowball method offers the immediate motivation of seeing debts eliminated, while the debt avalanche method has the benefit of helping you pay less in total interest.

If you are working towards getting out of debt, the best method is the one that you will stick with over time. Staying focused on your debt and committed to your strategy are more important than any one particular plan. If you think that it is more important to see your individual debts eliminated quickly, even if you pay a bit more in interest, then the debt snowball method may be the best choice for you. But if you are a numbers person and want to pay less in interest overall, then the debt avalanche is the better choice — as long as you are OK with waiting to pay off that first debt.  

The ultimate lesson: to get out of debt, choose the method that works for you, and stay the course.

By Josh Wilson, a new blogger who made his debut after starting Family Faith Finance. Read his website or follow him on Twitter to learn more!

To inquire about guest posting for The Modern Jane Austen please send your pitch to martin (dot) beks (at) gmail (dot) com. I'm looking for posts on finances, fashion, decorating, recipes, and any tips that would be helpful for people in the 25-40 age range.

Monday, September 4, 2017

You'll Thank Me Someday

I'm not shy about saying I have the best parents on the planet. I've been saying it for years. When my friends would complain about their parents, I'd just kind of sit there, smile and nod, and be unable to help them commiserate. Truthfully, sometimes I'd internally side with their parents (shh!).

It's a common phrase that parents say, "You'll thank me someday." Teenagers loathe hearing it, because what could parents know about being a teenager in today's world?

Well, as my mom likes to point out, there's nothing new under the sun.

On the outside, my parents were strict. They demanded my sister and I always try our best in whatever we did. We weren't allowed to quit baseball until we finished the season (and I have two good memories of that season, but that's for another post). We had to get jobs for mad money when we turned 14-15, which was the legal age that teenagers could work certain jobs in our town. We had chores. But we didn't have a set curfew, which puzzled our friends to no end.

My parents also monitored our TV and computer habits. If there was something they didn't think was appropriate, we didn't watch it. I didn't see Dirty Dancing until I was 13, despite my friends having watched it almost from infancy. When The Brady Bunch Movie came out in 1995 (1996?) my classmates returned from the weekend quoting it, while I stayed oblivious.

It almost sounds like I grew up in a convent, doesn't it? Well, not true.

Because of their movie monitoring, I'm a huge fan of old movies. My first horror movie was The Birds when I was about six. I couldn't go near my sister's parakeet for a week. I'm a film buff that can tell what year a movie was made by looking at the cinematography. I've seen almost every Judy Garland movie ever made.

Because of their insistence on my having a job when I was a teenager, I've been steadily employed for over half of my life. There has only been one instance where I've been unemployed, and that was when I moved back to Council Bluffs and was looking for a job. I was out of work for a little less than six weeks. And I got hired at that job because of my long work history (Ironically, I only stayed at that job for ten months).

Because my parents spent a lot of time sharing their interests with me, I appreciate all forms of art, including the lesser appreciated ones, from sewing and quilting (My mom is an amazing quilter) to theatre organ music (My dad's been a member of the River City Theatre Organ Society almost my entire life, and I frequently attend concerts with him).

It's looking like I won't be having kids of my own (I'm actually kind of okay with that), but if I were to be a mother, the loves my parents taught me will be passed on to them.

When my parents were relatively new parents, they had friends who would cancel plans and grudgingly say they couldn't do anything because they had the kids that weekend. My parents couldn't relate. They liked spending time with us, and they do to this day. We still vacation together (Our cruise is in December!).

When you're a kid, you might not think you have a lot of freedom. I had more than I realized, but my parents wanted me to ask permission almost as a courtesy, so they'd know where I was. When I wanted to go somewhere, they'd rarely say no.

When I had a supervisor call me stupid in front of a customer, they were the ones to have my back and help me, not get revenge, but make sure that the supervisor knew that wasn't okay (it turns out he'd called other girl cashiers stupid, and I guess mine was the straw that broke the camel's back. Management couldn't let it slide anymore, and he was demoted).

I want to be like them if I ever have children, and I know how lucky I am. I'm thankful for them. My sister and I won the parent lotto, and we let them know every chance we get.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! I love you more than you'll know! Here's to 35 more years!