Anniversary Weekend

Saturday, April 27, 2013
    Technically while paying off debt in Baby Step 2 you are not supposed to take vacations. Sometimes we take liberties with these guidelines. We rented a cabin in the mountains for our 1 year anniversary. We took off on Wednesday and got home this afternoon. I haven't had a day without obligations since the week before Easter so I was definitely ready for a break! We didn't really plan any outings or anything, just wanted some time away to relax. Here's the day-by-day rundown, mostly so we remember what we did and also to share the pictures with my family back home.

  I took off work around 1:30 and headed home. Phillip was already packing up the Jeep and getting ready to head out. We rented through Bear Camp Cabin rentals, it was the same company we rented from for our honeymoon. They had a special of stay 2 nights, get the 3rd one free. We got to the cabin around 4:00, this time we stayed in Snuggle Inn which is actually in a resort. Since we arrived midweek the cabins around us were pretty empty. I promptly took some pictures of the rooms before we unpacked. We played some pool and watched a Duck Dynasty marathon, pretty exciting right?

 Trying to format these to make them fit prettily failed. Blogger is not fabulous for formatting pictures. I decided to just make them all in a line, probably not the best approach but there you go!

These people must have gotten fed up with lost tourists!
Teeny bathroom.

Fluorescent lighting is difficult!!
View from our deck
Same view, early the next morning.

    I woke up around 7:00 because I heard Phillip in the kitchen. I was pretty sure he was making a surprise breakfast for me so I read for awhile while he finished cooking. It was definitely worth waiting for!

Strawberries and Cream Crepes!

      The night before it seemed that the A/C wasn't working very well. We opened up the windows instead and left them open the next morning. We took an early afternoon nap and I heard what sounded like the blinds flapping in the wind. Then I heard it again...and again. I opened my eyes and the blinds weren't moving at all. Then I realized, that's the noise a bird makes. So I walked out to the living room and there was a little House Sparrow hanging out in the kitchen! He must have flown in through the bathroom and gotten stuck! I didn't get a picture of him because he kept throwing himself at the big windows trying to get out, I opened the deck doors and hoped for the best. He finally made his way back outside. So much for my nap! 

  We knew we were going to head into Gatlinburg for dinner so we skipped lunch and headed into town around 3:30. We spent some time walking around and visiting some shops.
Around 5:00 we decided to stop at Best Italian for dinner. We opted for the creekside patio seating and got to watch this little raccoon while we ate. Apparently he's a regular and shows up every day for dinner begging for scraps.

    We always order the same thing when we go there, the calzone is just awesome. We barely ate half of it and took the rest back to the cabin for lunch the next day. They also offer a local 20% off discount so it was only $15 for the garlic knots and calzone. Pretty good deal!

    Friday morning we woke up REALLY early. At least for vacation it was really early. We got up around 6:30 and were out the door at 7:00 to bike Cades Cove. 

Brrr!! Luckily we thought to bring our pullovers, otherwise I think we would have chickened out! It was so cold that after riding down the first hill my hands were numb and my eyes were watering like crazy. After 2 miles or so we started warming up, thank goodness! Here are some pics from our ride, it turned out to be a very pretty day!

You might be wondering, where is that adorable yellow bike??? Sadly we ended up taking our bikes back to Target. They were just not as easy/comfortable to ride as our old bikes. The handle bars were more narrow and they seemed more suited for beach cruisers than for trail riding. They were so stinkin cute though! I'm keeping an eye out for a good replacement!

  Friday night our friends came up to have dinner with us. We spent some time playing pool and visiting. It was really nice to have them up to visit! 

   Saturday we just packed up and headed out.

  Here's a rough budget, we did try to be frugal but still enjoyed ourselves!

  Cabin: $273.00 
  Groceries: $70.00 (We ended up bringing a lot of these back home with us)
  Best Italian for Dinner: $15.20 + Tip
  Gas: $20 (estimated, it only took about 40 minutes to get there)
  Total: $385

  There are probably a few things I'm forgetting to add in there but overall that total is pretty close. Sorry this was such a long post, these pictures took up a lot of space!! 

   What's your favorite frugal vacation spot?

BzzAgent Review: Green Giant Sweet Potato Chips

Monday, April 15, 2013

    I got an e-mail from BzzAgent last month about trying out the new Green Giant Sweet Potato Chips. I was a little iffy at first. I've never tried any of those "veggie chips" before, so I thought trying them for free couldn't hurt!

  They were really generous with their shipment but I forgot to take a picture! The sent five snack sized bags of the sweet potato chips and 2 large bags, one sweet potato and one mixed veggie.

  Not having tried any other veggie chips I really didn't know what to expect. I was really impressed! The Sweet Potato chips taste a lot like Sun Chips. They're very crispy and light in texture. 

 They even look a little like Sun Chips! They are even a little better for you. Here's a comparison of nutrition info based on a snack sized bag of each. 

Sun Chips - Original Multigrain
  • Calories - 140
  • Fat - 6 g
  • Carbs - 19g
  • Protein - 2g
Green Giant Sweet Potato Chips
  • Calories - 110
  • Fat - 5g
  • Carbs - 15g
  • Protein 1g
 Overall I think these are a winner. These are available at Kroger, last week they were on sale for $2.99. If you want to give them a try I have a lot of $.85 off coupons to share! 

Spring Splurge

Saturday, April 13, 2013
  Spring has finally sprung in East Tennessee! I know this because my car has an awful yellow tint because of all of the pollen. Knoxville is number 2 in the country for allergies, fabulous right?

 It's also excellent bike riding weather.We picked it up 2 years ago and bought some cheap $79 WalMart bikes. They were awesome the first year, we did the loop around Cades Cove 3 or 4 times and rode in Townsend quite a bit. We went out 3-4 times a week to ride the local greenbelts in town. Last year they got a little rickety, this year Phillip's tire blew out and all of the mud guards on mine are making lots of racket.

 These are all really easy (and relatively cheap) fixes but we got the bug to buy new ones. They are pretty darn adorable. I initially wanted a mountain bike but the clicking gears scared me so we went with cruisers again. Here are some terrible pictures of them, the lighting in this place is quite special.

I'm so excited! I'm pretty excited about my basket and my bell. I'm currently on the lookout for some pink and yellow streamers. It was hard to justify buying them, I mean we already have bikes and they're mechanically sound. These are just so shiny!! I can't wait to get them out on the greenbelt today! 

Sayonara Sallie!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013
 Confession: our apartment is pretty darn messy today. It's also the day that our complex comes through to spray for bugs and make sure the smoke detector is where it's supposed to be. My parents came in over the weekend and we haven't really gotten around to cleaning up and putting laundry away. I feel like I need to apologize to the people who come in and inspect the apartments. How neurotic is that? I seriously thought about making a sign to post on the door "Sorry it's so messy! We had company for Easter."  They probably already think I'm a little nutty because I baked them blueberry muffins last year when our apartment flooded. They were so prompt at getting it all cleaned up and making sure everything was dry, everyone loves blueberry muffins right?

 So anyway we did something pretty exciting yesterday. On the Dave Ramsey plan you order your debts from smallest to largest and work your way up. The thinking behind this is that by paying off something you get a little boost of energy and think "I can do this!" If you start with the bigger balances first it's difficult to see progress and it's easy to just say it's not working and stop trying so hard. It's all psychological but I can tell you it makes a difference! I know this first hand because we picked a larger loan to pay off this time. Wanna know why? Even if you don't want to know, you're here, and reading this so I'm going to tell you anyway!

 The last loan I took out for college was from SallieMae, here are the stats:

  • Lender: SallieMae
  • Original Balance in 2009: $13,231.00
  • Interest Rate: 12.75%
  • Minimum Payment: $310.00/month 

 Pretty ugly right? My mom and dad paid the interest payments while I was in school (because they are awesome like that). After I graduated and took over the full payment of principal and interest I just paid that minimum payment. When we looked at it more closely we saw that over $100/month was going to interest alone, gross! 

 After Christmas we decided we wanted to wipe this one out as fast as possible. I have mentioned before that I have a pretty tight 'security gland' and even though we have a savings account I like to see a pretty decent amount in our checking account too. We talked about it and I agreed to loosen up in order to get this out of the way. We had been saving a lot during November and December because we were travelling home for Christmas. So when we got back we started going after this pretty hardcore.

 Between January and yesterday we paid $9,706.56 and now we have $300/month to put towards our next loan! 

 I think a celebration is in order!

Have a great Tuesday!!