Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Walt Wednesday

Some people do a "Wordless Wednesday" post, where they simply share a photo or image, but I thought I'd make a little series out of my Wednesdays. And since I love alliteration so much, why not go with Walt Wednesdays (obviously everyone can use a little break from the seriousness, scariness and sassiness of life - and what better way to help put a smile on your face than with a cute wiener dog picture, am I right?!)... So, without further ado...

WALT WEDNESDAY!


When life gets overwhelming, how do you de-stress?

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

No Spend Challenge Thoughts

At the end of last year I put together 19 goals I wanted to try and tackle during 2019. Now I realize there are still a few days left in the year, but let’s just say I am far from crushing the majority of them. We won’t go into the specifics now (it’s probably a topic for another post), but one of the goals that I DID conquer was doing a No Spend Challenge.


If you remember my post from back in October, the hubby and I set aside November to attempt a No Buy Month. Now, we had to allot for two exceptions - gas and groceries - but other than that, if it wasn’t in one of those two categories (or emergencies, but thankfully we didn't have any of those) we put the purchase on pause (at least for those 30 days).


Since we are now on the other side of the challenge I thought I’d share my thoughts about the experience and what we learned from our little experiment. (Side note - you can read all about the reasons behind taking on the challenge HERE, but suffice it to say that although increasing our savings would be an added benefit, the main goal for the month was to become more aware and conscious of our spending and to see if the money we were spending was actually increasing the joy in our life {or, said a slightly different way, if we would miss any of the things we weren’t spending money on}.)


I guess I always expected November would be a tricky month because we were getting into the holiday season and our culture focuses on “buy, consume, spend”, but with a ticking clock and since we were nearing the end of the year (not to mention I knew December would be impossible) we had to make it work. #BlackFriday #BuyBuyBUY

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If you know me, you probably know that I am already a fairly an extremely frugal person. Friends joked with us that the only thing that'd change would be we'd miss our weekly Friday trip to our favorite Mexican restaurant, and in the back of my mind I was thinking that might actually be the case... Even still, I was interested to see how the 30 days would go.

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Let me start off by saying we had quite a few events planned for November that we had paid for before the month began, so it may seem like we did a lot “for free” but really we had planned ahead of time and had already spent the money before our No Spend Month came around. For example, we went to a Saves The Day concert and a Detroit Red Wings game in the middle of the month. Although we had bought the tickets ahead of time we were creative with parking for both events and utilized street parking about a mile away from each venue instead of paying to park at the designated lots. We also refrained from buying food or drinks at the event, choosing to eat at home before we went.


Another trip that we had booked prior to the month starting was to Las Vegas for the Rock ‘N’ Roll race. We paid for the hotel when we made the reservations a few months prior and brought food with us for our meals instead of going out to eat. (There is also free parking at a few of the casinos on the strip so we parked at a different hotel and walked to where we were staying.) We realized that often times we pay for convenience and comfort, but that if you use a little creativity (and leg-power) you can save a few extra of your hard earned pennies (and get in some extra steps while you’re at it).

We weren't going to Vegas for the shows/ food/ nightlife... we were there for a race, so it made
things a little easier because we could pack all of our own meals and bring them with us.

We also went camping for Friendsgiving for a week, but had booked our campsite at the end of the summer and were able to eat all of our meals out of the AdventureMobile. I’ve seen a quote online about camping that goes something along the lines of “camping - where you spend a fortune to live like you’re homeless”, but for us it couldn’t be further from the truth. The hubby and I have found camping to be a very inexpensive way to travel and this trip was no exception. Sure, we bought food (groceries) for the trip, but we would've had to eat at home just the same so no additional money was spent.

Obviously the purchase of the AdventureMobile was NOT cheap, but once we bought it, everything else is fairly inexpensive.

I’ll be honest, we don’t eat out a ton (maybe once or, at most, twice a week), but I think that was what I missed most during our month. The hubby LOVES this pizza place in Vegas (Pizza Rock) and he may have been a little heart broken when he realized we wouldn’t be going during our trip (and that he "missed" Secret Pizza). Also, eating is a social event and sometimes it’s nice to go out with friends and share a meal together. We have lucked out and have some pretty amazing friends who are fully supportive of everything we do, but there was a time or two during the month where we had a little FOMO because we were missing out on a meal here or there. PS We were able to go to a couple restaurants during the month thanks to a gift card and a Yelp Elite Event, but our normal go-to trips were ixnayed for the month.

Thanks to a Yelp Elite Week Event I was able to try out a new-to-me smoothie place. 

Surprisingly I received a bit of flack for this challenge. A few folks mentioned they thought the idea was a bit silly (they didn’t say it in those words exactly, but it was sort of implied in the conversations) because they thought we might be spending less one month but we would be spending more the following month so it would net out to be the same. While this may be the case (although I don’t think it’s exactly true since most of what we weren’t spending money on were things like going out to eat or entertainment that we wouldn’t be doubling up on in December to “make up” for what we missed), like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, the savings was an added bonus but the real hope behind doing this was to be more conscious of our spending. I definitely feel as though this was an eye opening experience. There are some things that we think we “need” to spend money on (parking at the hotel you are staying at, eating out while on vacation, etc), but if you do a little research there is often a free (or at least cheaper) alternative that may be available.

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I'm sure this won't surprise you, but I'm almost always down for a cheaper or free option (What can I say?! I'm a saver!) . Well, sometimes the hubby wants to pay for convenience, and seeing as he is the bread-winner I need to be "okay" with that. (Obviously this wasn't a new revelation, but was definitely reinforced throughout the challenge.) I think I might be able to talk him into a few less expensive options on some things (like where we park as long as we will be walking in safe areas and aren't hauling a ton of stuff with us), but when it comes to things like removing eating out that definitely isn't something we are considering. Sometimes it's the small things that really add up (like getting a coffee from the gas station when you're filling up or grabbing a t-shirt because it was on sale and too good of a deal to pass up) and I think this challenge really forced us to ask ourselves if those purchases are things we really need or want BEFORE we make them.

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PS Just in case you were curious as to what my first purchase would be once the challenge was over, it was my registration for the 2020 Chicago Marathon ;) I had a time-qualified race I could use for a guaranteed entry, so submitted my application on the afternoon of November 30th and was approved and charged as of 12:38am on December 1st! The deadline to register was December 2nd, but I figured it would take at least a day or two for them to confirm my submission... Thankfully I waited as long as I did or it may have charged me before the end of the challenge!


Have you ever tried a No Spend Challenge?

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Workout Recap - Week 48

Sunday, November 24th – Rest Day 


Monday, November 25th – 7 mile hike with the hubby


Tuesday, November 26th – Rest Day


Wednesday, November 27th – 5.17 mile run with the hubby


Thursday, November 28th – 13.1 mile run


Friday, November 29th  8 mile run


Saturday, November 30th – 10.10 mile run


Originally the game plan was to be camping from last Saturday until this Saturday (in Big Bear), but with the winter weather that blew in we were forced to move locations (Idyllwild) and eventually cut our trip short. While camping I was going to let the running happen if it happened, but wasn't going to force it (figuring the extra off time would continue helping my groin to heal). When we came home early I decided to hit the pavement. I'm still working my way up to marathon distance training, since I had to drastically cut down my distance when my groin started hating me. Thankfully we're moving in the right direction. Now I just need to put together a training plan for the Mesa Marathon seeing as it is less than 10 weeks away now (followed quickly by the Los Angeles Marathon and another 50K)! Feels great to be "back"!

How were your workouts this past week?

Saturday, November 30, 2019

November Books

I can't believe my goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (ha, I ended up with 88 in 2017 and 77 in 2018!) has morphed into this passion for books. Let's be real, not having cable TV to keep me "entertained" also gives me more free time to dive into a great book or seven ;) {PS One of my goals for 2019 is to read 19 books, let's see how many times over I can do that.}

There were FIFTY-EIGHT books in the first ten month, so when I add November's FOUR that brings my total for 2019 to SIXTY-TWO thus far! If you're interested in what I read (or how I'd rate them and whether I'd recommend you giving them a read or not), make sure to check out my previous book recaps! {January's BooksFebruary's BooksMarch's BooksApril's BooksMay's BooksJune's BooksJuly's BooksAugust's BooksSeptember's Books, October's Books}


  • Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison - The hubby and I needed a book to listen to on our drive to and from Vegas for the #RnRLV race so I went onto our library's catalog website, typed in "mental health" and selected "audiobooks". This was one of the first books that popped up and it sounded interesting. The author grew up with Asperger's (although this was before it was a diagnosis so everyone just thought he was "weird") and the book is about growing up being different than those around him. Although the hubby fell asleep for most of the book (he does that in the car A LOT... he says it rocks him to sleep like a baby... which is why I get the final decision on the audiobooks ;)), we both really enjoyed this one. The story is real and raw. He grew up with the fear he would potentially turn into a murderer because he was seen as a "social deviant" due to his "odd" behaviors. A light switched on when a psychologist friend mentioned a possible diagnosis. Even if you don't have anyone in your life on the autism spectrum, I feel like this book is insightful (not to mention reminds us all to be kind to everyone - no matter what!). I would give it an 8 out of 10.


  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn - I mentioned Hoopla on a recent Friday Favorites post, but in case you didn't read that post, let be give you a brief recap. When I went to the library to pick up the previous audiobook an employee mentioned the Hoopla app. They said that with my Oceanside Library account I could download 4 audiobooks a month (and often the app has titles the physical library did not). Once I got home I downloaded the app and started "borrowing" books. This was the first title I snagged. I remembered friends giving this book high praise and when I saw it on the "featured" page I downloaded it (also, seeing as it was 15ish hours long I thought I might prefer listening to it rather than reading the extra long book ;)). I read the first few sentences of the synopsis before I started listening so I knew it was a historical novel about female spies during the World Wars. I really enjoyed this one. I like when authors have stories told from multiple characters' perspectives and this one switched back and forth between two - Eve and Charlie. It also flip-flopped between two timelines - 1915 and 1947 (but, don't worry, it wasn't hard to keep the two plots separate). I'm not a huge history buff, but thankfully didn't need to be. I found this story engaging (although, to be honest, I enjoyed Eve's storyline more than Charlie's) and had me rooting for both characters and their quests. I would give it a 9 out of 10.


  • Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello  - A few weeks back my friend Andrea had posted a picture of this book on her Instagram account, thanking the author for his honesty and vulnerability, which in turn allowed her to get real and raw in her recent book. I was intrigued so when I saw the library had it on the shelf I went and grabbed it. As you can probably guess from the title, this is not a happy-go-lucky kind of book. It is a memoir from a journalist (which means you already know it will be well written) about his boyfriend turned husband who battled and ultimately succumbed to a rare form of cancer. Although the story is tragic, Michael's telling will leave you with a sense of hope and a feeling of love. The story of Michael and Kit was brutally honest and raw - showing not just the good times, but the bad and down right difficult times as well. In the end, this book will remind you to live every moment to its fullest, tell those closest to me how much they mean (and tell them often), and that LOVE IS LOVE! I would give it a 9 out of 10.


  • Uncluttered by Courtney Ellis - This was the second book I listened to on my Hoopla app. In the recent months, especially with the renovation of our condo, we've transitioned into being somewhat of minimalists. That's not to say I still don't have eight pair of running shoes in my current rotation or that we don't have anything in our closets, but I do feel a lot less anxious with less stuff. I didn't realize, but this is actually a book written by a pastor in Southern California. Although her lifestyle is much different than ours (having multiple small kids can do that), I did walk away with quite a few little nuggets. PS This book was not necessarily about becoming a minimalist, in fact, she says that she isn't, but she has found some habits that she (and they as a family) has instilled to help life be less cluttered. I really appreciated the parts on learning to say no (we often fill up our lives and our calendars because we can't say that tiny word...) and for leaving space (we can't clean out our closets and drawers just to refill them, we need to learn to leave space). She mentions some great ideas (like having a Sabbath, not only tidying up your physical space but also your mental space, uninstalling apps on your phone, etc) and hopefully I can put some into practice. I would give it an 8 out of 10.


With that, November has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list!

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What was the best book you read this year?

Friday, November 29, 2019

#OptOutside and #OptToAct

If you don't follow me on social media then you may not know I have been pretty silent these last few days. Don't worry, I'm not deleting all of my accounts or going on a major detox, we just happen to be out of town for a Friendsgiving camping trip (and we don't have unlimited data, so I have to pick and choose when to get on... which means I end up having my phone on airplane mode for the majority of the time). The snazzy thing about the blog is I can schedule posts, which is how I am sharing this one while being away from my computer and the InterWebs. #TheMagicOfTechnology

Anywho, hopefully you know that the hubby and I love the great outdoors. We are not huge shoppers (ha, if you know me at all you probably know that I don't enjoy shopping in the least) so when REI announced their #OptOutside campaign a few years back, when they were planning to shut their doors for Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and urge their employees and customers to head outside instead of to the malls, the hubby and I were ALL IN! 

In fact, the past few years we have been going on Friendsgiving camping trips over the Thanksgiving holiday. Last year we went to Superstition Mountains in central Arizona, in 2017 we camped in Zion, in 2016 we spent a week in Yosemite and in 2015 the hubby and I were on the North Shore of Oahu (the hubby worked for Reef at the time and when there was an empty beachfront house available for us to use after a surf contest ended we jumped at the opportunity).


Now I'm sure I will have a post to share from our adventures of "Opting Outside" in Idyllwild (where we are currently) when we return, this post is about more than than. In fact, REI is nudging folks to go further than 'just' going outside on Black Friday. They want people to "Opt to Act" and we couldn't love this more! On November 29th, TODAY, they want us all to join them for a nationwide day of action—kicking off a year of change. (Don't worry if you are reading this after Black Friday, because this is literally just the beginning... You have a WHOLE YEAR to join in and make a difference!)

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Not sure where to begin?! REI has laid out a 52 week plan - and I promise that these are things all of us can do in our every day lives! They aren't grandiose ideas like chaining yourself to the front of a bulldozer that is threatening to destroy a local park... they are things like picking up a piece of trash if you see it on the ground or checking your tire pressure to optimize fuel efficiency. The hope is that after a year of action not only will we have done a bit better for future generations and the planet as a whole, but hopefully some of these changes will become lifelong habits for you and for me.

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You better believe the hubby and I are all in! We hope you are too! #OptOutside is the beginning. Continue to act with 52 weeks of simple actions to reduce your impact, get active and leave the world better than you found it. LET'S DO THIS!


PS I came across the below video on Facebook and it was sort of shocking... but not shocking at all... The hubby and I don't have kids, but want to lead by example and plan to put down our phones and get outside more! Will you join us?!


What is one small change you can opt to act?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Walt Wednesday

Some people do a "Wordless Wednesday" post, where they simply share a photo or image, but I thought I'd make a little series out of my Wednesdays. And since I love alliteration so much, why not go with Walt Wednesdays (obviously everyone can use a little break from the seriousness, scariness and sassiness of life - and what better way to help put a smile on your face than with a cute wiener dog picture, am I right?!)... So, without further ado...

WALT WEDNESDAY!


When life gets overwhelming, how do you de-stress?

Monday, November 25, 2019

Q&A with Carlee

From the feedback I've received thus far, it seems like you all have been enjoying this Questions and Answers series, so I'm going to continue it until you run out of questions to ask ;) [If you've missed the previous posts you can find them HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. I'm loving the variety in the questions that have been asked. Keep 'em coming!]


How many half/ full marathons have you done?

As of today I have run 56 half marathons and 25 full marathons. I started running in 2012, so I guess you can decide if that's a lot or not ;) The breakdown of my half marathon tally is - 2012: 1, 2013: 6, 2014: 6, 2015: 10, 2016: 10, 2017: 7, 2018: 10 and 2019: 6. The breakdown of my full marathon tally is - 2014: 1, 2015: 4, 2016: 4, 2017: 5, 2018: 5 and 2019: 6. When I originally started running I said I would NEVER run a full... and, well, we all see how that went ;)


Do you want children?

The hubby and I do not want children. I've written about this a few times [2013: Choice About Children, 2014: Mother's Day for Non-Mothers, 2017: Natural Progression, 2018: A Woman's Choice - Is It Really?], but suffice it to say this is a decision that we have discussed long and hard. I knew since High School that I did not want children and I was lucky enough to find a boyfriend turned fiancĂ© turned husband who felt similarly. Just because we do not want children of our own does not mean we hate kids (we just like ones that we can give back to their parents, hehe). We love our nephews and would take a bullet for our friends' children if ever it was necessary, but do not plan on bringing our own into the world.

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Top five books?

This is a toughie! I like so many different books for so many different reasons, but I guess if I'm being forced to whittle down my favorites I'd say (in no particular order): The Bible, The Handmaid's Tale, The Hunger Game Series (I know, I know, it's more than one book, but it's my list so you'll have to accept it ;)), The Power, To All The Boys I've Ever Loved Series (yup, another series, sorry ;)), Beartown, The Hate U Give, Love Does, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Nightingale, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, This Is How It Always Is, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Freakonomics and Let Your Mind Run. Okay, okay, so someone asked for my top five and I gave fifteen, but it was hard narrowing it down this far to the books I'd recommend. It really depends on the type of books you like and what you're looking for, but this is a jumping off point ;)


Planning any more tattoos? How many do you currently have?

Funny you should ask because the hubby and I were just discussing that once our No Spend November is done we will have to set up an appointment for our next tattoos (but you'll have to wait and see what the next one is ;)). I currently have 12. Stars on my lower back, the symbol for love on the top of my right foot and the symbol for joy on the top of my left foot, a heart (with my initials hidden in it) on my left wrist, a map of Michigan (with a banner that says "SMITTEN") on the inside of my left bicep, a semicolon on my right wrist, a banner of a Shakespeare quote ("though she be but little, she is fierce") on my right forearm, a swallow on my right shoulder, the hubby's name on my right ribs, a large cherry blossom tree covering most of my left lower back, an anchor on my left quad and a pineapple on my right calf.


Any plans for your next World Marathon Major or do you not care about the 6-Stars?

As I'm sure you've noticed, I'm "fairly frugal". International racing (or traveling in general) is not a cheap thing. Currently I have no plans to complete all six World Marathon Majors {Tokyo, London, Boston, Chicago, New York City, Berlin}, but am hoping next year I'll be able to run Chicago (which I have ran before {in 2017}) and New York City (I've already done Boston twice). {FYI: I'll be submitting a qualifying race for both of the time-qualifying systems rather than the lotteries.} The hubby hasn't been to either Chicago or New York City so we would be making mini vacations out of them if I get in. With that said, if you know someone who wants to pay my way to tackle any of the international races, pass along my info ;)

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And, there you have it, a handful of your questions with my honest to goodness answers. Hopefully you found some of the information interesting. I think this might be a fun series to continue, so as long as people keep supplying the questions, I’ll keep supplying the answers. Leave a question in the comments or reach out any of the social media platforms you follow me on (I should be @CarleeMcDot on all of them) and let me know what you've been dying to know about me.

Any questions you are dying to ask me?