Thursday, February 27, 2014

57th day of 2014

Today is February 27th. We are officially 57 days into the new year! Yay!

So... How are those new years resolutions looking? Common resolutions are to lose weight, be less dependent on caffeine, fall in love, save money, and stay organized. Personally, I promised myself that I would keep my apartment more organized, but I have kind of fallen off the bandwagon on that one. This post is dedicated to all you that want to better yourselves in some way but can't seem to keep on track! Let's see if we can get you back on track with those resolutions. If you want to see a list of common resolutions and statistics about them, click here.

Overall, to have a successful resolution, you MUST give yourself little goals to reach throughout the entire goal. This keeps you accountable and checks you throughout your journey. What kind of little goals should you make? Well, it depends on what kind of resolution you made!

Little goals for each resolution

- drink 1 glass of water with breakfast every day
- have 2 or less sweet treats a day
- chew every bite of food at least 5 times

- research different sources of caffeine than coffee
- switch an apple and some water out for a cup of coffee once a day
- drink a lower - caffeine tea to wean yourself off

- take steps to love yourself daily! Eat well, sleep a healthy amount, pay attention to yourself.
- smile at one new person a day and say hello
- go to a new place once a week

- eat at home instead of out at least once a day - prepare ahead!
- check movies out from the library on the weekend instead of the theater
- go on a spending cleanse (don't buy anything except food and essentials for a month)

- make your bed every morning
- put your dishes in the dishwasher or clean them right away
- put your clean clothes away within a day of drying them

I would suggest keeping sticky notes or a list of these mini goals somewhere you'd see it every day, like your bathroom mirror. Remember that you can make resolutions throughout the year, not just in early January! Keep at your goals and keep on truckin'. If you miss a mini goal one day, it's okay because it's just a mini goal. Start over the next day. You got it!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to Find Deals

Everyone I know is always looking for a great deal. Some people will go to great lengths, like that show on TLC called "Extreme Cheapskates." If you're like me and don't really want to pee in a jar or use washcloths as toilet paper to save money, we have some ideas on how to get free things or at least get them at a discounted price!

1. Facebook groups

 Search around on Facebook a bit to see if there are any community swap groups. These groups typically have rules and regulations that you must abide by, but all the rules are easy to follow and complete politely. Facebook groups are an easy way to either cheaply buy or swap items that you need! They're also a great resource to sell things you no longer use or want.

2. Thrift shops

 Thrift shops are a great way to find a great deal on quality items that you may not find elsewhere. BUT, make sure you go in with an eye for good quality - look for stains, rips, cracks - anything that could be detrimental to the lifetime of the item you're considering. Sometimes something with a little extra "love" showing in it could be worth it for the price that is listed. To quote rapper Macklemore, " was 99 cents!"

3. Coupons

 Just like I mentioned Extreme Cheapskates from TLC above, there's another show called Extreme Couponers. I admire the couponers that they show because most of them do it for a living. Here's how to coupon like the rest of us! Look for coupons and deals in the weekly newspaper. Lots of stores have some sort of packet of products with coupons for them in the front of the store. Don't forget about looking for deals online! If you are looking for a specific item, Google it with a store you'd find it in. For instance, you could google "wrenches Lowes coupons" and find all sorts of nifty deals on tools.  

4. Freecycle  

Freecycle is kind of like that "free" section on Craigslist, but specific to your county and completely safe AND completely free! You can sign up according to your county and receive email alerts when people are looking for an item and giving items away. Click here to find more details.

Happy deal hunting!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Color Wheel: Yellow

How wonderful yellow is. It stands for the sun.
-Vincent Van Gogh

Has this dreary winter weather got you feeling blue? Change your mindset to yellow! The following is a chart from Empower Yourself with Color Psychology that explains how each color of yellow can influence your feelings. You can visit the page this chart is from by clicking here.

Variations of the Color Yellow

 Light Clear Yellow  Light clear yellow helps to clear the mind, making it open and alert.

 Lemon Yellow  Lemon yellow promotes self-reliance and a need for an orderly life. This yellow increases our sensitivity to criticism.

 Citrine Yellow  Citrine is a superficial and fickle color. It encourages the serial relationship hopper, the teaser, with unstable emotions. This yellow can be deceitful and retreats from responsibility.

Golden Yellow This yellow is the color of the loner with an intense curiosity and interest in investigating the finer details of its interests. Golden yellow is sensitive to criticism.

 Cream  Cream, tinted with a hint of yellow, encourages new ideas. However, this very pale color can also indicate a lack of confidence and a need for reassurance.

Dark Yellow The darker shades of yellow indicate an inclination toward depression and melancholy, lack of love and low self-worth. Dark yellow relates to the constant complainer and the cynic.

Check out the items above that you can quickly and easily add into your daily life for a pop of happiness and a clear mind. Make sure you pick the right shade of yellow for you!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

6 Fool Proof Snow Day Rituals

1. Wearing your PJ's inside out.
I was particularly fond of this method growing up.  It seemed fool proof, just go to bed with your PJ's inside out and voila, snow day! This method works best if you can get a few of your friends to join in the fun.

2. Leaving a spoon underneath your pillow.
This is a long standing superstition, dating all the way back to the pilgrims. It's still a popular tradition in Eastern and some Midwestern states.

3. Flushing ice cubes down the toilet.
This seemed a little strange to me, but whatever works right? Flushing ice cubes is supposed to summon a cold front from the snow gods. I think someone has been flushing too many ice cubes in Iowa.

4. Wearing gloves to bed.
Some people sleep with socks on, others with mittens.  Bundle up for bed and wish for snow!

5. Run around the table 5 times.
This is by far the most dangerous of all snow day rituals. It's thought that 5 is the perfect number to get the snow god's attention.  Be careful not to go over the magic number.  Who knows what would happen if you made it around 6, 7, or even 8 times.

6. Throw ice cubes around the yard.
Tossing ice cubes around your yard in bushes and trees is thought to encourage a big freeze.  Go ahead, toss a few cubes out the window.

Do you know of any fool proof ways to make it snow? Let us know at

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Benefits of Lemon

What's the big deal with lemon and why are people putting it in and on everything?

Lemon is rich in Vitamin C with the natural ability to flush your body of toxins and provide benefits that could lead to weight loss, immune system protection, and skin rejuvenation!

Benefits of Drinking Lemon Water

  • Warm lemon juice early in the morning can help flush toxins from the body for the rest of your day
  • Helps relieve and prevent digestive problems like bloating, intestinal gas, and heartburn
  • Pectin fiber content helps cleanse the colon, liver, and kidneys
  • Can reduce pain and inflammation in joints and knees
  • Can help cure the common cold if added to warm water & a bit of honey
  • Brings a fresh glow to your skin
  • Prevents the formation of wrinkles and acne
  • Potassium content can help nourish brain and nerve cells
  • Helps replenish body salts, especially after a strenuous workout
  • Can help treat a sore throat - just warm up and gargle
  • Reduces bad breath and can eliminate long-term body odor

  • This little citrus fruit is packed with goodness. Simply add lemon to your water to start seeing these health benefits work in your life!

    Click here for 12 delicious and healthy recipes using lemon!

    have a lovely lemony day,

    Hot Spot: +39 Restaurant | Market | Cantina

    Benvenuto! Welcome!
    This week's Hot Spot is +39 Restaurant | Market | Cantina in Ames, located at 2640 Stange Road. +39 is a sophisticated, casual, and customer oriented atmosphere that celebrates the importance of tasting great food, enjoying delicious wine, and savoring time spent with family & friends.

    The exciting communal feel of a classic Tuscan trattoria is brought to life and given a modern spin for daily lunches and dinners.  The nearly full visibility kitchen gives diners the feeling of being in on the action whether enjoying a quick lunch or relaxed dinner with friends.  Unique Sunday menus and periodic gourmet dinners showcase the creativity and talent of the kitchen & restaurant staff.

    In addition to the traditional Italian espresso bar, fresh baked pastries, fresh fruit, hand squeezed juices, and a unique selection of savory egg strata & frittata dishes are available starting at 7:00am daily.  This non-menu service offering is designed around the European concept of gathering with friends and family for a light breakfast and great conversation before starting the day.

    Served daily from 11:00am to 2:00pm, lunch menu selections have been carefully chosen based on lower table times, allowing you to have a great lunch and still making it back to work on time.  With an extensive offering of small plates, Venetian Cichetti, salads, soups, fresh pasta, pizza, and panini, everyone is sure to find an equally satisfying solution for time restrictions and Italian food cravings. Click here to view the entire lunch menu.

    Served from 5:00pm to 10:00pm Monday through Thursday and until 11:00pm on Friday & Saturday. Delicious lunch menu items are joined by an expanded selection of fresh & dried pastas, chef selected tasting plates, steak, seafood, and a rotation of seasonal & traditional Italian dinner items.  The professional +39 serving staff will guide you through an authentic dining experience by helping to design a multicourse dinner or simply selecting an entrée based on your wine preference for the night. Click here to view the entire dinner menu.

    Continue your dining experience at home by shopping in our specialty market & deli.  Italian meats & cheeses, traditional salads, fresh baked bread & pastries, and rustic panini are available daily in addition to our assortment of dry goods and gourmet products, many of which are only available at +39!

    Italian Grocery
    A walk through the +39 Market will feel like you've set foot into a classic shop on the streets of Florence.  With our selection of Italian specialty products and high quality gourmet ingredients, shoppers will feel comfortable continuing the enjoyment of the +39 dining experience in the comfort of home.  Pasta, olive oil, balsamic vinegars, spices, espresso and much more are available daily.

    Fresh Deli Delights
    Sit down for a quick lunch or take it to go!  Fine Italian meats & cheeses from Prosciutto to Parmigiano are sliced fresh to order, and a daily assortment of traditional salads are available in single servings or by the pound to take home.  Fresh pasta, sauces, and rustic Panini are made fresh daily and available from the counter without a wait.

    Authentic Italian gelato and sorbetto is made fresh daily and served from the deli counter or classic style walk up window.  Gelato is available to snack on while waiting, to take away in a cone or cup, and also in an insulated container for family & friends to enjoy later!

    Witness the beauty and diversity of Italian wines in our full service cantina.  Featuring nearly 200 labels, with representation from each of the 20 different Italian wine regions, our cantina offers tasting, learning, and shopping experiences for wine lovers of all types.

    Wine Tastings
    The true nature of an Italian wine cantina is not just shopping for wine, but rather focused on the idea of learning about wines that you may enjoy, tasting the wines you have selected, and sharing your choices with friends & family.  Whether in search of a wine for dinner, gifting to others, or a scheduled group or private wine tasting; our cantina is a special place that you will find yourself visiting time & time again!

    Fireplace Lounge
    Once you have completed your wine tasting experience, or if you are looking for a great evening with friends, you can enjoy any of our 200 labels of wine while sitting comfortably in our fireplace lounge.  Complete your experience by adding a chef selected tasting plate or any of the small plates and Venetian style cichetti that are perfect for snacking with friends while the conversations continue.

    Retail Sales
    Perhaps the most unique aspect of our cantina is a setting in which customers can select their favorite wines and purchase them by the bottle at direct retail prices.  No longer do you need to write down a wine label in order to shop around; your server can add additional retail priced bottles to your ticket, and have them ready for you to take home at the end of your meal!

    godere! enjoy!

    Monday, February 17, 2014

    Best Books of 2013

    Snow Days call for a warm cup of tea, cozy blankets, and a good book. Below are Barnes & Noble's top picks for the most original, creative, and compelling books from the past year in fiction, nonfiction, kids, and teens.


    The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer
    The Circle - Dave Eggers
    The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
    And The Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini
    Bleeding Edge - Thomas Pynchon
    The Good Lord Bird - James McBride
    How The Light Gets In - Louise Penny
    Inferno - Dan Brown
    Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
    The Lowland - Jhumpa Lahiri
    The Luminaries - Eleanor Catton
    The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
    The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert
    Someone - Alice McDermott
    TransAtlantic - Colum McCann


    Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China - Jung Chang
    Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune - Bill Dedman, Paul Clark Newell
    The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 - Rick Atkinson
    Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened - Allie Brosh
    Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East - Scott Anderson
    David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants - Malcolm Gladwell
    Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth - Reza Aslan
    Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead - Sheryl Sandberg
    The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism - Doris Kearns Goodwin
    The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism - Naoki Higashida
    Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House - Peter Baker
    Books of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin - Jill Lepore
    Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War - Max Hastings
    The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America - George Packer
    Thank You for Your Service - David Finkel


    Allegiant (Divergent Series #3) - Veronica Roth
    The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
    Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
    Asylum - Madeleine Roux
    The 5th Wave (Fifth Wave Series #1) - Rick Yancey
    Prodigy (Marie Lu's Legend Series #2) - Marie Lu
    Steelheart - Brandon Sanderson
    The Moon and More - Sarah Dessen
    The Elite (Selection Series #2) - Kiera Cass
    Rose Under Fire - Elizabeth Wein
    The Tragedy Paper - Elizabeth LaBan
    Requiem (Delirium Series #3) - Lauren Oliver
    The Runaway King (Ascendance Trilogy Series #2)
    Out of the Easy - Ruta Sepetys
    Inferno (Chronicles of Nick Series #4) - Sherrilyn Kenyon


    The Day the Crayons Quit - Drew Daywalt
    Wonder - R.J. Palacio
    The House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus Series #4) - Rick Riordan
    Hard Luck (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series #8) - Jeff Kinney
    Wild Born (Spirit Animals Series #1) - Brandon Mull
    Tales From a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker (Dork Diaries Series #6) - Rachel Renee Russell
    Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses - James Dean
    LEGO Play Book: Ideas to Bring Your Bricks to Life - Daniel Lipkowitz
    The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett (Origami Yoda Series #4) - Tom Angleberger
    Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill - James Patterson
    National Geographic Kids Almanac 2014 - National Geographic Kids
    Poems to Learn by Heart - Caroline Kennedy
    Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey - Emily Winfield Martin
    Kennedy's Last Days: The Assassination That Defined a Generation - Bill O'Reilly
    The School for Good and Evil - Soman Chainani

    happy reads,

    Friday, February 14, 2014

    DIY Valentine's Day Gifts

    For all of you thinking "'s Valentine's Day" this post is for you.  If you have a certain special someone in your life or you'd just like to treat yourself, these DIY Valentine's gifts are the perfect way to celebrate.  We've got everything from free cards to delicious recipes.  

    Free Printables

    Valentines Day Darling Cards Love VS Design
    Valentines Day Coupons Love VS Design
    Sparkle Heart Desktop Wallpaper Eat Drink Chic
    Mini Valentines Cards from A Pair of Pears

    Easy DIY

    DIY Valentines Day Arrows from Evite
    Message in a bottle Camille Styles
    Cement Hearts from Lovely Indeed
    DIY Wooden Polaroid from Sugar and Cloth
    I Love You garland from Lovely Indeed

    Tasty Treats

    Mexican Truffles from Crazy for Crust
    Red Velvet Cookie Cake from Crazy for Crust 
    Valentines Day Scotcharoos from Iluna
    Cupid Cupcakes from Spoonful

    Wednesday, February 12, 2014

    Valentine's Day: Around The World

    Roses, chocolate, and pigs?  Read on to learn about the many 

    Valentine's Day traditions happening around the world!

    Japan In this part of the world, it's all about spoiling your man on Valentine's Day. Japanese women are usually said to be reserved and shy when it comes to expressing their affection. However, on this holiday, the women speak up and present their men with gifts of chocolate to express their love. Different types of chocolate signify different types of relationships - a woman may gift 'giri-choko' that translates to 'obligation chocolate' to men they have no romantic interest, or for their boyfriends or husbands give 'honmei-choko' meaning 'favorite' or 'true feeling chocolate.' For somewhere in between, they give 'tomo' meaning 'friend,' which is usually gifted to a woman's female friends.

    South Korea Adapted from the Japanese traditions, women spoil their men with chocolate. In return, the women receive gifts from their men on 'White Day.' Going a step further, South Korea celebrates 'Black Day' on April 14th for the single people who didn't receive any chocolate love on Valentine's Day or 'White Day.' Singles meet up at restaurants to eat 'jajangmyeon,' a dish of white Korean noodles with black bean sauce. Some say this tradition of eating black noodles with other single friends is a celebration of the single life (while others see it as more of a depressing dinner that mourns the single life - but I like the first attitude more!)

    Taiwan In Taiwan, the Japanese/South Korean tradition of Valentine's Day and 'White Day' is reversed- men gift women chocolates on Valentine's Day and women gift men on 'White Day.'

    Denmark & Norway 'Valentinsdag' is celebrated with 'gaekkebrev,' which are funny little poems or rhyming love notes that men send to women anonymously. Clues are given based on the number of letters in the senders name, represented by a dot for each letter. The recipient must guess who sent her the card- if she guesses correctly, she wins an Easter egg on Easter and if she guesses wrong, she owes him an egg instead.

    Slovenia February 14th marks the first day of working in the fields. Around this time of year, Slovenians start noticing the revival of plants and flowers. The people of Slovenia acknowledge the mating season for the birds and see this holiday as an agricultural significance. It isn't until March 12, on Saint Gregory's Day, that the majority of people celebrate their annual day of love.

    Finland & Estonia Valentine's Day is more a celebration of friendship rather than a romantic love fest. It's called 'Ystavan Paiva" in Finnish and "Sobrapaev" in Estonian, which literally translates to "Friend's Day." Friends exchange cards and gifts that celebrate their friendship.

    Wales The Welsh celebrate "St. Dwynwen's Day" on January 25th (their equivalent to Valentine's Day). It is customary to gift love-spoons, a tradition that was started with Welsh men would carve intricately decorated spoons of wood and would present them to a lady that they were interested in marrying. Symbolic icons are carved into the spoon handles, such as a key to signify a man's heart or wheels to signify hard work.

    France Being one of the most romantic countries in the world, it comes as no surprise that France goes all out. The most popular tradition (in the past and is banned today) was called 'une loterie d'amour,' which translates to 'drawing for love.' Single men and women of all ages would enter houses facing each other and begin calling out to members of the opposite sex as a courtship ritual. If the man was pleased with his 'caller,' he would pair up with her. In an instance where he wasn't, he would simply not respond and move on to the next house. As you can imagine, many feelings were hurt over the course of this ritual and was eventually banned because of the hostility.

    Germany 'Valentinstag' celebrates with cards, flowers, candies, and pigs. Yes, pigs. The pig is a symbol of luck and lust. Pig-adorned ornaments and oversized ginger cookies (often iced with messages of love and pigs) are German specialties.

    Mexico Known as 'Dia del amor y la amistad' or 'Day of love and friendship' takes on a broader tone of love celebration in Mexico. An old tradition that still exists today between teenage boys and girls is an exchange of flowers. If a boy likes a girl, he'll hand her a flower. If she is still holding the flower a little while later, it means she likes him back. Cute, huh? Mexicans also enjoy covering each other's cars with Post-It notes expressing their love.

    Ireland Valentine's Day is based on none other than St. Valentine, whose remains are rumored to be protected in Dublin, Ireland's Carmelite Church. This "gift" was bestowed to the church in 1835 by Pope Gregory XVI, making the unassuming building an interesting, and somewhat creepy, attraction on Valentine's Day.

    United States Last but not least, the US. An entire nation swept up in a love-and-consumerism-induced hysteria. It's estimated that the average American spends over $100 on their loved one. Roses and fancy dinners are the most popular gift for adults, while children are encouraged to gift their friends with cards and candy.



    Dining for Two

    Two days until Valentine’s Day! Time to start making dinner plans for you and your special someone. Check out these three businesses in Ames, Ankeny, and Cedar Rapids that would love to be a part of your special day. (Save some dough and use your Fun Money at any of these 3 places!)

     Dining in Ames

     Dining in Ankeny

    Dining in Cedar Rapids

    Hot Spot: Scott's Family Restaurant in Cedar Rapids

    This week's Hot Spot is Scott's Family Restaurant in Cedar Rapids on Blairs Ferry Road! Locally owned and operated, Scott's serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday. Stop in to try the best breakfast buffet in town on Saturdays and Sundays, or for the tasty All You Can Eat Cod special on Friday evenings. Not a seafood fan? Stop in Saturdays between 4 PM and 9 PM for Sirloin steak night, which includes fresh salad bar!

    At Scott's Family Restaurant, you'll find exceptionally friendly service, quality food, and a relaxing atmosphere that will make you feel right at home.

    in Cedar Rapids!

    Find a handful of "Scott's Suggestions" all over the menu! For breakfast, he suggests the Cowboy Breakfast (3 eggs, hashbrowns, two sausage links, 2 bacon strips, and a half slice of ham served with your choice of toast or 2 pancakes - only $9.99!) or the Ultimate Skillet (ham, sausage, bacon, onions, peppers, mushrooms, shredded cheese, and 2 eggs served on crispy breakfast potatoes - also includes your choice of toast, 2 pancakes, or a blueberry muffin - all for just $8.99!)
    For lunch or dinner, Scott suggests the Jack Daniel's Burger (1/3 lb. or 1/2 lb. fresh & never frozen burger topped with grilled onions, mushrooms, and their homemade Jack Daniel's sauce - only $7.99-$8.99) or the Roast Beef hot sandwich (tender roast beef baked in house between 2 slices of white break served with mashed potatoes and beef gravy- only $8.99!)

    Try Scott's Family Restaurant out - you won't be sorry!

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

    Hot Spot: Zio Johno's in Cedar Rapids

    100% real meats, real cheese, real vegetables. 0% artificial flavors.

    This week's Hot Spot is Zio Johno's Spaghetti House of Cedar Rapids on C Street (next to Farrell's and Jersey's Pub)! This location is one of seven in eastern Iowa. Choose from their signature spaghetti and meat sauce, pizza, ravioli, tortellini, mostaccioli, manicotti, cannelloni, lasagna, and more!

    The Hometown Taste of Italy

    At Zio Johno’s, the shelves are lined with containers filled with spices without labels. The secret to success is downstairs, where Johno mixes the spices and makes the dough for his bread. The bread, sauce, and pasta are made fresh daily. So how can such an authentic taste not come at a high price? Simply because Zio Johno's believes in fantastic food at a reasonable price - for example, you can feed a family of four with a half-gallon of spaghetti and a loaf of garlic bread for about $11.00!

    Bon appétit!