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5 Best Things to Buy at the Dollar Store

The husband and I have lived off a single income for the past couple of years. The high cost of living in Colorado (and in general!) has really forced us to be savvy with our spending and saving. One of the ways we save money is by purchasing certain things at the dollar store. 

I will be the first to tell you that not everything at the dollar store is a good deal. We bought foil there recently and you could hardly pull it out of the box without it tearing- no bueno. However, there are a handful of items that we regularly purchase there that are better deals than the grocery store. Check out the list below and see if there are any you would add! 

1. Greeting Cards 
I'll be honest with you- we are dollar card kind of people. I love the cute cards that I find at Walmart and Target but I just can't justify paying $4 for a piece of cardstock! The dollar card sections at these major retailers is usually pretty sad, so I prefer to shop at the dollar store. 

In my once a month run to the dollar store I try to pick up cards for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and any other festivities that might be coming up in the next month. A lot of the cards are even 50 cents and I think they have a pretty good selection. I can get 5-10 cards for the price of one- now that's a deal! 

2. Gift bags/tissue paper 
I love giving cute gifts but can't justify paying an extra $5-10 in gift bags/tissue paper at the grocery store. The dollar store usually has a wide variety of gift bags and paper that works great and is super cute. 

Along those same lines, I have bought wrapping paper at the dollar store and decided that it can be a better deal elsewhere. The quality of the wrapping paper isn't bad, but there wasn't much of it on a roll, so if you can find bigger rolls on sale somewhere that will usually be the better deal. 

3. Helium balloons
This is where I feel like I've really hit the jackpot on deals. If you go to the grocery store, you'll pay at least $4 for an inflated helium balloon. Many dollar stores have a wide variety of helium balloons and they're all only $1! I get Alex balloons a lot (I consider it the man version of flowers), and most of them have come from the dollar store. I've gotten balloons for birthdays, Valentine's Day, anniversaries, and coming home parties; it's so fun and I feel like I'm getting an awesome deal! 

4. Plastic ziplock bags 
We use plastic ziploc baggies sparingly because they're expensive. We try to instead put things in reusable containers and plastic wrap or foil. I have found a brand of baggies at the dollar store that is 50 for a dollar. This is wayyyy cheaper than anywhere else I've looked, and the box of 50 goes a long way in our house! 

5. Canned goods 
Many times canned goods are over a dollar at major retailers. Things like Rotel, canned fruit, and canned chili are well over a dollar. However, at the dollar store they're (guess) only a buck. Even though they may only be a little over a dollar (i.e. $1.32) at the grocery store, add that up for several cans of goods and it adds up to several dollars worth! Canned goods can vary from store to store, so browse their selection and pick up what you can before you head to the grocery store! 


Depending on the trip I'll pick up other things at our dollar store including paper goods, cleaning supplies, and candy. The five above are the things that I regularly purchase. If you don't have a dollar store close to you, driving 20 miles out of the way probably won't be worth the savings, but if there's one close to you stop by and check it out sometime! I think you'll be surprised at the deals you find! 

Do you shop at the dollar store? What other deals have you found? 

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Project 12: August

So I'm not sure how it happened, but it's already over HALFWAY through September and I'm just now sitting down to write the recap of August. I really just can't figure it out how that happened! 

1. Taylor Park, Colorado. Every year Alex's family takes a trip to Taylor Park- a big reservoir and surrounding area that's a few hours outside of Denver. There are a lot of trails to dirtbike, the reservoir to fish/boat in, and just spectacular beauty to enjoy. 

{the view from the reservoir... gorgeous or what??}

We were able to join his family for this trip and it was a great time. I actually enjoyed dirtbiking for the first time, relaxed on a boat trip out on the reservoir, ate delicious comfort food, and played games. I could say a lot more but I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. 

2. Blue Pan Pizza & Little Man Ice Cream. 
If you are in the Denver area, you NEED to try BOTH of these places. If you're not in the Denver area, a promise of dinner and dessert at these places is more than enough to make it worth a trip to visit me!

{It just had the cutest little decorations!}

Blue Pan Pizza is famous for Detroit style pizza. You didn't know there was such a style did you? (Or am I the only culturally ignorant pizza consumer?) If you're like me and don't know what Detroit style pizza is like, it's a square pizza that's cooked in deep dish and the main thing you need to know is that the cheese gets carmelized around the edges. Need I say more? 


Little Man Ice Cream is famous here in Denver and me and the husband just got around to trying it out. We waited 45 minutes in line, and that isn't atypical. I got a cup of salted caramel pecan amazingness and I'm not going to write anymore because that should be enough to convince you to come try it for yourself. If you need further persuasion let's just say that they offer free swing dancing lessons on Saturday nights and everyone comes and dances outside on their cute little patio (see picture below). It's just the most fun place ever!  

{How cute is this place?? The milk jug looking thing is the actual ice cream shop!}

2. All you can eat sushi lunch date. 
Alex had been wanting to do all you can eat sushi for awhile so I finally agreed to go with him after he offered to treat me out of his allowance money. I was reluctant for a long time for very good reason. If you've never been to all you can eat sushi (usually offered during the lunch hour), there's one thing you need to know- whatever you don't finish you pay FULL price for on top of the fee you're already paying (usually around $15-20 per person). This means that you have to be extremely careful with your ordering so that you don't land up with a whopping bill. 

My first experience with all you can eat sushi was going with my husband (then boyfriend), his brother, and their friend. Me + 3 guys who thought they had unlimited stomach space turned out to be a horrible combination. They ordered wayyyyyy more than we could finish so we landed up sneaking some rolls to the table of military guys next to us, and I may or may not have taken some rolls in my purse to the restroom to flush them down the toilet. I didn't eat sushi for a year after that. 

Now you'll understand my hesitation. Anyway, this time it was only Alex and I and we ordered our sushi carefully and enjoyed ourselves. But consider yourself warned if you ever try all you can eat sushi. 

3. The Piano Guys Concert 
This was a gift to Alex and I from my in-laws and can I just tell you it was uhhhh-mazing! It was at Red Rocks Amphitheater which is one of the top concert venues in the world, it was a beautifully warm night, and they happened to be filming the concert that night for a DVD so everyone was extra loud. 

Their shows are the perfect combination of beautiful music and stunning graphics with a good dose of comedy thrown in. If you don't know who these guys even are, check out The Piano Guys website. If you ever have a chance to see them in concert GO GO GO! 

{Um... HOW COOL is that?!}

4. Travel to Kentucky. 
So this trip is related to my dream as a 15 year old coming true. Last month I said that I would reveal the dream and its fulfillment in September, but certain things that are beyond our control are making me wait about another month to share the news. I'm sorry to keep y'all hanging! Spoiler Alert {because my husband thinks everyone is going to be let down}: I am NOT PREGNANT. 


1. My brother and his girlfriend came and stayed about a week with us. I love having people over, and this really was just the best kind of company. We went Water World (our local water park), Elitch Gardens (our local amusement park), and the local county fair rodeo. 

{We look like the rodeo-going crowd don't we?}

{Post water park excitement}

{My brother and I}

{Aren't they just the cutest?? I'm totally a creeper}

We taught my brother's girlfriend how to drive stick shift (Rose, you did so good!), played hours worth of spades, and laughed at Youtube videos. It was time together with my people and I enjoyed 

2. A few days after my brother and his girlfriend left, my other brother came into town and spent the night at our place. It was good brother-sister bonding time, AND he played his guitar for me. Win win if you ask me. 



She's the Man. I made Alex watch this with me and he didn't like it nearly as much as I do. Growing up in a house of boys and with all boy cousins except for one, I feel like I can relate to this movie. I was always trying to prove that I could hang with the guys so I find it pretty entertaining. Apparently there's a similar movie put out by Disney channel that is the same story line but instead of soccer the girl dirtbikes... Alex likes that version better. Pfffff.....


Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I've been hearing for years (literally) that this book is excellent. It has accompanied me on many trips but always got pushed to the bottom of the pile and never got read. Well I can finally say that I read it and it lived up to the hype. 

I finished the book on a plane and thank God the man sitting next to me was asleep drunk (not kidding), because I was quite literally sobbing as I finished the last pages. It's a beautiful story of redemption, forgiveness, and no other book has brought me to such tears. That being said, the story is heart wrenching and I found it hard to read at times because it was so painful. It won't be on my list of read-agains (not many books are on that list), but I'm so glad I finally read it and would absolutely recommend it to anyone. 


One pot spicy thai noodles is our most recent favorite dinner dish. I am all about things in one pot and this is a winner. But don't be like my husband and use the maximum amount of sriracha sauce AND chili peppers unless you want to die. The night we ate it, I ran with tears streaming down my face and ripped open the refrigerator door only to discover that we had no milk. "Alex, did you drink all the milk?!" Alex calmly replies, "Yeah, there was only a little bit". Me- "A LITTLE BIT IS ALL I NEED." I finished my dinner in misery. The next day the spice had calmed down and it was more enjoyable. I am on an asian kick lately so if you have any asian recipes send them my way! 

This letter written to the girl who wants to adopt (that's me).

One of my previous youth group leaders wrote about the dreaded t-shirt drawer . You know, the one that you and your husband either ignore or fight about. I loved her post because one, it made me feel better that I'm not the only wife that has fought about something as stupid as how to fold a t-shirt, and two, gave me some really concrete insight and wisdom on communication in marriage. 

How was your August? Or do you even remember it because it's almost October? Do you have any good asian food recipes to share with me?? 

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Dear Love,

Dear Love,

Happy two year anniversary! It feels like it's been the quickest and longest two years of our lives and I think you'll agree. That rainy morning on September 14, 2013 seems like decades ago, yet I'm still trying to get used to having bling on my left hand. 

Marrying you was and is the best decision of my life, not because it's been easy, but because you've helped shape me into a better person. Being united with you has really shown me what a sinner I am- how selfish, impatient, and unforgiving my heart really can be. Over the past two years my eyes have been opened to how much grace I really need every single day

You have seen me at my worst- crying over the kitchen sink over our most recent argument, and you have seen me at my best- relaxing on the beach during our cruise. And the amazing thing is, is that your love has stayed the same through it all. It has stayed steady, unwavering, and full of forgiveness and grace. 

Saying "I do" wearing that white dress meant that I was saying yes to it all. Yes to the struggles, yes to the fights, yes to the ugly. But it also meant that I was saying yes to the early morning cuddles, the thousand and one shared Sonic shakes, and the side cramp laughter late at night.  

You're my best friend and I can't imagine coming home to anyone else but you after a long 14 hour shift. I am so thankful that we got married at an age that is often frowned upon. Because we got married young, I am being forced to become a better person sooner in my life rather than later. I am learning to to be more selfless, more forgiving, and truly understand that my relationship with you is directly related to the strength of my spiritual walk with Jesus. 

It's been two years and I can't wait for the next fifty. I can't help but smile imagining our future homes, our future kids, and of course our future socially unacceptable dinner conversations. In the meantime, I'll enjoy our Youtube date nights, our hikes in beautiful Colorado, our bike rides that you still have to drag me on, and our unplanned trips to Costco just to walk around.

Thanks for being my supporter, my encourager, and my protector as I navigate this adult world and figure out how to be a better wife, daughter, sister, and friend. 


Your wifey 

How My Dad Made Me the Coolest Kid in School

So, I didn’t exactly hang out with the cool kids in high school. And by that mean I was pretty much cooler than they were a loser. My big things were school, choir, and even though I played sports, I got disqualified from the cool crowd once they found out I didn’t drink.
Oh, and a few other distinct events definitely pushed me more to the you’re-kind-of-not-that-cool bracket. Let me tell you the story of  one of the events that destined me to the not-so-cool realm.

In high school I lived in the boonies. And by boonies I mean 35 miles outside of already-small-town-Colorado. Since we lived so far out of town, I got dropped off and picked up at school every single day… from kindergarten through my senior year of high school. Riding with my dad to school sure beat the school bus… but when you’re a high school senior? Only losers don’t have their own cars (that was me).

One sunny day in April (it really was a sunny day in April) I was waiting for my Dad to pick me up at the high school. I was waiting with all the other uncool kids that still had to wait for their rides as well. Did I mention that I was a senior and almost everyone else I was waiting with was a freshman or sophomore? That just made it an even more enjoyable experience. I was texting on my phone when I looked up and saw a dump truck.

I watched as it pulled up to the curb wondering why on earth a dump truck would be pulling into my high school. The fact that it looked like my Dad’s dump truck made me even more fearful as to why exactly it was pulling in front of my school. The gigantic white and blue dump truck pulled to a stop in front of me, the window rolled down… and my Dad pops his head out the window and yells,

“Sarah, hop in!”

When I realized that it was indeed my Dad. In his dump truck. Picking me up from school. As a senior—I  considered running inside and pretending that he had yelled at one of the other two million Sarahs that attended my school. But then I realized that him sitting in the dump truck would only attract more attention than it already had.

So, I tucked my head down, walked quickly across the concrete, opened the door, and hoisted myself up while simultaneously ducking my head into my lap and yelling at my dad to “Go, go go!”

My dad thought it was the funniest thing he’d seen all day, and after we left the parking lot I started laughing too—about just how ridiculous it all really was.

I probably gained a few loser points that day, but my friends and family still laugh about it, and really…

How many people can say they’ve been picked up from school in a dump truck?! {The picture above is the actual dump truck that picked me up- my Dad still owns it}

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5 Stages of a Night Shift

At my hospital, nurses are required to rotate every two months between day shifts (7am-7pm) and night shift (7pm-7am), until you build up enough seniority to get a position where you're straight days (if you want straight night shift they usually let you hop on that train pretty quickly). 

I'm one of the crazies that still rotates my schedule and I just finished nine weeks of night shift. To a lot of the outside world, night shift seems like such a weird thing- like we're really awake all night? For all of you who have never had the privilege of working while the rest of the world sleeps, I thought I would walk you through the 5 shifts a night shift and give you a little better idea of what it's like. 

Stage 1- I feel good! (7pm-10pm)
Unlike waking up for a day shift (usually somewhere between 5-6am), you usually wake up for a night shift a lot earlier (between 3-4pm). This means that you have a couple hours at home to relax, work out, and eat dinner. You also catch up on the texts and/or calls you received during the day, and try to prepare yourself for the night ahead. 

I get to work around 7pm hoping for a good night ahead. My families are usually awake so I'm usually running around trying to get all my tasks done before the kids start to fall asleep. That usually takes me till 10 or 11pm when I enter the second stage of night shift. 

Stage 2- Denial, I'm not tired I just think I am (10pm-12am)
After finishing my first round of tasks, I'll sit down to chart and this is when I get my first wave of being tired. But at this point, I'm not even halfway through my shift so I just tell myself "you're not tired, you just think you are; Sarah, you slept all day you're not tired. Most high schoolers and college kids are still up right now! Please girl." I'll usually get a snack, a Sprite, or some fresh ice water to get me through my initial wave of sleepiness. 

Stage 3- Give me all the food, NOW (12am-3am)
If you've never worked a night shift, you can't know the intense cravings and the utter lack of self control that accompanies working odd hours. I can be a pretty self-controlled person, but once I'm at work on a night shift I'll eat anything and everything without a second thought. 

Oh you're offering me nachos? Great, I'll have some. Oh there's leftover chocolate from day shift? Don't mind me while I finish it all off. Oh I brought a salad and fruit for lunch? Sounds gross, I'm going to get a BLT at the cafeteria. I will eat anything and everything during a night shift and won't regret it until several hours later when I realize that yes, I did indeed eat three cupcakes. It probably doesn't help that our cafeteria lady at night serves HUGE portions of all things fried and delicious for ridiculously good prices. 

Of course, you can swing the other way in this stage. Your body can be feeling really whacked out by being awake and you'll get super nauseous and feel lousy. This has happened to me too, but not as much as the intense cravings I get for fried pickles.

Somewhere in this time frame most nurses will take their lunch break which is weird to a lot of people. I usually go in an empty conference room and eat my lunch away from the noise of the unit because at this point I'm feeling "beeped" out. A lot of times I'll lay on the floor for 10-15 minutes because my body at this point is tired of sitting up when it should be laying down. 

Stage 4- I'm going to fall asleep standing up (3am-5am)
This is where the struggle begins. I've affectionately named 3am as "the darkest hour" because that's when I get really sleepy and just want to go home. If you've never almost fallen asleep standing up, try a night shift and you will. During these couple hours it's not uncommon to look over at your coworkers and see them dozing off as they chart away. 

This time of night is also when you'll bond the most with your coworkers because you'll talk about anything and everything to keep you awake. If you're trying to do anything productive at this point, it's a lost cause because you can hardly remember your own name. 

Stage 5- Get me out of here NOW (5am-till you go home). 
This can be the longest two hours of the night  your life. It becomes a struggle to get up and go give your last minute medications, draw your final labs, and chart your final things. 15 minutes in this stage will seem to take two hours as you wait for the sun to rise and your coworkers to arrive and relieve you. 

Once you hit 7am and you're handing off your assignment to the next nurse, you'll find yourself fuzzy and only thinking about how long it's going to take you to get into your bed. 

When you're finally released, you practically run through the hospital doors, slap yourself silly (literally) to stay awake on the drive home, maybe eat breakfast, and collapse into your bed. 

And let me tell you, there is no sweeter feeling than climbing into bed after a night shift. Think of the best feeling you've ever felt- that doesn't compare to bed after a night shift (I'm not even exaggerating one bit). 


There you have it- the five stages of working a night shift. There's a whole other side of night shift that comes when you're trying to sleep during the day but that'll be a post for another time. Some people hate night shift, some people love it, and some people (like me) are in between and can't decide how they feel about it. 

Have you ever worked night shift? Do you think you would like it? 

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