Friday, June 25, 2010

Generation "I Want it Now!"

It comes without saying that many people in their mid 20's and 30's are in debt.  We are in debt more than any other generation before us has been, and we are too stupid to wrap our heads around it and get out of debt. 

I'm not going to go into detail, but I am a recovering shopper.  I say I am recovering because I had a reality check and it changed the way that I look at money.  Plastic isn't money.  Money is paper.  Money is in the bank.  Money is in your wallet. 

A few years ago, my dad gave me a birthday or a Christmas gift that I though was a complete load of crap.  (Sorry if you're reading this dad.)  My father is always trying to get me interested in financial topics, and let's face it, finance is more boring to me than biostatistics.  That's really saying something.  So for some holiday, he hands me a present and I unwrap it hoping that it's some new book or dvd that will thrill me and keep my attention. 

It was Jim Cramer's book Stay Mad For Life and I was polite about it and just put it aside. 

A few months later I was sitting in my room, bored and stressed out that once again I had probably charged up a couple hundred dollars on my credit card.  I picked up the book and started reading it. 

Holy crap!  I swear it was like Jim Cramer was writing me a letter.  Get out of debt was all I kept hearing him say.  Pay down those bills and build up those reserves.  The only two reasons a person should be in debt are this: You bought a house or you're going to school.  Homes and educations.  That's it.  No exceptions.  Most important of all, you should never for any reason be without health insurance. 

That seemed simple enough to me.  So I did it, I made the leap and started taking responsibility for my actions.  I hadn't been a complete dolt, but I wasn't very money-wise.  I had just started working at MWH and I had a retirement account with Fidelity.  I started increasing the percentage I put into that account and I called up my bank.  I took out a loan and paid off all of my credit cards with that loan.  One monthly payment, and no looking back.  Good bye credit card debt.  Hello new outlook on money! 

Am I perfect?  Nope.  Not even close.  Am I out of debt?  That' just a stupid question.  Did I maintain an excellent credit score?  Yes.  Did I buy a house?  You betcha.  (With the help of a financially wise young man.)  Am I grateful that my dad handed me a stupid book a few years ago?  Without a doubt.  100%.  Dee-Light-Eddd. 

So now what?  What about these people that never have money but always seem to be working?  How about people like me that charged expensive dinners and fancy drinks or coach purses and Vegas trips?  What about this new generation of people that keep buying new iPhones as they are released, but they cannot afford their car payments and are charging up their credit card bills? 

Well here's my point:  Our generation is ignorant.  Even some of the so-called financial students or money managers are in debt up to their eye balls in debt because they needed a new "status car" or some high priced gadget that they can read books and newspapers on.  (Side note:  Go to the library you stupid-heads.  Knowledge comes at the cost of late fees.  Thank Good Will Hunting for showing us that.) 

So if you're reading this and trying to figure out what made me so "high and mighty", I hope you'll realize that I'm still learning.  But I'm starting to see my financial balance sheet look a lot more black and a lot less red.  So maybe it's time you went to the library and borrowed one of Jim Cramer's books.  Or Suze Orman.  Or go to Financial Peace University.  Or anyone!  Just start getting your crap together!  Stop spending money on credit cards that you don't have in the bank.  Stop buying junk that you don't need.  Start selling of useless gadgets and gizmos.  Get back to reality like previous generations before us did and get out of debt. 

Okay, I'm off of my soap box now.  Carry on. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Not a tavern, But a temple"

I had a dream last night, a nightmare actually.  In my dream, a maintenance man came to my door and said

"I'm sorry miss, but this isn't your house anymore.  Your house is on the other side of the complex now." 

And with that he handed me a key and walked away.  I immediately ran up to get Mike and started crying.  I explained to him what the man told me and he just started packing.  He didn't question it or put up a fight at all. 

Well not this girl.  I started calling people.  Our realtor.  My mom's realtor friend, Lori.  My dad's cousin who happens to be a lawyer.  Finally, I called our HOA president.  He informed me that our home was being turned into some sort of a vacation or rental property and we had to move out immediately and into the other unit. 

Well that's when I woke up.  The truth is, our HOA president cannot rent out our house.  No one can make us move unless we want to move.  But that didn't stop me from sitting upright in bed and trying to catch my breath.  Apparently I woke Mike up (and Maddie).  He asked me if I was okay, and I said I was fine and just got up early. 

It finally hit me:  This Friday will mark our 3 month anniversary since we moved into our house and I'm attached.  We've had guests over a few times now.  I've used the pool (once).  Things are starting to find their places in the kitchen.  I've nailed three pictures to the wall in the dressing area.  Our mail comes here.  Our Maddie-Poo is there to run and greet me every evening when I come home from work. 

The reason that dream scared me so much is because I've finally let myself become attached to this house.  I think before, I was waiting for the day when someone would knock on the door and tell me that this really wasn't our house.  Now, I know for certain that it is truly our home, not just some place we're staying for a little while. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies...My Way! (updated)

First of all, I have to start off with this: 

My name is Kipp, and I'm a Pioneer Woman - a - holic.  Thank you for listening. 

Now, for the real reason that you're reading this blog:  COOKIES!!!  I have a small (okay, it's more like the elephant in the room that no one talks about) obsession with cookies.  I have loved every single stinking cookie that I've ever eaten in my entire life.  They're my weakness.  I'd say they're 75% of the reason that I'm squishy.  (The other 25% is of course bread in the form of toast, sandwiches, pizza crust, and croutons.) 

I stumbled upon this twist on Chocolate Chip Cookies and decided that since I'm a fairly experienced cookie maker, I'd better give this one a try.  See below for the original link to Ree Drummond's (aka The Pioneer Woman) original recipe. 

The Pioneer Woman's Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

So off I went to my local Albertsons to pick up all of the cast members that I was going to need:  unsalted butter, chocolate chips, baking soda (give me a break, I just moved 3 months ago and I don't have any), and malted milk powder.  All of these were easy to find, except the malted milk powder.  Don't look in the baking section.  It won't be there.  It's next to the hot cocoa mixes in the hot beverage isle!  But I had a small problem:  Albertsons only had Chocolate Malted Milk powder. 

Oh darn.  I'll just have to increase the chocolate factor of these cookies.  They will now be known as Chocolate Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Take that P-Dub. 

So here you go, my recipe in its entirety.  I've made a couple of teeny tiny modifications.

Chocolate Malted Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup (2 Sticks) Unsalted Butter Softened

¾ cups Golden Brown Sugar

¾ cups Sugar

2 whole Eggs

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

2-¼ cups All-purpose Flour (Note: I've increased the flour for a more dense and puffier cookie)

1-¼ teaspoon Baking Soda

1-¼ teaspoon Salt

½ cups (rounded) Chocolate Malted Milk Powder

1 bag (12 Ounce) Milk Chocolate Chips (Nestle, of course!) 
Preheat the oven to 325 Degrees.  (I found that 375 Degrees was too hot and my edges got burned!
Cream butter, then add both sugars and cream until fluffy. Add eggs and beat slightly, then add vanilla and beat until combined. Add chocolate malted milk powder and beat until combined.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter mixture, beating gently until just combined.

Add chocolate chips and stir in gently.

Drop by teaspoonfuls (or use a cookie scoop) and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Bake less if you want chewy cookies; more if you want crispy cookies.  Translation for my family:  Bake for 10 minutes if you're a KC, and 12 minutes if you're a Larry. 

Don't even bother asking me if I made ice cream sandwiches with them.  Every time I picked up two of the cooled cookies to try to make a sandwich, they mysteriously disappeared into my mouth before I could even get the ice cream out of the freezer! 

Oh and if you're looking for a picture, well once again I keep eating the evidence before I can get my camera out.  Darn it.  I'm such a nut. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

House to Home Transformation: Stage 1

This weekend was filled with an insanely large amount of tears, hugs, hello's, and goodbye's.  I'm not sure I can cram them all into one joyful post, but here's a little sneak peak of why we all came together: 

Redden, Big Mike, and Jolly
Cal Poly Pomona, Class of 2010

Yep, here come those tears again.  These yahoo's all graduated this weekend, and I can tell you between all the families that were shedding tears of joy and the graduate's jokes about college, I was shedding tears of joy and laughter all weekend long. 

Some of you may not know this, but Mike is the first in his family to get a college degree.  His younger sister, Lauren, isn't far behind in attaining her degree from Cal State San Marcos.  A single generation with 100% college degree success?  Well to me that shows that their parents and grandparents did an excellent job instilling good values in them. 

Well what is a graduation without a party?  So Mike & I opened our home for the first of (hopefully) many gatherings.  Some of Mike's family came up from the Imperial Valley, while most of our friends and family were just a short 15-20 minute freeway burst away.  We threw carne asada on the grill and kept the La Tolteca chips & salsa stocked at all times. 

But more important than who was there or what we ate were the memories that we made.  In my humble opinion, it isn't who or what is inside of your house that makes it a home; instead it is the memories created inside of those four walls that make a house into a home.  Believe me, we made an excellent set of memories this weekend. 

Maddie showed off her sleeping skills by falling asleep anywhere she wanted. 

Mike's father impressed every one with his excellent carne asada and grilling talents. 

Mike's grandfather hugged each and every person telling us all, "At my age, I need to get all the hugs that I can get!"  With his warmth and kindness, we were all happy to oblige him. 

My family was greeted with a long-lost cousin that I recently came back into contact with.  I invited him to the party, but "forgot" to tell everyone he was coming. 

Many friends were greeted at the door and astonished with all of the progress that has been made on the house since their first visits a few months ago.  When they had first come to see us, we were still beginning our dramatic facelift of the interior, and now they're beginning to see the final product. 

For the first time, our home was filled with babies and toddlers.  Mike's cousin, Megan, brought her tiny little girl followed later by Lucius (10 months) and Devin (11 months) who were eager to play and give Maddie open mouthed kisses. 

I can honestly say that this weekend was more of a blessing than I could have ever imagined.  If you were part of it, please pat yourself on the back or give yourself a big hug from Mike & I.  We are truly thankful for each and every one of you in our lives and we cannot wait to have you all over again for another gathering. 

Love, Mike & Kipp

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

4 years? No, I'm not talking about a Presidency!

Some of you may have read or heard me say that today is Mike & my 4 year anniversary.  However, what you may not know is how many of you were there the night that we started our relationship. 

Mike & I had been on a few dates and spent time together before June 9, 2006, but it wasn't really until that night that anything got serious.  On that Friday, I graduated from Cal Poly Pomona and was planning a party for my family & friends.  I had invited Mike to both the graduation and the party, but in all honesty I did not expect him to sit through a boring 2 or 3 hour commencement ceremony. 

Well, let me tell you how shocked I was to discover that Mike had showed up to the ceremonies and sat with my friends & family throughout the whole thing.  He then headed back with us to my parents house and stayed for the entire party! 

Now because it was such a great party, the details are a little fuzzy in my head.  What I do know is that he was by my side the entire night and was up again the next morning helping my father and I clean up.  I'm pretty sure that the sight of Mike's true character was enough to get our relationship going. 

I am so blessed to have him in my life, and I'm grateful to all of the people around us that have supported us over the past 4 years.  As we get are preparing to host Mike's graduationg party at our home together this weekend, I get to look back at the last few years and just be grateful.  I guess all of his hard work paid off in school, and his patience with me has pulled us through a lot in our time together.  I could not imaging anyone else in my life, and I look forward to all of the wonderful times we have ahead of us. 

The truth is, I think Mike loves me because of my family's ability to make amazing tacos in large quantities.  Just ask him.