Monday, March 31, 2014

And the home of the…

home of the brave

Last night, Nick and I had the opportunity to go see the Minnesota Gophers (alma mater for both of us!) take on the St. Cloud State Huskies for the chance to advance to the NCAA Final Four. Great news- the Gophers won the game, and will be taking on the UND Fighting Sioux this coming Thursday!

One of my favorite times when attending sporting events is before the game actually starts, and the entire stadium rises, removes their caps, and sings the National Anthem. Especially after being abroad for the past year and not hearing it, seeing the American flag, or really having any connection to patriotism around me- it has taken on a slightly different meaning. To me, hearing the National Anthem sung is really about patriotism, showing pride for your country, and respecting the troops- past, present, and future. Without these troops, America may not exist as it does today. Our National Anthem is the chance to take one minute out of your day, to think about your country and all of the great things you are able to do because of where you live. Whatever your political stance is, democratic, republican, green party, or somewhere in between, the National Anthem is not about your views, it is about the country.

However. As the National Anthem is winding down, and fans are getting ready for the event to start, the event seems to take precedence over this moment of respect. "O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave" is the lyric-- and given which sports stadium you are standing in, it has now become home of the Gophers, the Vikings, the Twins, the Bulldogs… and that is not right. Yes, the sports fans may be standing in that team's arena- and call it their home arena- but the National Anthem is not sung to honor that team. It is sung to honor our country.

In these sporting events, it is also now common to have the announcer ask for our troops, past and present, to stand for a moment of recognition. This is another great moment in our sporting events, where we take the time to recognize these people. Last night, it was inspiring to see how many of our troops attended the event and were proud to be recognized for their service. I can bet just about anything that not a single one of these troops would dream of replacing the word "brave" in our National Anthem with any other word, or team, out there. Because this is the United States of America, and we are the home of the brave.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Being A Woman In Sweden

Some of my everyday beauty products

One of the lessons I learned this past year in Sweden, is that there is no way I could afford to live in Sweden full-time and be a woman. Perhaps, part of this is because for Swedish women, ignorance is bliss. Now, I'm not in any way calling Swedish women ignorant. No, I'm simply saying that you don't know how cheap things are elsewhere in the world (AKA, at Target) and so therefor are accepting of how expensive certain things are in Sweden.

expensive to be a woman in Sweden
The mascara I use (and found a great deal on this past week!)

Lets take a look at one of my recent purchases at Target. My usual mascara, that I buy for $4.99; is actually being discontinued at Target- so I was able to buy 4 tubes for $2.48 each (I bought them for 16 krona, regular price they would have been 32 krona). This same exact mascara I have seen for sale in Sweden…for 139 krona (or $22). OUCH!

beauty products in Sweden
Even nail polish is much more expensive in Sweden!

Nail polish. Essie and Sally Hansen "complete salon manicure" are two of my favorite brands. When purchasing Essie in Sweden, it retails for 139 krona ($22). Again, OUCH!

I can't afford to be a woman in Sweden
One of my favorite conditioners I use

Shampoo and conditioner. This big bottle of TRESemmé I purchased at Target for $4.49 (29 krona)…and in Sweden, this same bottle retails for 89 krona ($13.69). I definitely used less conditioner while I was in Sweden!

And of course, those are just a few of the everyday things that I buy on my trips to Target. Hair, nails, beauty routines, shopping, all of these are much more expensive in Sweden. A few years back, Nick had a couple of his friends and their girlfriends come over and visit- he told me the girlfriends wanted to go get a manicure done daily, just because it was so cheap here. You can get a plain old manicure here in Minnesota starting at $20 (130 krona), maybe doubling that price if you go for a gel manicure (which is my favorite!) Same thing in Sweden, your looking at almost $100.

Towards the end of the year, I was getting tired of being a brunette and wanted to start highlighting my hair to get back to blonde. I chatted with a couple of gals I knew, who informed me that with what I wanted to do, I was looking at at least 1800 krona ($275). When I knew I could do the same thing in the US for $100, I just waited a few weeks to get my hair done!

A few of my friends have also asked me how the shopping was in Sweden. My honest answer? I went shopping (and actually purchased items) exactly once while over there. Sure, there are some cute items in the stores- but again, when I knew I could purchase the same exact things in the US for half the price, and even better if I wait until Thailand in 11 days-- it was very hard to shop and spend the money!

With all of those everyday expenses adding up, I am positive that I can't afford to be a woman in Sweden, especially with the knowledge that I have. For my readers, have you noticed major price differences like this living in new areas (whether it is city, state, or country)? How did you adapt- or not?

**A little disclaimer: I am fully aware this post may be dramatic. There are options I could have done in Sweden, such as not doing my hair, makeup, or nails. However, to me, this is part of being a woman and I like my routine. Many women do choose to go without doing their nails, and things like that. I just enjoy indulging in some pampering every once in awhile!**

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sports Really Are A Business- For the Players, Too

Sports are a business
My Mom and I before the Vikings game at TCF Stadium in 2010

Sports are a business
Family Christmas card (a long time ago!)
This week, it was released that Jared Allen, #69 of the Minnesota Vikings, was leaving the Vikings and had signed a contract with the Chicago Bears (one of the Vikings' rivals). To a lot of fans of the Vikings, it was not a surprise at all that Allen left the Vikings- as a five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro player, the next step in his career is to hopefully attain a Superbowl Championship ring. Allen felt that the Vikings weren't the team to do that with, and so as a player began looking elsewhere for that option.

Some of the fans are upset about this, because Allen has been with the Vikings for the past six years and been a key defensive player. They are upset that Allen is going somewhere else to achieve his career goals, and that he isn't loyal to the Vikings.

Well, here's the deal that Allen, the Vikings organization, and many other people know: each of these sports teams is a business. The NFL is a business. This goes for any sport- NFL, NHL, MLB. Yes, there are some "loyal" players out there who will stick with a team from the beginning of their career to the end. However, many of the players will leave a team for a new one that has better opportunities for them- whether it is more money, the chance to win a championship, the weather, whatever their reasons happen to be. These players have a career in the sport, and they make the best decisions for themselves. Because the fact of the matter is that these sports are a business, and the athletes have to treat it as that. At the end of the day, if a player has a terrible year (game, month, season, etc) the team will waste no time in firing or trading that player. The team operates and acts a business- there is no loyalty to players.

Sure, there are times a team will spend a little extra money to keep a player even if they haven't been doing great- and that isn't loyalty, thats trying to keep the fans happy (if the player is a fan favorite). The fans of the games are the only people that are there for the team, year in and year out. Players, coaches, managers, they all come and go. The fans are the ones who are there, and that often realize it is simply a business to the players.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Mysterious Bump In the Night

LilyMonster relaxing while I took a bath
Check out that face!
It has been a busy last couple weeks for not only Nick and I, but also for our sweet girl the LilyMonster. She had been staying with Nick's parents up in Duluth while we were in Sweden, and once we returned home she came back down to Minneapolis to stay with us. Of course, Lily has been traveling back and forth between Minneapolis and Duluth during the winter, but with us returning home she was back to Minneapolis, and greeted with all of our suitcases. In addition to our suitcases, there were suitcases of stuff Nick's parents were bringing back to Duluth, and of course it took Nick and I a few days to unpack.

With all of this commotion, Lily has (understandably) been a little bit stressed out over the past several weeks. Last night, this all came to a head at about 1 AM when she suffered a little seizure. Both Nick and I were sleeping, and heard a thump in the living room- he jumped out of bed, and when he did that I thought someone was breaking in. After a second, when the thumping continued I hopped out of bed too and saw him and Lily on the floor. She was convulsing, shaking, and trying to get up. Nick helped keep her from moving around too much until she had stopped convulsing, and then tried to keep her calm as she was pretty scared. LilyMonster didn't really know what was going on, just that all of a sudden both Nick and I were there with her on the floor in a pool of her pee. As she came to, she started breathing pretty heavily and tried to walk over to the front door (sign she needs to go out) so we both threw some clothes on and took her out.

After taking her out, we walked back up to the condo and Nick said the f-word (food, for any of you that don't have food-loving dogs) and she instantly perked back up. We gave her some treats (carrots, her favorite thing!) and then cuddled with her on the couch for awhile- she was pretty needy and wanted attention from both of us.

Want to hear how Lily is really a great girl? After we got in from the bathroom break, Lily still covered in pee, Nick was sitting with her on the floor and had a little pee on his hand. Lily smelled that, took her paw to (gently, of course) force his hand to the ground and lick it off him. Nick almost cried because she was such a sweet girl- and so concerned over the fact that she had gotten pee on him. Nevermind that it was all over herself, and she had just had a seizure, she was worried about him.

Nick normally doesn't let her up on the bed (that is my forte, and she always gets to nap with me) but last night she got to snuggle up and hog the whole bed. This morning, she's perfectly back to normal- especially after a bath! So, today's to-do list has consisted of cleaning her up with a nice long bath, and doing about ten loads of laundry to get all of our clothes and bedding cleaned up! This has happened once before, but we are happy to report that she's had a full recovery both times- and this time has perked right back up even quicker than the last time!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This Time Last Year...

at this time last year
Image Source
When you take a moment to look back over a period of time, it is amazing to see how quickly things have changed. For me, this is especially true over the past year.

At this time last year, I had been engaged for exactly one day, and what a great day that was! I had the opportunity to celebrate with my new fiancé, talk with my relatives and friends, and head off to my hockey game and a celebratory beer with my parents and some of the team.

Along those lines, at this time last year I had never planned (or even thought!) about planning a wedding, let alone in less than six months. I had never been dress shopping, looked at flowers, checked out caterers or venues.

This time a year ago, I was working at a restaurant just outside of Minneapolis and preparing to open a new branch of that restaurant about 15 minutes away. The amount of knowledge I gained from opening that new branch was a TON, and it was definitely a crazy and busy experience for me!

At this time just one year ago, I was happy to have graduated college two years prior and had no real intentions of ever getting back in the classroom. Especially as I still had friends that were earning their degrees, and ready to move on from school and out of that world. I always intended on continuing learning and my education, just not in a formal classroom setting.

This time one year ago, I was happy and content with the place my life was at. I had a great family, good friends, a wonderful fiancé, a solid job, and loved living in Minneapolis. I had no intentions of moving anywhere for some time- things were going pretty well for me right here at home. I had never even been to Sweden, let alone though about moving there.

At this time last year, I was still friends with a majority of my group of girlfriends from college. As time has moved on, I've started to realize who the true friends are and focus on my relationship with them. I finally realized that if you don't want to make an effort to be a part of my life, and communicate like an adult with me, that is just fine- and I have plenty of other shoulders to lean on. My friend group had remained relatively the same for a couple of years.

And now, looking back, all of this has changed. I have planned an entire wedding (with generous help from family & friends!), gotten married, moved to a new country, weeded out crappy friends (yes, that is what they were), started to learn a new language, begun my MBA, and truly grown as a person. The past year has changed my life in so many ways, each of them for the better. Currently, I am in my last week of my first semester of grad school, and looking forward to finding a part-time job for the summer before finally departing on the long-awaited honeymoon. I'm sure life will change again over the next year, and I look forward to each of the surprises and challenges it brings!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Reverse Culture Shock

During the past year in Sweden, I first heard of the term "reverse culture shock". Its what happens when you move back home after a significant amount of time in a new culture. Where suddenly, things that became every day and the normal are, well, no longer the normal.

I never thought I would experience it, because I just figured I was so used to American culture that I wouldn't really, truly adapt to the things about Sweden that I found "different" or "weird." And yet, here I am experiencing it.

Like today, when Nick and I went grocery shopping. It started when we left the condo, and I realized I didn't have to grab our reusable bags (yes, I know I still should have, but lets ignore that for a minute). And then at the store, when we were checking out, our total was $120 (or 770SEK). When we were checking out, I was fully expecting this total to be at least $250 (1606SEK). Not only that, but our cashier bagged the groceries for us! So, this completely normal grocery shopping experience was suddenly abnormal for us.

Then after that, when we went out to brunch and I ordered a mimosa. Firstly, customer service- weird to get used to it again! And then, when I was being carded for my mimosa and realized I didn't have to point out where the date on my ID is (because of course the waitress has seen a Minnesota ID before!)

Reverse culture shock is also about realizing things that might actually be better about the place you just returned from. For example, I'm now so used to using reusable bags that its strange not to have to do that. And I think its actually the right way to do things- if everywhere charged you about $0.15 for a plastic bag, I'm certain more people would use reusable bags, which is a great benefit for the environment.

A couple of weeks ago, while I was still in Sweden, I had to go to the hospital (just for a routine appointment!) and there was absolutely no wait. On the other hand, anytime you go to the grocery store, restaurant, pretty much anywhere else- you are greeted with at least a 15 minute wait in line. The more I have thought about this, the more (in a way) that actually makes sense- you shouldn't have to wait at the hospital, because thats probably more important than picking up a few groceries. But at the same time, I don't want to spend my time in line at the grocery store every single time- I go there much more than I do the doctors or hospital!

Reverse culture shock  to me is all about appreciating the good things from anywhere you have lived. Just because something is different, doesn't necessarily mean its wrong- just different.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Solo Hockey Celebrations

hockey cellies
B1G 10 Championship Game 

hockey player celebrations
Not that great of attendance since Minnesota wasn't in it!
Nick and I at the B1G 10 Championship game celebrations
Nick and I- can't stay away from an ice rink too long!

Last night, Nick and I were able to attend the inaugural B1G10 hockey tournament at the Xcel Center in St. Paul. To be completely truthful, we had been hoping (and assuming) the Gophers would be playing in the game, making it much more interesting. Of course, the Gophers didn't quite make it, so we were watching the Wisconsin Badgers versus the Ohio State Buckeyes. The first 45 minutes or so were relatively uninteresting, until a slew of goals brought the score to a tie game at 4-4.

Fast forward a bit, and we hit the point of this post. For Wisconsin, a senior, Mark Zengerle scored the overtime, game-winning goal to win the championship. As soon as he scored the goal, he proceeded to skate from one corner of the ice to the opposite corner, getting himself as far away from his teammates as possible as he performed his solo celebration.

Hockey players, whats with this? Over the last ten years, it seems anytime a BIG goal like this happens, the player performs his solo celebration and skates away from his teammates. Is it really more fun to celebrate by yourself, or with your entire team?

Hey, this is a TEAM sport. Your TEAMMATES helped to win the game. And yet, here you are, skating away from your teammates and making them chase you to celebrate. Is it really that much fun to celebrate alone? Or do you just want the extra 5 (if your lucky) seconds of fame?

This is one of the reason sports like baseball are in a way much better for the team aspect of the sport. If  there is a tie game, and either an RBI occurs or a walk-off homer, whoever is running towards home plate is instantly greeted by and celebrates with his teammates. Because, it is a TEAM sport. He's not trying to run away and celebrate all by himself.

Has anyone else noticed this trend, of no longer trying to celebrate with your teammates, and instead focusing on your own solo celebration?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Home, and It Feels So Good

We are officially home in Minneapolis! Nick's team won their last game on Saturday evening, but it wasn't quite enough, which meant we were sent packing. After a quick couple days of packing & saying our good-byes and see-you-laters, we left Karlskrona early Tuesday morning, hopping on a couple of flights and heading back to Minneapolis.

And let me tell you, does home ever feel good. So good, that I have been avoiding unpacking. Rather, I've spent my time hanging out with my parents and Nick's parents. Going to Target. Getting real, delicious, greasy, American pizza. Cuddling with the Lilymonster. Having a delicious steak dinner at Manny's. Taking baths. 

Nick and I have a few weeks home before we take off for our honeymoon, and its going to be so nice. Of course, there are many things I want to have to do before- some shopping, getting my hair done (going back to blonde!) finishing up my class, mani/pedi, seeing friends and family. It is going to be a crazy few weeks, but boy is it good to be home! Home really is where the heart is- and for me, I think that will always be Minneapolis.

Thank you for a great year Karlskrona, and for now, its not good-bye but see you later! We are happy to be home in Minneapolis!

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Day In The Life of . . .

Good morning! Today, I'm going to walk you through a day in the life of our English Bulldog, Lily. We have missed her a lot this year while in Sweden, but are 1000% positive she hasn't missed us (too much!) She's being taken care of by Nick's parents, who definitely spoil her much more than we do. Hopefully she will be OK with accepting us as full-time parents once we return to Minnesota! Without further ado, here we are with a day in the life of a bulldog!

cute bulldog puppy sleeping
As a puppy, Lily usually started her day off with a catnap. Sometimes, she would even almost fall off the couch!
cute english bulldog puppy sleeping
Occasionally, there would be something nummy on the table, so Lily would try get it…and then fall asleep from exhaustion while almost standing up, propping her head on the side of the couch.
english bulldog puppy sleeping
Lily's favorite spot to sleep is her bed. Of course, as a puppy she had to climb over the walls of the bed to get out…and sometimes this was tiring enough to need another nap halfway through! 
Lily the bulldog really loves when she gets to take naps with Mom (thats me!) Usually, Nick doesn't let Lily sleep in the bed with us…so whenever he is out of town, us girls get to have some bonding time! Whenever I take a nap, Lily usually tries to join in with me on the couch.

cat naps on the couch together
cute bulldog sleeping
Sometimes, Lily wakes up from her nap before Mom does and acts like a guard dog while people take pictures.
english bulldog sleeping
Lily doesn't like taking naps with just Mom. She'll take naps with anybody willing to lay on the floor with her!
 Lily has a favorite activity to do every afternoon in the summer. On the corner of our patio, we have a special "Lily chair" all set up. Quick word of advice to guests who come over? Don't try sit in this chair, or you'll have Lily hair all over yourself! Also, make sure that her stool is always right next to the chair (she needs help hopping up, after all!)

English bulldog sleeping
Lily really likes to be out in the sun, and prop her head up on the side of the chair. You know, just to make sure she gets tan all over!
English bulldog sleeping
Lily found the one corner of sun on the patio to nap in!
Remember when I talked about being spoiled? This winter, on the first sunny day Lily was begging to go outside and sun herself a little bit. Since it was still sooo cold out, she even got to curl up in a blanket!
English bulldog sleeping
Sometimes, life is tough and Lily just has to stick her tongue out a little bit while sleeping.
 Of course, Lily knows she can't spend all of her time sleeping outside on the patio, or sleeping with Mom. Usually, she will get a little warm outside on the patio and come in to take a quick nap on the floor. After all, what is more comfortable to sleep on than a hardwood floor?

a day in the life of an English bulldog
Just cooling off inside next to the air conditioner vent!
english bulldog sleeping
Hey, the walk to the cafe with Dad for a coffee was tough! Nobody can disrupt Lily's sleeping schedule.
After a tough day of finding new napping spots, eating breakfast, and walking with Dad to the cafe, its time to find a really comfortable spot to nap. Usually, this means Lily will sneak a nap in on a couch- any couch, just the closest one!

english bulldog sleeping

english bulldog sleeping

english bulldog sleeping
Curling up to sleep in the corner of the couch is always a good bet!
 Last year, we brought home a new friend for Lily named Kitty. Now, Lily has a best friend and napping partner! Of course, kitty likes to watch out for Lily and make sure we are getting the optimal pictures.

kitty and english bulldog
Just taking a nap while Mom is taking a bath!
kitty and english bulldog sleeping
Lily sharing the couch with kitty for nap time
kitty and english bulldog sleeping
Sometimes I even sleep right on top of the kitty!
kitty and english bulldog sleeping
kitty keeping watch while Lily naps
kitty and english bulldog sleeping
Lily sharing her bed with kitty for a nap
kitty and english bulldog sleeping
Life is tough for a bulldog!
So there you have it, with a day in the life of our English bulldog Lily. Hope you enjoyed seeing all of her favorite napping spots, positions, and people to sleep with!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Patience Is a Virtue

Patience is a virtue

Patience is a virtue. I think we all know this. In life, often you need to just sit back, be patient, and wait for whatever you are anticipating to happen. Unfortunately for me, patience is a virtue that I do not possess. 

Currently, there is a lot going on in my life that I am impatient for. There are a lot of things that I cannot control, and I have to sit back and simply wait for them to happen. So today, I'm feeling pretty impatient. Impatient to know when I'll be going back home to Minnesota. Impatient to know when I can begin packing and cleaning for that move. Impatient to know when, where, and if I will be working this summer. Impatient to know where we will be next season. Impatient to get to our honeymoon. Impatient to see my family and friends back home, most of whom I haven't seen since our wedding over six months ago. Impatient to settle into a routine, daily life for the summer. Impatient to get back to blonde.

Get the theme here? Patience is a virtue that I simply do not possess. How do you feel about this?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Blogging Tips for Beginners

I've been blogging now for 7 months, and over the past couple have really started to work on my blog. I'm learning all about SEO, a little bit of coding, google analytics, the list goes on! Of course, I've read a TON of articles on what new bloggers should know. There are so many tips, tricks, and lists out there that it is hard to keep it all straight. Looking back over the past months, these are some of the things I have picked up on pretty easily and don't even have to think twice about anymore! Here is my list of what I wish I had known when I started out as a beginning blogger:

1. Regarding having pictures and images on your blog:

  • Adding alt tags to your pictures. These are pretty easy to do, and can greatly help with your SEO. Pretty much, when search engines go through your pages, they can't read what the image is. Having an alt tag tells the search engine what the picture is of. For example, with this picture of Lily I would tag it as "cute English bulldog sleeping". To add alt tags in blogger, you can just click on the image, then properties, and where it says alt tag add your tag! 
  • Adjust the size of your pictures to the width of your blog posts. Trust me, it makes your blog posts look much cleaner and nicer! To do this, just figure out the pixel width of your blog (mine is 650) and adjust all of your pictures to that size before uploading them. Once they are uploaded, select left alignment and 'original size'. 
  • Again, before you upload your picture name the file an SEO-friendly name. For example, rather than having it be "image_6.jpeg" (which this picture was before!) name the file something relevant, because this will also be included in your HTML and crawled by the search engines. For this image, I called it "English bulldog puppy sleeping." 

cute English Bulldog puppy sleeping
My adorable English Bulldog Lily sleeping as a puppy!
2. Always title your blog post, and always use a different custom permalink than the title. Again, this will help boost your SEO. For this post, I am titling it "Blogging Tips for Beginners". My custom permalink (and what you will see in the URL) is "Beginner_Blogging_Tips". Using a custom permalink is like getting a free SEO boost.

3. Have an about me page- and remember to update it! When I was a beginner blogger, I created my about me page and then promptly forgot about it for about six months. So, my original about me page said I was 23 years old and was engaged to be married in September 2014. Well, six months later I was no longer 23, and had been married for five months. When I find a blog I think I like, one of the first things I do is check out their about me page (because I want to know if I will really like the blog or not!). This is the most important page you can create!

4. Have a page featuring your most popular posts. My Best Of page features popular posts, as well as collects posts together. I have them organized by posts about Nick and I, traveling, and hockey. Remember as you continue blogging to periodically update this page as well!

5. Link back to your old posts and pages- it will help users stay on your site longer, in addition to giving you another slight SEO boost. By linking to other posts and pages, if a reader is interested they may just click and read another post. The longer they stay on your site, the better for you! (PS- see what I have done throughout this post, linking to other pages and posts?) Of course, you don't want to do this too much- if every other sentence is a link, its just going to look annoying. Pick something relevant and then perhaps highlight that!

6. If you don't have a dog, get one. People (especially bloggers) LOVE dogs. I didn't learn this until about a month ago, and since then Lily the bulldog has taken over as my 2nd highest viewed post, and all I did was introduce her! Unfortunately, being in Sweden, I don't have Lily over here. But trust me, once I get home this summer, Lily will be all over the place!
A bonus appearance of Lily, just because I can!
Fellow bloggers, what do you think I missed? These are the simplest tips I have picked up on over the last several months. All of these take time, but the more you blog the easier it is to remember to do all of these. I'm certainly no blogging expert (and never will be!) but wouldn't consider myself a freshly green blogger. What are the best blogging tips you have received or learned from?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring Has Sprung in Sweden

Here we are with another gorgeous spring day in Karlskrona! It has been about a week now of sunny days, really proving how pretty of a city Karlskrona can be. With the sun shining, people are out and about walking, really letting you see how alive the city can come. Not only that, but stores are starting to put their racks outside, and all of the cafes are slowly opening their patios up (I've seen people sitting outside already!) 

Nick Angell selfie
Sorry Nick, I'm showing everyone your selfie!
Nick Angell Karlskrona
Nick feeding the ducks in Karlskrona's town square!
springtime in Karlskrona
King of the town! 
springtime in Sweden
The ducks waiting to be fed!
spring in Karlskrona, Sweden
Myself feeding the ducks in Karlskrona
The other day, Nick and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather and fed a couple of ducks in the town square some bread. I truthfully don't remember the last time I did something like that, and it was quite amusing to just relax in the sun and watch them go crazy for bread crumbs! Now, I'm off to go enjoy the weather again (I made the mistake of checking the forecast, and we are back to clouds soon!) Go outside, and enjoy the beautiful weather while it lasts! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

4 Ways To Save Money at Your Wedding

Everyone who has hosted, attended, or been a part of a wedding can agree that weddings are expensive. Very expensive. According to the, in 2012 the average cost of a wedding was just over $28,000. That is definitely a big chunk of change (or a new car, down payment on a house, loan payoff, the list goes on…)

Fortunately, there are a LOT of ways you can save money on your wedding! The first step for my husband and I in planning our wedding was setting the budget. From there, we decided what was most important to us (besides becoming husband and wife!). For us (me), the most important things were my dress and the photography, so these were the two things we were really willing to spend good money on to have the results we wanted. Personally, I think both of these turned out excellently!

Nick Angell married
Just one of our great wedding photos- well worth the money!
Nicholas Angell wife
A close-up of the detailing on my dress!
 After we had spent some time (and money!) planning the wedding, it was time to decide a few spots where we could save. Here are just four of the places we saved some money, and how we were able to do it! There are many others ways we were able to save money (having my Dad make the table numbers and cupcake stand, my Mom make a card box, bridesmaids helping me with place cards, DIY programs, the list goes on!) so these are just a few ideas for others.

Farmers market wedding flowers
We saved a ton of money on our flowers by going to the farmers market!
1. Flowers: This was a pretty easy area for us to save some money on! The first flower shop I called and consulted with, telling them what I wanted for flowers, quoted us at about $1475. For flowers. Neither Nick or I truthfully cared too much about the flowers and what they looked like (especially since we would only enjoy them for exactly one day, before heading back to Sweden!) To save money on the flowers, we headed down to the Minneapolis Farmers Market on a Sunday morning and bought some flowers from two different vendors, as well as grabbed business cards from each vendor. I set up a couple of consultations, described what I wanted, and got some quotes. We ended up paying about a quarter of our original quote for flowers!

Now, here is the warning if you go this route: your flowers may not be exactly what you want. Mine weren't, and you can read about that at What Went Wrong At My Wedding. And you know what, it was OK, the flowers still looked good, and nobody but me knew they were wrong!

Our DIY wedding Centerpieces!

2. DIY Centerpieces: Now, I'm not a creative person (at all!) but even I can do these! Each of our centerpieces cost us around $2.33. All it took was a trip to the dollar store! I bought 25 vases, and 8 bags of the little rocks you see in the vase. Pour some rocks in the vase, add some water, and then stick a gerber daisy inside and you've got a pretty great, simple, easy centerpiece! We added to the table with scattered rose petals, but all in all these were very easy and still looked nice.

how to save money at your wedding
Our wedding invitations from Invitations by Dawn

3. Save The Dates & Invitations: For our Save the Date, we went with a hockey theme, had a friend do some photoshopping, and then ordered them online! We ordered our invitations online as well, from Invitations By Dawn. By joining their mailing list, they sent a coupon for 20% off, which was a nice to save a little additional money! Invitations by Dawn was cheaper than many other invitation sites I found.

Gigi's cupcakes wedding
Our cupcakes from Gigi's were absolutely perfect, and delicious!

4. Cupcakes vs. Cake: Wedding cakes are another area to save a ton of money on! After a lot of research, we found Gigi's Cupcakes in Golden Valley, MN. We headed out there for a taste test (and, throughout the summer, several other cupcake stops!) and absolutely loved the cupcakes. Not only were we able to choose several different flavors, so everyone at the wedding could enjoy whichever flavor they like, we were able to order "mini" cupcakes so they were almost bite-sized! Having bite sized cupcakes allowed us to order more than enough (and get a couple for every guest!). The cupcakes were delicious, and we saved tons of money on them! I would highly recommend Gigi's to anybody getting married! I should also mention that the cupcake stand you see here was made by my father, instead of renting or purchasing one. I saw this idea on Pinterest, loved it, sent a picture to him and he was able to make it! Looks pretty good, don't ya think? Perhaps someone has a new career possibility in creating wedding decorations!

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Really Expensive Piece of Paper & Butt Muscle

a really expensive piece of paper
My really expensive piece of paper!
College & MBA degrees these days seem to be not about learning, but about using your butt muscle to "earn" a really expensive piece of paper.

As some of my readers know, I am currently taking classes towards obtaining my International MBA in Marketing. I started these classes in January, and am on track to finish my first course with 999/1000 points in the class. The hardest part about this class? Sitting down and actually doing the work. This has already led me to be disappointed in the process of earning an MBA, because it is simply that: the process of going through the motions, proving you can pay a bunch of money to get a piece of paper and a new line on your resume. And thats what the 'education' system in the US has started to be: all about buying that really expensive piece of paper.

I've done this once in my life already, and that was during college. During college, I learned pretty much nothing that pertained towards my business degree in Entrepreneurial Management. Before some people claim thats because I wasn't at a good school, let me just say you are wrong. My degree is from the Carlson School of Management (CSOM), which according to the 2013 Bloomberg Top Business School Rankings is the 39th highest ranked business school in the country. The US News & World Report placed CSOM as the 18th best undergraduate business program. So no, the school itself is not an easy one. It is our education system that places more of a focus on proving that students can go through the necessary steps and jump over hoops to obtain a degree, than a focus on actual learning and knowledge building.

One of my friends here in Sweden posed a really great question towards me about my coursework. "Is it more brain muscle, where you have to think and work on assignments, or more butt muscle where you have to sit your butt down and actually do it?" Without a doubt in my mind, the answer to this question was butt muscle. I am taking courses to get my MBA using a lot of butt muscle, sitting down to do the work and jump through hoops to earn this next degree. Not because I am learning a lot, but because it proves I can take this steps that will theoretically help me land that next job.

To be honest, I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. I simply find it unfortunate that I am currently paying money to use my butt muscle to earn an expensive piece of paper for my MBA, not to actually learn anything. College was all about butt muscle, and it turns out an MBA is all about butt muscle too.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the money spent is worth it in the end? Did you learn useful things from your degree coursework?
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