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Enjoy posts on minimalism, organizing, finances and Chicago. And humor about nothing, that you find you somehow relate to anyway.

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8.21.2016

Swago Olympic Rings

Have the summer games ignited a competitive fire within you? Take that inspired feeling and channel it towards completing your Olympic Rings Swago board next week!

Swago is a bingo-inspired promotion run by Swagbucks, a website that rewards you with points (called SB) for completing everyday online activities. You can redeem those SB for free gift cards. If you've never used Swagbucks, participating in Swago is a great introduction to the site because you can get extra bonuses for trying out all the activities as you complete your board.
If you didn’t participate in the last round of Swago, here’s what you need to know to get your 300 SB Bonus:
  • Starting Friday, August 19th head to your Swago Board and hit “Join” to pre-register. If you don’t hit “Join” you won’t get credit for completing the action items.
  • Swago will begin on Monday, August 22nd at 12:01am PDT/3:01am EDT, so sit tight and get ready.
  • Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete. They can be anything from getting a search win, earning SB in Surveys, or earning SB in nCrave.
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete.
  • You have a limited amount of time to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely.
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value.
  • Once you’ve achieved a pattern the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely.
  • The game ends Monday, August 29th at 12pm PDT/3pm EDT. So make sure to hit “Submit” on the pattern you wish to submit. If you don’t hit “Submit” before the game ends you won’t receive your SB bonus.
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8.10.2016

Playing Catch Up

Nothing like the end of a vacation to bring the real world crashing down on your head.  Well no, it's not that dramatic.  I'm just still playing catch up on my entire life since getting back from Alaska, and of course the blog takes last place.  Whoops!  Thanks for reading and commenting while I was gone, I promise to respond to comments even though it'll be 2 weeks late; I just didn't feel like responding from my phone the couple of times I got reception.  Can you blame me?


Surprisingly, work was the easiest to catch up on - I hardly had anything piled up waiting and only 42 messages in my e-mail inbox, which was way under what I had mentally estimated.  Home is harder.  Since I just packed a little carry on, I'm already unpacked and all the laundry (mine and John's) is done; that was easy.  Cleaning the actual house is proving to be tougher.  I was gone for a full 10 days and I generally clean on the weekends and do a quick clean up of one area each week day.  That's not to say that John never helps - the outside area is his domain and he did mow the yard.  However, he started his new job last Monday, August 1, so he didn't have time to do anything around the house.  And then over the weekend he got sick (and is still sick.)  Basically means it's like 2 weeks worth of vacuuming up crumbs and dog hair that I need to attend to.

Luckily, Tara is coming into town on Friday.  While most of you are thinking 'ah why have company when you just got back,' let me just explain how (a) nothing pressures you to get the cleaning done like impending guests and (b) it's Market Days and we never miss Market Days.  So the house will be perfectly clean by tomorrow night and then I'll feel much more settled since cleaning is currently 80% of my to do list.  Which means next week, I can get back to blog things, si?

In the meantime, here's some housekeeping things that I need your input on:

(1) I plan on having a full recap of the Alaskan cruise next week.  Generally just going to share some photos and a couple of details and tips but if there's anything specific that you're wondering about, ask me and I'll be sure to address it!

(2) Just for fun (even though I'm definitely already a minimalist) I'm doing the Rachel Aust 60 Day Minimalism Challenge, since it addresses so many more areas than 'get rid of physical stuff.'  Betsy and I are starting on Monday, though I don't plan on having any posts about it (she might, I don't know.)  I'm mainly mentioning it because I'll be posting some photos of my progress to Instagram and Twitter, using the hashtag.  If you want to start it with us let me know.  Always fun to have people in the same boat, cheering each other on.

(3) John's job!  I mentioned in previous posts that I didn't want to share until it was solid, but now he has officially started and I feel like it's okay to talk about - he is training at the fire academy and in 6 months (hence the 6 month pay cut I talked about), he'll be a real life Chicago firefighter.  Yes, like the show Chicago Fire except I've never watched it and never will, just like I won't watch any other fire related TV shows and movies.  So that is the big news!  It's his dream job so we're very excited.  I'm still in the excited phase, I probably won't move on to 'constantly nervous' until he's assigned to a firehouse and actually starts working.  Anything you want to hear about related to this?  How he got the job, what the whole process is, how we handle the scheduling (24 hours 'on', meaning at the firehouse, 48 hours off)?  I'm still learning as we go but if you're interested, I'm happy to share what I've got so far.

And that's it for now.  See you next week!
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8.02.2016

10 Things That Feel Like Home

As you're reading this, I am on my Alaskan cruise!  Today, we're in Juneau, which I hope means I get some cell service for picture posting.  Regardless, I didn't want to leave you this week without any posts.  Even though a small room on a cruise ship will never really be 'home' for a week, I recognize that there are ways I could make it feel like home.  I couldn't get every one of these into my carry on suitcase, but in general, when I'm away or even when I'm home but feeling sad, these are the top 10 things that are my greatest comforts.

(People and pets make a house a home, that's for sure.  If we were including those, my biggest comforts would be Hawkeye and John.  And my parents.  But short of that.)

1. Snowy Bear.  In case you haven't yet read that post from my archives.  I have never been without Snowy.  As of the writing of this post, I'm not sure if Snowy is coming on the cruise. He has never been to Alaska so I think he has to come, but I am doing just a carry on so he has to fit.  Comfortably.  Never squish the bear.


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7.28.2016

I'm a Piano Player, What's Your Passion?

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. The following content is intended for readers who are 21 or older.
#passiondefinedremyrefined #CollectiveBias

What are you passionate about? If someone asked you that today (and I just did, so tell me!), what would your answer be? I hope music is among them, in some form! Rémy Martin is hosting a sweepstakes and giving entrants the opportunity to not only share their passions but also enter to win the opportunity to have a mentor in that field to help guide them. Pretty sweet deal, I think, which is why I really wanted to share it with you.


I thought the best way to share this would be to tell you something I'm passionate about. I don't believe someone can be defined by any one thing that they do. You are not defined by your job or the fact that you enjoy writing. I'm certainly not defined by being a lawyer - I leave my job at the office and have weeknights and weekends to pursue tons of other activities that have nothing to do with my day job. You can have so many different passions. You already know about my passion for pets and for the Iowa Hawkeyes, but today is about sharing something new. More passions. And one of mine happens to be music - specifically, the piano.





Here's something you might not know about me: I am really good at playing the piano! Really. I took lessons for many years as a child. Check out these entries from a booklet my mom kept from one of my concerts:




Goodness, I can't believe how many years ago that was! But if you don't think that's awesome, me playing Mozart at age 12, well, you're crazy. I can still play, and I still do, which is why we still have the piano! To tell you the truth, I did not like playing the piano when I started. I had natural talent because I have long, skinny fingers, but practicing was the absolute worst. I think every 9 year old would say that, though. My dad, genius that he was, would start giving me dollars to encourage practice. I had a tip jar on the piano and everything, for requests of course. It didn't take long for me to love it, and the better I got, the easier it was to practice.




I learned a lot from playing piano, more than just how to play. I learned poise and posture, of course, but I also learned how to multitask, how to block out distractions, how to play in front of a crowd, and how to keep going if I make mistakes. I think those are lessons that kids need, so I'm passionate about keeping the arts in schools and encouraging people to take up an instrument.

If you have similar feelings, then I encourage you to follow your passions. You can win a mentorship sponsored by Rémy Martin to follow your own passion. I also have a little recipe for you to show you how you can enjoy Rémy Martin at home at the end of this post!

Ready to pursue your passions and curious how to enter the Rémy Martin sweepstakes?
 To enter the sweepstakes, the Entrant must log on to his/her Twitter account and (i) follow @RemyRefined (if he/she does not already), and (ii) Tweet an image of Entrant showing their life passion and including the hashtags #RemyRefined and either #ChicagoSweepstakes, #DetroitSweepstakes, or #StLouisSweepstakes, depending on Entrant’s state of residence.
Grand Prize (1): The grand prize winner will receive a mentor for one (1) year to help winner live out his/her passion and a check for $5,000 (“Grand Prize”).
First Prize (15 [five (5) per location]): Each first prize winner will receive two (2) tickets to a Jhené Aiko concert on either August 12, 2016 for Michigan winners, August 16, 2016 for Illinois winners, or August 17, 2016 for Missouri winners, a meet and greet with Jhené Aiko, and a Remy Martin gift bag (“First Prize”).
Second Prize (30 [ten (10) per location]): Each second prize winner will receive two (2) tickets to a Jhené Aiko concert on either August 12, 2016 for Michigan winners, August 16, 2016 for Illinois winners, or August 17, 2016 for Missouri winners (“Second Prize’).
●No Purch. Nec. Ends 8/31/16. 21+, IL, MI, MO only, Rules: RemyRefined.com

Stephanie's Pianos and Peaches Cocktail




I love peach year round, though it is ideal in the summer. Rémy Martin is very smooth so it can compliment a variety of flavors, and I find peach to be top of the list. Rémy Martin is crafted for excellence and you can taste the passion that is poured into every bottle. To create its world renowned Fine Champagne Cognac, Rémy Martin selects only the finest grapes from the best growing regions in the Cognac region of France. All cognacs are aged in the finest French Limousin oak barrels for maximum taste, aroma and sophistication.

Ingredients
   3/4 oz peach schnapps
 1/2 oz Rémy Martin 1738® Accord Royal (I went with this one because it's the signature blend from the luxury house of Rémy Martin and has a really round texture due to how it's aged. The Rémy Martin VSOP would work as well!  It has dominant notes of vanilla if that is your preference.)
  3/4 oz lemon juice
Directions
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel or a wedge of peach.




How are you pursuing your passions? Enter the Rémy Martin Sweepstakes to give yourself a head start.


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7.26.2016

How to Earn $10 From Your Mobile Device


Swagbucks is the web’s most popular rewards program that gives you free gift cards and cash for the everyday things you already do online. Whenever you shop, watch videos or search the web, Swagbucks gives you points called SB. You can use your SB to redeem gift cards to hundreds of your favorite stores. 


With the Swagbucks Mobile and SBTV apps I can use my spare minutes to earn free gift cards on my phone! Like the Swagbucks website, I can rack up SB by shopping, answering surveys and watching videos.

While you wait for the coffee to brew, download free games and other apps through the Discover tab: 20 SB

During commercial breaks, take a featured survey or fill out your survey profile: 60 SB

While standing in line at the grocery store, answer the daily poll: 1 SB

When you’ve finally made it to the gym, watch style, tech and celeb news through the SBTV app: 2 SB for every 10 videos

Just as you’ve put dinner in the oven, your Swagbucks app tells you there’s a new Swag Code!: 3 SB

Before you go to sleep, use the Swagbucks app to shop from your favorite stores. You deserve it!: 100 SB 

By downloading the Swagbucks mobile app, I can earn a free $10 gift card by the end of my week. Who knew playing on my phone could be so productive!

Invite your friends to download the Swagbucks Mobile app so they can start earning their way to free gift cards. It's 100% free to download and 100% easy to use. Its available for both iPhone and Android devices. 
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7.18.2016

Alaskan Cruise In a Carry On - Toiletries and 1 Quart Bag

Is anyone else as intrigued as I am by what other people bring in their toiletry bags and luggage when going on vacation?  No, just me?  Well in case you like to creep as much as I do, I decided to do a couple of posts on what I'm bringing on my 9 day cruise to Alaska.  I am only bringing a carry on rolling suitcase and a tote size purse, making it subject to the size and weight restrictions as well as the 1 quart bag for liquids rule.


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