Monday, June 30, 2008

Beautiful Bougainvillea

I've read many books that are set in the southern United States. Many of these books mention the plant/flower bougainvillea. Growing up in the Northwest, I didn't have a clue what these books were referring to until I saw a plant in a conservatory, at which time I was taken aback by the unique characteristics of the "petal" and the sheer beauty of the plant.
Notice that the "petals" look like leaves. I'm not sure whether to call them petals or leaves!?!
When I was in Florida I saw an enormous bougainvillea plant and it made me happy to just look at it. If I didn't have such a brown thumb I might take a stab at my own plant in New Jersey, but I guess I'll just have to visit the south a bit more often.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Wedding Plans - Update #3

While work is still unbelievably crazy, I have found some relief this week in having made significant progress in solidifying some of the wedding plans.

Ceremony site:

We've pretty much selected a church and are going to visit this Saturday to check it out. The church is available and the pastor is very accomodating to our having the wedding on Sunday afternoon, so I think this is a winner!

Reception site:

The reception site and room are "booked". I'm waiting to receive the contract and should have everything set within a couple weeks. I'm pretty impressed with how reasonable the site and site coordinator are. I called with a bunch of additional questions a little over a week ago and the site coordinator was ready with all the answers, which ended up solidifying my desire to go with this site.

Next up? Gown shopping! I have mixed feelings about this venture. I'm kind of excited, but am dreading it also. I definitely need to lose some inches around the waistline and upper arms, so I'm worried I won't look good in anything. I would like to just be able to relax and have fun with it, but I don't typically enjoy trying on clothes anyways. I'll have to work on getting in the mindset and who knows...maybe it will all be a hoot:)

I will also now start researching some of the smaller things like flowers, photographer, etc. Wow...there is just SO much to think about, but I feel tremendous relief that the reception and ceremony sites (what I think are the biggest aspects) are pretty much set.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Okay, now this is going just a bit too far on the whole TP wedding gown contest (one of those crazy, yet fun, bridal shower games). I thought the one done up on me was pretty good at Dirkey's shower...
but this one hits it out of the ballpark. Some people just have too much time on their hands!

Check out MamaK as a "TP Bride":
You go girl!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

7 hours then...FREEDOM!!!

I can hardly contain my excitement. Just over 7 hours and I will be officiallly on vacation...for a few days anyway. Things have been so hectic at work that this vacation is much needed. I'm heading to sunny (with the occasional thundershower) Florida so probably won't be posting until I get back on Monday.
I'm going to visit with my dear cousin and just "chill" and recharge my batteries. I haven't seen her in about 7 years, so this visit is LONG overdue. Wow! Looks like 7 is the lucky number today :) It is difficult to stay focused and I can hardly sit still, but still so much to do before I leave so I better run and get to work.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Her Royal Cuteness!

This picture was taken shortly after "B" popped the question. We were outside taking pictures of the ring to send to my mom and when we walked back inside my foster cat, Sheeba, had stuffed herself into her "toybasket".

Picture taken 5/25/08 by Em.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Let's salute our veterans

I've been thinking about writing this post for the past week, but haven't had 2 minutes to sit down and write. However, there hasn't been a day that has gone by in the past week that I didn't think about a WWII veteran that I heard speak on Sunday, June 8 at the Reading WWI Air Show. If you are anywhere near Reading, PA, I would highly recommend this fantastic air show, which isn't JUST an air show, but a look back in time, to the days of WWII. I will try to recount what I heard but will mostly focus on the points that have really stuck with me.

The Story
His name is Mike Kuryla. He joined the Navy at the young age of 17. He was stationed on the U.S.S. Indianapolis and, by the age of 19, now a Petty Officer, he had already fought in 8 major battles. I don't know the timespan from the 8th battle to the end of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, but Mike told his personal account of what he and his crew mates endured through one more battle, a few more missions, and the sinking of a ship.

One of the missions was to carry a crate from one location to another. What was in the crate was secret so, as people often do, the crew started to speculate what could be in that crate and of such importance. I don't know if it was a joke or the truth, but Petty Officer Mike told us that they thought it was toilet paper in the crate. After the ship had sunk and the survivers were rescued, they would learn that they carried the A-bomb in that crate.

The most amazing, terrifying, and heart-wrenching part of his story was his detailed account of the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. He told of his experience while the ship was listing (tilting to one side). As he was describing it, I envisioned something like the Titanic, had it sunk sideways. He described how the ship eventually was over his head and he was just holding onto a rope, making a plan that he would swim to one side so as to not get sucked under by the powerful suction of the sinking ship. He tried once and got sucked back under the ship. He tried a second time and got sucked back under the ship again. Then this man told how his family of many siblings and his parents passed before him, similar to how you would see your life flash before your eyes and he just prayed to God right there, asking for forgiveness for his sins. He blacked out and, when he came to, he was holding onto one of the life rafts.

In the end, only a few rafts of men made it out alive, but their ordeal didn't end there. They had to endure the horrors of being at sea. Petty Officer Mike told the horrendous story of their several days at sea, where he saw men go crazy, hallucinate, drink salt water, and get eaten by sharks. He said that he tried to tell the men not to drink the salt water, but many times it did no good. All they could do was pray. He said many men came to know God during that time. Isn't it amazing the circumstances that God uses? Eventually, some 300+ men were saved (of a crew over 1100).

But his story didn't stop at his survival. Petty Officer Mike had, at the age of 19, lived through more horrors in his life than most of us will ever experience in our own. And he still had to go home and live the rest of his life with the images of what he had lived through. He had a difficult time, as do many of our veterans of war. He married and had children, but never spoke to anyone of his experiences. Then, a group of survivors got together to try to get a memorial of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and one man tried to convince Mike to tell his story to others in order to raise money for the memorial. Mike refused, until the other man told him that the 880 men who died couldn't tell their story, so it was up to the survivors. That's when Mike started telling his story, which he still does to this day, even though the memorial already exists.

I wasn't planning on listening to this man tell his story. "B" and I were actually heading over to the concessions to get some lunch but, I was somehow drawn to this man and I asked if we could just sit and listen to him for a few minutes. We sat through his entire story and I have been blessed and humbled by his story. It is a perspective on war and our veterans that I have never heard nor experienced and it was certainly eye opening. I know that he probably will never read this post but, in my heart I want to thank Petty Officer Mike for sharing his story. I think more veterans need to share their stories and, well, the rest of us? We need to listen and thank our veterans for all they have done to protect our country.

I don't think I'll ever be the same after hearing the story of Petty Officer Mike and I thank God as well, for pointing me in the direction of his voice. Please take a moment today, and every day hereafter, to say a prayer for those who have served and those who continue to serve our country. And, if you see a soldier in the airport, on the street, wherever...take a moment to thank them. For a more detailed account, read a transcript of Mike's story, though I think that transcript leaves out some of the details he gave us of the time at sea.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wedding Plans - Update #2

I only have a couple updates this week:

Still haven't settled on a site quite yet. I saw another site on Saturday, which I really liked, but I think the price is slightly high and they don't seem to be real keen on helping to bring the price down much. I have a few more questions to ask another site that we visited a couple weeks ago and I may want to visit that one again. I also have an appointment to meet with 1 last site (the NJ site) on Thursday night. I'm still hoping to make a choice before I head to FL on the 19th.

Guest List:
"B" gave me his guest list this weekend and I consolidated the 2 lists. We have a little paring down to do, but not too much. We do have a surprising number of children on the list! I guess that happens when you get married a little later:)

I think we're settled on the colors. "B" wasn't completely sold, but that's because I hadn't clearly indicated my vision. He said he needed to see some pictures and, as I looked for pictures, it became clear that he just couldn't envision how the girls' dresses would look in the colors. That's when I clarified that the girls dresses will be just 1 of the colors, not both. Well, I think he's jumped on board with the and yellow. Not my original choice for colors, but definitely more "Spring-like", so it's probably a better choice.

Other Stuff:
A woman I work with is a wedding singer on the side and she's going to hook me up with the good bridal shows that will be coming up in the summer. She'll be letting me know which ones are worth going to. I think that might help me with a few things, like the flowers, getting more ideas, DJ (though I already have 1 in mind, but need to do due diligence).

That's it for now. And, in response to MamaK and's comments last week to help, you can bet I'll be asking you both for your creative expertise. You are both awesome at the creative stuff so I can definitely use your help. :)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Don't be intimidated...

Let's talk about Medical Flex Spending (MFS) and Dependent Care Flex Spending (DCFS) accounts. Many people are afraid of the "use it or lose it" rule around these, and some people have never even heard of them. Well, let me tell you...they are a fabulous "hidden" way of saving moulah.

For those who don't know what these are, here's a brief synopsis. These are only available to those whose employers offer as part of their benefit plan. During the open enrollment period, you designate an annual amount, which will be split evenly across the year and withheld from your (or your spouse's paycheck)...don't stop here...the good part is coming. As you incur either medical (for MFS acct) or dependent care (for DCFS acct), you submit for reimbursement and you get the $$$ you paid out of pocket back, up to the amount that you designated for the year. Sound complicated? Well, it's really quite simple, but I won't go into tremendous detail. It is important to know that each account is separate.

How do these accounts save you money? Well, instead of just paying your out of pocket expenses with post-tax money, your designated amount is withheld as pre-tax dollars and reduces your taxable income. Then, when you are reimbursed, you are reimbursed with money that hasn't been taxed. So you are saving the taxes. Depending on how much is withheld under the plans and on how close you are to a specific tax bracket, there is a potential that by having the account(s), you could even potentially be bumped into a lower tax bracket.

So what do you get reimbursement on? Here's the low-down on each:

MFS - Every plan is different but most plans allow for reimbursement for the following patient out of pocket expenses (not covered by insurance): co-pays, eye exams, contacts and eyeglasses, necessary dental expenses, necessary medical expenses, perscriptions, and many OTC meds.

DCFS - I'm not as familiar with this since I don't have any dependents myself (and pets don't count) but I do know that it counts for child and adult dependents.

I have saved lots of $$$ over the years through the MFS account because I have a good deal of expenses not covered by insurance, some of which are: contacts ($480/yr); a couple perscription co-pays (~$350/yr); and OTC meds (which on my plan cover saline solution btw). Just so you can see how this might work, let's look at an example. Let's say someone makes $50,000/year pre-tax, estimates $500/yr in out of pocket medical expenses, and $200/mo in childcare ($2400/yr). Since I don't know the tax percentages, let's just say it's taxed at 25% for sake of this example. Here's the comparison:

without MFS and DCFS:
Pre-tax Income: $50000
Post-tax Income: $37500 (subtracted $12500 - tax on $50000)
After med & cc exp: $34600 (subtracted $500 and $2400)

with MFS and DCFS:
Pre-tax Income: $50000
MFS & DCFS w/h: $47100 (subtracted $500 and $2400)

Post-tax Income: $35325 (subtracted $11775 - tax on $47100)

Annual savings = $725

You can see the benefit but just be aware of the following:
  • There is a "use it or lose it" rule; however, with good estimating and making sure to get your reimbursements in, this is easy to avoid. Also, most plans now have a 3 month grace period in which to submit for reimbursements. If you find at the end of the year you have $$$ left in your account and nothing to submit for reimbursement? Get perscriptions filled, stock up on OTC meds, fill that contact perscription. Some plans even have a card that you use so you don't even need to submit for reimbursement for some items.
  • If you use a private person for day care, make sure you talk with them first. You do need to disclose their SS# or EIN on the election form. If they are private you will need to make sure they are reporting the income they make from you. If they don't and you put in for DCFS, they will get in trouble for not reporting the income. This is not a concern if you use a facility, but you will need to get the EIN.
  • Both of these accounts must be re-elected every year. Unlike insurance, which will just renew if you don't change anything, if you do not select an amount to be withheld, you will not have the benefit.

Okay, so that's my extensively long Frugal Friday tip. I hope you've found it helpful. I'm a huge advocate for this benefit which takes very little effort to save literally hundreds of $$$ each year.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


I can understand losing your eyeglasses, cell phone, keys, pocketbook. Heck, I can even understand losing your child in the grocery store. But someone, please tell me how in the world you lose a lighthouse!?!?! And then to find it over 3000 miles away some 80+ years later!?! I guess if they disassembled it, then it wouldn't be as obvious as moving a house...but still, how did noone figure this out sooner? And how would you go about looking for a lighthouse anyways?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

How did that get there? Yes, that's a tree (or maybe enormous tree branch) dangling from other smaller trees. Quite a sight from my trip to Hawk Mountain a couple months ago. Picture taken by Em on 4/19/08.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Planning for our shindig - #1

Since my immediate family lives 3000 miles away and can't share in the day-to-day progress of planning for "B" and my wedding day, I decided that I'll post any relevant updates once a week. So, here's where we are today:

We're mostly looking in the Lancaster/Reading, PA area, but we also are checking out 1 facility in uncle's church and a lovely restaurant down the road from it for the reception. The church is very old and has a lot of charm, as does the reception site, so I'm going to work to schedule an appointment this week sometime. I have an appointment to visit a site in Reading this coming Saturday. We're hoping to book a place within the next couple weeks.

My uncle is a pastor (of the church mentioned above). We went to his church yesterday and then to lunch and he accepted our request for him to conduct the ceremony. It will make the day just that much more special:)And, was a special service at their church. They had a great opera singer (Paul Pitts) give a concert and share. I heard him sing and visited with him several years ago, but I was excited when he joined us for lunch...such a great man, and SO funny!!!

I've simply been looking at what I like on line at this point. I probably won't go out to the stores to try on anything until early July, though. My aunt (and Matron-of-Honor) has a busy June, as do I with trying to get a reception site booked.

Engagement photos:
I wasn't planning on getting engagement photos, but a friend at work who also photographs weddings on the weekends (can you say CRAZY!!!), has offered to take engagement photos for me as practice for herself. So now we're working on figuring out when and where.

That's the main activities from this past week. I'm doing a lot of other little pieces of research as well. But, of course, I can't give everything away on the blog...have to leave some of the details a mystery;-)