My First Job – Things I would tell high-school Alyssa

Congratulations on your first job, high school Alyssa!

Getting a job is exciting! You’ll make some really incredible friends at Coldstone.  It’ll have its ups and downs like any job, but it will overall be a really fun job that you will look forward to.

Taxes – they’re a thing 

I want to tell you a few things. First of all, taxes are a thing. I know you think you’re making $8/hour, but it sure won’t feel like that when you see your first paycheck. It’s okay, just be warned!

You don’t need the stuff you think you need. 

I know you think you NEED to go out to eat with your friends and keep up with the Joneses, so to speak, but no one will judge you for not getting a huge meal and settling for a smaller plate or not going at all. Sure, you got a job so you could spend time with friends, but you can do that on a smaller scale. First Job

College is expensive.

You know this. People tell you all the time, but know that debt will be a struggle for you after college.  You’re going to pick a private college (WHY??).  Save some money from your first job.

The good news is that you get a husband out of the deal (and spoilers – it’s not the guy you think it will be). However, it’ll take some hard lessons and lots of time to pay off your debt.  It’ll put you behind in your goals for building a life together – skip the loans.

Savings sound boring but. . . 

I know the last thing you want to hear me say is that you should save.  But if you can get some compound interest working in your favor NOW. WOW. You’d be amazed if you knew how those summer nights at Coldstone would build up to be so much more. 

Live on less than you make

In a few years, you’ll think that this is one of the most basic principles of money.  You know those tips you make for singing cheesy songs? Try to live off of those and save your actual paycheck.  You’ll be so much better off that way!

Much Love,
Future You

ps. Spoilers. Time travel didn’t work, so you didn’t see this message til you were 26.  It was too late to make the most of your first job, but it’s not too late now. You’ve come so far and have big goals. God is so faithful in teaching you lessons on how HE wants you to use money. You’ll turn out alright, high school Alyssa. 

When I Pray For You

These four kids have my heart.  We’re not related, but I consider them family.

We took a five day babysitting gig 18 months ago. It turned out to be so much more. went from total strangers to literally talking about and praying for these four every day (and missing them like crazy).

When I Pray For You Book Launch

I love children’s books, so I jumped at the chance to be on the launch team for this book. As a former preschool librarian, I knew I had to jump at the chance. I’m excited to announce that Matthew Paul Turner’s newest children’s book “When I pray for you” has arrived! I was already familiar with his bestseller When God Made You. It tugs at your heart strings in all the right ways, and I knew this book would be even better.

From the first page, I could feel a lump in my throat as I thought about those precious kiddos I love so dearly.  How I pray that they would stop growing so darn fast, but mostly that they would love Jesus. I pray that they would not throw yet another tantrum when I watch them so I don’t lose my mind, but more that they would be loving to everyone they meet.

The lump in my throat grew as I flipped through this book (which, by the way, has INCREDIBLE illustrations that are so diverse and inclusive!), and read the words I think every time I see these kiddos:

“Cause when I pray for you, I imagine God’s view. And pray all that God sees comes alive inside you”

When I Pray For You

Do you remember “Love you forever” by Robert Munsch?  It has that kind of tenderness, but with the addition of prayer and God’s love. I think that is what transforms this book from simply a whimsical tale of growing up. Instead, it is a deeply moving narrative of a praying for a child as they grow into who God created them to be.

When We Pray for Them

Those four littles up there? I’ve babysat a lot of kids in my lifetime, but this was something different.  My love for them runs so deeply.  Cody has told me that he never understood how it was possible to love an adopted child as much as you love a biological child, but when he met these four, he finally began to understand.

We know the love we have for this family, and it’s humbling to think about how much more our Heavenly Father loves not only them, but me. These kids have given me the closest example of God’s love for me that I have ever experienced.

My deepest hope is that they can know how greatly loved they are and that they would reflect that love to others.

When I Pray For You

This book is a must-read for families with young children (or for anyone with kiddos in their lives that they love). You can pre-order it at, where you can also get his book “When God Made Light” for free!  I honestly can’t recommend this book enough!

Feeding the Hungry for St. Patrick’s Day – One Beer at a Time

Like many people, St Patrick’s Day makes me think of beer and leprechauns. However, the beer that comes to mind the past couple of years isn’t green, but has a unique story and mission. And for those of you who have been around here a while, you know that helping others is a real motivator for Alyssa and me!

How I learned about Finnegan’s

Just two of my options found at Total Wine & More in Woodbury!

A few years back, I was working out of a shared office space in Lowertown, St Paul. A group of us headed up the block on St Patrick’s Day to take in the parade, which is a huge deal in St Paul. As the parade was going by, there was also a truck parked on the street that was attracting a lot of attention. It was the Finnegan’s reverse food truck!

Instead of serving food, this truck was accepting donations of non-perishables, or monetary donations that would go to a local food shelf in order to purchase local, fresh produce. And to top it all off, the company that was out accepting donations was a brewing company! What?!? One of the guys I was with had actually purchased a bunch of their beer for back at the office that afternoon as well, too! I wouldn’t call myself an expert on beer, but I am a bit picky and won’t really drink a beer that isn’t really good. Finnegan’s did NOT disappoint!

It’s just beer, right?

Right on the can – “100% of Finnegan’s SBC profits go to feeding the hungry.” Right here in the midwest!

Wrong! I’ve been so intrigued and surprised by Finnegan’s that I’ve had to keep up with them as they’ve grown over the past few years. When I first learned about them, they pretty much brewed one beer. They brewed in a space provided by a different company, which cut their costs. All the proceeds from the beer sales went to help local food shelves. Pretty neat!

They’ve since expanded in a huge way! Finnegan’s Brew Co. has their own space, a whole host of beers on tap and in stores around the metro, and events all the time. They are working hard to connect good people with good beer, and giving the proceeds to those who need it right here in our communities!

Basically, Finnegan’s donates 100% of its profits to local charities. We buy beer, they give all the profits back to local charities. Does it get any better than that? If you’re interested in the details like I am, check it out for yourself!

Whether you’re in the twin cities or not, I would encourage you to think of St Paddy’s day in a new way. Find a way to give back in your community, and help those who need it most.

3 Easy Holiday Treats with 3 ingredients each

This time of year events seem to pop up out of no where! I always feel like we are in need of quick and easy holiday treats for parties and gatherings.  Here are some of our go-to recipes. The best part? Each recipe has only three ingredients!

Easy Holiday Treats

Caramel Dip


  • 8 oz Cream Cheese
  • 3/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Steps: Mix together with hand mixer. Serve with apples or other fruit (we also like bananas and strawberries).

Ranch Crackers


  • 20 oz oyster crackers
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Ranch seasoning packet

Steps:  Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Serve alone or with soup.

Roasted Broccoli


  • Broccoli
  • Sea Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Steps:  Cut broccoli into bite sized pieces.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt.  Roast in oven at 375 for 15 minutes or until broccoli begins to brown.

Did you try one? Share it with us on Pinterest or Facebook! We’d love to hear what you think! If you’re looking for other Holiday tips, check out our top Christmas Budgeting tips

Let’s Talk About Our Love Sac…

One of our winter hobbies is walking around the Mall of America.  Yeah, it’s touristy, yeah, we don’t always love to be there, but we also hate winter and hate cold, so a place we can walk three indoor miles is super nice!  Our winter boredom turned into an awesome experience with Love Sac Furniture! 

With all the time spent walking the mall, we also spent time harshly judging checking out all the stores. One we passed a lot was the Love Sac store.  Sure, the couches looked comfy, and it was pretty cool that they were practically legos – you could build them to your specifications . . .but considering we had never purchased ANY furniture brand new, we balked at the price and figured we would never actually get to test them.

Stellar Love Sac Marketing

When we moved into our new house, we got a flier in the mail that said something about getting a free seat and side if we brought the flier in.  It was like a $500 (check this?) value. We knew there had to be a big catch, but on our next mall-walking adventure, we brought it in to check.

Turns out it really was for free!  We needed to buy covers, which were a little pricey, so we hesitated. Heck, the most expensive furniture we owned at this point was the table we bought at a second-hand store for $60! But we had been looking for a little reading chair in our bedroom, and the seat/side was the perfect size and was comfortable, so we went for it!

We LOVED that chair, and figured we would keep an eye out for a good deal to get more pieces to build our lego-couch with. The plan was to buy another seat and side when we got out of debt to make a little Loveseat.

Love Sac Adventures – Part 2

Fast forward about 5 months – Cody received an email that Love Sac was having a celebration event and doing awesome giveaways! Basically, everyone who walked in the store (which had been remodeled) would be handed an envelope. Inside the envelope, there would be some kind of discount or a freebie. We figured we might as well see, and if we got a decent discount we could look at getting something to add to our chair!

We walked in, sat down on a couch, and each of us were handed an envelope from the sales rep (shoutout to Alysha!).  Cody opened his first. It was about what we expected – 20% off any purchase bla bla bla… Not a bad deal.  It would be fine for the smaller accessories we were hopping to get. Alyssa went next and just stared at it for a hot second. She turned to the sales rep and said “This says we won a free sectional?” with a BIG ‘ol question mark at the end.


Yes. It took three of us reading this over and over to confirm. This wasn’t clear enough. . . 😉

Alysha looked just as shocked as Alyssa handed her the card.  After all 3 of us have spent what was probably a solid 30 seconds reading and confirming, we finally accepted that it was for real! We won a sectional, with 2 seats, 4 sides, and ALL the covers included! For FREE!


A few months Later. . .how we feel about Love Sac

We absolutely LOVE our Sactional! Right now, it’s arranged in a way so that  the seats are extra deep. It’s perfect for curling up in while working or eating dinner, and both of us can stretch out and relax while watching Big Bang Theory. Also, for us the cupholders we purchased are a definite must! They are nice and hefty, look amazing, and are perfect for throwing a drink in. The bonus is not having to worry about knocking it over, or having to get a coaster out!



Cody setting up our Sactional! So simple!

If you happen to have a Lovesac showroom near you, we would for sure recommend stopping by and trying out their furniture. We have been very impressed by the comfort and the look! Also, the build quality and durability seems to be well above most other furniture companies. Plus, shouldn’t ALL furniture be required to have removable, machine-washable covers? We sure think so.

If you have any LoveSac furniture, let us know! We’d love your advice on what to get next!

How to Refinish Furniture – A Beginners Guide

Hey all, Cody here! I recently decided that it was time to upgrade my home office setup, and began looking for a desk to refinish. As anybody close to me knows, I find a profound sense of satisfaction when I can get something that I need for free or dirt cheap. And so the hunting begins!

Furniture with Good Bones

As I browsed around Craigslist, Facebook for-sale groups, and secondhand stores, there was one thing that really drove my search. Since I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, whatever I ended up with was going to need a little bit of love. Easily 90% or more of the furniture I saw was made of laminated or painted particle board – which essentially means that it can’t be “fixed” or changed. I needed something with good bones that would stand up to a little work and refinishing.

I really didn’t have a particular style in mind, but I definitely was looking for a smaller, sleeker desk. I work 100% on my computer for my job, and knew I needed space for my 2-3 monitor setup. Yes, I’m the guy that has the starship Enterprise command center sitting in his office. I need the screen real estate though, so I can deal with fitting the nerdy computer programmer stereotype a bit!

The Desk (Before Refinish)

The desk I ended up choosing was a free find on Craigslist, from a family moving out of town. The top was fairly beat up, with some deep gouges, but it was structurally sound and made completely of solid wood and had good quality hardware holding it together. I was so happy to see that I would actually be able to disassemble the desk a bit, and not have to worry about stapling or gluing things back together! That eased one of my biggest concerns, which was that I would completely take apart the desk, refinish it and love the look, but FAIL to put it back together…

The Plan

I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into when I bought this desk, to be completely honest. I knew that I wanted to at least make it look less beat up, but I didn’t know what that would mean for sure.

Beat Up Desk (Before Refinish)I started off buying a matching stain and a pack of sandpaper, thinking that the most reasonable thing to do was to clean up the top and simply re-stain it to match the existing color on the rest of the desk. Simple right?

I sanded down the desktop only to decide that the natural woodgrain was too pretty to cover up with such a dark stain… So what do I decide to do? I’ll just refinish the entire desk, no sweat right? I’ve seen people do this on HGTV shows and it just looks so simple! I decided to scrap the plan of fixing the top, and opt for the complete overhaul method. Dusty and Disassembled Desk (During Refinish)I drive back to Home Depot and grab some matte-finish Poly for the top and to seal the whole desk. I also get a small paint roller with a dense foam roller to use with a can of grey paint we already had here at our place from when we (somewhat foolishly) decided to repaint an entire 1600 sq ft townhouse before settling in… But that’s a different story!

The Process

Who would have thought that sanding down an entire desk would take more than 5 or 10 minutes? After probably 3 hours of sanding (by hand, mind you, because I was NOT about to invest in an electric sander if I didn’t know this was going to turn out!), I was ready to start finishing the desk. After some googling, I found what I thought was the best plan to follow. For the bottom of the desk, which I wanted solid grey, I would:

  • Sand until smooth
  • Paint the areas I wouldn’t be able to reach with a roller
  • Roll  a layer of paint on the entire frame
  • Let it dry (at least 2-3 hours with fans blowing to help)
  • Sand, and repeat!

For the top, I just sanded until smooth and then sealed with 4 (yes, FOUR) coats of the matte Polyurethane. It took about an hour to dry between coats, and I didn’t sand since the poly soaks right in and doesn’t clump up like the paint sometimes can.

The Results!

Refinished Desk with Computer

Refinished Desk View 2

Refinished Desk Close-UpI am SO happy with how the desk turned out! I have been using it now for a few weeks, and it is working so well. I have plenty of desk space for my computer and dual monitors (yes, I’ve added a third screen to the mix now that I have the space for it!). Overall, I think the project went very smoothly, and turned out much better than I expected. I have already started thinking about what to do next, and am hoping to find a nice solid wood dresser for cheap or free, and refinish that next. What kinds of projects have you worked on? What tips and tricks would you share to make refinishing fun and easy?

Strange things about Minnesotans

I’ve been in Minnesota for three years now, and I love it.  But I’m an Iowa girl at heart, so I can’t help but notice some of the strange things about Minnesotans.

1) It’s MinnesOta not MinnesoTA.


Minnesotans are proud of their accents. You betcha. But crack a joke about basically living in Canada? Don’t you dare!

2) Everything I once called a casserole is now a hot dish.


If it isn’t made in a specifically designated casserole dish, it is a hot dish. Apparently.

3) Forget Duck, Duck, Goose. Now we play Duck, Duck, Grey Duck.


My husband says the “fun” in this is that you can now trick people by saying “Duck, Duck, GREEN duck” or something equally absurd.

4) You must be a Vikings fan, unless you live almost on the border of Wisconsin, in which case rooting for the Packers is acceptable.


Not that I’m a big sports fan in general, but I miss in-state rivalries.  Iowa vs Iowa State is WAY more exciting than being expected to root for your state!

5) Topic #1 in conversation is traffic.


How was your drive? Did you take 494? How is 52 today? You live in Town A . . . isn’t that about a 12 minute drive? When I was new around here, I didn’t have the faintest idea which way is the best way to get from point A to Point B.  Nor do I care if 52 is a little backed up heading south today.  Maybe it’s a big city thing.

6) Minnesotans hate Iowa.


Hate it I tell you. Just don’t remind anyone that Okoboji is in Iowa.  They like Okoboji.

7) Living here takes the fun out of the Mall of America. runaway

I just laugh, because I remember being super jealous of friends who made weekend trips to the mall, and now that I live here, we avoid it like the plague most of the time.

8) All of the sports teams here are pretty much awful most of the time, but they are still die-hard fans.


This one I understand. I’m a Cubs fan (just please don’t tell the Minnesotans that!), so I’ve lived through a lot of losses. Also, thank the Good Lord that we live close enough to the border that it’s okay to root on the Packers (Go Pack Go!)

9) Goodbyes take forever.


I don’t know why, but it seems that when you say goodbye to someone the first time, it means another 10-20 minutes before you ACTUALLY part ways.  If you have the chance to leave at the first goodbye TAKE IT IMMEDIATELY or you will never leave.

10) I’m so excited to stay here!!


Minnesota has it’s quirks, but I absolutely love it!