Lake Life in Northern Michigan

4 August 2017

Our Michigan vacation was a very welcome respite in the midst of July’s crazy. We spent a week at John’s family’s rustic cottage on a small lake near Traverse City, and it felt like a very classic summer vacation: we cooked big meals, we waterskiied and paddleboarded and kayaked, we drank root beer floats, we watched the cousins dig in the sandbox, we played badminton and cards, and we watched the sun set over the water while roasting marshmallows. This is the kind of stuff I live for, and I wanted to share a few photos, if you’d like to see!

Is that not the life?! Much of our time was spent lounging in those Adirondack chairs, reading, chatting, and then walking the few steps to the lake when we got too hot.

Michigan barn

Platte Lake

Lake Michigan

By far the best part of this trip was the people. We were gathered with about 28 extended family members, including all of John’s siblings, spouses, and their kids. We are spread out around the country, which is sad, because we love spending time together!! It was a treat to all be in the same place.


dinner on the porch

We ate dinner perched on the porch steps, looking out at the lake, almost every night. June was a big fan of the setup.

Cherry Hut


Michigan cottage


Pierce Stocking Drive

sand dunes

sand dunes baby

We stuck pretty close to the cottage most of the time, but did make a few trips out for ice cream, lunch at the A&W, and climbing the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

root beer floats

boating life

stand up paddleboarding

roasting s'mores

lake sunset

sunset silhouette

I’ll leave you with perhaps my favorite photo from the trip, snapped mid-run through the towels on the line. Are those faces not pure, unadulterated JOY?

laundry on the line

Happy summer, friends!

All photos by me, John, and my talented siblings :)

August 2017 goals

1 August 2017

Friends! I’m alive! I’ve missed you over these last few crazy weeks! And crazy they have been, between frequent vet appointments, a dishwasher that needed to be replaced, our vacation in Michigan, buying a new car in one week after our car broke down in Michigan (are-you-kidding-me), navigating a new health issue for a family member, preparing for a work trip for me followed by another family vacation, and more… whew.

But I’m still in it! I’m still here making goals! :) And I’m very much hoping for a peaceful, unhurried August with absolutely zero surprise expenses – ha!

What I read in June:
A Man Called Ove (Very sweet! A quick read.)
Parenting With Love and Logic (I really liked this book! In moderation, it very much lined up with my parenting philosophy — letting your kids learn from natural consequences and only keeping as much control as you need. Definitely recommended!)
My Name is Lucy Barton (I picked this up because Joanna has said it’s her favorite book. I liked it, but because it was written as the memoir of an author, the real author used some strange writing conventions that I didn’t love.)
— Books I’m reading throughout the year: The Power of a Praying Wife and The Lifegiving Home

Revisiting my goals for July:
Edit June in June (Did not get to this – adding it to August’s goals!)
Take an evening neighborhood walk any night we’re home and the weather is good (We did a great job with this!)
Book accommodations for John’s secret trip
Follow the daily She Reads Truth reading plan (I did well at the beginning of the month and then tapered off… giving this a half check.)
Plan well (including prepping food) for my Dad’s visit
Enjoy our Michigan vacation with our family! (I’ll be sharing a few photos later this week!)
Cow Appreciation Day!! (Moooooo)

August goals:
— Edit June in June
— Enjoy our Maine vacation with family!
— Go on a date night sans June
— Read To Kill a Mockingbird (my back to school tradition – I try to do it every August! I still haven’t read Go Set a Watchman – should I?)
— Make an itinerary and reservations for our family weekend in Asheville, coming up in September
— Hold our grocery budget to $100 per week (this will be tough – yikes!)

If you have a favorite cheap (and healthy-ish) meal I can try, please let me know in the comments!! And if you’ve posted your goals somewhere, I’d love to see a link for those, too :)

Affiliate links are used in this post!

Marvelous Money: A review of Financial Peace University

17 July 2017

If you’ve ever felt like you can’t relate to my Marvelous Money posts because I’m a weirdo who loves personal finance and you’re just an average millenial trying to keep it together, I’ve got a treat for you today!

My younger sister, Kim, is one of you (ha!). John and I have had the chance to coach her on a few money things over the years, but her finances have still been a source of frustration for her. When she mentioned at Christmas that her church was holding a Financial Peace University soon and that she wanted to attend, John and I jumped at the chance to gift a seat to her and her boyfriend, Kyle. (Though we haven’t taken Dave Ramsey’s course, we have many friends who have, and know how lifechanging it can be.) My only condition? That Kim answer my questions for Em for Marvelous readers! :)

Please welcome Kim, and get ready to be inspired!

financial peace university review

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background with money.
Hi, all! My name is Kim and I am Em’s younger sister. I am also a 28-year-old physical therapist who lives in Nashville, TN and got to attend Financial Peace University at the beginning of this year with my boyfriend, Kyle. Part of the reason I relocated to Nashville from Boston (where I went to grad school) was to get a jump on my student loans by taking advantage of a more competitive market and lower cost of living, while still being able to enjoy my 20s. While I don’t consider myself financially illiterate, prior to FPU, I had never made a budget or thought about how to appropriately allocate my money, and I only had an IRA because John and Emily told me to get one – and then literally walked me through it (thanks guys!).

What was your biggest money struggle before Financial Peace University?
My biggest struggle was definitely knowing how to allocate my money appropriately. I feel like the word “budget” gets a really bad rap, and I didn’t feel so kindly towards it prior to FPU, so I didn’t do very much of it… which meant that at the end of every month I was left wondering where my money had gone and/or having to wait to get groceries/gas/etc. until I got paid again, even though I wasn’t buying extravagant things. And I definitely felt strained to make my monthly rent and loan payments, even though they were both completely affordable with my salary. And since I felt strained with my bills, there was no way I felt I could save money for the future, either.

From Kyle: I felt like I never had enough money even though I made a good amount of it. I just didn’t know what happened to it all.

Why did you decide to go to FPU? What were you hoping to get out of it?
I decided to attend FPU because my finances were more stressful that I wanted them to be and I didn’t know what to do about it (and because Em offered to gift it to me – thanks girl!). I felt like I made good money, had started an IRA early, contributed to my retirement through work and still didn’t have a sound plan or goals. I just felt queasy every time I thought about long term planning, or really money at all, especially my student loans. And, I would often make rash purchases (TARGET) that I later regretted because I thought I had the money available when I really didn’t. I hoped to figure out how to not feel stressed about my money and make it work for me in achieving my goals instead of holding me back from them.

From Kyle: I wanted to establish good financial principles to live by since I knew I wasn’t living by any principles prior.

What was your biggest takeaway from FPU? What was the most helpful or impactful thing you learned?
My biggest takeaway was learning how to budget and that you HAVE to give every dollar a name – this has been CRUCIAL, y’all! I can’t tell you how much it has changed how I approach my money and my spending habits. It also really opened my eyes to where my money goes and what I value. For instance, I recently joined a gym that I LOVE but that is much more expensive than the one I used to go to. Instead of feeling guilty about this indulgence, I redistributed my budget, acknowledging that I will have to buy less clothes and lattes to be able to afford it; but, that is a CHOICE that I consciously made that I probably wouldn’t have even thought through if I hadn’t done FPU. I either would have been even more stressed about my money OR I wouldn’t have let myself join the gym, which has been really good for my health and self-esteem.

I think my budget gives me willpower – I have literally put things down in Target since FPU that I wouldn’t have thought twice about buying prior because of my budget. Every time I do that I feel really powerful, because I know I’ll have money for the things later on that I really want or need.

From Kyle: COMPOUND INTEREST (mind blown). It has been instrumental in creating a good financial structure for my future and understanding how important it is to start investing early for retirement. Putting a name to every dollar and actually budgeting has been really eye-opening.

kyle and kim

You have talked to us and worked on your finances before. Why was FPU different or what clicked for you there?
I think the best part about FPU is how simple and accessible and easy to grasp it is. Dave is great about really breaking down each lesson, moving step by step in an organized way, and “chunking” up the weeks so you absorb each piece prior to moving on and building on what you have learned. It is very, very practical and you can walk out and immediately use what you’ve learned from Day 1, which I loved. I think the thing that was different from my conversations with you and John was how nitty-gritty and step by step it was – you have done a budget for years, so it was nice to have someone help me start from scratch (not that your budget isn’t amazing, it’s just not necessarily for beginners!).

Do you think it’s only for Christians?
Absolutely NOT!! There are definitely Christian overtones and supportive Bible verses, but at its heart, FPU is just simple, sound financial advice that everyone needs and can relate to, regardless of your faith.

If a reader was on the fence about going to FPU, what would you say to her?
GO! Give it a shot and if you don’t like it you never have to go back. But I think you’ll find value even from the first lesson. It has been one of the best things I have done for my personal development this year and has drastically improved my life.

What are you most excited about for the future?
BUYING A CAR I WON’T HAVE A PAYMENT ON! I never would have thought it was a possibility before FPU, but I’m doing it next week. Also the continued freedom and security and calm I feel about my money and my budget. And, as Kyle would say, compound interest!!!

kim and em

What’s been your biggest lifestyle change since FPU?
After FPU, I was feeling all sorts of “gazelle intense” (a term Dave uses to encourage people to ferociously attack their goals) and got a second job as a PRN (or “as needed”) physical therapist in a local hospital. Now, I won’t lie and say that it’s fun giving up some weekends to work. BUT, it puts me significantly closer to being able to pay off my loans, gives me added value as a well-rounded PT down the road, and has been a welcome challenge to my brain. And I know that in the end, it will be worth it to “live like no one else so you can live (and give) like no one else.”

Anything else you’d like readers to know?
I know it feels like I only talked about the benefits of budgeting with FPU but that’s just because that is the step I am on – there is so much more to it than that! My biggest financial goal right now is paying off my student loans in full so that I can move forward to investing, retirement, saving for my kids’ college futures and GIVING BACK. Since Dave is all about streamlining the process and working step by step, I’m not thinking about those things yet – but when I do get there, I will know what to do, or at least what questions to ask to move forward towards those new financial goals.

Friends, doesn’t this interview just make your heart swell? I’m so proud of and excited for Kim!! Any other FPU graduates in the room? What was your favorite takeaway? Or does Kim’s review make you want to attend? You can find one in your area here, if you’d like!

P.S. Kim did indeed buy that car with cash last month! Yeah girl!!

Master camping packing list

13 July 2017

Curious about camping but concerned about your creature comforts? Do like we do and bring it all! :) We keep this master packing list in a Google Doc that’s shared between the two families, and we mark things off as we pack them so we’re as efficient as possible. The only thing that’s not really covered on here is food, which we handle separately, splitting up the meals between us.

Download the list here. I hope you find it helpful, and happy camping!!

P.S. More camping posts:
Camping with babies (lots of tips for family camping!)
Our first camping trip
Our last camping trip before babies
A few of our favorite camping supplies
My perspective shift on camping