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Life and Love, By The Numbers


3 years ago last week, a little gal by the name of Lulu was sitting at her desk one afternoon, wondering how to fill up a little bit of free time left by her job as an assistant at an interior design studio in SoHo.

Energized by the new-found creative energy she held from quitting her job in Corporate America, ditching her heels and suit jackets and jumping ship for a life of Starbucks runs, fabric sample hunts, and scouring 20,000 square foot mansions in Greenwich top to bottom to count the number of doorknobs and window hinges she need to custom order, she decided to start a blog.

I keep thinking back to what life was like back then... Some days it seems like I left New York City last month, and other days it feels like I never lived there in the first place. Then I take 1 step further, and realize what a journey the Mr. and I have been on together thus far.

The Mr. and I have been together for 6 years in December. In that time...

23 - the number of times we have collectively moved apartments (!!!)

11 - the combined number of jobs we have held

5 - the number of different countries the Mr. has lived in

5 - the number of ferrets yours truly has owned

3 - the number of times one of us has been "funemployed"

2 - the number of times we have moved cross-country

We've gone on vacation, gotten engaged, lived in an Ikea loft bunk bed while sharing a 1,000 square foot apartment with 2 other roommates and 3 ferrets, gotten married, and have survived (the first half of) life on 1 salary while the Mr. slaves away in graduate school to complete his MBA degree.

When you break it down by the numbers, it's all been quite the adventure.

However, one number sticks out far more than all the others combined:

1 - the number of babies we're expecting in March 2012

xoxo,

Lulu
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Greetings!


Well, I didn't expect my first post back from an unintended blogging hiatus to be some random link the virus currently nesting in my computer decided to post! haha

I wish I could say that there has been some fun, super-secret reason why I temporarily abandoned this little blog of mine, but that just isn't the case. I've been equal parts lazy & over-committed with extracurricular activities, life has been vanilla & perfectly lovely.

I'm still very much alive & kicking, hope to get back into the blogging swing of things in the near future. In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter if you're interested in hearing from me more than once every 2 months!

xoxo,
Lulu
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Bradley Cooper Speaking French.


You're welcome.

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Where I've Been...


Czesky

Wency

Kampa

... and a little...

Aloha

Sunset

Stay tuned...

xoxo,
Lulu
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A Little Friday Royal Wedding Fun


Proof that as a wee babe, I a) had a rockin' rainbow of an 80's nursery going on, and b) had a mother on a mission for me to marry a prince (check the poster in the right-hand corner of the photos).

Lulu's Nursery

Scan 1


She knew I'd marry a prince all right- she just picked the wrong one out for me! I'm happy to say that I've found my Prince Charming (and even happier that he still has all of his hair...!)

Happy.

Happy royal wedding weekend to you all!

xoxo,
Lulu
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2 Years.


730 days ago I walked down a long, sunny terra cotta-tiled aisle at high noon, and met the love of my life in front of the church we had our second date in.



We stood before the Lord, and vowed to take care of each other for the rest of our lives.


He placed the thin, filigreed wedding band on my finger- a band I haven't removed for one single second in the 730 days since he slipped it on.


Happy.


The New Couple


We drank dirty martinis, danced to Ray LaMontagne's "You Are The Best Thing", cried and laughed and smiled so much our cheeks hurt.


Love.


We spent the afternoon celebrating in the sunshine, surrounded by family, friends, and the most wonderful wedding vendors we could have possibly been blessed to work with.


Bliss


730 days later, I still have trouble finding the words to explain how I felt on that day... but watching this cherished video just may give you a small idea.


I love you, husband. Happy 2nd anniversary.


xoxo,


Your little Lulu

Watermarked photos courtesy of Hollye Schumacher , video preview courtesy of Darby Simon and the crew of My Wedding Film
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What's In My... Carry-On Toiletry Bag


Look at me - I'm vlogging!

I found out recently that one of my sweet Twitter friends has never been on an airplane before, and that she was preparing to pack her bags and hit the skies for the first time this week. She'll be carrying on her luggage for the short trip, and wasn't sure just how to navigate the whole TSA Security "pack your liquids, 3 oz. or smaller containers" situation we all have to deal with.

I decided to create a little packing vlog (my first!) for the ol' blog here, in order to illustrate all the packing rules I didn't think I could explain in 140 characters or less. Since I'm a pretty frequent traveler myself, and always carry my luggage on, I decided to post on the blog since there may be a tip or two in here that even the more well-traveled gal-on-the-go may find helpful.

A few brief warnings- The sound on the file doesn't seem to quite sync with the movement of my mouth. No, I'm not a talented ventriloquist... I just have low-budget recording software. Also, this is just how I prefer to pack my own liquid goodies for each of my trips. There are other things I pack in another make-up bag, like all my powders (blush,eyeshadows, pencil liner), eyelash curler, and the like; I just chose not to drone on about them here. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below!



xoxo,
Lulu
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Life As We Know It


Here's a little brain dump- or I guess life dump- to archive what we've been up to this last busy month of ours...

- I'm 3 weeks into my first NutriSystem plan and I *LOVE* it! Love the food, love the convenience, love the fact that I am actually doing something about the extra weight I keep complaining about in my head. So long, squishy love handles that prevent me from bending properly to the side!

- I've had the urge to give myself a string cheese mustache every day during my afternoon NutriSystem snack. I finally caved.

Snack Time

- If you don't follow me on Twitter, than you don't hear about how my husband broke his nose playing in a rugby game a few weeks ago. And had emergency surgery to correct the damage. For about 12 hours, I was married to a brunette Owen Wilson. And they gave him purple socks to wear with little bear paw non-slip grips on the bottom. I would lurrrrve to post some of the photos of the eventful weekend on here, but a) he would kill me, and b) they would probably turn your stomach. Consider yourself saved.

- We finally moved 'out tha ghetto'! Words cannot properly express how much I am obsessed with our new town house. His and hers offices! Formal dining space! A vegetable garden! I'll give you a little tour once I finally have the place in shape for guests.

- My mom came to visit and help us relocate, since I perfectly timed our move to happen during my husband's midterms and a busy workweek. The plus side? Our move also fell during the same weekend as Junior League of Phoenix's Rummage Sale, so we were able to take our moving U-Haul TO Rummage!

Rummage UHaul

This was my first time at Rummage, and we certainly made the most of it. You bet we filled that U-Haul *full* of furniture and electronics (hello, $10 televisions! )for the new house.

- The Mr. turned the big 3-0! We celebrated with a seafood dinner, complete with dirty martinis. The whole meal was just comically horrible. Terrible service, wierd food, even the cocktails were off. I don't think we'll go back for another round of blue cheese-stuffed olives in our dirty martinis, since there are fewer things wierder than chunks of blue cheese floating around in your vodka. But you know what? We had one of the best nights ever. A complete blast.

30th Birthday Dinner

It just goes to show that even the worst of times can be the best of times when you have the right company. The Mr. was expecially excited that night, because he received an extra-special birthday present:

Birthday Present!

A (terribly photographed posterity photo of) an iPad! Welcome to the future, Husband!

That's a brief little glimpse into the Martini household over the last few weeks... What have you been up to?

xoxo,

Lulu
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Happy 30th Birthday!


You're my favorite.

BirthdayBoy

Have fun on your adventure...

xoxo,
Your little Lulu
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The Kate Spade Sample Sale Will Be My Downfall


I think the retail gods know that I'm trying hard to keep me personal finances in order, because they keep throwing Lilly Pulitzer gift-with-purchase and Kate Spade online sample sale e-mails at me. Absolute torture.
I'm going to blog out my shopping impulses right now, to avoid actually acting on them and making purchases I know are unwise right now...
Does it matter that I was already gifted this Knightsbridge purse in red over the holidays? Does it make ANY sense that I want another, just like it, in pink? I guess not. But this little purse is giving me *serious* heart palpitations!

Also... a baby bag???
I DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN.
Enough said.
Someone, help me break the spell these bags have on me!
xoxo,
Lulu
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Valentine's Day


Today has been about a lot of surprises, a little bit of wine, and a heavy rotation of Juliette Greco.



I die into a thousand pieces every time I hear this song.

I didn't think a think about Valentine's Day, leading up to the 14th... In fact, I didn't even thing to plan anything until the night of the 13th, when I was driving home from carting the umpteenth load of the the weekend over to our new rental town home. I e-mailed the Mr, who was studying in the campus library, to see if I should pick up 'fancy' groceries on the way home in order to cook a Valentine's Day spread. His response? A plain and simple...

'no.'

From then on out, today has been a real gem of a day.

He sent me flowers to work! A BIG surprise, since the last time he sent me flowers was when we were dating and he was living in Doha.

In 2006.

He's never been a 'send flowers' kinda guy, so you can imagine the shock.

Then, when I opened the front door after a stellar 1.5 hour commute in the car, there was dinner and wine waiting for me on the dining room table. And the Bobby Darin Pandora channel streaming through his laptop, which had been propped on top of the flip-top trach can.

My sweet Italian man had made a spread of house salad (with his Grandma Violet's signature homemade salad dressing), portobello mushroom and artichoke heart raviola a la puttanesca, and a killer tiramisu chilling in the fridge.

We ate, we reminisced, we slow danced in the living room.

It was simple. It was a surprise. It was wonderful.

xoxo,
Lulu
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The Lust List


Now I know that I've been all 'be responsibile about your personal finances' up in here for the last few weeks, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been completely immune to all the wonderful Spring goodies all you stylish ladies have been posting... I'm not made of stone, for goodness's sakes! I have retail wants and needs!

I have serious shopping lust like many of you, and this time of year makes me particularly vulnerable... This time 2 years ago, I was steadfastly accumulating pieces for my honeymoon trousseau, which one of the most fun shopping experiences I've ever had. I think the emergence of straw hats, sandals, and swimsuits across the web each February will forever remind me of that honeymoon prep-and will have me itching to buy a slew of loosely coordinated swimsuits, cover ups, and dresses all over again!

I know that the Bible says 'Thou shall not covet', but good gracious... I'll admit that I am coveting these items in a major way! Here are a few things on my current Lust List-

Monogram Necklace by Jennifer Zeuner Jewelry

jenniferzeenermonogram

Tom Ford Anouk Sunnies (sadly last season and thus sold out)

Tom_Ford_Anouk_Sunglasses

Fantastically Retro Beach Blanket Bingo One-Piece Swimsuit

BeachBlanketBingoSwimsuit

Monogrammed Derby Hat

mlfloppyhat3

Super Bright Lilly Seamus Dress

Seamus_019_zoom

Chic Gold Wedges

lillywedge

What have you been lusting over so far this season?

xoxo,
Lulu
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February Finance Challenge - An Update


I hope day 1 of the February Challenge was successful for you thus far!

I'm thrilled that a few of you have pointed out that using the website Mint.com is a great way to automate part of the February Challenge- and you're right! For those of you who don't yet have Mint accounts, I highly recommend doing so. It's a free online tracking service for your personal spending, and has lots of great bells and whistles to take advantage of. I've been a Mint subscriber since early 2008, and have found it to be a very integral part of my personal finance journey.

Feel free to use Mint as a tool in your Challenge toolkit, but I want to point out a couple of things before you let Mint do all of the work for you this month.

The first may be a little obvious, but is worth making note- Mint cannot track any cash that you spend out of your pocket. It may be able to log that $40 ATM withdrawal you made yesterday, but what you ultimately spent that $40 on will remain a mystery to you if you don't track it. Did you buy lunch with that cash? Pay for parking at the airport? Get a Diet Coke from the office vending machine? Buy some new chapstick at the drugstore? Each behavior is different, and important, so please make sure your Challenge tracking reflects where your cash goes as well.

The second thing I want to draw attention to is that there may be more to tracking your spending with pen and paper than just learning where you put your hard-earned dollars. Some studies show that writing things down may help you learn better. You can read an interesting article on LifeHacker here about how you may learn better by writing things out instead of typing, as an example.

I'm not trying to get all psychological here and quote studies I don't know too many things about... I just know that for me personally, the act of taking notes by hand helps me connect more to the topic I'm actually writing. If you're the kind of person who benefits from hand writing your To Do lists, work notes, or the like, doing the whole month of pen and paper thing might help you to connect with your spending behavior in a new way.

That being said, you know yourself better than anyone else, so feel free to track your spending using the best method for *you*!

How did day 1 go thus far? Let me know!

xoxo,
Lulu
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Are You Up For A Challenge?


Pop quiz, hot shot-

How much did you spend on gas in November?

What's the 12 month average on your electricity bill?

Do you know how much money it takes to feed yourself/your household each month?



Can you answer any of the above questions?



If not- that's ok! But you're going to learn how to do so, stat.

We have ourselves a February challenge, folks!

As you've probably guessed, the cornerstone of personal finance is the big, scary B word...

B-U-D-G-E-T.

But first things first- A budget is really just a plan for how you're going to spend (or save!) your money each month, right? So let's change things up a bit and call it a Money Plan for now, shall we? I think the B word sounds so restrictive, and automatically conjures up thoughts of sacrificing fun stuff, going without, and setting yourself up for failure. NO FUN.

The term Money Plan, however, sounds a lot more proactive- you're planning on how YOU want to allocate your funds. You're in control. And being in control is a nice feeling to have when it comes to money!

Now that we've covered that, let's get back to the challenge...

The real question is this- how can you set a realistic Money Plan when you don't even know what your spending patterns are?

It would be all well and good for me to say "I think I'm going to allocate $250 for fuel in my Money Plan this month"... But guess what? I spent almost $450 in gas in the month of November alone because of my insane work commute (try not to envy me too much). If I just pulled a number out of the air and plugged it into my Money Plan, I just set myself up for a big fat fail.

You cannot create a successful Money Plan if you don't know what your spending habits are- so the challenge this month is to learn your spending habits.

I want you to write down EVERYTHING you spend for the next 28 days.

Now hear me out on this- I am not asking you to change your spending habits one bit. This isn't a challenge to cut down your spending or start using coupons or to change anything about your behavior.

I'm going to say this again, so it really sticks in your mind-

You cannot create a successful Money Plan if you don't know your spending habits!

All you need for this is a pen and a cheap little notebook and the commitment to log every penny for 28 days. It's not a difficult challenge, but I promise that if you're really interested in taking control of your finances, this challenge will do *wonders* for you.

Are you with me?

Ready, set, go!

xoxo,
Lulu
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Where I've Been...


I blog about finally getting this personal finance discussion show on the road, and then disappear! Yeow! Sorry about that folks... Somehow I blogged, blinked, and opened my eyes to February just around the corner!

It hasn't been for a lack of desire that I haven't blogged lately, just a lack of time. We've taken an oddly adventurous turn since the calendar struck 2011...

We've gone hiking-

DSC_0032

Explored downtown Phoenix and shopped the farmer's market-

DSC_0044

Visited the Arizona Mining Museum

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I took an intro to photography class to learn how to use my new DSLR camera in manual mode (check out my mad skills! haha)

DSC_0142DSC_0146

Took a day-long road trip to tour mining towns and Indian reservations around Arizona

DSC_0511

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Broke out my sponge rollers for a little day of beauty while I cleaned-

DSC_0206

I joined my first Bible study group... and to top all that off, the Mr. bought an old Volvo (huzzah for being a 2-car family for the first time!), signed up to study in Europe for part of this semester, and we're now moving this month!

Moving this month!!!!!!!

I'm excited as all get-out about the changes taking place... I just hope I can catch a breath long enough to recap the month for posterity, and share all the new goings-on with you!

Be back soon(ish)...

xoxo,
Lulu
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Happy Birthday, Roey!


Today is January 19th, but in China - where my best friend Roey lives- it's January 20th. Do you know what that means?

It's Roey's birthday!!!!

R&M

We started out here- (she's the bride, I'm the... uh, gold lame space princess?)

Halloween, 80's style

Survived middle school (playing our classed-up version of 'strip poker'- first person back to their normal clothes wins)

Poker

And ended up as two happily married gals, in our 25th year of friendship-

B&R

Happy, happy birthday to my white wine drinkin', Lionel Richie dancin', uber-stylish best friend Roey!

We wish we were in Bejing to celebrate with you! Love you, and hope you have a wonderful day!

xoxo,
Lulu
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Let's Talk Money, Honey


Stick with me here, friends- this may be a long one, but we're gonna get a little crazy and start something new here. I'd really love to start a dialogue and get your 2 cents on the topic.

(Heh Heh, get it? Cents? Money? Carry on.)

So there's a pretty big side to me that I have never written about on here before.

I have a serious, deep down, honest-to-goodness passion for personal finance.

I can spend hours on end analyzing spending patterns, retooling budgets, tweaking spreadsheets. Probably 50% of the books I own, and 95% of the books I actually read, are on the topic of personal finance. I'm sure some part of this comes from the fact that I'm a financial analyst by trade, but it goes way deeper than that.

Finance -money, really- can be this big, mysterious, overwhelming thing at times... Especially when you don't have any, or feel like you don't know what to do with it or don't have control over what money you do have.

I think that our generation really got short-changed in the financial education department. How many of you out there had classes in personal finance in high school? Learned about the perils of credit card debt? Knew what an amortization schedule was? Forget learning how to balance a checkbook- how many of you out there even use checks on a regular basis?

I think that most of us learned how to manage money by seeing the way our parents did- which could be a good thing or a bad thing, something you'd like to emulate or something you're trying to avoid at all costs.

After some great financial discussions with my Twitter friends today, I realized that on some level or another we're *all* trying to get this whole personal finance thing figured out. Maybe your big New Years resolution is to spend less and save more, maybe you're wondering if you should start saving for retirement already, or maybe you just want to start this whole personal finance thing from the beginning and figure out the answer to the "what the heck am I supposed to do with my money?!?!" question from square one.

I've decided to finally bring my passion for all things personal finance on to this little blog of mine. I'm going to start sharing with you some of the tips, tricks, gems, and major errors I've encountered along the way... I'm not a professional wealth manager or personal financial planner, remember... Just a girl with passion and a paycheck, some debt and some lofty goals, trying to set up a strong financial future.

I look forward to sharing with you, hearing from you, and having you along for the ride!

xoxo,
Lulu
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Happy 2011!


NYE 2010

The only decent photo we have of ourselves from our 3rd engage-iversary/3 night retro hotel staycation/Mad Men-themed New Year's Eve weekend, since we were too busy having one of the best weekends of our lives.

Here's hoping we have as much fun living 2011 as we did ringin' it in!

xoxo,

Lulu & The Mr.
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