See Ya Later, Student Loans! ^ How We Did It

We’re student loan debt free! It feels awesome! The only debt we have now is our mortgage, and that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. (Unless someone wants to give us a very generous donation? Anyone? Bueller?)

I’m going to give you a bit of background so you’ll have a better idea of our situation. I graduated from the University of Illinois in 2011 with a bit over $32,000 in debt. (I know this is way less than a lot of people, but still a lot and above the average according to Google) I started paying on my loans in 2012. Brett went back to school and got his associate’s at Parkland, which we paid for out of pocket. (No loans for Brett!) We were also paying off Brett’s car. In the midst of that, I quit my old job, got a new job, Brett finished school and got a job, we had Lil’ Bit, and bought a house. So it isn’t like we are bajillionaires and just paid for them at once using my extra pocket change. (Sorry, the smallest denomination are hundreds in my billfold…(ho ho ho))

Here’s what we did:

  • We snowballed our debt Dave Ramsey style. The gist of snowballing your debt is paying the minimum payment for all your loans and then adding extra onto the smallest one. You pay that one off then put the extra + the minimum of the smallest loan onto the next smallest loan. Repeat until you’re debt free. If I had two loans that were about the same amount, I paid the one that had the higher interest rate off first.
snowballing debt ^ brettandrachelplus

May 2012 to May 2014 is paying the minimum payment. June to August is paying extra. SNOWBALLED!

  • We paid off our credit card bill every month. No accruing interest on that bad boy. (We still pay off our credit card debt every month.) If you have credit card debt, I’d focus on getting that paid off first since the interest rates on those are crazzzy.
  • We didn’t go on fancy vacations, buy new cars, or live fancily. Our vacations consisted of going to Lake of the Ozarks and staying in the condo free or going to St Louis, Metropolis, Nashville, etc., for family things. I’ve really really really wanted to go to Harry Potter world, but alas. We weren’t going to go into debt for a vacation, use our savings for it, or save up for it. One day. . .One day. . .When my car was totaled, I bought my uncle’s old car and drove that. We were down to just the Santa Fe for a few months and we survived.
  • We used to track our finances. Good night! Mint is awesome! It is kind of like Quicken, but it is all online and easier to use. It is also free! You can set up goals there (which is what we did with my loans!), there’s income/debt/spending analytics, budgeting, investment tracking. It really has been an essential tool for keeping our finances manageable.

It wasn’t easy, and sometimes it seemed like that’s all we were doing (which it kind of was) was paying on loans. But man, it was worth it! It is so awesome to know that we don’t have student loans hanging over our heads and how much money we saved on interest.

Your thoughts? Do you have a method for paying off debt that works for you?


Rachel Makes ^ Poofy Ottoman Cube

A while back I got a request from some friends to make them one of those ottoman poufs. They weren’t finding anything they liked in the stores for a reasonable price and I decided to give it a go. My sewing skills are okay; they’d be a lot better if I sewed more often. Isn’t that the case with everything? “I’d be so good at [insert craft, trade, task, etc here] if I just did it more often.” Sigh…mediocrity with most, expertise with none.

finished pouf ^ brettandrachelplus

Photo courtesy of Ben Bylsma.

Basically it is a giant cube with a zipper on one of the seams. If you’re up to getting an idea of how I made it, read on, brave soul.

The first thing I did was to measure, cut and iron my pieces. I needed the pouf to be 2’x2′ in size, and I gave myself a 1/2 inch seam allowance on each, so I cut out 26 inch squares. Make yourself a good ol’ isosceles right triangle by folding your fabric over with sides a and b being equal length. (My engineering degree at work over here. Or maybe just high school geometry. Either way, a real world math application!) Cut along those sides and you’ve got yourself a square. Use that as the template for the others.

I had done zippers before, but it had been a while. All in all, it isn’t hard, just requires some planning. The tutorial I used I ended up not being a big fan of, but since I’m lazy, I didn’t want to rip out the seams and try again on the zipper. It turned out just fine, though, but I needed to have given myself a bigger seam allowance on the zipper. I didn’t catch the folded over fabric and had to sew it down separately in places.

After the zipper was in, I sewed the other two squares onto the ones with the zipper to make a cylinder.

Then I pinned and sewed the bottom square on and then the top. Make sure that you’ve unzipped at least part of the zipper so you can turn it right side out easily.

I’m pleased with how it turned out. It has been filled with beanbag stuffing and looks pretty nice. Since it will hold 8 cubic feet of material, you could even use it for storing stuff that could double as a filler. I fit a comforter and several pillows in it and still had a lot of room in it.

Art Party Studio!

There’s an awesome little place in the Lincoln Square Mall called The Art Party Studio. You’ve probably seen something similar where you live. You find a painting you want to paint from their calendar, sign up for it, then paint it! Super fun!

  Art party ^ brettandrachelplus 

I went with my LTG group from church last Tuesday and we had a blast! (LTG stands for Life Transformation Group. More about that here!) We painted an adorable pumpkin. That way it doesn’t have to be displayed year round.

After you check in, you find your seat. It has your canvas, paint, brushes, and water all ready to go. Once it starts, the instructor shows you what to do step by step. At the end of two hours, you have a pumpkin!

 pumpkin painting! ^ brettandrachelplus 

It was a lot of fun to paint something and I felt like I was in art class. I haven’t been in art class since junior high. I really wish I could have taken more art classes in high school and college. But I didn’t in high school because I took stuff like chemistry, calculus, and physics (dangit, math and science and preparing for engineering. . .) I didn’t take any in college because of my schedule chock full of ECE classes, more math, and other fun. Plus, you’re kind of limited on what art classes you can even take if you aren’t an art major. (Something I think that should be changed! If I want to take an elective drawing, pottery, photography class, I should be able to take one, dag-nabbit! I guess there’s always those community classes at Parkland. . .)

 pumpkin painting ^ brettandrachelplus 

Some tips for maximizing your fun while painting:

  • Do not be anal about getting everything ‘just so.’ You’ve got to complete your painting in under two hours. You’ll just get frustrated.
  • Treat yo’ self! Bring yourself a snacky snack and a drinky drink to enjoy whilst painting.
  • Don’t worry if your painting isn’t turning out exactly like the example one. You’re painting it, of course it will look different. Enjoy the differences!
  • Go with friends!

Adorable Fall Phone Backgrounds ^ Curated by Rachel

So right after I mention I’m going to write twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that doesn’t happen. Sigh. . .C’est la vie. Anyhoo, Brett and I got new phones yesterday! I got the oh so pretty gold iPhone 6s. I also got the 64G version, because I take a lot of baby photos. So many I had to delete apps to keep them all. And yes, I did regularly upload them.

So, like any sane person would do when they first get a new phone, I scoured Pinterest for some new phone backgrounds. That’s what sane people do first thing, right? Right.

Here’s some adorableness I found!

You can never go wrong with an awesome wallpaper from #SheReadsTruth.

The Sweetest Occasion has some links to some pretty adorable ones.

fall iphone backgrounds from


And who can resist a Harry Potter lock screen? No one, I tell you! No one! This is what I’ve got mine set to right now:

harry potter minimalist iphone wallpaper.

This one below is pretty cool. Not sure how the text would work in relation to the date/time placement, though.

So there you go! Hopefully I’ve cited these well enough. I definitely didn’t make them, just passing their awesome along.


You know what’s really hard to do, but is pretty important? No, I’m not talking about making a resistor that has negative resistivity, because that’s what you were thinking, right? Right. I’m talking about consistency.

I’ve decided that I want to try to blog on Tuesday and/or Thursday each week. We’ll see how that goes. I’m hoping well, because I like writing, but life gets in the way.

It is kind of crazy that being consistent is so important for proper functioning in pretty much every aspect of life. Your heart must beat consistently, you must eat consistently, you must clean your house, discipline your kiddo (lovingly, I might add), put them to bed on time, go into work, you must study and practice to become proficient, etc etc. If things become inconsistent in your life, you start getting pretty edgy and long for things to be ‘back to normal.’ At least, that is what it is like for me.

Even the things that seem like they’re inconsistent follow a consistent pattern. Right now the only thing that i can think of that’s inconsistent is pi, and you could say that follows a pattern of being inconsistent, what with its non-repeating decimals. Oh, pi. You don’t repeat and you don’t even care.

So, I’m thankful for consistency.

Satisfied In. . .

So you know how sometimes all you want to do dwell on things you aren’t good at?

Then you start looking at Pinterest and get even more bummed out at all the amazing things other way more creative people are coming up with. Then silently mope around thinking to yourself that there is a ton of stuff you need to get done and how you need to make sure and do it perfectly and you know it isn’t going to be perfect, but you really really want it to be. After that, you get even more down about it because now it is more fun to be mopey and sad than to actually think about what you are actually good at and can tangibly do. Yeah . . .

Dangit Pinterest with everything perfect and beautiful

Dangit Pinterest with everything perfect and beautiful

It is so hard to be satisfied with what your abilities and gifts are and not wish that they were something else. If you’re basing your happiness and contentedness in your abilities, then man, you’re in for a letdown when those things don’t go your way or your abilities fade. If you’re waiting for more money, a better job, a cuter kitchen, a better designed gallery wall to be satisfied, do you really think that obtaining it will actually satisfy? From my experience, the answer is a resounding no. You’ll find something else that you want and won’t be content until you have it. Repeat cycle.

I have to remind myself that I’m only going to be satisfied in Christ and the things around me or my abilities aren’t going to satiate my wants and needs. So why do I get so down about things that I can’t do well? Well, I know that it is me looking at myself and relying on myself to be awesome. And my default position in life isn’t awesome. It is more along the lines of “I’m super lazy and want to magically be the best at everything without trying.” Therefore, I’m always going to let myself down at some point. I’m so glad that my worth is not in what I can do or say or make, but my worth and life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:3).

Thanks for bearing with me through some thoughts. I really needed to write it all down and it turned out to be a pretty uplifting exercise. It is so easy to get wrapped up and then bogged down with your thoughts.

So I’m going to end on a couple of things I can do well. I’d encourage you to write down some things you can do well, too. Then go ahead rejoice in that when one day you can’t do them as well as you did at one point in your life, that your worth and importance has not changed.

I can . . .

Make Ellie Boo laugh

Crochet and knit

Turn a pile of data into handy charts, graphs, and tables so people can actually use the data

Write in SQL and do other computer-y things


Cook a tasty din din for my hungry family

Running a 5K . . . With Brett!

So, it has come to this.

There is actually a funny xkcd about that.

Anyhoo, it is the summer. The Illinois Marathon racing extravaganza has come and gone. The delicious, good ol Countryside 10K has also bid us adieu. And so that leaves me with no running goals. Right? Wrong! Turns out that the day of Miss Boo’s Columbia birthday party, is the same day that the Life Network of Southern Illinois is having their annual 5K run/1.8 mile walk and Brett and I are going to run it! If you live around the St Louis Metro East area (or don’t. . . we don’t), I highly recommend you sign up and run it! Plus, they have dri-fit shirts this year; yet another reason. I’m so excited that we can make it down to run this year!

Life Network 5K Run ^ Support moms and babies!

We’re big fans of all babies in the Geist household. We do what we can to support pregnancy centers, foster families, adoption, and babies, moms, and dads in general. I can attest that Life Network is awesome, and if you want an ultrasound to see your six week old baby, you can get one for free. Brett and I went over Christmas 2013 and that is where we saw Miss Ellie Boo for the first time. We could see her little heart beating on the screen and her tiny little body that kept on growing! If you’ve been around Brett’s side of the family especially, you know that there is a genuine desire to help babies and families through all stages of life and development. (Check out Shannon’s blog for their adoption journeys and life!)

Boo at 6 weeks ^ brettandrachelplus

It is amazing that this is Ellie Faye. She was so tiny.

My goal for the race is to run with a 11:00 pace or finish in under 35 minutes. I think Brett’s goal is to finish. I have no doubt he’ll be able to accomplish that. 🙂 We’ve been using Runkeeper to track our runs and are doing the same training plan. So far I’ve really liked using their training plans because it tells you when to warm up, run fast, run slow, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing how well we do!

obligatory baby photo

So does anyone else have some running goals for the fall? Any marathons? (Netflix ones are okay, too! Let me know what you’re watching!)

this is why I run ^ brettandrachelplus

Sidney Countryside 10K

A couple of Saturdays ago, Keli and I ran the Sidney Countryside 10K. It makes you seem very fancy for a second when you tell people you’re running in Sidney. If you aren’t familiar with the CU area, the first thing that comes to mind is Australia. Sorry, we don’t have the cash to shell out running in the land down under.

Post race. It was hot!

This race is very different from the Illinois Marathon 10K, but in good ways. They aren’t kidding when they say that it’s a countryside run. We were out amongst the corn and soybeans in good ol’ Central Illinois. It is also much smaller, so if we were fast, we’d probably end up placing. The feeling was so nice and laid back, but still very well organized. Plus the proceeds go towards Agriculture scholarships, which I’m all for.

After the race there was Dairy Barn ice cream sandwiches, watermelon, coffee, bagels and other tasty bread, and door prizes! I won a squirt bottle with a week’s pass to the Savoy Rec Center which I’ll probably never use, and Keli won a really cool quadcopter drone.

If you’re wondering how I did, I did not beat my previous time, but came in around 1:16:30 or so. I’ll definitely be signing up to run it again next year! It was a really fun race.

STUFF() And Not Your Face ^ A Fun SQL Tidbit

Okay, I’m probably going to lose some people here, but maybe not. Who am I kidding, of course I will. No one wants to read about SQL functions except for nerds. And I’m not talking about the “oh, I watch The Big Bang Theory! I’m such a nerd!” types. (Don’t get me started. I’ve got strong words to say about the type. . . wannabe nerds more like it. . . but I digress. Much like Victor Hugo in Les Mis. (DANGIT VICTOR HUGO! NO MORE CRAZY NUNS!))

ANYHOO. I’m really not going to talk about technical things very often here because I’m pretty sure I’m writing this totally for my benefit, but I had to share this because I thought that it was super cool. For those of you who don’t know, I write queries at work. I also administrate monitoring software and make reports using queries I’ve written. I also begrudgingly code here and there. Yes, I know I lead the glamorous lifestyle. Not everyone’s job can be so high profile and exciting.

So basically I needed multiple rows of data from one column to be concatenated into one row of data based on their location. I’m going to explain it in pies, bakers, and bakeries. I had multiple bakeries where multiple bakers worked. Each baker could make a pie with two different types of crust and a variety of fillings. I wanted the fillings for each type of pie crust to all be in one row, not one per row. But this turns out to be a very tricky thing to do, especially when each column of data you want lives in their own tables. (Sorry, couldn’t think of a pie analogy for that.)

How the data was represented before changes were made.

How the data was represented before changes were made.

So like anyone who has a problem they can’t solve on their own, I turned to Google. Upon much digging around, I came across this one little function that seemed very promising, the STUFF() function along with XML PATH(). The stinky thing was that all the examples I found were too simplistic and I had to break out on my own. Here’s what I came up with.


The biggest hurdle I had to get over was figuring out the where clause of the subquery. All the examples I found showed the where being what you were wanting to combine. At first I kept using the PieFillingID in the where, but that would return all fillings for all crusts every time. Whoops. So I used bakery and baker which did the trick. **Update** Upon piddling with it some more I realized I needed to also add “and p.piecrust = p2.piecrust” to the where within the subquery. I noticed that for different pie crusts for the same baker, it was putting all the fillings into both instead of sorting them out based on the crust. This addition fixed that.

Pretty comma separated lists where applicable!

Pretty comma separated lists where applicable!

Thanks for indulging me on my SQL post!

Packing ^ A Necessary Evil ^

So. It has come to this. Packing. Cleaning. Moving. Unpacking. Losing necessities. Unpacking more. Finding necessities after rifling through many boxes. Giving up finding others because it just isn’t worth it anymore. Cleaning more. All with a cat and an army crawling, let’s get into everything baby. Blerg…Shoot me now.

never lose your packing list ^ brettandrachelplus

Brett and I are moving. And just not moving to another apartment, moving to a house. Our house. Our, we’re paying a mortgage on this place, I can actually paint walls, house. (I’ll post pictures of it all later.)

Anyhoo, with packing comes boxes. And with boxes comes forgetting what you packed in each box. This move, I have a plan, and like all brilliant plans, it started with a Pinterest search which resulted in me finding this pin. I thought that it looked like a pretty good idea, but not good enough. Instead of using paper and a number, I’m using a code for each room and a sharable spreadsheet. I thought that K01 would make more sense for a kitchen box rather than 301. Plus, multiple people packing can simultaneously add to the spreadsheet and it won’t get lost because it lives out in internet land. I then added a different tab for each different room so it wouldn’t look so jumbled.

The second method we’ve been using is a more avant-garde approach. Since we have been blessed with the luxury of being able to move to the new house slowly, we’ve been packing boxes, unpacking at the new house, then returning the boxes to be used again. Overall, it hasn’t been as stressful as it could be, I suppose.

packing spreadsheet

We’ll see how it ends up working for us. What methods have you used to stay organized while you move?