Reflecting on 2018 Goals

Wow, it’s hard to believe that we have closed out another year and it’s on to 2019! In some ways, it’s felt like it went by so quickly, but on the other hand it feels like there was so much crammed into 2018 that it couldn’t possibly have been just one year. In one of our very first blog posts, we wrote about our goals for 2018 (take a look at the full post here). To be completely honest, it wasn’t something that we talked much about on a regular basis throughout the year, but we kept the list posted on our fridge as a constant reminder of what we were working towards.

So how did we do? I was a little nervous pulling that sheet of paper off the fridge to evaluate whether we had achieved our goals or had fallen short. Here’s a quick snapshot of how we did:

  1. Exercising 30 minutes at least 3 times per week Yes! Overall, I’d say we did a pretty good job on this one during a typical work week. I workout with my mom and sister twice a week, which holds me accountable, and the gym is on my way home for at least one more workout each week. Grant stops by the gym most days after work when he’s not traveling and we try to have at least one weekend workout together as well. I’m hoping we can keep this positive momentum rolling in 2019!
  2. Cook dinner at home at least 4 nights per week – Yes! Another one I am really proud of us for achieving! Not only do we save a significant amount of money eating in, but it gives us healthier options and more time to spend together. Another habit from 2018 that we are hoping to continue. And if you have any great recipes, send them my way – we are constantly looking for new easy meals to try.
  3. Save enough money for a house down payment by October – YES! By far my proudest accomplishment from 2018. We began our home search in May, a bit earlier than we had originally planned. By early June, we were under contract for a house and set to close in August. It took a lot of discipline to save and watch our spending those first 7-9 months of marriage, (and a lot of meals at home with chicken) but it paid off! We are incredibly blessed to have found a home that we can grow into in an area that we love.
  4. Max out 401K – Kinda. Grant and I both have employer sponsored 401K accounts and each have a separate Roth IRA account. We both continued to contribute to our employer accounts in order to get the full employer match, but are still working up to maxing out our Roth contributions for the year. Automating these contributions and our savings in general will help us to hopefully get closer with this in 2019.
  5. Less than $10,000 student loan debt and car loan – No. This is one where it would have been beneficial to track this progress more closely throughout the year because we were really close. We ended the year at about $12,500 left on student loans and car payments, so we were just shy of meeting our goal. When I checked the accounts and saw we were so close yet didn’t meet that goal, I felt disappointed and a little dejected. And sometimes that’s how you feel when you don’t meet a goal – you focus on what you didn’t accomplish rather than what you did. So I looked at what we were able to do in 2018 and I found that we paid off nearly $15,000 in student loans and car payments! That is incredible!! Yes, we fell short of our goal, but we should be proud of what we accomplished in 2018 and keep pushing forward in 2019 to officially be debt free (minus our mortgage).
  6. Use every vacation day – In progressWe are still working on this one, but we each took some time off around Thanksgiving and between Christmas and New Years to spend time with family and friends and relax and recharge before heading back to work. Both Grant and I value quality time together more than anything else, so we’re working to make it a priority to use our vacation/PTO time. And more to come, but we have officially booked a 12 day trip to Italy in May! 
  7. Plan a first anniversary trip in November – Yes! We actually were overachievers when it came to this goal – we had a mini stay-cation for one night at Chateau Elan the weekend of our actual anniversary and then planned our big anniversary trip to Disney World after Thanksgiving. We had an incredible time there and will be sharing some tips and tricks soon on ways we made the most of our time and saved money (TLB tip – we booked a free dining offer and Disney is currently offering it again for July-September here! If you want recommendations or have questions, we are happy to share our experience.) 

So there you go. We didn’t achieve all of our goals, but rather than feeling disappointed by what we didn’t do, we are celebrating all we were able to accomplish this year and know that 2019 holds even more exciting times!

Thanks for following along and happy new year to everyone! We are excited for all that is to come in 2019, so be sure to check out our Instagram

Behind the Scenes at Porsche – CHOA’s Rolling for a Reason

A few weeks ago, we had a chance to go behind the scenes at the Porsche Driving Experience for a charity event benefiting the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. We’ve said this before, but Children’s holds a place near and dear to our hearts, so we are always grateful for the opportunity to volunteer at these events and bring awareness to such an amazing cause. This night was nothing short of spectacular, and we’re sharing some behind the scenes photos from this incredible event!

The new facility was opened in 2015 and is located just south of Atlanta right next to Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. The best way to describe the Porsche Driving Experience is a real life “Test Track” for car enthusiasts. From the history of Porsche, to their wall of paint colors, to the driver development track, this place is a car lover’s dream!

If you are looking to go on a drive, we heard rumors that the blue car was the fastest!

Our evening started with a cocktail reception on their patio, which overlooks their test course and has views of the planes taking off and landing next door at the airport. Combine that with a gorgeous sunset, and it’s hard to find a view that will beat this one! The CHOA VIP attendees had the opportunity to go for a ride around the test course in one of the many Porsche models. While we didn’t get to fulfill our need for speed this time, the Porsche Experience Center offers a variety of different driving experiences here. Prices vary depending on which experience you choose, but still are a bit out of the Local Bells’ budget – guess we’ll have to make do with getting our fast car fix at Test Track this November! (Stay tuned for our tips and tricks on how we saved hundreds on our Disney vacation!)

When the sun went down, the games began and the stakes were high! You had your pick from whatever your game was – whether that was roulette or blackjack, craps or Texas hold’em. Everyone started out with $1,000 worth of chips to gamble as you pleased. For some, they went big but didn’t have to go home early thanks to a donation buy-in that let them stay in the game. Midway through the evening, we heard a moving speech from the Blythes, the honored patient family this evening, about their son’s battle against cancer and the love and support they’ve received from the Aflac Cancer Center and CHOA. Hearing those stories and knowing that the proceeds from this evening go to real people like the Blythe family truly puts everything into perspective.

Shout-out to ONEHOPE Wine for the amazing wine this evening! They donate to a different cause with the purchase of every bottle of wine – a winning combination in our book!

At the end of the evening, we traded in our chips for raffle tickets for some amazing prizes – if you’ve ever been to a CHOA event, you know the silent auctions and raffles are outstanding! Let’s just say Grant and I shouldn’t quit our day jobs to play blackjack professionally…

If you are interested in ways to support Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we invite you to check out their website, www.choa.org. There are so many ways to give back, whether through amazing events like this or volunteering in their hospitals. For one of their exciting events coming this October, be sure to check out Polo in the Pines at the Atlanta Regional Polo Center! Two days of polo, delicious food, fantastic silent auction prizes, and supporting a great cause. We hope to see you there!

Follow us on Instagram for more of our fall fun to come – www.instagram.com/thelocalbells!

Why We Love Horseback Riding at Barnsley Gardens

By now, you’ve seen some of our posts about our love for trying new things and exploring new places. Barnsley Gardens continues to top our list for one of our favorite closeby places to visit. In case you missed our first post about Barnsley and how much we love it here, check out our post from earlier in the spring here. Last Christmas, my parents gave a horseback riding trail ride to Grant and I along with my sister and brother-in-law. After a crazy first half of the year and a hot summer, we finally booked our trail ride at Barnsley Gardens this past weekend.

My sister, Morgan, and I grew up riding English and have been comfortable around horses for most of our lives, with our horses even living at home for part of our time growing up. Grant has always helped out with the horses, whether it was hauling hay from Mr. Gantt’s feed store down the street or going to visit Dakota with me and bring his favorite treats. We went on our first ride together last fall at Brasstown Valley Resort, so he was excited for this ride at Barnsley. Morgan’s husband, Stephen, had never ridden a horse, so we had quite a range of experience and comfort levels with horses going into the day’s trail ride.

Here are our top 5 things we loved about our experience at Barnsley:

  1. Amazing horses – Barnsley truly has the most incredible horses! Such sweet dispositions and manners make the trail ride enjoyable for any rider – regardless of past experience. They also have some great names. Grant’s personal favorite was his horse, Mr. Deeds. I think he might have tried to take him home with us if we lived closer (and actually had grass in the backyard)!
  2. Fantastic staff – Growing up riding, I was always taught that for every hour you spent riding, you spent two taking care of your horse. It was a special treat to have the amazing Barnsley trail guides that saddled our horses and had everything ready to go for us. The trail guides were so personable and informative during our ride, and they had a story about each of the horses. It made it feel like it truly was a little family and community, rather than just a job and a paycheck.
  3. Trail route – Barnsley offers several different trail ride options that include a one hour ride, a 90 minute ride, and a history ride. Their trail rides are an awesome way to see the property before exploring on your own. With the trail heavily wooded, it was a nice reprieve from the hot sun even this early in the morning! About halfway through the ride, we also rode past some of the immaculate holes of their Jim Fazio golf course. The end of the ride concluded with a ride down the lawn, starting at the Woodlands Grill back past the ruins.
  4. Other animals by the stables – So if you didn’t know already, we are huge animal lovers. And one of us in particular (Grant) absolutely loves pigs! On our last visit to Barnsley, we discovered their new porky buddies, so we were excited to visit them again. We also saw goats, llamas, miniature horses, and chickens. They are all super friendly and makes us want our own little herd of farm animals!
  5. Getting to make a day trip – With Barnsley less than 60 miles away, it’s the perfect day trip that makes you feel like you’ve left the real world behind. We only wish we had more time to explore and enjoy! We had a great lunch at the Woodlands Grill, but still have yet to spend the night at the new Inn. With cooler weather ahead, we just might have to plan a weekend trip back to take advantage of their cabins and fireplaces and s’mores in the evening!

Looking for a fall escape? We highly recommend Barnsley Gardens and be sure to stop by the stables to visit some of our favorite friends! Be sure to follow along for more fall adventures on our Instagram www.instagram.com/thelocalbells

We Bought a House! – How We Did It and What We Wish We Knew

Our big announcement from this summer is that we are officially homeowners! We went under contract in early June, but didn’t close until mid-August, so it was a pretty quiet summer for us in terms of travel and eating out. We had a goal after signing our apartment lease back in October 2017 to find a house to make a home before that lease ended in November 2018 (check out our 2018 goals here). Between planning a wedding, adjusting to married life, and knowing that we needed to save aggressively if we were buying a house in 2018, it has been a whirlwind of the past 9 months. We had an awesome real estate team, mortgage lender, and support from our families during the process, so we’d like to pass along some tips on how we planned/paid for a wedding and saved for a house in less than a year along with some things we wish we had known before starting the home search process.

What were we looking for in a house?

  1. Move-in-ready Home: For the most part, Grant and I were on the same page with what we wanted in a house. We knew we preferred a single family home that our family could grow into over the next several years, but we were open to townhomes as well. Even though Grant is very handy and has a background in construction, we wanted to find a place that we could move into right away rather than having to do substantial and probably costly renovations to right off the bat. During the home search process, we saw quite a few fixer-uppers that we weren’t quite ready to tackle in a first home!
  2. Open Kitchen: We usually cook at home every Sunday through Thursday, so having a big, updated kitchen was very important to us. There were a lot of quirks in our old apartment, like no pantry, having the laundry “room” (more like a closet) in the kitchen, and cabinets that were too small to fit even regular sized dishware. We joked that we should have brought a plate and a wine glass with us when looking at houses to double check that the cabinets were big enough! We never really got the chance to entertain at our apartment either, so having an open space where our friends and family could gather was really important to us – especially as football season kicks off!
  3. Outdoor Space: For Grant, having a backyard and a place to grill was at the top of his list. With the fire hazard of having grills at apartment complexes, Grant’s grill has been at my parents’ house for the time being. Eventually, we also want to have a dog, so having a nice outdoor space was important long-term.
  4. Room to Grow: We were really grateful to have decided on a 2 bedroom apartment as opposed to a one bedroom, but after the better part of a year, we were ready to have room to unpack completely and grow. A lot of our wedding presents were still packed up since we had limited space, so we wanted to have the room to not feel cramped. We didn’t have a particular square footage in mind when looking at homes, but we knew we wanted to find a place that we could grow into as our family (hopefully!) grows in the future.

How did we do it?

  1. Planning in Advance: We knew that our first apartment was just temporary and already planned that we wouldn’t renew our lease before we even signed the initial one! With that in mind, we knew that the biggest hurdle we had to face was being disciplined and diligent in our saving for a down payment. We knew a lot of homes go on the market in the summer time and the area we wanted to live and at our price point was a hot market. We did some preliminary research with our mortgage lender, explaining how much we felt comfortable spending monthly and were able to determine our price range along with anticipated costs of putting 20% and closing costs. After that, we reached out to our awesome team of realtors (thanks, Mary Beth and Liz!) in late April and started looking at several homes on and off over a 6 week period.
  2. Automated Savings: To be perfectly honest, we were pretty easygoing with our budget post wedding. We do eat at home a lot, which saves considerably over the course of a month. Neither of us are big “stuff” people and prefer more to spend money on experiences. During our “extreme home closing budget” period, we did have to cut back some on the experiences, but were grateful to have some gift cards leftover from our wedding presents and some credit card cash back money to splurge along the way. The easiest way for us to save was to set up automated payments to our savings account on payday, so we never really had to think about saving. Each paycheck, Grant and I had roughly 15% of our paycheck automatically transferred to savings, so it started to add up quickly.
  3. Lots of chicken and eating at home: Once we were under contract, we did cut back considerably on our discretionary spend, with the big one being only eating out dinner once per week (thanks, La Parilla!). We had to get creative with our recipes and continued to bring lunch from home instead of eating out during the work week. Sunday was our day to plan out our meals for the week, and making a grocery list helped us stick to just what we needed rather than filling up the cart with impulse purchases. We typically shopped at Costco to get our meats in bulk and Kroger to take advantage of some of their Kroger Plus discounts and coupons. We are also extremely grateful for our friends and family that had us over for meals during our “cut back” time.

What do we wish we knew at the beginning of the process?

  1. Save more than you think. Having enough saved for the down payment is not enough – you need to think about closing costs as well as what your emergency fund looks like. You’ll have a few smaller payments along the way for the earnest money deposit, inspection, and appraisal. This goes back to one of the first steps in the home-buying process – while you may be approved for a much higher value house, really think about how much you can budget each month. Because of this, we actually found that we were able to make our budget work with a slightly higher monthly payment for a 15 year mortgage versus the traditional 30 year, which will save us tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the course of the loan. Big thanks to Eric at Supreme Lending for answering all of our questions throughout the process!
  2. In some cases, you’ll have to make a decision very quickly. I think Grant would agree with me that we both like to take our time when making decisions to weigh all of the options and do our research. Unfortunately, in a hot housing market, you often don’t have the luxury of time on your side. We looked at our now home on a Wednesday evening, made an offer the next morning, and found out it had been accepted by lunchtime. It blows my mind that we made such a huge life decision in less than 24 – and then, we had 67 days until closing! So while some parts of the process are very quick, you may also hit some slow parts leading up to closing.
  3. Once you move out of an apartment, you should never move yourself again. I was very fortunate that Grant, his brother, my uncle, mom, and countless other family members helped out so much on the big day of the move. Grant and I worked for several days after closing to move some of our more breakable things and anything that wasn’t furniture, so that only furniture was moved on the day we rented the Uhaul. We have already agreed that this will be the last time we move ourselves. The whole home-buying process can be stressful, but the move is definitely the most strenuous, especially when it comes to furniture. With more space than we had in the apartment, we’ll likely add more furniture over the years, and when it comes time to move again, we will be bringing in the professionals! TLB Fun Fact: We did not purchase a single moving box for this move! 
  4. Closing was actually very easy! The wire transfer was the worst part – you see so many warnings about wire transfer fraud and just hope that it all goes okay until you get the confirmation from the closing attorney. The actual transfer at the bank is pretty anti-climactic (until you see your bank account after it), and once that is done, you are basically in the home stretch to getting your keys. The whole closing process took just under an hour, and I’m not certain we could have done it any quicker! The closing attorney briefly explained all of the documents we signed, we practiced our autographs on about 25,762 different papers, and then we got the keys and a stack of paperwork! The best feeling was driving up to our house after the closing, knowing all of the hard work and stress was finally worth it.

We are so thrilled about this next chapter in our lives! For anyone considering buying a home, we hope our experience helps you plan and encourages you to keep working hard towards your goals.

With fall and football season just ahead, be sure to check out our Instagram to keep up with what’s next for the Local Bells! www.instagram.com/TheLocalBells

Local Eats: Food Truck Edition

A few weekends ago, we had the opportunity to attend the Children’s Charities Denim & Diamonds Benefit at Shannondale Farms – an awesome evening to raise money for an even better local cause! One of the most unique parts of this event was the food options for the evening. Instead of your usual buffet or plated dinner, they had “Food Truck Wars” featuring six different local food trucks. Each served up a small sample of their specialty and guests had the opportunity to try as many as they wanted! Participating trucks included Cousins Maine Lobster, Big C’s Chicago Kitchen, Sunshine Alchemy, Smokin’ Mo’s BBQ, Just Loaf N’ Po Boys, and Chef Q’s Soul Shack. Take a look to see some of the best small bites from the evening:

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Some of the best Connecticut lobster rolls we’ve ever had from Cousins Maine Lobster food truck!

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Chicago Style Italian Beef from Big C’s Chicago Kitchen

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Jambalaya and Crawfish Dip with Chips from Just Loaf N’ Po Boys

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How many beignets are too many?

And as if one night of food trucks wasn’t enough, we spent Sunday afternoon exploring downtown Alpharetta at Truck and Tap and Smokejack BBQ!

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Rooftop patio at Truck and Tap Alpharetta is makes for the perfect afternoon!

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Couldn’t resist trying the loaded tots from Cousins Maine Lobster truck

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Beer and food truck options change every day at Truck & Tap Alpharetta

We continued our food tour of Alpharetta by heading to Smokejack BBQ in downtown Alpharetta.

Queso at Smokejack BBQ

Fried pickles and spicy mayo sauce from Smokejack BBQ

We definitely recommend checking out some of the local food trucks! With so many unique offers you can’t find anywhere else, it’s a great place to go to try something new.

Follow along with all of our adventures on Instagram at www.instagram.com/thelocalbells

Top Springtime Dates

It is finally starting to feel like spring in Georgia! Fingers crossed that the beautiful weather stays and we get to enjoy more of these warm and sunny days. With the days getting longer, we’re excited to enjoy some of our favorite outdoor places and events in the coming weeks. Here are some of the springtime date activities that we are looking forward to most.

Zoo Atlanta – Who doesn’t love the zoo? We love getting to learn more about all of the amazing animals at Zoo Atlanta and typically try to go at least once a year. Spring is great before it gets too hot and humid during the summer months. If the heat and crowds aren’t for you, they have a lot of awesome evening events throughout the year, like Sippin’ Safari and Brew at the Zoo (coming up Memorial Day weekend!).IMG_1409

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Taste of Alpharetta – It’s been awhile since we’ve gone to this, but we are making plans to attend this year with it being walking distance away for us! On Thursday May 3rd, downtown Alpharetta shuts down for over 60 local restaurants to set up booths offering small plates and drinks of some of their most popular menu items. You can purchase tickets for the food and drink items, and it’s a great way to try a taste of so many great restaurants. Plus, there will be live music throughout the evening!IMG_2100

Barnsley Gardens – If you want an escape from the hustle and bustle, a trip to Barnsley Gardens in Adairsville may be just what you need. From their beautiful pre Civil War manor house ruins to their championship golf course to their gorgeous new Inn, it’s the perfect weekend or day trip from Atlanta! The Woodland’s Grill and Beer Garden are perfect to enjoy the nice weather and they have several walking trails if a picnic is more your style.

What are your favorite springtime dates that we should add to our list this year? Follow along with us on Instagram at www.instagram.com/thelocalbells

Homemade Croque Madame

Having tried Croque Madame sandwiches in both France and the Be Our Guest restaurant at Disney World, we know that this is one of our favorite savory sandwiches! Awhile back, we decided to see how difficult it would be to make them at home. The recipe turned out to be surprisingly easy, with tracking down Gruyere cheese being the most challenging part! A few weeks ago, we were trying to figure out what to make for breakfast and realized we were inching closer and closer to lunch – the perfect opportunity to whip up some Croque Madames!

Most of the ingredients are ones you probably already have on hand in your kitchen: butter, flour, milk, salt, and eggs. The only other ingredients are Parmesan and Gruyere cheese, thick cut sourdough bread, and sliced ham.

You start off by making the bechamel sauce with the flour, milk, butter, and Parmesan cheese.

While that is finishing, you can start grating your Gruyere cheese and begin prepping your bread on a cookie sheet with ham.

Spread half of the bechamel sauce on top of the ham with half of the Gruyere before adding another slice of bread.

Next step is to toast the bread on a skillet until it is toasted on each side before topping the sandwiches with the remaining bechamel and Gruyere.

The sandwiches go into the oven on broil to melt the cheese and give it a golden brown toast while you finish off the sandwich by frying eggs. We were extra hungry so we did two per sandwich, but one is what the traditional recipe calls for.

Once you pull the sandwiches out of the oven and top them with the fried eggs, it’s time to dig in! One of our favorite brunch items that looks and sounds way more impressive than anyone would guess! Bon Appetit!

To see the full recipe we use, check out: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alexandra-guarnaschelli/croque-madame-sandwich-recipe-1922870

Follow along with us on Instagram to see what we are up to next: www.Instagram.com/TheLocalBells

5 Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad

10 years ago, Grant and I signed up for our school’s spring break European studies trip to Greece and Italy. Fast forward to now, and we are married! Had it not been for that trip, we would have never met and been where we are now. Since that first trip, Grant had the opportunity to go on another European studies trip to Paris, London, and Rome in high school, while I spent 11 weeks traveling and studying in Europe during college. All incredible experiences that we wouldn’t trade for the world! Thinking about studying abroad? Read our 5 reasons why you should definitely take that leap and experience other places.IMG_2670

5. Opportunity to see so many incredible places, often that are planned for you. During all of our study abroad adventures, we were part of a larger group that traveled together over the course of the trip. When it comes to getting reservations at museums like the Louvre or the Vatican, going with a tour group is awesome for getting priority. Traveling to a new country can seem daunting at first, so it was really nice to have a group of people that were in the same boat with you. As you get more familiar with the area, not only do you feel more confident in planning your own excursions during downtime, but you have people to enjoy it with you! Between the two of us, we’ve been to Italy, France, Greece, Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, England, Austria, and Africa.

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The Vatican Museum

4. Experience new cultures, history, and food that is completely different than life back home. When you think about the fact that the United States was formed back in 1776, we really don’t have the rich history, architecture, and culture that you find in most any city in Europe. The Roman Forum dates back to 800 BC by some accounts and many of the original arches, buildings, and ruins are still standing today. It’s absolutely amazing to see these incredible sites that had stood the test of time. While we love to visit the typical tourist attractions like the Colosseum or Eiffel Tower, getting local recommendations on where to get the best gelato or margarita pizza really allow you to see the authentic culture.

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Palace of Versailles in France

3. Learn more about yourself by honing real life skills like having to manage a budget, navigating new cities, and being independent. During my high school study abroad, we had multiple chaperones (thanks, Mom & Dad!) and teachers that did most of the planning and money management. When I studied abroad in college, a lot of that quickly became my own responsibility. Knowing that I had a set budget for the entire summer, I had to figure out my budget by city and how I wanted to allocate it. When gelato and having to use the bathroom cost the same (yes, Europe still charges to use public restrooms in most places!), you have to make that tough call.

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View of Florence from Michelangelo’s Hill

2. You likely won’t ever have the time to travel and experience this much of the world. Now, several years out of college, it’s harder and harder to take time off and budget for long trips out of the country. You don’t realize how precious your time is, and there is no better time to travel and experience the world than when you are young and have limited responsibilities. A lot of college programs also have financial aid options and scholarships for study abroad, which was how I was able to spend those 11 weeks abroad. I had known since high school that I wanted to do this particular program, so I started researching financial aid and scholarship options so that I was prepared. As working adults, we just don’t have the vacation time to travel like we used too, and with international flights costing $1,500+, it’s hard to convince yourself that a 5 day trip would be worth it.

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Mykonos, Greece

1. You never know who you might meet! Grant and I met back in 2008 in Greece and Italy, and my sister actually met her now husband during our study abroad trip to Europe in 2012. For both of those trips, I really didn’t know many people. When you are thrown into a whirlwind adventure, you start making connections with people you might have never met before. It was a great opportunity to build new relationships outside of our friend group. And for some of these friendships and relationships, they have proved to be lifelong.

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Study Abroad 2008

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Study Abroad 2012

So, have we convinced you to consider studying abroad? What is on your list of “must visit” locations? And if anyone comes up with an “working adult” version of study abroad, sign us up!

Follow along on Instagram at www.instagram.com/thelocalbells

“Would You Rather” – The Local Bells Edition

Want to get to know us better? See our answers to some completely random, somewhat difficult “Would You Rather” questions!

Would you rather be completely invisible for one day or be able to fly for one day?

M: Flying for sure! I don’t really see a reason why I would want to be invisible, and it would be incredible to be able to fly! Maybe I’d finally get over my fear of heights too!

G: I would for sure fly for one day, I’ve always hated sitting in traffic.

Would you rather unlimited sushi or unlimited tacos for life?

M: Definitely sushi, especially if it was free! There are so many awesome combinations of fish, so I feel like it would be hard to get sick of it too quickly. Don’t get me wrong – tacos are delicious too, but long term I feel like it would be the healthier option to go with the sushi.

G: Tacos. No question about it. There are so many different thing you can put into a taco and always change it up.

Would you rather get one free international round trip plane ticket every year or be able to fly domestic anytime free?

M: Hmmm…this is a tough one. I think I would choose the one where I could fly domestic free anytime so that I could visit more places. But there are also so many international places I want to visit! With my current work vacation time in mind, the international option might be the best option, but with unlimited vacation time, the domestic option wins for sure.

G: I would have to go with fly domestic anytime for free. I feel I would venture to a lot more new places and it would fit into my normal life schedule pretty easily with being able to take trips on the weekends.

Would you rather have all green traffic lights as you approach or never have to wait in line again?

M: As much as I hate traffic and red lights, I have to go with never having to wait in lines again solely thinking about our love for theme parks. If we had perpetual Fast Passes for Space Mountain and never had to wait in line at Starbucks again, that would be absolutely amazing! Where can I sign up?

G: Easy, ever wait in line again. Being able to walk right on to the Hulk at Islands of Adventure or go straight to the front of the long concession line at football games would be an incredible advantage.

Would you rather talk like Yoda or breathe like Darth Vadar?

M: I feel like there is really one right answer for this one – talk like an incredible Jedi Master or sound like you are breathing through a scuba regulator every minute? Speak like Yoda I must choose.

G: Considering Yoda is one of the best characters in the whole franchise? Yoda for sure!

How would you answer these tough questions? Share with us in the comments! Be sure to follow along with us on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/thelocalbells

Sushi Making Class – Everything You Need to Know

Meagan here to tell you all about our awesome sushi making experience at the Cooking School at Irwin Street! Grant gave me the class as a Christmas present, and we finally had the opportunity to book a class. One of our goals as a couple in 2018 was to cook at home and together as much as possible. We’ve made pretty good on that so far, though we sometimes get in a rut of making the same things every week. We were really excited to try something new at cooking class and settled on sushi making – something neither of us have done before. But since we love eating sushi, we figured it would be the perfect class for us!

Living in Alpharetta, we typically only venture ITP for work or special events. We quickly remembered why we love suburbia life when there was no parking at the cooking school and Grant had to put his parallel parking skills into action. Luckily, it turned out to be a nice day, so the short walk wasn’t bad. The Cooking School at Irwin Street is located in the Irwin Street Market, right down the street to Krog Street Market and the Beltline.

We waited in the market for class to begin, then were brought back to the kitchen by Chef Mihoko. Other than us, there were only another 9 people, which made it great to follow along with the Chef’s instructions and ask questions along the way. Each pair was given their own station complete with all the prepped ingredients. We had sushi rice, nori (seaweed), fresh salmon, crab, shrimp, avocado, peppers, cucumber, and asparagus.

The Chef showed us first how to make the “inside out roll” with the rice on the outside, as opposed to the traditional method with the nori outside. We started by placing our nori on the bamboo mat (covered in plastic wrap to prevent any sticking), then spreading a thin layer of rice across it. TLB Tip: Make sure to dip your fingers in water before ever touching the sushi rice – this is very sticky rice and you’ll end up with more of it stuck to your hands then to the nori! Once you get an even layer of rice, you flip the nori and rice layer over and can start adding your fresh ingredients for the center of your roll.

After placing the ingredients about an inch away from the edge, then slowly rolling it up with the bamboo mat. Once it’s completely rolled, you use the bamboo mat to squeeze it a little more to make sure everything is locked in. Then voila! You have a perfect California roll!

Once we made our California rolls, we had the chance to do whatever we wanted. The whole process is fun and relatively easy once you get the hang of it! You do realize that less rice is more – it goes a lot further than you think. Grant and I each made our second roll, then realized we didn’t have much rice left to do anymore. Luckily, the wonderful Chef shared some of her rice (and salmon) with us so we could make one more!

From instruction to eating, the class took less than an hour and a half. We had no idea how simple it was to make your own sushi and it was delicious when we got to enjoy our own creations! TLB Tip: Most classes are BYOB (with the exception of their knife skills classes), so it would be the perfect date night or activity with a group of friends.

After class ended, the ice cream shop that shares space with the cooking school gave everyone a free scoop of ice cream! Needless to say, we were absolutely stuffed afterwards! We ended our adventure with a short walk down the Beltline, mainly looking for cute puppies.

We are really excited to put our new skills to the test! Next stop for us will be the Buford Farmers Market or H Mart to get all of our sushi making ingredients. We would highly recommend the Cooking School at Irwin Street and will be keeping an eye on their future classes. TLB Tip: They sometimes offer a Groupon which can be a substantial savings! However, classes book up quickly and not all are eligible for the Groupon offer. (New to Groupon? Sign up here!)

Hope you all check out the classes they offer on their website: https://www.irwinstreetcooks.com/ We had an awesome time, and you realize how fun it is to try something completely new. When was the last time you did something for the first time?

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