Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tune in to Renovation Realities this Saturday!

Anna and I during graduate school
My friend, Anna, and her boyfriend, Matt, are going to be on the DIY Network show Renovation Realities this weekend. More info on their episode here. They have an old 19th century house that they are renovating and this show follows them as they remodel the kitchen. I hear their dog, Norman, is going to be a big part of the show. When it filmed he was a puppy - so there are bound to be lots of shenanigans!

Anna and Matt are so cool - if the producers give them a bad edit, then take it from me that they are awesome!

Tune in at 9:00 pm EST on Saturday, March 2

By the way, Anna is the friend that gave me the calendar that I turned in to art for my kitchen. 

Would you ever take part in a home improvement show?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Being Away = No Time to Play

I've been out of town for about a week for work, which means I haven't had the chance to take on any new projects for my apartment. But being away doesn't mean I haven't been dreaming of projects! Here's a preview of a few things I want to get to this spring.

1. Spray paint wicker baskets

There are many examples of this on the web, including here and here. Seems simple enough, so I am going to give it a try on a few baskets I have. I'm planning on going with something similar to this:
Blueblood via Sherwin Williams
2. Spruce up plastic drawers

Aren't these just ugly and boring?


Thanks to Pinterest, I have an idea on how to make these more appealing:

3. Work on bedroom accents

In January I blogged about my decision to use emerald green as the accent color in my bedroom:

Needless to say, this project hasn't taken off. I still need to decide which pillows to buy!
That's enough to keep me busy for the next month or two, I think. I'm sure I'll have more ideas along the way and I'll share them as I go.

Are there any projects you haven't had time to get to? What do you have planned for home-related projects for the spring?

Friday, February 22, 2013

On Hiatus Part 2: Best of the Blogosphere

Best of the Blogosphere is on temporary hiatus while I am traveling for work. I will be back to writing this feature next week. Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Goals for Life Post-Student Loan Debt

Via Student Loan Crisis
A little while ago, I came across another blog that asked the question, “What are your financial goals for when you are debt-free?”

Wow. What a question. I hadn’t even thought about that. I know I have other goals that will need money, such as more traveling, owning a home, having a family, and being able to donate more to charity. But I don’t have any kind of concrete plan. If I start thinking about all the things I WANT to do with my money instead of paying this debt, then I get angry. I think “Ugh, this monthly payment of $500 could get me a plane ticket to California/be contributed to my retirement/donated to a good cause.” Instead, this money is going to the U.S. Department of Education. That’s fine and all, I got a great education out of these loans. But could this just hurry up please? I did really well in 2012, paying off around $19,000 in loans. Just even looking at that number astonishes me. That is an INSANE number!

I’m very proud of myself, obviously. I’ve worked REALLY hard for it. I’ve been working two jobs for a year now and have put every extra penny towards debt repayment. Birthday money, side income, you name it and it has gone towards my debt. So what I’m saying is I’m tired. I’m tired of sending my money to the debtors. I want to “make it rain” as they say. I want my money to work FOR me. Yes, I know I’m getting a great return-on-investment right now. I’m paying off loans and getting closer to being debt-free. But I’m tired.

I’m going to let myself think ahead a bit, to a few years down the road when I am no longer in debt. What would I like to do with my money?

  1. Build my emergency fund. I currently have about two months of expenses saved.I’d like to get that to six months. I’ll feel more comfortable knowing that I could pay six months of rent instead of two if something bad happened, such as illness or job loss. Having a two-month cushion is more than I had a few years ago, so I recognize I’ve taken an important first step to secure myself, but I know I need to do more.
  2. Contribute the maximum to my Roth IRA. I checked my yearly contributions for the past five years and it has been abysmal. At my best I contributed $1,000. At my worst - $550. After building up my emergency fund to six month’s worth of funds, my next goal will be to get this number up to $5,000 a year.
  3. Give myself the freedom to do a few more nice. This means allowing myself to take yoga classes again. I like doing yoga at home, but I love having an instructor. I also want to get more massages. I’ve currently limited myself to no yoga classes and only two massages a year. I’d like to bump that up to one yoga class a week and 4-5 massages a year.
  4. Start saving for a home. I don’t plan on buying any time soon, but I want to buy eventually. If I never marry, I want a modest, two-bedroom bungalow that could accommodate a kid if I decide to have one anyway. If I do end up getting married, then I’ll just be ahead of the game and have a bit saved to contribute to our first home together.

If you have debt, what are your goals for when you are no longer in debt?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fifty Deco: January 2013 Recap

These Are Things
It’s time for the January installment of Fifty Deco. In this segment I feature the item(s) I purchased the previous month (on a $50 budget) for apartment decoration, organization, and miscellaneous DIY. I’ll tell you why I bought what I did, where I got it, and what I paid for it. I’ll also showcase the items in future blog posts so you can see the item(s) in use.

January Finds:

  • A print of my home state via These Are Things = $39.35 w/shipping
  • Print of a photo I took in Israel = $9.60
Total = $48.95
Leftover = $1.05

I also had to dip a bit into my savings in January in order to get some more pictures printed and framed for when my dad visited and helped me hang pictures. But with other items for my apartment, I stayed under the $50 minimum.

I've framed both of these and they are now hanging in my apartment. You can see one of them here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

On Hiatus: Best of the Blogosphere

Best of the Blogosphere is on temporary hiatus while I am traveling for work. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words (or Dollars!)

Yesterday something I saw made me very excited. It happened when I logged in to my federal student loan account. This is where my graduate loans are housed. You see, something happened that I have been waiting for:

I owe less than $1,000 on my graduate loans. A major hurdle has been crossed. Light at the end of the tunnel beckons! Once I pay off this loan, I only have one more to go. This year I paid over $2,000 in interest on my graduate loans and nearly $20,000 on the principal. In the very foreseeable future, I will no longer have to pay one cent to the federal government for my graduate education. Hallelujah!  So let's all collectively pat me on the back :) I also encourage you to scrounge up a little for any extra payment you can make towards your loans. All of those little extra payments are what got me to the point where I can finally say "less than $1,000 to go!" On one loan, at least!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Cork in the Craft

Over the weekend I finally got around to a DIY project I had been thinking about for ages: making a small table runner out of wine corks. The process was fun and super-cheap. Just how I like it!

Let's start with where the runner will go - my dining table. The table has been a catch-all for things lately, and as the folder on the table says, there was a bunch of CRAP strewn all about when I started this project:

A partial solution to this problem of corralling my stuff is to create an area on the table where I can set some of my important items that I use every day, such as my keys and bus pass. I wanted something that wouldn't take up too much space, but that would serve as a landing strip for these essential items. A while back I discovered tutorial on how to DIY a wine cork table runner. The following tutorial is based on these from The Full Moxie and the Crafty Nest.

Step 1 - Assemble items. You'll need:

  • wine corks (I used 70)
  • cutting board
  • sharp knife
  • shelf liner paper
  • glue gun and glue (I used 4 sticks)
  • gridded cutting mat

Step 2 - Cut wine corks in half:

I learned a valuable lesson from step two. A sharp kitchen knife is NOT sharp enough to cut through corks. Use a utility knife like this one from Home Depot. Be very, very careful when cutting. It takes time and patience to cut through all of these corks. Don't let yourself get distracted or you might find that sharp knife going through your fingers. Seriously, be careful!

After a lot of muscle, you'll have a bunch of halved wine corks. I ended up with 140 halves.

Step 3 - Cut the shelf liner paper to your desired size: 

I chose to go with the size of my gridded cutting mat. It was exactly the size I had in mind and it was easy to cut with the mat as an outline.

Step 4 - Place the halved corks on the shelf liner paper:

At this stage you'll notice that you won't be able to get the edges to line up exactly. It bothered me a bit at first, but by the time I finished the project I hardly noticed that some of the corks didn't all line up perfectly.

Step 5 - Glue the corks to the shelf liner paper:

I recommend putting newspaper down to protect your surface from glue. The glue gun likes to drip little wisps of glue and I wasn't about to let it ruin my dining table! You'll also notice that I have used the cutting mat underneath the shelf liner paper. I discovered that without the mat underneath, the newspaper and shelf liner together created a bit of an unsteady surface. The cutting mat helped with that.

Step 6 - Cut away excess shelf liner paper:

And that's it! It doesn't take long for the hot glue to dry. I moved my finished runner off the cutting mat after about 15 minutes. Here is the final result!
My keys and bus pass now have a home in the blue bowl!

So pretty! Much improved from the messy tabletop!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 2/8/2013 Edition

Every Friday I feature a blog post in the following categories: Simple Living, Financial, DIY, Before & After, and Random. Here are this week's picks:

Best Simple Living: I hate desktop creep! As much as I try to clear my desktop, I never manage to get it down to the level I want it to. This week Unclutterer explores how to keep your desktop nice and tidy.

Best Financial: I continue to travel as cheaply as possible, something I learned to do when I studied abroad. Hostels, budget airlines, and grocery shopping instead of eating out were some of my tricks! Get Rich Slowly features a whole list of ways to travel for less.

Best DIY: I've seen this around other blogs before: how to add some flare to your medicine cabinet via Apartment Therapy.
Best Before & After: I love it when a room gets a good brightening up! From Ordinary House.

Best Random: How depressing. Those with BA degrees make as much now as those with MA degrees? Via

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Quotes in the Kitchen

I mentioned on Monday that I have another wall in my kitchen to show y'all. Between my refrigerator and counter I have a fairly large white wall. It is extremely dull:

Luckily, I had an idea. It all started with a calendar a friend gave me last year. When I received the 2012 Quotable Calendar, I was going through a bit of a rough time. Every month, I looked forward to turning over the page to find a new, inspirational quote. I liked some of them so much that I decided to keep them. Since some of them reference food or breakfast, I decided the kitchen would be a perfect place to hang a series of these quotes.
At the beginning of 2013, I cut out my six favorite calendar images and framed them at the Washington Framer's Workroom, my go-to place for framing. When my dad was here a few weeks ago, he helped me hang them (actually, he did all the work!). So here you have it, six awesome quotes on my kitchen wall:

Of course, I have to include close-ups!
If you've been following my blog for the last month, you probably noticed that the majority of my time has been spent decorating the kitchen. Time to turn to other parts of my apartment!
Do you like any of the quotes I framed? Is there a special item you have turned into a piece of art in your home?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Seeing Red: Kitchen Upgrades

When I moved in to my new apartment last November, my kitchen counter looked unorganized and boring:

Looking at this picture, it is obvious that the wall is dull and uninspiring. It needs some color! I also needed to get some of my kitchen items off of the counter top. Well, I came up with a solution that would solve both of these problems! Hang the red items on the wall, thus adding color AND making room on the counter top.

You can see in the picture that my cutting board has a hole for hanging, as does the trivet (the round, red object sitting on the counter).

Now that I had an idea, I had to execute it. To accomplish this project I had to get out my drill, screws, and anchors. The wall is plaster, which means the regular hammer/nail combination is pretty daunting. With plaster walls, my dad taught me that using screws and anchors is a good way to secure your item. Plaster tends to chip, and weak nails usually buckle when you try to hammer them in. The screws and anchors I used are similar to this product from Home Depot. 

After a lot of muscle (plaster walls are hard to break into, even with a drill!), I managed to get the cutting board and trivet up on the wall:

Ahh...clean, colorful, and clutterless!

I also received a new utensil holder for Christmas:

My kitchen is looking pretty awesome these days - I even have another wall of goodness to show you. But that will have to wait until another day!

One last thing - I don't know how to organize my spices better so it doesn't look so cluttered. Any ideas?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Best of the Blogosphere: 2/1/13 Edition

Every Friday I feature a blog post in the following categories: Simple Living, Financial, DIY, Before & After, and Random. Here are this week's picks:

Best Simple Living: I don't have kids yet, but I thought of my mother when I saw this post from Unclutter about getting rid of children's toys. She has tubs and tubs of my toys stored away. Keep a few that are important - donate the rest!

Best Financial: It is such an inspiration to read stories of other people tackling their debt. EmJay at Get Rich Slowly talks about how 2012 was "The Year We Slayed our Debt."

Best DIY: I love lavender. Here is a simple DIY linen spray from Design Sponge.
Best Before & After: Another post from Design Sponge - this time it is a laundry room turned into a bathroom. How awesome is that exposed brick wall?!

Best Random: Another shout-out to Casey at Waffling! She speaks so many truths about living alone, I just had to reblog it!