Friday, March 28, 2014

Sunshine Award - Thanks Waffling Blog!

Casey over at Waffling was kind enough to nominate me for The Sunshine Award. It is given to a blogger that "brightens your day." Casey, you certainly brighten mine!

I'm taking a break from regular scheduled programming to complete this task, which is sort of like a chain letter or email that you then pass on. Casey asked me the following questions, and then I'm supposed to pose new ones of my own to different bloggers who brighten MY day!

Here we go!

1. Cheeseburger or hot dog?
Cheeseburger - only the homemade variety that come straight from the farm to my dad's grill.

2. What is the best vacation you ever took and why?
A tie between Ireland last summer and San Diego Fun Fest 2007.

3. Do you work outside of blogging and if so, why do you do (don't need specifics, I ain't looking to stalk you)?
Yes, I work at an educational non-profit.

4. What is your opinion on socks?
Love them!

5. Do you like Pina Coladas? Getting caught in the rain?
"Yes, I like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain
I'm not much into health food, I am into champagne
I've got to meet you by tomorrow noon, and cut through all this red tape
At a bar called O'Malley's, where we'll plan our escape"

6. Have you ever tried something way out of your comfort zone? How did it go?
Yes, it usually goes 50% well and 50% horribly.

7. Favorite restaurant? What do you usually order?
Whitey's Ice Cream store. I order Graham Central Station. It is amaz-a-balls!

8. Are you a dog person or a cat person? (or an iguana person?)
I love both cats and dogs!

9. What are you craving right at this moment?
Now that I mentioned it above, Graham Central Station!

10. How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man?
"The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind. The answer is blowin' in the wind."

Now to pose the questions to a blogger! I would like Misty at Everyday Lady to answer the following:

1. If you could go anywhere right now, where would you go?
2. If you could have one super power, what would it be?
3. Do you have a favorite show?
4. If you weren't a full-time mom/blogger/teacher at home, what would you want to be doing?
5. What do you miss the most about our hometown? :)
6. What part of Outlander are you most looking forward to seeing on screen this summer?!
7. What's your least favorite food?
8. Ocean or lake?
9. What's your favorite part about being a mom?
10. What's your LEAST favorite part about being a mom?!

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Closet Improvements

Little by little, I'm making improvements to my closet. A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon these navy blue baskets at TJ Maxx:

A perfect find, it turns out! I already had a theme of navy blue and green going in the closet anyway, so this was a welcome addition.

The fun part about decorating and organizing my closet is that it has really come together over a period of time longer than any other room. The first part of the color theme to emerge was when I bought the hamper liners from the Container Store well over a year ago. I remember standing in the store for a good 10 minutes looking at colors. I knew I'd be able to see the liners, so I didn't want to regret my choice later on. I ended up going with the navy blue/green ones because I knew I had a lot of blue, but I also knew that I didn't have any green anywhere in apartment decorations. I thought I might as well change that!

I went a few more months without doing anything to the closet and it looked pretty forlorn. Then I purchased new curtains for the living room, which left me with a perfect navy blue curtain panel to use as a "door" over the shelves in the closet. They match the hamper liners perfectly!

The closet went untouched again for about 6 months, then I purchased a new stand for my entryway, which allowed me to repurpose this black stand as a shelf in the closet:

About a month after that my parents were in town for a visit and we went to Michael's (I just found one that is metro-accessible. I fear for my finances now! So many craft projects, so little money/time). There, I found these different-sized green baskets:

And now, another few months after finding the green baskets, I found the navy ones! These random finds have helped my closet go from this:

To this:

My closet is still a work in progress, but it is much improved!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Precious! (New Bike!)

Invoking Golum for this one, because I'm so excited about my new bike!

I spent a solid day going to three different bike shops, waiting until I found the perfect fit. This was it! My bike is a Schwinn Searcher and it was even on sale! I had a budget of no more than $500 for the bike, not including accessories. The total for the bike was $350. Score! I had $600 saved for the total bike purchase, figuring that it would cost around $100 to get some basic accessories. I totally under budgeted for the accessories, which means it was a good thing that I saved as much as I did.

I determined that I needed five key items in addition to the bike itself:
1. Women's seat (soooo much more comfortable than the standard seat)
2. Bell
3. Rack
4. Panniers (aka saddlebags)
5. Tire pump

The bell, rack, and panniers are mandatory for commuting to work in the city. In addition to these items, I already had a helmet and clip-on light from when I owned a bike a few years ago (it got stolen, but these items weren't on the bike at the time, thankfully!).

In the future I might go back and have some fenders installed, and perhaps grab a pair of gloves. Otherwise, I'm pretty set with equipment and clothing.

I'm looking forward to starting my daily commute to work!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Preparing for a Financial Windfall - Revisited

Last May, I wrote about financial windfalls. I did a little exercise where I determined how I would allocate a sudden influx of money. Back then, I still had $12k in student loan debt. Now that I'm debt-free, my financial goals are wide-open. So what if I were to come into a financial windfall now, post-debt? Here's how I would handle each of the following windfall ranges:

1. Get emergency fund up to 6 months of expenses ~ $7k
2. Take a trip to a country I've never been to ~$2-3k

1. Get emergency fund up to 6 months of expenses ~$7k
2. Take a trip to a country I've never been to ~2-3k
3. Invest the rest (Max out Roth IRA and start a Traditional IRA) ~$11k
4. Start a "house fund" - money for when I want to buy my own place - $3k

1. Get emergency fund up to 6 months of expenses ~$7k
2. Take a trip to a country I've never been to ~2-3k
3. Invest the rest (Max out Roth IRA and start a Traditional IRA) ~$11k
4. Start a "house fund" - money for when I want to buy my own place - $29k

1. Get emergency fund up to 6 months of expenses ~$7k
2. Take a trip to a country I've never been to ~2-3k
3. Invest the rest (Max out Roth IRA and start a Traditional IRA) ~$11k
4. Start a "house fund" - money for when I want to buy my own place - $79k

100k and above
1. Get emergency fund up to 6 months of expenses ~$7k
2. Take a trip to a country I've never been to ~2-3k
3. Invest the rest (Max out Roth IRA and start a Traditional IRA) ~$11k
4. Buy a house or condo with cash!~ $200k

The rest is pie in the sky!
5. Put half of the remaining amount towards helping my parents
6. Contribute the rest to charity. Ideas: Give a loan via; Gift an endowment to my alma mater; Set up a study abroad or language scholarship at my high school; Donate to a local nursing home, assisted living, or hospice.

Now that I've paid off my debt, the answers really haven't changed that much from when I did this exercise almost a year ago. I care about building up my emergency fund and building my assets, both by socking away money in my investments and by purchasing a home of some kind. Any excess would go to helping my family and to charity.

Again, I'm not splurging on fancy cars or high-end clothes. I did make room for a vacation to a different country. And if I'm completely honest with myself, I'd probably take $500 of a windfall and buy a new lens for my camera!

It has been fun to revisit this concept of a windfall now that I'm out of debt. It seems like the possibilities are so much more fun now!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

DIY Army Vest

In my effort to minimize my wardrobe and re-use pieces I already have, I've pretty much been following Putting Me Together's recommendations. One of the items I love in her collection is the army vest.

As you saw in last Tuesday's post, I went on a little shopping trip a few weeks ago and I purchased several items that greatly enhanced the versatility of my wardrobe. One of the items I couldn't find, though, was the army vest.

When I got home from the shopping spree (aka only 3 hours of actual shopping - I can't stomach more than that!), I was sorting through my "give away" pile of clothes I had cleared out of my closet. In the pile, I found a shirt that looked exactly like an army vest, but it had sleeves. I knew I had this piece, but when I put it in the "give away" pile, I didn't think of how I could turn this into the army vest I needed.

As I'm sifting through the pile, a light bulb went off in my head. I had the amazing idea that I could turn a shirt like this...

Old Navy

...into a vest like this!
Old Navy

In my excitement, I didn't even bother taking a picture of the actual shirt before I started ripping out seams. I went directly for the sewing kit, got my seam ripper, and went to town on the sleeves! After a good 30 minutes of ripping, I ended up with this amazing vest:

I was so proud of myself for thinking to make the item I wanted instead of buying it new. Yay for repurposing!

Speaking of repurposing, I recently tore up a stained white tank-top and made it into dish towels. Not as exciting, obviously, but still fun to get the most out of your stuff!

What have been your latest "light bulb" moments? Any repurposing tricks/tips?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Best of the Blogosphere: 03/15/14 Edition

Every Saturday 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: Shout-out to my friend who runs the blog Everyday Lady. She won a Versalette challenge! Her daughter is also the cutest mini-me on the planet!

Best Financial: Punch Debt in the Face has seriously blown my mind with this post. Check out the awesome gains he's made in his retirement. Proof that everyone should contribute to a 401k/403b plan!

Best DIY: Anything MacGIRLver DIY's is amazing. Here is her latest.

Best Before & After: This family room goes from out-of-date to modern after a simple fix - painting the fireplace wall! Via Apartment Therapy.

Best Random: If you are like me and you find tiny houses fascinating, prepare to spend an hour of your life on the Blu Homes website configuring your own (fantasy!) home.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Apartment Deco Update - New Photographs

It seems like it has been a while since I've had anything truly apartment-related to post. So finally, an update!

I printed the three photos I took in Ireland last summer and framed them into one large frame that holds three 8x10 photographs. Here is where I've decided to hang the frame:

With the added pictures, my dining room now looks like this:

All I have to say is - my poor herbs! They didn't do so well. I'm hoping it is just due to the weather and not because the light isn't good enough there. Hopefully, they thrive when it gets nicer. Or maybe the project will turn out to be a bust!

Any suggestions for growing herbs indoors in mason jars?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Items for Remixable Wardrobe

A few weeks ago, I took a much-needed half-day off from work. I spent my free time that day walking around town and stopping in at various clothing stores. Shopping, in my opinion, must be for a purpose. I'm not a window shopper at all, so my purpose this time was to find a few new items of clothing that would greatly enhance my wardrobe, while making my items more mixable in the process. My goal is to have fewer items, but more items that work together.

With that in mind, I picked up the following pieces:
Ann Taylor Loft
The Gap - similar item
Ann Taylor Loft - similar items

Here are some examples of how I can integrate these new purchases into my wardrobe, using already-owned items:

1. Green bird dress. You may remember this dress from a post a few weeks back. Additions - jean jacket and braided belt.

2. Dark skinny jeans. Also featured a few weeks ago. Additions - chambray shirt and gray sweater.

3. Favorite green top. Same post as the others. Additions - jean jacket and white jeans. I bought the jeans circa 2008!

4. And how about a little summer outfit to get me dreaming about warmer weather! The chambray shirt pairs well with navy blue shorts and a pink tank top, both bought several years ago.
I'm very happy with my new items! I already enjoy picking out an outfit in the morning more than I did a month ago. Having fewer clothes but more versatile choices is helping, that's for sure! The only thing left on the "to-buy" list is a beige or brown blazer to go over some dresses. I'm keeping my eyes peeled!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March is Bike Month!

March is the month I've been anticipating since late last fall - I've finally saved up enough money to buy a bike! Woo hoo!

Three years ago my bike got stolen, and since then, I've been bike-less. Waiting so long to buy a new one was intentional, for the most part. One, I was scared my bike would get stolen again. Two, I didn't have an ideal place to store a bike. Back when I had one, I kept it in my bedroom. I was in grad school and living with a roommate then, so I had a bit more space to store it at the time.

Three years on, however, I'm in a much better situation and feel confident enough to buy a new bike. I live in a building that has bike storage in the underground parking lot, plus I have secure storage at work. And just to make sure my bike doesn't get stolen this time around, I'm buying one of these bad-ass contraptions:

The Bike Rack
My bike budget is $500 max. I'm really hoping for something more in the $450 range. Here are a few I'm looking at:
Public - $299

The Bike Rack - $400

The Bike Rack - $410
I'm really excited to start riding my bike to work every day. I have a 2.5 mile commute each way, which is a perfect distance for biking. It will shorten my morning commute since I won't have to wait for the bus or be stuck in traffic. I will also get exercise twice a day without having to trek it to the pool or pay for a yoga class. This bike will more than pay for itself over time!

In addition to the bike itself, I've put aside another $100 to purchase the above u-lock and a few other accessories, such as this grocery bag:
The Bike Rack 

I'll probably also put on some fenders and get a rain jacket, necessities for the all-weather commuter, which I hope to become!

Got any tips for bike commuting in the city? Have a bike you love? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Clothes & Closet Update

Phew - the last two weeks have been rough! This is a busy time of year for me at work, hence the lack of blog posts lately! I have several updates to share, the first of which is about my closet.

I went through all of my clothes and decided I really had too much. See what I mean?

After removing every item sifting through all of it, I'm down to 75 items from well over 100.

This is my closet now:

It may not look less cluttered, but believe me, it is! I can see my clothes much better now. There is more room, which means they aren't bunching up and getting wrinkled.

Soon I'll have an update on some new pieces I purchased to round out my wardrobe. The new items I bought actually allow me to have more options, but still have less clothes than before.