Monday, January 30, 2012

I swear, I'm not bald

...but sometimes when I wear my hair up, it looks like I am. And I usually don't even notice it until I edit and post my blog pics from that day. Oops.

shirt: Old Navy
cardi, shoes, belt: Target
slacks: New York & Company
necklace: DIYed

I can't believe it's Monday already. I hardly had a weekend at all, I was so busy. Friday night I went down to OU, which was great because I got to see some old college friends and my sister. Saturday I spent the whole day speaking on panels and listening to lectures for Senior Saturday, which is a program that the journalism school at my alma mater does for seniors who are about to graduate. It was really great, actually; I got to talk about my professional life for the year and a half since I graduated, which has been interesting to say the least.

Then Sunday I spent the whole day catching up (or trying to) on freelance work. Gotta love procrastination.

Speaking of, don't be surprised if I'm a little quiet on the blog this week. It's deadline week for my freelance stuff, and my day job is sure to be unbelievably hectic. Oh, well. At least when you're busy, time flies fast; this stress will be over before I know it, I bet.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fiscal Fridays: Random budgeting tips

Well, no one wrote in with questions about taxes. And since I don't really consider myself an "expert," I'm not going to sit here and walk you through the huge process of filing them. I will say this: if you just have simple return (regular W2, even if it's more than one of them), use TurboTax's online filing system. It's super easy, and it's free. But don't use them for state taxes; it costs extra and if you do it online through your state's website, that's free as well. It's a little more complicated, but I was still able to do it last year without any problems. And if I can do it, well, anyone can :)

Since I didn't have anything else else prepared for today, I'm just gonna throw you a random link. Apartment Therapy posted this pretty cool piece a while back about 100% realistic budgeting. Honestly, I've covered a lot of this stuff before, but I'm so wordy, and this version is so concise, I thought it'd be fun to share.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

January sponsor post: Raych of Marriage by Design

Wow, is it the end of January already? I suppose time flies when you're having fun so busy that you sometimes forget to eat. Anyway, it's time for my monthly sponsor feature. Today I present to you, Raych of Marriage by Design. I love Raych's writing style—a little random, a little flow-of-consciousness, a little silly—remind me of me, haha. And girl has some serious style, of course!

Toldja. That dress! Those tights! I seriously want to steal this whole outfit.

Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi! I’m Rachel but everyone calls me Raych. I have a Husband who travels to crazy parts of the world for work and two puppies that won’t leave my side. We just moved from a Texas sized house in Houston to a closet sized apartment in Manhattan. Best decision ever.

When did you start blogging? What inspired you to start a personal style blog?
I started blogging when we put an offer in on our first house. The blog first started as a home décor blog but morphed into an “everything” blog pretty quickly. There was more I wanted to talk about. So now I blog about whatever floats my boat! The blog name was a struggle. I wanted something that didn’t pigeon hole me into a particular topic (I have no attention span). Husband mentioned ___ by design. I liked the by design part but couldn’t think of anything to fill the blank. I think marriage ended up in the blank because there was already a ‘Rachel by Design’ out there. Pretty boring story actually.

Favorite thing about the blogosphere?
I love all the inspiration and ideas that come from reading blogs. Especially now with Pinterest, I can just pin all the great ideas instead of accumulating a billion bookmarks. I also like how easy it is to communicate with other bloggers and make bloggy friends.

Least favorite?
People can get catty really quickly. Thankfully, I haven’t been the victim of the drive by snarky comment, but I’ve seen other bloggers get torn down. It makes me sad when I see crap like that. There’s enough room on the Internet for all of us.

What are your favorite stores to shop at?
My favorite stores for clothes are mostly vintage shops in Omaha: Scout Dry Goods, Flying Worm, and Second Chance. The larger chain stores I love are H&M, J. Crew, and Target. I also buy a lot online mostly from Etsy, Gilt, and Rue La La.

Say your closet was being made over, What-Not-To-Wear-Style, and you only got to keep one item of clothing. What would you pick and why?
the one thing I would keep in my closet would be the vintage white dress [pictured below]. Its my absolute favorite thrifting find.

Any advice to new bloggers out there?
Blog because you want to blog not because you want to become super well known or make it a career. People can smell lack of passion a mile away. Do what you want to do, write about what you want to write about and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Thanks, Raych! If you want to be featured in my monthly sponsor post, check out the "Sponsors" tab above for details!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I heart stripes

If there is one fashion trend (can you call something so timeless a "trend"?) that I've always loved, it's stripes. Horizontal stripes. I don't know why, but I've always been drawn to them. So when I went to H&M to use the gift card that Matt's sister gave me for Christmas, it's no wonder that I came home with this little beauty. I'm a little bit obsessed with this shirt.

(This is my "high fashion" face. It's ridiculous. And I kinda love it, haha.)

shirt and bracelet: H&M
skinnies: Forever 21
necklace: The Limited
boots: Old Navy (gift from my mom)
lipstick: Cover Girl in Rich

I've talked about these boots before too, right? When I first got them, I was a little stumped on how to wear them. I've never had boots this tall before, and the color wasn't quite what I was expecting (they're a little lighter of a gray than how they look in these pics). But honestly, they're now my favorite pair of boots. I wear them more than all my others combined!

And you know, I never used to like gold, either. It's making a bit of a comeback, and while I still definitely prefer silver-toned jewelry, a little gold once in a while is a nice way to mix things up.

In fact, I'd even go so far as to say this outfit might just become my new winter fall-back. It's crazy comfortable, warm, and not to mention it's pretty dang stylish. A win-win-win, if you ask me.

Do you have any items (or general trends) that you were initially unsure about, that are now a major part of your working wardrobe?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Appreciating the little things

Last week seemed to drag on forever, between the million different things that were (are) stressing me out. But Friday night, when Matt came home from work, we went out for dinner. And as we were driving, I happened to see into someone's front window, a blanket fort. So of course I started going on and on about how much fun they were when I was a kid, and wouldn't it be fun to build a fort that night? And Matt said, why not? So we did. We built a dang fort out of couch cushions and pillows and blankets and watched movies in it all Friday night. And for one evening, I forgot about everything that was bothering me. I couldn't stop smiling. Best boyfriend ever? I think so.

polo: Target
sweater: Aeropostale, years ago
jeans: Guess via Macy's
shoes: Buckle

Apparently, this is what my face looks like at the end of the work day, when all the makeup's rubbed off. Note to self: touch up makeup before any other evening photo shoots.

Anyway, the rest of the weekend was a bit crazy, I think. Saturday we cleaned all morning, then I hosted a Pampered Chef party with my cousin. (Thanks everyone who came! It was so fun!) And Saturday night, I had my first-ever victory at Trivial Pursuit, haha. Want an instant ego boost to your brain? Win Trivial Pursuit. Sunday night I met my mom halfway between Columbus and my family's town, to get a space heater they weren't using anymore. Because this house is freezing cold, but Matt is mysteriously unaffected. Hello, lower gas bill!

What did you do all weekend?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fiscal Fridays: Taxes (duhn duhn duuuuuuhnnnnn!)

Ah, tis the season for taxes. At least, it is if you live in America. Canadian you guys have an annual tax season? Is it lame enough to make you want to quit working forever and live off the land so you don't have to worry about whether you owe the government money? Cause we do. And I know I'm not the only one who feels that way.

(Those are supposed to be devil horns. Cut me some slack, I made this in like two minutes, haha.)

Anyway, some years the IRS has been my friend. My senior year, I got a student tax credit that resulted in my receiving nearly two grand back. This year, I'll probably owe Uncle Sam at least $1,500, if not more. Thank god I worked all those extra hours in my third job last fall, right? I can pay it, but it'll take all my savings. The Financial Diet is about to get a whole lot stricter, unfortunately.

Last year, I learned how to do my own taxes, thanks to some help from TurboTax and my dad. And I had a slightly complicated situation: something like three or four W2s, plus two 1099-MISCs for freelance jobs. Plus a partial-year student credit. This year will be just as bad: two W2s, a 1099-MISC, plus some itemized deductions and separate forms for 401(k) and HSA stuff. My head's spinning already.

Now, I'm no tax professional, but I consider myself to be pretty good with the basics. I even helped Matt file his taxes last year! So I'm opening up the floor. If you have any questions about your W2, or even your freelance stuff and the 1099-MISC, ask away and I'll answer next week. You can ask in the comments below, or email me.

Official disclaimer: I am not a CPA or a professional tax preparer. If you have serious or complicated questions, check with someone who makes their living doing this. I'm just here to share what I've learned through preparing my own taxes and through some basic research.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This post is the epitome of random.

I've been avoiding posting these photos, for some reason. I don't really like the way this sweater hangs on me, I think. It was a little bigger when I bought it at the thrift store for $2...then I washed it and laid it out to dry. Apparently, clothes can shrink even if you don't put them in the dryer.

sweater: thrifted
skinnies: The Limited
belt, shoes: Target

There was a third photo to this set, but as I was uploading it, I decided it looked downright weird. Strange facial expression, weird hand/arm placement, the works. And while the mere concept of fashion blogging is goofy—oh hey, let's all take photos of our clothes!—I'm not about to make it any goofier with my awkwardness ;)

And can I just say, I am soooo ready for this weekend? It won't be nearly as relaxed as last weekend, but I have a to-do list a mile long and I'm really looking forward to two days in which to accomplish everything on it. Looks like we better stock up on coffee...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Where am I?

Today I'm guest posting over at Enter Kelly! Click over to see how I take one outfit from day (the office on casual Friday) to night (going to a comedy show with some friends).

I'm also taking care of my poor post-op kitty. She's so miserable, it just about breaks my heart.

Post-op kitty

Understandably, the cone makes her angry at me. See how she won't look at me? Poor baby.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The sweater-vest

Can you call this a sweater-vest? I'm going to go ahead and say yes, simply for lack of a better word. I've had this thing for years, not even sure where it came from. I'm pretty sad about it, because there's a hole growing on the shoulder from my being dumb enough to hang it on a hanger for a while. Oops. You live and learn, I suppose. For now, I can just cover the hole with the cowl ;)

sweater-vest: don't remember
shirt: Old Navy
jeggings: Burlington Coat Factory
boots: Target

Short post today guys. I'm off to take Spazzy to the vet to get her...ahem...lady-parts taken care of. Fun times.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Back to it

The worst part about my weekend? The fact that it ended, haha. It was such a chill, laid-back, do-nothing kind of weekend, and it was perfect. Matt and I watched a few movies, laid around on the couch, got brunch on Sunday and had an awesome pot roast dinner Sunday night with our upstairs neighbors. I totally forgot to take pictures of the food though, which is a shame cause it's a great blog recipe. Looks like I'll just have to make it again ;)

I did manage to get some work done, and we did get groceries, but altogether it was an entirely relaxed weekend. And I really, really needed that!

shirt, blazer: thrifted
jeans: Guess via Macy's
shoes: Target
necklaces: The Limited

As I was taking these photos after work, I realized I should have worn a necklace with this outfit. I think I like the one on the right better...but they do both look nice. Oh, well. Not like it makes much difference now, right?

I'd also like to apologize for my cat's hiney in that first picture. Now that it's cold (and I'm a total wimp), I'm doing most of my outfit shots inside. And Spazzy is a lot like a dog, especially in the fact that she doesn't like to be by herself and will follow you from room to room. Expect to see a lot more of her until the weather warms up!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Food Fridays: Fast and Easy Pickles

First, a disclaimer on this recipe: I still haven't quite perfected it. I found it in a copy of Everyday Food, and the first time I made it, the pickles were too sweet for my taste. I like 'em garlicky and dilly. So this time, I cut the sugar, but forgot to add the garlic, so they're still not quite where I'd like them to be. But if you like slightly sweet dill pickles, you'll love this recipe!

You will need:
- 1-2 regular sized cucumbers
- coarse salt (I use kosher, but I guess sea salt would work too)
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used 1 cup last time I made this)
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- 2 to 4 small red chiles (optional; I don't use 'em)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 1/2 cups fresh dill, stems removed

Slice the cukes into thin discs; I used my food processor with the slicing attachment because I can't get enough of the thing, but a mandolin or even a knife will work just fine. Lay a paper tower over a baking sheet, and cover it in one layer of cucumber slices. Sprinkle liberally with coarse salt, then lay another paper towel over top. If you still have slices left, just spread them out over the top paper towel, until all the cukes have been salted and covered. Let stand for about 15 minutes, then pat dry.

Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, sugar, 2 more teaspoons of coarse salt, the mustard seed, the celery seed, the chiles and the turmeric in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve all of the sugar and salt. WARNING: This process is kind of stinky. I mean, light-a-candle-and-open-a-window stinky. It doesn't bother me anymore, but the first time, I was kind of taken aback.

While the mixture is boiling, arrange the dill and the cucumber slices in a jar or jars. I use a tall Tupperware-style plastic container and it works just fine. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the cukes, making sure to cover them completely. Seal the lid tightly and refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours. The recipe says they keep for a week, but honestly, I picked at the last batch before two weeks before I finally decided I probably wouldn't eat them all and tossed the rest.

So, if you make this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, shoot me an email, shout at me on Twitter or comment on my Facebook page. I wanna know how you tweaked this recipe, if you did, and whether you liked it!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

That's better

Well, it looks like the worst of whatever had me down yesterday is over. Still feeling a bit blah, but at least I know I'll make it through the entire workday, unlike yesterday when I left at 11:30. Blech. I hate being sick.

But you know what I don't hate? You guys! (Terrible segue, I know.) But seriously, you guys rock. Comments on my Monday blah post and my yesterday blah post really made me smile. And, without going into too much personal/professional detail, I need all the smiles I can get! So thank you. Truly.

shirt and cardi: Old Navy
skirt: thrifted
shoes: Target
necklace: Canal Street in NYC

So I just noticed my cat creepin' in that first picture. She's a little stinker for sure. Thanks for the photobomb, Spazzcat!

Let's see, what else is going on? We're supposed to get our first real snow of the season tomorrow (previously, we got about an inch, if that). Which, for Ohio, is just absurd. Though I have to admit, I've been just fine with the warmer weather lately. What can I say? Guess I'm truly a southern girl at heart. Give me a skirt-without-tights Christmas over a white Christmas any year :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blerg. (An accurate description of me today)

Well, it's safe to say that I'm feeling kind of terrible today. I don't know if it's the flu, or if I ate something that didn't agree with me, or what. All I know is I'm struggling to pull myself together for work today. And since a looming deadline kept me from posting yesterday, I thought I'd just check in with some fun Pinterest pins. Because after all...

So. Here's what I'm pinning lately.

Source: via Emma on Pinterest

Source: via Emma on Pinterest

Oh man. I wish I had some fairy godmother who gave me money for clothes shopping on a whim. Because I need to recreate just about all of these outfits. And the nails, though I might be able to do that on my own. I'm also loving this gallery wall...what a unique take on it!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday already?

You know what's super annoying? When you spend all week planning to be productive on the weekend, but exhaustion and other commitments completely prevent you from getting almost anything done. Guess who that happened to this weekend. It's almost tempting enough to consider using a PTO day this week, but I only have so many of them and I have about a billion weddings coming up in the fall, so I want to try to save them for when I will really want to use them!

shirt: thrifted
slacks: New York & Company
scarf: The Limited
pumps: Franco Sarto via Marshall's

You know, I'm actually a firm believer that sometimes, you just have to take care of yourself first. Maybe my history of panic attacks is what makes me really force myself (not that it often takes much convincing) to have at least one day a week in which I don't do anything at all. I really think that's what helps me keep my sanity most of the time. When you're as busy as I am, having one day a week where you're not working from 9 am until 9 pm is really a pretty luxurious and incredible thing.

Oh, who knows. I'll probably be kicking myself tonight after work, when I'm trying to catch up on all the things I should have done this weekend. But that's the other thing that having panic attacks has taught me: There's no use worrying about the future if you can't do anything to change it now. So stop worrying, and cross that bridge when you come to it.

This really isn't the direction I saw this post going today. Oops. And oh well :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Food Fridays: Tomato Orzo Soup

A quick recipe today, because I overslept (again) and have to run out the door in a minute. Hey, I've been up late every night this week working. Don't judge my inability to get out of bed by Friday morning :)

- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups tomato juice
- pinch of dried oregano
- 1/2 cup orzo pasta
- salt and pepper
- feta cheese (optional)
- dill (optional)

I got this recipe from Food Network Magazine or Every Day with Rachael Ray. I can't remember. I think it must not be a Ray-Ray recipe, since there are only a handful of ingredients. Anyway.

Start by bringing the chicken broth and tomato juice to a boil. Add the oregano. (I like to throw in a dash of dried basil as well, but that's just me.)

Add the orzo—if you're not familiar with orzo, it's just regular pasta that's shaped like longish grains of rice, carried by most grocery stores—and stir occasionally, so the orzo won't stick to the bottom of the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until the pasta's tender, I think around 15 minutes or so, but check the package to be sure.

Top with a bit of feta and dill, if you like. I'm not a fan of feta, so I usually top it with Parmesan or mozzarella and dill instead. Serve hot and enjoy! (Don't you just love easy, one-pot meals? I know I do.)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pioneer lady

I don't know why, but this outfit kind of made me feel like a pioneer woman. Maybe it's the midi-skirt-and-boots combo. Maybe it's the brown and gray palette. Who knows. I'm not even sure if I like this outfit all that much, but I figured I'd post it and get some feedback.

shirt: old, possibly thrifted?
skirt, belt: Spotted Moth
boots: Target
necklace: The Limited
bracelet: Forever 21

Meh. I'm not crazy about this one, I guess. I think the only reason I decided not to delete these photos is because my hair looked pretty nice, haha. Oh well. They can't all be winners, right?

Oh, and one more thing. Notice that giant new Shabby Apple ad in the right sidebar there? Yeah, they're having a sweet 20% off sale ALL MONTH. Just enter the code NEWYEAR at checkout to get 20% off your whole purchase (minus the Side Saddle line). Just make sure you click over to their site using one of the buttons on the right of that page. Cause then I get paid, haha. Kthanks :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Holy cow, a nighttime post!

This might be the first time I ever posted at night, haha. But I need a break from cranking out all my freelance writing...between today and Friday at 7 pm, I have to crank out about 8,000 words. I have about 2,000 down. Not bad. But I wanted to write about something other than Mac external hard drives for a little bit, and I still have New Year's Eve photos to post, so...

dress: New York & Company, last year
tights: Target
pumps, clutch: thrifted
broach: came with a NY&Co shirt
bracelets: don't remember
hoop earrings: gift from Emily

Matt and I, just before midnight.

I look nervous in that first picture because, well, I was. Turquoise tights. TURQUOISE tights, people!! This is unprecedented. I know it's a bit lame, since I've been doing the style blogging thing for nine months now, but I truly never would have worn an outfit like this one in December of 2010. In fact, I bought this dress for NYE 2010, couldn't figure out how I wanted to wear it, and promptly forgot to return it. This dress sat in my closet, tags on, for a full year! The fashion sacrilege. Now, I think it might be one of my favorite dresses. (It's kind of hard to tell, but it's got this chiffon-like fabric ruffled all down the front. Very pretty.)

In fact, this outfit throws into sharp focus just how much has changed for me in the past year. Some of the big things have remained the same, of course—Matt, and my job—but so many other details have changed. We moved into our first house (okay, we're still renting, but it's a house!) and got a spastic kitty. (Who I love dearly.) I went on a Financial Diet, saved more than $1,000, and got on a solid plan to get out of debt. I worked three jobs for a time; something I never thought I'd have the determination or energy to do, but somehow managed anyway. And I started this blog.

I'm not one for resolutions, but I've been trying to improve my life, health and well-being in general these past few months, so I'm going to continue with that. I'd like to go down to just working one job, but I'll do what I have to do, to get where I want to get. And I'm going to keep up with this blog; something I wasn't really sure I'd be able to do when I first started it.

Sorry for the rather long post. I get this way when I start reflecting and whatnot. Anyway, here's to a bright, productive, blessed and happy 2012...for all of us.

Belated holiday outfits

So my life is finally starting to resemble something close to normal again. That's good. This weekend seemed a lot longer than last, even though they were both three-day affairs. Maybe because I wasn't travelling across half the state and was actually able to get some things done. Go figure.

This includes re-shooting the holiday outfits that I never took pictures of, out of forgetfulness or sheer exhaustion. You'll know the reshoots because I'm not wearing makeup and my hair is wavy in all its air-dried glory ;)

shirt: old, don't remember; vest: New York & Company; skinnies: Forever 21; belt, boots: Target
#1, worn to a Christmas party thrown by my friend Allory and her boyfriend a few days before the holiday.

credits: see here
#2, worn to dinner with Matt's parents, his sister and her fiancé on Christmas Eve eve. Yes, I pretty much repeated this outfit from early December...only I swapped the necklace for a belt under the cardi. What can I say? I love this outfit.

sweater tunic: old, don't remember; skinnies, bracelet: Forever 21; flats: Target
#3, worn at Christmas Eve with my immediate family, and that evening with Matt's dad's side of the family.

shirt: thrifted; skinnies: Forever 21; boots: Old Navy, Christmas gift from my mom; necklace: The Limited; bracelet: Forever 21
Reshoot of #4, worn Christmas day with Matt's mom's side of the family and that evening with my mom's side of the family. Doesn't my mom have great taste? Loving these boots she got me :)

shirt: Old Navy; skirt: The Limited; necklace: Forever 21; tights: Target; booties: Burlington Coat Factory
Reshoot of #5, worn the Tuesday after Christmas at my dad's family's party, where we talked about my blog for a while and I felt awkward because I always forget that people I know in real life sometimes read this thing. Which is kinda funny. (Hi Luke. Lol.)

So there it is! I have a ton of 2011 outfits left to post, including my stepping-outside-my-fashion-comfort-zone New Year's Eve dress. Kind of excited to show you guys that one. But for now, I'm running a bit late for work. Of course. Ta ta!