Monday, April 30, 2012

Bloggers Take the Town - April!

Well folks, it's that time again...time to link up your going-out outfits to Bloggers Take the Town! Remember, you can link up here, or over at Take Me For A Twirl, and your blog link will appear on both pages! And feel free to grab a button while you're here!



Friday, April 27, 2012

Fiscal Fridays: Moving out

I’m really excited to finally have another Fiscal Fridays post for you guys! They’ve been kind of absent lately, but this week I got an actual question from an actual reader. You guys, this pretty much made my day. She actually sent a series of questions, and asked that I not use her name, so I’m going to call her Sarah and answer her questions below in a Q&A format.

Sarah is planning to move out on her own for the very first time, and is trying to prepare financially for the big move. Fortunately, I’ve moved about seven times since I was 18 (thanks to new apartments every year and subleasing in between some leases), and I moved six times when I was living at home with my parents, so I consider myself a semi-pro on the subject.

So without further ado, here’s my advice:

How can I trim my budget to save as much as possible in the next three months?
Because I don’t know the details of Sarah’s current budget, I can only give general feedback on this one. When I had to cut down my budget, I first made a list of all my bills. Rent, electric/gas/water, cell phone, cable, credit cards, insurance, etc. Then, I made a list of the other things I spend money on, like groceries, gas for my car, dining out, entertainment, clothes, etc. Next, I looked at all the money I spent on a monthly basis and determined what was essential and what wasn’t. Rent? That’s pretty essential. Cable? Going to the movies with friends? Not so much. So be cruel. Cut out absolutely everything that isn’t completely vital. Every dollar counts. That coffee and bagel you get every morning before work? Cutting it out could save you as much as $100 a month!


I do suggest allowing yourself to spend a very small amount of money each week on whatever you want. (I.E., the Financial Diet method.) This gives you a little outlet to blow off some steam, so to speak, while still saving a lot of money. If you’re really serious about saving a lot of money quickly, you’ll want to eliminate even this small spending pool.

I’m hoping to have around $2,000 saved up by the time I move out. Will that be enough?
There are several points to make here. First, I try to never “hope” when it comes to budgeting. I try to plan as meticulously as possible, using only certainties. That way, I don’t end up in a panic when I wind up saving a little less than planned because of an unforeseen expense or a lapse in determination to save.


For the sake of argument, let’s say Sarah does succeed in saving an even $2,000 by the time she moves out. Again, without knowing any of the details of her situation, I would say that this should be enough money as long as she has a job lined up in her new city. Moving is expensive, and moving out on your own for the first time is even more so. You’ll have to pay for things like the moving truck/van rental, boxes (unless you’re able to scavenge some), other packing supplies like mailing tape and bubble wrap, the deposit and maybe even first months’ rent for your new place, etc. In addition, there are often deposits needed for utilities like electric, water and gas in your new place. And there are always—and I do mean always—unforseen expenses that you should be prepared for.

Do your research. Find out how much rent costs in your new town, and if you have a place picked out, figure out what the move-in cost will be. I’ve always used Uhaul to transport my stuff when moving, but there may be a more affordable option in your area. If your utilities aren’t included in your rent, call the companies to find out what startup fees you’ll need to pay. Plan it all out now, so you can be prepared in three months when moving day arrives.

Also consider furniture. I’m not saying you have to go out and buy a brand-new living room suite, but you will probably need the basics. Ask family members if they have anything they’d like to get rid of. Check out thrift stores and consignment stores (but check to make sure they fumigate items first—no one likes bed bugs). If you must buy something brand new, stick with affordable stores like Target, Ikea, Walmart, etc. Yes, it will be cheaply made and probably not last as long, but now is not the time to buy investment pieces. Your first apartment will have the worst furniture you’ve ever owned in your life. End of story. Essential pieces to look for: a bed or futon, a dresser, a full-length mirror, a couch or chair, somewhere to eat (whether it’s a coffee table for in front of your couch or an actual kitchen table), a desk or laptop table and possibly a TV and stand. Everyone’s needs vary. Know what yours are.

Finally, a huge unexpected expense is house sundries. You’ll need to buy cleaning supplies, laundry supplies, groceries (including basics like flour and sugar), dishes, small appliances, towels…everything that you take for granted in your parents’ house. Again, go for the bare minimum for now. Some Clorox wipes, dish soap, Windex, OxyClean, a Swiffer broom/mop combo, shower cleaner and toilet bowl brush/cleaner should be sufficient. Maybe a Magic Eraser or two. Head to Aldi or another inexpensive, off-brand grocery store for your pantry basics. Thrift stores also tend to have tons of kitchen goods—dishes, appliances, pots and pans—for really inexpensive prices. Again, if you’re buying anything new, head to Target, Walmart or Ikea. You don’t need anything to match or look pretty, you just need it to work.

Do you have any general advice for moving away from home for the first time?
I’d just say that it’s all about preparation. Knowing what you’ll need to buy right away verses what you can do without for a few months. I’d also say that you should never, EVER move out of your parents’ house if you don’t have a job lined up. It’s a lot harder to ask for money if you’re living under a different roof, I’ve found. Plus, it would just be awful if you got moved out and ran out of money after just a few months, then had to move back in.


As far as packing goes, use small boxes for heavier items like books and large boxes for lighter items like pillows and blankets. Wrap anything delicate or breakable in bubble wrap or newspaper. And keep like items together: Don’t pack kitchen items in with your bedroom items. Also, I like to pack all of my cleaning supplies in one box and load them in last, so they’re easily accessible. New apartments usually need a once-over before you start unpacking.

Also, don’t go out and buy a ton of organizational stuff, extra furniture, décor, etc. for your apartment right away. Live in the space for a while to figure out what works and what doesn’t, so you don’t waste money on things you don’t need.

It’s important though to make your new place feel like home. Again, head to the thrift store for inexpensive art, or check out Pinterest for easy and affordable DIY projects. (Check out my board here for some ideas!) Stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s also usually have some great, inexpensive home décor items.

Finally, moving away for the first time can be scary. It’s easy to feel homesick, especially if you don’t have friends who already live in your new area. Know that those feelings will pass, and you’ll soon find it hard to believe that you ever missed living at home! If you’re in a completely new city and don’t know anyone, change that! Go out and socialize. Grab drinks or lunch with your coworkers. Chat with your neighbors. Some cities have social media sites designed to help people network and connect. Columbus, for example, has Cbusr. Having friends will make the transition into a new city much easier.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. Have a question about moving or other financial topics? Email me at verbal.melange@gmail.com.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Girls' night

I wore this last week for a mini girls' night with my friend Allory. We caught up over margaritas at this great place in the Short North. I'd been looking for an oversized men's shirt for a while, and finally found this shirt at a thrift store a month or so ago for a dollar. Score!

Another score? My success at re-dyeing these pants. That's right, I bit the bullet! I used a box of black RIT dye and our washing machine to color these pants one of the upstairs neighbors' shirts. I was super nervous; I love these pants, and didn't want to ruin Kate's shirt, and we don't exactly own our washing machine (hooray for rentals), so there was a lot at stake here. But it turned out beautifully! The clothes look great, and a few "test" cycles of the washer using some crappy old towels got the machine clean enough to not stain our other clothes. Win.



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shirt: thrifted
pants: The Limited
shoes and hair clip: Target
necklace: H&M
bracelet: Forever 21


Oh, and speaking of going out for girls' night (circling wayyyyy back here), guess what's coming up. It's Bloggers Take the Town! That's right...don't forget to come back here or to Take Me for a Twirl on Monday to link up your going-out outfits!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Schedules and botched DIY

As I type this, it is 9 pm on Tuesday night. I can barely keep my eyes open, as I've been starting at a computer practically nonstop for more than 12 hours today. Because for some reason, I decided that keeping two low-key freelance gigs going would be a good idea. And for the most part, it really is. But not when they have deadlines on the same day, during my first week at the new job.

I'm a girl of schedules. I like planned routines. I like order. I've had none of these things this week, and it's wearing me the heck out! Of course, deadline day is tomorrow, and I sent off one of the projects tonight, so I just have to whip up 500 words before 7 pm tomorrow for the other project. Thank god for telecommuting and time zones, amiright?

Okay, enough crazy person rambling. Here are some before-and-after shots of some drawer fronts I made. I'm not doing a tutorial, because the whole thing is pretty janky. Thankfully, you can't see just how sloppy this project is unless you open the drawers...so I'm the only one who knows the extent of this project's dirty secret!


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Basically, I started with a Cubeicals unit from Target, with three of the matching fabric drawers. But Spazzcat, the little brat that she is, decided that the drawers would be her own personal scratching posts. At night. And it wasn't quiet. She actually would manage to pull the bottom drawer open with her claws, then proceed to yank out every single cami I own and spread them throughout the house. Something had to be done.


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I basically took some pieces of particle board, painted them, attached some cute drawer pulls from Lowe's and nailed them to the front of the fabric bins. There are some crosspieces on the inside of the drawers to keep the board front stable (and so the nails wouldn't eventually rip through the fabric), and they're pretty ugly. I'll probably wind up repainting the fronts as well, but that's a story for a different day.

So. We've all botched DIY projects, I'm sure. What have you screwed up? Were you able to save face at least on the outside, like with these drawers?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

First world problems

Ah, well, I survived the first day. And actually, it was pretty great; I think I'm going to get along really well with my coworkers. I had a few snafus with the bus—not quite knowing how to activate my month-long pass and waiting at the wrong stop for half an hour at the end of the day—but I made it to work on time, and I guess that's all that really matters.

Riding the bus made me feel a bit like a little kid again; unsure of myself and a little embarrassed at my own hesitation. I suppose this qualifies as a first world problem, since I've had access to a car of my own pretty consistently since I learned to drive.


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shirt, heels: thrifted
vest: Forever 21
slacks: New York & Company
necklace and earrings: InPink.com giveaway win from The Daybook
bracelet: don't remember
lipstick: Cover Girl in Rich


Other first world problems I've been experiencing lately? My phone. When I first started buying Android phones, I thought they were the greatest things ever. I was wrong. They constantly have software problems, and after less than two years with my current Droid 2, I'm experiencing some major function-disrupting issues. I'm in the market for a used/older model iPhone (3G, perhaps?) to tide me over until I can upgrade to a new iPhone in January. Anyone looking to sell their old Verizon or unlocked iPhone? Or does anyone know how to unlock an AT&T one?

And because this is a style blog, I'd be remiss if I didn't lament the first-world problem of my lack of a between-season coat. I have my heavy, I'm-ready-to-go-skiing-in-the-Alps down coat, and my light, it's 60-degrees-and-a-bit-breezy trench coats. But nothing in between. What I really need is a nice pea coat, maybe in houndstooth or a fun color like purple or green, but I'm pretty sure I've missed the sales on coats like that. And ordering online isn't an option, as I'm built like an angular, top-heavy hourglass: disproportionately broad shoulders, a teeny waist and virtually no hips to speak of. Le sigh.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Firsts and lasts

So Sunday night, I go to write and schedule a post to go up this morning. Because I'm starting my new job today (eep!) and don't want to risk missing my bus because I'm busy blogging. Which is totally something I would do. Anyway, I was completely startled to see Blogger's new format. It's very...interesting. Other Blogger users out there, what do you think?

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shirt: Old Navy
vest, necklace: thrifted
jeans: Guess via Macy's
flats: Target
bracelets: gifted and don't remember

So this is my last long-hair photo. It's also the outfit I wore to my last day of work at the magazine. Not gonna lie, smiling for these photos was pretty rough...I only had these two out of about a dozen that turned out decent. It was a really great job, and I'm going to miss it and my coworkers (especially them) very much. But at the same time, I'm so excited for my first day at the new job, too! It's going to be great :)

In other news, I just started reading The Bloggess' book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened. It is so. Freaking. Hysterical. Thank you, Jenny Lawson, for existing. You are a true entertainer.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

In which Emma experiences still more DIY setbacks

I'm beginning to think I'm not really the best person for DIY projects. I get fantastic ideas, but I get too excited and dive head-first into them without proper research and planning. And they usually don't turn out as awesome in real life as they were in my head. Of course, if the walls in my house were straight, and the corners were proper 90 degree corners, diving into projects might work out a little better.

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blazer, skinnies, heels: thrifted
tank: The Limited

Growing up, my dad built a lot of things. So you'd think that DIYing and building and all of that jazz would be in my blood. To this day, I still can hear him lecturing to "measure twice, cut once." Too bad he never said "measure twice, hammer once" or something like that...my wall would probably have a lot fewer holes in it :)

On an unrelated note...can you BELIEVE how blue the sky is in that top photo? And other than a nudge of white balance, that photo is not retouched. Gorg.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Live and learn

Today, I learned a major lesson about painting a wall. Always, always, ALWAYS paint a test patch first and let it dry. Completely. Because if you don't, you will spend an hour meticulously prepping, taping and painting a section of wall. And then you could hate it. Which is pretty much what happened to me today.

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shirt: Old Navy
polo: Target
skirt: thrifted
flats: Payless
necklace: Forever 21

So now, I have a neon yellow built-in shelving unit in my bedroom. The paint chip looked softer. The paint in the can looked softer. The paint on the wall? Not so much. Thankfully, it's a small(ish) unit, so a quart of paint will more than cover it. But still. How annoying, right?

Ah, well. At least now I know. Plus, I have two more days this week, plus the weekend, to fix it ;)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Better late than never

Since I'm essentially on vacation this week (last day at the old job was Friday, first day at the new job is Monday), I've had an interesting start to the week. Yesterday, I spent quite a bit of time at the mall and Goodwill, scouring the racks for some wardrobe boosters, as the new job has a stricter dress code than the old one. Found a ton of good pieces, too :) And then today, I started a few DIY projects that I'll continue this week (and then post about, I'm sure).

Of course, I've been spending a good chunk of my vacation time doing absolutely nothing, too. So between the doing nothing and the shopping and the DIYing, I kind of forgot to post today. But I really want to get all my old, long-haired photos out of my cache so I can start posting new-haircut photos! Yay!

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shirt: Old Navy
collared shirt: New York & Company
skinnies: thrifted
flats: Target
necklace: The Limited
bracelets: gifted and fundraiser sale

This was one of my favorite outfits of late. And it was pretty much a complete accident, which is my favorite way to come up with an outfit. Days like the morning that I wore this are the days that make me really glad I have a fashion blog. Which may sound kind of weird, I guess, but it's true.

Hm. Usually, I'd be going to bed around this hour. But since I don't have anywhere to be tomorrow, I think I'll stay up and watch a movie. Ah, vacation. Awesome.

Monday, April 16, 2012

New beginnings

Well, they say that when it rains, it pours. And while I suppose that saying is meant to refer to negative things, it's certainly applicable to positive changes in my case today. The most noticeable here at VM is, of course, the site redesign. My friend Kathryn came over last night and in a matter of just a couple hours, took my "I have no idea what I want, but I want something new" and turned it into the gorgeous graphics you see here today. She's totally available for remote hire, too, if you want your blog redesigned! You can check out other examples of her work at kathrynchamberlain.com, and you can contact her through that site as well.

The next noticeable thing (at least, if you follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook) is my new 'do! I finally sucked it up and made the leap into pixie cut, thanks in part to the great support and positive words of you guys here on the blog. And you know? I. Love. It. Seriously, best decision ever. I have a handful of long-hair outfit posts that I have to put up before I can get into short-hair posts, but here are a few pics to tide ya over ;) Just don't judge the lack of makeup. I was excited.

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shirt: H&M
necklace: DIYed

I got it cut at Nurtur the Salon here in Columbus. They're an Aveda salon, and I just have to mention a sweet event they have going on tomorrow. See, Aveda salons participate in Earth Month, and this year they're partnering with Sierra Club. This month, tips to staff (and at the checkout counter) go to Sierra club, and there are a bunch of fundraising events as well. Tomorrow, the event is Beauty for the Earth, where guests can receive shampoo styles, haircuts or facials for $20 each, and all of the proceeds go to Sierra Club. I initially was going to do my short 'do tomorrow, but I had to reschedule. Thinking about calling to get a celebratory facial instead ;) What do I have to celebrate, you ask? Well, that might be the best news of all....

I got a start date for my new job!!! After nearly three months of waiting, this is literally the absolute best thing that could happen to me right now. I start next Monday. And since my last day at the magazine was Friday, that means this week is like a little "spring break" so to speak. Only instead of going to Florida or Mexico, I'll be shopping for new clothes (the dress code at the new job is a little more formal). Let thrift-a-thon 2012 begin!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Food Fridays: Baked mac & cheese

This is, without a doubt, one of my absolute favorite recipes. It's easy, it's DELICIOUS, and it's something of a family recipe. Since there's no real secret, and I've added my own personal touches to the original recipe, I've decided to share it in all its cheesy, bacony, mouthwatering goodness.

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Ingredients:
- about half a box of elbow macaroni (rotini, rigatoni or bowtie pasta would probably work well too)
- a bread-bowl-sized roll of sourdough bread
- 4-5 strips of bacon
- about 1/2 to 2/3 cup cottage cheese
- about 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 egg
- 16-oz package of shredded cheese...I like to use a three-cheddar blend


As with most of my recipes, nothing about this is an exact science. That's what makes it fun! So let's get started.

First, bring water to a boil in a large pot and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a separate pan, start cooking the bacon. When the water is boiling, add a good dash of salt and the noodles of your choice and cook until just past al dente. (You want them to be pretty soft, since they're going in the oven.) When they're cooked, drain and return to the pot, off-heat.

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Meanwhile, cook the bacon to a nice crisp that will be easy to crumble into pieces. Also meanwhile, rip the sourdough bread into small chunks and throw, a few pieces at a time, into a food processor. Pulse until you have very fine breadcrumbs. You'll have WAY more than you need, but that's okay because you can freeze them and use them for other recipes later. Way to plan ahead!

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Okay, so the noodles are already cooked and drained. You now want to do the same with the bacon—lay 'em on a few layers of paper towel, cover with another paper towel and press gently to remove the extra grease. Let cool.

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While the bacon is cooling, use a wooden or plastic spoon to mix the sour cream, cottage cheese and egg into the noodles. Make sure the egg yolk gets broken and thoroughly mixed in. Then, mix in about half of the bag of shredded cheese.

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Spray a baking pan (I think mine is appx. 9"x13"?) with cooking spray, then spread about half of the noodle mixture into the pan. Sprinkle with a little layer of shredded cheese. Spread the rest of the noodles over that. Crumble the bacon into little pieces over that, then cover the whole thing with the remaining shredded cheese. Remember, there is no such thing as too much cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, for about 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted. Then uncover, sprinkle with the breadcrumbs (betcha forgot about those delicious morsels) and bake uncovered for about another 15 minutes, or until the crumbs are all nice and toasty. Try not to eat the entire pan in one sitting...because this also makes a great next-day leftovers meal!

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Oh man. I die.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fashion woes

We all have had those items...the ones we love so much, and wear so often, that we literally wear them to pieces. Today, I realized that I'm facing such a problem with one of my top 10 closet items: my black skinnies. They're structurally intact (thanks, The Limited, for making quality clothes!), but they've been washed half to death and are somewhat faded. Or a lot faded. Exhibit A:

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This what the pants looked like around the time I first bought them. This photo is from July.



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These photos were taken in February (top) and March (bottom). See anything different?

So I've decided to take what is, in my mind, the ultimate risk. I'm going to dye my pants black. I've decided to use RIT dye, as I've seen a number of tutorials on dyeing clothes with that, and now just have to decide on a method: giant metal tub on the stovetop, or washing machine. I'm leaning toward washing machine, but I'm kind of nervous about residual dye that might ruin the next load of laundry that Matt or I do.

Have you ever used RIT to dye your clothes? Any tips? What method did you use?

(P.S. If you're looking for the "where I bought this" citations for the photos, just click the image and it'll take you to the original post.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nostalgia

Because I like to keep a cache of outfit photos, the outfits I post here are rarely the outfits I wear on a given day. (Exception: When I forget about EBEW or BDIB and wear the theme the day of. Then I have to get up earlier to shoot, edit and post the photos all at once.) Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that because of this cache, I often wind up with an incongruity between the day's weather and the outfit that I post that day.

For example, if I were actually wearing this outfit today, my toes would be the color of my shirt. This was taken during our freak heat wave last month, when temps were hitting record-breaking numbers in the 80s. And today? It's currently just above freezing, and not scheduled to get too much warmer in the afternoon. Boo.


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shirt: secondhand
pants: New York & Company
sandals: Target
tie-worn-as-a-belt: thrifted

In high school, I used to wear ties with T-shirts in an attempt to be somewhat punk. I still maintain that it didn't actually look too bad. So when I saw this tie at Goodwill a while back, I got far too nostalgic and bought it. It's actually pretty cute, and I'm tempted to wear it as an actual tie at some point...I just have to figure out how to make it look not like teenage-me and not like the man-version of me. You gotta love a good challenge!

What about you? Any trends from younger-you days that you want to re-create, but are hesitating on?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Chop chop!

Since my early years of high school, I've toyed with the idea of getting a pixie cut. For nearly 10 years, I've waffled on the decision. Most of my hesitation hinges on the fact that if I hate it, pixies are notoriously hard to grow out. But lately I've been seeing tons of cute cuts on Pinterest, and I think they might have me convinced. Maybe. And when I doubt, I love to get second (or third, or thirtieth) opinions. So here are my faves. Weigh in and tell me what you think!



Source: flickr.com via Emma on Pinterest



Source: google.com via Emma on Pinterest



Source: google.com via Emma on Pinterest









Of course, I need my stylist to weigh in as well, since he knows my hair and what it is/isn't capable of doing better than even I do. But from an aesthetic point only....what do you think? Could I pull any of these off? And more importantly, should I try, or stick with the medium-length hair?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

One year ago

A year ago today, I took the leap with my first blog post on Verbal Mélange. But really, the blog started long before April 2011. I spent months stalking studying others' blogs. Figuring out what I liked. Trying to gain a focus. Designing a logo, which I promptly scrapped for the current design. And ever since, I've been continually evolving this project. So yes, I'm celebrating my one-year bloggiversary today. But VM is far from becoming a static project, with a single set anniversary. Here's to the next year to come :)

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cardi: The Limited
shirt: really, really old...from Alloy maybe?
slacks: thrifted
belt, flats: Target
necklace: Figleaf

EIGHT THINGS I’VE LEARNED THROUGH BLOGGING

1. I can actually dress myself. That is, I’m completely capable of coming up with unique outfits most days (hey, we all do repeats…don’t pretend you’re not guilty). That was honestly one of my biggest worries about starting this blog; that I would run out of inspiration or steam after a few months.

2. How to thrift. A year ago, I would have never, EVER, gone into a thrift store with $7 and been able to leave with the makings of a few different outfits. Now? I think at least a third of my closet is thrifted. Helloooooo, money saved!

3. How to step out of my fashion comfort zone. Before I started blogging, I think I laughed at the colored pants trend. *blush* And honestly, I’m kind of ashamed to admit that. BECAUSE I LOVE MY COLORED PANTS. But really, it all goes back to the “don’t knock it until you try it” idea. And for the most part, I have fully adopted that as a mantra.

4. How to do the above, but still stay true to my personal style. (Because, as eclectic as it is, I do consider myself to have a “personal” sort of style.) There are some trends I simply won’t try. Not because I think they’re stupid (tons of people can pull off color blocking or peplum skirts with absolute grace and flare), but because they’re just not me. There’s a difference between trying new things and pretending to be someone else.

5. How to better manage my finances. I guess you could say blogging about my Financial Diet gave me a certain amount of accountability, even if I didn’t stay entirely true to the cause 100% of the time. Just knowing that other people were aware of what I was trying to do (and in some cases, doing it with me) helped me gain the financial structure that I was never able to obtain before.

6. Photography. I’m by no means an expert, and I still use a point-and-shoot, but look at those first indoor photos from April/May 2011, then look at the ones from this February/March. Dear God, those photos were so awful.

7. Sometimes, the best style bloggers aren’t the “famous” ones. When I started, I only knew the “popular” bloggers like Kendi, Jill, Sydney, Jessica, etc. etc. And while they are all lovely women, I’m sure, and I still read (most of) those blogs every day, I’ve discovered that in some cases, I like the lesser-known bloggers even more than the big-name ones. Which leads me to…

8. The blogging community is so incredible. For real. You guys bring a smile to my face on pretty much a daily basis. And the friendships I’ve established with a few of you is so incredible, and so real, it’s almost unbelievable. And even when I'm just sitting here talking about myself, like I have been with these lists this week, I've been learning about you guys through responses in the comments.

And you know something? I think that's my favorite thing.

P.S. Happy Easter, to those who celebrate it! I'm spending the day with my family, gorging myself silly on my younger siblings' Easter candy. Hey, those kids can't eat it all. I'm helping them...umm...prevent cavities. Yeah ;)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Food Friday and more bloggiversary celebration

It's been AGES since I've done a Food Fridays post. This one is actually pretty basic, but grilling season is upon us so I figured I'd post it. But first, a quick 10 things for the bloggiversary week.

TEN ITEMS FROM MY BUCKET LIST

1. Get married (also: have a family)
2. Buy a house
3. Write a book
4. Own a motorcycle
5. Visit a different country (that’s not Mexico or Canada)
6. See the Northern Lights (also: Grand Canyon, a redwood tree, the Pacific Ocean, Mount Rushmore, various touristy sites in Europe)
7. Be in a friend’s or sibling’s wedding
8. Run a marathon (or at least a half)
9. Fly first class
10. Meet someone famous


And now, the delicious meaty goodness that is one of my favorite meals of all time: Steak and potatoes.

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Of course, we paired it with asparagus because that's one of the few vegetables that I really love. This isn't really so much of a recipe post as a "how we threw this together" post, but those are my favorite kinds of meals anyway. When we grill, Matt always handles the meat and I take care of the sides. Cooking with him is fun :)

We started by cutting the potatoes into bite-size pieces and boiling them in water for about five or ten minutes to partially cook them. Then we drained them, patted them dry, and laid them out on a baking sheet. I drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled with garlic powder, rosemary and thyme, and tossed to cover. Then I threw them in the oven at 350 degrees.

Next, I made the compound butter. It's a really easy and delicious way to dress up a steak a little. I popped the butter in the microwave in five second increments until it was just softened, then mixed in some A1 sauce with a fork. I really wanted to add chives, but alas, we had none. Anyway, then I laid the butter out on some waxed paper and kind of rolled it into a tube shape. I failed to take a photo of this, but I'll probably do a separate post on compound butters someday anyway, so it's okay :) Then I just popped the tube into the freezer.

Next was the asparagus. I always make this the same way: Just trim off the bottom inch or so of the stalks, wash well, dry, and spread out on a baking sheet. I drizzle them with this really fabulous Arbequina olive oil I got at the Giant Eagle Market District, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat. As I popped them into the oven, Matt threw the steaks on the grill and worked his manly grilling magic.

After about 15 minutes, everything was ready! And man oh man, it was so, so delicious.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bloggiversary week continues!

I was driving home from a friend's house last night and I got to thinking about just how dang cheery I was feeling. And how completely miserable I felt last week. And I realized that I never properly thanked everyone who commented on my gloomy posts with words of encouragement. So I would like to officially and heartfelt-ly say thank you. It's kind of silly how kind words from near-strangers (or in some cases, folks who I've never actually met but still consider friends) can mean so much...but I want you all to know that they really do.

Okay, serious moment over. I took these photos last month, when we were in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave. Now we're back to normal early-spring temperatures, and I'm shivering while taking outfit photos in the morning. But for these photos? It was gorgeous.

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shirt, skirt, belt: thrifted
collared undershirt, necklace: New York & Company
shoes: Target

I really need to properly iron this skirt before I wear it again. Anyway. The bloggiversary week continues with more fun facts!

EIGHT CONFESSIONS

1. I am addicted to Mountain Dew. No lie, my Dew habits are borderline disgusting. I drink it every day. (Sometimes twice a day. Wow, that was kind of hard to admit.)

2. I’m a really picky eater. I like to tell people that I am a “super-taster” (yes, they do exist) and that’s why I can’t handle spicy foods. Like, not even a little spicy. Pepperoni sometimes makes my mouth burn. I also can’t stand most vegetables, which is why the side dishes for all of my food posts consist of potatoes, asparagus, corn or a simple salad (and usually, I don’t even enjoy most salads unless they’re drenched in dressing).

3. I still have a bit of a spending problem. I never really wanted to own up to it here, but it’s a rare week that I make it all the way through without going overbudget on my Financial Diet. Some weeks I do stay within my allotted amount, but others I go a teensy bit over. Every once in a great while, I go quite a bit over. I am WAY better than I used to be, yes, but it does still happen. I can’t help it, because…

4. I’m insanely impulsive. And yes, it’s gotten me into trouble on many occasions. The older I get, the easier it is to keep myself in check, but sometimes I just say “screw the consequences” and do whatever-it-is anyway.

5. I curse like a sailor. So really, I don’t say “screw the consequences” as mentioned above, I say…well, you get the picture. Again, I keep it in check on the blog for the sake of professionalism (this thing is on the internet for everyone, including future potential employers, to see), but if you ever meet me in person, prepare your ears for a slew of very un-ladylike language. Unless of course you are my employer or something like that. I know when to keep my tongue in check.

6. I sometimes let depression/anxiety get the best of me. Though this isn’t really so much of a confession, because I wrote about it last week. Oh well. I almost wrote “I’m secretly lazy,” except I’m absolutely not and I hate to be idle. But I’ve suffered from depression/anxiety for nearly 10 years now, and even though I’m no longer on meds (yay!), I still sometimes succumb to it because it’s just plain easier to give in than to make the effort to fight.

7. I daydream constantly. Sometimes it’s goofy things, sometimes it’s sad things, sometimes it’s completely mundane. I play out random little scenarios in my head all the time. I’ve been known to talk to myself on occasion. Sometimes I answer myself.

8. I never thought this blog would make it to the one-year mark. Monotony has never suited me, and I initially assumed that after 12 months, I’d find blogging my daily outfits monotonous. Not so. In fact, it’s become quite the opposite; I fear I’m actually addicted to blogging. I can just see it now, I’ll be doing it as an old lady, when no one is interested in reading my ramblings anymore, just for the sake of getting my thoughts “out there.” I’m guessing I won’t be the only one, at least.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Guess what's coming up!

A while back, I had this great idea that I'd post a week-long series of "things you didn't know about me"-type lists during the week before my one-year bloggiversary. Well, guess what Sunday is (besides Easter). Yup. It's the one-year anniversary of my first blog post. So much for a week of posts. But I can at least do a few days' worth before, and maybe a day or two after :) And don't worry, I'll still do outfit posts all week as well! So without further ado...

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shirt: New York & Company
wrap thingy: Marshall's
skirt, heels: thrifted
necklace: Forever 21

SEVEN RANDOM FACTS
(These were partially taken from a blogger Q&A that was floating around the internet for a bit...then I added some questions of my own.)


1. Paperback or e-book reader?
Six months ago, I would have said paperback all the way. Since I got a Kindle for Christmas, I’ve been doing a lot more e-reading. What I’ve come to find is that e-books are fine for short novels, memoirs, trashy romances, etc. But when it comes to my favorites—from literary greats like East of Eden to pop culture phenomena like the Harry Potter series—I’ll never give up my ability to dogear, doodle in the margins and just plain hold the dang book.


2. Summer or winter?
Summer, dear God, summer. Winter is pretty much the bane of my existence.


3. What is your comfort food?
Ha, I have so many. Anything with a lot of butter or cheese. I love me some fatty diary products.


4. Which fashion trend would you never wear?
Probably Peter Pan collars, peplum skirts or intense color blocking (bright blue with bright green, hot pink with orange, etc).


5. Which is the next place you would like to travel to?
Again, so many! Matt and I have this dream of backpacking through Europe for two or three weeks in lieu of a traditional beachy honeymoon. Of course, I wouldn’t say no to a trip to the Bahamas, either ;)


6. What are your wardrobe staples?
My leopard print flats, for sure. I wear those shoes more days a week than all my other ones combined! Also my Guess jeans, they’re the only ones that fit perfectly. If we’re talking generics, then I’d say striped shirts, skinny jeans, blazers and statement necklaces.


7. Who is your most favorite person in the whole world?
This isn’t even a fair question, because I’m surrounded by so many amazing people. I guess, if I had to choose just ONE, I’d probably say my mom. That woman is my hero. Of course, my dad, siblings and Matt all tie for a VERY close second place!