Monday, September 19, 2011


Today is my birthday.  Which is quite a fun day.  It means I can consume lots of sweets without a second thought, I get mail (I totally love mail!), and I get presents!! Who doesn't love presents?  In addition to the usual indulgences, I also love opportunities for new beginnings.  And what's better than a new year of your life to reflect a bit and set some goals for the future.  Though the day isn't through yet, I did want to start writing some thoughts I have.

The purpose of this blog was to explore how to make my life more inspired.  I wanted the time I spent both earning an income (a.k.a. work) and poking around (a.k.a. hobbies) to be genuinely enjoyable and productive. 

Since moving to Iowa, I have come across much more time than I realized ever existed in Boston.  I work about 1 mile from our apartment, which is a 5 minute car ride or a 8-10 minute bike ride.  My day starts at 7 am when I get up and get ready.  I am at work by 8:20 am and am done working (usually) around 3:00 pm.  So from 3:15 pm until bed (11:00 pm) I have a lot of time. 

Also since moving to Iowa, I have pushed myself to explore new hobbies and creative outlets.  I have tried to following in the footsteps of 1,467,849 blogs by hunting down decorating deals, sewing baby clothes (someone I work with just had a baby), baking galore, and painting furniture.  This constant hunt for some sort of domestic perfection has really helped me realize what things I genuinely enjoy doing versus things that I felt like I HAD to do in pursuit of an ideal. 

Without a doubt I have fallen (back) in love with cooking.  I spend hours per week browsing Pinterest for recipes and keeping track of them for meals in the future.  Nearly every Sunday, I spend 3-4 hours cooking and prepping food for the week.  I roast a whole chicken, make quiches, pancakes, bake sweets, and prep other chicken-based meals.  Hours pass, and I get tired, but love every second of it.  Some of my favorite recipes from Pinterest (that I've cooked!)
Stuffed Salmon with Sriracha Cream Sauce (source)

Buffalo Chicken Bites (source)
Creamy Chicken Taquitos (source)

On the other hand, I reupolstered our office chair.  Maybe one day I'll put photos up of it.  Without a doubt, I love the results.  It went from being an ugly dirty red with a cigarette burn (it was thrifted) to having a light, fun geometric pattern.  But did I enjoy the process? Without a doubt, NO.  It was annoying and I got frustrated very easily.  Tack that onto sewing an applique and ruffles to a onesie-- ugh, I was about done with fabric for a little while.  This doesn't mean I am done with sewing completely, sewing pillows is sooo satisfying, but it does mean that I am not going to pretend I love sewing, when, well, the jury is still out.


Please excuse my rambling.  I don't know whether its the move, this blog (as reflection), or my growing wisdom with age, but I am started to understand myself a little bit more each day.  I know that transformative power that exercise has on my mood and serotonin levels (though I sometime forget and feel like I am living in Mordor).  I know that traveling to new places fulfills me like hardly anyhting else can, so I am going to direct much of my energy into planning and saving for new trips.  I know that I have an incredible partner in life that helps me keep my head on straight. 

BUT! I also know that I'm just too cheap to be the next John and Sherry (sheets, yes just sheets, are like $50! what?!?), too impatient to make crafts like Ashley Ann Cambell (but please let me be able to take photos like her one day), and I will not (nor do I want to dedicate the time to) write as detailed and savvy posts as J.D. Roth, but that's okay.  I need to take myself out of the blogging clouds and be okay with who I am and what I can give myself, my partner, and others in my life. 

Phew! enough ramblings, onto enjoying my day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Keepin' it Real

Whoa, its been awhile since I've posted; I've got to change that.  I have been overcome with allergies.  Yes, all you non-Iowa readers, its allergy season here.  I don't understand, because I've only ever been hit with hayfever in the spring, but its supposed to be one of the worse allergy seasons around. 

So that little tidbit only leads me to my next topic: training for my 5K.  Well, its not going as well as I had hoped, but I am still trucking along.

In addition to sinus-clogging allergies, I was also thrown by having my parents in the area for the last few days.  You can see that I skipped out on Sunday and yesterday for that very reason. 

On the positive side, I have realized two things that will help me train better:
1. I prefer running with an arm band that holds my MP3 player.  I had never tried one before Monday, but really loved it.
2. I prefer running in the dark.  This makes scheduling jogging times more difficult, but on Monday I went out around 8:00 pm and flew through that mile and a half.

Also, when I am not jogging, I will be consuming massive amounts of Ginger Chews:
I'm addicted!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lacing Up

As I mentioned earlier, I have just begun training for a 5K! The school district that I work in is having a Run for the Schools on Sunday October 9th.  The lead teacher in my classroom mentioned running, so another paraeducator and I thought it would be fun to run too.  There are 5K walk/run, 10k, and half marathon options.  Seeing that I am not a runner, and haven't run over 1.5 miles since the last time I ran a 5K (June 2010), I thought it would be good to start with a manageable and achievable goal.  I am happy to say that I ran my first mile today as I gear up for my training. 

Being as uptight as I am (about these things), I, of course, made a spreadsheet for the whole shebang.  I took a look at the calendar (and my sweaty, snotty face -- after only 1 mile) and a 5K training guide from Runner's World to make a goal sheet.  Runner's World guide only has you running 3 times a week and starts you right off at 1.5 miles.  I knew that this wasn't realistic for myself and that I would need more days to jog (let's be honest, I'm not really running, more like a glorified skip-walk sort of jig) in a week and had to start myself off at 1 mile. 

I plan on printing this out and hanging it on my fridge.  I will then pencil in my actual accomplishments in an attempt to hold myself accountable. 

I gave myself 2 days off a week to account for my natural laziness and the fact that I ride my bike at least 2 miles a day, so those days won't be complete energy wastes.  I also plan on swimming on Saturdays in the near future, so those days might be switched to "offs" in exchange for jogging on another day. 

I am not quite sure how to provide a link to download this spreadsheet, so if you want a copy that you can edit, leave a comment and I promise to email it to you!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Readjustments and Priorities

I am currently digging myself out of the post-reading-a-series stupor.  Its that strange lingering feeling that you get after watching Gossip Girl for 12 hours straight or after you stayed up until 4 am to finish a Harry Potter book you bought 24 hours earlier.

I just finished the Hunger Games series, and while I will be the first to admit it is no Harry Potter, I did get an attachment to the characters and a bit immersed into their lives (seeing that I started the first book-- there are 3 in total-- earlier this week.)  Yesterday composed of me lying in bed for hours on end finishing the book and then me wandering around hopelessly not sure what to do with myself.

Anyways, that dive into mytho-world is just what I needed because I had started to stress myself out.  Some of you reading may only follow a few friends' blogs, etc, while others are like me.  Curators of a fully active and obsessively tracked Google Reader account filled with whitty writing, amazing DIY, and the most fashionable ladies you (don't) know.  Like reading a young adult's novel for hours on end, this can mess with your mind.  I started to become completley absorbed with my (in)ability to match the talents of other bloggers.  I needed to not only make delicious meals, but let's be honest, I wanted to invent the recipes myself.  I wanted to DIY my entire apartment, and convinced myself that if I stalked thrift stores for amazing vintage-y finds, I was going to (also) find some fulfilling elation.  I was forcing myself to enjoy spending every weekend walking the aisles of Hobby Lobby, TJ Maxx, Micheals, and every other store in a 15 mile radius hunting for the most amazing bargains so I could say I redid our entire apartment for a measly $36.48.

What happened? I couldn't live up.  I found myself drawn to doing things, that well, I have always loved doing.  I was cooking meals every night inspired by recipes I found online.  And I frankly didn't want to experiment with the food that I had spent money on, so I just stuck to the recipe.  I plopped myself down in front of Netflix and watched the corniest wedding-related movie I had seen in quite some time (You Again) and munched on popcorn.  And I consumed myself in a good book, something that I had been denying myself for no good reason.  But the truth is that an afternoon spent lounging about reading a good book and drinking lemonade, was just as good as an afternoon spent stenciling the back of your bookcases. (something I'm pretty sure I won't be doing...)

I am happy to say that this blog is serving its purpose, its making me thoughtfully examine my actions and how it plays into my satisfying (or in some cases unsatisfying) life.  So what I am I going to be up to?

Well I will still be decorating our apartment, but probably with stuff that feels like me.  Its going to be personal, colorful, and a little messy (as Alex reminded me, that's us, we're kind of messy people).  I am going to start training for a 5k in October (  Also, I am going to keep cooking.  I have found that hours can pass and if I am in the kitchen wrapped up with a recipe, I am perfectly content.

What am I going to ease up on? Hunting craigslist and thrift stores for "amazing" furniture finds that are really sad pieces of furniture that will need 10 hours of my time to become something worthwhile having.  Convincing myself I am will be able to sew everything I (and my future children) will wear-- though I am still convinced something is not right with my sewing machine and its really not me.  And hopefully I will let go of this ideal that I am supposed to be this super woman capable of calligraphy, gardening, DIYing everything in sight, and loving every minute of it. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hunger Games

Have you read Hunger Games? I know I am a bit behind on the times for this one, but I'm loving the first one so far.  Why am I blogging this? I will probably be MIA until I finish all 3!  Now that my commute to work is approximately 5-10 minutes, I feel like so much time has opened up in my day.  So, I am going to revisit my love for books and dive into some new adventures.

What have I been up to?
  • Refinishing some bookcases we Craigslisted for $30 to use as night stands.  I promise to share the finished products
  • Meal planning galore thanks to my obsession new interest Pinterest.
  • LOVING my new job as a paraeducator in a elementary-level special education class.
  • Preparing to whip amazing turkey burgers (trust me this recipe is spot on!) for dinner.
  • Budgeting! Of course I find this simply wonderful and fun, but I promise to share some tips to make it more enjoyable for others :)
In the meanwhile, go find an amazing book and sit in some AC.  I don't know how my Ohio and Boston folks are doing, but here in Iowa school let out early it was so hot! (yes a heat day, who knew?!?)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Trip Break & Thrift Find

If you can't tell by my irregular posting on the subject, but for some reason I just don't feel like posting about my trip.  I can not pinpoint an exact reason why, but I came to the conclusion this afternoon that I really shouldn't blog when it feels like a chore.  So when it strikes my fancy, I will be updating the blog on the rest of my travels from this summer.  Until then, I will be updating you on my bopping around in the Iowa City area, thrift store finds, and whatever domestic adventure I pursue. 

One thing of semi-excitement is a thrift store update!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am looking to replicate fashionable Polyvore pins from Pinterest by shopping only at thrift stores.  Though I didn't take these home with me, I thought they were quite the find:

These guys were available at Stuff, etc. in Coralville, IA for $8.99 and are Mossimo (Target) boots. 

Personally, I think they look like a good fit for these boots:
So they aren't replicas, by any means, but have the riding boot feel going on.  And, frankly, I feel it would quite cute to have the bit of height in a dress. But then again, this is coming from the girl that never wears heels because I like to complain a lot (out loud), and evidently that's annoying to others (remove the heels, remove my whining) and I'm tall, so I don't really need the boost.  But I am sure the boots pictured were near the price of my paycheck or something (riding boots are always cute, but always expensive...), and $8.99 is a steal!

And yes, I'm that person taking pictures of used shoes in the aisle of a thrift store on a Saturday afternoon. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thrift Store Challenge

Phew! The work/school week has flown by and despite all my intentions to post during the week, it just didn't happen.  I don't have a travel post for you right now, as I have lots of neat things and ideas going on right now that I want to share.

I, like anyone that isn't under a rock, am a Pinterest fiend.  You can see my collection of boards here.  If you are a user of Pinterest, you are familiar with the "outfit" photos that circulate.  All these photos are created from using Polyvore.  Polyvore* is a website that allows you to mix and match outfit items to create what you would deem a "perfect x outfit".  Often, I see "coffee date", "fall", "work" as the taglines to these wardrobe inspirations.  Users can mix and match tops/bottoms/accessories from different brands to help them mimic a celebrity look or to simply plan an outfit.  This could be a good tool if you have a piece that are you looking for coordinating items to go with.
 *disclaimer, I do not know if Polyvore allows to do the same coordination for men's clothing/children's clothing
Here are some that I am a fan of:
ooh summery

I am not sure what that jewelry is, but I love everything else about this outfit

mmm Fall

This is "going out" for me!

The days are winding down that I can wear this...

Cute weekend outfit
  Now, I don't personally use Polyvore to create these outfits, rather I "repin" from other Pinterest users.  If you browse the Fashion pages on Pinterest, you will see many different options like this:

A little preview of Pinterest (ew I am not a fan of those Hello Kitty nails)
So, now that I have sufficiently blabbed enough about these outfit inspiration pictures and Pinterest, onto the meat of it! After seeing these photos, I feel this compulsion to go out and buy clothing so that I can assemble these outfits.  I have never been too terribly fashionable, but I find that with a little bit of inspiration, I can look presentable cute.

The problem is that I don't have the money to just buy the pieces to assemble the outfits, and nor do I want to just give into my impulses.  Additionally, I am working on buying more of my clothing used/from thrift stores (sometimes there are new, donated items!) for economical and sustainability reasons. 

So I am going to challenge myself to assemble outfits inspired by these 'pins' purchasing items only from thrift stores/consignment shops!  Here are my guidelines:
  • The purchased outfits merely need to be inspired by the photos, not exact replicas.
  • I can not purchase from upscale consignment shops that are selling designer goods.  This challenge is meant for scouring the Goodwills of America.
  • If I own a pair of shoes/boots that adequately complete the outfit, I do not need to find those at a thrift store (especially since I own only "basics", that most women have and can easily produce to replicate an outfit).
  • If I do not own a pair of shoes that coordinate, I will simply prove (through a photo) that I can find those shoes at a thrift store, I do not have to purchase them. (I am not a shoe collector for a reason, so no need to start)
  • If I already own a basic component of an outfit (i.e. teeshirt or similar jeans), I do not have to purchase them, but prove (like the unowned shoes) that it CAN be found at a thrift store.
  • I will provide the costs and place of purchase for each item of clothing.
  • Outfits can be purchased at different stores on different days.
  • I can use any inspiration board I find (and like!) on Pinterest, not merely the 6 pictured here.  
I am excited to get this started! In full disclosure, I haven't started this project yet. I don't know if its even possible.  I plan on hitting up some thrift stores tomorrow for clothing and furniture, so I wanted to issue this challenge to myself before then.  Hopefully I will be stylish for less (money and waste!) soon.

Why Am I Doing This?
I am hoping to prove that you can be frugal and sustainable without compromising your fashion sense or whatever else you may want to pursue.  This was spurred by a break room discussion about ways to save money.  One woman was advocating for thrift stores 100%.  She buys clothing for her kids every 6-8 weeks, and sells back (we have a sell-back thrift store chain in/around Iowa City) what she purchased the previous visit! Genius!  Not everyone thought this was the most desirable way to dress your family, and I realized that thrift stores have this stigma that you can't get anything good/cute/nice there.
I want to prove that I can save money and look fashionable at the same time.  Let's hope I don't prove myself wrong.