Friday, April 24, 2015

Road Trippin

Sweater- J. Crew (old) (Factory Version) / Jeans- J. Crew / Scarf- Loft 

I'm not usually into tassels and/or fringe, but this scarf charmed me. Even more charming? Its 50% off price tag. Any time there's a monster sale I tend to order a ton and then decide what to keep once it all arrives. (I'll be having a post on this soon- including how I'm getting even more selective.) I love scarves for the spring since, again, I find warm weather clothes can get a little boring. I'm hoping it's light enough to wear into the summer months as well.

Denny and I are heading to Pennsylvania tomorrow for a wedding shower his side of the family is throwing me. Denny comes from a huge family- his dad is one of 11 and his mom is one of 8. Since they live on the east coast, I haven't gotten a chance to meet any of them! It looks like Saturday will be a giant meet and greet/first official wedding festivity/awesome gift exchange all in one. (Omg maybe we'll finally own more than 3 forks!!) I'm not great at being the center of attention so I'm admittedly anxious, but I guess I better get used to it for the next few months...

Also, thank you to everyone who has been reading and commenting! I promise I will get back to you ASAP. I started a new job this week, and it involves 3 hours of commuting per day. It's only until the end of May so it's bearable, but I basically get home, crash, and leave less than 12 hours later. I got spoiled with a 10 minute "commute" for my last job so I guess this is payback.

Happy Weekend (almost)! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Not-So-Lilly Pattern

Blouse- J. Crew Factory / White jeans- J. Crew / Necklace- J. Crew (old) / Flats- J. Crew (old) / Watch- Michael Kors

I don't have a ton of love for summer clothes. They're just not really my thing. However, life still necessitates that I get dressed in the summer time so I paid close attention to the types of pieces I really felt good in last year. Generally, my favorite outfits were those that involved one patterned piece with a basic neutral (see here and here). I love bright colors and fun patterns in the summer, and I like to think it's the summer equivalent of layering (as in, the easiest way to create something unique). If you clicked on that second link above, you'll know that I'm really in love with this pattern. I bought the full skirt at J. Crew last year, and I know I'll wear this top all the time. It's lightweight, longer in the torso, and roomy enough in the chest. I've already worn it twice in the past week so I know it was a good use of my revised budget.

Of course, I can't discuss pattern in this post without bringing up the madness that was Lilly Pulitzer for Target. Holy shitballs. In keeping with my renewed resolution to pay really close to attention to what I'm buying, I looked through the whole lookbook a few days before the collection actually launched. If I was being totally honest with myself, there were 1 or 2 things that I thought would be really fun to have, like a patterned shift dress or pair of fun shoes. However, I wasn't absolutely dying to own any of it. For this reason, I decided to forgo the up-all-night internet search or 8am lines. And, boy, am I glad I did. I really think these things just bring out the worst in humanity. I'm really happy for anybody that was able to snag a few fun things for themselves, but to the eBay hoarders- you're the worst. I think this sums it up well-

Almost 31,000 pieces on eBay?? I mean.... wut. Don't these people realize you could easily get a piece from the regular Lilly Pulitzer line for what they're charging? However, that's where I'll voice my one gripe- as someone who would require a plus size item in order to accommodate my chest, this was truly the only time I could ever own a Lilly dress. I'm not heartbroken that I missed out, but it is obnoxious that people just went over-the-top greedy.

Alright, I promise that's the last time you'll hear me bring up the Lilly for Target line. (Although, they randomly had a pair of espadrilles available online hours after the launch that I decided to purchase for $24 instead of the $200 Tory Burches I'd been eyeing... I know I know I'm so responsible.)

Happy Shopping and Budgeting! 
(I think I'm required to add that second part now.) 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

PRESENTINGGG- A New Budget and Approach to Spending

I've spent a lot of time trying to decide just how open to be about my finances. I think talking about money can get really tricky. On the one hand, that honesty can be refreshing, and it provides a no-holds-barred look into what I'm working on. On the other hand, it's really scary. People in my personal life read my blog, and I definitely feel a lot of guilt and shame over my not-so-perfect finances. In my first post back, I made no secret of the fact that blogging really drove my spending. A lot. I kept telling myself that I would get it under control, and I even made multiple budgets and plans for paying off the credit cards. Although I had a shopping budget, I only did a good job sticking to it about half the time. Last year was the first time in my life that I had a good, steady paycheck, and I got very good at convincing myself that I deserved everything I bought. I mean, yes, I worked my butt off, but my shopping led me to drop the ball in other places. Now that Denny and I live together and are preparing for a wedding, there are definitely things I wish I had instead of all the clothes- namely, a solid savings account and better credit score.

So, with all of that in mind, I've decided to try a two-part approach to budgeting.

Part One

The first part is setting a new shopping budget. Let's be real- the second I say I'm not shopping anymore I will just run to the mall and buy one of everything. I'm not good at the total-deprivation approach to anything. This includes french fries. I realized that I tend to get excited about shopping four times per year. It just so happens that most stores debut their new seasonal collections (hooray!) around the same time they put everything from last season on mega clearance (double hooray!). For this reason, a lot of my shopping tends to happen during those seasonal transitions. Therefore, I'm going to switch to a quarterly budget of $500 (approximately $165/month). 

Another trend I noticed while not blogging is that I'm definitely an "out of sight/out of mind" person. If I'm not going into stores or perusing their websites, I'm much better at resisting temptation. By switching to a quarterly budget, I theoretically could spend all my money in the first month and then just stay away from stores for the next two. I'm sure there will be some growing pains, but I'm cautiously optimistic that this will work better for my lifestyle and personality. 

Part Two

Ah, the credit cards. This is where I really struggled with how transparent to be. I know that being honest will help me stick to my plan (hey, admitting is the first step, right?), and I'd like for anyone else to be able to use any tips and tricks I pick up along the way. However, I also know that talking about debt can make some people really uncomfortable. Personally, I like reading about how other people improved their financial outlook, but it's been surprisingly hard to find personal finance/debt blogs I can relate to. I guess discussing spending habits isn't as glamorous as designer handbags and flower arrangements...

I've decided the best compromise is to be fully honest- in pieces. I currently have 5 credit cards (2 major bank cards, Amazon, J. Crew, Banana Republic) that carry a balance. My plan is to tackle one at a time and pay it off over a few months. I'll be honest about the total balance I need to pay off and the amount of time I can realistically achieve it. I'd love for the timeline to correlate with my quarterly system, but I don't anticipate it working out quite that well yet.

I remember seeing Suze Orman on Oprah years ago, and she outlined the best system to pay off credit cards. Basically, you figure out which card has the highest interest rate, and that's the one you pay off first. Once it's paid off, you find the next highest interest rate card and focus on that one. You get the idea. I have no doubt that her system is the best from a financial standpoint. However, I've decided to start with a more symbolic choice. When I graduated college, I had never had a credit card. It meant I had no debt, but it also meant I had no credit history to speak of. The only place willing to give a credit card to an unemployed 22-year-old with no credit history was Banana Republic. This was almost 7 years ago, and I've had a balance on the card ever since. The Banana card also works at Gap, Old Navy, Athleta, and Piperlime. Basically, you can buy almost anything you'd ever need with a Banana Republic card. I've used it for a million different reasons- new workout clothes, baby shower gifts, vacation beach bag, grad school business casual outfits- over the years, but anyone who reads my blog knows that I don't shop there exclusively. Therefore, I know the balance isn't decreasing largely due to the interest.

The balance on my Banana Republic card is currently $2,316, and my goal is to pay it off by June 26th. That breaks down to roughly $230/week over the next 10 weeks. From now until May 29th, I'm working a short-term contract job that pays a lot more than my old job. I want to make sure I use that money wisely so I'm hoping this is a realistic plan. I may need to update once I figure out my exact weekly take-home pay.

So there you have it! It's my new and (hopefully) improved budgeting plan, and I'm determined to stick to it. I'll track my shopping budget at the end of every month, and provide updates on my credit card progress.

Happy Shopping/Budgeting/Saving/Spending/To-Each-His-Owning

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Beach Day

Sweatshirt- J. Crew (old) / Chambray- J. Crew / Pants- J. Crew / Flats- J. Crew (old) / Sunglasses- Ray Ban / Watch- Michael Kors / Bracelet- J. Crew (old)

It is approximately 35 degrees too cold to have an actual beach day, but that will not stop me from traveling to the lakefront. The best part about our new location in Milwaukee is just how close we are to the lake. I figured nothing else could hold a candle to Chicago's scenery, but Milwaukee has really blown me away. There are beautiful beaches, parks, and bike paths everywhere. And someday it will be warm enough to visit them without wearing sweatshirts and coats!

This look features my new favorite clothing item- J. Crew's skinny stretch cargos. I tend to wear jeans 95% of the time because I love the comfort factor, but it can get a little boring after awhile. I've tried one or two pairs of cargos over the years, but they stretched out pretty quickly. I've only worn these twice but so far so good! I can also wear them to work, and, assuming they continue to hold up, I'd love to add the green color to my closet at some point. A few reviewers, including Fran, have noted that these pants gave them a Kardashian-esque derriere. To that end, I would like to make the following disclaimer- I essentially have no derriere to speak of, and, therefore, this has never been an issue for me. I guess you just can't have it all...

Happy Shopping! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Quality Over Quantity

Trench- Gap (old) (similar) / Top- J. Crew / Jeans- Old Navy (similar) / Shoes- Sam Edelman via TJ Maxx / Necklace- J. Crew / Bag- Tory Burch (old) (same style)  

I guess the first thing to note is I no longer know how to work my fancy camera. These photos genuinely remind me of pictures you'd find in your high school textbook about Eastern Europe and the Cold War. What is with the brown tint to everything? Well, I remembered something about the "Remove Color Cast" feature on my Photoshop program... but apparently I did not remember all the details. I would have worked a little harder to manually set up my camera correctly, but I forced Denny to take these photos right in the middle of our neighborhood during happy hour on a Friday. Give me a few more weeks before I'm totally willing to be "that neighbor who forces her fiance to take photos of herself." Also, remember how I mentioned that I live right near an art school? Get ready to see even more weird art/sculpture things in my photos because I've got unlimited options!

When I wrote my first post back last week, I honestly wasn't even sure if anybody would read it. The blogging world changes quickly with new ones popping up and old ones disappearing all the time. If you sort of just disappear for months, you can't really expect people to be there when you get back. Or so I thought.

Another thing that caused me to step away for awhile was getting so caught up in the numbers. Despite my best intentions, I'd feel dejected if I didn't think I was getting enough blog comments, new followers, clicks on links, etc. I realize now that I was taking the most important thing for granted- the people I'd formed actual relationships with who kept coming back! As I've gotten older, I've definitely valued quality over quantity with my real life friendships. Why I didn't have the same mindset with my blogging friends is beyond me. In only the two posts I've written since being back, I've heard from some of my favorite bloggers like Fran, Kristina, and Jessica. I mean, that's pretty badass. So, along with my resolution to stop spending money like an idiot, I'll add another- appreciate the awesome people I actually have relationships with instead of playing the numbers game.

So quality over quantity in all areas of my life?

Happy Shopping!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Adventures in Pure Barre (Or, A Clumsy Human Attempts Group Exercise)

I love self-deprecating comments as much as the next guy, but I won't claim to have zero athletic prowess. In fact, I had quite a bit growing up. The one caveat? It was strictly confined to aquatic endeavors. I was a competitive swimmer from second grade through college, and I managed to get myself to a few national competitions over the years. However, the second I was placed on land any amount of coordination I had went to hell. (You can ask my middle school volleyball coach.) Once my swimming career was over, I tried a few different things to stay in shape. Generally, I don't hate exercise. What I do hate? Moving quickly. I will do whatever it takes to avoid moving quickly. I will wake up an hour early so I don't have to get ready quickly. I will stay late at work if it means I have more time to work on a report. I even get out of my car slowly (much to Denny's dismay). For this reason, I usually gravitate towards more low-key activities like yoga, pilates, and the ever-thrilling walking on a treadmill.

I didn't have a great workout regimen during grad school, and any aspirations I had of getting into shape quickly went out the window when I was completely overwhelmed by started my first job. The perk of being an OT and working with kids is that it's a very active career. I spent my days running, squatting, and lifting all sorts of equipment which kept me in decent shape. However, it was also really hard on my scoliosis-ridden back. I knew from previously working with a PT that strengthening my core was the best way to decrease pain so I started searching. Pilates is a great core strengthener, but it didn't involve much cardio. Despite my hatred of movement, I really wanted to get stronger and feel better about my health. Enter: Pure Barre.

I look at most fitness trends with, at best, weariness, and, at worst, disdain. If it's so great, why haven't people been doing it this whole time? However, I was intrigued by Pure Barre after reading how low impact it was while providing fast results. I didn't necessarily love the price tag, but I realized I had probably wasted way more money than that on gym memberships I never used. So, I signed up online and said a silent prayer that I didn't pass out during my first class.

The most important thing to know about Pure Barre is this: you will never be more confused in your entire life than you are during your first class. The warmup is a true warmup- it contains the largest movements you'll do throughout the whole class and at a very fast pace (ugh no!). Even more intimidating (and what I didn't realize at the time) is that the warmup is basically the same everyday so people who have been going have it down. ("How does everyone know to go from a plank to tricep presses??") After that whirlwind 10 minutes, the class targets four main areas- arms, thighs, seat, and abs. It's unbelievable how many different exercises can be done with nothing more than a bar and a ball. Each exercise is a very tiny movement (usually no more than an inch) so it's all isometric. Think: holding onto the bar, pulling yourself into a seated position, going up on your tip toes, and then slowly pulsing up and down. Doesn't sound so bad, right? Within minutes, my entire body was shaking and it burned. I frequently had the thought "Nope never doing this again... Wait shit I already paid for a full month."

After my first class, I could barely walk at work the next day. It had definitely been a huge shock to my system. Since I had already bought a full month unlimited pass, I forced myself to sign up for 3 classes a week for the next month. I was a little anxious that I'd never be able to do a lot of the movements, but it did check two of my boxes- it didn't require much fast-paced movement (besides the warm up), and I didn't get very sweaty while doing it. The instructors were also really supportive and encouraging which works much better with me than barking orders. After a few more classes, a funny thing started to happen- I actually began to look forward to the classes. I was getting better at the exercises themselves, and I could feel my muscles getting more defined. Most importantly, I began to experience a lot less back pain throughout the day which had been my primary goal! Now, this isn't to say I never hate it while I'm doing it. I still silently curse the world while holding a 90-second plank, but I can actually hold a 90-second plank now. (Er, okay, I usually need a break or two- but I get back up!) It's truly the first time in years that I've found an enjoyable workout routine and stuck with it.

So there you have it! Despite my resistance to workout trends, I've officially drank the Pure Barre kool-aid. I won't say it's for everybody, but I'm happy to have found something that works for me. And, hey, having an excuse to buy some cute workout clothes doesn't hurt either...

Happy Shopping!

(I didn't work with Pure Barre on this post. I just wanted to share for anybody that may be interested!)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

With Reservation...

It's been quite a long time (5 months to be exact) since I've felt the blogging bug. I made the decision to step away because blogging started to feel more like that once-promising job that you slowly begin to dread. I was tired of writing posts, taking photos, and planning outfits. I was tired of feeling like I never did enough no matter how many hours I spent. I never had any grand plans to make a living off blogging, but I'm guilty of instinctively trying to keep up with joneses, if you will. Should I be reaching out to more companies? Should I respond to this offer to make, like, $7 off a company I've never heard of? I still don't really get how to track stats- should I take a class? Instead of just having a fun hobby, I started to drive myself crazy. (Did I mention I can get a little neurotic?)

There was also a much more insidious thing happening- I was trying to live way beyond my means. As an occupational therapist, I make a decent living. However, I can't pay rent, bills, and student loans in the same month that I "accidentally" spend way more than my allotted budget without the dreaded credit cards coming into play. I love following other blogs, but it drove my spending like WOAH. I would see things I loved featured on other blogs and think not only "Hey I can buy that!" but the much more dangerous "Well, if she can buy that, then I should be able to as well." As a fairly rational person, I knew that this made no sense, but it didn't always stop me. When I stepped away from blogging, it was like automatically switching off a "gimme gimme gimme" switch in my brain. I wasn't constantly exposed to things I wanted to buy, and I also got better at gaining some perspective. (No, most people don't own $1200 handbags.)

Finally, there were just so many things going on in my "real" life (for lack of a better term) that blogging was nowhere near a priority. If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that I've had some pretty major life changes in the last few months. Denny and I are finally living together (after years of long-distance) in Milwaukee, and our wedding in Puerto Rico is fast approaching (October 23rd!). I recently left my job at a therapeutic day school for kids with autism, and I'm thrilled to be starting at an outpatient pediatric therapy clinic in June. I never talked very much about my job on here because I find the whole employment/social media dance can get tricky, but, if I had to name a true passion, it would be the two years I spent working with my students with autism. They brought me more moments of joy, humor, and self-reflection than I ever anticipated. The other major thing they've helped me gain? That perspective thing I was talking about earlier. It's hard to fixate on buying a pair of shoes when you're watching a family struggle with the decision to place their 9-year-old in a residential facility. (Unfortunately, in addition to joy and humor, there are also many moments of frustration and sadness.) Despite loving the kids, I started to feel a lot of burnout during my last few months. It's a high-stress environment, and I found myself getting home around 5pm and just fighting to stay awake. I no longer had very much energy to dedicate to personal endeavors so, again, bye-bye blog. (Sidenote: It can't be said enough- parents of children with special needs deserve every last support the world can offer.)

It is with all of this in mind that I tentatively dip my toe back into the world of blogging. I've started to miss having an outlet for creativity and writing. However, I'm well aware that this is compounded by the fact I've been off work for about 3 weeks now. It's much easier to feel motivated when you have all the time and energy in the world. I'm starting a temporary job on Monday in, you guessed it, a school for kids with autism (I just can't stay away!) which may put a damper on my blogging kick. But another new thing that makes blogging sound fun again? All the new locations for taking pictures! Milwaukee is a treasure trove of parks, scenic lakeshores, and great architecture. I still hate when other people see me taking my photos, but now I have the benefit of living right near an art school where people are doing photo shoots all the time.

I have no definite "plan" on where I see this leg of my blogging journey taking me. I'm a bit weary of falling back into bad habits like overspending and the feeling of not doing enough, but I hate the idea of never blogging again out of fear. So who knows what you may see around here? I may post five times a week or maybe just once. I still love creating outfits, but you may see them laid out on my bed instead of on me. Budget will be a major theme around here, and my journey to cut down credit card debt may also come into play. I'm the type of person who absolutely hates not having a plan, but for now it's what may work best. The only thing I'm sure of is catching back up with all of you! It's been far too long.

Happy Shopping!


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