Thursday, January 31, 2013

[Vlog] January Shopping Part 3: Thrifting

This is the last and final vlog for my January budget. I know this week has been bogged with vlogs (haha that rhymes), but I promise next week I'll have plenty of outfits for you!

In case you missed them and are interested, part one is here, and part two is here. I'm also still looking for suggestions for my trip to LA next week. Send restaurant/drink/must see locations my way!!

Oh, and don't forget to enter my Sinless Cocktails giveaway!! It ends this weekend!!

  • Big Star jeans, Alexis Suitcase, $15 (retail ~$100)
  • INC red blazer, Goodwill, $6 (retail $70)
  • BCBG pinstripe blazer, Goodwill, $6 (in my search, these run about $150 on the low end, maybe $80-$100 on sale)
Total for this vlog: $27
Estimated original retail: minimum $250 (89% savings)
Total spent for the month of January: $142.50
Total budget: $160 plus $20 for non-essential beauty items
Total savings on original prices: 74% (total retail for everything I bought was $545)

A few notes: after factoring in tax, I actually spent about $152. I also bought a scarf similar to the white tartan one for $13, but I don't need 2 so I'm probably either going to give that one away or gift it, so I'm not counting that towards the total. Should I decide to keep it, I'll add it back in to my total. Also, since I didn't spend my $20 beauty budget, I decided to go back and get the sparkly shoes from this post for $25.

Then I went and bought a nail polish (Sally Hansen Greige Gardens) for $6.

So. $8 under budget plus $20 from beauty items, and I had $28 to spend. $25 went to the shoes, and $6 to the nail polish, so I came in around $5 over budget after you figure in tax. Overall, I'm super impressed with myself!!

Did you budget for January? How well did you stick to your budget? Linking up with Franish for budgeting bloggers!

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

[Vlog] January Shopping Part 2

Hello friends! I have a question for ya'll. Do I have any LA-based or LA-familiar readers out there? I'm headed to LA next week for just a few days for work. I'll be in the El Segundo/Culver City area and am looking for suggestions on things to do (although I don't know that I'll have much time for those necessarily), places to go to eat, and/or places to go for drinks. Please leave any suggestions you may have in the comments!!

Today is part 2 of the January shopping vlog. Just like yesterday's post, a list of what I bought is below the video, and you can enter my Sinless Cocktails giveaway below as well. And as an extra special treat, my dog Lexi makes a few appearances in this video.

  •  Sequin clutch, Target (no longer online), $10.50 (original price $15)
  • Neon yellow pumps, Target (buy here), $30
  • Plaid crossbody/clutch, Target (no longer online), $6 (original price $20)
  • Red bucket bag, Target (not online, but similar here), $9 (original price $30)
  • Green cap toe pumps, Target (buy here), $10 (original price $33)
  • Simply Vera Sunglasses, Kohl's, $5 (original price $36)
This vlog total:  $70.50
Original prices: $164 (savings of 57%)

Total spent including Tuesday: $115.50

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

[Vlog] January Shopping Part 1

Has anyone else been following what's up with Ciate, the company that brought us caviar manicures? I saw the other day that they have something new and I had to seriously laugh - foil manicures!! I laugh not because a foil manicure is funny...I laugh because I had a $3 foil manicure kit when I was in 6th grade (in 1992!!!) that I was obsessed with. And here we are 20 years later seeing the same dang thing for 10 times the price! You cannot deny that fashion is cyclical.


Today's post is my first vlog for the new year. I mentioned a few days ago that I'll be doing shorter, more frequent vlogs as I change the way I shop, but for this week, you're gonna get a long vlog in 3 parts - try not to judge the really crappy editing chop job you're going to see across the videos, haha!

Before you watch, know that 1 - there is a breakdown of what I bought below the video so you can see how the budget went, and 2 - don't forget to enter my giveaway for an awesome bottle of Sinless Cocktail mixers, which is also below the video!!!

  • Cap toe shoes, DSW (buy here), $18 (original retail $80)
  • Tartan scarf, Ebay (buy here in other colors), $14
  • Green floral scarf, Forever 21 (buy similar here), $2 (original retail $9)
  • Black and white scarf, Forever 21 (out of stock online), $2.50 (original retail $11)
  • Pink and white marled scarf, Target (out of stock online), $8.50 (original retail $17)
Grand total for this vlog: $45
Original retail total: $131 (66% savings)

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Monday, January 28, 2013

[Random] Sinless Cocktails - GIVEAWAY!

I don't know about you, but I love a good mixed drink now and again. Once upon a time in my life (cough, cough college) I certainly enjoyed a good many drinks. Now that I'm in my 30s, I've had to tone it down a bit. For one thing, it hurts a bit too much the next day. Another new development since I've gotten older is that now, many alcoholic drinks are immediately transferred into fat around my waist.

Friends say "drink naturally low calorie drinks!!" I think the naturally low calorie drinks, like vodka soda, are nasty. So when Atlanta based Sinless Cocktails contacted me to try out their 5 calorie cocktail mixers, I jumped at the chance.

Sinless Cocktails makes 4 different mixers - Margarita, Mojito, Strawberry Margarita, and Sweet & Sour - all at 5 calories per serving. I was sent the Margarita and Mojito mixes to try. I immediately tried the Margarita mix - I'm a big margarita fan and we already had tequila in the liquor cabinet.

I was impressed. It was delicious! I have to be honest - it was a bit less sour than many margarita mixes, but personally - that's my preference. Too sour and I find myself not enjoying it so much. It was light - perfect for a summer afternoon - and very refreshing. I wanted to drink the entire bottle in one night but that would also mean drinking way more tequila than this 31-year-old can handle.

I myself didn't try the mojito mix because I'm not a huge mojito fan. Ideally I'd like to put it to the test against my mojito-expert friend Jena. I'll let you know what she thinks when I've gotten her to test it!

Yes, I am totally almost dumping my margarita down the front of my shirt.

Sinless Cocktails was nice enough to let me try and review their product, and they were even nicer in giving me a chance to let one of my readers try their product! Here's what we've got: 1 full bottle of Sinless Cocktails mix - the flavor of your choice - sent to the winner of this giveaway. Good luck!!

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**Sinless Cocktails provided the above samples to me for review free of charge, but all opinions expressed are completely my own!

Friday, January 25, 2013

[Life] 23°08′N 082°23′W: Havana, Cuba

{Note - the last bunch of pictures are missing. I thought I had all my albums uploaded to Google but apparently not. I'll update with the last pics once I get home!}

From January 23-25, 2003, the Semester at Sea ship was docked in Havana, Cuba. We spent one full day at sea prior to arriving - during this time we attended our Cuba "bootcamp" - an entire day of Core where we learned all about Cuba. We also killed some time playing Spades (this would become a tradition), having a salsa dance party the night before we docked, and settling into our rooms.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003
"Our first interport speaker spoke about the history of Cuba. The next speaker spoke on the more recent history of Cuba, including the embargo. The third speaker talked about the effects of the embargo on the Cuban people."

I feel super fortunate for having gotten the opportunity to go to Cuba. At the time, the only way in for Americans was on an educational visa, which is what we entered the country on. It was recommended that we not get the Cuban stamp in our passport because of the issues it could cause every time we reentered the US. A document was given to each of us, should we choose to get the stamp, that would explain why we had been in Cuba.

Not long after (2005 I believe) all visa access to Cuba by Americans was revoked, and students could no longer go on an educational visa. Since, travel has been opened a bit to Cuba for US citizens, provided they travel with a travel group or company that has the proper visas.

Cuba: Day 1

Thursday, January 23, 2003
"Bright and early with Rhiannon (my roommate) this morning! Up at 5:30 to watch the ship pull into Havana, Cuba. The sunrise started red and purple, growing into a rainbow of colors. A gorgeous sunrise over a smoke filled horizon."

Sarah, Rhiannon, and I awaiting sunrise

"We got our passports and took our first steps into Cuba."

"We headed to the welcome reception at the University of Havana. We got to choose between 3 lectures - I chose one on US-Cuban relations. After, we had some lunch, and then my friends and I went to watch a salsa band that had appeared on stage. A Cuban guy came up and asked me to dance, and I quickly learned that Cubans salsa a little differently than the Spaniards."

 "After the band was done, we went with some University students to a little bar at the top of the Ambos Mundos hotel, where Ernest Hemingway used to stay. It was a semi-open patio on a gorgeous day, and there was a trio of musicians playing. We ordered the drink that Cuba's known for - the mojito. It's sugar, lemon juice, and mint leaves smashed together, then you add water and top it off with rum. It turns cloudy and kind of gross looking - and doesn't taste much better than it looks."

"On the bus ride to a baseball game later, a friend was telling me how he had been approached earlier in the day by a man with strings for shoes and was offering to give my friend anything in trade for his shoes."

Cuba: Day 2

Friday, January 24, 2003
"Started the day on a Hemingway in Cuba trip. We went back to Ambos Mundos to see the room he stayed in, went out to the country to see his house, then had lunch in a small coastal town where he used to fish. The roads in Cuba are interesting. There are lots of people hitchhiking all along them. All kinds of vehicles share the road - horse-drawn carriages, coco taxis (small taxis shaped like coconuts), bikes, 18-wheeler buses, cars, everything."

"We were pretty stoked last night when we heard that we'd get to attend a 'meeting' with Fidel Castro the next evening. It was also attended by students from the University of Havana. Since the entire thing was in Spanish, we had an ear phone where they broadcast the translation. Talk about long winded. Castro spoke for 4 hours, without sitting, and only took 1 sip of water. After the speech, we were shuttled to a hall for a party."

"As soon as the music started, the Cubans were immediately on the floor dancing. No matter how much they're lacking in food, housing, or anything else, when the music plays, they dance like nothing in the world matters but the dance. We can never really understand what it's like to live the way they do, but we can also never understand what music and dance is to them."

Cuba: Day 3

Saturday, January 25, 2003
"Today we took a horse drawn carriage ride through Havana. We went through old and new Havana and saw Marti's house, the capitol, the cigar factories, and the Bacardi factory among others."

"On our way to an internet cafe, we met a Cuban guy named Alesandro, a 25-year-old cook who had been studying English for 2 years. He knew the ship was docked and there were Americans in Havana, and approached us with a proposition: he'd show us around if we'd spend time with him so he could practice his English. He took us to 'La Julia', the restaurant where we worked, and I had the most amazing chicken I've ever had."

"Alessandro took us to a bar to get daiquiris - much like mojitos but frozen and without the mint. We parted ways not long after and spent the afternoon shopping at the local market. That evening, before the ship took off, we popped into a salsa club, had a Cuba Libre, and was on ship in time to sit on the back deck and hear the cannon go off in Old Havana at 9pm."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

[Shopping] Results

On Monday, I asked for some feedback, and was impressed with how much of it I got!! I wasn't surprised by the response to the sweater - I was leaning towards returning it anyway, and most of you said that was the right move.

However, I was super surprised by the response to the shoes!!! I had posted this question on Twitter Saturday when I had found the shoes, and got a resounding "get the sparkly ones!" Monday's poll, however, was a resounding "get the cap toe pumps!" There were a few neither votes, but it was heavily in the favor of the pumps.

So, what did I do?

I picked the cap toes. They had another pair at my local DSW that wasn't frayed or stained, so I nabbed them. 

Honestly, though - I'm still thinking about the sparkly ones. I may go back and get them with February's budget....or perhaps even nab them this month, because I'm $7 under budget currently, and I still haven't spent my $20 allotted for beauty items, and I'd rather put it towards the shoes than a few new nail polishes!! (I think that's totally allowable, don't you??)

I am now done with my shopping budget for the month of January. I learned a few things sticking to a budget this month:
  • I am more apt to hold off on ripping the tags off an item when I may want to return it to make more room in my budget. I usually don't return things (sometimes even when I should!!) especially if they were cheap. This month at least 3 items went back, which gave me about $30 back in my budget. Worth it!!!
  • I found that shopping just once in the first 24 days of the month was torture. (Which is probably because I had a budget to spend - when I did a spending freeze for a month last year, this was pretty easy if I just stayed away from stores!) Actually, I shopped twice in the first 3 weeks - once to thrift and once to the mall. Since I'm trying to be more careful with my purchases, I found I was way pickier than I normally am, and ended up with money left. So I did go out another time or two after the mall. Also, and I feel kind of ridiculous saying this - I actually really missed shopping. Not necessarily spending money, but just browsing, having some time to myself doing something I really enjoy doing. I think I'm going to change up my way of shopping and allow myself 2 shopping days a month (plus a thrifting day) if I so desire and if I still have money in the budget the second day. That way, if there's no money, I don't go and won't be tempted, but I have the option if there's budget. It also should work out since I'm being much pickier. If I find that I'm having trouble sticking to the budget with 2 days, I'll go back to 1. 
  • I did my vlog for this month's shopping and it was way long. Like 14 minutes long. So I'm going to chop it and post it in 3 5-minute chunks. I now know for next month that I should just do a weekly vlog on what I bought that week - which I can do, now that I'll be changing the way I shop a bit. Also, I think this will help you guys, my readers, because I can show you stuff I recently picked up and if I got some great deals (like I did this week on these awesome shoes - I know, I know, I went shoe crazy this month) you won't have to wait 3 weeks to hear about them. (Side note - these shoes are currently under $10 in store and should still be available in every color and size - at least they were at my Target! Go check them out if you love them!)
That's what I've learned so far in week all 3 vlog pieces will be posted. Keep your eyes peeled!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

[Life] 10 Years

10 years. That's how long it's been since I started on the trip of a lifetime. The trip that changed me and that changed my world. It seems like just yesterday, and some days I wish with all my heart that I could be back there for just one day.

January 21, 2003, I embarked on a 3 and a half month journey by ship around the world on Semester At Sea. The program is a study abroad for collegiate students, taking about 650 students, plus 30 teachers and administrators, plus 30ish lifetime learners and 250 staff, around the world in a semester. Students spend their days at sea taking courses, including a class called "Core", which teaches them about the next country the ship will dock in. The ship from my voyage in Spring 2003 was a refashioned 1970s cruise ship, where we would eat, sleep, play, learn, and live, though while in port students are free to come and go as they please and can travel as they like in the allotted time the ship is docked.

10 years ago I had just spent my first night aboard the SS Universe Explorer.

I packed my life into 2 suitcases...

I spent 2 days in the Bahamas with my family...

And saw the ship in port waiting for us...

Met a girl named Sarah at Happy Hour the day before we left (little did I know she'd become one of my best friends and someone who I'd still be in contact with 10 years later). 

Boarded the ship...

(Sarah is in the middle in the next pic)

 And we said goodbye to our families....

It all began here. 108 days. 9 countries. 4 continents. 10 ports. 5 girls I would become inseparable from.

1 amazing, life altering experience.

Excerpts from my journal:

January 21, 2003
"When they took the plank away, and then the ropes, it started to feel just a little more real."

January 22, 2003
"Woke up bright and early....crashed into the wall and almost fell off the ladder coming out of bed. It's going to take awhile to get used to the movement of the ship."

Over the course of the next few months, I'll be dedicating certain posts to more about this amazing experience. Keep an eye out!

Monday, January 21, 2013

[Shopping] Vote, I Need Help!

I'm shamelessly using today's post to get some opinions.

I have $50 left of my monthly shopping budget, and I'm torn on a few things. (There are polls for these at the bottom of this post! Go vote!)

First of all - I ordered this sweater from Target. It was on sale for $10.50, and I had tried on a super large size of this in store a few months back and really liked the sweater just not the fit of the XL. It worked out perfectly because I ordered a pair of shoes and a recipe box for $40 and needed $10 more for free shipping. So, I ordered it in medium, and I'm not sure that I love it. I need opinions - keep it or return it? (Sorry for the bathroom photos but I wanted to get these up quickly!)

I feel like the sweater looks fine here:

But I don't love it here:

The thing that I'm iffy about is the sleeves - I feel like they're a little poofy, and the length combined with the poofiness (is that even a word? haha) seems to add bulk, which is never flattering when you have a big chest. I feel like if I'm questioning it I should just return it, but I really love the pattern and sometimes I look at it and think it looks fine. What do you think?

The other thing I need help with is choosing shoes - do I buy these:

They're $18. I like them because they're different - the cap toe is trendy right now but I think the pattern adds a bit of unexpected fun. Also, I'm not sure if you can tell from this picture, but there is a cobalt piping between the black and the animal print on both sides, which I think also adds extra interest. I hesitated buying them for two reasons - first, I have plenty of pumps (ok, I have plenty of shoes, period). Second, the right shoe has a bit of fray on the toe (you can see the fray in the middle picture above), and a very, very slight stain on the inner edge (I could also check other DSWs for a cleaner pair).

Or do I buy these?

These were $25. I actually have a very similar Steve Madden pair on my wishlist. I loved how fun these were, and the double ankle strap is super cute. I hesitated here because I'm not sure how much wear a pair of sequin heels will get (I already own a pair of black sequin pumps), and I am also not sure this is the best price I can find these for.

So...which of these heels do I get? Or do I not get either of them? I can't do both, because that would wipe out the rest of my clothing budget for January, and I already bought another pair of shoes this month. What do you think?

What should I do with the sweater?


Which shoes should I choose?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

[Random] Sunday Soup #13

My favorites from this week?

These are amazing weight loss stories!!

Love texts from last night. (Also here)



Katie had the best Christmas card!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

[OOTD] Foliage...In the Winter?

{Welcome to all who found me through Shanna's blog! I wrote a little welcome post yesterday - you can check it out here!}

Today's outfit was actually inspired by another blogger....but then I couldn't find the inspiration pin. It sat and sat in my "to be posted" folder but never got there until today. That means you get some fun foliage in the dead of winter! Also, I'm still not sure who actually inspired this. I never, ever, ever in a million years would have thought to mix two different striped items - but I really loved the way it turned out! What do you think?

Outfit Details
Tee: H&M
Pants: TJ Maxx
Blazer: TJ Maxx
Shoes: Steve Madden (old)
Necklace: New York & Company
Watch: Target

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

[OOTD] An Inspired Welcome and Giveaway!

Hello wonderful readers! I'd like to say a special welcome to those of you who are here form Shanna's blog. Shanna is awesome and I'm so happy to be sponsoring her!

If you're new in these parts, here are some posts to help you get acquainted:
Today's outfit was inspired by Megan of the Frugalista Diaries. One of the things I love most about style blogging is that I'm inspired to try things that I never would have thought of. Wearing a blazer over a dress is one of those things. Thanks to Megan, I decided to see if I could pull it off!

Outfit Details
Blazer: H&M
Dress: The Webster for Target
Shoes: BonTon

I'm participating in a fabulous giveaway over at Because Shanna Said So - hop on over and check her out!

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Friday, January 11, 2013

[Goals] 10 Days In

Well, here we are. January 11, 2013. It's been about 10 days of actual practice for my goals. I said I'd use the blog to keep myself on task, so here's the first update for the year.

I mentioned the way I plan to attack my goals - little by little add in small, easy to track actions until they build up and help the goal come to fruition. This means I'm not attacking all goals all the time necessarily, but attacking small bits.

What goals have I started working on?

I like things like this entirely too much.

I haven't started doing much in the way of continuous exercise. However, I have started working on goal #4 - Be more conscious of food choices and eat healthier. 
Doing what?
I've started with 2 tasks. To be more conscious of food choices, I've set a goal to record what I eat daily, or keep a food diary, if you will. To be more conscientious as well as healthier, I've also started "freezer cooking". I have a free ebook on freezer cooking - the basic idea is you spend a big chunk of time preparing all your meals for the month, and by doubling or quadrupling recipes you can make it easy to do that many meals. I have decided to do this on a weekly basis to start, and see how it goes.
How have I done?
Meh. I've been great with the freezer cooking, with nearly 2 full weeks under my belt. On the other hand, I was great for about 4 days recording what I eat and then it stopped. I find that my issue is I snack - and it's hard to remember the little quarter servings of 5 different things that I ate. I think the next goal in this category is less little snacks.

Family, Social, Spiritual, Career
I haven't done anything yet towards these goals, though just this week I added the family phone calls to my goal task list.

I like shopping way too much.

Three big things happening here as far as tasks - recording daily spending, no shopping until "shopping weekend" and sticking to a clothing budget. I didn't mention it in my goals but the biggest reason for this budgeting is because a) I had no accountability for it previously and couldn't tell how much I was spending or how often I was shopping and b) to pay down some debt by restricting spending.
Doing what?
I went through my pinterest wishlist and created an ordered list of the most important items, along with some other wishlist things. This will help me to more wisely spend my allotted $160/month.
How have I done?
Followed this pretty well so far! I've spent about $89 of my monthly budget (although some might go back - I placed an online order and needed to add stuff I wasn't sure I'd love to get free shipping. I refuse to pay an additional 20% on the price in shipping just because they don't carry something in store) and I haven't popped into any stores but once (damn you, Target!). I might break the rule this afternoon, for a specific reason - the best Goodwill in town (they're in a nicer part of town and get great stuff that they actually highlight on a separate rack) is right by my doctor's, where I'll be this afternoon. I never get down there so I might just have to pop in. So far so good, though! And I'm doing great keeping up with my spending spreadsheet, although it doesn't look so great. Some spending tweaks need to happen!

Education, Artistic, Attitude, Pleasure, Public Service
I haven't put any tasks towards these goals yet.

I like keeping stuff too much. Notice all the crap on the bed.

In reading and following Gretchen Rubin's Happier at Home, the first chapter focuses on things. The main task I'm taking away from this is decluttering. This is going to take awhile, but I'm focusing on one small location at a time. I started with my desk and am proud of all the crap I threw away! I'm asking myself if each item is something useful or something I love, and if not, I'm getting rid of it. I'm super proud of myself for getting rid of a whole bunch of college mementos that I've been hanging on to for over 10 years!

How are your 2013 goals starting out?