A Challenge

As of yesterday, Justin and I have been put into a very challenging situation. I just have to keep thinking that "when God closes a door, he opens a window". I'm spending time today trying to process and figure everything out. The picture above is very reflective of my mood - dark, dreary, and hopeful. I know everything will work out, but I just don't know how right now.

Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!

P.S. Go check out Photoshop Week on CreativeLive if you haven't already! It will be on reruns all weekend! :)

Goldstar Makes It Possible

The $80 Challenge With a 4 Year Old

One of the biggest challenges during last week watching Charlie, the 4 year old, was maintaining a strict budget of $80 while also entertaining someone that was particularly hard to please. The family may have left us a big house, lots of animals (4 of which I apparently killed!!)*, and a car, but they weren't so great at leaving us with cleaning supplies (like dish washing detergent) or groceries (s'mores for the win?!). All of these *extras* had to be procured on the cash we were left with.

When we started that first weekend watching Charlie, I was on top of the budget!  I was thinking … "I'm going to make this money go farther than it's suppose to!" And thus I spent an hour or so googling coupons for legoland and the movie theatre. (Not something most parents have the time to do I'm sure!) It turns out Goldstar was offering Legoland tickets for $9 (or $9.50) a person … MUCH cheaper than $15 a person. The price was still expensive though, so I kept searching until I found Extrabux! I'm not advocating either Goldstar or ExtraBux unless you want to save money on something Goldstar has available, BUT clicking through ExtraBux allowed me to save 40% off the Legoland ticket cost! Heck yeah! :) Granted you don't get that money back for a few months, but I will more than happily wait that few months just to get money back.

So then it was time to look for a movie ticket deal. I found that if Justin and I signed up with V.me we could get money back in the form of a free movie ticket that could be used later. (i.e. We buy our tickets by President's Day, and we receive a movie ticket at the end of the promotion period to be used by May.) It sounded like a fun excuse to return to the theatre! I'm not sure Justin ever got the ticket, but it would have been fun if it had worked out.

Of course there was also eating out and groceries that unfortunately put us over our budget challenge, but for those of you that like saving money, can I share a secret with you? Before purchasing anything online, see if there is a cashback site that you can go through. It makes all the difference! Not only can you get 1, 2, or 3 percent back by using your credit card, BUT you can get an additional percent off by going through a website like ExtraBux, MyPoints, Ebates, or even Fat Wallet (to name a few). You can find the best site to go through by comparing them with Cashbackaholic.com. I totally recommend it. :)

*Don't worry. They were fish. I was really saving the family money in the long run. ;) (I do not advocate the killing of fish to save money, but when those fish are sick and you are terrible at keeping fish alive … sometimes it happens.)
** The ExtraBux link is a referral link. You get $5 and I get $5 when you join through my link! Win, win! :)

February Finance Update

Now let's look at my finances…

For the Win:
  • Most of the times Justin and I ate out, we had some way of recouping the cost. For instance I used GapNSnap to earn $20 by snapping 300 gaps at grocery stores once a week to compensate for eating out. Another way we recouped the cost was by Justin working late from home. (He gets one meal compensated up to $15 for working late.) Finally, we used Moe's loyalty program to get a plate of nachos to share for free last night. We were able to get other chores accomplished as well as eat on the run for free.
  • We got our tax refund back! Yay! That went to paying down debt.
  • I made extra money this month by taking on a 4 year old for a week! This put our savings account at about half where I want it to be which will be good enough until after we get back from Europe.
  • We turned off our heat while we were gone from the house a week ago hopefully saving us money on gas.
  • I received lots of free samples this month! (I get to host another giveaway soon! Yay!)
For the Lose:
  • We bought way more groceries than we needed to this month including some groceries that I simply refuse to eat. (i.e. I only like homemade salad dressing with vinegar and olive oil. Do not attempt to feed me store bought dressing. ick.)
  • Justin paid for 3d tickets to see The Lego Movie, and instead we went into the wrong theatre and saw it as a normal movie. Loss of money, but I would have never advocated seeing 3d anyway. 
  • The winter snow break caused me to lose hours this month and will continue to cause a loss of hours for the rest of the school year. :(
Here's where we stand:
  • Vacation goal will be reached by April '14. (YAY!) We are at half of our emergency goal which currently will be reached by September, but I expect that date to get pushed back… And our debt payoff goal has moved up to February '15. Yay! (Remember, we're trying to move that up to some time in October '14.)
  • Our debt is down by 4% from our highest amount owed in January
  • Our assets are down 18% from the highest amount in January, but our account is back up to where it was in August before spending tons fixing my car, buying Europe plane tickets, aso…
  • According to Mint, Justin and I have saved more than half of our income from this month (wherein income includes tax refund and extra money making things I've been doing).

Debt down by 4% (Why is it shown in green?!)

Assets down by 18% (But up from August catastrophes!)

Net income. We saved 50% of what we earned.


3 cheers for sticking to and surpassing our budget goals for this month! I don't know if it will ever happen again, so I plan on celebrating while I can! :)

(Did I mention I got new clothes and a camera lens this month?)

How are your budgeting goals panning out for this month. With only one more day left, it's time to start thinking about budgeting goals for March!

A Turquoise Home

As I mentioned yesterday, your home is often a reflection of your style which can frequently be seen in the type of clothing you wear.

My style is pretty ornate with lots of turquoise. I specifically like the French style of decorating with very plain white/cream walls with perhaps a bit of ornamentation at the top in the crown molding. I absolutely love when the furniture and curtains stand out as the centerpiece in a room. I'm also a huge fan of combining vintage finds with newer things.

These candles are my absolute favorite color and they remind me a bit of the ocean. They also have sort of an elegant yet down-to-earth vibe about them which I love. I've never done macrame before, but if I could achieve this look with just some string, beads, turquoise candles and vases, I would be a very happy lady! (Plus, most candles with this shade of blue have an oceany smell! Mmm!!)

Wisteria - Louis XVI Dining Chair in aqua

I'm also a bit in love with these beautiful chairs. I love the detail and woodwork on the chairs, and the color is definitely my style. I've been looking for chairs like these to compliment the sofa I got before my wedding many, many moons ago. Unfortunately at $299 (+$75 shipping) a chair, Wisteria can keep their chairs for another year or two. My couch (although a bit beat up and in need of restoration) was only $100!

Target - Threshold 24" Brookline Tufted Counter Stool

Justin had a tall Ikea kitchen table he brought from his apartment when we moved into our rental house that came with super uncomfortable stools. We actually replaced those uncomfortable Ikea stools at Christmas time with clearance stools from Home Depot and we moved the super uncomfortable stools to the bar. As time goes on though, I find myself searching for a replacement for our bar stools. I'd like something that blends in a bit more with our couch that is elegant/refined and not an eye sore. These stools from Target (yes! Target!) are just beautiful and something that I think would be a lovely replacement for our current stools. They look slightly vintage, slightly elegant, and have a bit of the French vibe going on. The only negative would be if someone spilled something!!

Macy's - Arte Italica Dinnerware Merletto Aqua

I had my eye on this dining set from before Justin and I got married. Think about all of it's positive traits - it's turquoise, it's elegant, it's vintage-looking, and it's Italian! I actually already own two dinner plates from the set, and I am saving up my Macy's giftcards in the hopes of getting more. Originally when I spotted this unique dish set it was on some obscure site, so you have no idea how excited I was when Macy's brought the product line to their stores! I frequently receive gift cards for doing surveys for Macy's … and (even better!) they often have sales, promotions, and coupons that allow me to get a piece or two for cheaper than the original cost! Yay!

Kirkland's - Beaded Oval Wall Mirror, 21x31

One of my mom's favorite stores to shop in for discount housewares is Kirkland's, and after I spotted this beautiful mirror, I never again blamed her! I think this would be beautiful in any room. I love the elegant frame. Plus, mirrors have the amazing ability to add width and depth to a room. This mirror at a cost of $29.99 is definitely on my wish list.

Sky Iris - Aqua Couli Throw

This blanket would look absolutely lovely on a couch or in a bedroom! It looks so very soft and perfect for cuddling up. And if you aren't into soft, cuddly things, I think it would at least add a beautiful color to your couch. I've never purchased or heard anything about Sky Iris before, so make sure you are careful if you attempt to purchase from them using paypal and a trusted credit card if you can. (Anybody else notice how expensive blankets are!?!)

Finally, one of my favorite websites, that I never buy from, Layla Grace featured this rug at some point in the past that I just had to pin to my pinterest board. I think it would be lovely in a dining room, living room, or even bedroom space. It's elegant, fun, ornate, and I love the color!

I hope you had as much fun looking through my chosen items as I had picking them out. If you are interested in seeing more turquoise items or if you want to see turquoise rooms (and homes!) be sure to check out the Everything Turquoise shopping blog and House of Turquoise inspiration blog. You never know what you'll find! Plus, just looking at these blogs has such a calming effect on a person…

So are you a turquoise person? Did you know about those blogs? If not, what color person are you?

Have a fantastic Wednesday! The week is already halfway over! Yay!

My Style

Yesterday I got caught up watching Tobi Fairley on Creative Live talking about your home style when it comes to interior design. The one thing she talked about that really resonated with me was how your clothing style and home style can really be a reflection of one another.

So let's dissect this a bit.

Here are two of my favorite tops:

Free People Light My Fire Tunic

Free People Whistle While You Work Yummy Dobby Tunic

Both tops are frilly and feminine. I might wear them with jeans, but they aren't nearly as casual as t-shirts. I never wear any kind of athletic shoe, and I don't really wear anything too crazy bold. In fact, my absolute favorite color is turquoise. It makes me feel relaxed and at ease (which makes sense if you know anything about the color wheel).

So here is what I have that I love in my home that fits my vision:

Hadley Ruched Duvet Cover from Pottery Barn

Bamboo Viscose Towel Set in Dreamy Blue from Burke Decor

Waves of Ruffles Shower Curtain by Anthropologie

So you kind of get the picture of my style…

Feminine, blue, soft, airy.

It's kind of the exact opposite of my husband's style which is more modern and includes a lot of black. (Thanks, Ikea.)

Nevertheless, watching Tobi Fairley gave me new ideas about how to use the modern pieces my husband brought into the marriage in the type of airy, soft home that I imagine (such as changing up the hardware).

We probably won't touch any of that until after our trip to Europe… (And to be honest, home decoration is pretty low on our list of priorities right now.) But hopefully, in the future, we'll be able to tackle home decoration in a very real way to make our home a place that we truly love rather than merely the place we live.

Tomorrow I'm going to go through my pinterest board and talk about some of the decor I would buy if I had an endless amount of money and could afford to decorate my home any way I please. :)

Can you see similarities in the way you dress to the way you decorate your home? If you think about it like that, are there pieces you would get rid of that simply don't fit? What about pieces that you didn't think fit your style but now do?

A 4 Year Old Selfie

I took this picture last week, but it was only because the 4 year old I was watching was obsessed with looking at himself. I feel like this picture is more about how he sees himself than how I see him. One thing I do love are the sharp, focused eyes and eyelashes. Very lovely.

Now, I'm going back to sleep as I attempt to conquer the head cold I have. (Argh!) Hope you all are having a wonderful Monday!

(Winners from the Purex laundry enhancer giveaway will be announced soon.)

5 Things I've Learned While Babysitting A PreSchooler

This has been quite a week! While there are things I have loved about this week, I have definitely learned a lot about being with a 4 year old every morning and night. (He has school during the day. Yay!)

1. Big, comfy beds are a must for parents/adults with little children. And if possible, your own personal bathroom too.

I know, I know I live in America, land of the big where we buy the largest houses, SUVs, and the biggest dogs? (Not too sure about the last one!) Nevertheless, I have definitely found positives to not sharing with your child (or a child).

- The big, comfy bed is awesome to lay down on after a long day. Plus, if you have to share with a child, it is big enough. Otherwise, it's just nice to end the day snuggled up and comfy with room to spread out if you want.

- Four year olds are messy. (Not that husbands aren't.) They get water, soap, and bubbles all over the place when bathing. While I'm certain a parent could control that, I only see myself as a babysitter and tend to follow the rules as set out by Jane and Michael Banks in the movie Mary Poppins.

I feel that discipline (to a certain degree) is up to the parents. My main goal is for the kid to take a bath (preferably enjoying it) and get clean. I have no other expectations with that regard. This may be why I think having one's own bathroom is definitely nice as a parent. Especially since most parents want to shower and sleep (or vice versa) after a long day spent with kids … not worry about cleaning up after their kids.

2. Habits are easily learned at age 4.

When we got here last Saturday the parents warned us that their son liked to fall asleep in their bed first and be moved midway through the night. Since Justin and I were going to be sleeping in the parents bed and we weren't too fond of sharing it with a 4 year old (think drooling, bed-wetting, etc…) we worked out a method of sitting in his room with him until he fell asleep which is sometimes an hour or more. At first it was difficult, but now it isn't as much. Unfortunately, the new habit of having someone sit in his room until he falls asleep is. At 2AM this morning Justin and I (mostly Justin) woke up to 4-year-old crying because he couldn't find us. We weren't sitting on the bedroom floor waiting for him to fall asleep. *sigh* It's easy for me to see how the parents would let him do whatever he needs to do to fall asleep just so that he is happy and content and actually falls asleep without them having to wait on him. Or maybe I'm just not that patient.

The good news is that good habits are as easily learned as bad habits. :) Brushing teeth and reading before bed are two very good habits that children are totally into at this young age if you have the patience and ability to direct that.

3. Always place a variety of foods on the plate.

This is the one skill I feel we have figured out. All 3 of the kids I watch are picky about what they will and won't eat. The older sister likes cheese toast and fruit. She will eat chicken so long as it doesn't have any seasoning, and she loves sweets. The older brother is even more picky and will only really eat peanut butter (on bread or crackers) and sweets. So we just knew last year that the 3 year old would be a challenge. Turns out, he basically ate whatever we put on his plate so long as his brother and sister weren't around. His mom mentioned that now at 4 years old, he is more picky than he was at 3, which we have definitely found to be true. Justin just places a wide variety of foods in front of him, all separated, and Charlie (the 4 year old) eats whatever he wants. We, of course, encourage him to try everything on his plate.

The funny thing is, I feel like this method of learning and growing accustomed to new tastes doesn't change as a child (or adult) gets older. I still have Justin put new foods on my plate to try. (Justin eats anything; I'm the picky one.) There are days when I am absolutely stubborn and completely unwilling to try anything new, and then there are days when I am more open to trying and learning to like new flavors. Sometimes all it takes is a different method of cooking, new seasonings, or overcooking/under cooking something for me to like it.

4. Occasional treats and surprises make life fun.

While I'm certain Charlie has missed his family a lot, Justin and I have tried to make this week as fun as possible (for him and us), so we have done a lot more in the way of treats and surprises than most parents can do in a week's time. Nevertheless, occasionally treating your child for good behavior or a job well done is far better than criticizing your child every other day of the week for what they are doing wrong. (Not that I am against punishment in all cases.)

I once read an article about a study done on elementary and high school students wherein the children were given an incentive (such as money) for good grades. With the high schoolers it didn't make much difference, improve their performance that much, or get them into college; the elementary students, on the other hand, learned to work hard, make good grades, and more often than not were able to get into college because of their work ethic. Obviously family income level and parental  guidance played a part, but it was interesting to see how a goal influenced children even at a very young age and how that affected them as they moved toward adulthood.

Before I leave this subject … I must also mention how occasionally your 4 year old will surprise you. This week I found playdough in the fridge. If that's not exciting, I don't know what is. ;)

5. Your mood affects the mood of the entire household.

I have noticed that on days that I am most tired, when I go to wake Charlie up… he's tired too. If I go to wake him up with a big smile on my face ready to greet the day, he may be groggy, but he eventually comes around and becomes peppy and happy … even excited. I definitely noticed this with Justin before coming here, but it was even more clear with a child in the picture. Keep that in mind as you work with children or even spend time with whoever else you live with. The more happy and positive you are, the more happy and positive they most likely will be as well! :)

Have you learned anything this week?

When this weekend comes to an end, I will be back to my normal life. I'm both looking forward to it and not. Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! :)

Five Thoughts About Movies

I decided to take on another blogger challenge and write 5 fun thoughts about movies. (Technically, the challenge was to write facts about me, but I decided to mix it up a bit.)

1. I'm not a Star Wars fan at all, by choice. Up until episode I came out in theatres, I hadn't ever (by choice) seen any of the other movies. My parents took my brother and I to the theatre to see this movie, so I didn't really have much choice in seeing it. My brother, on the other hand who is much younger than I am, had seen all of the movies multiple times. I just refused to watch them and would disappear into my room any time the tapes were put into the VCR. (Yes, I am that old.)

This past week, rather than watching The Haunting Hour or Goosebumps over and over again, Justin and I have been watching Star Wars with the 4 year old. My options have forced me to choose the movies I was never interested in watching. Of course, I attempt to make fun of it the whole way through. I mean - why not? I have popcorn and a chance to see a movie on a big tv; might as well make the best of it! (And neither the 4 year old nor Justin mind too much.)

2. I have recently decided that my favorite Disney princess is Mulan, although I'm not entirely sure she counts as a princess. I love that she is awkward when trying to fit into the women's world and making men fall for her, but she has no qualms about cutting off her hair and going into war in place of her father. I think this type of story speaks to the hearts of young girls in this generation far more than Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast ever did.

(Note: I have not seen Brave.)

3. I am very particular about what movies I see in theatres, because I am so judgemental. I hardly ever come out of the theatre thinking to myself "I'm so glad I wasted $30 and 120 minutes of my life!" It's much nicer to wait on a movie to come out on dvd, rent it for $1, have a popcorn movie night at home with the hubs, and think "I'm glad I didn't waste all of my money and time watching this in theatres!"

The most recent movie I've seen in theatres was The Lego Movie which I found far more enjoyable than I expected. I liked the surprise ending and the moral was great for kids. The only problem I really found with the movie is that I didn't feel like it really practiced the moral it was preaching i.e. being "original". Nevertheless, I was amused by the storyline and impressed by the computer animation even if it was one big (long) commercial.

4. Continuing on the trend of theatres, I only recently learned that my grandmother was the one to pay for my movie nights/afternoons out as a child. Some of my fondest memories were going out to lunch with my grandmother, mom, and brother before going to the theatre and eating popcorn while watching a movie. Now, if I go to the movies, since I go so rarely (once every six months or so), Justin and I always make a point of making it a special night out with popcorn and drinks. It's really a lot of fun and feels like a special treat when we do it. If we can't afford to go all out in theatres, my next favorite thing is going all out at home with homemade popcorn while cuddling up under a blanket watching a movie. In fact, sometimes movie nights in are more fun than movie nights out. :)

5. I don't really care for lots of cursing in movies. I'd much rather see an awesome, positive, uplifting family movie than a movie like The Wolf of Wall Street, which sadly I have attempted to watch and gave up on halfway through. I feel like the use of such things should be reserved for making strong statements. Y'know … statements that are filled with emotion and power. If every other word is a curse word, it loses any emotional quality or strength it may have had in my mind.

What are some of your thoughts on seeing movies? Are you a fan of Cinderella or Star Wars? Do you have any quirks when you go to the theatre? Anything you like to do?

J'Adore Influenster Vox Box

I just received my very first influenster box!! YAYAYAYAYAY!

It was super fun, because it kind of had a bit of a Valentine's Day theme, which I could totally get behind. I mean … chocolate kisses? Yum!

Because I received the box this week, I got to share it not only with my love but also a very cute, very emotional 4 year old. I love that these kisses were able to make our day(s) that much better! :)

One of the first products I pulled out of the box was the Botanics Face Mask. I've never actually used a face mask, so it will be exciting to try it. The label says that the mask "actively removes impurities and deeply cleanses with a clarifying willowbark". (They probably meant to include the bit about how it scares husbands too!) I was really afraid of looking at the ingredients list, but there are only 4 ingredients listed! Isn't that awesome?! And the ingredients seemed to be consistent with the brand concept; they are all natural. Usually when I look at labels for products like this I run away scared because I don't recognize half of the ingredients! I also like that the product is fairly quick and easy to use. According to the instructions, you only have to leave it on your face for 10 minutes! That could easily be incorporated into a nightly (or morning) beauty routine without causing undue stress!

When I saw Frizz Ease 3 Day Straight Flat Iron spray in the box, I began to wonder if Influenster could read my mind. If I don't straighten my hair, I look a bit like a clown or someone from the 80s with big, puffy hair. It's not a very attractive look. This product by Frizz Ease sounds a bit like a miracle worker. Straight hair for 3 days? Why yes! I think I will like you! :) Unfortunately, it mentions 7-15 squirts or more depending on how curly, long, and thick your hair is. My hair is curly (well, at least crazy wavy), long, AND thick. Does that mean I'm going to need to use the whole bottle?! It is nice that the product comes with a bit of keratin, but the ingredient list is pretty crazy long. I was glad to see that sodium lauryl sulfate was not on the list. One thing to note about this product is that they recommend you use it on wet hair. If you just happen to want straight hair and you haven't just washed it, guess what?! You get to go wash it. That is definitely a negative in my opinion.

I've never actually used fake eyelashes, so it was exciting that these Kiss eyelashes came in the box (although I'm a bit afraid to try them!). I definitely have had friends recommend using false lashes before, but I just have never felt the need to try it. Now that I have a sample product to try, I might just break that trend! In the box, the eyelashes look lovely. The box states that the lashes will "look natural" and "feel light and soft as a feather", which sounds pretty good to me. Plus, the company name! When sent with Hershey's kisses?! Totally great marketing scheme they could have there! Who wouldn't want to buy the combination of fake eyelashes (to look beautiful, of course), with delicious chocolate?!

The last thing sent in my box was RedRose black tea blends in Lemon Chiffon, and Créme Caramel flavors. I have to admit I am most excited about the caramel tea. It sounds delicious! #simplyindulge :)

I was hoping to get a little something to give away on my blog from influenster, but I guess they don't really do that. :( I will definitely keep you all updated as I try these products. In the mean time, keep an eye out for some of these products in stores. Or if you've tried any of these products before, let me know what you think in the comments below. I would love to know what to expect!

Hope everyone is having a fantastic week thus far! Only two more days until the weekend! :)

** I received all of the above products for free from influenster to try, and provide opinions and reviews. All opinions/reviews are 100% my own.

My Instagram Style

This week has been a bit crazy and all of our schedules have been thrown way off as Justin, I, and the 4 year old get used to living together. Justin and I went from living in a tiny house and only having to be concerned with ourselves to living in a bigger house and worrying about the 4 year old, the guinea pig, the cat, and some fish. Crazy, right?! Everyone says this will help us prepare for parenting later in life…

In the mean time, another blogger challenged me to think about my instagram account, which is rarely updated anymore since 1) it was bought by Facebook and 2) they now have advertising. Yuck, yuck, yuck. I don't want to sift through hundreds of ads to see what my friends and family are doing!

Anyway, I started thinking about the subjects I photograph most often with my phone and about my style of photography and editing via the cell phone. It was definitely interesting comparing the images and seeing the very different editing styles I tend to use with instagram in comparison to photoshop.

1. Sunsets/Sunrises

One of my favorite things to photograph is sunsets and sunrises, and unless I've planned ahead, which is rare, my shots of the sunset/sunrise are most often taken with a phone. It doesn't help that Justin and I tend to stay incredibly busy and find ourselves out on the road a lot. It actually takes effort and thought (and probably pre-planning as well) for us to remain at the house every night for a whole week. Frankly, that kind of forethought doesn't usually happen.

While Justin and I do fail quite well at staying in one place for more than 24 hours, I do love the soft editing and creamy colors in my instagram sunrise and sunset shots. Often if I have planned to be out taking photos at that time of day, the clouds are not cooperating. It seems everything only comes together perfectly when you can't find a place to pull over and you don't have your dslr. Go figure.

2. Skylines

Along the same lines as the sunset/sunrise shots, I always see the perfect set-up for a skyline shot when I'm in the car going somewhere and there is nowhere to pull over. Where, for example, am I suppose to pull over on I-85 in Atlanta without killing myself? So, iphone shots from the car it is!

3. Food

Justin loves to make food, and I love to eat it. ;)

And photograph it. :) It would seem I have the most patience photographing breakfast and dessert. Then again, we have a very dark house with very few windows which makes it hard to photograph anything even with a dslr! Shooting during the morning or early afternoon is the most practical and allows for the most beautiful light to enter our windows.

4. Flowers/Plants

When I'm babysitting, I don't always have my camera but I typically find myself bored when the kids are entertaining themselves. Of course that is when I notice the most beautiful scenes. I sit as still as possible, hold my breath, and spend the next 15 minutes taking a picture of one flower getting the positioning just right. It's especially wonderful when the image turns out beautiful.

5. Kids

I babysit A LOT. I'm always amused at what the kids are doing and how creative they are. They generally let me take their picture as long as I'm not pushing for a smile. I try to keep it low key and low pressure; I hated having my picture taken as a child (and even now!), and the last thing I want is to push the kids away by taking their picture too often and dictating their play. My cell phone allows me to capture the moments without distracting them. Plus, the middle shot from above was taken when the battery of my camera died; I love it!

What are you most likely to photograph with your cell phone? Do you photograph a little bit of everything or are you very particular? Feel free to share your instagram account in the comments below or follow my instagram account!

Living with a 4 Year Old

This week I'm watching a 4 year old. And boy am I feeling it. One minute everything is wonderful, but the next … everything couldn't be worse. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. And occasionally there is a bit of cute. :)

This weekend we took him to Legoland and to see The Lego Movie. It was quite a lego-tastic weekend. I practiced shooting, and Justin built a house and robots out of legos. I guess this is what our lives will look like for the next week…

A Love-ly Day

Today I was going to post … well, I didn't know what I was going to post … and then I came across this letter a friend wrote to me many, many years ago:
I just wanted to thank you for being such a good friend for the past few years. I don't know when the last time I thanked you was. You have always been there for me when I needed you the most. Always willing to listen to me when I needed it. You never judged me in a negative light. I consider you one of my best friends/sister. You have always been able to give me the best advice when I need it. I guess I got lucky with you coming into my life all those many years ago. I will never forget the countless late night conversations we would have about life and stuff in general. Your more then I could have ever asked for in a friend.  
Awww… :)

Anyway, this prompted me to encourage all of you to think about the family and friends that mean so much to you on this holiday (not just your significant other!). Give them a call or write them a note and let them know you are thinking about them. Obviously, you can do this at any point, but given that it is Valentine's Day, you almost have an excuse or reason to make that call or send that text!

Hope everyone has a fantastic day!

Snow Days + Giveaway

As you may have heard, ice has crippled the city of Atlanta. Many are without power. I dare say that while the ice was far worse than what we experienced two weeks ago, the weather from my perspective was a tad over-exaggerated. Yes, I am getting 2 snow days out of the deal rather than just 1, but I didn't see near the 10 inches and constant falling of snow that was predicted.

Nevertheless, here are a few of my favorite things about being stuck at home during a snowpocalypse.

1. Hot oatmeal for breakfast.

I've always liked the instant oatmeal, but Justin introduced my to steel oats without any preservatives or excess sugar. My life was changed, but not in the way you would expect. All of a sudden, ALL oatmeal was unappealing and gross. It has taken me YEARS to get over that.

And yet, what do I find myself eating on this 30 degree snowy winter morning?


I'm feeling a little sick. Oatmeal feels good on my throat and is warm. Plus, Justin adds just the tiniest bit of maple syrup, so that I get my sweet without too much extra sugar! It is delicious. :)

2. Going for a walk.

Taking pictures, looking at pretty, throwing a snowball… These are a few of my favorite things. :)

Plus, a lunch out containing something hot to break up the walk is crazy fun too!

3. Reading a book or watching a movie curled up under a blanket.

I just like curling up under a blanket really. Or two. Or three. Throw in my favorite pillow and I've got it made!

4. Along those same lines, having my husband working from home.

It sounds a bit cliché, but I am so grateful to have him in the same house as me. He's great for killing bugs, fixing lunch, and keeping me company… :)

5. Cleaning.

I bet you didn't see that one coming!

I hate cleaning. Really, I do. I like living in a clean house, but I hate getting there. Snow days in allow you to see that your house is a mess and that you should clean it. Perhaps that's why everyone does spring cleaning? They've been cooped up inside their messy house too long, and they can't get out of the house to do anything else!


One of the household chores the snow day in has allowed me to get caught up on is laundry. When your husband bikes to work in the snow, there is a LOT of laundry! 

Purex sent me a bottle of Purex Crystals Fresh Mountain Breeze to try. It's a laundry enhancer great for practically everything! And it smells divine too!! :) You can use it in both top loading and front loading machines to add a lovely scent to your fresh, clean clothes, towels, or even sheets! Can you imagine falling asleep to the wonderful smell of the fresh mountain breeze? … I can! :)

The best part about Purex sending me this lovely free sample is that they sent me a few coupons to give away as well! Are you interested in trying the new, wonderful smelling Fresh Mountain Breeze Purex Crystals? Enter the giveaway via the rafflecopter below and perhaps you'll win the chance to have awesome smelling laundry too! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway *I was given a sample from Purex to try the Fresh Mountain Breeze Crystals and coupons to give away. All opinions in this post are my own. 

Money, Money, Money!

I usually do a finance update approximately twice a month, since Justin's paycheck (our biggest source of income) comes in just as often. I've been a bit slow about doing a finance update this month, because we've had a lot of transferring of funds going on. Even now that I think most of the transferring is complete, I still can't really show you accurate graphs from Mint, because Mint can't seem to connect to one of our bank accounts (and the amount it has listed in the account is wrong). Nevertheless, since Justin should be receiving his paycheck next week, I will try to give an accurate assessment of what we are doing well and what could be improved – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

1. This month I figured out how to show Mint a bank account was cancelled! Woo!!

We cancelled a bank account with Chase, and it was beyond irritating me that it would constantly show excess money in that account. I was thinking – "NO! We don't have any money in that account!" and there was this constant add/subtract bit going through my head trying to figure out exactly how much cash we had available. Not fun. Especially if you have to do it every time you check your finances.

(Side note: Here's how to close an account in Mint:

After signing in, look at the left side of the screen where your accounts are listed. It should look something like this:

Click on the edit symbol, the piece of paper with the pencil over it. Your entire list of accounts should appear. Scroll down until you find the one you want to close.

Click on the light blue text, i.e. "paypal account" or whatever yours is titled. It could have the word "checking", "savings", or "credit card" in the title. No matter what though, it should have the little arrow next to it like this does with an amount listed across from the account name.

DO NOT CLICK DELETE. That will delete the entire account and you will no longer have access to any information from the account. Yes, you can re-add it, but why? If you would like to maintain accurate financial data from the time you listed this account on Mint, continue following my instructions.

When you click on the name of your account, you should see a list of options available to you such as: renaming your account, listing the APY, listing fees, etcetera… The bit you need to pay attention to is status. If your account is closed, use the arrow keys to mark the status of the account as "closed".

You will get a pop up informing you that Mint will no longer attempt to download any transactions from that account. Obviously, if it is closed that won't matter and you should click "ok".

Simple as pie, right?! I have no idea why it took me a year to figure it out!)

2. I bought a $2,000 lens.

Before you go all "WTF?! You're trying to save money!" on me, please note that the lens was on sale, offering a rebate, and I had won a gift card towards the purchase price in essence bringing the cost down to approximately $1,000. Plus, there is the whole going to Europe and wanting to be able to capture the images I see using equipment I have rather than merely wishing I had the capability of capturing that which I want.

Unfortunately this lens did not do all that I wanted, and I considered returning it for a bit, but Justin recommended I keep it.

3. In an effort to afford the lens that would do what I wanted, we were fortunate enough to be able to cash out with our Venture Visa for almost enough Amazon money for me to buy a wide angle lens. Yay!! It's nice to occasionally get things for almost free! (We paid 1/5 of the price!)

Now I really will be able to capture absolutely everything as I see it! :)

4. On the same note as lens purchasing, Justin and I signed up for a trial account with Amazon Prime for 6 months. Paying so much for a prime account when we could be putting the extra money toward paying down debt, savings, or paying for our Euro-trip was a bit upsetting for me, so I changed it. We use Amazon too much to give up prime, but a free trial seemed acceptable.

5. We prepaid for the room we will be staying at in Germany. (Technically it is a house found through AirBnb, but either way it has been paid for!) On the one hand this was an expense we could have waited to pay for, but on the other hand it allows us to separate our expenses into more manageable chunks hopefully allowing us to budget better when we are in Europe than if we were to pay for everything all at once.

I think this month we will be paying for the car lease and a hotel room for France, but we shall see. I also have to look for group accommodations in France. I've been a bit slow/lazy about it.

6. Justin and I took advantage of some money making offers last month providing us with a bit of extra money. Yay! (Granted, it was probably only in the $100 range, but anything extra helps!)

7. We were on top of interest rates last month paying very little, but this month our interest rate has nearly tripled since we got behind on a credit card payment. Yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck! :( Plus, with mint (and the bank accounts) being all confusing like, it's been hard to determine where the last credit card payment came from and making doubly certain we have enough in another checking account to pay even more down on the credit card. (The last thing you want is to have to pay the bank for taking out too much money!)

8. Our Goals

We are currently projected to meet our vacation goal by April 19, our emergency fund goal by August 15, and our credit card goal by March 2015.

Vacation and emergency goals are on target. We will have to work on our credit card goal. Originally we were hoping to meet that goal by October 2014, so we have a bit of work/saving to do.

9. We already filled out our taxes. Money was owed to the state, but we're getting money back from the government. Yay!

10. Justin is now saving for retirement with the help of his company. We also now have dental and vision health insurance coverage (in addition to regular coverage). Oh - and our cars are fully insured. Yes, we could be worse off.

11. I will be getting a bit extra this month as I am house-sitting and watching a 4 year old for a week. Wish me luck.

12. Our debt is back down to where it was in October! YAY!!!

Hopefully, we can keep tackling it by making extra money and saving.

(Have I mentioned that I am totally envious of the blogger I just read about who is going to Italy on plane tickets that cost $450?! Why couldn't I find a deal that good? Or maybe her price didn't include taxes? Those taxes KILL! Or Delta lies. One of the two.)

13. Our assets could be doing better…

This graph lies. Our assets are about where they were in November. We've been paying down debt and not necessarily saving as much as we could be. Plus, I'm not entirely sure what happened to all of that extra money in December and January; I'm not even really sure it actually existed. Too bad money can't talk.

14. Our net income:

We really didn't make that much extra in January. We also aren't doing as well in February as the graph implies. Lies, I tell you! Lies!

But we aren't doing too bad either. Spending less than we make is generally a good thing.

That's our finance story and I'm sticking to it. We spent a lot in January, we made some extra money, and we could be doing better in February, but we aren't spending more than we make. And mint needs some help to get my finance graphs right.

How are you doing this month, so far? Right on track? Slipping behind? Jumping ahead? Any advice for me?

The Perfect Pinterest Valentine's Day

First and foremost, I must say that I find Valentine's Day a little over-rated. I was blessed to grow up in a family that celebrated Valentine's Day as a day of cherishing those we love rather than loving those we cherish, if that makes any sense. In other words, I never felt pressured to have a date or significant other on Valentine's Day. We didn't always celebrate in a big way, but we always did some little something.

- My mom encouraged dressing in pink or red.
- We would exchange cards at dinner.
- Dinner often consisted of something red or fancy: spaghetti or steak.
- Dessert was typically a chocolate cake with a heart decorated on it.
- Occasionally small gifts were exchanged. Usually small teddy bears, chocolate, or a toy. One Valentine's my dad went all out and bought me some ruby earrings from Jared, particularly meaningful since ruby is my birthstone. Unfortunately, I lose everything so I've been too afraid to wear them too much. :-/

For the most part, it was the little things that were the most meaningful. Sometimes going out to eat and celebrating in a big way takes away the thoughtfulness of a home cooked meal and homemade cards.

Past Valentine's have been a mix of awesome and sucky for me:

- One year my replacement Dell computer came in on Valentine's. That was awesome. Dells suck.
- A few years it has "flurried" on Valentine's Day. Considering the lack of snow typical of GA, that is always fun. :)
- Last year Justin and I were babysitting a then-3-year-old on Valentine's. My computer hard drive crashed, my car needed fixing, the president came to town, and my attempt at a cake failed miserably.

This year Justin and I get to celebrate sans 3 year old, and while I'm not hoping for a perfect holiday, there are definitely a few things that could make my Valentine's Day more awesome.

1. A Homemade Meal

Obviously, Valentine's Day this year falls on a work day, so there will be no homemade breakfasts or lunches, but a homemade dinner is always delicious. If Justin decides he really doesn't want to cook, I definitely would not be opposed to going out to eat. I'm also not opposed to having dinner with our families. But if we stay in, it would be great fun to have roasted tomato soup and a salad with strawberry balsamic vinaigrette dressing. It would be a warm meal that incorporates the color red. (I picked these things because they sound delicious, not because of the color!)

image from Baked By Joanna

image from A Beautiful Mess

2. Cards and gifts will most likely not be exchanged because of the whole saving for Europe and paying down debt thing. Plus, Valentine's Day everything is SOOOO expensive. It's much cheaper to wait until afterward when all of the holiday merchandise goes on sale!

image from Inked Fingers; this product is from last year and no longer available

Nevertheless, I can't help but want to decorate for Valentine's Day even in the simplest of ways.


image from Niche White

3. A cute outfit. 

I'm thinking something like this would be fun:

Chicwish top, bottom

Floral, feminine, basic. Maybe with these:

Steven Ravesh from Zappos or 6PM

I know it's not pink or red, but I could totally jazz it up with red or pink accessories if I wanted.

4. Dessert

It's the only appropriate way to end the night. What about a mini chocolate bundt cake with strawberries or raspberries on the side?

Bronze Budget Bride

Yes, I do believe even the most basic homemade Valentine's Day can be amazing (and inspiring).

How are you planning on celebrating Valentine's Day? Have you been crafting up a storm? Or searching pinterest for the perfect gifts and foods? Perhaps you are going out of town for the weekend? If so – lucky you!! :) Share with me! I need more ideas! And I'd love to hear from those who celebrate in bigger ways than I do! :)

** I'm participating in the SITS girls' February writing prompts. Feel free to join in!!

Anthropologie Reviews (Feb 2014)

After Friday's post, I was inspired to watch Water for Elephants again (such a beautiful movie!) and pull Catcher In the Rye off the bookshelf (at least until I can get my hands on another desired book!!).

Of course, there was also some major cleaning that took place over the weekend (white bathroom grout ftw?), a few random jobs, going to a local concert, and visiting Anthropologie to make a few returns … You know what happens when I make a few returns, don't you?

It probably doesn't help that they put a bunch of clothing on sale last week.

As you may recall, a few weeks ago, the andrassy dress was on my watch list. I love that the dress flared a bit at the bottom, and the gorgeous green color!!! Yes, this was a dress I could get behind. Until I tried it on. :( The day this dress went on sale last week, I waited to order until Justin got off work. I had approximately 10 things in my basket, and I wanted to talk to him before ordering; Anthropologie is not cheap. When the end of the day finally came, all but one of the items in my cart had sold out including this dress!! So I called Anthropologie and their winning sales associate came through for me! (Love you Anthro!) Within minutes she had me hooked up with the numbers of 3 stores that had this dress in my size (2) in stock! YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY! Then, it was a waiting game.

But finally, last Thursday night I received this dress in the mail. I was soooo excited to open it that I'm pretty sure I mutilated the box. (Off to recycling it went!) As for the dress … The color was gorgeous (as I have previously mentioned), and the fabric was a dream! It had a lovely thick fabric for the actual dress, and the dress was lined with a silky smooth cottony fabric inside. It was so wonderfully made that I felt like I could practically sleep in it! No scratchy fabrics for Anthro girls!! :) I had ordered the 2 since Anthro reviews on the website recommended I size up. (I usually wear somewhere between a 0-2 and xs/s),

As to the fit, I found the sizing up to be accurate EXCEPT in the area between my chest and my hips (i.e. my stomach). It probably doesn't help that I am short. It is also quite possible that a "petite" version of the dress would have fit me better. Nevertheless, the dress was tight across my hips (adding extra weight to the look in the front) and baggy in my stomach area. It was definitely a fail fit for me. The sides of the dress did look gorgeous though, and made the dress look like it fit wonderfully!

I tried the dress on with the sequined cardigan you see above, but that didn't necessarily help matters. :( For one the cardigan is scratchy. Secondly, the cardigan seemed to overwhelm the dress. Very disappointing.

The dress has already been returned, and I am still debating on the cardigan. It's cute, but can I get past the scratchiness? Will I wear something with that much bling? (The bling could be fun if you have a bright dress for a Christmas/New Years/Valentine's party/date/whatever.)

During my trip of returning the andrassy dress, I decided to check out the sales section "just to see" as I told Justin. Pssh. Yeah, like I would leave Anthro without trying on another million dresses. ;)

The Terrace Sheath was a dress I had been watching since Christmas, so when I saw it was on sale I jumped to try it on. I loved the multiple layers, the brightly colored fabric underneath a beautiful lace exterior, and the bottom of the dress is just adorable. What I found when trying this dress on is that it is adorable … just not on me. I tried the dress on in a size 2, mostly because I didn't want to have to go back to the rack if the dress didn't fit. I think a 2 fit well, but I didn't manage to get the zipper all the way up; it got hung and I was far too lazy to actually figure out (or get the husband's help) to make it go any higher. I guess if I had seen this dress on the model on the Anthropologie website, I probably wouldn't have tried it on to begin with. This dress tries to emphasize curves by pulling in at the waist (which is far too low for my short self!), but it is really more of a dress for straight girls. Plus, the high neckline totally de-emphasizes any amount of chest you may have which inevitably adds weight to your body merely because you are female and have a chest! Perhaps a triangle body shape would work well in this dress? I don't know! Back to the rack it went!

Next up: the Glissade dress!

Thinking it would be a cute winter dress due to the thick fabric and how I imagined it would look with tights, I pulled this dress from the rack. The sale price especially made this dress seem like a good deal! :) Once again, I tried this dress on in a 2, and, once again, the zipper got stuck on me. (It's quite possible that I was feeling exceptionally lazy in the trying-on process Saturday!) Anthro's website suggests that this dress is typically large and you may want to size down. my experience was that the bust was large, the waist was tight, and the fit was all wrong for my body type. (I like higher waisted things, specifically underbust a-line dresses.) The fabric felt nice and thick, but it was a bit scratchy in my opinion. I can't imagine what body type this dress would look best on, but it was definitely not mine! :)

The only item I tried on over the weekend that was not on the sale rack was the Quinby dress. Justin said it reminded him of France. My opinion is that the dress reminds me of flower petals; it is so light and soft – perfect for spring! The fabric quite literally flutters. Think ballet dancer: elegant, light. Can't you imagine this model up on pointe?

And that's how you feel in this dress too.

Ok, well maybe not like a ballet dancer! But it definitely makes you feel elegant, light, and very much ready for spring and summer! This dress feels like it would be comfortable to run around in even on the warmest of days!

I tried this dress on in an xs. While the bustline/waistline goes a little lower than I'd like, overall it does not offend my body too much. I especially love how the model (on Anthro's website) pulls off this dress with a belt! How lovely! :) I think some nice, modest, nude heels would look gorgeous with this dress and create a really feminine look.

*Ahem* Back to sizing. :) The dress is stretchy, so I recommend going with the smallest size you think you can fit into.

Also, if you are particular about where the flowers "fall" on this dress, be sure to pick yours out in the store. Honestly, I didn't pay much attention to this in the store, but others have mentioned it in reviews on Anthro's website.

I definitely recommend this dress for a great spring/summer, low maintenance, fun, light, feminine, romantic-night-out dress. I imagine it would look good on a variety of bodies including straight and curvy. :) But please don't buy them all up before they go on sale! It may be worth the regular price, but I would much rather buy it on sale! :)

One of the last things I tried on was this lovely Ruched Pointelle Cardigan in red and black.

I have to say if you are even somewhat interested in this cardigan, go buy it now! It is so beautiful, soft, and feminine! It is also delicate, but I tend to like things that are delicate-looking. (I just wish it weren't actually delicate fabric!!!) I tried on and bought the s in a regular size. I tend to like cardigans (and tops) that are a bit longer (and perhaps make me look just a bit shorter). I'm weird; I know. I did like how the sweater pulls in a bit at the waist adding to your shape and (at the very least) making you feel skinny.Then, just take a look at the beautiful sleeves! Sooo gorgeous! :) I feel like this sweater is perfect for wearing in between seasons whether paired with a top and jeans or over a casual dress. I'm so glad I discovered them before they sold out! :)

Before I left Anthropologie, I did try on another dress and top which are no longer available on the website. :( Needless to say, I left Anthro feeling like most of their current offerings just aren't for me. Granted there are still a few items I will be keeping an eye on, but overall, I don't feel the need to go in and buy the whole store. (Probably a good thing for my wallet!!)

Is there anything you've got your eye on at Anthro? Did you pick anything up during last week's sale?