Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Neighborhood Living

There's this little thing standing between you and me. It's the concept of neighborhoods with names. Now, I know what you're thinking. It's a completely normal, commonplace thing to let me know that your house is in such-and-such neighborhood. However, to me, it's like saying, "I live on Mars." Actually no. I know where Mars is. I don't know where the neighborhood is that you're referring to.


Lest I remind you, I grew up in a town of 2,000. There are 2 4-way stoplights. When you look up a Neighborhood Profile of a place in Pawnee, Oklahoma, Yahoo! Real Estate gives you the demographics of the entire town. And while there are several people who may act like and resemble our friend Mr. Rogers, they belong to Pawnee. They don't belong to such-and-such neighborhood.

So, when I ask you where you live, please give me cross streets. I finally know them now!

Please remember, I'm moving over to!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I'm an Okie, y'all

 I'm also not very original in naming my posts. I made two pillows this weekend, and the combo between the two is all I could think of for my title. I think I used all of my creativity on design this weekend. I have a few things coming down the pike, but I was able to take the time to whip these up this weekend. I love them, and I hope you do, too!

And don't forget, I'm moving! On January 23rd, you'll be able to exclusively find me at my new home!

Friday, January 6, 2012

ALERT! I've moved!

I'll be posting on both for the next 2 weeks, but then you'll be able to find me exclusively at my new home!

Budget smudget.

Resolution numbers 3-6 centered around one thing: getting out of debt by paying off what I owe, not accruing more debt and sticking to a budget. Well, I got a head start on this resolution, and I'd love to report the results.

Let's start waaaaay back in January of 2011. I had a master plan. I was going to save up all of my expense checks in a separate savings account so I could have money for Christmas. You can imagine, I drive a lot for work. I hit the goal I had in mind for my Christmas spending in May of 2011. But, I didn't stop adding to that savings account. Every month, I'd take my checks to the bank. Then I thought, "well okay. I guess this will be my 'oh crap, I didn't expect that' savings account." Luckily, I haven't had to use it, but the idea of having money ready when I need it puts me at ease.

Then I started thinking a little more about my financial stability - it's such an adult topic. Something only parents think about, right? Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Through my undergrad, my stint in Dallas, buying and decorating a house, and grad school, I had accrued some credit card debt. I paid off school as I went, so I was living on a shoestring budget. The problem was, I wasn't actually living like I was on a shoestring budget - I was acting like I wasn't paying anything for grad school. That was dumb. I also had surgery in July, and I've been paying toward that every month.

Another issue I had was I hadn't really set up a budget for anything, so I wasn't sure where my money was going. This is pretty frustrating, to be sure. The result was this cycle: pay more than I can afford to pay on my credit card - run out of money in my bank by the 20th - put the rest of my expenses on my credit card. It was an endless cycle, and it was getting me in to trouble. So, at the end of November, I decided to do something about it.

Of course, I'd heard about Dave Ramsey. When I looked up different {free} items he had on his website, I found a budget worksheet that I could use. I took about 30 minutes to fill out everything I could possibly think of. I used November's numbers to project December's, and before I knew it, I had my entire monthly income divided in to over 20 categories.

Over December, I was overly conscious of the money I was spending. Because my goal was to not touch my credit card the entire month, I had to make sure I didn't go over the amount I had allocated for things I controlled - food, gas, etc. When my natural gas bill came in a little higher than I had projected, I turned around and subtracted from the amount that I could spend at restaurants in the month. I was finally being responsible.

Results: In December...
I tucked away an extra bit into my regular savings account.
I paid 7% of my total toward my credit card.
I reached the halfway point in completely paying off my surgery.
I stayed on budget through the things I could control - except for gas. I didn't take in to account I'd be driving home for Christmas.
I didn't use my credit card once.
I ended up having an extra $150 at the end of the month! I split it 75%-25% between paying toward my credit card and putting it in savings, respectively.

This little post is going to recurring one, so check back on the first Friday of every month, and I'll report on the previous month. Money is a very personal thing, so I'm putting myself out there with this. Please put away your judgy pants and just support me as I strive to be more financially stable. Thankyouandgoodnight.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Read, Currently Reading, To Read: 3


Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:
When Rachel Bertsche first moves to Chicago, she’s thrilled to finally share a zip code, let alone an apartment, with her boyfriend. But shortly after getting married, Bertsche realizes that her new life is missing one thing: friends. Sure, she has plenty of BFFs—in New York and San Francisco and Boston and Washington, D.C. Still, in her adopted hometown, there’s no one to call at the last minute for girl talk over brunch or a reality-TV marathon over a bottle of wine. Taking matters into her own hands, Bertsche develops a plan: She’ll go on fifty-two friend-dates, one per week for a year, in hopes of meeting her new Best Friend Forever.
In her thought-provoking, uproarious memoir, Bertsche blends the story of her girl-dates (whom she meets everywhere from improv class to friend rental websites) with the latest social research to examine how difficult—and hilariously awkward—it is to make new friends as an adult. In a time when women will happily announce they need a man but are embarrassed to admit they need a BFF, Bertsche uncovers the reality that no matter how great your love life is, you’ve gotta have friends.
 My take: 

I only had to get to page 23 to figure out I wasn't going to enjoy this book in the slightest. I was so optimistic when I picked it up, but it fell flat.
I couldn't stand the author's insertions of research about friendships, and she came across as a whiny, petulant child in how she was approaching this process. "Do they like me? Am I trying too hard??" Gain some security, woman!! I opted to check this one back in and start on something else I'd actually enjoy.
Currently Reading 
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School by Alexandra Robbins

To Read

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

* This is a continuation of a series. To see the first books, please see #1, #2

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Read, Currently Reading, To Read: 2

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos ★★★★★
Over this past long weekend, I hunkered down to finish a book I was absolutely in love with from the start. 
Here's the synopsis of the book, as provided by Goodreads:
 "On a recent rainy Monday, I'd tried imagining the last month and a half of my life as a feature film, a game I play, secretly, fairly often, and that I'm convinced other people play, secretly too," confesses Cornelia Brown, whose witty observations and small epiphanies in the pages of Marisa de los Santos' Belong to Me surround readers like the warm embrace of an old friend. Cornelia and her impossibly handsome husband, Teo Sandoval, made their debut in the author's Love Walked In.
As this book begins, the couple is settling into their first house on an idyllic street in a picturesque Philadelphia suburb. Cornelia is inexplicably drawn to "this unsurprising place" that she yearns to call home, but her neighbors are less sure of how these transplanted, apparently childless urbanites will fare in their midst. Especially Piper Truitt. The epitome of blonde cool, this demanding mother of two has created her own version of perfection within the walls of a home that sits across the street from Cornelia's. From their early encounter at a dinner party, the two are at odds, a situation that Cornelia, adrift from her familiar surroundings, cannot conceive how to navigate.
As the novel progresses, new characters emerge. We meet Elizabeth, Piper's best friend, who's battling cancer, as well as Toby, Cornelia's brother, and Clare, the bright and compassionate teen familiar to readers of Love Walked In. Then there's Lake, a single mother working at a local Italian restaurant, who throws Cornelia a timely lifeline in the form of a dish of spaghetti alla puttanesca. Lake's son Dev, a preternaturally gifted 13-year-old, becomes Cornelia's unexpected kindred spirit. Deftly blending several tales at once, de los Santos' narrative is richly embroidered with intertwined lives and loves. As present circumstances are threatened by the revelation of past secrets, the friends forge a circle of strength and forgiveness that the reader, too, belongs to -- and will hate to leave when the last page is turned. A triumphant testimony to the power of love, Belong to Me hums with the hope that pulls friends through the ups and downs that the years hold in store for everyone. 
Here's my take on the book:
Wow. Just wow. de los Santos weaves this story in such a way that had me on the edge of my seat with anticipation and excitement with almost every page. The characters were extremely well developed, and it felt like this could be the story of my own neighbors - nothing too far-fetched, developed over time. Highly recommend!
You need to drop what you're reading, drive to the nearest library or bookstore, and grab this book. Although it has the same characters as Loved Walked In, it's a stand-alone book. It's about 400 pages, but it only took me the weekend to read because it is so fantastic.

Currently Reading 
MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche 

To Read

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School by Alexandra Robbins

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
* This is a continuation of a series. To see the first book, please see #1.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Bam, it's 2012!

There are a few things I hope to accomplish in 2012. Some are carry-overs from 2011, some are brand new, some are practical and some are ridiculous. However, I hope 2012 brings with it the excitement and power to get through these few things.

1) Blog more. I was great about getting posts out there in December, and I hope to continue this through the entirety of 2012. It's something I really enjoy. I also need to clean this bad boy up. Look for some redesigns to come your way in 2012.

2) Figure out how to solve a freakin' Rubik's Cube. Every time I watch someone do it, I am completely enamored. How? What? Crap. I need to learn how to do that.

3) Get to a place where I have zero debt on credit cards, medical bills, etc. I'm fine with having a mortgage... for now.

4) In reference to #3 - I won't use my credit card in 2012. Bold, yes. Necessary, well sure. If I can't afford it, I don't need it. This requires a ...


6) Allow myself the freedom to take chances. There are likely big life changes in store for me in 2012. First time to live with a boy, becoming more proactive in marekalaine (the store, not the person) so that it will grow. In order to do these things, I need to get out of my own way and take some leaps.

7) Write more greeting cards. In all fairness, I stole this idea from a fellow blogger, Valerie. Truth be told, I've been on the receiving end of many a card from my bestie, Lindsay, and I always feel so special when I am. Time for me to spread the love.

8) Learn how to use (and actually use) InDesign and Photoshop.

9) Read more. My goal is 52 books in 52 weeks. I'll document that journey here for your viewing pleasure. It's like my own personal book club. Except the only person I'll be discussing things with is myself. Obviously, you can feel free to give me your 2 cents (Kelly Ogle style). 

10) This one has to be about health, right? Sure. I think I'm going to let this one fluctuate throughout the year (like my weight ... amiright?). Each month, I'll have a new resolution for health. For January, my goal is to workout at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week - walking, weights, Barre3, pilates, yoga, etc. Whatever it takes for me to hit that goal. Food-wise, I'm going to stop drinking calories. Which means I'll be saying two things quite a bit this month - "I'll take my coffee black" and "No, I'm not pregnant."

What are yours? How do you stay on track?