Monday, September 30, 2013

Budgeting Bloggers: September 2013

Round 3 for me on Budgeting Bloggers!  I'm finding that this is a very valuable exercise; it makes me think twice about every purchase, as pretty much everything about shopping for my wardrobe is a want, not a need.

This month I really splurged on pants for fall.  I was already way over budget by September 2nd.  Yikes.  I needed some Poshmark sales to help me get back on track, so I negotiated on prices a bit more to move some inventory.  And it worked!  I made it under budget a week before the month's end.

  1. Elizabeth & Clarke Fall Collection ($60 for three shirts):  This is a seasonal subscription service, where you can choose up to three basic shirts.  I love that they are classic items, so I chose to subscribe for the fall.  Will review here on the blog soon!
  2. Toms Classics in Black (originally $48, FREE as a gift):  My little sister sent me these lovely Toms!  They're my first pair of classic Toms.  They weren't on my list for the month, so I consider this gift a real bonus.  I'm having her keep an eye out for a pair of red ones.
  3. Limited Exact Stretch Skinny Pants (originally $70, paid $35 each):  These pants were the perfect size, perfect length for skinny work pants.  They were exactly what I was looking for to step up my work outfits.  I chose black and maroon, though I'd really love to get them in other colors!  Machine washable too.  50% off sale on Labor Day.  And the best part?  No hemming needed!
  4. GAP Legging Jeans (originally $70, paid $40 each):  30% off sale on Labor Day.  These jeans have a great mid-rise waist and good stretch.  I bought two because, well, I buy two of everything I like.  (Something my sister gives me hell about!)  I sized down, and with the "ankle" length I don't need to have them hemmed.  I got them in both a dark rinse and a lighter color.  And I totally wanted these after going to the mall with Jenna of Kitty Cat Stevens and seeing her rock them when she tried them on.
  5. Vintage Cat Pin ($19):  Sorry not sorry.  Ha!
  6. Joe Fresh Polka Dot Shirt (originally $24, paid $18):  Okay, so I really want this J. Crew Factory Popover, but I don't want to buy it until I lose a few pounds and settle into my goal size.  So this is my temporary bargain-price substitute.  (I know, wishful thinking.)  I had a discount code that basically eliminated shipping cost.  I really love it and have already been wearing it!
  7. Liz Claiborne Dog Sweater (originally $45, paid $33):  Purchased with the polka dot shirt online, discount code covered shipping.  I work for a pet company, so this is completely work-appropriate and fitting!  Super soft and already a favorite.
  8. Giraffe Earrings ($5, similar): Impulse buy from Charming Charlie.  Giraffes are one of my favorite animals.  I felt like I needed these, but they were probably the silliest purchase this month.  Glad they were the cheapest!
$285 - $140 Poshmark Sales = $145
Total Savings = $196

Despite this being a big shopping month (d*mn those Labor Day sales!) I feel like my total savings were huge; I got a lot of bang for my buck.  I find I'm really enjoying the budgeting game, and it's keeping me from being too impulsive or going on a spree.  I'm proud of how successful I've been!

My Poshmark sales are slowing as I don't have much inventory left.  I think I'm nearly there in terms of trimming my closet to what it needs to be via sales/donation/toss... I have a ton of empty hangers now!  So my October wishlist isn't too long, and it's kind of focused on quality items that I'll get a lot of use out of.

October Wishlist:
  • Mustard/Yellow Cardigan (like J. Crew in Golden Sun), as my old one is getting faded/grungy.
  • Limited Exact Stretch Skinny Pants in Army Green or maybe Navy... the two pairs I purchased are soooo comfortable and work-appropriate!
  • Oxford Flats in a tan/brown color like these Naturalizers, comfy but dressy for work
  • Everlane T-shirts (if budget permits) in Navy, Stone, or White/Muted Black which I could always use more of!  They really are the best tees I've owned.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Throwback Photos... enjoy!

Have you entered the awesome Coastermatic giveaway yet?  Do it, you have a great chance to win!

I've been swamped this week.  Just absolutely swamped.  Meetings all week, MBA homework at night, and fighting the tail end of my cold.  Blah.

So since I've neglected to blog, I will attempt to appease you with embarrassing throwback photos.  You're welcome.

Proof I was an 80s child:  Teddy Ruxpin read me bedtime stories!

I considered myself artistic, hence the weird puffy paint shirt and papier mâché elephant.
My uncle thought it was a rat, and I maintain the trunk makes it obvious.

The 1994 timestamp here proves that I was way into The Nightmare Before Christmas before the Hot Topic kids were.  I insisted on Sally for Halloween!

No words, you guys.  The background alone is priceless. 
And I was obsessed with that dress.  Obsessed.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Coastermatic: Instagram into Coasters!

I'd been thinking about getting some new coasters, as the old ones I have are just ancient and not my style.  Then, KISMET!  Coastermatic reached out to me to see if I would review their service, which turns your Instagram photos into custom stone coasters.  You know what that means, right?

Coasters of Bear.  Bear on Coasters.  Adorable kitty cat goodness almost too cute to rest your drink on.  Swoon.  Sorry not sorry.

I was really impressed by Coastermatic.  The turnaround time was super fast; I had my coasters within days.  In addition, the quality of the stone was better than my older stone coasters (rom Bed Bath & Beyond) and the padding on the bottom was great.

They're also super absorbent!  When your glass sweats (which is why you're using coaster) these soak up the water like magic!  I don't know where it goes!  Maybe the Coaster Bears are thirsty...

When Duke got home, he was super excited to see our new coasters.  Bear even checked them out for a bit, but decided he was upset he received no royalties for the use of his likeness.  (I later bribed him with treats.)

There are so many options with these coasters... you could create your own graphic design, split up a panoramic photo across them, even put funny faces on them to make your guests laugh as the put their drinks down.  You can see by my photos on Instagram that these turned out just like the original images.

But the best part?  One of YOU lucky readers has a chance to win your own customized set!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a free set of coasters to review this service.  I also received a set to provide as a giveaway to my readers as part of this feature.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Austenland & the Apocalypse

Duke and I were talking the other day about how we went forever without seeing any new movies... then I went and saw three movies in the last few weeks!  All of them were comedies, but I think they kind of run the gamut in terms of genre.

To go alphabetically, most recently I went with Emma (of The Fiercest Lilliputian) to see Austenland, that was only playing in Green Hills due to a limited release.  I was worried about whether it would be worth seeing in theaters, given that the critics universally panned it as terrible... but 'real people' on Rotten Tomatoes disagreed.  So we decided to indulge without the boys!

Austenland is based on a novel (that I now feel like I need to go read) with an awesome cast... Keri Russell is wonderful as ever in the lead role, and the supporting cast like Bret McKenzie, Georgia King, Jennifer Coolidge and Jane Seymour were hilarious.  AND there's cast member who played a role in my beloved BBC Pride & Prejudice.  I won't spoil who!

Overall we agreed that it was a fun romp!  If you like rom-coms, are an Austen fan, and like a bit of silly, it's a great movie.  I can already tell that once it hits Netflix, it will be one of my lazy Sunday movies.

In another genre completely, Duke and I watched two apocalyptic comedies that really made us laugh hard.

The first, This is The End, is a raunchy comedy a la Superbad/Pineapple Express.  It stars Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, and more as exaggerated versions of themselves in Los Angeles during the end of the world.  It's crude and silly and crazy.  Completely out there.  Violent and filled with expletives.  But if you're a fan of these actors and the kinds of movies they're in, add this one to your list.  Duke in particular likes these actors (he met Seth Rogen while working as an extra on Zack and Miri) and enjoyed it.  I'm not quite sure how this film got such excellent reviews, because there were points it really lagged and didn't entertain me... but any movie the culminates in a Backstreet Boys reunion is worth it to me.  (Sorry for that spoiler, but this movie has been out for ages.)

image source

The second movie, with similar title and end of days kind of theme, was The World's End.  Simon Pegg is behind this thing, but if Duke hadn't made me watch Shaun of the Dead, I'd only have known him as Scotty in the new Star Treks.  But he actually co-wrote this movie and it's pretty entertaining... it's British humor, so if you don't like that you won't like this.  In fact, whether or not you found Shaun of the Dead to be a good movie will determine if you like this.  It's basically about a loser who was hot stuff in high school who reunites his old buddies in an attempt to reclaim his former glory.

image source

These trips to the theater have made me realize how much I really enjoy going to see films.  I spend more time these days waiting for things to hit Netflix, but there's something different about seeing certain films in a theater environment.  I'm looking forward to the next Hunger Games and Hobbit movies, which I'll see for sure!

Have you seen any good movies lately?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

Slow Cookers are da bomb for a working gal.  Especially since Duke's idea of meal planning means Googling takeout joints.  So when I found this recipe for Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken, I decided to give it a go with a few minor differences.

I didn't alter the recipe itself so much aside from cooking on Low and substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream, but while I think this recipe is flavorful and super easy, the end result needs a little added customization based on your preferences.  I liked adding rice and shredded cheese to mine to soak up some of the excess liquid, since I only made two breasts but used the same other ingredients.  Duke added avocado to his, and he said he would have added black beans if he had the energy to cook them ahead of time.

I didn't include other prep photos, because the concoction looked a little, um, not pretty.  I don't want to say what it looked like because this was delish.  And if you don't believe that it was delicious, I asked Duke to give the thumbs up or thumbs down on whether we should ever make it again (he's picky) and he said THUMBS UP.  So if you're in the market for a meal that takes you nearly no time at all, this is it.

This photo makes me realize this could also be a good dip for tortilla chips as an appetizer!

Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken
adapted from Mostly Homemade Mom

-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (frozen is fine)
-1 cup salsa (I liked Medium, Restaurant Style)
-1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
-1 packet taco seasoning
-1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
soft tortillas
rice, cooked black beans, avocado, and shredded cheese as fixings

  1. Spray Crock Pot with nonstick spray (easier cleanup) and place chicken in the bottom of your Crock Pot.  Sprinkle taco seasoning on chicken.
  2. In a bowl, combine soup and salsa. Pour over chicken.
  3. Cook on Low for 8 hours (or High for 4 hours).
  4. Shred chicken with two forks and stir in Greek yogurt.
  5. Serve on tortillas and add your favorite fixings!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bear vs. Toilet Paper

Bear vs. Toilet Paper... spoiler alert, Bear always wins.

Randomly, Bear decided that destroying toilet paper was a really fun thing to do. We moved the toilet paper rolls on top of the toilet, thinking the move might deter him, but no dice. Then we put the TP in the nearest cabinet, so we could still reach it but keep it away from him. Inconvenient to us... but saved paper.

Well, now we're the weirdos who not only have a cat tree, but keep their toilet paper in tupperware.  It was a very cheap alternative to the decorative TP covers I was able to find online (apparently these went out of style a while back) and they are totally Bear-proof.  He has battled these boxes hardcore and never won.

So yeah, life with a kitten who has entered the "terrible twos" of cathood is interesting.  His play aggression is more prominent and he's more destructive... both things we're trying to work on.  My hope is that in a year or so he mellows out a bit, since he is so young.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Doctor Who

Okay, you guys...  I'm officially a fan of Doctor Who.  The newish version, that is, that started in like 2005 or something?  Yeah.

image source

Anyways, my friends have been posting things about the TARDIS and Doctor and Daleks and stuff for ages.  After a bit of probing to find out which series to begin with, I began with Chris Eccleston as the Doctor and his companion Rose Tyler.

I'm kind of hooked.  Sure, the premise and episodes are cheesy and hokey at times, but I really enjoy the stories.  Each episode or arc is like a mini sci-fi movie.  I've even gotten choked up at times, seriously creeped out (like the weeping angels, library shadows), and I laugh a lot.  The special effects do get a lot better even a couple of seasons in.

GIF source

I knew from internet posts that the Doctor regenerates from time to time, replacing him with a new actor.  What I did not realize is that the companions also change.  So it was definitely an adjustment for me to have to deal with new characters all the time.  I'm in the middle of David Tennant's stint right now, and it actually took me a while to like him.  Call me a weirdo, but I really liked Chris Eccleston.  And I'm a big-time Rose Tyler fan for the unrequited love angle, though Donna Noble is possibly by favorite so far.

In good nerd fashion, I love to catch the hidden references to previous episodes as the series progresses.  I don't watch it every day, or even every week, but when I want to veg out and turn on Netflix, it's my destination every time.  Thanks, fellow nerds, for converting me!

Except that most of the people I see every day don't watch it, so they don't get it when I crack up because someone says something like a Dalek or I say something like, "Allons-y!"  Dork.

Guess I'm a Whovian now!

Monday, September 9, 2013

CPR/First Aid Training

I haven't really commented on my progress on the Before I'm 30 list lately, but I recently completed a task that I'm pretty proud of!

I wanted to learn CPR and First Aid.  I felt like it was important knowledge to have, since they say that the people you are most likely to perform these on will be your family and loved ones.

When I heard our office was offering the training for free, I jumped on the chance!  As part of the bargain, I am now designated as trained within my office in case someone needs First Aid.  I really felt like much of it was intuitive and easy to remember.

We did practice CPR with mouth-to-mouth.  Hands-Only CPR is being pushed now for those who don't have traditional training, as well as situations where you don't have a barrier for the air.  In many First Aid situations, we'd have a kit with gloves and a mouth guard airway thingy.  (I'm so technical, right?)

Most boring blog post ever, but I'm pretty proud of this one!  Not-so-humblebrag.  Woohoo!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Layer Cake: Quest for the Golden Spoon

Our department at work had a bake-off, and by request I made my strawberry cake.  I decided to make a pretty layered cake, vs. my usual cupcakes or two stacked rounds.  (Recipe note: since the boxed cake mix I used contains 7 oz. less than the Cake Doctor's, I subtracted one egg from the recipe, which I then doubled.)

Baking buddy... who got kicked out of the kitchen.

The doubled recipe gave me enough for four cake rounds, which I thought was ambitious to layer such a moist cake... but one turned out to be wonky (to Duke's eating pleasure) so I stacked three.  To make the pan removal smoother, I used parchment paper to line the bottom of the pans.

To make the layers even, I weighed the pans as I distributed the batter.  I also chose to bake at a lower temperature for a longer baking time, so the cakes did not "dome" and therefore did not require leveling.  I got all of these tips (parchment paper, weighing pans, lower temp) from reading various blogs.  The internet is wonderful!

Nice shadows, eh?

Once the layers were baked, I stuck them in the fridge for cooling.  Then, I stacked them with a layer of cream cheese Cool Whip Frosting in between.  I used one tub of frosting to stack and crumb coat the entire cake.  I then placed the cake in the fridge overnight.

My layers held!  I was so excited to see this little column in my fridge the next morning.  I decorated the cake that night, with another tub of Cool Whip Frosting.

The cake was a huge hit!  While I didn't win with the judges (I lost to a family coconut cake recipe), I think the fact that my cake was devoured was a personal win for me.

I'm glad that I stepped outside my baking comfort zone and put the effort in to make a level, layered cake.  Now I won't be so afraid to try it again in the future!

The Coconut Cake and Strawberry Cake

Note:  I wasn't asked to write this, but I can't say enough good things about Cool Whip Frosting.  When I'm baking a cake, unless I make the frosting ahead of time, I just don't feel like doing more after the cake baking effort.  Plus, I felt on this super-rich cake I needed something that felt like a lighter frosting vs. buttercream.  The Cool Whip stuff (found in the freezer aisle) is super easy to spread on the cake without picking up crumbs. Just make sure your cake has cooled!  They have a vanilla version too, and the chocolate version that I used on the Starbucks Pike Chocolate Cake.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hattie B's Hot Chicken

Hot Chicken is a 'thing' in Nashville.  According to Wikipedia, hot chicken is "is a type of fried chicken that is a local specialty of Nashville,... In its typical preparation, it is a portion of breast, thigh, or wing that has been marinated in buttermilk, breaded, sauced using a paste that has been heavily spiced with cayenne pepper, and pan-fried. It is served atop slices of white bread with pickle chips."

There's even a Hot Chicken Festival every 4th of July.  (I know Lauren at Lladybird is a fan!)  There are supposedly 14+ restaurants in Nashville now that serve some variation.

image source

My coworkers are hot chicken fanatics.  But since spicy food sends me running for Tums, I haven't attempted to try it since I moved here.  Still, I was kind of excited when my team decided to have lunch at Hattie B's recently!

My Hattie B's experience made me feel like a real foodie... I had to endure 90-degree weather, an outdoor line, and dining without air conditioner to get this meal.  I was physically MELTING!  The line was literally out the door and down into the parking lot.  Talk about antici-  wait for it  -pation.  Even on a weekday at lunch!  I hear on Sundays the line goes for hours since they serve the chicken on waffles.

Shut the cluck up.

Look, I'm not going to pretend I ordered something super hot.  Medium-heat salsa is as adventurous as I get without chugging a gallon of milk.  Call me sensitive.  So I ordered *mild* tenders, pimento mac 'n' cheese, and fries, topped off with an ice-cold lemonade.  YUM.

The lemonade was awesome, by the way.  It was good like a lemon shake-up or Chik-fil-a.  Thirst quenched.

My meal.  ALL MINE.

As for the food, it was DELICIOUS.   I could still sense a bit of heat on the mild chicken, enough that I could really take in the flavor.  The macaroni had kick to it too.  Everything I had was so good.  And yes, the chicken was served on a slice of bread with pickle chips!

I'm supposed to check out Prince's in October with my coworkers, which is one of (if not THE) original hot chicken joint that started the trend.  Since I survived "mild" at Hattie B's, maybe I'll step it up to "medium" at Prince's?  But then again, the heat is all relative... and apparently delicious.

(2014 Follow-up... I am now up to a "medium" at Hattie B's.)

Hattie B's Hot Chicken on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How to Sell Your Stuff on Poshmark


I've had a few folks reach out curious how I'm cleaning out my closet by selling stuff on Poshmark.  I'm kind of addicted, actually... and I've made over $400 since June (Note: as of 1/20/2016, to date I'm over $2500 in sales) getting rid of stuff I don't wear or use anymore.  There are a lot of ways to sell your secondhand stuff out there: eBay, Craigslist, and sites/apps like Poshmark and Threadflip.  Depending on what you're selling, you'll get different rates of success.  I also used to do consignment, but I like getting a bigger cut of my earnings via online sales.

Things I Like About Poshmark:
  • It's all on my iPhone!  Photos, descriptions, etc.
  • You don't pay shipping as a seller (the buyer does).
  • Poshmark sends you a pre-paid shipping label.
  • They handle all the payment stuff, then you can direct deposit into your bank account.
  • It's not an auction, so you set the price.
  • It's easy to sell quality, brand-name stuff if you price it right.
  • You can negotiate, and bundle items for a single buyer.
  • If you get scammed, Poshmark will help you get your money back.  (I haven't used this yet, full disclosure.)
  • It's social.  I've interacted with some great women!

Tips for Using Poshmark:
  • Build quality listings!  It's user-friendly, but there's still work involved.  Be descriptive, and fully disclose any flaws.  Also keep in mind you may be asked to prove the authenticity of items via serial numbers and tags.
  • Use it to sell your brand names.  I'm sorry, but even high quality shoes, leather jackets, suits, etc. won't sell for more than pittance if they aren't popular brands.
  • Price realistically.  I don't get hurt feelings about this.  You can't sell an item for retail.  Think about what you would pay (and bear in mind $5-7 shipping!) and price that way.
  • Promote your items.  You do this by sharing, responding to comments/likes, and posting great photos.  This includes participating in Parties throughout the day and matching those themes!
  • Negotiate, but be smart about it.  There are lowballers out there.  Just ignore them.  And if you negotiate, remember comments cannot be deleted, so if you agree to lower a price, you're stuck there.  USE THE OFFER FUNCTION!  And ask that prospective buyers use it too.
  • Share, share, share.  It's courtesy to share a person's item if they share yours.  Return the favor, and you'll get more eyes on your items.
  • Keep padded envelopes on hand.  I buy them cheap and then just pack and label.  I also use the 24-hour package drop-off at my Post Office so I can mail orders anytime it's convenient.

Some items just won't sell.  If an item won't sell for $5, it's not worth the envelope and a trip to the post office to me.  I delete stale listings and add those items to my donate pile.  At the end of the day, I'm not in it to make money, just recoup some costs on items I would otherwise just give away.

Also, It's against Poshmark's policy for you to take a sale "offline" and go the PayPal route.  You lose your Poshmark protective layer if you do this, so seller/buyer beware.

P.S.  If you join Poshmark, use my code HROMR when you sign up to benefit from referral perks, usually you get $10 right away to shop, and I earn something when you make your first purchase!

P.P.S. (1/1/2014)  I sold a Michael Kors bag on Poshmark, but the buyer claimed that it was not as described (size/shape) and filed a claim for return.  Because I disclosed every dimension, had a full description, and posted plenty of photos, Poshmark stood by me and the sale was final.  That is the benefit of going through Poshmark and not cutting corners with PayPal.  Well worth the 20%.

P.P.P.S.  (4/27/15, updated screenshots)  I'm still using Poshmark, though less frequently than before.  I hosted the first Poshmark party of 2015, and I've now got over 100K people following my closet.  Share, share, share to grow your following, and become a Suggested User by following the rules!

(1/20/2016) I'm still using Poshmark, have over 200K followers, and I've made over $2500 since I joined by selling the stuff I don't wear/use anymore!  Also, an item I sent to a buyer got lost in the mail.  But since it was via Poshmark, they refunded the buyer their money AND I got paid.  Again, this is why you give them the 20%; protection in case you need it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Bear's Cat Tree

You guys, I caved.  I love my feline friends, but I always said I would never allow one of those hideous cat trees into my home.  Well, Bear has hit his terrible toddler age: jumping on everything, destroying things when he's bored, needing more play... driving us insane.

In a fit of frustration, I used my Amazon Prime perk to order one of those insane trees for like $80, and it promptly arrived within two days.  We chose the Armarkat 57-inch Cat Tree.

Bear's First Day with the Tree

Duke put it together quickly and easily, as I watched in sad defeat.  We were both worried Bear would ignore the thing entirely.

Well, Bear loves it!  When he's not next to me on the sofa, I often catch him climbing and playing and snoozing in his tree.  He has picked the second highest platform as his favorite.  It's placed near the sliding glass doors for our porch, so he see outside.

Never say never, you guys.  Bear needs something he can climb and destroy.  I'm hoping this is his victim, and that I can get over the eyesore in my apartment...  Sigh.

If I could afford it (and they had better reviews) I might splurge on a fancier, more elegant model like the Lotus Cat Tower, but I can't justify spending so much on a freaking cat tree.  No.  Everyone already thinks I'm a crazy cat lady.  Argh.

Refined Feline Lotus Cat Tower, $370

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