Monday, September 30, 2013

First Residency Vacation!

Medical residencies are tough.  For the physician, they are physically demanding due to lack of sleep, and they are also emotionally draining due to all of the new learning and lack of confidence.  For the significant other, they are demanding because we (or at least I) have to take care of everything at home (including the yard!), try to support and encourage the physician, and spend a lot of time alone.

We have made it to our first vacation, though!  Hubby's first three blocks are D-O-N-E and he has one glorious week off.

Before residency began, I was dreading it.  I was excited about the new chapter in our lives, buying a home, and discovering a new city, but I had done my research about the realities of residency.  I read blogs written by doctors' wives.  I read online articles. I found support groups.  There are even books written about how to survive residency as a spouse.  I was under no delusions that residency was going to be easy.

What I Have Learned So Far:

So far, it hasn't been as horrendous as I was expecting.  Now, Hubby isn't in one of the worst time-consuming specialties like surgery or OB-Gyn, but there are rotations that are bad.  The worst ones are his last two rotations this year, though, so we'll see what I'm saying in June.

I also think that my lack of a job has helped, because when he has a random Monday off, I can be home.  I can be home with him during this vacation week.  I think that has made a big difference, and this is one of the main reasons I want to be a substitute.  I want schedule flexibility, and I know how very fortunate I am to have this option.

I have also found a lot to do to keep myself busy while Hubby is gone:
  • I have been looking for a job (filling out applications is time-consuming!)
  • I watch The Today Show every day that I don't have a sub job.  
  • Callaway (the puppy) and I go for runs/walks.
  • I have begun volunteering at the hospital.
  • I have gotten very involved in the resident spouse group.
  • I do everything around the house (cleaning, yard work, cooking, finances).
  • I began this blog.
  • I have explored and learned about our new city (lots of time looking at maps and driving around).
  • I have done a lot of shopping (which, however, I need to majorly cut back on).
  • I have bought several new books at thrift shops, and have also gotten a library card.
  • I have "me" time, especially when Hubby works at night (bubble baths and girly movies).
In fact, I have to remind myself not to become too good at being alone.  I have to remind myself not to work on the blog when Hubby is home, but to stop my own activities to spend time with him (at least, when he is not still writing patient notes or studying for Step 3...).

In the meantime, I intend on savoring this week with Hubby while he is not working.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Decorating the Kitchen

Several years ago I sat down to think about how I wanted to decorate my kitchen.  I knew I wanted some great canisters; not the kind that clamp down, but the kind with a sealed lid.  When you see what I ended up with you will know what I'm talking about.  I searched and searched online, and decided that when I finally found some canisters I liked, I was going to base my kitchen decor around them.

These are the ones I found, and 5 (maybe?) years later I still love them.  I tried searching for them, and found some that are very similar, but not exact.  If you search "Tuscan English Garden Canisters" you will find some that are similar.

They were a splurge; I only spend that much on an item if it is something that I have been searching in vain for and finally found something that I really love.  These canisters fit that description.  There are four of them, but I only use three right now.

That meant my color scheme for my kitchen was going to have to be the Tuscan yellow and red.

I also found a bronze wine rack and utensil holder that I loved, also, at Target to add to my wedding registry, so I was able to add bronze metal accents to the decor scheme.

Sink Side

Where did I find these items?
  • The plate stand and plates on the island came from Hubby's grandmother.
  • The red plate came with the set from Hubby's grandmother.
  • The glass bottles on top of the cabinets came from Ross.
  • The white bean pot on the far cabinet was a wedding gift.
  • I ordered the canisters online.
  • The paper towel holder came from Target and was also a wedding gift.
  • The candle is one of my favorite Yankee Candles:  kitchen spice.
  • I keep an iPod player on top of the toaster oven (there is a metal trivet in between) because I love listening/dancing to music while I cook!
  • Even the kitchen soap I use (Softsoap Kitchen Fresh Hands) matches my color scheme.
  • I think the pictures on the wall came from Wal-Mart several years ago when I was trying to do a red-yellow-green scheme in the living room.

I was fortunate enough to find this valance at Wal-Mart that matches perfectly.  I also loved  the quote I bought at a flea market.  It say, "Live well, Laugh often, Wine much."  And it coordinated. :-)

Stove Side

Where did I find these items?
  • The picture frame/cork board on the refrigerator came from Michael's and I painted it to match.
  • The bronze utensil holder and wine rack are matching and came from Target as wedding gifts.
    • I don't use the built-in wine rack because it is hard to reach and love the one I had already.
  • The pitcher and wire basket on top of the cabinets both came from a flea market.
  • The platter was a wedding gift from Target.

Kitchen Decorating Tips

When I decorate a room, I choose a piece I love (or am stuck with, i.e. furniture) to base my color scheme/theme around.  In the case of the kitchen, it was my canisters.

The kitchen needs to be functional, so I keep things out like my knives, main utensils, salt/pepper, and olive oil.  The space is decorated, but not overly so.

As far as the over-the-cabinet space goes, I try to find a variety of heights and types of items to use.  I have plates and platters, baskets and pitchers, and bottles to add variety.  A lot of people put quotes, words, and plates up there, too.  I found a pin that led to this website useful for inspiration and tips!

My kitchen does need some work (we just moved in three months ago).  The main thing I want to do is add a tile backsplash (and definitely replace the one behind the stove!).  Ideally I would also love to add granite countertops and do something about the cosmetic damage to the cabinets, but I'm not sure those things will happen on our budget.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Casual Outfit: White Shirt, Colorful Scarf, Light Brown Boots

I bought a Simply Vera Vera Wang scarf at Kohl's the other day, and absolutely love it.  It has white, blue, and light brown in it, so I can wear it with a lot of different outfits.  I started it off with jeans, a white shirt, and light brown boots.

I have had the white sweater for a looooooong time now; so long I can't remember where I bought it.  It was the juniors' department of some department store, I'm sure.

I bought the jeans at a local thrift shop for $12.  They are I.N.C. brand, which I think comes from Macy's (yes, I Googled it).  They look like a dressier pair of boot cut jeans, and they are in wonderful shape!

I wore the outfit without a blazer, but added it to show a look for a cooler day.  The blazer was a big splurge (Calvin Klein, not on sale), but it fit, I had been searching for one with no luck (of course, now I find them everywhere), and I knew I would wear it all the time.

The boots were a Christmas gift from MIL last year, and I LOVE them!  They are Steve Madden, and I think she got them from Belk.  I had found a similar pair on Pinterest that I put on my Christmas wish list.  You can also get a better view of the scarf in the picture below.

I know this scarf is going to crop up in lots of other outfits.  I will wear it with white, brown, and blue shirts.  I love the colorful scarves that are so versatile!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Confessions of a Shopaholic?

I recently read the book Confessions of a Shopaholic.  The title pretty much explains the book:  a girl in London loves to shop, so much that she is deep in debt.  She will spot something in a store that she obsesses over until she returns to purchase it.  She justifies purchases by calling them "rewards" and spirals herself deeper and deeper into debt.

When I read it, I kept justifying myself.  "At least I'm not that bad!  $150-ish for a scarf is ridiculous!  I'm not putting us into debt!  I don't even own a credit card!"

Yet at the end of the month, we go way over budget.  And it happens every single month.

Where Does Our Money Go Every Month?

  • Shopping...for clothes and for the home.
  • Eating out.  
  • Alcohol--especially while eating out.
  • Hubby's second coffee of the day at the hospital.  I can't begrudge him that, though, since most of the overspending is my fault.
  • This month we bought tickets to a beer festival and also to a local play.  Those things ate up about $80.
It also seems that every month there are expensive miscellaneous things that we use our savings for.  Last month it was paying for Hubby's Step 3 board exam.  This month it was my car tags and we are spaying our puppy.  Next month we have a trip back to Georgia, and in November I have two weddings and a bachelorette party at Disney.  December is, of course, Christmas.

My Excuses

  • I try to keep a cushion in our checking account, and I add $200 a month into savings! We're not living paycheck to paycheck or anything.
  • Pinterest.  I find cute outfits and home decor to copy.
  • I don't buy expensive things.
  • Shopping is fun.
  • I can get so many things for cheap at thrift and consignment shops.  Belts for $1!  A cupcake stand for $2!  
  • "Look at this cute outfit I put together (or copied)."
  • We have been exploring a lot of new restaurants and things to do in and around our new city.
  • We have a bigger house to decorate.  When the seasons change, I want to decorate for the new season (like buying pumpkins and mums for my porch yesterday).
  • We "celebrate" lots of little things.  Hubby finished a rotation!  I got accepted to be a substitute!  I got a blog comment (haha)!
  • I don't want to skimp on gifts for other people.
  • I keep a running list of things I want to help when parents ask for a Christmas or birthday list.  I buy myself things off it throughout the year, though.
  • And my favorite...We are going to do better next month; I'd better go ahead and buy this stuff now so it doesn't go on next month's budget.
I am trying not to live bare bones.  We want to enjoy our life and live comfortably.  However, to quote Ruth Soukup at Living Well Spending Less, we need to try to "live the good life on a budget."

Why Do I Need To Stop Spending So Much Money?

  • We need to save more:
    • We need to save up more of an emergency fund and miscellaneous expense (tires, home repairs, Hubby's tests and prep materials).  This is how we go over budget every month; we dip into savings.
    • We are going to buy another home eventually; we will need a down payment.  We will also need to purchase Hubby a car before too long (he is still driving a 1995 model).
    • We will hopefully be having children in a year or so and I know they are expensive.  So much furniture to buy for them!
    • We are not getting any younger.  We do want to retire one day, right?
  • We have lots and lots of debt.  Zero credit card debt, but Hubby has big med school student loans and we have a mortgage.  At least the cars are paid off.
  • We just don't need more things.  I pride myself on not having things that we don't use (I wear all of my clothes and we use all of our things), but we have plenty.

How I Have Tried To Fix The Problem

  • I have a "budget" created.  I use the word "budget" loosely, though, because we go over every single month.  Not just by a little bit, either...
  • I have been tracking our spending for 2 years.  I feel horrible at the end of each month.  I continue overspending.
  • I read lots of blogs and articles about saving money.  I have considered the cash system, but I actually think it is easier for me to hand over cash and wonder where it went than it is to swipe my debit card.  The reason for this, I think, is because I write all debit/ATM/electronic transactions in my checkbook register so I know exactly how much money we have available.  When I sit down with the receipts and do the deductions, I feel really guilty.

New Ideas To Try

  • I will try to use this blog to hold myself accountable.  Maybe at the end of the month I'll post how much we went over budget.  That would be embarrassing, but maybe it would be the kick I need to stick to it.
  • Make an eating out chart, sort of like meal planning.  We will eat out on Friday and maybe one other day in the week.  Maybe we can each get one lunch out and one breakfast out a week.  This will need to be written down in order to work.
  • When ordering drinks at dinner, stick to one drink.
  • Give Hubby $20 cash each month for coffee at the hospital.
  • Choose one or two special events to attend/trips to take each month.  Maybe I'll even post about them and make a plan at the beginning of each month to help with accountability.
  • Shopping...I do need to reign that in.  Maybe I can do a cash envelope for shopping.  
  • Things to do that are free:  go run at the park (I need more exercise, anyway!), work on my blog, take Callaway to the dog park, bake something (not free, but cheap)...that's all I can think of.  Any other ideas?
  • Work in room for the big expenses.  Things like fees for Hubby's tests and one-time vet bills don't usually go in the budget because they are exceptions to our monthly budget, but I probably need to add in about $300 a month for them.  Otherwise, it negates the money I add into savings each month.
There are still some big purchases I want to make.  I really want new bedroom furniture (we currently use TV trays for night stands), and would love to add a nice tile backsplash to the kitchen.  We also want to go to Asheville and the Biltmore (not cheap!).  I wanted to do that in the fall for the leaves, but maybe I can talk Hubby into waiting until February (might be a good Valentine's treat!).

In Summation

This is for me to wrap my head around my plan:
  • At the beginning of each month, write a blog post saying: 
    • how much we went over budget the previous month (gulp...but hopefully I will see the number go down and it will get to how much I had left in the budget each month)
    • a plan for eating out
    • listing all of the big purchases for the month (travel expenses, gift expenses, vet bills, etc.)
  • One more reminder:  STICK TO YOUR BUDGET!!!!!

Please forgive this very personal, rambling post.  I am just so tired of failing our budget every month, and it is almost always my fault.  I have read several blogs about people who had spent too much money (Living Well Spending Less is one of them), and they started their blogs to hold themselves accountable.  If it worked for them, maybe it'll work for me!

Welcome Fall Front Porch

Continuing my (short) series on fall decorating, I tackled my front porch yesterday.  I knew I wanted mums and pumpkins, and I spent some time trying to envision what I wanted before I went to buy them.  My original plan was to buy four mums and two pumpkins.  You can see I ended up with more than that!

I went to a local nursery to purchase the mums.  I had driven by it several times and they had an enormous selection of different sized plants.  I deliberately chose plants that were just beginning to bloom so I can enjoy them for the entire season.  If I had selected plants that were in full flower, I was afraid the blooms would be gone before Halloween.  I want these to last as long as possible!

The beauty in buying local is the plants appear to be much healthier than they looked at Wal-Mart for a lower price!  It is always good to support local businesses, anyway.

I decided to just get my pumpkins from Wal-Mart.  I wanted to go to a pumpkin patch, but I was afraid of spending too much money.  I was going to get symmetrical pumpkins, but decided to purchase a variety of sizes to add interest.  I spent a long time looking at and comparing the pumpkins, and trying to visualize what my porch would look like.

While browsing the seasonal section at Wal-Mart, I found this cute little scarecrow for only $0.97!

I also already had the "Welcome" pumpkin that I had planned on putting in a different location beside my UGA garden flag, but thought it helped to complete the porch scene.

The five mini-pumpkins/squashes are fake.  I wanted some things I could use year after year.  We will see how they hold up outside.

I also made the wreath last week.  I will show you how later on this week!

I wanted just a classic, simple fall look.

Now if I can just keep the mums alive...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall Fireplace

Since yesterday was the first day of fall (hooray!) and it was a day with seasonable weather, I decided to go ahead and bring out my fall decorations.

Before I began decorating, I laid everything I had out on the coffee table.  I didn't have as many decorations as I thought so I decided to stick to the mantel.

I am not sure how I like it; I think the pieces are too small to make an impact.  I will have to hit up clearance sales when the season is over for next year.  Instead of my usual candlesticks, I would like to get a hurricane vase or an apothecary jar to put small pumpkins, acorns, or pine cones in.

One of my favorite pieces is this swag I made last year.  It was super easy to make.  I bought a twig swag, a couple of berry picks, and three zinnia flowers and put them together!

This will do for now.  Next year's mantel will be better!

I also added a pretty bowl with fall potpourri to my coffee table.

Now I need to go to the store and buy some mums and pumpkins for my porch!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Casual Outfit: Black and White Stripes with Yellow Scarf

I have found several outfits on Pinterest that I just love.  This is one of them:

I love the whole thing except the shoes.  I finally put it together today for my first day of fall outfit!

Does anyone have any blogger tips for taking pictures of yourself?  The self-timer doesn't take the best pictures.  I think it has focusing issues?

Happy Fall!

 I am sooooooooo excited!

I know that I am not the only one who absolutely loves fall!  

Does anyone else notice that distinct clean smell that only comes in the fall?  Maybe I am crazy and imagine it.  Maybe it is lower humidity or a smell of changing leaves.

A few of the leaves are just beginning to change.  And when I say "a few," I mean one or two.  I cannot wait to see how beautiful fall is up here in North Carolina!  

I love taking trips to pumpkin patches, corn mazes, and apple orchards!  And I haven't missed a year of the Georgia National Fair since it opened; I will have to make a trip back to go this year.

Today I am wearing boots and a scarf, and I have the windows open with an Alison Krauss and Union Station Pandora radio station playing.  I am going to pull out my fall decorations today, so look for fall decorating posts soon!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Organizing the Pantry

When we rented our last home, we did not have a specific "pantry." I tried putting the food in a big cabinet above the oven (which was in the wall), but it got too hot.  My parents gave us a cabinet that we put in the office to use as a pantry.  That was where I decided to designate jobs for each shelf (remember my #2 rule for organizing?).

When we bought our new home, one of the things I was unsure of was the size of the pantry.  It looked so tiny that I thought I was going to have to use some of my other cabinets for food storage, too.

Since I generally keep only the food I need on hand and do not stock up on much in advance, it actually works out pretty well.  I have one other cabinet for my tea bags/vinegar/spices/honey/etc that I need to reorganize, but other than that, here is my food storage:

I save the top shelf for chips because they take up so much space and get crushed so easily.  I also currently have a graham cracker pie crust because it is very fragile.  I have hot chocolate mix and chamomile tea bags up there, too.

The second shelf holds the cereal and snack foods.

The third shelf holds canned foods and random staples that don't really belong anywhere else.

The fourth shelf holds my cooking staples:  pasta, bread crumbs, rice, and corn flakes (for crunchy breading and toppings).

 The fifth shelf holds baking staples:  brown sugar, powdered sugar, baking powder, shortening, chopped nuts, oats, self-rising flour, cocoa, and corn starch.

I use the floor for potatoes, onions, and extra food items. I have a honey mustard open but almost empty in the refrigerator, so the replacement is waiting on the pantry floor. Same for the sugar that will go in a canister and the chicken broth.

The main idea I keep in mind when organizing my pantry is to group similar items together so I know exactly where to find them!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Refrigerator Organization

We were fortunate enough that the family we bought our house from left all of the appliances, including the refrigerator.

In my rules for organizing post, I discussed my rules, "Have a place for everything," and "Group similar items together."  In my refrigerator, I designated a "job" for each pocket and shelf, and put items back in the exact spot I got them from.

Any ideas for what I can use the tiny bottom drawer for?  Right now I have a package of crescent rolls in it, but I have no clue what to use it for.

The freezer was harder.  It is one of the bottom drawer freezers, and I kind of hate it (but I can't really complain because, again, it came with the house).  I developed a system for organizing the freezer, but I would love some other ideas for organizing a freezer drawer!

The top portion of the drawer is where I keep my frozen vegetables, frozen desserts, frozen breakfast, convenience foods, and frosty beer mugs.

The bottom portion of the drawer is for the meat.  The right side is where I put my portioned chicken and pork chops (each bag holds the meat for one meal for Hubby and myself), and the left side contains the meat that didn't need to be portioned.  The one random tupperware holds frozen spaghetti sauce because my recipe makes more than Hubby and I want to eat.

That's it!  Any suggestions for improvement?

Tara's Rules for Organizing (My Top 3 All-Purpose Rules for Every Area of your Home!)

I have been debating how I wanted to write my home organization posts; I haven't done any good ones yet, and that was one of the reasons I began this blog!  After posting about my healthy snacking station, I decided to go room-by-room.  I will begin with my kitchen, but first I wanted to share my top rules for organizing.

Do you want to hear my #1 rule for organizing?  Really?  It doesn't have to do with cute baskets and matching containers (I love those things, but I don't always use them because those things are not always cheap).

Ok, my #1 rule for organizing is...........

Have a Place for Everything.

That's kind of boring, isn't it?  It's simply that old adage, "A place for everything, and everything in its' place."  

Ok, I have to share my #2 rule for organizing.

Group Similar Items Together.

Put socks together.  Put baking goods together.  Put mailing items together.  Put garden items together.  Easy!

Ok, ok, one more.  And this is something I really try to live by.  Actually, this one is probably my #1, because if you go by this rule, then #1 will be easier.  This rule will help you to reduce clutter so you have less to organize!

These are the themes you will notice in all of my organizing posts, but if you want to organize something before I write about it, those are the most important rules (in my opinion) to keep in mind.

Please leave me a comment if there is anything specific you want me to write about organization-wise!  Otherwise, I will go room-by-room in my house, starting with the kitchen.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Work Outfit: Pink Cardigan, Beige Skirt, and Gold Jewelry

I really like creating these work outfits.  Hopefully I can get some other kinds of outfits posted, soon!

I love, love, love, love, love my nude pumps.  They are Bandolino Courteous, and I got them for Christmas (Thanks, MIL!).  Anyway, I wore them all the time in the spring and summer.

The skirt was from The Limited and was supposed to be about $70.  I got it for $20 at a consignment store and it still had the tags on it.  I had been wanting a beige skirt, so I thought it was a great find.

The cardigan was on clearance at Kohl's a year or so ago.

The necklace and bracelets came from Charming Charlie.  I am also wearing simple gold hoop earrings.

When I got home, I took the cardigan off and the outfit looked good without it, too.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Meal Planning and Creating my Grocery List

I have read that meal planning is one of the better ways to save money on your grocery bill.  I only make one or two big grocery trips each month (of course I have to do smaller ones to replenish produce/milk/bread, etc).  When I first began meal planning, I would write out each day and plan a meal for that day, plan for leftovers, and be sure to plan easy meals for nights I would be home late.  I ended up not wanting what I had planned on a specific night and swapping days around, though, so now I just make a list of meals to eat until the next time I go grocery shopping.

Meal Planning

To plan my meals, I pull out my recipe box and Pinterest and try to plan things that we didn't eat in the last rotation.  I also try to plan a variety of meats, as well as a variety of time-consuming, crock pot, and quick meals so I am prepared for all kinds of evenings.

I do not plan for a certain number of days, but this one happens to cover half a month.  It will actually last longer because we will eat out occasionally.

This process already takes a lot of time, so I do not take the time to look at sale ads to plan my meals around them.  I figure planning my meals and buying only what I need for them saves a decent amount of money because I don't have groceries that go unused.  

My Grocery List

We keep a running list on the refrigerator of items we run low or out of.  Hubby is learning that if he just tells me and it doesn't get on the list, I will usually forget to buy it.  This is the list I use when I go to the store between my big shopping trips (things like toiletries, milk, produce, spices, etc).

When I make my grocery list, I use this and my meal plan.  I also like to write it by section or type of food (and sometimes even in the order I go through the store).  If it is not organized, I usually skip things and have to backtrack, which is aggravating.

I look at my meal plan and first write down all of the meat I will need, followed by produce, canned and boxed food, frozen food, dairy, etc.  I add in snacks/breakfast foods/condiments that we need.  Before I say it is finished, I try to go through the pantry and refrigerator to see if there is anything else we are about to run out of, but inevitably I will not notice something that will go on the running list.

I don't usually write the category, but I did today so you can see how it is organized.

You won't find everything for each meal on this list, because I keep a lot of staples on hand, like herbs and spices, bread crumbs, etc.  If I already have plenty of it, I am not going to buy more!

How do I save money?

  • After I create my grocery list, I go onto to check if there are coupons for things I am already going to buy.  I generally do not buy things just because I have a coupon.
  • I buy the store brand of a lot of things I buy, especially frozen vegetables, dairy, and pasta, although I do have brands I prefer for other things.
  • After I get home, I portion the meat into enough servings for just me and Hubby.  I will show you how I do this in another post.
  • We eat leftovers.
  • I use the food we have in the house.  If I do buy extra food (say there is more chicken in a family pack or extra pork chops), I have enough staples on hand that I can create other meals that I didn't plan for.
Of course, there are always ways that I can save more money and eat healthier, but we're a work in progress.  I don't think I will ever be perfect at this, but this is the system that works for me.