Monthly Archives: October 2012

the friday five: five perks of post-grad life

Is it just me, or did this week fly by? Although – you won’t hear any complaints coming from me after the last few weeks have felt like they’ve each been twenty days long.

It’s been a pretty good week too, I must say. Mike and I have been keeping up on our promise to spend more quality time together and enjoyed a great date night at Olazzo, full of martinis and arancini. Wednesday I went out for drinks with a few of my colleagues and we had a great night letting loose and not obsessive-compulsively checking our emails. And tomorrow – my mom, dad and younger brother are all coming down to spend the weekend in DC with Mike and I. It will be the first time my parents have been to visit since they moved me in and it will be my brother’s first trip to see me down here ever.

I’m going to keep up with my “Friday Five” trend and will continue to mix it up after last week’s inspiration.

This Friday – I bring you the “Five Perks of Post-Grad Life.” We hear enough about the pitfalls (no more Thirsty Thursdays, no more sleeping in after morning class was canceled, crushing student loan debt, no more being the “big kid on campus”) – so instead I thought I’d share some of the awesome things about life after graduation. I guess I should preface this by saying it only really applies if you have a job…. so…

  • You actually have money for the first time in years. And by money, I mean you have enough to feed yourself something other than ramen and can shop at Target instead of Forever 21. In college, I was living off of the few bucks I earned at my part-time job and the small excess change I’d get back from my student loans. I drank boxed wine, wore clothes that fell apart at the seams and lived off of boxed pasta. While I’m by no means swimming in the dough (the whole student loan, upcoming wedding thing makes that difficult) – I can afford to occasionally buy myself a 2nd shelf French wine, or a new $20 cardigan from Target, even go out to a nice-ish restaurant every now and then – all while paying my bills on my own. Oh and that whole 401k thing is pretty sweet too.

  • For the most part – you work normal hours and have more freedom with your time. In PR – every day certainly isn’t 9 to 5, but at the same time, I’m definitely not staying up until 3 in the morning to finish a paper and cram for an exam….which has done wonders for the bags that were always camping out under my eyes. It’s pretty awesome being able to go out after work to happy hour, or go see a movie and not have to worry about memorizing a stack of a hundred notecards full of dates and facts I’ll never need to know again.

  • Your friends move all over the country for their new jobs, so you automatically have an excuse to take vacations. While not being able to see your friends every day kind of sucks, it makes for a great reason to take a few days off of work and go visit. Your time becomes much more valuable with them while you also get the added perk of exploring places you may have never been before without having to worry about paying for an overpriced hotel.

  • Sometimes your job comes with awesome perks. I work in an office where people can bring in their dogs – so it’s pretty cool to de-stress by walking over to a colleague’s cubicle to give Fido a big belly rub. Sometimes, I’m able to work from home, in the comfort of my fuzzy pajamas. Or – my personal favorite, I occasionally get to attend pretty cool events or seminars to learn more about my craft and industry. While work may be pretty tough sometimes, there are definitely bonuses that make all of that hard work worth it.

  • It’s now acceptable to start drinking as early as 9 a.m. Late night ragers are a thing of your college days past – now it’s all about bottomless mimosas at brunch over eggs benedict with your new fancy post-grad friends. I may not partake in crazy house parties or stay at the bars until closing hours (I’ve always been a bit of an old fart at heart anyways), but there’s nothing that gets me more jazzed than waking up on Sunday morning and throwing on my fake pearls to go sip OJ & champagne while discussing the latest New York Times articles and political debates.

So yes… there are plenty of reasons why post-grad life sucks. I know my stomach goes into knots every time I get an email from my alma matter telling me that study abroad deadlines are approaching or letting me know about the awesome tailgate planned for that weekend. We’ve been in school for the past 14 years… so adjusting will certainly take some time.

If all else fails – just go buy one of those bottles of 2nd shelf faux fancy French wine I was talking about. And read this.

Happy weekend everyone!

so you’ve got a blog — now what?

I promised myself at the beginning of this week that I would post a blog every day, Monday – Friday, to try to get in the habit of becoming a more frequent poster. I don’t have the time today to write a thoughtful post – but I did still want to share something I found incredibly useful.

While I’ve been blogging for the past few years through PRowl Public Relations – this is my first time blogging solely on my own. I’ve been pretty excited about the stats my blog has been able to garner in the past five weeks including nearly 1,400 views, 25 followers, more than 100 likes and 40 comments.

However – I know those numbers are just merely scratching the surface. A colleague of mine was telling me yesterday how her friend’s blog gets 20,000 views… in a DAY!

As they always say – Rome wasn’t built in a day. Building a blogger following of that size takes a lot of time… and a lot of effort and promotion. Many times bloggers get too concerned about developing good content that they neglect to invest the time to build an audience to read it.

I found this great infographic about 30 ways to promote your blog from LaunchGrowJoy.com that was recently shared on PR Daily. Check it out and see if there are any tips you could be using to better grow your blogger following. If you have any additional ideas to share that aren’t included – I’d love to hear them!

Also – as I’m still pretty new to the blogosphere – I’d appreciate any blog recommendations that I should check out.

Happy blogging everyone!

 

the 4 dollar victory of a budget bride

Six years and seven months. 150 miles. Three apartments.  2 cats. 1 boy. 1 girl.

331 days.

That’s how many days are left until I put on a white dress, walk down the aisle and say “I do” to becoming Mike’s wife.

Pretty exciting if you ask me.

Remember the whole “Save the Date” post I wrote a few weeks back where I go into detail about the hundreds of ideas I have gone through and tossed aside? The same stupid Save the Dates that caused Mike and I to claw at each other’s throats after spending hours surfing Pinterest and wedding blogs to find the “perfect one?”

Well – after tossing a million and one ideas in the desktop “recycling bin” we finally figured it out. And we couldn’t be more excited about the finished product. Because it looks awesome. And because they cost us $3.60.

Here’s the thing… I’m planning a wedding on a pretty small budget. $10k to be exact.

Well – in the wedding industry that’s considered tiny. To my bank account – it’s a pretty daunting number since Mike and I are paying for this wedding by ourselves. I mean – I know people who spend half of that on their dress alone.

But I need to find a way to stretch $10k to cover EVERYTHING. That includes venue, catering, open bar, wedding dress, groom’s tux, paper goods like invitations, save the dates, postage, flowers, bouquets, centerpieces, DJ, photographer, hotel stay, rehearsal dinner, wedding bands, bridal accessories, transportation, among a thousand other things that I’m forgetting right now.

I remember when I was in the process of getting a proposal from a caterer, when I told them my budget was $10k for the entire wedding – they laughed. The woman literally laughed in my face and thought I was confused. “You mean $10k for the catering, right?” No ma’am – the entire shebang.

Did you know the average wedding costs $27,000 (not even including a honeymoon)? That’s nuts!

Don’t let people like that tell you that you can’t have a wedding on a small budget – because you can. I know people who have had weddings that cost only a grand! (Which I find incredibly impressive… but I like cocktails and good food way too much to settle.)

In fact planning a wedding on a small budget makes you find ways to be more creative and resourceful and makes your wedding that much more personalized from the cookie cutter packages so many places are offering these days.

Anyways – back to the point. My Save the Dates were originally inspired by a design I found on a wedding stationary website that specializes in invites and announcements. If I had ordered 50 of them from the website it would have cost me at least $110 – not even including postage yet.

So I asked Mike if he could use his photoshop skills to play around and recreate the design to our liking. Here’s the finished product:

I love them. Mike loves them. My mom loves them and so does my Maid of Honor (in fact her exact words were:

Want to know why I REALLY loved them? The pricetag. If we had done this the traditional way they would have cost us nearly $150 by the time postage was included. But instead we were able to order 50 of these for $3.60 – the price of shipping. That’s right – these were practically free. Snapfish offers first time customers 50 free 4×6 prints – it was perfect. If you’re not a first time customer – you can get 4×6 prints for only 9 cents which is still quite a steal.

Now we just need to worry about envelopes and postage. I found these cute pink envelopes that are $14 for 50. But I’m also playing around with the idea of getting these reprinted on the back to make them look like postcards in order to eliminate the need for envelopes at all. That way I’m saving the earth of its pink trees while also keeping some extra cash in my wallet.

I do love these custom stamps though from Zazzle and I think it might be worth it to pay a few extra bucks for them since I’m saving so much money elsewhere. What do you think?

Also – for any other budget brides out there looking for a few good resources, here are some of my favorite places to visit for ideas to cut back on costs.

The Budget Savvy Bride

The Broke-Ass Bride

2000 Dollar Wedding

Remember – you don’t have to spend the mortgage of a house to have an awesome wedding. You just need a really awesome guy that you’re excited to grow old and play Scrabble with.

is there such a thing as a “healthy perfectionist?”

I am a self-confessed perfectionist. I know I’m not alone in this – in fact most of my best friends are Type-A personalities with a little dose of neurosis.

I get worked up when pictures don’t hang perfectly straight. I read and reread things a million times over to make sure punctuation, grammar and spelling are flawless (that’s probably why I work in media relations). I will throw an entire craft project away if there’s a paint smear or a glue dribble. I will have a panic attack if I’m not at least five minutes early to a meeting and if I leave dinner in the oven for just a few too many minutes by accident I will consider the entire thing ruined.

Annoying isn’t it?

Not that I don’t usually push Mike’s buttons with my OCD tendencies – but last night I was extra neurotic and went on a cleaning spree at 11 o’clock at night. You know, when most people are turning in for the night to be well-rested for work the next day.

I started scrubbing the kitchen floor, cleaning the windows, vacuuming (my neighbors REALLY hate me now), dusting, redecorating, etc. You get the idea.

I spent the next hour cleaning myself into a frenzy and by the time I laid in bed, pleased with my tidy surroundings – my brain began short-circuiting about things I wanted to get done at work today, things I needed to do to prepare for my family’s visit this weekend, ways to be more productive, ways to be more effective… I began mentally writing ten different to-do lists simultaneously and before I knew it, my alarm clock went off and I realized I had barely slept at all.

Instead, I had spent the entire night thinking of ways to be the perfect employee, ways to be the perfect professional, ways to create the perfect career path, how to plan the perfect weekend with my family,  perfect ideas for the wedding.

I think aiming for perfection is both admirable and naive. You aim higher than most, set impressive goals, work incredibly hard – all to get the job done right (well…perfect).

But it’s important to draw a clear line between achieving personal excellence and becoming obsessive-neurotic to the point where we sabotage our own efforts.

I found a great post about this on Life Hack with a list of 8 ways to be healthy perfectionists at work (and even life in general). Here are some of my favorites:

  • Draw a line. We have the 80/20 rule (see #6 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity) where 80% of output can be achieved in 20% of time spent. We can spend all our time getting the 100% in, or we can draw the line where we get majority of the output, and start on a new project. Obsessing over details is draining and tedious, and doesn’t help us accomplish much.
  • Be conscious of trade-offs. When we spend time and energy on something, we deny ourselves from spending the same time and energy on something else. There are tons of things we can do, and we need to be aware of the trade-offs involved, so we can better draw a line (#1).
  • Be okay with making mistakes. Part of the reason why we obsess over our work is because we want it to be mistake-free. However, trying to achieve 100% perfection is highly ineffective. If we’re busy perfecting this thing, we can’t get to other important things. Realize that making mistakes is a trade off we have to embrace. The more we open ourselves to making mistakes, the faster we can get down to learning from them, and the quicker we can grow.
  • Realize our concerns usually amount to nothing. It’s good to plan and prepare, but there comes a time when we should let things roll and deal with problems as they crop up. Being overly preemptive makes us live in an imaginary future vs. in the present. Adopt a “roll with the punches” attitude.

I end with this –

“Some of us (perfectionists, especially) fuss so much over making the ‘right’ choice, but in life, all that’s really needed is to make any’ good’ choice, believe in it, go through with it, and accept the consequences.”
Unknown

the unbuttonable pants

An inch of progress can give you a mile of motivation sometimes. Like this morning – when I confronted the dreaded pair of pants that didn’t come close to zipping a few weeks ago… the pants that sparked my decision to stop making excuses and face the facts of my bad habits and decisions over the span of twenty-something years.

I guess I was feeling extra bold and courageous this morning when I opened the closet doors and carefully lifted the pants off the hanger. To be honest – I hadn’t been the best eater this weekend. Mike and I dared to enjoy a cupcake Saturday afternoon, and when one of our friends visited Friday night, we decided to order a pizza… with pepperoni. But I didn’t over-indulge. I had a bite or two of the cupcake. I had one slice of pizza. I behaved like a lady even though I really wanted to drown myself in buttercream and gooey cheese.

Sometimes… you just have to have a cupcake.

I had a good long stare-down with these pants. The pants that dared to tell the unforgiving truth a few weeks ago when I laid out on the bed, sucking it in as hard as I could – turning purple and blue as I tried to make the button and the hole somehow come closer together and resolve their carb-induced conflict.

I put my right leg in first, slowly followed by the left. As I pulled them up around my thighs the moment of truth drew closer. Have I made any progress these past few weeks? I decided at the very beginning not to make this about the number on the scale, because that’s how I got into so much trouble last time. This time I was going to base my success off of how good I felt about the way I looked. Because in the end – that’s all that really matters right?

I took a deep breath as I pulled the zipper up. So far, so good. But would my button finally find its way over to the opposing hole it had fought so hard against weeks earlier? To my surprise, delight and utter joy… it did. The unbuttonable pants had been buttoned. Albeit – while they are still a little on the snug side – I had conquered this small battle. I am elated.

The important thing to note is that while I am not perfect… I am making progress. I am moving in the right direction and while there are bound to be speed bumps and stop signs, even the occasional detour – I know what my destination is: a place of self-love.

I’ve been frugal and following the Weight Watchers program online for free (my student loans have come knocking…). It’s definitely been an amazing tool that helps guide me in making healthy choices and teaching me about portion control and balanced meals. I’m also making an effort to work out three times a week – lately I’ve been following the P90 program that my dad leant me last year. The downstairs neighbors are probably less enthusiastic than I am about me doing jumping jacks at six in the morning.

As a result of my little victory today – I think I’m going to treat myself to a new fall outfit this week since I haven’t been shopping in months. Sometimes a new cardigan is all you need for that extra boost of motivation.

Here are some of the recipes I’m going to be making this week. If you haven’t already – be sure to check out Skinnytaste – it’s an incredible blog full of delicious recipe ideas and even includes WW points information.

Chicken rollatini with prosciutto and provolone via Skinnytaste – click for recipe.

Baked potato soup via Skinnytaste – click for recipe. (I’m a bit of a soup-a-holic)

Here are a few of my own healthy snacks I made this past week… the photo quality does not do these healthy treats any justice!

The beginning stages of delicious homemade apple chips. Slice up 2 apples – sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon – bake for 2 hours at 200 degrees.

I’m a pizza addict – so this was a perfect snack – clocking in at 150 calories (for one…Mike had the other) Small pita pocket – low fat/skim mozzarella cheese – spoonful of tomato sauce – sprinkle of dried basil. Yum!

Do you have any little victories worth celebrating or delicious recipes worth sharing? I’d love to hear them!

Until next time – Bon Appétit!

the friday five: lessons from my five-year-old self

It has been a busy week and sadly, my blog has gotten the cold shoulder as a result.

I know I usually do my “Friday Five” post but I thought I’d shake things up a bit to keep things interesting.

We always hear, “hindsight is 20-20” and “if only I could have had the wisdom I have now when I was younger.”

While we certainly learn a great deal over the years, through our mistakes, experiences and life lessons – sometimes I think I had more figured out when I was five years old, still dressed in innocence, optimism and overalls.

So today I’m sharing the five lessons to live by from my five-year-old self:

  • Find joy in the small things. Not every single day is going to be spectacular in the sense that something extraordinary will happen. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a million little moments throughout the day that you shouldn’t stop and smile for. As kids we found the good in everything. If it rained it meant we could play in the mud. If it was Monday, it meant we got to go back to school and see our friends. Things that were mundane to the grown-up eye, such as sticks and rocks, turned in to games of swordfights against dragons to rescue trapped princesses. Take the time to slow down, put away the iPhone and appreciate the small things that often go unnoticed.
  • Be kind to others. As we grow older – this is one of the biggest things we forget to do. We get irritated at the person in front of us at the grocery store who takes too long to check out. We yell profanities at the guy who “drives like a moron” while stuck in traffic. We talk badly about people who may not do things the way we would. In kindergarten, you learn to be kind to your classmates… you share your toys, or your peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You help pick each other up when you fall off the monkey bars. It’s a community of kindness and respect. As adults – we need to remember the importance of respect, kindness and civility in our daily lives – when dealing with coworkers, with friends or even complete strangers.
  • Play hard. Working hard is important – yes – but playing hard is equally important. We had that figured out at a young age when we’d spend every last moment of sunlight climbing trees with our friends, coming home covered in grass stains and dried mud after our moms had called us in at least ten times to come and wash up for dinner. As adults, we need to reward ourselves for our hard work by finding time to laugh and have fun. Go on a vacation, even if it’s only a small one. Grab drinks with a friend after work and let loose. Pamper yourself for a day. Whatever you do, just remember that no matter how successful you are in life – none of it is worth it if you aren’t having fun and enjoying it along the way.
  • Never give up. We’ve all been faced with what has felt like an impossible task. How am I going to finish this in time? What if I can’t do what my boss wants me to do? What if I’m just not cut out for this? If we felt that way as kids… we probably would have never learned how to ride a bike. Or tie our shoes. Or count to ten. We tackled everything with such ferocity that we never stopped for a second to think, “but what if I can’t?” We just did. And it’s a page we should put into our own playbooks the next time we’re faced with a challenge or a difficult task.
  • Color outside of the lines. As kids we never worried about whether we were doing it the right way or the wrong way – all that we knew was that we were doing it our way. We learned by making our own mistakes, taking risks and trying something new. This kind of fearless approach can lead to so much more creativity and innovation in our professional lives. Even if it doesn’t always work out – you’d never know unless you tried.

I never gave my five-year-old self enough credit for her wisdom. Sometimes we think we have things all figured out the older we get when really… we may have had it figured out much sooner than we had ever realized.

pinteresting projects of the week

With all of this fitness and wedding talk, I have been completing neglecting my inner DIY diva. Or at least forgetting to write about it, I should say.

As homemaker as this may sound – with the stress that I have on my plate right now – there is nothing quite as relaxing as diving in to a good craft project and getting messy. Last week my fingers were covered in super glue, spray paint ran down my legs, mod podge wound up in my hair and the teller at the bank looked at me like I was nuts when I asked for $5… in pennies.

What’s even better? My fiancé Mike – although he won’t admit this to anyone (oops) – loves doing crafts with me now and quite frankly…he’s even better than I am at times.

If you weren’t already aware – my entire apartment is designed by IKEA. My dining room set, my coffee and side tables, my entertainment system, my bed, my dishes…

Coming straight out of college and moving into a new (much more expensive) place meant I didn’t have the funds to buy “real furniture.” So while I’m grateful to IKEA for outfitting my entire apartment for less than $1500….I also can’t stand the idea of my house looking like a cookie cutter cut-out of an IKEA magazine.

We’ve been working on a few projects these past few weeks and I wanted to show off the final products and the progress that we’re making on the IKEA lack coffee table from hell (I have a self-confessed problem with indecisiveness and have changed my mind at least 4 times about what I want to do with it. This has resulted in lots of stenciling and painting… and a lot of stenciling and paint removal).

While looking for DIY-IKEA-Lack table inspiration I came across a few blogs boasting about the transformational (and cheap) power of pennies.

Original DIY penny table inspiration

The problem was – it didn’t fit with my silver/grey, yellow & white color scheme in my living room. After Mike suggested using dimes (he didn’t quite think that idea through…) I figured it would be cheaper, albeit not easier, to spray paint the pennies silver. Which is exactly what we did. Equipped with $5 worth of pennies, multiple bottles of super glue and a can of metallic silver spray paint – here is the progress we’ve made so far on our DIY penny table. We’re only 1/4 of the way through – but it’s time consuming! So remember to be patient… this isn’t a project you want to rush through otherwise it will turn out sloppy.

DIY penny table in progress. We’re only going to do a border instead of covering the entire thing – I think it looks cleaner and bolder. What do you think?

My next project was inspired by a pin I found on Pinterest. My friends will tell you I’m a bit of a coaster-addict (nothing worse than a water stain) so I really loved the idea of making my own coasters (and for dirt cheap too). Here was the original Pinspiration:

Make your own coasters- 4×4 tiles ($.16 Home Depot); 4×4 scrapbook paper; adhere to tile with Mod Podge and let dry; Spray a coat of clear spray paint and let dry; attach felt pads to the bottom

And here’s how mine turned out!

Supplies needed: mod podge, cheap brush, scrap book paper and ceramic tiles. Total costs: $12. (Although I still have plenty of mod podge and scrapbook paper left over…so the project in reality was much cheaper! I have plenty of supplies leftover to make more coasters).

 

Finished product! Ignore the terrible lighting… these pictures were taken with my iPhone 3gs at night. Yes, I still have a 3gs.

I also have two IKEA side lack tables…one of which I spent some time sprucing up. The lighting on this is also terrible, so forgive me. Using paint and letter stencils… I etched my favorite e.e. cummings poem onto the table. It’s always a good conversation piece when people come over to visit and ask to read my table.

e.e. cummings “i carry your heart” poem painted on to my side table. sidenote: that adorable owl was $4 at Ross.

What projects have you been working on and where do you get the inspiration to feed your inner DIY diva?