Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May Budget

1 // J Crew Dress - $28 (!!)
2 // J Crew Pixie Pants - $65
3 // J Crew Swing Trench Coat - $107 (order a size down)
4 // Target Blouse - $15
5 // Target Blouse - $15

Not pictured - the chambray version of the Target blouses pictured above - $10

Considering I spent most of the month abroad, I did some considerable damage.  The coat was a closet hole made more obvious by a similar coat my mom wore a lot on our trip. I love that the hood is detachable and that the red lining matches my hunters.  The three Target blouses were an absolute steal and I love that the popover style limits boob-pulling while also looking professional.

For next month, I'll be half-heartedly looking for denim shorts, but I'm hoping to keep spending at a minimum for a bit!

Monday, May 25, 2015

4 Days in Dublin

Back to our regularly scheduled programming! My family and I just got back from an incredible 10 days in Ireland and England.  We started in Dublin, where we spent 4 days.  Here's what we did, what worked and what didn't!


Queen of Tarts - On our first morning in Dublin, we wandered around the city center, in search of warm, coffee and food.  Without particularly meaning to, we ended up at on of the better rated cafes in the area, Queen of Tarts.  The food, coffee and tea were all phenomenal, and the decor is super cute.  I ordered baked eggs, which was different, but delicious.  They also make their own orange juice, which was fun.

Leo Burdock's - Apparently, the only place to get fish and chips, according to my brother.  The portions were huge and really fresh, but tartar sauce wasn't a thing, and because we did take away, we didn't have enough vinegar.  It was good, and I'd recommend it, but make sure you get the proper side items!

Winding Stair - Our fancy meal!  My brother made Mother's Day reservations at this restaurant, which is on the second floor of a building a few down from the Ha'penny Bridge.  The view was extraordinary, as was the food.  Everyone in my family was thrilled with their meals, from starters to dessert.  It was definitely a more fancy/expensive meal, but well worth the cost, even just to spend a few hours with such a stunning view of Dublin

Brother Hubbard - Brother Hubbard is my favorite kind of restaurant - a little bit hipster, with a local, gratuitisly fancy/farm-to-table menu and fun combinations. I ended up getting a semolina pancake with mint and whipped creme fraiche and bits of toffee and currant jam.  So ridiculous, so delicious.  And the filter coffee was amazing.


Guinness Factory - I didn't have a ton of initial interest in going to Guinness - it seemed like such a tourist trap. To be fair, it absolutely is, buttttt, it's also well done and pretty informative.  The museum is enormous and there's a ton of information on all different aspects of the Guinness family and process.  I loved the first third, was a little bored by the second third, and effectively skipped the last third.  The final stop is the Sky Bar on the top floor, which boasts amazing views, a free Guinness and wall to wall people.  It was really overwhelming, but worth it for the views.

Howth - Howth was one of my favorite things about the trip in total.  We took the DART train out, and ended up with a surprise gorgeous day. Our first stop was the farmers market, open both weekend days, for what my family declared as the best seafood chowder they'd ever had.  We then walked through town and up to the cliff walk, where you can find incredible views and several hiking paths.  We ended up not hiking, just taking some pictures and then finding a random neighborhood park to have a picnic in.  The entire town is a delight, and only a 30 minute train ride from Dublin.

Kilmainam Gaol - Having missed Kilmainham on my first trip to Dublin, I was determined to take it all in. Unfortunately, one of the wings of the jail was closed, but the tour was still informative and very cool.  The building is amazing, and it was very cool to be in the middle of some amazing Irish history.

All things considered, Dublin was amazing.  We had fabulous weather and were able to do everything we wanted. I think the amount of time we spend (4 days) was perfect - it isn't a huge city, and we felt like we were able to really get to know it, even in just a few days.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Project 365 // May 10 - May 19

A bigger chunk than usual, all of my recent trip from Ireland and England!

May 10

 May 11

May 12

 May 13

May 14

May 15

 May 16

May 17

May 18

 May 19

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lessons Learned Post-Grad // What I Wish I Knew

Last post in the series!  Basically, a brain dump of what I would tell myself if I could go back in time.

  • Be nice to your family.  It's a big transition for them too, and they're the best support you have
  • Do more than just look for a job - learning and growing don't end after graduation
  • Say yes to everything, but listen to your gut
  • Lay by the pool, read outside for a few hours, go on a trip - it's likely to be the last summer vacation you ever get
  • Invest in an interview outfit that makes you feel boss
  • It will all work out. It will all work out. It will all work out. (but it might look a little different than you imagined)
  • This is scary for everyone - talk about it, check in on your friends, be patient
And that's that! I can't believe it's been a year since graduation - it truly flew by.  I feel so much more confident and settled than I did a year ago, and I can't wait to see how things change in the future!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Lessons Learned Post-Grad // Enjoying It

The biggest regret I have for my whole post-grad experience was how little I appreciated that time for what it was - hard, scary, but also the biggest chunk of free time I'm likely to get for the foreseeable future.  In retrospect, I spent so much time worrying about figuring everything out, it never occurred to me that it would be okay for me to, in fact, not have it all down. In fact, I think I missed out on a pretty valuable learning opportunity about myself.  Limbo is an acutely uncomfortable place to be, especially for someone as Type A as me, but I think that being that out of whack can be a huge moment of growth, similar to how I spent studying abroad.  In retrospect, here's what I wish I did -

  • Exercised more - gym, yoga, running, swimming - all the stuff I don't have as much time for now
  • Lounged around 
  • Spent more time on myself, not just my professional skills -writing, thinking, talking with loved ones
  • Learned - I wish I had taken a summer course on something random (cooking, sewing, first aid, whatever)
  • Considered what I wanted with a bit more finesse.  I got really lucky, in that the job that I ended up getting met needs I didn't even realize I needed (a small community, easy access to day care for Tallulah, a huge support for professional development), which is amazing, but I do wish that I had been more careful about interviewing for positions
Overall, I was so focused on getting a job and getting to the next thing that I failed to enjoy what might have been a pretty cool time in my life. If I had it to do over again, I would have done my best to better balance the stress - obviously, I still would have been freaking out, but I might have also been growing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Lessons Learned Post-Grad // Money

As most of you will know from my budgeting posts, I pay pretty close attention to what I'm spending, which has been vital for my sanity post-grad, but a few other things have also made a huge difference for me, including credit cards, figuring out loan payments and prioritizing.

In terms of budgeting, I've already gone over it (here), but basically, I track everything I spend in a spreadsheet, so I know exactly where my money is going.  While that doesn't always hold me accountable, it helps me see that shopping sprees at LOFT = no money saved for the big things later.  I can spend the money however I want to, but once it's gone, it's gone.  And automatically moving savings and bill money out of the pot helps me really understand how much I have to spend.  I also set up a personal savings account that I use for bigger purchases. Whatever money is leftover at the end of every pay period gets put into that account.  Now, whenever I'm debating taking advantage of J Crew's most recent sale, I take a second to figure out if I'd rather spend 70 dollars now or have that money in my new lens fund.

About 5 months after I graduated, I applied for my first big girl credit card - it's got no foreign transaction fees and 1.5% cash back on every single purchase.  Since then, I barely touch my debit card, instead putting everything on that card.  I've gotten about 300 dollars in rewards  since then, which I have applied to the balance or let accumulate.  Right now, I'm letting it pile up and will probably use it for a splurge around my birthday at the end of the year.  I pay the full balance every month and don't use it as an excuse to over-spend, which makes the cashback feel like actual free money.  I also get to build credit on my own, which will make any future major purchases even easier.

Like most American graduates, I have student loan debt. I'm lucky in that it's a very manageable amount, which I'm grateful for.  In fact, my minimum payment is low enough that I can pretty easily afford to pay more, and I do.  It may be hard to decide to pay more than you have to on loans, but I'd rather lower the amount I need to pay in interest by getting the balance paid off earlier. In fact, by increasing my payments, I shave 18 months off of my payback time.  I feel pretty confident that will be a good thing in 7.5 years....

Finally, the hardest money lesson for me post-grad was figuring out prioritization.  Once Tallulah came home, I realized that my money was no longer just for fun - she needed to eat and play and get trained, and I needed to have enough saved that I could cover any emergencies for she or I.  Cue more serious saving.  A random trick that also worked for me was to leave my credit cards at home whenever I went to work.  It's where I'm most bored and least likely to actively prioritize needs, so removing the ability to immediately pay for things has limited my random purchases.

I'm by no means perfect with my money right now, and the last year was a little rocky in terms of making smart decisions, but for right now, this system is working pretty well!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Lessons Learned Post-Grad // Job Hunt

My job hunt began 8 months before I graduated.  Because I knew I wanted a job in education, I figured I'd get a jump on things well before the school year closed out, in the hopes of having a contract signed before graduation. Lols.  I obsessively joined job listing websites and set up alerts on everything even vaguely related to my chosen field.  I applied to every job that was interesting and that I was qualified-ish for.  One of the most helpful thing for me was to have a standard cover letter that a bunch of people had edited for me, which I would add a personalized paragraph to for every job.  Please, dear god, ask for help with proof reading and take the advice people you trust give you. It's painful, but necessary.

Once I had applied to jobs, the long waiting game began. I spent most of my summer obsessively checking my email, rearranging my nannying schedule to accommodate interviews and freaking out.  It was stressful and hard, and I had to learn how to manage my expectations from the beginning.  Most job opportunities didn't come to anything.  I had a bunch of near misses, which were heart-breaking, but I had to keep moving.  Honestly, the job I did eventually get is 100 percent worth the disappointment of losing out on the others, but is wasn't easy, especially given the horror stories we hear about the job market.  Try to tune out just how stressed out everyone else is - it doesn't help, and it makes the stakes feel way higher.

In the end, the thing that helped the most was joining Carney Sandoe, a service that schools use to find candidates.  If you're applying for jobs in schools, this is your best bet.  I first joined after a colleague that I don't know very well mentioned it off-hand - which goes along with my next point.  Listen to everyone, but do what feels right.  I cancelled an interview at an institution that didn't match with my values, which was terrifying, but I'm glad I did.

I had to learn a lot of hard lessons during my job search - how to manage disappointment and still be professional, how to write 2490389147839 cover letters without crying, how to continually put myself out there and have people basically tell me that I wasn't quite good enough. If I had to do it over again (which I will eventually),  I would have been a lot nicer to myself - you will get a job.  You will. You're enough, and you really do need to wait for the right situation.  Wasting months of your life stressed out to the point where you're an ass to your family helps not at all.  Take care of yourself, proof your cover letter one more time and invest in an interview outfit that makes you feel like a rockstar.  The job hunt is brutal, but worth it once you get that offer phone call (I was standing in front of my parents slider, looking out at the drizzle, having just come back from a 45 minute dog walk spent convincing myself that I would never be employed).

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Project 365 // May 4 - May 10

May 4
 May 5
 May 6
 May 7
 May 8
 May 9
 May 10

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Lessons Learned Post-Grad // Dressing the Part

Welcome to May, everyone! Also, one of the busiest months for me since graduating a year ago. Right now, I'm in Baltimore for two work conferences, and I leave for Ireland/England on Friday.  While I'm away, I'll be doing a series of posts on how my first year of independent living has gone, broken down into a bunch of sections.  First up - dressing the part!

I'm lucky to work in an office where the dress code is fairly lax - jeans are fine on slow days, and I almost never have to wear blazers.  That being said, I'm the youngest person on my staff, but I never want that to be obvious.  For me, that means erring on the side of conservative.

When I graduated, I had a fairly good stock of dress clothes, but here's what I found indispensable -

My uniform tends to be basic bottoms (skirts or pants) and a brighter top or a simple dress with statement jewelry.  Since getting my job, I'm much more careful about buying clothes - nothing too revealing, nothing too tight or short.  I don't necessarily need everything in my wardrobe to be work appropriate, but I do also feel pretty good about moving away from short/tight/see through stuff, now that I'm out of my frat basement days...

And  my basic rules for getting dressed in the morning -

  1. Arms or legs out - never both  
  2. If I stand in front of the mirror and have even a little bit of doubt if something's appropriate, it's not
  3. I do not need to wear a suit to be taken seriously, but I do need to feel confident 
  4. 5 inch heels are notttttttt professional - keep it to 3 inches, and cover your toes unless its July/August
  5. Invest in the basics, but you do not need a 200 dollar pencil skirt - comfortable heels, well wearing suiting and blouses that don't scream Forever 21 are all you need
  6. Keep a sweater and an extra pair of shoes at your desk - the sweater cures spills/snags/surprising amounts of cleavage, extra shoes for when your feet hate you
You guys see what I wear every week in my Week in Review posts, so you see how I do it. There have been times where outfits that I thought would work get the ax, or moved to weekend-only options.  As I've cut down my wardrobe, I've also invested in pieces that make getting dressed in the morning fun, which makes professional dress less of a drag and more of a fashion show.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Project 365 // April 27 - May 3

April 27

 April 28

 April 29

 April 30

May 1

 May 2

 May 3