Wednesday, December 31, 2014

December Budget

I can't believe December is over, or that it lasted this long, but here we are. This month was a bit nuts in terms of budgeting, with Christmas, my birthday and a trip to Nashville, but the new year will bring some more manageable spending (hopefully).

As I mentioned in my budget post, I set aside a specific amount for clothing, and, in an effort to hold myself accountable, what I bought and spent is detailed below.  This month was pretty light in terms of what I bought for myself, but I did manage to get some pretty amazing details - 
Women's Plaid Flannel Shirts

Old Navy Flannel - $20 (used Christmas gift card)
It filled a layering gap in my closet, and I liked that it would work with every sweater I own

Wide Pro Black Patent from the Stapled Clog
Found in a Savers.  They're not in the best condition, but most of the issues were fixed with a cleaning and some black Sharpie
I had been looking for a smaller bag to carry when I'm not lugging around my camera, and I loved the color of this (mine is cranberry, but I can't find an image anywhere).  The store I was in had it marked down 40%, but when the lady rang it up, it was only 25.  No idea how that math works, but I ran before she questioned anything.

2 Victoria's Secret bras - $60
Ugh. Nothing fancy, just needed some replacements.  I despise bra shopping, but it definitely needed to happen.

Total - $110 (total budget for the month is $150)

Overall, I'm pleased with everything I got.  I'm planning an early January shopping trip to hunt down some black dress pants (my pair died in October), so next month might include some slightly more investment-priced pieces, but it will be really nice to have black work pants again).

Linking up with Fran for the first time this month - I'm excited!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Project 365

This was the year that I picked up a new hobby - digital photography. Since last January, I've purchased my first DSLR (Nikon D3200), 2 lenses (the kit lens and a 50mm f1.8) Lightroom and Photoshop Elements.  I've moved from Auto Mode to Aperture Priority mode, and am planning on jumping into full manual during this project.

I am, at best, a beginner hobbyist, but I love it and I'm learning. My goal for Project 365 is to push myself - to be a better photographer, to take pictures of something other than my dog, to figure out white balance.  We'll see how it goes.

Some examples of what I'm doing these days -

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

48 Hours in Nashville

Last weekend, I headed down to Nashville, TN for a quick visit with my brother.  He's in college, about to head overseas for a semester in Ireland, so the trip was part visit, part retrieval mission for him and all of his stuff.  We had a bit of a whirlwind food fest all over the 'Ville, my favorite kind of trip!

One of my best friends from college flew down with me, and we parted ways in the airport.  I rented the cutest car in the universe (tiny. yellow. gray interior.) and headed to Brub's dorm.  He and his buddies immediately scooped me up for a few hours at a bar and then milkshakes at 1 am... I didn't literally fall asleep at the table, but it was close #oldladystatus.

The next day, I went for a walk before Brub and I headed over to 5 Points for brunch.  I had yelped a place called Marche Fraiche, which got rave reviews, and well deserved.  Somehow, we hit the timing exactly right and only had to wait 20 minutes, just enough time for a cappuccino and the world's best croissant.  For brunch, Brub had a strata and I had a lox omelette.  Everything was amazing.

Once we rolled ourselves out of Marche, we did some exploring/Christmas shopping in 5 points.  There's the huge collection of locally owned artist boutiques all within walking distance of each other, so we took all of that in.  Brub also took me to a super hipster coffee shop with a rosemary latter on the menu... I passed on that, but my molasses cookie flavored coffee was supah delish.

We headed back to Brub's neck of the woods so that I could check into my hotel and spend 45 minutes not talking to another person.

Grimey's, one of Nashville's institutions of record selling, was having a Christmas party/concert sitution, so Brub and I and a bunch of his friends spent 3 hours listening to some very cool music and eating homemade gingerbread cookies. It wasn't my scene, but no one seemed to notice that I wasn't cool enough to be there, so I went with it.

After the concert, Brub and I went to Pharmacy for burgers and fries.  The wait for a table was an hour, so we trolled the bar and managed to find 2 seats pretty quickly.  In fact, by the time we got done eating, they were calling to tell us that a table had opened up, so that worked out nicely.

My last day in the 'Ville, I met Brub to pack up his room in the morning before we headed to Fido for a late breakfast.  I was pretty much useless with hunger at that point, which is always so pleasant for my family... Breakfast was amazing though - I had huevos rancheros and another schmancy coffee.

Brub and I split up again after breakfast, so I could go to OpryLand and he could finish packing and say goodbye to his friends.  OpryLand was very cool and very overwhelming (so much space, so many people...).
As a last meal for everyone, 10 of us, including most of Brub's best friends, went to Germantown for a Sunday dinner at Monell's.  It's basically going to your grandmother's house, except your grandmother is the best cook in the world ever. I ate 4 biscuits, a plate of mac and cheese and 3 leaves of greens. I regret nothing. And it was all served family style, which was awesome.

After a hasty car pack and a few drinks in the airport with my college friend, we headed home. It was a great trip, and I didn't regret it at all when my jeans didn't fit the next day.

Monday, December 1, 2014


One of the things I was most excited about when I got my new job was that my housing is dog friendly.  Originally, I had planned on getting a dog in the spring, but that plan went out the window after I hosted my parent's dogs.  About 12 hours after they left, I was way deep in the PetFinder black hole.  At one point, I landed on a rescue organization's page, staring down a shepherd/great dane litter. One of the puppies, Darcy, felt right to me, sappy as that is.   I submitted an application, went to an adoption event the next day and refreshed my email so many times it's a miracle I didn't break google.  In the end, it worked out.  Darcy became Tallulah, who came home on October 26th.  At this point, she's 16 weeks, 34 pounds and ssaaassssssyyyyyyyyyyy.  Sister wants what she wants, which is usually attention from other people, for me to throw her tennis ball or to chew something inappropriate.

She's my favorite.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Saturday in Deerfield, MA

This weekend, work took me to Historic Deerfield, which I didn't realize was a thing until I was quite literally in the middle of it, being mobbed by overweight tourists taking pictures of everything.  After a few hours of work, I started a slow wander around the village. You can pay to go into all of the historic homes, but photos aren't allowed and, to be honest, I'm not terribly interested in checking out a bunch of historic fireplaces and chairs.

I am, however, interested in pigs and fall foliage -

After a long wander in town, I decided to torture myself with the flagship Yankee Candle store, also in Deerfield.  I did not find the store all that compelling.  The candles themselves were over priced and the scents were no different than any other store.  It was fun to see them all in one spot, but not fun enough for me to forget the ridiculous prices.  The real draw for the store is all of the other things - the Christmas room, the cafeteria, the Vera Bradley section, the wax mold or your hands. Not interesting to me, but hey, it'll kill an afternoon if you need that.

Deerfield itself is definitely worth a visit, particularly in fall, but I'd bypass the Yankee Candle store, unless you are a passionate wax burner.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Vegetable Curry Soup

My drive to cook wanes pretty dramatically throughout the week, which means I create elaborate, delicious dinners Monday and end up eating carrots and crackers and whatever random bits of food I can get my hands on for dinner on Friday. To combat this, I'm trying to cook big, easy to manage meals on the weekends and saving them to eat during the week.  As it was raining and yucky on Sunday, I decided on soup.  I'm a vegetarian, so creating a meal with protein is important to me - the lentils and beans provide that, while the veggies mean tons of good vitamins and nutrition.  This recipe was adapted from Budget Bytes.

Curry Vegetable Soup

1 Onion
Garlic (to taste)
4 Carrots
1 Large Sweet Potato
1 cup Lentils
1 can Cannelini Beans
1 can Diced Tomatoes
4 cups Vegetable Broth
Curry Powder (to taste, I used 2 tbsp)
Cinnamon (to taste, I used 1 tsp)

  1. Dice the onion and sauté it in a large stockpot over medium heat in coconut oil*
  2. Once the onions are getting soft, add the garlic and sauté for about 2 more minutes
  3. Chop the sweet potato and carrot into bite size pieces and add to the pot
  4. Cook everything together for a few minutes, then add the cannelini beans and tomatoes, both with their liquids
  5. Add the broth and the spices
  6. Raise the heat and allow the soup to boil before reducing the heat to low and letting it simmer for 45 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and lentils cooked
  7. Eat immediately, or refrigerate, covered, for up to a week

*Coconut oil has a high smoke point and goes well with the curry, but if you don't have any on hand, olive oil or even butter would work (just be careful of the temperature)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Life Right Now

This week was nuts. I travel a lot for work, up to a week at a time. Because my job is split between my office and residence life, being away for so long makes my world a little tough to manage.  Most of my office stuff can be taken care of from away (emails, scheduling, meetings etc), but my advisees and residents fall by the wayside when I can't be with them.  They manage just fine, I just hate that it makes the other adults in their lives a little more difficult, because I, as part of the care team, can't be there. Thursday was my last travel day for the fall, so I'm trying to figure out how to resettle into my world.  I started travel about 2 weeks after I accepted  my position, so this period feels a little like starting a whole new job - how to be in the office. I'm excited for the challenge.

Another thing that happened this week is that my parents went on vacation, leaving their dogs with me.  I adore all dogs, particularly mine, so I was and am really excited to have them here.  It's been a pretty big adjustment for all three of us, but I think it's gone well.  I live in a third floor walk up, much different than my parents suburban, single family home.  Even figuring out a bathroom routine is complicated, because it effectively requires a walk, every time.  That's been really different for me, because I don't normally leave my apartment so much after work.  Now, I'm going for a morning, midday, early evening, after dinner and before bed walk.  While it took some getting used to, it's been really, really fun. It's awesome for me to walk and move this much, and it was so amazing to come home for work to dogs that were super happy to see me. I've been talking about getting a puppy for a while and this week has shown me just how hard, and just how rewarding, it would be.

Monday, October 6, 2014


In my new fancy life of having a pay check and car payments and my own health insurance, I also have to figure out how to not spend all of my money on rose lipstick and cheap jeans.  Cue budgeting.  In the past, I've struggled with budgets, in that it works super well until Target has a sale.  This go around, the stakes are a little higher.  I've created a paycheck-based system, which I'm hoping will create high enough turnover that I don't lose focus.

 I'm fortunate to have a situation in which I could, pretty easily, never pay for food and rent is already not part of the equation.  I know it's a really different set up than most most postgrads, and I really am blessed.  Without going into too much detail (these interwebs are scary, twisted places), my budget is broken into Clothes, Personal, Food and Bills.  The bill category is by far the biggest (25% of my paycheck) and the three other categories together make up the other 25%. I'm able to save 50%, ish.  I also have a budget set up for travel and any additional money (birthday, extra work etc) will be used for splurges, so I'll figure that out as I go.

My financial goals are pretty standard.  I have a savings goal I'd like to hit ASAP, plus a few that will take me a while.  I'll post at the end of each pay period what I spent my discretionary budget on, to hold myself accountable.