3/31/16

March 2016 Favorites

There is no rhyme or reason to this list, it is merely a collection of things/people/etc. that I have enjoyed throughout the past month!



 -I'm a huge Instagram addict (follow me here!), and lately I've been loving posts from an account called Sweatpants and Coffee. They're nothing profound, just simple, quirky, often coffee-related little quotes that I enjoy seeing in my feed. Give them a look here! 

-Sometimes I feel like I will forever be on a quest for certain holy grail items, and that includes the perfect base/top coat. The Sally Hansen Complete Care Extra Moisturizing 4-in-1 Nail Treatment is a contender though! I bought it looking for something to give my nails a little tlc and this has helped, but I also learned that it would awesome as a base/top coat as well. I love that I can use this versus two products! The jury is still out as to whether it wins holy grail status...


-This coconut creamer from So Delicious has become an absolute must for me. I like a creamer that sweetens my coffee without completely overtaking the actual coffee. This does the trick and is dairy-free which has become a must for me (I've learned I need to watch my dairy intake). I love the taste and recently, they removed the carrageenan and titanium dioxide, simplifying the recipe more. It's also shelf stable until opened, which is great and allows me to always have an extra on hand without taking any valuable refrigerator space! When I was writing this post I found a great deal for it on Amazon actually so if you're looking to try it out, I strongly recommend grabbing this price!



-I'm often on the look out for a new shampoo/conditioner, and I was recently looking for something new to try as I was underwhelmed by my previous routine. When I saw the Vitamin E line from OGX it caught my eye. When I saw the claim that it helps with frizzy hair and split ends, I was intrigued. First off, this stuff smells AMAZING!! I can't get enough of the smell! I also love how it makes my hair feel clean, without being weighed down, or too dry. I can't say yet if it helps with split ends much, but I think it has made my hair a bit happier. It's also free of sulfates which often irritate my scalp, and cruelty-free! Woo!! Stay tuned for a review in the future!




-After finishing the blanket that I recently blogged about, I've moved on to other projects. Currently, I'm working with this yarn and I really really love it!! It's called Landscapes and is from Lion Brand (of course). It's a self striping yarn which I enjoy a lot. Right now, it looks to be on sale at Jo Ann Fabrics, though they're out of the color I purchased which is called Desert Spring. It's super soft and I'm loving the colorway!

-To go with my knitting, I often sit and watch The Golden Girls. In all honesty, it's not just a favorite this month, but one of my all-time favorite shows. Since I've seen it so many times, it's the perfect show to watch while knitting as I feel I don't have to pay my complete attention to it. Despite seeing some episodes a dozen times, it never gets old. I love the show so much, that I may or may not be focusing on it as part of my major capstone project for my degree. ;) No shame in my nerdiness!

Well, those are my favorites for the past month! I'd love to hear what you've been enjoying this month in the comments!!

3/28/16

Five Easy Painless ways to save money



First off, let me premise this post by saying that I do not consider myself to be an expert when it comes to being frugal/saving money. If anything, I'm the opposite. I like to shop and I generally fail at doing "no-buys". That being said, I do have some tips for saving money that I think are easy enough that everyone can do. This list is meant to be painless and realistic! I hope that it helps even the biggest shopaholics save a few pennies! 

1. Keep your change! A couple of years ago, I stopped spending my change. Whenever I receive change from a purchase, I dump it into a jar at home. I never use change when making a purchase, and I have found that over time, the change really does add up! You can let it accumulate for a year, six months, or whatever time frame you choose. Right now, I'm allowing it to accumulate towards the next trip I go on. Whether it ends up being an extra $50, or $100, it can make an impact!

2. Use Ebates. If you frequently shop online like I do, Ebates can be a real bonus. I have Ebates added to my browser so that anytime I am on a website eligible for cash back, I receive an alert, which makes it easy and painless. I would say that about 90% of the websites that I shop on participate, meaning that I receive cash back from nearly all of my purchases! Since I joined Ebates in late 2014, I have earned over $300.00 back! That's not bad for some extra money! Keep your eyes open for double cash back promotions as well - sometimes I will hold off on a purchase if the store I'm shopping at (Nordstrom for example), frequently offers double cash back.

3. Go green! Often times, making more environmentally conscious choices and saving money overlap. Using a reusable bottle vs. buying bottled water, planning your errand running to save on gas, starting a veggie garden...these can all save you some serious cash. I take one of these Lifefactory bottles with me everywhere and it not only means I drink more water, but it also means I no longer buy expensive and wasteful bottled water! Win, Win!

4. Utilize your local library - okay, now this is one that I seriously struggle with! I love to read, and honestly, I think that I love to collect books even more. It can become quite the expensive habit to maintain! If you speed through books, it can become even more costly. Utilizing your library can bring those costs to zero! You can find nearly any book you might be looking for, not to mention many libraries also carry music and television/movies. These types of purchases are a huge drain for me and I know that if I even replaced one purchase with a borrowed book I could save quite a lot per year. If a new hardback release costs $20, that's about $240/year!!

5. Plan your meals - this one can be difficult because I find that you can only plan ahead so much when it comes to dinners. There are always going to be days when you just don't feel like eating that pre-planned pasta dinner. There will be times that despite having a set game plan, you just want to order takeout instead. However, I still think it is helpful to have some go-to meals that you know you have the ingredients on hand for. That's how I look at it anyway. I try to look through our fridge/freezer/pantry to see what we have to work with, and I take it from there. If we have pasta and sauce, I know that getting salad fixings can make a quick and easy meal. If we have eggs and feta cheese, all we need is some spinach to make my favorite kind of omelet. I find that having this sort of game plan means saving money, yet without the strict regimen that more intense meal planning often requires.

I think that sometimes saving money can seem painful and overwhelming, so I kept this list short for a reason. I'd love to also hear your ideas and tips in the comments!

This post contains affiliate links


3/25/16

Herbivore Coco Rose (REVIEW)




One of the things that I tend to try a lot of is lip balms. I find that I am always struggling with chapped lips, and my quest for the perfect lip balm has never really been completely satisfied. I have found some pretty great near holy-grail products along the way though. One of which was Dior's Creme De Rose. Unfortunately I swear they changed their formula because when I purchased it a few months back, it just wasn't the same. Enter this lip conditioner from Herbivore.




I picked this up completely randomly, just curious to try a lip balm that I hadn't before. I liked that it had a simple list of ingredients and also, that it was cruelty-free which I strive for whenever possible.







I would definitely classify this as an alternative to the Dior Creme De Rose. I think they are both quite similar, although I prefer this lip conditioner to the Dior one. I suppose this could be considered a dupe for the Creme De Rose, however, this one is only slightly cheaper.




This is my first time trying anything from the Herbivore brand, and I am certainly intrigued. I'm all about more natural, cruelty-free options, and this brand seems to strive for that as well! If you have any suggestions as to what I should try next from the brand, please let me know!

3/24/16

Deal Alert: Stock up price on Folgers coffee + Gift Card offer!

Good morning all! As I sip on my morning coffee, it seems like an appropriate time to share this deal with you. This week through Saturday (3/26) at Target, you can get Folgers coffee at (what I consider) a stock up price. To some, this might not be a good enough deal, but I know how much this coffee has gone up in price, and even without the gift cards this is a pretty sweet deal!


Right now all Folgers coffee is on sale at Target! This includes K-Cups for those who buy those instead (we buy the ground coffee and use reusable K-Cups - it's cheaper and more environmentally friendly!). However, the larger containers (24.2-30.5oz) that generally run around $8.59, are on sale this week for only $6.99! This alone is a great price, and an easy deal as it requires no coupons or promo codes!




You CAN make the deal even sweeter though by stocking up and taking advantage of the TWO gift card promotions the coffee is eligible for. For every three containers you purchase, you can receive a $5.00 gift card. However, if you really stock up and purchase 8 cans, you can earn $20.00 in gift cards!! You would receive two $5.00 gift cards from purchasing six cans, but you would also receive a $10.00 gift card from purchasing over $50.00 worth of grocery products!! I tested this out by bumping it up to 9 containers and it still worked and gave me an extra $5.00 gift card, for a total of $25.00 in gift cards on a $62.91 purchase.

Have a Red Card? You can save a little more bringing your total to about $59.76!! So if you deduct the gift card value, that's like getting the coffee for about $4.22/container!!! That's 50% off the normal price!! The red card would bring it down to less that $4.00 a container!! I'd definitely consider this a stock up price if you drink a lot of coffee (who doesn't??)!!

Happy shopping!! 

3/23/16

National Puppy Day!

It's National Puppy Day!! I'm a huge animal lover, specifically dogs, and most of all my dogs. There are three labs in our household and they are super spoiled and super loved by us all. Not much else needs to be said, but I thought I'd put together a little post in honor of today!



























Believe it or not, I tried to keep it at a conservative amount of puppy pictures! If this doesn't put a smile on your face, then I don't know what will! I hope you are able to spend some time today with a furry friend. Happy National Puppy Day!!

3/21/16

Learning to Knit - The great blanket adventure.

Years ago I had very roughly, learned how to knit. However, my only accomplishment was making a scarf or two. I recently decided to pick up knitting again and I wanted to learn more than just how to make a scarf. While I started with a few scarves just to get into the swing of things, I took a step forward in my knitting experience and recently made a blanket!




Honestly, I never imagined I'd ever be able to make a blanket. I definitely never thought there would be a pattern for a beginner friendly blanket. For the blanket I made, I used this pattern from Lion Brand Yarn (my absolute favorite yarn!). The pattern called for six skeins of their Thick & Quick yarn, but in all honesty, the Joann closest to me has a horrible selection of yarn, so I went with what they had and got seven skeins of Lion Brand Homespun yarn in the color nouveau.






This was my first time using circular needles as well, and I have to say that I really, really enjoyed it! If anyone has any easy patterns for beginners that I can do with them, send em' my way, I really want to try another project with them! In case you're wondering, I used these needles.






Overall I'm really happy with the blanket that I produced. The pattern couldn't have been any easier and I loved how I was able to multitask while knitting this blanket because I didn't have to obsessively make sure I was following a pattern. I started a bit of a routine where I would knit for about two hours every evening while I watched Golden Girls reruns. No judgement - I love that show!! Another bonus - when your blanket gets long enough, it will keep you warm while you knit! The only issues I had were in judging when to start a new skein, so there are a few spots where the yarn is a bit thicker, but this blanket is just for me and considering its the first time I used circular needles or made a blanket, I'm quite pleased.

If I can make a blanket, anyone can! If you're looking for an easy beginners knitting project, I would highly recommend this one!

3/20/16

In the Garden: March 2016

Happy first day of spring everyone!! As of today, it is officially spring and while the weather might still be a bit of a roller coaster ride, overall it has been fairly nice out. Right now is the perfect time to get out into the gardens to survey winter's damage and to prep for the upcoming warmer months! Gardening is something that I truly enjoy and I thought I would start incorporating that into the blog more. I'm planning on doing monthly garden updates to give you a glimpse into what I am up to and what's happening out in the dirt each month! I am by no means an expert, and I often go against the grain in how I work outside, so please - take everything with a grain of salt. ;)


  • This month is all about clean up - I've been going around cleaning out dead leaves, branches that have fallen, pine cones and needles from all our surrounding pine trees, etc. 
  • I've also been pruning the perennial plants a bit. Honestly, I don't often prune but this year I'm trying to make a more conscious effort to do so. 
  • I also went out and put some of the bird feeders back up. I generally take them down in the fall because the show often gets far too deep to try and traverse to feed the birds during the winter, and so many birds that I feed migrate anyways (hummingbirds, orioles, etc.). I haven't put all my feeders up yet but right now I've got two finch feeders, two general feeders and a safflower for the cardinals, who have been coming around but not feeding - any suggestions?? 
  • I've cleaned out all the container planters that I used last year - I know, I should have done so last year! There are always things I forget or put off and then, it's too late! That's where I generally plant any annuals, so they're clean and ready to go! 
  • I also did a bit of cleaning in the veggie bed, and I'm planning on ordering seeds in the next few days. I think that I'm going to start everything from seed this year so that I can have more control over how much I grow of each thing. The selecting part is going to be difficult! 
So far, that's what I've been up to and weather permitting I have a few projects I hope to get to before the months end. It might not seem like an exciting list, but the fact that I've been able to get outside and get a start on things this year is exciting! I'd love to know what you're up to in your gardens as well as what you hope to do/grow this year in the comments!

3/18/16

Brooklyn: Coffee Shoppe Reads (Review)

 

This is one of those cases in which I hear the title of a book, or see its cover, etc. and immediately have a desire to read it. I never heard a synopsis about Brooklyn beyond knowing that it was the story of an Irish immigrant. Even known just that, I wanted to read this book - before seeing the movie!

Brooklyn , by Colm Tóibín tells the story of an Irish girl named Eilis Lacey, who travels to America to start a new life on her own. The book follows her journey to make a life for herself in a foreign land, and the challenges that come from that. Brooklyn is very much in my eyes, a love story, as it focuses on the relationship that develops between Eilis and Tony, an Italian-American whom she meets in Brooklyn. The roots that Eilis puts down in Brooklyn are later challenged by heartbreaking news from home, which threatens the clarity of her current life course.

I felt that Brooklyn was an emotional roller coaster. I don't normally seek out romances, and I would have just as likely read this book if it had only detailed her life as an immigrant without the love story. I found that in the beginning I felt for her as she embarked on this new journey that was decided upon by other family members. While Eilis did have a support system when she arrived in Brooklyn, she was still entering an entirely unknown world. At first I was wary of her relationship with Tony, hoping for a strong female character who did not immediately give to the whims of a man or the traditional female roles. However, he, and their relationship grew on me and I later found myself anxious as to how their relationship would unfold.

Despite living over 3,000 miles from home, Eilis was still influenced by her family and towards the end of the book, she receives news that threatens the life she has built for herself in her new home of Brooklyn. Begin the emotional roller coaster ride! Eilis journeys home and it is uncertain as to whether she will return to Brooklyn.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I could go on and on about my thoughts on it, but I don't want to give too much away as I strongly encourage you to read it for yourself. I will say though that the ending frustrated me. I have a gigantic pet peeve for when books feel like they end with a sharp drop off - which, I felt this book did. I always find that I want to know more at the end of a story. I hate the unknown I guess! I would certainly love to hear your thoughts if you have also read Brooklyn !


The movie is available to watch here, and you can see the trailer below!

3/14/16

Deal Alert: Old Navy Flip Flops for $1.82!

Today I want to share a deal with you all that is for TODAY only! If you go to Old Navy's website, the entire store is 40% off - today only, no code needed! I'm sure that you can find plenty of good deals through this promotion, especially as it includes clearance items and I don't believe there are any exclusions, but one that caught my eye were their classic flip flops. With today's promotion, you can pick up a pair for only $1.82!!


Because it's still technically winter, they have plenty of colors still in stock! They are originally priced at $3.94 a pair, on sale for $3.00, and drop to $1.82 when you place them in your cart.


You'll need to spend $50.00 to receive free shipping, but there are plenty of other items you can pick up during this sale. I'm using this opportunity to finally try out their yoga pants as they are on sale for $11.96 with this sale. If you've tried those before, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to share what you pick up in the comments!!

Hope this helps someone, happy shopping! Oh, and don't forget to go through Ebates!!

Pi Day Pizza

Today is one of my favorite holidays. I am well aware of the nerdy implications of this statement. I strongly encourage using Pi day as an excuse to make some homemade pizza like these. Yes, pizza is often a convenience food, but there is something about homemade pizza that just cannot be beat. I love how much a pizza recipe can vary from place to place, or person to person. For me, I learned from my mother, who learned from her father and I think that through our experimenting, we have developed some pretty good techniques.




We ended up making two pies, a traditional white pie and a spinach & ricotta pie. Both are devoid of red sauce but full of cheese. The ricotta in particular has four different types of cheese! They're also vegetarian friendly, which is how I generally prefer my pies. I'd much rather veggies over meat as a topping. Yes, one pie was cut into triangles while the other was cut into squares. I feel like this is a controversial topic! Which do you prefer?









These pies were very easy to make and you could easily make variations to suit your tastes. Pizza dough is like a canvas! You can do whatever you like! Please let me know in the comments if you would like me to post the recipes.  I hope that this post inspires you to celebrate Pi day - and to make it a meatless Monday at that! Oh and to make things just a little more nerdy, beware the Ides of March! ;)

3/11/16

Used Book Haul: Half.com



I love buying books, and collecting them perhaps even more than I enjoy reading them. Happiness is having stacks of books surrounding you! While I am actually quite neurotic about caring for my books and making sure they are in the best condition (you will NOT see me marking a page in any way!!), I do enjoy purchasing books used whenever possible as well. For someone who likes to read a lot, it can be a nice way of cutting down on the costs. Half.com is one of the places I like to browse for books, and today I thought I would share with you a recent little haul from there! Some of these are books that I have not read, while others are books that I used to own, that have since mysteriously vanished.







1. Middlesex , by Jeffrey Eugenides

2. The Bell Jar , by Sylvia Plath


4. The Price of Salt , by Patricia Highsmith



While I purchased all these books from Half.com, I have used Amazon links as the sellers on Half.com and availability change constantly. I don't want to recommend one seller over another as I cannot vouch for them. I will suggest however, that you always pay attention to a sellers feedback score. Also, keep in mind that shipping always adds about 3.99, so it is possible on occasion that a book will actually be cheaper new on Amazon than used! Always check prices!! When I look for books on Half.com, aside from checking these things, I also look for books that say they have not been marked in or highlighted at all. I also make sure they don't have any dog-eared pages (another pet peeve of mine!). I can say that I've been 90% successful when purchasing from Half.com sellers. It's a great option for when you're looking for a cheaper option, or if you desire a specific cover of a book (that's why I purchased The Bell Jar from Half.com, I wanted a specific cover!). I'm sure everyone knows all about Half.com as a book buying option, but hopefully this helps some of you out there! Happy reading!