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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Shopping for Fall on a Serious Budget:

I don't blog about fashion often and I certainly don't claim to be an expert, but I do feel like I represent a lot of women when I say that I want a great wardrobe, at an affordable price, consisting of pieces that easily transition from work to weekend... because honestly who can afford two wardrobes? 

Between getting married, traveling, and building a home, it's safe to say that I've been on a strict shopping budget for the last two years. In order to keep my spending in check, I have adopted these guidelines and they have really made a difference in the way we save...


 1) I buy seasonally to prevent myself from over-doing it during the year. Sure, occasionally I will treat myself, but my staples are replenished twice a year; once for winter/fall and again for spring/summer.

2) I invest in classics and save on trends.Why waste money on things that are going to look outdated next year? A pencil skirt or pair of fitted jeans are always in style. I feel better splurging on classics and go to Target for the trendier stuff. It's often true that you get what you pay for; I have found sometimes it's better to spend a little extra if you want to be wearing it three years from now. Before you splurge on that really expensive piece, decide whether you think it's in it for the long haul.

3) I shop my closet first. I apply the same logic to grocery shopping; see what you have first before buying something new. An old top can look completely different when layered or worn with a different bottom. Adding a new accessory like a scarf can change the look at a fraction of the price. If you're at a loss for creativity check out Pinterest and find some re-purpose inspiration!

4) I do some digging. It's really easy to find things you love at boutiques and department stores, but the best deals can often be found at places like TJ Maxx, Marshall's and thrift Stores. Yes, you're going to have to go through racks, and yes, it takes time and patience... but I cannot stress enough how worth it it can be. Proof? Last week I found an Anthropologie and a Banana Republic top new with tags on and paid only $4 for both! If you aren't the most patient shopper you can still save money by signing up for e-mail clubs that can help you take advantage of sales.

5) If I can't wear it to work I don't buy it. Again, I can't afford to have two wardrobes but it's not as disappointing as it sounds. A crop top wouldn't swing at work and really there's no need for me to own one. Of course there's always exceptions to every rule, but this is one that generally does my budget and my age-appropriate meter good.

Here's a peek at some pieces I picked up for Fall...

1. Black Pants. I am forever replacing black leggings; the color fades so quickly or I find they snagged on something. This year I thought I'd just do a simple skinny black pant in hopes that they last a little longer since the fabric is a bit more durable. I think it's a little more polished for work too.

2. Flannel. Flannel can look  put-together or it can look like you should be pitching a tent down by the river. I bought a similar shirt (pictured above) from Marshall's. The flannel is fitted and I love the rolled up sleeves which look more relaxed for the weekend. If I want a dressier look for work I can  layer with a cardigan.

3. Booties. Let me start by saying that I am extremely hard on shoes. I almost never have been able to get my shoes to last more than one season whether I spend $30 or $130. The only real difference has been comfort so I try to land somewhere in the middle. I put off getting booties last year just to see if the trend would be back and I was excited to see that it is! I bought both pairs pictured above. The brown ones by Simply Vera are a little more casual and look great with jeans.The gray ones from Target (no longer on website) have a bit of a heel and look nice with tights/dresses and black. I bought inserts for both and they seem fairly comfortable so far.

4. Sweaters. My office is -30F in the middle of summer so needless to say I stock up on cardigans for all seasons. If I am not wearing one you can usually find it crammed in my bag...I am nearly always cold. For Fall I bought a cable knit sweater in light pink from Gap, and a cute animal-print one from Target on a whim (could not find a photo but similar to one in picture).

Do you have any money saving secrets when it comes to shopping? What are you wearing this Fall?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cider, Scarowinds, and Sundried Tomato Mac n Cheese

We had a great weekend, just the right mix of relaxation and fun.

Friday night I watched Rain Man on Netflix, snuggled up with my dog and Brad, and enjoyed Woodchuck's Fall Harvest Cider...super delicious!


Saturday afternoon we did some model home touring which has helped a lot with design ideas. I love this wall color for the living room, Balanced Beige by Sherwin Williams. I think it's a nice warm grey but maybe we would want to go just a tad lighter...


 I also liked these simple built-ins for each side of the fireplace which Brad thinks he might be able to recreate himself. This is one of the projects that we would put off a few months until after the house is finished...


That night we had dinner at 521 BBQ with our friend's Beth and Kevin. Afterward, they took us to Scarowinds which is a haunted amusement park with roller coasters and very life-like/creepy haunted-houses. It was a lot of fun and a great way to celebrate the Halloween Season!

Photos via

Sunday I had a lazy day and loved every minute of it. We went to church that morning, Brad mowed the lawn, and then he made some ribs on the grill. I whipped together this awesome Three Cheese Sundried Tomato Mac n Cheese that went perfectly with it. This dish is a nice way to use up leftover cheeses because any kind works. The same is true for the noodles, I had ditalini on hand but elbows or shells are fine too.
 
Ingredients:

2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
2 tbsp Flour
2 cups 2% Milk
4-5 Sundried tomatoes chopped fine
1 garlic clove minced
4 tbsp Panko Bread Crumbs
2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese (for crumbs)
1 tbsp Italian Seasoning (for crumbs)
1/8 tsp of Nutmeg
Salt, Pepper, and Red Pepper Flake (to taste)
1/3 box of Ditalini Pasta (16oz box)
1/2 cup of cheese ( I used a combo of goat, blue, and Parmesan) but anything you like will do!

Directions:

1) Prepare Ditalini as directed, undercook by about three minutes to prevent mushy noodles. Drain & set aside.
2) Mix Panko Bread Crumbs, Italian Seasoning, and Parmesan Cheese. Set aside
3) Melt butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute 
4) Whisk in flour and cook until it begins to thicken and brown slightly
5) Slowly whisk in milk 
6) Add Sundried Tomatoes and seasonings. Be sure to taste
7) Remove from heat, whisk in Cheese until smooth, taste again, and adjust seasoning if necessary 
8) Stir in Ditalini and add the mixture to a greased pyrex dish
9) Top with panko crumb mixture and cook 350F for 10 minutes covered and broil on 500F for 5 minutes to brown the topping.


So good!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Navigating Friendships After Marriage



I'm at this stage in life where I am trying to balance my relationship with friends and my role as a wife. As a single woman, my lady-friends were top priority, and the majority of my free time was happily spent with them. Marriage has completely altered the way I live my life, and although I wouldn't change that, it has been a big adjustment. I no longer know every detail of their lives or even what happened last weekend, and yet I still want to maintain the authenticity and closeness we had; is that possible? I don't know the answer to that yet but I really hope so.

I value my friendships, and I have always believed that friend and alone time are necessary to be a good partner. Although my friends seem to understand that my priorities have shifted, I still feel like I am letting them down in a way. When you stop getting the weekly invites because they know you're busy, you can't help to feel a little squeeze in your chest even though it makes total sense. Maybe it's the realization that you can't be everything to everyone. In all honesty, I think sometimes it's easier with my coupled friends because I feel less guilty when I have to say no to something. I know I am not the first person to struggle with this.

Her:Grow, started up for it's fall season and it brought a little relief to my dilemma. It's a few hours set aside every week to just be with women and share a bit of our lives with each other. I came home last night and I found myself in the best mood. It's a place to vent and acknowledge shortcomings in a positive environment and I am so thankful for that. We are currently reading Brené Brown's Daring Greatly which is about living wholeheartedly and being vulnerable to connect in this world. It's a great book so far; it's going to force me to do some emotional-digging...but I think that's a good thing.

                                       Till Monday,

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It Feels Like Fall

Fall Recipe Inspiration: 

It officially feels like Fall this morning in Charlotte! I am the cook in our house and there are weeks I simply lack inspiration. I peruse blogs, magazines, and Pinterest for new recipes to change it up a bit. I've been making lots of cold-weather favorites recently like Michael Symon's Mac n Cheese with Ham, Cauliflower, and Gruyere topped with a Panko Parmesan Crust. I have to admit I love comfort food. It was a little bread-crumb heavy, but regardless tasted surprisingly good reheated the next day for lunch. Next time I'd cut the crumbs down and double the veggies. Brad thinks I am obsessed with cauliflower recipes and he may be right. While this isn't a healthy dish by any means, I feel a little less guilty since I am at least incorporating some healthy components. It was easy to make and looks pretty so it would make a nice side dish to bring to a party.


Tonight I am making Martha Stewart's Braised Chicken with Sauerkraut . I bet it would be great served with a good beer. Something about Sauerkraut pairs so well with beer...or maybe it's just the German in me!

Pumpkin in your coffee/tea 

 I start each day with a travel mug of coffee, but recently decided to stop adding flavored creamer or sugar. It was just a small thing I could cut out of my diet and I knew after awhile I wouldn't miss it as I am more of a salty than sweets person. Now I just add cinnamon and half&half, but for the Fall season I experimented with a little pumpkin pie spice. It tastes good but it can be on the bitter side if you use too much, so start out small.

I went to Trader Joe's Monday and tried a sample of their Pumkin Spice Chai Latte mix. It was absolutely delicious...but sweet! I don't usually drink Chai but I can see treating myself to a mug of this on occasion...
What are some of your favorite Fall recipes?

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's a Brick House...


We spent much of the last couple weekends driving around looking for brick. Last weekend we had zero luck, so we were pleasantly surprised that we found several on Saturday. This is probably our biggest decision we will have to make because there's no changing it once the brick is in place. Here are the contenders...

As a reminder, this is a general idea of what our house will look like. We are making a lot of changes to the plan, but the overall structure of the front should be the same. I am not a fan of the reddish brick...so that's going to be one big change!


Here is choice #1:


This is Hanson Brick's Carolina Collection in Cottonwood Plantation. I know it's not the best photo, but in-person this brick is such a beauty! It's definitely my favorite choice, but although Brad liked it, he wasn't in love with it. I agree with him that it might not fit our neighborhood..or the look we are going for. 

Choice #2: 


This is our budget-friendly choice, Triangle Brick's Nantucket . It's not our favorite but we believe it would still give us the look we are going for and we would be happy with it. It's a little more consistent in color than some of our other choices.

Choice #3 


This is our first choice, Boral Brick's Spanish Moss. It's the most expensive (doesn't it figure?). Our lot has a lot of Carolina Pine and we are going for a rustic-look so this brick would be perfect!

Choice #4 



This is probably my least favorite as-is (in this photo), however if we lightened up the mortar it would look very similar to the others. This is Hanson's Carolina Collection in Grand Caramel. They actually had a run with some small imperfections so we are going to take a look at a house and see if  it's something we like. If we do, this could be an even more budget-friendly option than the Nantucket. 

 Which do you like best?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A year ago this week...

This morning my sister in law Leslie is having surgery on her hip. She has gone through this process before, but we are hoping that this one can help eliminate her pain, and allow her to continue to be the active mom and wife that she is. Please keep her in your thoughts and/or prayers as she goes through the day and throughout her recovery.
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This week marks one year since Brad and I legally tied the knot! Since we had a destination wedding,we wanted to avoid a lot of the legal stipulations to marry in Mexico like blood tests, mandatory early arrival, and the requirement of  a Spanish ceremony with English translation. Instead, we decided to skip the visit to the doctor and make a little trip to the magistrate office. This ended up working out very well because Brad's siblings were unable to make the trip abroad with us; so this enabled them to be part of our day too.

We wanted to keep the day informal, so I found a simple inexpensive dress and wore blue shoes (which for some reason I was dying to do) for the day. My friend Laura did my hair and makeup. I remember being a tad on the nervous side, but I had my close friend and parents by my side that morning. Brad went to his parents to help them set up and get ready for the day with his family.

When I arrived at the magistrates our nephew Walker greeted me with this sweet little bouquet my SIL Leslie made....


Here's the hilarious part; the magistrates office just so happens to share space with the jail.. so of course we  had a little fun with it....

After we signed some documents, and temporarily exchanged wedding bands (we didn't officially wear rings until after Mexico) with the help of our little ring-bearers, we had an extremely short outdoor "ceremony" all of maybe 5 minutes, and became man and wife in the eyes of North Carolina!


The entire group (minus Leslie who took our photos), outside the magistrates...


We had a small barbecue afterward and invited some of our local friends and family. My SIL Leslie surprised us with some amazing details; it was a really fun and special day!

and then we rode off into the sunset...okay, maybe just down the street and back : )


It's so much fun going through these photos, and all of the happiness I felt that day is still in my heart. This has been a tough year navigating through both newlywed life and loss, but I couldn't have found a better partner than my husband Brad.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why My Blog Can't Be The Entire Story...

This weekend I spent some time with friends and the subject of my blog came up. My friends offered some extremely respectful constructive-criticism and I just wanted to explore some of their comments so that I can perhaps offer a better perspective of the direction my blog has taken...

My friend mentioned that she didn't feel that she recognized my voice in the blog. This was admittedly difficult to hear because I have shared a lot of my personal feelings in this space and always with the best intentions.But if I am honest with myself, my friend had a perfectly valid point. To a certain extent, The Healing Apron is a sanitized version of my life, and here is why...

When I first began writing about my dad's death I wrote without thinking about anyone else. It was raw, it was the way I felt, and I didn't feel that I owed any explanation for these feelings. There is a freedom in writing just for yourself, but there are also consequences. One afternoon I called my mom and I could tell that she was completely distraught. While understandably this has been common during this past year, I could sense something different about her despair that day. She explained that she had read my blog and that it brought up a lot for her. To hear your mother sob over the phone is a feeling of helplessness I can't explain. I felt so small in that moment, and though I didn't necessarily have anything to  apologize for, I can honestly say it was the first time I considered the feelings of anyone else in my writing. I did ask her if she would prefer that I didn't write about my dad, but of course she encouraged me to continue with my blog. I struggle with how to be true to my own grief while considering that my dad's wife, his mother, his sisters, brothers, and other children also have the details of his passing written on the internet.

 I want to write something my dad can be proud of, and take into consideration the feelings of others who have known him. I imagine many of you may think that this is a cop-out or that I shouldn't care what others think about my writing, but the fact is this is my family and I care deeply about their feelings and a blog will never be worth making them feel uncomfortable. As far as this hindering my ability to express my grief, that's valid as well. I have found the process of editing to be cathartic. I have written more than a few blog posts only to delete them without ever publishing, but in that process found relief and release.

This brings me to address the second comment my friends made, think about others who are going through this process. I want this blog to serve as a resource to those who are going through this process, but  I also want this blog to be more than that. I want to clarify that I am not attempting to "cook myself to happiness," and I certainly hope that building a house, or making homemade sauce does not come across as a way to hide or minimize the tremendous loss I have suffered. Yes, I think about my dad every single day...but at the same time it's ok that I am happy. I am learning to live my life with the realization that I will not be able to build new memories with my dad. He will never see my kids, he will never give me a hug, and I will never again hear his voice on the other side of the phone. That's tough, that's reality, and the truth of it is I don't want to explore how that makes me feel every single day. Sometimes I want to just live a quiet life, talk to my dad in the car on the way to work, and spend time with the loved ones I am lucky enough to have living on this earth.

Ultimately, I  want this to be a humble little blog that I can write about my life; the mundane and the emotional. I want to also extend an ear to anyone who is currently grieving. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me (my personal email is listed under contact-me) and we can talk. Not through the guise of a  blog comment, but through a letter or a phone call. I want to call you by name and know your story. At the end of a day, this blog will never be the entire story of myself. So yes, there are pieces of me that will always be reserved for conversations with those I love most and I am completely okay with that.

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