Faves Roundup : Shopping Resources Edition

Who doesn’t love a good deal? When it comes to being mindful about the things we own it’s important to be mindful about how we acquire these things. Saving ourselves time and spending more wisely ultimately pay off in the long term; better, more mindful purchases now mean less waste later. Nowadays there are myriad apps, tools, and sites touting tips and tricks to help us save time, save dollars, and supposedly make our lives better.

Here I’m sharing my favorites, and will update the list as I find and fall in love with more of them.

For getting things done and taking names : Evernote | Todoist | Learnvest

Evernote

This site and app is something I’ve shared before, but it’s worth bringing up again. When I do a little stock taking of the pantry I’ll make two sets of notes in here for the “things we don’t need, yet” and the “things we could use more of if on sale” plus another set of notes that become the final shopping list. That keeps me on track at the store, I can pop in, buy only what we need, and not come home with ten more cans of coconut milk when we’ve already got five in the pantry. Additionally, I’ll keep notes on everything else from things I’d like to remember, to things I’d buy if on a good sale (like a particular color or cut of boot).

There are different plans, including a free option, and additional features beyond note taking abilities.

Todoist

Also have shared this one. It’s brilliant for keeping track of things that get lost in the back of the pantry or freezer (things really only last three months max in the freezer, people). It’ll alert you to use up that summer squash before the freezer burn sets in. Less food waste = more dollars in our pockets. Another great idea to use this platform for : meal planning.

This is a free item.

Learnvest

We’ve been here before, too, but let’s face it : you need a budget. You can’t go shopping if you don’t know how many dollars you can realistically spend.

There are different plans, including a free option, and there are financial planners available to help with getting things even more on track.

For finally treating yourself to your wishlist : Slick Deals | Shop it to Me | Shoptagr | Price Blink | CamelCamelCamel | Honey

Slick Deals

Looking for a good deal? Don’t have time to sift through endless Google results that lead to expired coupon codes and misleading ads? This site provides insight into just those things, sorting out which are legit, which are the best, and allowing you to avoid all that other nonsense. It’s user generated in that it’s members can submit coupons, codes, and deals to the community that are then analyzed by other members and the Slick Deals team. These are vetted and rated, giving you a clear answer about what will work and how.

This is free to use. There is also a price tracker tool that can let you know when prices change on items you’ve got your eye on.

Shop it to Me

If you’re short on time, know what you like, and don’t want to do the searching yourself then this site is for you. Just plug in what you’re looking for, size, brand, item type, etc., and they’ll scour the interwebs on your behalf, sending you suggestions on the best options out there. Keep in mind the things on this site tend to be higher end and name brand.

This is a free service, and will alert you to particular sales and deals once you “heart” things on their site.

Shoptagr

This one is brilliant in it’s ease of use. It’s a browser extension which means you download a button that will appear in your browser top corner much like a Pin It button. When you’re poking around your favorite shopping sites, just click that button and it’ll save whatever item you’re currently looking at. It’s a lot like Pinterest for shopping. You save your faves, curate them on their site, and receive alerts when sales or discounts are available for your saved items.

The button and service is free. The methodology here is shop now, buy later. Allowing you the opportunity to peruse, sleep on it, and know you’re getting the best deal possible.

Price Blink

Also a browser extension, this one will alert you in real time to better prices for an item you’re currently looking it. This is done a little discreetly with a small drop down list from the top of your browser with suggestions for other retailers with prices. Definitely handy to see things immediately, and can also be set to send you alerts.

This is a free browser button.

CamelCamelCamel

Much like the other price trackers, however, this one is only for Amazon. It’ll tell you the price history for an item, and possibly when the best time to buy might be, as well as alert you to when the price drops or changes.

This is a free service, but only tracks items on Amazon.

Honey

This is a magical thing that puts an extension in your browser. All you have to do is your normal online shopping routine, except when you get to the checkout screen Honey will suggest coupon codes, deals, etc. for you to take advantage of in real time. That easy.

It’s a free service with an accompanying browser extension.

For how to store all those lovely things once you’ve finally got ‘em : 

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Now that you’ve created all sorts of fascinating content you’ll need a place to store it safely away. This is where our trusty cloud services come in. The easiest and most accessible, if you’ve got a GMail account is Google Drive. Other options that I love and trust are Dropbox and Box. All of these have large amounts of storage capacity and can be accessed anywhere. I can’t stress enough how important it is to back up literally everything you ever create, and I don’t mean on your computer. Save your stuff somewhere that floods, toddlers, pets, and acts of god can’t reach.

These are typically free up to a maximum storage capacity. Adding on additional storage capacity will incur a (usually) monthly cost.

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Do you have a WordPress blog? Use this tool to back it up. Like, use it right now. You can’t back things up too early or too often. Trust me, between losing everything you’ve ever done and not, I’ll always choose the latter.

It’s free if you’ve got a WordPress blog.

xx

This one is also compatible with WordPress, but it offers other features beyond just backing up and restoring your blog. Other services include themes you can apply to your site and the ability to use the service to move your blog to another server.

This is a paid service.

Gold Glitter + Confetti Sparkle = Holiday Wedding Bliss

New wedding invitation suite is here and ready for a glitzy holiday celebration! This package includes a classic white background, with a sprinkle of gold glitter confetti, and a fancy glittery script. Save the Date, Invitation, Bridal Shower invite, Thank You cards, and address labels are available in this design. All items can be purchased individually or as a set in the Etsy shop.  As always, keep up with the latest happenings by following the FB page.

Gold Glitter Confetti Dot Invite Suite

invites | follow | shop

Closet Challenge : Three Month Review / Successes, Learnings, Fails

Welp, I’ve survived three months of this nonsense, I mean challenge, and have learned a few things along the way. I suspected I wouldn’t much miss things that were out of sight in the trial separation closet, which is precisely what happened, making it easier to pare things down even more. Also, I had some success with selling items online and via consignment; there were a few items I felt worthy of refreshing and had great success with repairs. Lastly, I realized there are a few holes in my closet. For instance, I love wearing blazers vs. cardigans so tossing all those jackets that didn’t fit the bill and weeding out a number of button front sweaters I never wore freed up space for another blazer or two. Same thing with dresses and skirts; I love to wear a variety of dress silhouettes but am so very picky about style and fit of skirts. Weeding out those skirts I didn’t love and the few dresses I hadn’t been thrilled with allowed more space and opportunity to wear the ones I do like.

That brings me to my next hurdle in this challenge – purchasing additional items that are wants, not really needs, more like could haves. There are big, slightly terrifying questions that come to mind when I think about adding to my closet :

How much to spend on this item?

Quality, fabric, material, color?

What will it be paired with (and should work well together with)?

How do I want it to fit (or how do I want to feel when I wear it)?

Will I know when to stop?

TheClosetChallenge_SuccessesLearningsFailures

With all of that in mind, I sat down and thought about what advice I’d give myself if I were talking to someone else. Maybe thinking about all those questions above, and going into this shopping endeavor with answers to those questions in mind, might leave me feeling prepared. A few things I’ve found helped in the past are :

Only purchase items that look good on you, not on someone else, including the mannequin at the store and the models in the ads. Buy for your shape! Not the shape you hope to have, not for the weight you wish you were..

You should never have to talk yourself into a purchase. No matter what.

There should be preexisting options already in your closet to pair with this item. There aren’t? Then what’re you buying this for?! Put that thing back right now, girlfriend!

Give yourself twenty-four hours to think things over (especially with big ticket items)

Don’t buy anything that doesn’t fit comfortably, or make you feel like “you” when wearing it.

If there’s a mark or stain and you try to remove it post purchase but it won’t come out return the item. That spot is permanent. Even better : don’t buy it in the first place.

We really only love things in the store, if you aren’t absolutely in love with it in the store you’ll not love it any more at home. Don’t buy something you’re not tickled pink about.

Faves Roundup : Business Resources Edition

Let’s face it : life is hard enough without having to remember everything ourselves. Thankfully, we’ve got more and more resources appearing every day to help remind us, keep our lives on track, and automate everything from to-do lists to thermostats.

Here I’m sharing my favorites, and will update the list as I find and fall in love with more of them.

Faves Roundup : Resources Edition

For getting things done and taking names : Evernote | Todoist | Workflowy | Learnvest

Evernote

This one is, hands down, my lifeline. Everything goes in here, I’ve got a minimum of eight different themed notes at a given time, and use it nearly every day. Big bonus is that it can be accessed on multiple platforms, it syncs automatically, and keeps you logged in. I’ll keep a running grocery list, jot down notes on the fly, and even have a note dedicated to people’s contact info for when business cards are all out.

There are different plans, including a free option, and additional features beyond note taking abilities.

Todoist

This is another note-to-self option. Personally, I prefer jotting down wisps of ideas in Evernote and then putting actionable items on my calendar, however, for a traditional to-do list that can be accessed anywhere and shared with a team I’d highly recommend this platform.

This is a free item.

Workflowy

Prefer traditional to-do lists to a bulleted option? This is for you. It’s great for tracking all those big, hairy goals and the ambitious long-term to-do lists that it never seems like the right time to tackle. It’s a brilliant tool that holds you accountable to the promises you’d otherwise never keep. It’s in a bulletted list format that allows you to zoom into and zero in on specific lines or sections. Super easy to add and subtract info, rearrange, and otherwise see clearly your BHGs.

This is free to use once you sign up.

Learnvest

Everyone needs a budget. End of story. If you don’t have one stop what you’re doing immediately and go to this site to get your finances in order. I can’t stress enough how important it is to know where your dollars are going (and coming from), how much you’re tossing every month on trivial purchases (and could trim back to invest in meaningful things), and to have a long term savings plan. Emergencies happen, unexpected life events happen, and there’s no reason to not be prepared.

There are different plans, including a free option, and there are financial planners available to help with getting things even more on track.

For finally acting on those ideas : Canva | Lynda.com | CoSchedule | Headline Analyzer | Jaaxy

Canva

Need a quick graphic? Don’t have design skills? This should be your go-to. Yes, I have a design background, and yes, I use this in a pinch. I do prefer to create my own original content, however, on occasion, I’ll dip into this well for creating a punchy graphic on the fly. This site uses stock imagery, endless colors, and a wide selection of fonts in conjunction with an easy to use layout tool. Of course this means there are limitations when it comes to number or variety of images and fonts, and the designs will only be as good as your own taste. Keep in mind it’s really a band-aid for custom design work, but a very good band-aid at that.

In Canva’s own words : Canva allows you to use and export content submitted by other users to create beautiful designs. If you download any designs containing anyone else’s content, you have to license it under one of the licenses in this section.

That means you don’t own the “design” you create within Canva and may have to credit the creator. Be sure to refer to the site for more info.

There are different options for use, including the ability to create free things, and also items that will require payment to use.

Lynda.com

If you’re a newbie to the design scene, looking to advance the skills you’ve got, or just want to find a shortcut for whatever creative/techy thing you’re working on then this site is your Mecca. This is a website dedicated to tutorials of all things design, tech, etc. It’s brilliant for quick refreshers of things you’ve not done in forever all the way to learning brand new skills you’ve never had before.

There are free trial promo codes floating around out there, but you’ll have to pay for a subscription.

CoSchedule + The Headline Analyzer Tool

Headlines can make or break your traffic. They can determine whether a browse becomes a click. That’s one step away from a click becoming a sale. Headlines are important. Enter this nifty tool that tells you just how terrible your headline writing skills are, offers ways to improve those headlines, and overall helps you building a better practice.

The tool is free, there are other features of this site that will cost a monthly fee.

Jaaxy

Keywords are something I have a love-hate relationship with; they’re absolutely necessary to get your posts found, but they’re also sort of a shot in the dark. Here’s where Jaaxy comes in. Pop in your keywords, see how terrible they really are, learn how to make them better.

You can get 30 free searches, but eventually you’ll have to pay.

For where to store all those ideas once you’ve finally done ‘em : Google Drive | Dropbox | Box | WordPress Backup | Backup Buddy

Google Drive -OR- Dropbox -OR- Box

Now that you’ve created all sorts of fascinating content you’ll need a place to store it safely away. This is where our trusty cloud services come in. The easiest and most accessible, if you’ve got a GMail account is Google Drive. Other options that I love and trust are Dropbox and Box. All of these have large amounts of storage capacity and can be accessed anywhere. I can’t stress enough how important it is to back up literally everything you ever create, and I don’t mean on your computer. Save your stuff somewhere that floods, toddlers, pets, and acts of god can’t reach.

These are typically free up to a maximum storage capacity. Adding on additional storage capacity will incur a (usually) monthly cost.

WordPress Backup

Do you have a WordPress blog? Use this tool to back it up. Like, use it right now. You can’t back things up too early or too often. Trust me, between losing everything you’ve ever done and not, I’ll always choose the latter.

It’s free if you’ve got a WordPress blog.

Backup Buddy

This one is also compatible with WordPress, but it offers other features beyond just backing up and restoring your blog. Other services include themes you can apply to your site and the ability to use the service to move your blog to another server.

This is a paid service.

Foodie Friday : Grilling Corn in the Husk

Grilling corn is something we’re still rather new to; we’ve tried several ways, both in and out of the husk, and have finally found a fave. The key here is to remove the silk from your ears of corn, but still manage to keep the outer leaves intact. Those leaves will allow the corn inside to steam and cook thoroughly without becoming dry from the flames of the grill.

First things first : select the best ears you can. When picking corn you’ll want to peel back the tops of the leaves and silks, take a peek inside, and look for fresh, pearly corn kernels. Anything looking dry, brown, mushy, or having an abundance of missing kernels should be discarded. This is usually a good way to pick fresh, beautiful ears of corn without doing a ton of damage to the natural wrapping.

Grilled Corn

Once you’ve got your ears home and ready for grilling : peel back the leaves, remove as much of the silks as possible, and apply your favorite flavors. We did a few trial runs with olive oil vs. butter, and a variety of seasonings before finding our favorite. Unfortunately, the olive oil doesn’t adhere to the ears as well as the butter will, and although it had a smokier flavor it just wasn’t as flavorful otherwise. Here’s where we landed :

6+ Ears of corn

1 Stick of butter, softened to room temperature

Generous amount of favorite seasonings : we like a blob of wildflower honey, basil (fresh or dried), garlic (fresh or powdered), Cavender’s Greek Seasoning, paprika, black pepper, white pepper, cumin, cilantro (fresh or dried), and a tiny pinch of thyme.

Cream the butter in a bowl with desired seasonings, pull back outer leaves of corn ears, brush mixture directly onto kernels of corn, fold leaves back over ears, and pop on the grill. You’ll want to press the leaves closed a bit to hold everything together prior to placing on grill, rotate the ears after about ten minutes, and if you’ve got a little bit of butter mixture left over it can be reapplied to the ends of the ears that stick out from the leaves. Ours cooked in a little under a half hour, and were buttery, smokey, and flavorful. We cut the kernels off to eat, and later used the leftovers for all sorts of other dishes including wraps, curry, and stir fry. Once cut off the cob the kernels also keep well in the freezer for a few months. Just allow to defrost in the fridge and drain any liquid, if so desired, prior to using.

cavender’s | follow | corn

The Closet Challenge : Sort, Repair, Sell

Having only my spring/summer wardrobe in the closet feels great, especially after doing a serious purge while changing things out. The next task to tackle is getting rid of the losers that didn’t make the cut into my closet. After combing through all the those items looking for stains, tears, or just plain old worn out pieces, I tossed everything that was beyond repair and made two piles, donate and sell. The items that aren’t quality brands or are difficult to sell will be carted off to my local Goodwill. Easy. The items that might be sale quality will be listed on eBay for thirty days.

TheClosetChallenge_SortSellRepair

After the thirty day mark I’ll reassess what’s left, relist the most viable items, pack the remaining pieces up into a polka dot bag, and send them off to ThredUp, a buy/sell clothing website that more or less does all the work for you. The key with selling items is making sure they’re in (at the very least) good condition, clean, free of marks or tears, and, if listing them yourself, ensuring they have decent photos. The most important part is caring for these items that you don’t even want anymore. Have respect for the people that might own these things next by folding them, stacking them neatly, and placing them carefully in their respective bags, mailing envelopes, or boxes. When shipping out a sold item fold and place it carefully in a lightly padded envelope or roll in bubble wrap and place in a sturdy box. In short, treat these things as though you were about to purchase them yourself. For items that aren’t the most desirable labels or trends I order a bag from Schoola and send them off to raise money for a local high school.

As for everything I decided to keep that needed a bit of mending, I did a delicate cycle on cold, hung things up to air dry, and took the damaged pieces for a little TLC. I found that having 9 items repaired by a local tailor, and 2 pairs of shoes brought back to life by my favorite shoe guy, Caesar, I only had to shell out $37 which fits nicely in my monthly budget of $150 for all clothing and accessories related costs. To toss these items and purchase new ones in their place would never have been such a small cost, and besides, these are items I know fit me well and I love to wear them, making the repairs all the more worth it.

Check out the #passthebag campaign and help kids around the world go to school by giving away your unwanted clothing and accessories items with purpose.

sell | follow | donate

Closet Challenge : Two Month Review / The Struggles

Going into this I knew there would be things about the challenge that were… challenging. The trial separation has gone well and resulted in XX items being welcomed back into the closet and XX items being set aside for donation or sale. Small wins are wins nonetheless. Looking back on the past two months I’m noticing something I expected and am still surprised about : a trend. Naturally I wear the same few items repeatedly and neglect the majority of what’s left.

TheClosetChallenge_TheStruggles

Of the “what’s left” category in the closet I see four distinct sections : body shape/weight fluctuation, boredom, weather, and special occasions. My weight and shape don’t change drastically, however, I like to eat pasta and wear stretchy clothes sometimes, but not always. I’ll get tired of wearing the same style/color/type of item and have a few wild cards to change things up. I own rain boots, rarely wear them, but when I do I’m SO HAPPY I own them. We attend several black tie/gala/fundraising events a year that require formalwear. These things are handy to have but not absolutely necessary in large quantity. To tackle this I’ve come up with a breakdown of what I wear, and how much I wear it :

80% work : luckily I can dress casually in clothes that take me from day job to happy hour with little to no change

15% sleep, curling, bocce, gardening, walking my dog, etc. : when I can wear whatever I darn well feel like

5% special occasions : black tie events, galas, fundraisers at the Art Museum, weddings, etc. : those times I need to look real nice, think gown or cocktail dress, clutch, fancy shoes BUT also those odd days for rain boots or snow goggles

With this in mind I embarked on another closet purge with the addition of another trial separation. For formalwear I will purchase a dress at a great price (read : very discounted/clearance/second hand) and try to wear the item four times (to different events, of course) before selling it. For curling clothes or things I wear around the house, to work in the yard, or walk my dog I’ll buy new and wear it to death, making the cost per drop to pennies. The hardest part is everything else. Items I can wear to work and play include sensible pieces that are versatile, comfortable, and most likely seasonless, but also include quite a few wild cards that might not be my style, fit, or favorite pieces. Big life questions :

Are there any formal pieces I’ve worn several times that could be sold?

Have my 15% items been worn to death, are they worse for wear, or stretched out?

Do the wild cards fit comfortably, are they versatile, can I put them in regular rotation?