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?

The Closet Challenge : Purging + Soul Searching

As it’s now late into July, and the weather is finally becoming consistently gorgeous, it’s high time I finally pack away the last of the cold weather items. This brings me to my first round of purging since beginning the challenge. Here are some questions I’m asking myself as I put away the off season items and pulling out things for the upcoming season :

Did I wear this at all since doing my last closet change?

Was it comfortable and/or fitting correctly when I last wore it?

Can I wear it any other season?

If I were out shopping today would I buy this?

Does it bring me joy?

Are there duplicates? Do I need multiples of this item?

Do I feel confident when I wear this? (Do I pull, tug, retuck, tweak, itch, or do anything distracting when I wear this?)

Is the material difficult to clean, keep unwrinkled, or hold it’s shape?

Does it have tags on it?

Am I keeping it only because of fond memories attached to it?

Also, I spent time looking through everything closely to check for stains, tears, or inconsistencies. Ultimately, I’m looking to make four piles : trash, donate, sell, repair. Everything I’m keeping for this season gets loaded into the closet; everything I’m keeping from the off season gets loaded into a bin for storage.

TheClosetChallenge_PurgingSoulSearching

Here’re my totals for the purge :

Outerwear:

Cardigans – 1

Blazers & Lightweight Jackets – 7

Coats

Tops:

Sweaters – 7

Long Sleeve Tees –

Short Sleeve Tees – 9

Sleeveless Blouses – 11

Sleeved Blouses – 9

Button Front – 4

Dresses – 18

Bottoms:
Skirts – 10

Shorts – 4

Jeans (this includes black) – 1

Solid Color Pants – 5

Capris & Crops – 2

Accessories

Bags

Scarves – 6

Belts – 2

Shoes:

Boots

Flats

Heels

Beachy Love + Romantic Getaway = Wedding Bliss

New wedding invitation suite is here and ready for some beachy getaway bliss! This package includes a saturated watercolor ocean and sand background with a fancy script treatment. 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, you can keep up with the latest happenings by following the FB page.

Beachy Wedding Bliss

invites | follow | shop

Closet Challenge : One Month Review / Trial Separation + Learnings

The mind is a fickle thing, resolve can be weak, and I’ll be the first to admit that there are still (still!) things in my closet that I really don’t want or need. How does this happen? Even now! I’m on a roll, getting rid of things I don’t need… “Throw it ALL away!” (I’ll yell this battle cry during a purge only to not throw away nearly as much as I should).

TheClosetChallenge_OneMonthReview

To get Purge Round Two in motion I decided to embark on a trial separation from the items I don’t really need but can’t seem to let go. The plan here is to move those items to another closet and hope that out of sight, out of mind comes into play. After a month I’ll do a check and decide what I can toss; if I think of or miss something during that month I’ll be allowed to shop it out of the separation closet and add it back into my closet. When the month passes I will toss those things I’ve forgotten about or not needed, not matter how bad I might want to packrat them away.

The decision of what goes in the separation closet is a tough one; it’s hard to keep emotions out of it. It’s been six weeks since I started this challenge, purged my closet, and changed seasons so I do have a good idea of what’s being worn and what’s just hanging around. The trouble is not thinking “what if” about things. If I need it, I’ll be just a few steps away. No need to have a panic attack. Yet.

The Closet Challenge : Setting Some Rules

After seeing the daunting number of items to get through in the next year I realized I’ll need a solid plan if I’m going to make any headway. To start with I’ve decided on a standard closet detox, after doing a little soul searching and recognizing my lack of success in the past. My usual closet organization goes something like this : everything for the season gets loaded in, as I wear something it gets rehung in the back, things I haven’t worn stay in the front, hopefully everything rotates through -or- I remove everything I didn’t wear.

The problem here is I consistently pull items from the back to wear again, and I get desensitized to the things in the front. Fail. This time will follow much the same idea but I’m going to clearly separate the worn and not worn sections to make the difference more visible. As I’ve worked to get my wardrobe to be seasonless over the past five years I can see there are quite a few pieces that get worn (a lot) and more than a handful that are too season or occasion specific that need to be weeded out.

TheClosetChallenge_SettingSomeRules

Now that I know what I’m up against, and have a plan, I’m going to lay down a few ground rules for the year :

1. Purchase Limit :  I will buy only one “want” item of clothing and one “want” accessory item per month. If I go over that limit then the additional quantity will come out of upcoming months’ limits. Meaning should I find a super awesome sale/deal/coupon code I may purchase more than one item on my wish list in a single month and will abstain from purchases in future months.

2. Budget :  I will stick to a budget of $250 per month for clothing and accessories. This includes my purchases and all necessary alterations to clothing and accessories items, such as repairing shoes, replacing zippers, have tears mended, etc.

3. Exceptions to Rules 1 + 2 : The following exceptions will be allowed to the previous rules. Basic clothing items, such as short or long sleeve t-shirts, tanks/camis, undergarments, sleepwear, socks, and other foundation pieces are not limited. I will buy these items as needed while keeping within my monthly budget, but they will not be counted toward to my monthly item quantity limit.

4. Exchanges + Returns : These will be eligible for an even trade, meaning I can exchange or return items and purchase an equal quantity of different items in their place.

5. Gifts : Items received from someone else at no cost to me are not included in the monthly limit. Keeping a gifted item will require I remove at least one existing item from my closet.

6. Add, Remove :  For each new item I acquire I will remove at least one existing item from the closet. More than one item may be removed per additional item added.

7. Documentation :  I will document what I wear for the year and will update on progress, struggles, and revelations along the way as a means to hold myself accountable. This may include daily outfits, items removed from the closet, and items added.

8. The Reality : This is intended to be a challenge and as such I might deviate from the rules, struggle, or have weak moment of indulgence. Documentation is intended to hold me accountable and allow openness and honesty about the challenge.

9. Remove : Sell what I can and donate the rest. Sales will go toward existing BHGs.

10. Goal : End with a solid, seasonless capsule wardrobe with a quantity of items that works for my lifestyle and the climate I live in with select seasonal pieces for a sense of variety.

My new motto : Buy less, choose well, quality first.