Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Letter to Baby Z (#1)


Dear Baby Z,

Thank you for putting up with us while we forced you to play dress up and take a million pictures the other day. We know you are a person and not a doll, and that you probably had better things to do that day, like lay on mommy's chest. From the looks of a few of your pictures you did not have the greatest time during our little photo shoot. We apologize for putting you through it, it's just that grandparents are suckers for this sort of thing and we hope to appease them from time to time. We promise we won't let it happen too often. We love you, even if you may have felt like we didn't as we forced your little body into this outfit. Please forgive us.

~Mum and Dad


Monday, October 13, 2014

Craftsman Bungalows


If you can't already tell I'm a huge fan of craftsman style bungalows. Craftsman homes were primarily built from 1905 to 1930, making many of today's bungalows at least 100 years old. This style of house grew out of the broader Arts and Crafts Movement, an attempt by artisans to bring simplicity and design integrity back into the mainstream. The movement rejected prevailing trends of the day that centered around heavy ornateness and mass produced cheaply made homes. It emphasized the importance of structural integrity, beauty, function, and making things by hand.

Here in Baltimore there are multiple neighborhoods that feature craftsman homes, Lake Walker of course being one of them.

Across the nation we are seeing a resurgence in the popularity of these homes amongst many buyers who value quality over quantity. Though typically much smaller than newly built suburban homes, craftsman bungalows offer a level of workmanship uncommon in the new homes of today. Because of this, many homeowners and developers are purchasing and restoring these older homes.

Figuring out how to improve a historic property, while keeping its integrity and character can sometimes be difficult. So I’ve decided to write a series about how to best do this, and where you can find helpful resources. For those of you who have an interest in restoring bungalows, stay tuned for more!


"Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort." ~John Ruskin

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Greatest Push Gift in the World!



Introducing.......Baby Z. Isn't she lovely :-)

"I thank you for choosin' me to come through unto life to be, a beautiful reflection of his grace. See I know that a gift so great is only one God could create and I'm reminded every time I see your face, that the joy of my world is in Zion." ~Lauryn Hill

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nesting...


We are about a week away from our due date, and boy are we excited! I can't wait to meet the little person living inside of me. But first I must clean and organize my entire house. It appears I have entered the nesting phase, and hardcore, much to the dismay of the hubs. He is perplexed as to why I've waited until the last minute to give him an immediate to-do list of 87 tasks. I can't fully explain it, all I know is we must clean, and clean like we've never cleaned before. The urge to get everything perfectly ready for the baby has been so strong I can hardly sleep lately. I wake up in the middle of the night and start cleaning.

This crazy little phase I'm going through does have its pluses, most obviously that our home will be as my mother would say, "spick and span". Its also showed me how much unnecessary stuff we've been harboring, and how a thorough de-cluttering can create serious amounts of room in our home. I've been FREECYCLING our unneeded stuff like a mad woman. I've also eliminated all toxic cleaners from our home, instead opting to make homemade organic ones. I'll share all the great recipes I've been using shortly. I've gotta run.....off to clean!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Around Town: Tooloulou


Locals I've got some good news. There's a new scrumptious eatery in town, called TOOLOULOU. They've only been open a few weeks. I happened upon it on my latest visit to BELVEDERE SQUARE. The quality of the food is seriously out of this world. I had the oyster po'boy, and it was amazing. They have a creative menu specializing in artisan pizzas and southern style subs. You can get your food to-go, though I suggest eating there for the best experience. They offer brunch, lunch, and dinner. Portion sizes are a little large so come with an empty stomach. It's a nice place to take the kids.


Friday, September 26, 2014

DIY: Organic Facial Scrub


I've had the pleasure of having a facial at one of the finest spas in the world, but let me tell you,  NOTHING and I do mean nothing, beats the simple facial scrub recipe I am about to give you. I'm serious folks....you can thank me later after you try it. It'll leave your skin glowing and feeling silky smooth. As added bonuses the mixture is easy to make, cheap, and organic. So here's what you need to do to make a small batch:

  • Mix 1 tbsp of melted coconut oil with 2 tbsps of pink himalayan sea salt (I get this at Homegoods)

Yep, that's it. After applying it to your face and lips rinse with warm water and wipe clean with a dry towel. Sea salt is rather abrasive, so only exfoliate up to once a week. Now go pamper yourselves!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Word No One Wants to Hear...Cancer


Today I want you all to be a little kinder, live in the moment, hug your special someones extra tight, and remember to say I love you. I want you to do this because life is precious and often too short. Sometimes we don't think about this reality until bad news hits.

Thoughts of the fragility of life have been heavy on my mind ever since learning a friend of mine was recently diagnosed with cancer. My heart aches for her, as I can only imagine how frightening this must be for her and her spouse, and the difficulty of having to explain this situation to her young child. To top everything off she and her husband are having difficulty paying their medical bills, adding more stress to an already stressful situation. If you feel inclined to help, you may donate to her family HERE. It would truly mean the world to me. Thanks.

"We must live each day like it's the last."~Michael Jackson

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Simplifying My Wardrobe


In an effort to further simplify my life, I'm downsizing my wardrobe. If you're anything like me you find your closet littered with clothes you no longer wear, and have days where you scramble to find something to put on even though you own a buttload of stuff. Due to limited space and my frustration with this situation I've decided, no more! It's time for me to pair down and gain some sanity and closet space back. To complete this challenge I'm participating in Courtney Carver's PROJECT 333. If you haven't heard of project 333 it's an initiative that encourages people to downsize their seasonal wardrobes to 33 pieces. Here are the rules:

When: Every three months (It’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)

What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.

What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)

How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.

What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.

Over the course of the next 3 months I'll mix and match 33 pieces, and let you  know about my progress. I'm still deciding which items to keep, but should be finished soon. The rest I will donate, freecycle, and/or box up and put in the basement where appropriate. I'm leaving room for a few wild card items in case I want to do a little shopping to spruce up a few items I already own. This challenge should be fun! Anyone care to join me? 

"More possessions than you actually need burden you...our possessions possess us when we keep them after they are no longer useful to us." ~Peace Pilgrim

Monday, September 8, 2014

Around (Another) Town: Kensington Antiques Row

Recently a kind READER suggested I head down to Kensington, MD and explore their antiques district. Not one to pass up a new antiquing adventure, I decided to check it out during my most recent visit to the DC area. I'm truly grateful for the tip, because I'd never heard of the district before, and had an exquisite time perusing the stores. Though there are several nice stores in the area I most enjoyed Jill & Company and Sally Schaffer Antiques. The two stores are connected and specialize in country americana antiques.

 Beautiful baskets were a noticeable theme throughout. I'm a sucker for vintage baskets, anything with beauty and utility gets a gold star in my book.


There were also several gorgeous quilts. It was like being in an impressive textile museum. It was hard to pick which one I liked the most.


I was also a fan of this pair of chairs.

I thought the rooster lamp and solidly built old porch swing were nice finds too.





Beautiful folk dolls could be found scattered throughout the stores.


 This dining set made me jokingly beg the hubs for a new house so I'd have some place to put it. He suggested I start up a decorating business instead so I could put it in someone else's house. I just may take him up on that suggestion.


Well, that's all! I hope everyone has a wonderful rest of the week.

Friday, September 5, 2014

How to Quickly Pay Off Your Student Loans

Student loans are a menace to the financial health of young adults all across the country. Many young borrowers are at a loss as to how to meaningfully chip away at their debt, and so they just give up, accepting a life of making minimum payments for the next 30 years or so. Whatever you do, don't take this route. Student loans do not have to be a semi-permanent feature in your adult life, and I promise by following the advice below you will be able to eliminate your debt in much less than 30 years.To pay your loans off quickly here are some things you can do:

1) COMMIT TO PAYING OFF LOANS ABOVE SCHEDULE. This is the first and most important step to debt reduction. That means no more thoughts like,"I'm going to be paying my loans forever!". Instead start thinking "When it comes to paying off my loans quickly, yes I can!".

2) THINK OF ALL THE BENEFITS TO PAYING OFF YOUR LOANS EARLY. Paying off your loans early leaves more money for retirement, for buying a home, for your kids (should decide to have some), for investing, and more money for giving. For more motivation read this STUDY on the impact of student loan debt on personal wealth.

3) DON'T LISTEN TO NAYSAYERS AND CRAZY SPENDERS. You may notice that some people have not come around to the wisdom of paying off loans early. This is fine, everyone becomes financially literate in their own time. Believe it or not, once upon a time I was a big spender. The key is to no longer keep up with the purchasing habits of crazy spenders.

4) DON'T LIVE ALONE. Unless you are lucky enough to find single living arrangements at the same price as a roommate situation don't live alone. Use the extra money you save by having a shared arrangement to pay extra on your loans. 

5) GET YOUR SPOUSE ON BOARD. If you are married and one or both of you have student debt make paying it off a priority. If only one of you has the debt it is not just that person's problem. It is taking money away from the entire household's pot of gold, and both partners in a secure marriage should be contributing to its elimination.

6) DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP IF YOU MADE A FINANCIAL MISTAKE, AND DON'T DIG A BIGGER HOLE. Some people wakeup and realize " What the heck was I thinking paying $100,000 for a degree in art!", or "Why the heck did I choose to go to fancy private school A when I could have gone to reputable public school B for 1/3 of the price and ended up in the same job?" Don't beat yourself up when you realize you may have made a mistake. The past is the past. Now it's time to swallow your pride, admit you messed up, release any anger, and more forward in paying down your balance. Also, do not under any circumstance dig a bigger debt hole. If midway through a program you realize you picked an overly expensive school transfer. If after getting a bachelor's degree in a low paying field you think you made a mistake, don't try to fix it by buying a graduate degree in that same area. 

7) DEVELOP A BUDGET. Budgeting and tracking your spending helps you to see where your money is going, and more importantly not going...to paying down your loans. The more conscious you are of your expenditures the easier it is to control them.

8) PAY THE HIGHEST INTEREST RATE LOAN OFF FIRST. Mathematically it makes sense for you to pay your highest interest rate loans first, because this is the debt that is costing you the most. Some people advocate paying your smallest loan balance first, so you can get the psychological thrill of getting rid of a debt sooner. If you think you need that sort of motivation to keep paying down your loans, by all means use that strategy, if not, it's best to pay the highest interest rate first.

9) POSTPONE FANCY PURCHASES. Young adults are pressured into buying all sorts of fancy things, extravagant engagement rings, weddings, homes, new cars, and expensive vacations to name a few. Don't get caught in this trap. Pay your loans first, and buy fancy stuff later.

10) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH DEBT NINJAS. I once tried to encourage a group of friends to start an investment club, and they weren't interested. At first I was a little bummed, but in the end things worked out just fine because I was able to connect with like-minded people on the internet. On your journey it will be important to have the support of others, as you constantly fight the cultural tide of being told that debt is good and it's OK to live beyond your means.

If you managed to read through this whole post, there's a good chance you are on your way to financial freedom. Best of luck with your journey. I promise being debt free will feel much better than accumulating showy trinkets. 

"Sometimes it's better to spend one hour thinking about money than to spend a week working for it." ~unknown

"You will find there is more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational spending." ~P.T. Barnum