Friday, May 29, 2015

what i learned in school this year.



schools been out for a couple weeks now, and i think i can finally say im done recovering from the craziness and ready to relax and embrace summer break (well, as much as i can given how pregnant i am right now). the end of this last semester marks the end of my first full year of college in well, a really long time. even though i wasnt going to school full time, i did put a huge dent in the required classes for my degree, and (if im counting correctly) im right about halfway (units-wise, time-wise is an entirely different story...) to being an actual fashion designer and having a college degree that might actually get taken seriously in real life. 

i actually didnt realize that im halfway done until i typed that just now. which makes this post a bit more significant, i suppose. 

even though i started classes last spring, those classes were only 8 weeks so this fall and spring were my first whole year in college. and what a year it was. i took five classes, which maybe doesnt sound like a whole lot but they were five completely different classes and all except for one were studio classes (which in the creative fields is the same thing as a lab class in the science fields: twice as many class hours for the same amount of units). i was gone a lot, it was REALLY hard, and it ended up costing us way more money than id anticipated. but overall i dont regret it, because obviously, i learned a ton. 

i learned the things that i was in class to learn: proper sewing techniques, how to use industrial sewing machines, how to draw different kinds of fashion illustrations, lots and lots about the textiles industry, and how to use illustrator and photoshop. 

but going back to school as an adult with a life is different than going to school as a full-time student, and honestly the majority of what i learned had very little to do with my actual classes. 

this year i learned a lot about time management/scheduling/not overbooking myself. i learned that yes i can manage a lot on my plate but no i cant do a great job at everything all at once. i learned that its actually not that hard to schedule a few hours a week to do not-mom things and i can get a lot done in those hours, but that three days a week is way too many days (for me, at least). i learned a lot about different facets of the fashion industry and what areas im interested/not interested in pursuing. i learned that i work really well with schedules and deadlines and i do not work well under vague and inconsistent leadership. i learned that i really do love what im doing here with poverty luxe and that my dreams are totally attainable. 

but most importantly, i learned that i do have skills and talents and that they are useful and productive. 

see, ive struggled for a long time with confidence, with feeling like im not really good at anything that matters. i mean, i majored in fine arts, i didnt get great grades and i didnt even finish my bachelors degree. nothing says "yeah im basically 100% completely useless" like being a mediocre art school dropout. except for maybe being a mediocre art school drop out thats too sick to have a "real job" and stays at home but isnt even good at stay at home mom stuff. yeah ive always been good at sewing/crafty stuff but thats really not that important and it doesnt really come in handy all that often and its definitely not a job and i mean, anyone can do crafts, right? 

wrong. there is an entire worldwide industry built on the one thing im kind of good at, and yes, drawing and sewing is totally a real job. actually, its a real job that makes WAY more money than any of the jobs that the bachelors degree i was working on would ever make. and no, not everyone is naturally good at sewing/crafty things, not even in the fashion field. 

so while this year was REALLY long, REALLY hard, and REALLY expensive, i made it out not only still alive (ill be honest i really had my doubts a few times), but also confident that yes, yes i am good at some real life things. and that was the most important thing i learned this year. 


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

heart & arrow planner giveaway with kate the almost great.

happy wednesday, everyone! i hope everyone had a great holiday weekend, we spend ours recovering from one heck of a school week so unfortunately i dont have anything super exciting to report, but today i DO have something else thats pretty exciting: a giveaway!

once again ive teamed up with kate for a super fun giveaway, and this time its for basically the coolest prize ever and guys im so freaking jealous that i cant enter myself. whats up for grabs? ill let kate take it from here: 

We're giving away a planner from Heart & Arrow Design. The winner can choose the blogger weekly planner, which I have and love dearly, or the hourly day planner, which comes in blush pink and seafoam.
Image source

The giveaway runs from 12:00 AM 5/25/15 - 11:59 PM 6/1/15. You must be 18 years old and in the USA to enter. If you cheat and say you did one of the items but you didn't, you will be disqualified. Don't be stupid (yes, this actually has happened in the past). Check out my privacy and disclosure policies for more information.
To join the June giveaway, sponsor Kate the (Almost) Great!

Monday, May 25, 2015

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 9: curry lentil stew.


so when i started this whole poverty luxe kitchen feature, my intention was to show off new recipes, but as things went on (can you believe were already on post number 9? i cant), i realized that there were quite a few recipes waaaaaaayyyyy back in my archives from back when i was a little tiny baby blogger (and poor food photographer) that deserve to see the light of day (and a flattering portrait). 

first up im bringing back my recipe for curry lentil stew. maybe this seems like an odd choice for memorial day weekend since its basically summer now and all that, but honestly, this recipe is pretty relevant for us where we are right now, seeing as 1. were getting to the time of the year where james is working a lot more (and out of town a lot) so quick, healthy dinners are the main focus of our meal plan, and 2. were about to have a baby so im starting to get really concerned about getting the freezer stocked up so were prepared in case of bedrest or a slow recovery. 

this recipe has pretty much been on our regular dinner rotation since james and i first got married since easy, cheap, and makes a TON of food. i started with a recipe i found in this book (which, by the way, is fabulous and one of only three cook books i own), that i modified over time to include more veggies (cause why not), and changed the proportions a bit to better accommodate cooking in bulk (this recipe freezes/reheats beautifully so its one of the few things that i habitually make in bulk). 

so are you ready to make some lentils? lets go!

curry lentil stew. 

(serves 8+ on its own, even more if you serve it over rice)

heres what you need: 

1 pound of dried lentils (i typically get these in the bulk bins at sprouts or at the dollar store)
7-8 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons curry powder (note: this can be expensive, but i totally wrote a post about how to save money on spices)
4 medium russet potatoes (or two of those insanely huge baking potatoes)
3-4 carrots
3-4 ribs of celery
salt and black pepper to taste

heres what you do: 

in a large pot, combine the lentils, stock and curry powder and bring to a boil. 

once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover the pot and cook the lentils (which should be bubbling gently, NOT a rolling boil) for about 15 minutes. 

while the lentils cook, peel and chop your potatoes, carrots, and celery, into bite-sized pieces and add them to the lentils at the end of the 15 minutes. 

stir the veggies in and continue to cook everything with the pot completely covered and undisturbed for about ten more minutes. 

check your lentils to make sure theres still enough liquid (add more if necessary), and (if needed) add salt and black pepper to taste.
 
cover and continue to cook for about 5-10 more minutes until the veggies are cooked through. 

serve as is, or over steamed rice. 




Friday, May 22, 2015

our bedroom makeover part 2: the new bed.



so far our bedroom makeover is sailing right along. i mentioned earlier that we were starting with the new bed and mattress because that was our most pressing need, and im really glad we did. because not only do we now finally have a functional bed that doesnt have us waking up feeling like weve been hit by a bus, but the dramatic transformation has helped to further motivate our efforts in de-cluttering/making a nice, grown up house finally. 

also, i just have to stop here and pat myself on the back and say that the makeover has gone exceptionally well aesthetically, as well as financially. 

see, ive always shied away from even the most benign of home improvements because it usually goes something like this: i want to make this new super simple clothes rack for craft fairs but it turns out that the dowels required are actually $13 EACH and the cheapest drill that will drill through wood dowels is $100 and it doesnt come with drill bits, or i finally get some nice art for the living room and go to joanns for frames and WHY OH WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY IS THREE PICTURE FRAMES $60 AFTER SALES AND COUPONS?!?!?!?!

but this project has been basically the opposite. we originally wanted to get this bed and a mattress but we didnt know which one and also sheets and i was like "oh crap well hopefully we can get this all done for about $1000 but you know how things go with house projects so goodbye savings account". then we actually went to ikea and my favorite mattress was actually the very cheapest of all the foam mattresses. then after several weeks of none of the local ikeas getting THAT particular bed frame in stock we decided that rather than paying the extra $100 to order one online, wed just get this (nearly identical) bed frame which we thought would be $100 cheaper than our original choice. well, since the layout of our room makes only one side of the bed accessible for drawers and the drawers are actually sold separately, we were able to get the whole project, including splurging on a mattress pad and a spare set of sheets (after years and years of having a king sized bed and not being able to afford a spare set of sheets, this was a big deal, ok?) for $300 less than my original (low-end) estimate. 

so how are things turning out so far? well, heres the before: 



and heres the after: 



now, aside from the obvious NO MORE GROSS HIDEOUS VISIBLE BOX SPRINGS, theres also the not-obvious multiple empty shelves in the linen closet because we now have functional under the bed storage. also, theres now a totally decently sized area of empty floor available for things like exercising, sorting laundry, and cutting fabric. we still have some smaller things to deal with in this area of the room though, like wrangling the probably-dangerous extension cord/power strip situation caused by the old bed blocking the most accessible outlet (now made totally useable by the new bed), finding a new place for my full-length mirror (actually i have an idea for that), and doing something about our pillow situation (though really that should wait until were done with me being pregnant/having a new baby). 

but all in all, im definitely stoked on our progress so far, and i cant wait to get on to the next phase, new dressers!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

6 surprisingly bad side effects of clutter.



i mentioned in my first post about minimalism that i really never thought this would be a change that id make. ive just ALWAYS been a cluttered, messy person. i loved collecting things, and i loved shopping. i also tended to be overly sentimental and felt the need to keep anything associated with a special memory or that was given to me as a gift. and really, i never say that as a problem, its just the way i was. but recently ive really had a change of heart and the purging process began. it wasnt until then that i started to see just how big of a problem all this clutter actually was. i couldnt see it because i was so used to it. but it turns out, there were some bad, bad side effects (beyond the obvious messy house): 

1. stress/anxiety.  i tend to be a very visually stimulated person, which can be a great thing when it comes to finding inspiration from everyday objects, but it can also be a major source of anxiety since the more things i can see the more things i just have to think about. the physical clutter of our home was also creating mental clutter in my brain that i didnt realize was causing HUGE amounts of stress and anxiety. just going about my normal daily activities was hugely stressful since at every step i was confronted with unrelated objects that needed moved/dealt with/put away.

2. paralysis. as you can imagine, all the added stress of the clutter surrounding me made it very, very difficult for me to muster up the mental energy to tackle any larger projects. why? because something that may sound simple (like, say, hanging up some pictures or a quick sewing project), inevitably involved moving things, digging through supplies, doing the actual project, and then trying to clean everything up in an orderly manner. having every. single. project. blow up into an all-day whole-house mess just overwhelmed me to the point where i just didnt do much of anything at all. 

3. wasted space. all that stuff we had that we had that we werent using? it was still in our apartment, taking up space that could be used more productively, getting in the way of the things that we actually did need to use, and making it impossible to get everything actually cleaned up. 

4. wasted time. having a lot of things inevitably means having to spend a lot of time looking for things. finding the right pieces of clothing when youre digging through overstuffed drawers takes forever, and more often than not you end up tearing through it and making a huge mess that now needs put away. just to get dressed. every morning. the same goes for finding the right tools for a project, or the toy that alice wants to play with. and dont even get me started on how long it used to take to "pick up" before doing any actual cleaning. 

5. wasted money. having tons of clutter everywhere not only made it hard to find the things we knew we had, it also often made it impossible to even know what exactly we had in the first place. this resulted in a lot of unnecessary and duplicate purchases over the years, which is money we totally didnt have to spend because we totally already had that stuff. also, one day it hit me that because we didnt use the majority of what we owned, that meant that the majority of the rent we pay was doing nothing for us. 

6. guilt. because i was so stressed out about the state of my home, and even basic housekeeping was a ton of work because of how much crap i was moving around, so i rarely felt up to making any home improvements. so even though weve been married over four years, our home is still not cute. heck, the majority of it still looks like a couple of sloppy teenagers (and a toddler) live here, and knowing thats not at all what other adults' houses look like made me feel horribly guilty. i felt like i must be a terrible wife and a terrible mom because i couldnt get my house together in a coherent and attractive manner no matter how much i wanted to because of all the mountains of crap that were in the way. 

as bad as this whole thing sounds, there really is a bright side. throughout this whole de-cluttering process, is that as soon as we started to throw things away, the negative feelings lifted and i became more motivated to push the purge even further. the more we let go of, the happier, calmer, and less stressed out i become. the less we own, the more free space, time and money we have to make the home and life that weve always wanted. how awesome is that? 


Monday, May 18, 2015

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 8: "healthy" nacho cheese.


nacho cheese. who doesnt love nacho cheese? i mean, its all hot and gooey and spicy and so, so good. but also it tends to come from a can or jar or pump and be chock-full of all kinds of nasty weird ingredients that make you feel so, so bad. 

but what if i told you that you could make nacho cheese and not feel all that bad about it? that would be pretty awesome, right? well do i have a treat for you today. i mean, this recipe isnt exactly what youd call "light" or "skinny" or "diet" or whatever (and i certainly wouldnt recommend eating it all the time...), BUT its entirely made from normal, pronounceable, real food ingredients. no hydrogenated oils or artificial flavors or scary fake orange color here, just creamy, gooey, spicy cheese sauce ready to be poured over a big plate of chips or into a bowl for dipping (actually, my favorite thing to do the night after taco night is to pile all the leftover taco fixings on some chips and top it all with this sauce, its wonderful). 

so are you ready to make some (relatively) healthy nacho cheese? 

heres what you need: 

(serves 4+ as a topping/dip)

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sweet rice flour (or regular flour if youre not gluten free)
1 cup milk
8 oz shredded pepper jack cheese
1 cup cooked black beans (or 1/2 a can, totally optional)

heres what you do: 

melt butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. 

stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute. (this is called making a roux, its a very important skill in fancy cooking).

slowly stir in milk, stirring constantly to make a nice, smooth sauce. 

raise heat to medium-high and cook until sauce thickens and begins to bubble, stirring occasionally. (if youre familiar with traditional cooking techniques, or my recipe for mac and cheese, you know that we just made ourselves some b├ęchamel).

remove from heat and stir in cheese until completely melted. 

if you want your nacho cheese plain, you can go ahead and stop here, pouring the cheese sauce over chips/toppings or into a container for dipping, BUT if you want to make some AWESOME dip for say, party-type situations, go ahead and stir in those black beans. 

and thats it! now you can treat yourself to "healthy" nacho cheese! (i mean, in comparison to you know, typical nacho cheese)

Monday, May 11, 2015

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 7: parmesan roasted asparagus (featuring bluff cove olive oil co.)


if youre a long time reader, youre probably pretty familiar with my affinity for roasted vegetables. and the fact that my friend owns a totally bomb olive oil store. and that the number one thing i look forward to in spring is the super cheap asparagus. ok, i dont think ive ever mentioned that last one before, but still. 

well today i finally get to combine the three in a recipe that i am way too excited about (seriously how boring am i that im this excited about roasting asparagus? no. dont answer that). conveniently enough, this recipe makes a fantastic complement to last weeks pesto baked salmon recipe, just saying. 

now, you absolutely do not have to use the herbs de provence olive oil from bluff cove that im using here, you totally could use regular olive oil with some dried herbs de provence. it just wont be quite as good. 

so are we ready to roast some asparagus? lets go: 

parmasean roasted asparagus. 

serves 4-6 (as a side dish)

heres what you need: 

1 bundle of asparagus stalks (usually around a pound or so)
olive oil (here i used herbs de provence oil from bluff cove olive oil co.
salt, pepper, and garlic powder (also dried herbs de provence if youre not using a flavored oil)
grated parmesan cheese

heres what you do: 

preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

trim the woody bits off the asparagus stalks and lay them in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. 

drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and herbs (if desired), then top with parmesan cheese. 

bake for 10-15 minutes until crunchy.

*disclaimer: this post/recipe was in no way sponsored or compensated by bluff cove olive oils, i just really love these oils*

Monday, May 4, 2015

the poverty luxe kitchen vol. 6: pesto baked salmon.


im going to let you in on a the number one secret to how we live on an insanely tight grocery budget without going insane: once a week (usually sunday night), we have a really nice dinner at home. even the tightest weeks of rice and bean combinations and freezer soups can be tolerated when we know that nice dinner is on the meal plan. and that nice dinner is usually salmon. because 1. salmon is delicious, 2. alice freaking LOVES salmon, and 3. even though the salmon itself may be kind of expensive (though sprouts usually has a pretty great price on it), you can pair it with the cheapest most in-seasonest vegetable and BOOM. dinner. 

for a long time when i made salmon id just blacken it in the cast iron skillet with some lemon pepper, which is great and all, but sometimes you want to change things up a bit (also blackening fish in a frying pan makes a huge mess). one of my sisters told me about my mom baking salmon with mayonnaise on it, and obviously i was way into that because im always looking for more excuses to eat mayonnaise. i made something like this a couple of times before my wheels started turning about how i could make it even better. 

and then i noticed the jar of pesto in my fridge. BIG lightbulb moment there. pesto goes great with salmon. it also goes great with mayonnaise. so why not combine the three into a glorious trifecta of deliciousness? now we have a new favorite dinner for fancy dinner night. 

pesto baked salmon. 

serves 4

heres what you need: 

1 lb salmon filets (honestly i just buy one big piece because its cheaper and cut it when i serve it but im lazy and dont like touching raw fish)
2 tablespoon mayonaise (the real kind, obviously)
1 tablespoon prepared pesto
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

heres what you do: 

preheat your oven to 425 degrees. 

place your salmon filet(s) in a foil-lined baking pan (note, the foil isnt technically necessary but it DOES make the clean up a million times easier). 

mix the mayonnaise, pesto and lemon juice together in a small bowl and spread the resulting mixture on the salmon, then top with the parmesan cheese. 

bake for 20-25 minutes or until salmon is cooked through. 

i feel like i should add here that this method of cooking salmon is especially fantastic because the mayonnaise seals in all the moisture and keeps things from getting to dry, which tends to happen if you end up with a piece thats not quite fatty enough. 

looking for the perfect side dish to complement this salmon? stay tuned for next week's recipe because thats exactly what im doing! 

Friday, May 1, 2015

life lately + our april goal progress.


april. oh april. i feel like april is always a tough month for us/me. the weather is wacky (its hot! its cold! its raining! its hot again!) so physically and emotionally im a total wreck, james typically starts working more, school is at its peak busy-ness, and.... right at the tail end we have jamess birthday. looking back, it seems like every april has been this kind of madness for us, but every april we still manage to make it out alive. 

this april was no exception. overall it was much mellower than march was: no weddings or showers or family trips, and work has been picking up slowly for james so weve still had a lot of free time at home (though obviously not a lot of extra money). it had its moments though: i did a really great craft fair, we finally got our new bed, and of course i proceeded to have a psychological breakdown because for whatever reason i just cant handle changing the furniture. 

but really the big event for this month was jamess birthday, which, thanks to being absurdly pregnant, i was not able to make an embarrassingly huge deal about like last year or the year before. and i have to admit this, as well as the fact that BOTH of the things james asked for (a new tattoo and a new padres hat in a size that apparently no store ever has) werent things i could buy and wrap up for him to open made me feel like a pretty crappy wife for not doing enough birthday-ing. but, as usual, things turned out just fine. 

i basically just ended up badgering james over and over about what HE wanted to do for his birthday. and i have to say, james was obnoxiously low maintenance with his birthday requests: he chose sleeping in. obviously i wasnt taking this as an answer so (after he slept in, of course) i told him to pick an outing or activity that HE wanted to do. it took him all day to decide on going out to dinner. it was a lovely lazy day. and like i said, everything turned out just fine. (also, he did get his tattoo and his hat is on its way). 

so how about our goals? it seems that april was really the month where we hit our stride in this department. as i was looking over them just now i was reallysurprised at how much progress we made in how many categories, because honestly a lot of the time it felt like we werent doing much. but apparently we were. so how are things going? 

blog:

if you havent noticed, im totally getting back into the whole regular posting groove, AND the majority of posts have been planned, written, AND scheduled in advance. ive also been working harder at finding new ways to connect with bloggers outside of my normal "circle", and thats been totally awesome. 

shop: 

as i mentioned earlier, i did another craft fair! so thats two so far for the year, AND doors have been opening for even MORE opportunities in the coming months. i really wasnt expecting this since i had been feeling so bleh about what i had going, but you know what i REALLY wasnt expecting? being able to buy a new serger with the money i earned from selling a bunch of our old crap from around the house! so yeah, craft fair type things are moving along, and some new designing will probably be happening soon too!

family: 

im really happy to say that weve gotten to a point where weekly family time is becoming a habit, and james and i finally got our date a couple weeks ago we were able to sneak away for a quick lunch before making the baby registry (hopefully the next date wont take so long to happen). ive still been struggling with homeschooling, but ive decided to spend some time focusing on more tactile activities (painting, play dough, cutting shapes with scissors, etc.) which alice is doing really well with. 

home:

living room credenza: check. new bed and mattress: check. thorough decluttering of the entire apartment: almost check. if there was any category of these goals that i thought was going to drag on all year round, it was this one. so imagine my surprise that this is the area wed breeze right through. 

financial: 

here were dont doing as well as i had hoped, coming up with a new budget plan hasnt been easy: even though weve mastered functioning when we have NO money at all, and i feel like we did pretty well at handling when james was making a lot of "extra" money, this middle area weve been in is surprisingly difficult to navigate. and while our savings account hasnt gone down (except for the money we spent on the bed that had long been earmarked specifically for that), work was still on the slow side for james so it hasnt gone up either. as much as i want to be really discouraged here, im doing my best to keep things optimistic, and even though our attempt at a "no-spend" month for march was a total flop, were still going to try it again in may, and hopefully that will help us out in BOTH the budget and the savings account departments. 

personal: 

this semester is almost over (only two more weeks!) and at this point im really confident that im acing both my classes (which would make three semesters in a row with a 4.0!), i also registered for next semester (im only taking one class because baby and because theres literally only one class for me to take next semester), so thats exciting. also those recipes ive been talking about (if you havent noticed) have been slowly making their way onto the blog, which has been super fun and really helped to keep me motivated in breaking out of our dinner-rut. and as for jamberry, well, ive been giving it a LOT of thought, and talked jamess ear off about it way too many times, and i think weve come to a conclusion as to whats best for our family. however, i dont want to do anything rash so as of right now, im wrapping up one last group of parties before taking a couple months of maternity leave before making a final decision. 

so long story short, april = surprisingly productive month for our goals. lets do this, may.