Friday, January 29, 2016

Celebrating the Ordinary

This past week consisted of snowday after snowday, with much mopping, shoveling, and graceless ice-slipping occupying most of those days. After receiving 35+ inches of snow courtesy of Winter Storm Jonas, Frederick has remained in a state of snow emergency all week. City workers have labored unending shifts to clear our main roads, while heavy equipment has been brought in to remove the dirt-tinged snow-mountains that now dominate the street corners and curbs. Meanwhile, by order of the mayor, our cars must remain in downtown parking garages until the crews clear enough to allow street parking once more. The glistening snow-globe universe of the weekend has melted into one big, time-consuming mess.

Being stuck indoors, though, has been an enjoyable experience. Rather than going or eating out, Mark and I have been cooking more-- breakfast, lunch, and dinner--and finding creative ways to entertain ourselves. Netflix and video games figured into our forced house-arrest, of course, along with spontaneous cookie baking and impromptu snow-fort building. We played games and read books together on the couch. In some cases, we just talked, swapping stories and sharing memories with each other. We didn't do anything earth-shattering; we really didn't do much at all. We just enjoyed each other's time and talked. 

Those four days of home-bound solitude made me realize how much I should cherish the ordinary: just spending a day with my husband at home. Social media so often focuses on the big moments in our lives: our weddings, our children, our vacations, our promotions. Even in this space, I mainly discuss our home renovations, work goals, and major experiences. How often do I celebrate the ordinary? The everyday, this-is-real-life moments? Because, I think when I look back someday, those simple, little things will be what stands out the most. Those days that don't seem like much when you're in them--just another day. But I know that someday, I'll probably give anything to go back to the winter of 2016, curled onto that couch with Mark, just talking and doing nothing much. 

Some recent favorite reads from around the web: 

In case you missed my excitement on Instagram, our master bedroom makeover made it into Apartment Therapy's Before & After section. You can see the article here! 

3 reasons to exercise that have nothing to do with weight

A suggestion I may have to try: wearing silk camisole rather than a cotton camisole.

This article from Darling Magazine perfectly captured what I've been trying to say for the past month:  "A life of over-consumption is self-centered; it takes more than it gives. A life of contribution is an outward-focused life; it creates more than it takes. I believe we have been wired to contribute more than we consume. If you feel worn out from the barrage of messages urging you to consume more, I encourage you to take a step back and mindfully entertain the possibility of living a simpler and more creative life."

Lastly, I have to brag on my friend Whitney's beautiful weaving which now hangs over her bed.  You may have spied it in our inaugural "A Peek Indoors" post this week! 

What are you grateful for this week? What ordinary thing in your life
deserves a little celebration?

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Peek Indoors with Whitney Torres of Athens, GA

I'm so excited to announce that Patina & Purl will be hosting a new series entitled "A Peek Indoors." This monthly series will focus on the home decor and styling skills of some of my favorite bloggers, artists, and homemakers. Each post will focus on the contributor's favorite room in his/her home. 

What better way to kick-off the series than with a special guest post from my sweet friend Whitney of Hey Whitney blog. I am so in love with her minimalist style, even though it couldn't be more opposite of my own decor style. She someone manages to achieve a homey, inviting look while keeping things simple and crisp. Today, she is sharing her lovely master bedroom with us. 

"When I first committed to writing this post for Abi, I immediately started thinking about the new duvet cover and curtains I wanted to buy for this room. New pillowcases would be nice while I was at it and, oh! maybe my husband could quickly build that headboard he's been promising to make me. After a few hours spent searching for "linen duvet cover" on Amazon and gaping at the prices, I realized that I was trying to throw together my dream bedroom in a week, rather than sharing the room as it currently is. And the truth is, this room (and the rest of the house too, for that matter) aren't my dream rooms. There are approximately one million things that I would change in each of them, but for the time being they work for us.

When my husband and I first made plans to move to Georgia, we weren't sure yet if I would be getting another job, which would determine where in the state we wanted/needed to be. To tide us over, we decided to rent this rambling brick rancher in Athens. Luckily, we are able to rent from some very good friends so when we eventually find a house to buy, we won't have to worry about leases and contracts. If you've ever rented before, you know what a big deal that can be!

Believe it or not, I didn't set eyes on this house until we pulled into its driveway with all of our stuff in the back of an enormous Penske moving truck. Normally, this is something that I would have never done. But, from the get go, I've always known this house is just a place to tide us over until we find our one-day home. Having that attitude from the very beginning helped me to overlook a lot of things that I wouldn't necessarily have chosen in a house (lookin' at you, wood paneling).

Our bedroom is one of my favorite rooms in the house, probably because it's one of the few rooms without paneling in it! I'm usually all for painting as soon as we move in, but because we knew we weren't going to be here for terribly long, we left most everything as is. Luckily, this room had been painted by the previous renters in one of my favorite shades of grey.

Our nightstands are two of my favorite things in our bedroom. They are actually old card catalogs that my grandmother salvaged from a library in my hometown. I had them in my room for years as I was growing up and used the drawers to keep all of the letters from my friends. Remember the good old days of snail mail?! I had a quite a few from Abi in there from when we were twelve or thirteen and constantly sending letters back and forth. We recently added some hairpin legs to them and they are functioning quite well in their second life as nightstands.

I like to refer to our style as minimalism with a touch of mid-century modern. Really, though, it's combination of cheap and lazy. ;) One thing is definitely true, I don't like clutter in my home and tend to keep things as sparse as possible. I gravitate towards clean lines, mid-century inspired furniture, and lots of neutrals.

I feel like I'm the last person who should be offering decorating advice, but one of the things I've really come to appreciate in our bedroom is the Threshold blanket that covers the foot of our bed. Not only is it perfect to pull over us on cold nights, but it also serves the double purpose of hiding the foot of the bed. I hate being able to see under a bed, but I can't bring myself to buy a bedskirt ruffle (can you say 1980?) and this blanket is doing the job just fine until we get our head and foot board made. 

Forgive the shameless bragging, but I am so proud of the weaving that is currently hanging over our bed. It is the first weaving I've ever done and, although I made about one hundred mistakes in the process, it feels good to say that I made that! Usually, my husband Mark is the crafty one in our relationship so there aren't many elements to our home that I get to say that about."

Thanks for sharing, Whitney! 
Like Whitney's style? Find more at: 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Southern Lady's "Man-Cave" with Chairish

We always hear about the "man-cave" but what about us ladies? Don't count us out! What woman wouldn't  like to have our own "cave" in the house, her own personal space, complete with her idea of the perfect bar. Heaven knows, every wife, mom, and hardworking lady occasionally needs a hideout, a place to just escape the day and chill. If the gents can have a special hideout other than the living room, why can't we?

So when Chairish, an online shop that makes it easy for designers to sell vintage furniture and decor, approached me about creating a style board of my ideal "woman-cave," I loved the idea. Design my own personal bar? Um, of course. I knew exactly what the theme of my style-board should be: 

The Quixotic Southern Lady. 

Who exactly is she? 

She's the one who can name all the players on her favorite baseball team (*cough* Let's go Nats *cough*) and is passionately devout about college football. It's the SEC, baby, or not at all.  She paints her nails in shades of pink and has a makeup bag stuffed with the minty-green Clinique compacts. She knows how to get dirty, to roll up her sleeves and get to work, but disdains to leave the house without a spritz of perfume or a quick dab of blush. She knows how to get the red-clay stains off her white tennis shoes after she's muddied them playing hard with the boys: be it whiffle ball, touch football, or ultimate Frisbee in a hot front yard. She'll never lose the habit of "yes ma'am" or "no sir," ingrained by her parents and grandparents. She knows how to make mimosas and enjoys sangria in summer, but her heart is with the frothy, dark stouts of her Scots-Irish ancestors. 

Most importantly, she's proud of her heritage: of who she has been, who she is, and who she will become. 

I loved looking through Chairish's fantastic selection of items to create this style-board.  I highly recommend checking out their impressive selection of vintage decor, bar stools, furniture, and art! My style-board is just a small taste of what you can expect on their website. If you can't find that unique something for your space at Chairish, then you're probably just not going to find it. 

For my "woman-cave" styleboard, I went with a light, springy color scheme, reminiscent of the peonies, hydrangeas, and snowball flowers that grew in my grandmother's prolific North Carolina garden. My ideal "woman-cave" would be fun and flirty, but still chic-- exactly what you would expect in any Southern family room: nicely-appointed but homey. 

Like what you see? Shop the links below:

These faux metal bamboo barstools would look great in your "woman-cave" or tucked up to your kitchen island. 

I covet this Vintage Mil Baughman Style Round Bar Cart. You could use it for drinks or even a coffee bar!

I've always had a thing for vintage style glassware like these Vintage Lenox Blue Crystal Goblets-- Set of 8 

In keeping with the bamboo theme... check out this Brass Bamboo Style Serving Tray

This stunning blue-and-white floral watercolor is from one of my favorite Etsy shops, Driftwood Interiors. 

What do you envision in your "woman-cave"? What drinks would your serve your girlfriends?
Share the recipes and links below! 

Image sources: All images (except art) via Chairish. Individual links are above. Art image
via Etsy shop Driftwood Interiors, links above. 

Full disclosure: I received no compensation for this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

5 Quick Tips for Saving Money

This year, Mark and I have made it our mission to be more mindful with our money. Our main goals are to pay down debt and start saving each month.  If you're interested in a more detailed look at our financial goals, you can check out this post from a few weeks ago.

Throughout January, the main thing I've learned about saving money is that your attitude and mindset have a lot to do with it. Instead of thinking "I can't save" or "it's too hard to save right now" or "I'll just do it next month," I've tried to focus instead on what I can do, realizing that even small steps in the right direction are still good steps. An even bigger help has been focusing on gratitude. Instead of sighing over what I don't have or wishing for what I don't need, I've been trying to focus on all the amazing things we do have. Counting your blessings helps you realize that you already have enough, even if society tries to get you to shop, shop, shop. 

So today, I decided to share a few helpful tips that have worked for me this month. 

Plan out your meals.
On Sunday evenings, I take a few minutes to think out the upcoming week's meals. I plan for us to eat one lunch (or brunch) and one supper out, with the rest of our meals eaten at home. Usually, I also try to plan a 'leftover" night in the middle of the week. This night helps us cut down on food waste and has the side perk of being a night I don't have to cook. I try to make it fun by looking up yummy Pinterest recipes to try. 

Invite people over rather than going out.
Eating out can really eat up your budget. But eating at home doesn't mean you have to eat alone. Host a game night or movie night for friends. You can split the cost of the meal and enjoy good company. You get the benefit of eating out without the cost. 

Unsubscribe from those sale emails.
This tip has two benefits: you clean out your inbox while simultaneously reducing those daily temptations to shop. Because who hasn't been tempted by those "scintillating offers of 40% off on top of clearance"?? Although, I'll be honest: Loft and Anthropologie get me every time. 

Budget for little splurges.
One way to make budgeting and saving a little less, well, boring is to budget for splurges. Set aside an amount of money for personal use. Sometimes it's okay to #treatyoself right? One of my favorite indulgences is grabbing a coffee. So, I use the Starbucks app to determine how much money I can spend each month on coffee. I load that money on my Starbucks card and when I get to that spending threshold, I wait until next month. 

Just wait.
Which brings me to my next point. Just wait. If you see something online or in the store that you really want, just take a breath and wait a day or two. If you still really want the item, well then maybe you should go for it. If you've forgotten about it, congrats, you just avoided a spontaneous splurge. This month has taught me that saving is kind of like exercising. If you can keep up the practice for 30 days, it'll become habit. Go a few weeks without spending, and you'll feel the urge to buy start to dwindle. You'll start to focus more on what you need rather than just what you want. 

What are some tips you have for saving money? 

My Wedding Registry, Almost Four Years Later

Several of my friends will be getting married this year. In the exciting hum of wedding-planning, I've been asked more than once what I recommend when it comes to completing a wedding registry. These requests got me thinking: If I could do it all over again, what would I include on my wedding registry today?

Registering for your home and kitchen is an exciting but difficult process. How often do you get to walk through a store, picking out whatever you want, and writing it on a list? Talk about fun! At the same time though, you have to anticipate what you'll be using in your home months and even years from now. Countless kitchen gadgets and cutesy decor items beckon from the shelves. But what do you really need?  When I registered for our wedding at 21 years old, I had NO IDEA what I would be needing. Thank goodness my mom accompanied me on my registering adventure and helped me navigate the household wares sections. 

Since then, Mark and I have been married almost four years. I've spent some time in our kitchen and in our home. I've used (and in some cases used up) pretty much every item from my original registry. Some things really withstood the test of time; other things did not make the cut. Some things I've already had to replace, and some things I wouldn't change even if you begged me! 

So today I decided to share the wedding registry I would make if I got to do it all over again. I hope these lists will help any engaged ladies out there who may feel like I did-- a little overwhelmed and wondering what to pick!

Let's start off by listing those things for which you'll be tempted to register, but don't really, truly need. (Unless of course, you're like a serious fancy entertainer. Which I'm not. So, of course, take this list with a grain of salt and realize your needs may be different than my own. Maybe you'll be holding wine tastings and full course meals. Again, we don't.)

- a juicer
Me in the aisle at Target Ooooo a juicer, I'll totally do that. We'll be that couple who juices things! Four years later, never used it. 

- fancy place cards
Oooo we'll host fancy dinners and have people over and use these to tell them where to sit. Four years later, never used them. Although, maybe someday I'll host a holiday dinner and actually need the things. 

- fine china
Again with the fancy-dinner fantasy. Four years later, I'm still wishing for a china cabinet to at least display these beautiful unused pieces. 

- all the napkin rings
They're sparkly, they're fun, they seem so necessary. But really. How often do you set your table with napkin rings? 

- a fruit infuser
Okay, this one is a little more useful, but not exactly vital. I've used mine like... maybe four times. 

- accent pillows
Seriously don't register for throw pillows. You can pick these up for yourself at HomeGoods for a really reasonable price later. Save your registry for stuff you're really going to use and need or for stuff you know you won't buy for yourself later

Now for the registry items that I truly did need. Some of these items were actually on my registry; others I had to buy later. But all have proved so useful and necessary in our kitchen!

Essential Registry Items: 

-a Kitchen Aid mixer
A lot of people ask "Do I really need a big mixer?" If you enjoy cooking alot, yes. You do. Get white or stainless steel if you're worried about color. 

- a handheld mixer (not pictured) 
Handheld mixers are great for whipping up mashed potatoes or a small batch of cookies. I use mine very often-- more often than I would have expected four years ago. 

- Keurig/ coffee maker
Because, duh. 

- Pyrex dishes
These are the best. You can store food in them, heat things in the microwave, and put them in the oven. 

- storage containers
I personally love Weck storage containers. They're somewhat expensive, but they do a great job storing dry goods in the pantry. Plus, they're pretty to look at. 

- a quality cookware set
Originally, I bought Rachel Ray cookware from Target. I'm not really here to review products, but I'll just say, DO NOT buy your cookware based on how cute it is. Three months after our wedding, I had to return the cookware. Thankfully, Target gave me a gift card with which I was able to purchase a nice stainless steel set of cookware. I never looked back. 

- cutting boards
I recommend having one for meats and one for veggies, along with assorted little ones for quick random chopping (like fruits or cheese). Check out my tutorial on cleaning wooden cutting boards. 

- luxurious bedding
I know the photo up there says "essential kitchen items" but I'm deviating a bit. I definitely recommend registering for good quality bedding. I would never have purchased our duvet set or sheets on my own. But I' so happy that I registered for them! I love falling into our soft, fluffy bed every night. We have this duvet set from Bed Bath and Beyond. 

- a nice vacuum
Again, not really a "kitchen" item... But just go ahead and register for a good quality vacuum like a Shark or Dyson. Otherwise, you'll just end up replacing the crappy one in a few months. If you have pets, a good vacuum is necessary. If you're worried about cost, remember that people sometimes enjoy going in together on gifts. 

- good cutlery 
Get thee some good knives and take care of them (a.k.a sharpen them)

- a food processor 
I'll be honest... I didn't register for a food processor but I so wish I had. If you ever anticipate making salsa, chopping nuts, making homemade butters, making pesto, or anything else that requires chopping/ whipping/ rapid spinning... you're going to want a food processor. I recently got a food processor for Christmas and have loved using it 

- baking sheets
Do you like cookies? Well there you go. I recommend getting good quality, sturdy ones rather than flimsy ones that will bend and warp. 
These lists are be no means comprehensive, but these are the main things I thought of when asked. Of course, different couples may need or want different things. These items, however, have been useful to me. 

What did you register for? Are you happy with all your choices or would experience change some items on your original list? What are some of your favorite kitchen or household gadgets? 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Surviving Winter Storm Jonas

Thursday, I found myself rushing to the nearest grocery to stock up on dry goods, non-perishables, and extra water. The weather reports were emphatically heralding the imminent arrival of a "historic snow event" for the DC-MD area. One station even felt compelled to begin using the hashtag #TheWinterAwakens, as if some great beast were bearing down upon the Mid-Atlantic. 

On Friday morning, these melodramatic warnings seemed a bit over the top. Mark stayed home since the federal government in D.C. was closing early, along with the Metrorail and buses. By order of the City of Frederick, we moved our cars into the city's parking garages, since our street serves as a Snow Emergency route during winter storms. By Friday night, we only had about two inches on the ground. Wow, I thought, Is this all? 

Saturday morning was an entirely different story. I woke to find our windows half-covered with snow, and something closer to 2 feet on the ground. Our back yard had disappeared beneath mounds of white fluff. Our front door would hardly open for the wall of snow blocking it. Solo stared out the storm door in disbelief, whining sadly. I'm pretty sure I just gaped at the white world outside. Two feet and still coming down! This Georgia girl had never seen anything like it. 

Gusts of wind would burst from the sky, sending billowing clouds of snow-dust skittering across the ground. The icy pellets would sting your cheeks and eyes if you didn't shield yourself in time. The twirling white clouds reminded me of a bride's veil, caught up in the wind. 

It honestly felt like one of those scenes from A Little House on the Prairie (remember those books?) where the family has to tie a rope from the barn to the house so as not to lose their way in the snow. Thankfully, the city went to work quickly clearing the streets-- but the storm kept dumping snow upon us, undoing their work as quickly as they finished it. 

In the afternoon, when the snow slowed slightly, Mark and I ventured into the snow-globe world. The snow came up to my mid-thigh-- almost three feet. We jumped around in the drifts and attempted to make snowballs. Loose and powdery, snow crumbled through our gloved hands. We laughed and panted with the exertion of walking through knee-deep drifts. After all, there's nothing much to do but laugh and make the best of it.

I'm beyond thankful for four solid walls and a roof over head. Thankful too for warm food in my belly, a good book to read, and a husband to snuggle. We certainly appreciate all the city workers and emergency personnel who braved the storm this weekend, so that we could enjoy the beautiful snow! Now to clean up the mess as it melts. 

Wherever you are, stay safe and warm!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Snomageddon Begins....

Snomageddon 2016 has arrived, or as Fox News has termed the event, #TheWinterAwakens. As intense as this storm is supposed to be, that hashtag made me laugh with its melodramatic, Game-of-Thrones flair. Mark and I have hunkered down in our little rowhouse with plenty of blankets, dry goods, water, and books to see us through the weekend. It's highly likely we'll loose power in the high winds predicted for tonight and tomorrow; so if we don't check in to social media, fear not. We're just conserving our batteries! As we speak, my iPhone is charging in the kitchen, just in case.

Wherever you may be, bundle up, stay warm, and try to enjoy this historic winter event! 

See you next spring when we finally shovel ourselves out from under 30+ inches of snow!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Our Personal Goals for the New Year

Over the past few weeks, I've repeated over and over again that I want to live intentionally in 2016. To achieve some of my creative goals, like finishing a draft of my book. To pay down debt and live within our means. To be more mindful of and less wasteful with my time. Of course, we can't be too strict or rigid with our lives. After all, we never know what's around the next corner. But that doesn't mean we can't set goals for ourselves.

Here are a few of our personal goals for the new year...

1. Eat at home more often 
As I mentioned in our Financial Goals post, we've been trying to save money by eating out less often. The biggest help in this area is meal-planning. I've been meal planning for about a year, and I can't tell you how big of a help it is! It takes all of the guess-work out of cooking and makes grocery shopping a less haphazard process. 

2. Eat cleaner and greener
I know I'm an adult, but I have the taste-buds of a little kid. Like seriously, why can't pizza be a vegetable? I will admit that I do not eat enough vegetables; so this year, I've been trying to fix veggie sides more often. So far, I've been eating a lot of salad and sweet potatoes. But this week I plan to experiment with roasted cabbage and cooked carrots. And, you might have noticed there are tomatoes up there in that picture. Do you have any yummy veggie recipes to share? I'm all ears! Yes, that was a sad attempt at a corn joke. 

3. Reduce household waste
I've been trying to reduce our food waste by packing more lunches and actually eating our leftovers. Additionally, I've been aiming to do a better job recycling and using reusable grocery bags rather than piling up the plastic bags. 

4. Exercise regularly 
Mark and I usually exercise together at least four times a week. I have to say, I love it. It's a great way to unwind after a long day and is a healthy way to just connect as a couple. It's something we share together. Plus, it is a definite mood-booster.

5. Get outdoors more often
I sometimes turn into a hermit during winter. It's just so cold that I don't want to venture outdoors, but we all need our vitamin D, even in the winter! Over MLK weekend, Mark and I visited both the Monocacy and Gettysburg battlefields. It was so much fun in spite of the chilly weather. 

6. Be more intentional with time
A.k.a., less pointless phone browsing. I can't lie-- I love Instagram and Snapchat. Maybe because I love photography? But I do tend to find myself pointlessly browsing on social media in the evenings. Lately, I've been trying to do things like read, write, or knit instead. Something that engages my mind rather than blurring and crossing my eyes instead. 

7. Finish our final home renovations and touch ups
Owning a fixer-upper is not easy. There always seems to be a long list of to-do's. But lately, our list has seriously shortened. This year, I hope we can actually FINISH everything on that list and finally have no renovations looming ahead of us. 

8. Finish a full first draft of my novel
THE BIG ONE... dun dun dun. I've got a whole year though, ya'll.... Surely I can do it! Wish me luck! 

What are some of your goals for the new year? 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Currently // January Edition

Starting the day in my usual way: breakfast and a book. Lately, I've been trying to savor my mornings by having a deliberate morning ritual. Before I worked from home, my mornings consisted of the usual busyness of getting out the door in time. In college, however, I had always woken up early to read and enjoy a decent breakfast. When real life began, that ritual went out the window. Lately, I've been trying to restore that ritual: waking up a little earlier, fixing French press coffee, and reading for a few minutes. A slow, deliberate start to the day rather than a hustle-bustle rush. 

Loving that winter seems to have finally arrived. I'll always be a Georgia girl who's afraid to drive around in too much snow, but I've lived in Maryland long enough to start appreciating the fluffy white stuff. They're calling for several inches this weekend, and I have to say I'm actually excited!

Watching the infamous crime documentary Making a Murderer on Netflix. I know you've heard of it-- and if you haven't go watch it. There are so many things about this series that blew my mind. I think this story has surfaced in a time when America is questioning its legal justice system-- and perhaps with good reason. I just can't decide how I feel... guilty or not. Sometimes I lean toward not guilty, sometimes toward guilty. What about you? 

Reading a book Mark recommended: The Magicians by Lev Grossman. As George R.R. Martin said, this book is to Harry Potter as whiskey is to hot tea. I have been shamelessly griped by this story so far. 

Listening to Spotify's Acoustic Winter playlist, which has all your essential acoustic goodness: Ben Howard, Bon Iver, Damien Rice, Iron & Wine. It's the perfect playlist to write to, in my opinion. And the winter-y weather has finally arrived to accompany it.

Eating home-cooked meals more often. One of our goals for the new year is to live according to a reasonable budget. In order to achieve that goal, we decided to designate that each week we can have one dinner out and one lunch out. We don't always do both, but its nice to know the option is there. So, I've been fixing more suppers and lunches at home. And I have to say-- I actually enjoy it! Not so much the grocery shopping part, though. 

Cooking a recipe or two from my Julia Child cookbook. So far I've experimented with boeuf bourguignon and sauteed chicken in an herb-and-butter sauce. I can see why the woman revolutionized cooking. 

Working on repainting our living room. Thank goodness for random 50 degree weather that allowed me to open the windows and escape the paint fumes. Stay tuned for the new look's reveal! 

Anticipating getting a piano! Mark's parents are giving us their old piano, which happily is rather small and so should fit into our tiny house. We plan to recreate the upstairs work-space into a lounge space so that the piano (rather than the TV) can be our living room's focal point. 

Exercising more often. Over the holidays, Mark had planned on entering a strong man competition so he and I focused our workouts on heavy lifting. Now, we're transitioning more to HIIT type workouts to shed the fluff on top of these muscles we've built. 

Trying out more sustainable living practices. We've been trying to recycle more often and reduce our food waste. I've even gone so far as to start using reusable grocery totes and reusable mesh produce bags. Not that we're going to single-handedly save the earth, but I can tell a definite reduction in our trash volume. 

Understanding that our outlook each day greatly affects how that day turns out. I've been trying to make an effort to have a more positive attitude everyday, even going so far as to pep-talk myself when things go wrong. "Don't get frustrated, it's just a little thing." Or "Don't get angry at that driver who just cut you off, maybe they left the oven on or something." It may sound silly but I have to say that it helps! 

What have you been up to lately?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

New Artwork at the Etsy Shop & Art Giveaway!

I'm excited to announce that Patina & Purl Etsy shop is up and running again for the new year. After the new year, I temporarily placed the shop in vacation mode to catch up on some custom orders and work on the shop's overall look. One of my main goals was to improve shop images and shop sections. 

Additionally, the shop sections now include Original Art, Unique Crafts, and Sale Items. All my oil and acrylic artwork is, as you can imagine, included under the art section while handmade goods such as my knitted scarves and gloves are included under the crafts section. I decided to add a "Sale Items" section for artwork that's available at a lower, clearance price. 

Curious for more? You can visit my Etsy shop Patina & Purl to see more. Also, don't forget to follow along on Instagram @patina_and_purl to stay abreast of shop updates, coupon codes, and giveaway opportunities! In fact, I'm having a giveaway right now-- so don't miss out! The giveaway runs until 8pm TONIGHT with the winner being announced Friday!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Our Financial Goals for the New Year

This year, one of our main goals is to be more intentional with our time and our actions. That would include being more intentional with our lifestyle and our money. 

Most newlyweds aren't exactly flush with cash. You're working to establish your own home, typically are working an entry level job, have student loan debt, and usually don't have much in savings. And all that is perfectly fine and normal -- after all, everyone has to start somewhere. But at what point do you start making efforts to establish some sort of "nest" or begin working toward financial viability? 

Mark and I decided that this year, we really want to make an effort to budget and save. To be more mindful of how and where we spend our money. I was inspired by this post published by The EveryGirl which talks about seven steps to take to become "financially fit in 2016." Additionally, some of our close friends have been following the Dave Ramsey Plan, which focuses on budgeting, paying off debt, building an emergency fund, and starting college and retirement funds. 

Here are some basic financial goals Mark and I hope to achieve in 2016:

1. Determine a reasonable household budget.
We sat down and listed our bills and expenses, rounding up slightly to provide for margin of error. Then, we calculated what percentage could go toward paying off debt and what would need to go to savings and "miscellaneous." The hard part? Actually accounting for all the cash flow. Bills are easy to record and keep, but little purchases like a "oh shoot we're almost out of toilet paper" are harder to keep track off. I've started saving receipts, arranging them in categories (gas, groceries, eating out, etc.) and tallying them all at the end of the week. 

2. Pay down any debt. 
Luckily, Mark and I don't have a ton of debt. That being said, last year was not our easiest year financially. We kept getting hit with random expenses that left us both feeling drained and disheartened. Plus, we've been renovating a 100 year old house for two years.  Together, we listed our debts-- smallest to largest-- and determined how much $$ each month will go toward paying each bill off, from credit cards to car loans. I've always heard to go from smallest to largest, since doing so frees up more and more money and actually make you feel like you're making progress. Just formulating our plan made me feel so much more empowered and confident for the new year. 

3. Live simply and within our means. 
Mark and I have never been big spenders, but everyone can always simplify. Lately, I've been asking myself "Do I really need that sweater?" or "Do we really need to buy new when the old still works?" Asking myself questions like these has made me more mindful of little indulgent splurges and has had a visible effect on our bank accounts. 

4. Start saving regularly, instead of sporadically. 
Even if it's a small amount, you know what they say "a penny saved is a penny earned." My parents and grandparents-- all self-employed-- always stressed that you should pay yourself before you pay your bills. In other words, put a little aside into savings, even if all you can afford to save that month is $20 bucks. That's your $20 bucks, and no one touches it. This year, I really want to focus on making saving a regular, budgeted thing, not just something we do in one big chunk when "Oh hey, we have a little extra this month." Here's where paying down debt is nice, because the less debt you're paying off, the more money you can pay to yourself, aka save. 

5. Don't be too hard on yourself. 
I  loved this oh-so-true reminder from The EveryGirl article. Emergencies come up, and spontaneous things happen. Every now and then, you just want to splurge on a nice dinner out or buy that perfect gift for yourself or your loved one. None of us are perfect. None of us are automatons wired to perfectly obey every nuance of our budget. Every. Single. Day. After all, life is meant to be lived!  But we can always be more mindful of what we're doing, whether it's productive or not-- including being too hard on ourselves. 

What are your financial goals for 2016?
Have any budgeting or financial tips to share?

Monday, January 11, 2016

January Reads

To be perfectly honest, I did not read all three of these books in January. Otherwise, I would have had to read three books in ten days, which is simply not possible. At least not for me! These three books comprised my holiday reading list, and I have to say that I was not disappointed. 

The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
I selected this book on a whim from our local library, intrigued by its author's credentials (Iowa Writer's Workshop, a Fulbright scholarship, all the spectacular whistles and bells). Jackson's colorful  portrayal of life in Barbados is reminiscent of one of my favorite writers: Zora Neale Hurston. Set in the late 1980s, the novel follows two young girls who leave New York to live with their grandmother in Barbados. Their coming-of-age story explores some hefty topics: mental illness, culture clashes, American identity, family, and young love to name a few. I completely agree with all of the newspapers and critics singing Jackson's praises; it's a spectacularly well-written book. 

Dead Wake by Erik Larson
I cannot stress how much I enjoyed this book or how highly I recommend it. The story of the Lusitania is one I thought I knew but wow was I mistaken. In my middle and high school history textbooks, the significance of this regal ship was relegated to a stingy paragraph, glossed over as America's impetus for entering the First World War. No glossing over in this book. Instead, Larson dives into the story-- bringing to life a world of finery and gallantry that clashed against the modern, terrible machines of war. This book had me gasping out loud one second, crying in another, and sputtering in outrage the next-- it's an amazing story that will boggle the mind. Easily one of the best books I've read lately. 

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
I had some mixed feelings about this book. I've always been a huge fan of To Kill a Mockingbird, I mean who isn't? So I was both excited and nervous for Lee's illusive other novel. While decent in its own right, to me, this novel wasn't as well-executed as the classic To Kill A Mockingbird. Although I did love getting a glimpse into grown-up Scout Finch's life and enjoyed Lee's honest, bare-knuckles handling of the South during the Civil-Rights era.

What's on your reading list? 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Our Creative Goals for the New Year

A few days ago, I shared this post regarding my goals for the new year. Today, I thought I might share some of my creative goals for the new year. It seemed a good place to start. After all, the creative side of things is my favorite part! 

This year, one of my main endeavors will be to live more intentionally. Perhaps this is more of an attitude than a goal. What I mean is this: I want to live each day with intention. To be more mindful of and purposeful with my time, to use it wisely and well. Obviously, every day will have some spontaneity in it, but I do want to be less wasteful. Not just wasting time scrolling mindlessly on my phone, for example.

I hope to apply this intention to my creative work as well. This year, I'd like to be more focused with my creative projects, specifically my Etsy shop. Here are a few of my creative goals, for the year

1. to work on my Etsy shop images: better lighting and photography

2. to utilize better shop strategies such as promoted listings, coupon codes, and giveaways. 
I know that I haven't used all this tools as much as I could have in the past, but I'm working toward utilizing more in the coming months. 

3. to grow the shop's social media following (of course-- isn't that always the case?)
I recently employed some of Hilary Rushford's strategies for growing your Instagram following and saw my followers increase by 100+. I defintely plan to continue using her tips and highly recommend her free classes! 

4. to start marketing my murals and hopefully get a few clients
See my Birch Tree Statement Wall in this post. It was one of my most popular posts in 2015 and I hope to complete more like it! 

5. to work on my photography skills and eventually begin offering photography sessions. 

What are some of your creative goals for the new year?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Winter Walks

One thing I love about Frederick is how many great walking spaces this little city has. Every weekend, Mark and I love taking Solo for walks in nearby Baker Park, a 40 acre park about two blocks from our house. This past Sunday, the weather was sheer perfection. While still chilly, the sun was shining in full force. Overhead, the sky was not just blue but cerulean. And cloudless in every direction, as far as you could see. 

Every building and tree stood out in sharp relief, as if some cosmic photographer had turned up the sharpness while editing his image "Perfect Winter Day." Even though it was the beginning of January, Mark and I both remarked that it felt like an early spring day. Maybe a very early spring day, but a spring day nonetheless. 

Solo's main objective on these walks is to chase every squirrel and duck he sees. Poor thing is largely unsuccessful in this endeavor. But that doesn't prevent him from whining piteously or barking at the duck quacks. You just get the sense that he's thinking "One day, Mr. Squirrel, one day." 

What's your favorite place in your city?

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