I had every intention of posting on Tuesday, but by the time I made it home from a CRAZY work day (you may have seen my hometown on the news) , I could not focus.
Better late than never, I suppose.
Last Sunday was my eldest niece’s birthday. She turned 14, and I feel OLD! My sister has been down with a herniated disk, so my other sister and I last minute took on throwing a little shindig.
We didn’t have the luxury of time or a large budget, so we kept it a relaxed, glam luau. I thought I’d share the sweet details.
See? A little bit can go a long way. I recycled some of the pom streamers from my engagement party, and I ordered the cute foil balloons and metallic tattoos for fun details. And aren’t the spray-painted pineapples darling?
All in all, it turned out to be a lovely gathering for a lovely young lady! I cannot believe my niece will be a freshman in high school this fall! Her birthday got me thinking about advice I’d give my fourteen year old self….and oddly it is the same advice I am working on internalizing these days as well.
I think it is most eloquently put by Scott Stabile:
This is what I hope to convey to my niece as she enters some exciting and difficult years. This is what I hope to convey through my lifestyle.
Being a young, career-oriented woman who also wants to be a dutiful homeowner, wife, fur baby mama, and blogger is HARD.
I might as well write professional juggler on my resume because that’s this [W]IT GIRL’s magic act. And while I am being candid, there is nothing I hate more than dropped balls.
Not what I meant.
Prime example, though–it is so difficult to give 100% of me to every aspect of my life, and I know this must be how a lot of strong women feel, especially you mamas out there. That’s one more ball to juggle, and one that you can’t afford to drop. After awhile of the go, go, go mentality to get to everything, it makes me a little twitchy.
Okay, I am done with my horrible metaphors.
On the fur baby front, I want to share my latest discovery that helps me ensure I won’t spend anymore late nights scrambling eggs for them and cutting up sweet potato because I forgot to run to the pet store for food.
Readers, meet Chewy. Chewy is magical.
Chewy is an online superstore for pet owners. They offer competitive prices for everything from food to toys to beds, and they have super quick shipping as well!
My first purchase from Chewy was two lifted dog beds to put in our mudroom for the puppers. I found the prices to be extremely reasonable. The only issue I ran into was that one piece on one of the two beds was defective.
I called Chewy and was received by such a pleasant worker who was conversational as she processed updates regarding my order. Rather than just sending me a new part, she sent me an entire new bed and told me to donate the defective one to a shelter.
After having a great experience with the beds, I decided to go ahead and sign up for a subscription to two things I hate buying in store, and therefore forget (funny how that works) to buy: dog food and cat litter.
What do these two things have in common? They’re HEAVY.
So every four weeks, I’m subscribed to purchase and receive two bags of dog food and one box of cat litter. For the first 3 subscription orders you make, Chewy gives you a 20% discount, which is pretty sweet. Eventually I will also subscribe to cat food, but Basie seems to make a bag of food last much, much longer than the doggos.
In addition to food and beds, I have also purchased Kong brand toys (the only toys that can prolong the destruction my rowdy pups ultimately achieve) for a hugely discounted price for the pups! As you can see, Chewy is a huge help in managing supplies and food for my furry loves.
I wanted to share with you today this sweet discovery of mine in hopes that maybe this will eliminate one thing from those that you are juggling!
Keep on, keeping on, [W]IT GIRLS, because you are so much stronger than you think! Work smart though, and look for vehicles such as Chewy that can help reduce your load.
Hey friends, can you believe it is nearing the end of the first week in May?! You know what this means–Mother’s Day is right around the corner! May is always a busy gift-giving month for me because Mother’s Day comes up quick, followed by my dad’s birthday on the 16th, and then my mom’s birthday on the 31st. I’m trying to get ahead this year and thought I’d try to help you out also.
Today I’m sharing my top picks for sustainable, ethical Mother’s Day gifts!
Globe In offers a curated selection of fair trade goods, and even gives you the opportunity to purchase from them on a subscription basis. This particular box is filled with gifts for the mom who loves to be in her kitchen. It comes with a hand-painted spoon rest from Palestinian Territories, a matching set of salt and pepper shakers from Palestinian Territories, a wooden spice bowl from India, and either a sea salt basket or a hand-woven palm leaves basket.
Stand alone, or with a set–these tumblers made of recycled glass are perfect for front porch sittin’ with an icy tea or lemonade! The Little Market is Lauren Conrad’s fair trade shop, and it is filled with some adorable goodies!
I am dying to try these out! They are a sustainable alternative to plastic wrap, and optimal for those trying to lower the amount of waste their household produces. They are actually sold out on their website; however, I found that Amazon has their products in stock, and this one is Prime eligible!
These beautifully beaded fair trade earrings come in many color options, and are so delicate!
I hope my top 5 picks is helpful to you in your quest to get your moms authentic, awesome gifts! My mom is a tricky gal to shop for because she is not materialistic in the least, and she has particular taste. Between Mother’s Day and her upcoming birthday, I think I have a lot of good options for gift giving for my favorite person!
What is the best Mother’s Day gift you’ve given or received?
Happy Monday, and I hope that you had a Happy Easter! He Is certainly risen, and this is more apparent in my life than I give credit! Alleluia!
The weather yesterday, and the whole weekend in general, were amazing! We spent most of our weekend being productive…towards the exciting things we have brewing, which I will share later this week.
Easter was particularly great because we combined our Easter gathering with a surprise birthday party for my nephew, who is a tax day baby. We of course went all out with the egg hiding, including a super duper prize egg that my brother and sister sunk at the bottom of the pool for one lucky kiddo to discover!
I wore a breezy little number that I’ve had hanging in my closet for some time. I love the two pieces together, or separate. They are from Target, and more on Target ethics are below.
A word on Target fashion ethics… If you’ve been following along, you know I’m pursuing a journey to a more fair, sustainable, and ethical wardrobe. I am exploring and sharing brands I find and love. I’m also trying to support brands I already love that are working to improve their manufacturing practices.
Target carries quite a few brands, and while I do not consider these to be participants in slow fashion, I do want to point out that Target has and continues to take initiative in more responsible practices. Here is Target’s webpage addressing its initiatives and projects. I have researched the Higg Index that the webpage mentions, and I support this project, as well as Targets progress towards more ethical manufacturing and practices.
With regards to my Easter outfit, I love the mixing patterns and the light flowy feel to both pieces. I think the top would look great with high waisted jeans, and the bottoms with a plain white tee. I love versatility, and I find these to be fun and interesting pieces to include in my functional capsule wardrobe.
Here’s to hoping everyone had a great and safe St. Patrick’s Day weekend! May the theme of green carry on as you detox post-Patty’s Day celebration.
Benny and I chose to branch out on Friday night. I had been hearing about a Korean fusion restaurant in downtown Huntsville for well over a year now, and seeing their Instagram photo of a green sangria finally won me over. Big Oh’s Korean Fusion for this Irish holiday Americans use as a reason to go hard it is! Makes sense.
Big Oh’s is nestled on the north side of the square downtown, and like many of the restaurants on this block, it is two stories. We elected to sit upstairs in a cozy dining room decorated with photographs of Korea. This is an assumption based on my deductive reasoning. The photos might not actually be of Korea. My photography eye is not yet refined enough to detect the authenticity of such subject matter.
Benny ordered a stout (his drink of choice St. Patrick’s day or not), and I ordered my coveted green “Winter Sangria.” The sangria was great–there was a nice kiwi flavor to it!
We were quite hungry upon arrival, so we knew we wanted an appetizer. I was tempted to order their rice paper spring rolls, which looked amazing on the menu, but we decided to leave our comfort zone and try something crazy. Like…a kimchi bacon pancake.
Perhaps this menu item would more aptly be called a kimchi bacon flatbread, as Benny pointed out that it really didn’t have much in terms of a pancake going for it, aside from its round shape possibly. I digress, this appetizer was really quite delicious! The kimchi gave it a sour, briny flavor, which paired nicely with the salty bacon. Packed with flavor, the kimchi bacon pancake did not disappoint our adventurous hopes.
For an entree, I ordered spicy Korean ramen with pork, also an item I admired from Big Oh’s Instagram. Hear me when I say that I am a changed woman after eating this ramen. It was just that good, and we are both looking forward to the next time we can order it (Benny got the mild ramen with chicken). This dish was so well seasoned, packed with fluffy egg, and topped with crispy pork and melted cheese.
It is a regret we must live with daily that we were too stuffed after our drinks, the appetizer, and our entrees to even take a gander at the full dessert menu. The obvious silver lining to this sad situation is that we have to return for more ramen and to give Big Oh’s dessert menu the chance it deserves.
Jokes aside, we definitely plan to return to Big Oh’s. They had a great menu selection: everything from burgers and wings to traditional Korean cuisine. I highly recommend the ramen! My mouth is watering as I type!
Yesterday was a very special day in the Benitez household – our sweet pups turned a big TWO years old! I have not yet shared Piper’s story with you all; however, I fully intend to dedicate a post to her. She is in fact, Rooney’s littermate.
For their birthday, we took them to get special birthday bone cookies and on a walk in the fresh breezy sun. They quite enjoyed their special treats, which is great because we quite enjoy them.
In honor of my pups’ birthday, I thought I’d share with you reasons why adopting rescues has been a huge source of happiness in my life.
Dogs are great no matter what; however, knowing that if it wasn’t for being rescued, my pups could have been born on a cold construction site…or worse, could not have survived being born in the cold, gives me great pride for the home with which I provide them. They are so loved and cherished.
Dogs are often sought out by breed for specific desired characteristics, be it aesthetic or personality related. I think that often people forget that much of a dog’s behavior is shaped by environment though, so you don’t have to have a specific breed dog to get an incredible jogging partner, or a fierce guardian. I love Rooney and Piper’s personalities and the funny quirks they’ve developed despite being mutts. For instance, Rooney is quite protective of our pack, and he’s not afraid to don a scary bark or bear teeth if he thinks a stranger (usually male) gets to close to me on our solo walks or if we are home without Benny. Piper has turned out to be quite the athlete. She loves swimming and running at full speed. She does great on jogs and hikes!
Particularly regarding dogs that had a poor home life prior to adoption, the progress of trust and loyalty is an incredible phenomenon. Piper is my little miracle dog. I almost forget how meek and terrified she was when we took her in, yet here we are, less than a year since adoption, and her confidence has grown so much! Her trust in Benny and me has also grown light years, and our bond with her is especially sweet and unique because of the trust-building process. She has been a challenge at times, but bond we’ve built with her makes trying times more than worth it.
So there ya have it, two tubby two year olds and some things to consider when deciding if adopting a rescue pup is for you.
What fun things have you done for a pet’s birthday?
We meet again on a Monday. I can’t lie, I have been dreading today, but hey–it is a new opportunity to do great things!
Over the weekend, Benny and I attended a birthday gathering at our friends’ new home. It was so nice to visit our friends from college glory days, and their home was beautiful.
I’ve been noticing that yarn tapestries and macrame are making a tasteful comeback. I’ve seen some gorgeous pieces on Etsy, and at our friends’ I came across the most stunning piece. I mean GORGEOUS. So I snapped a photo for reference:
The next day I revisited the photo and decided….I’m going to make that. For cheap.
I think my end product is really pretty considering it is literally just a bunch of yarn tied to a stick.
I went to Walmart because I really needed to ball on a budget. They had a decent yarn selection. I chose some chunkier yarn because I found the texture interesting.
I was able to get it for about $3 a bunch and purchased 6. I had some leftover, and my piece is rather large.
A lot of Etsy pieces use branches to attach the yarn, and while I really like the natural look, I wanted something metallic. I purchased a $6 cafe curtain rod and used one of the pieces.
I’m very happy with the outcome of my project, and it was super simple! I thought I’d share how I created my piece.
– 5-8 yarn bunches
– branch, rod, or dowel
I used different lengths of yarn throughout my piece. To get started, determine how long of a stand you want to work with, and cut a piece twice as long.
Each bunch that I tied to the rod, regardless of length, had two strands of yarn. Totally subjective!
Next, fold two pieces of yarn in half. Attach them to the rod by pulling the fringe through the loop.
When you finish a pair, tighten them, and voila!
Repeat this process as many times as you like with whichever lengths of yarn you wish. Throw a few braids in there if you like, as well!
The last thing I did to add a little more texture is add pom-poms!
To make a pom-pom, start with a piece of yarn 6 inches to a foot in length, depending on how large you want it.
Lay this piece down closeby. Next, take yarn from the spiel and pinch it with your thumb.
Begin wrapping the yarn around your index and middle fingers or up to your ring finger, depending on preference of length of pom fringes. The more wraps, the fluffier the pom-pom.
Once you’ve got a wrap to your liking, snip the end of yarn.
Pick up the piece of yarn that you cut initially. Pinch it with the index and middle finger, sliding it through the wrapped yarn as your remove you hand. Tie it tightly.
Lastly, cut through the middle of each loop and trim as necessary. There you have it–there’s your pom-pom! Add as many as you like to spice up your tapestry!
I love how drapy my piece turned out. It adds a nice touch of Bohemian flare to my living room, and it balances all of my photos well.
What crafts have you been up to lately?
Today I want to share a stupid simple recipe I created with the help of my friend, the slow cooker.
Y’all. I use my slow cooker for everything. It is the only way my small family functions. Benny and I both work full time, work out regularly, and try to stay social. I couldn’t keep us fed if it weren’t for my crockpot!
One of my favorite recipes right now is slow cooker chicken chimichangas! They are so delicious, easily customizable, and great to work in on a busy week.
What you need:
-1/3 cup orange bell pepper
-1/3 cup red bell pepper
-1/3 cup yellow bell pepper
-3 cups of salsa
-chicken broth, just a splash!
-tortillas, normal size; they usually come in 10-packs
-3 to 4 chicken breasts
-1 packet taco seasoning
-1 tablespoon of butter, melted
-shredded cheese, 2 cup bag
Makes: 6 to 8 chimichangas depending on how much you stuff them. This time I made 7. Previously I’ve made 6.
First, dice the onion and bell papers and put the in the crockpot. Place the chicken on top of the onion and peppers, and cover the chicken with 1 1/2 cups of salsa, the taco seasoning, and a splash of chicken broth. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a pan with vegetable oil.
Place the chicken in a large bowl, and shred it. Add the other 1 1/2 cups of salsa.
Now begins the chimichanga stuffing!
Lay chicken in the center of the tortilla, and top with shredded cheese.
Next, fold the top and bottom of the tortilla, and brush with melted butter.
Fold in one side, brush it with butter, and roll over to second side, sealing with butter.
Place the chimichanga in the pan, and continue the process.
Brush the tops with butter, and they are oven ready!
Bake at 350 for twenty minutes. Then pour queso on top, and bake to crisp perfection for another ten minutes.
While the chimichangas are baking, I like to make rice and refried beans for sides.
There you have it, slow cooker chicken chimichangas! Not difficult, but definitely tasty!
What are some of your favorite slow cooker recipes for a busy week?
Planning a wedding is overwhelming, shortly put. From my own experience it was particularly challenging in that I felt pressure to make the “right” choices for everything from venue to invitations, yet faced 1,762 options that each had their own appeal.
When you’re single and daydreaming, Pinterest seems like the ultimate wedding planning jackpot; however, the reality of it is that by month six of being engaged, Pinterest felt like the ultimate enemy. I kid you not, I felt personally attacked by Pinterest….it made me doubt my every decision, even the ones that came easy when first drawing an outline of how I wanted my day to happen.
One of the best things I did shortly after becoming engaged is make a Top 3 list. My parents and in-laws were instrumental in pulling off our wedding from all angles; however, Benny and I fronted much of the wedding expenses ourselves. One night about two months after he proposed, we sat down and made a list of the top 3 things we cared about for our big day—what we would allocate the big bucks to, no compromise. It was our HAD TO HAVE list. Everything else would be subject to compromise and value-based decisions.
Number one on the list was videography. I think number two was photography. Maybe it was three….I can hardly remember now that all is said and done. But you know what wasn’t on the Top 3 list?
My wedding dress.
I had no idea what kind of dress I wanted, and I felt certain I did not want to spend thousands of dollars on my gown. I more or less avoided the dress topic for the first month and a half of being engaged. My mom and I discussed visiting various nearby cities to hunt for a deal, but that’s as far as the conversation ever got.
A week or so before New Year’s, so the last week of 2015, my friend told me that one of Huntsville’s upscale bridal boutiques was having sample sale and advertising dresses for $100. She really encouraged me to make an appointment, despite my resistance. I felt as if there was no way this endeavor could be anything other than a letdown. I agreed though.
We arrived early that Friday evening to view the sale. It was extremely laid back and set up like any normal retail store—there were about four racks of dresses, some for $100. Some for $500. You simply took the dresses you wished to try on back to the fitting room.
Over the next half hour, Amanda made me try on almost every $100 dress there was. Some were so ridiculous and extravagant for me and my rustic wedding plans. There was one slinky dress I liked enough to buy final sale for $100; however, I didn’t have any sort of “YES to the dress” moment. Truthfully, that moment never happened for me until my final fitting.
As we were wrapping things up, Amanda ran in with one last find that had been returned to the rack. It was lacy and antique-looking, and really, really large. I tried it on, and instantly saw a spark of possibility. Amanda clamped me into the gown, and for the first time, I felt like a bride. We asked the boutique curators if a dress this large could be altered to fit, and they assured us it could.
I walked out of the door with my $100 dress thinking, “Hey, that was easy!”
When I showed my mom the pictures of the dress (I was too scared to take it out of the garment bag….it was a lot of white!), she immediately expressed concern for how large it was. She pushed me to make an appointment with a seamstress early on. When Amanda looked up the retail value of my dress, it initially sold for $2,000-$2,500, so I figured even if I could not wear this dress…I could at least make my $100 back, if not more.
The boutique gave me the name of a seamstress they recommended; however, I recalled my coworker describing a huge fiasco she had with a botched alteration, and how she found an amazing seamstress, Alison, to fix what many would have turned away. I got the Alison’s number and made an appointment.
Upon taking my dress out of the garment bag, Alison gave my mother a doubtful look. The dress did not have a size tag in it, but Alison guessed that it was a size 12. Altering it would mean making it approximately 4-5 sizes smaller. Although she doubted it could be worked with, she had me try on the dress.
When I emerged from the fitting room, holding the dress up to cover myself, Alison began pinning. She confirmed that the dress was a high dollar piece during its season; she thought the dress was at least worth $1,500. As she pinned, she formed a game plan. She would remove the lace from the dress and cut the skirt off of the bodice. She would then cut down the sides of the dress, as well as down the back, and remove the extra fabric. She’d trim the skirt before reattaching it, add crinoline under it to give it some fluff, and create a bustle. Upon reattaching all parts of the dress, she would add the lace back and add boning to the bodice if needed.
We started the alterations at the beginning of April. I returned for my second fitting in late June. My final fitting was the Labor Day weekend. I don’t think Alison had ever been so happy to be finished with a project. The dress turned out to be a bigger undertaking than she anticipated, but she really did work a miracle. I believe that she spent about ten weeks of time with my alterations. Even though the alterations cost more than I spent on the dress itself, the total cost of the dress plus the alterations ended up being no more than $600.
I was very lucky by circumstance when it comes to my wedding dress, but I share my story to show that compromise and values-based options are out there for brides-to-be. I definitely don’t think just anyone who is nifty with a needle could have altered the dress I chose, but I do think that sample sales are a great option for brides on a budget! I know people who have worn much simpler dresses than my own, and at full retail value plus alterations, they dropped upwards of $2,500.
No, I didn’t have the classic, tearful “YES to the dress” moment or ring a bell after I found THE one, and that experience may be on some brides’ Top 3 list. I did however find a dress that fit my style, fit my budget, and made me feel beautiful on the most important day of my life. I hope that maybe my story brings hope and excitement to future brides.
My advice to brides-to-be is:
-If you make no other list, make your Top 3 or Top 5 or Top 25 list. Base how many top items you get according to budget. We were working with a $10-$15k budget, so we stuck with 3. But do it. And do it early on. You won’t be sorry.
-If your dress didn’t make the Top 3 list, don’t settle for something less than fabulous. Just do your research! Look for sample sales at small boutiques, as well as end of the season sales at larger bridal retailers.
-Find a good seamstress. Don’t go with in-house alterations, or just who the retailer suggests. Ask for recommendations from real people who aren’t in the dress business. Find your Alison.
Do you have any words of wisdom for brides on a budget in search of a great dress?
Rentals….love them, hate them; chances are, they have been or will be your home at some stage of life. I live in the South, where cost of living is excellent and you can really get a lot of bang for your buck on the home front, so most people I know own their properties.
Being a homeowner is something I look forward to in the near(ish) future; however, a rental property is the best option at this point in mine and Benny’s life together. We have truly lucked out in that our space is just under 1400 square feet (size of a small house, I know!), 2 bedroom 2 bathroom, and located in my favorite zip code….all at a super reasonable price!
While I could go on about the great aspects of our particular rental, there is no denying that there are some shortcomings of renter’s life. We have cheap, poorly installed standard carpet throughout the apartment aside from the kitchen and bathrooms. We have little counter space. Average cabinet space. No pantry. And my personal favorite…..only one functioning cable port located on the last wall in the house we’d want to plug in our router. None of these are fun aspects of our space; however, I have the mindset that no matter what, I can make our rental glamorous, cozy, and functional. I view these shortcomings as a challenge.
This challenge has inspired a series I will add to periodically that I am calling “Rental Revamps.” The premise is based on these conditions: we are young, building our savings (aka short on $$$ to spend on fancy furniture), renters, and working with a lot of what has been given to us. I think many people can relate to wanting a home space that they look forward to coming back to, despite it being a rental or them being strapped for cash.
For my first entry of this series, I am focusing on our dining room. It is not finished, and I have at least two more updates I plan to make to it. I thought I’d share though because it has had my most recent focus.
What we had to work with:
-hand-me-down antique Ethan Allen table with mismatching chairs
-décor from our wedding—metallic feathers, galvanized light up BAR letters, metallic gramophone, decorative wedding plate
-woven basket (honestly old Pier 1 from my first dorm!)
What we purchased to add to it:
How we made our dining room more functional:used bar cart and hutch to free up some cabinet space in our kitchen; used woven basket to offer alternative to dumping pockets on table
-table leafs are out to maximize table space
-woven basket is our “catchall area” for things like keys and wallets
-our bar cart stows our alcohol (shocking, I know) that previously lived on top of our refrigerator, as well as much of our alcohol serve ware
-our hutch stows all of our wedding China, some seasonal plates, and the alcohol serve ware that is not on the bar cart
How we made it more beautiful:chose a dramatic paint to contrast the rest of the apartment; displayed China in glass of hutch; used bar cart and wedding décor to give a glam 1920s feel and make eating area more formal
-beautiful navy paint
-golden feathers are focal point on back, largest wall
-added BAR lights and gramophone to bar cart—both were from our wedding
-small decorative mirrors opposite the golden feathers
-woven basket to contrast the glam metallic and keep things rustic
Still to come: table and hutch renovations; wedding portraits
-I plan to do a provincial chalk paint finish to both the table and chairs and the hutch to further contrast the glam wall décor with a rustic feel. I just love rustic, provincial themes with glamourous, metallic pops! This will be a big endeavor, but I am hoping to complete it by spring.
-since our dining room is the most formal space of our apartment, I think it would be an appropriate place to hang bride and groom portraits in beautiful frames
I hope this post inspires you to grow new perspective towards working with what you have to liven up your space. Benny and I really enjoy our sit down meals together now because this space has some character to it.