Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Living Room Redesign - The After

As I mentioned in my previous post, we just finished a redesign/refresh in our living room! I am so excited to share it with you!

It's amazing what some paint will do!  Even though our walls were a pale yellow, the room still felt dark and dreary.  We painted the room Benjamin Moore's Revere Pewter which is a beautiful gray/beige color and it looks amazing against the white trim.  However, the fireplace dragged the room down with its dark brick and black mortar.  Painting the fireplace white along with the new wall color, made the room feel so much bigger and more welcoming.

After the paint was finished, I moved on to refreshening the room further with new accessories.  I headed to my favorite store, Home Goods, to get some pillows and to see what else I could find.

I looked for some gray and blue pillows and found the perfect pillows for an incredible price! Do you love them?

I also found some beautiful curtains for the dining room.  2 panels were $35!  What?  In most stores, they sell 1 panel for $90.  Home Goods always has such beautiful, unique pieces and their prices are SO GOOD!  Going there is so much fun because you never know what you are going to find.  Unfortunately, if you see something you like or even kind of like, you have to buy it because you never know if they'll have it in stock again.

I brought the pillows home and played around with the setup to decide what placement looked best.  Please excuse the kids items in the background but this is real life :)

Here it is!  Our newly redesigned living room!  

If you like the look, you can shop for similar pieces below.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Living Room Redesign - New Paint!

We have lived in our home since 2010 and renovated or painted almost every room in the house except for our living room and dining room.  When we moved in, it was painted a pale yellow and it was fine but I never loved the color.

When you walk into my house, you walk right into the living room.  The room has 3 windows but there are 2 windows on one side facing our neighbor and 1 window facing the backyard.  We also have a brick fireplace with black mortar.  The brick, the black mortar, and the fact that 2 of the windows face our neighbor, make the room so dark despite having so many windows and the walls being yellow.  It has always bothered me.  Even though we plan on moving in about 2 years, I felt like the rooms needed a new paint job to look a little refreshed.

I wanted to soften the look and picked out Benjamin Moore's Revere Pewter for the living room, hallway going upstairs, and our dining room.  Our painter started with the upstairs hallway and the walls by the stairs at the back of the living room.  After he painted it, he strongly hinted that it was too dark.  I didn't think so but he painted a sample by the fireplace for me to preview what it would look like.

Living Room - Revere Pewter Test Sample

I liked the contrast of the gray/beige color against the white.  Our living room opens up into the dining room so I was going to use Revere Pewter in both rooms.  Since he thought the color was too dark, he suggested going a shade lighter in the dining room.  I didn't really want to.  I like the color I chose.  

Living Room - Revere Pewter Wall

Living Room - Revere Pewter with Fireplace

After he painted the living room, I looked around and decided that the real culprit was the fireplace.  I asked our painter, George, what he thought about painting the fireplace white.  He said he thought it would be a great idea.  I was kind of nervous since once you paint the fireplace brick, there is no going back but I thought the white would really brighten up the place.

Yesterday, he painted the fireplace and when my mom got to my house she told me that he finished.  I asked how it looked and she didn't answer me right away.  I was so nervous!  What if it looked cheezy?  What if I made a mistake?  She sent over a picture and said "It looks great!"

The white made a world of difference!  The room looks so much larger and brighter and I'm so glad we painted the fireplace.

Now I have to decide what to do with the dining room.  I still think I'll stick to the Revere Pewter color but George has created doubt in my mind!  What do you think?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Happy Easter! 9 Affordable Easter Dresses - Under $100

Happy Easter!

For Easter this year, we are going to my parent's house for brunch, to do an egg hunt with the kiddies, and to have Easter dinner.  It's a long day but it's fun seeing the kids enjoy the holidays.  I am almost done with the kids' Easter baskets and I think I know what I'm going to wear.  If you are still unsure, here are some Easter Dresses that are all under $100!

This J.Crew pale blue eyelet dress is so cute!  I love the ruffles on the bottom!

This pink off the shoulder dress is the perfect spring shade and it's only $40!

I love wearing white dresses and this one has such a fun fringe detail.  It also comes in navy and a fiery orange color.

This breezy, lacy blush colored dress is so soft and comfortable!

If you're not a fan of sleeveless dresses, this romantic short sleeved lace dress has beautiful sleeves and would look beautiful with nude heels.  It's only $55!

This blush fit and flare dress would be perfect for Easter or a spring wedding and it's 40% off!

If you're a fan of the floral trend, this lavendar floral maxi dress is perfect for you.

I'm such a fan of navy! I think it's the perfect spring summer color and this navy dress is only $30!

I love seersucker dresses.  They scream spring and summer to me.  This seersucker fit and flare dress is adorable and would also be perfect to wear for a 4th of July BBQ.

Click on the dresses below to shop all of these dresses!  I hope you have a great weekend!  It's going to be 80 degrees in NYC. I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How To Create A Budget In 5 Steps

How To Create A Budget In 5 Steps

As part of my Ultimate Guide to Spring Cleaning, one of the items that I mentioned was to get control of your finances and develop a plan to keep your spending in check.  Here are the steps that you can take to help you hit your financial goals and pay off your debt.

Even though budgeting is tough for people to stick to, it's a simple mathematical equation to balance your money that comes in and your money that goes out.

1.  What Is Your Monthly Income?  Add up your monthly paychecks to establish your monthly income after taxes, 401k, medical, and any other deductions that are taken out.  If you are self-employed or get paid on commission, take an average of the past 4-6 months to have a realistic estimate of your income.

2.  What Are Your Fixed Expenses? Your fixed expenses are those items that you have to pay every month such as your mortgage/rent, utilities, student loan payments, car payments/transportation, etc.

3.  What Are Your Variable Expenses?  Your variable expenses are items that change from month to month.  These expenses include money spent on groceries, clothes shopping, going out to eat, hair appointments, etc.

4.  What's Left Over?  After paying all of your expenses (both fixed and variable), the money left over is known as your discretionary income.  This money should be used for investing, saving, or paying off your debt.  The goal is to minimize your expenses in order to maximize your discretionary income.

5.  Evaluate Your Budget.  Calculate what percentage of your budget is going towards your fixed expenses, variable expenses, and discretionary income.  A popular rule of thumb is the 50/30/20 rule meaning that 50% of your income should go towards your fixed expenses, 30% towards your variable expenses, and 20% should go towards paying off your debt and deposited into savings.  This may vary depending on where you live, but it's a good ratio to use as a guide.

There are a lot of great personal finance apps out there that can help you stick to your budget such as Level, Mint and my favorite, LearnVest.  The key to all of these apps is linking your bank accounts and credit cards to the app.  The first time you log into the app or the website, it helps you setup your budget by asking what your income and expenses are.  Going forward, the app will know what category all of your money should go into since the app has access to your accounts.  This helps you figure out how you are pacing each month to ensure that you are staying within your monthly budget.  You can also adjust your budget based on your priorities.  On these apps, enter in your goals and it will help you develop a strategy to pay off your debt and hit your savings goals. You will receive weekly and/or monthly updates via email to show where all of your money went and how you are pacing.  They even offer suggestions on ways to save money!  I like to check into the app once a week to see how I'm pacing so I don't have any surprises at the end of the month.

Have you tried any of these apps?  Which are your favorite?  How have they helped you?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Ultimate Guide To Spring Cleaning

image via

My husband is a minimalist. If he buys new clothes, he gets rid of clothes that he doesn't like to wear anymore.  I find that I get so emotionally attached to things. Even if I don't use something, I don't want to throw something away because someone gave it to me or if it's still in great condition. With 3 kids in our house, our home is starting to get crowded with too much stuff which mostly consists of toys and clothes that the kids have outgrown. My husband's minimalistic lifestyle has started to rub off on me and we are excited to attack our spring cleaning this year.  This spring, try tackling all or some of these areas to give your home and your wardrobe a fresh start.

Plan ahead. The whole idea of 'spring cleaning' can seem overwhelming especially when you have a lot of tasks you want to tackle.  Plan to work on ONE area at a time to keep yourself focused and make sure you don't feel overwhelmed.  Set aside time on a day off or a day on the weekend.

1.  Bathroom Binge.  We all have little shampoo bottles that we've collected from hotels and samples we've received throughout the years from Sephora or even as stocking stuffers.  Samples are great to let you try a product before you decide to commit and purchase the full size product.  Now's the time to go through all of those little bottles and either use them or toss them.  Also check out the expiration dates on your medications.  If they are past their expiration date, toss them since they lose their potency over time.

2.  Clean out your closet.  This is probably the biggest task but this is where you have to be ruthless.  The perfect time to do this is when you change your clothes for the season.  Take EVERYTHING out of your closet and separate items into toss, keep, sell, or donate piles.
  • Toss - Throw out old underwear, worn socks, sweaters with holes in them, stained clothes, worn out shoes, etc.  Any clothes that look worn and don't look their best should go in the "toss" pile.
  • Keep - Any items that you frequently wear, are in great condition, and are in line with your current style.
  • Sell - Items that you have not worn that much the past year or don't fit with your style anymore but are still in great condition can go in the "sell" pile.  There are great sites where you can sell items in your closet such as Poshmark.  I have sold bags, clothes, and maternity clothes from my closet on Poshmark.  It's so easy to use!  You take pictures of your items, set a price, and it appears in 'your closet'.  Once your item is sold, you print out a label. bring it to your post office and ship it out.  Once the item is accepted from your buyer, the money gets direct deposited in your bank account.  I love it!  You can also sell unwanted clothing on eBay, Craig's List, and Facebook.
  • Donate - Any items that you think someone else would like goes in the 'donate' pile.  You can donate these pieces to friends, family, or a local charity.  
3.  Kitchen purge. Take EVERYTHING out your cabinets, pantry, and fridge.  Similar to what you did with your closet, decide what you want to toss, keep, or donate.  Toss any expired foods or old duplicates.  Items that you will never eat or use including kitchen gadgets, decide if you want to throw them out or if they can be donated to friends, family, or those in need.
Wipe down the interior and exterior of the cabinets.  If you'd like, put down contact paper on the cabinet shelves for easy clean up.  Put away similar items together such as baking supplies, cereals, and kitchen gadgets.

4.  Deep clean - This is a spring cleaning task that will take an extended period of time but it will be easier if you attack one room or area at a time.  In each room or area, take everything out of cabinets or storage unit and move the furniture so you can make sure that every part of the area can be cleaned.  Dust surfaces, vacuum the floor, wash windows, disinfect your countertops, clean your oven, etc.  This is a great task to do once or twice a year.

5.  Financial - Now that your home is clean, it's time to take a serious look at your financial status.  Take a look at your credit card balances and figure out a strategy to pay it off instead of carrying a balance from month to month.  Collect and organize any gift cards you have so you use them and don't let them go to waste.  Do you have a goal that you want to save for such as a vacation or purchasing a home?  Take a look at your income, your spending, and your fixed expenses and see where you can make cuts in order to help reach your goals.  Learnvest and Mint are great sites to help you stay on top of your finances.

If you haven't already heard of it, check out The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.  It focuses on the KonMari method of simplifying and organizing to only focus on keeping the items in your life and in your home that you love.

Monday, April 3, 2017

What To Pack In Your Diaper Bag (For Babies and Toddlers!)

As a mom of 3 young ones (3 year old twins and a 1 year old), we are always on the go and need to be prepared!  Besides the usual diaper changes and feedings, you never know what's going to happen. We've had car sickness, food messes, wet clothes, you name it!

For babies, you can never be too prepared so I always make sure I have the following items in my diaper bag at all times:

  • Diapers - of course!  But how many?  Make sure you have 1 for every 2 hours but add a few others just to be on the safe side.  I have tried a bunch of brands but these are my favorite.
  • Wipes - Look for a good quality travel pack so your wipes don't dry out.
  • Diaper cream - Babies don't always need it but it's good to have in case your little one develops a rash.  My pediatritian recommended this and it has been great.
  • Changing pad - Your diaper bag may come with one but as your child grows, you might need a larger one.  EXTREMELY helpful when you have to change your baby in a public bathroom and they don't have a changing station.
  • Blanket - It's always good to have a blanket on hand in case it gets a little chilly.  Even a light one is good no matter what the season.  Babies love to be nice and warm.
  • Bottles and breastmilk/formula - Things can get crazy if a baby is hungry so be prepared!  I pack 2-3 bottles already filled with breast milk in a cooler bag along with an ice pack.  If you are formula feeding, it's best to pre-measure the formula and put it in each bottle or in a pre-measured formula container.  Don't forget to bring a few bottles of water so you can simply shake and go when you are ready to feed your baby.
  • 1-2 changes of clothes for baby - You never know what's going to happen.  Spit up, throw up, or a diaper blow out will make you glad you brought a few extra outfits.  Extra socks are a good idea too.  My little guy is always pulling off his socks and we have lost a lot of them.  These are THE BEST!  I have found that they stay on the best and look so cute!
  • Change of clothes for you! - Throw up, spit up, and diaper blowouts can unfortunately happen on you so be prepared.  When I was little, I threw up on a plane all over my mom and she didn't have a change of clothes on the plane so she was pretty miserable until she landed.
  • Plastic bag - to put dirty diapers in if you aren't able to throw them away immediately.
  • Toys - Anything small to keep your baby occupied.  My kids were OBSESSED with this, this for teething, and they loved to shake this and it was easy for them to hold on to.
  • Bib - I would always carry one for eating and another one for drool when my babies were teething.
Toddlers don't need as much but it's good to pack the following:
  • Snacks - I like organic animal crackers and Trader Joe's cereal bars.  My kids love the blueberry ones.  
  • Sippy Cup/Thermos - Don't forget a sippy cup or a Thermos to keep their drinks cold.  My twins are big fans of these.
  • Extra diapers or underwear in case of accidents.
  • A change of clothes in case of accidents, food messes, or falls in the dirt.
  • Crayons, a coloring book, or other toys to keep them busy.