Wednesday, November 30, 2011

If I Had to Make a List . . .

I’ve gotten to the age where I look forward to the holidays because of everything but the presents: seeing family and friends, eating tons of deliciousness, songs, decorating, bundling up, pretty lights, and um, oh yeah, the whole Christ’s birth thing that I try to keep at the forefront of the holiday when everything is trying to override it.  I do look forward to gifts, but honestly, I would be perfectly happy without them.  However, sometimes it’s fun to play make believe for a while and dream of things you would buy if you had unlimited funds.  I would hope I wouldn’t go crazy if I won the lottery (which is impossible seeing as I’ve never bought a lottery ticket and probably never will) and would buy practical things, but who knows!

Here are some things that would be on my must-buy or must-ask-for if I ever had the chance to write anything down I wanted.  Okay, not anything, anything somewhat reasonable, I’ll say.  I’ve mixed in things that I could afford to buy as well but haven’t gotten around to it yet.


I don’t think a photographer’s want for a different kind of lens ever ends.  Considering I only have two prime lenses, I am seriously drooling over a macro, wide angle, and telephoto zoom lens.  I also would like to add a flash to my camera bag for helping light up weddings as well as any indoor darkly lit rooms.  For natural light, I would love to have some inexpensive reflectors to get the light moving where I want it to.

  1. Adorama 32” Circular Collapsible Disc Reflector – $11.95
  2. Canon 430EX II Speedlite TTL Shoe-Mount Flash – $264.00
  3. Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Wide Angle Lens – $484.00
  4. Canon Telephoto EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens – $529.00
  5. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens – $2,199.00

Although I normally thrift shop for my clothes, I do find tons of clothes online that I would love to add to my wardrobe.  On my wishlist are all things I could dress up or dress down,depending on the occasion.  Most of these are teacher-friendly as well (especially that adorable yellow blazer) which is perfect for me!



I’m horrible when it comes to winter shoes.  I forget about winter and then am left with only one pair of shoes I actually like to wear all six months of torture season.  I love the two boots pictured on the left for everyday and dressing up, the polka dot rain boots for, well, when it rains, and then the flats because I’m obsessed with flats.  The red heart ones remind me of the flats I wore on our wedding day. Ahhhh – so sweet!

  1. Tan Tall Buckle Bootsout of stock :(


Limiting this wishlist to just five items was hard.  We have money to buy a Kitchenaid mixer left over from our wedding, but since Mr. Converse Sneakers is kind of a food snob (sorry, Babe), he wants one to his exact specifications which is impossible to find at the moment.  If I had my way, I’d go with the ice colored one!  I have been pining after a Bridgewater-esque sofa for quite some time – the one pictured is glorious!  I don’t know how anyone could not love Michelle Armas’ art – I’d buy one in a heartbeat if we had the funds.  We’ve been on the lookout for cute, quirky bookends for our bookcase and I have wanted some candleholders to switch out our table from time to time.

  1. Ice Blue Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer – $349.99
  2. Carlisle Apartment Sofa in Cream Twill – $1,499.00
  3. Zombie Jeeves Painting – $1,600.00
  4. White Owl Resin Bookends – $39.95
  5. Aquamarine Mariposa Pillar Holder – $12.95



I am pretty much a bonafide dork, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you thought all of my wishlists fit under the “geeky-dorky” title.  However, if they were semi-geeky/dorky, this one is completely overblown geeky-dorky.  I mean, sure bulldogs and Photoshop are cool, but a heart pendant with my husband’s and my fingerprints?  That’s just weird, but secretly really awesome in my book.  I would love an aqua beach cruiser to scoot around snowy MN on, and I literally spend days and weeks searching for my yearly planner, and this awesomely striped one completely fits the bill.  And, who wouldn't want a squishy-faced bulldog?  I will admit, I thought they were pretty ugly for a couple years, but my awesome hubby man persuaded me to believe they are the cutest dogs ever.  Once we have a house, we plan on buying one (no dogs allowed in our current apartment).  Can't wait!  We already have some names picked out . . . Now tell me that's not dorky!

  1. Firmstrong Diva Beach Cruiser – $179.99
  2. Photoshop CS5 (Teacher/Student edition) – Price varies
  3. 2012 Taffy Stripes Life Planner (multicolor) – $50.00
  4. Double Thumbprints Pendant – $195.00
  5. Baby Bulldog – Priceless

There you have it!  I would be ecstatic if I got anything on this list!  This was more of a guide for me to know what I want to purchase in the coming years, but I would not mind if anyone (hintMr.CShint) were to use this giant wishlist as a reference next time he (or she) went shopping for a certain redhead.

I’m dying to know – what’s on your wishlist this year?  What would you ask for if you could have anything?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dreaming of a Blue Christmas

Nobody in Minnesota has to dream of a white Christmas.  Most years we don’t have to dream about a white Thanksgiving, and some years dreaming of a white Halloween would be pointless because there is already a dusting of snow.  So, I’m dreaming of a blue Christmas.  I don’t like that blue is equated sadness because to me it the most beautiful, happy color.  I grew up with beautiful burgundy, gold, and forest green Christmas décor, which is beautiful, but I like bright, cool colors.

I had a blog that I stopped for a year before I started this one, and during Christmas time 2009 I blogged about blue Christmas decorations.  I’m guessing it’s not a color I’m going to grow out of.  At that time, I had no tree or money for decorations.  This year, however, I took the little money we had and I worked it.  I’ll be revealing our Christmas décor sometime before Christmas (I have so many posts planned this month I’m not sure where it will fit in), but for now, I’m going to show you the photos that inspired my blue Christmas obsession.  Okay, I love colorful vintage ornaments, too, so you’ll see some photos of those mixed in.  Click on any photo to be taken to its Pinterest source page.

We’ll start with my all-time favorite Christmas tree.  I’ve loved it since I first saw it two years ago:






I'm not normally a huge fan of pink, but pink vintage ornaments make my heart sing really loud Christmas carols.  Not sure what it is about them . . .







I posted a lot of photos of flocked trees.  One day, my dream is to have a flocked tree, but since we live in an apartment and it’s already snowy outside, I didn’t want to risk getting the flocking spray everywhere and somehow probably blowing up our apartment.  We’ll slowly build our Christmas collection.  Either way, I’m just thrilled to be able to decorate a little and start traditions with the man I’ll be celebrating every Christmas with for eternity.  It’s pretty exciting!

What colors inspired your Christmas decorating?

Monday, November 28, 2011

2011 Thanksgiving Recap

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year!  I only took photos of my family’s Thanksgiving, but we did get to spend time with Mr. Converse Sneakers’ family as well, which was wonderful.  Since Mr. CS had to work Thanksgiving, he got Friday through Monday off!  He never gets that many days off, so it was much appreciated and much utilized.  We got to spend a long weekend back in our hometown which we hadn’t been back to since our wedding in August.

My family holidays involve lots of game-playing with my dad and brother.



This year, I brought down Catchphrase, which was a wedding present.  I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who likes that game, but we spend a couple hours guessing the words after much pleading on my part.


When we weren’t playing games, we were taking advantage of our time visiting Mr. Stewart Wallace, the world’s hardest-to-photograph dog.


My mom set a beautiful and simple harvest table.  It was perfect!


But, the food, oh the food, was beyond amazing.


Brocolli casserole, mashed potatoes, turkey, cranberry apple stuffing, homemade potato rolls, squash and apple bake, pumpkin pie, and apple dumplings!  We even had an appetizer supper with little smokies, meatball, and bacon-wrapped chicken bites.  Let’s just say I came home heavier than I was when I arrived, and that’s more than okay with me!


I have so much to be thankful for.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Technically Thanksgiving is tomorrow, but I’m cutting this week short and wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving today since the next couple days will be full or relaxing, eating a lot, and getting ready for my first Christmas with the love of my life.  I can’t wait!

A couple weeks ago I wrote about ten reasons why I’m thankful for winter even though I normally curse at the sight of snow because it’s a good happen to think about what you are grateful for.

Here are the ten things I’m insanely thankful for right now:

San SarahWed440

1. My husband.  I have dreamed of being married to my knight since I was a little girl, but honestly, the dreams I had for marriage were nowhere near as fulfilling and beautiful as our marriage actually is.  I never could have imagined I would be this happy.  I sometimes cry just thinking about how lucky I am to have found such a sweet, kind husband who loves me just as much as I love him

San SarahWed271

2. My family.  My family grew very large this year by marrying my husband and now I have all of these extra wonderful people to love as aunts, uncles, parents, etc.  It’s an amazing feeling to know we are supported by those related to us and to know we can turn to them at any time.  We both feel very lucky to have married into each other’s families.

3. My friends.  The sad part about getting married and graduating from my undergrad studies is that I don’t get to see my friends very much.  I don’t get to travel to my hometown often (haven’t since our wedding) and my friends from college don’t live very close, so it’s hard to get together.  I’m still incredibly thankful to have them in my life and won’t let the distance tear us apart.

4. The Lord’s guidance.  I have been working a lot on listening more to God to see what he wants from me.  I’m finding that it’s not the easiest thing to do, but so far, I think it’s working.  I’m thankful to have Him guiding me down His path.


5. My creativity.  I love all things creative, even thought I may not be good at all of them.  Nothing is more thrilling to me than a stack of scrapbook paper just waiting to be cut up and made into something.  This year I am thankful to have a large creative streak inside of myself that I am able to use to find enjoyment in my life.


6. Financial stability.  I’m learning we probably will never be able to afford everything we think we need (but actually only really want).  We are blessed to both be working, especially with me in grad school, and are incredibly grateful we never have to scramble to make our payments or cut major things out of our life.


7. My photography business.  Although I started it at the opposite of a prime time with winter becoming the stalemate for natural light photography, I have received tons of interest from people I know.  Next year is going to be a big year for both my teaching and photography careers.  I’m so nervous, but so grateful to refine my passion and make some money at it in the process!

Circa 2007 in his culinary school days.

8. My husband’s career.  Honestly, I would much rather slave away my whole life doing something I don’t like than to have my husband do the same.  Hopefully, neither of us will have to do that, but I will take the fall if it came down to it.  He absolutely loves his job, which warms my heart.  He followed his dreams and they are coming true right before my eyes.  It’s amazing to watch.

9. A LONG fall.  Not until this past Saturday did we see even a flake of snow.  It’s been amazing having such a long stretch of warm weather.  I may even admit that seeing the snow was an almost-joyous experience when I looked out the window Saturday morning.  Almost.

10. Forgiveness.  Although Easter is the ultimate holiday for reflecting on salvation and forgiveness, I find Thanksgiving is a great time to reflect on the year and all the things I wish I would have done differently.  Following the Lord’s path is never easy, but growth is what it’s all about!  I’m so thankful to have a Creator who loves us so much that He allows us to fall and forgives us for our wrongdoings.  I try not to have many wrongdoings, but I find that it’s pretty impossible.

So many things to be thankful for!  This list could go on into the thousands, I’m sure.  I think it could for anyone – it’s just about looking at the positive and blocking out the negative.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Favorite Thanksgiving Tables

I don’t know about you, buy boy am I excited for Thanksgiving this year!  I think I have been highly anticipating every holiday because each of them marks a first in our marriage.  First Labor Day, first Halloween, first Thanksgiving – don’t even get me started on first Christmas (just wait until next week when this blog becomes almost entirely devoted to all things Christmas- first birthdays, etc.  We are celebrating with my family on Friday, since Mr. Converse Sneakers works Thanksgiving Day (one drawback to his profession).  We hope to meet up with his family at some point as well, but we aren’t sure when.

Since we won’t be hosting a Thanksgiving dinner this year, I have been collecting inspiration photos for whenever the time comes for us to prepare the meal and decorate for the occasion.

Here are some of my newest additions (click on any photo to be taken to the source on Pinterest):











Ahhhh- so pretty!  I think I will help my mom decorate the table if she doesn’t have plans for it already.  What will your Thanksgiving table look like?  Any photos from year’s past – I’d love to see them!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Banking Moolah: Envelope System Update

It’s been almost three weeks since we decided to switch to an all-cash envelope system for budgeting our moolah.  Surprisingly, it’s going amazing!  We haven’t stuck to it 100 percent, but I can say that we have a few extra hundred dollar bills left over after only doing this system for two weeks.  Considering I’m only working part time and the business has slowed at Mr. Converse Sneakers’ job, meaning less money for us this month, this is AH-mazing!  Honestly, I don’t know what we were doing with our money before, which is horrible, but we have it all under control now!

I thought it might be fun interesting for you to see how we do our cash budget and envelope system, since honestly this is not a one-size-fits-all sort of thing.  Everyone has different salaries/wages/incomes as well as varying pay days, expenses, and so on.

Here is how we budget:

Mr. CS gets paid every Thursday and is able to see what his next paycheck will be the Thursday before.  He works different hours every week, so his paychecks are never exactly the same, making monthly budgeting impossible for us.  I get paid every other Friday and my checks are usually the same since I have consistent hours.  At the beginning of each month (which has only been once so far), we make a list of any major things we want to use our extra money on.  This month it was our new storage unit for the laundry room:


and Christmas decorations which we bought last week.  We plot out which weeks we have fewer bills and schedule those bigger purchases for those weeks.  We try to over-budget for many things so that we don’t have to worry about not having enough.  For example, we budgeted $100 for the storage unit, knowing that we could get it pretty cheap, but keeping in mind that we might run into extra unforseen expenses.  Luckily, we didn’t, but that means we were left with extra cash!

After we have an outlook on the entire month, we get down and dirty with our budget weekly, usually in the beginning of each week, since we know we will have at least one paycheck coming on Thursday and won’t do any shopping until after that.  Our recurring expenses are:

  • $50 for groceries every week (we eat for free at our jobs a lot)
  • $80-$100 for gas (we rarely use this much unless we are traveling somewhere)
  • Bills, which we use online bill pay for.  These vary from week to week, but are preplanned each month and we have never had trouble making our payments

We also have other expenses we know we have to buy every month, but they vary from week to week and month to month:

  • Toiletries
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Household supplies
  • Clothing
  • Makeup (which thankfully I don’t buy often since I don’t wear a lot)
  • Other random things like oil changes, office supplies, etc.

Every week, we think of these extra expenses and see if we will have any extra money to put towards these.  For example, this past week, we were running low on shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and body wash, so we put aside $20 for all of that as well as $60 for oil changes since both of our cars are due for those.  I also wanted to replace my windshield wipers now that we have snow everywhere and I haven’t bought new ones since I got my car a year and a half ago, so we budgeted $45 for three total.  So far, we haven’t had a problem with these extra expenses that are hard to budget for (since they are needed at random times), and we always are left with a great amount of extra money at the end of each week that we could use for any unforeseen expenses.

The hardest part of switching to this budget has been going to the bank and withdrawing cash each week, which is not hard at all since we live about 2 minutes from our bank.  Saying no to many items has been pretty easy, and we haven’t had to say no to very much since we just plan for the purchases in advance.  We do slip up here and there and stop by Subway for dinner and use our debit cards or buy a magazine or something small that wasn’t budgeted, but that is all part of learning.

The best part of switching has been all of this extra money that we have left in our accounts.  We will see how much we have left over at the end of the month and will probably use them for Christmas presents, but if we keep this up, we will be able to start paying off our debt faster, meaning we can buy a house sooner, reach financial peace sooner, and keep strengthening our marriage, since financial issues tend to be what break up many couples.

Overall, we couldn’t be happier!  We thought this transition would be painful and we would give up right away, but we love it.  We don’t feel guilty any longer when we spend our money and we feel like our money is serving us and not the other way around.  I will keep you posted on how this switch affects us over time and will definitely let you know if anything changes or becomes more difficult.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Maximizing Storage Space in our Laundry Room

Last week I grew some you-know-whats and worked up the courage to “unveil” our disaster of a laundry room.  I hesitate to even link back to in fear that you will run away screaming.

Okay, so maybe it’s not that bad, but just keep in mind that when I picture what a laundry room should look like, I picture this:


I know, right?  Who actually has a laundry room like that?  I blame Pinterest for oozing these easy-to-hate-they’re-so-beautiful rooms that make me scream in fear when I see the reality of the rooms I’m living with.  Now, I exaggerate.  I am so thankful to have our apartment, with it’s space, it’s two levels, its cute finishings, and it’s very large laundry room with room for storage.  But I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t panting in anticipation for a laundry room like the one above when we buy a house.

All that to say, you can imagine why I was not thrilled every time I went to wash another load of whites (who knew chefs wear lots of white?) in this room:


Blech!  With all of our precious items that we can’t store anywhere else spilling out into the middle of the room, we decided enough was enough.  Thanks to our new cash budget envelope system, we budgeted $100 to whip this room into shape and then saved the rest of our paychecks for groceries, gas, and bills.  We actually saved a great amount of money last week just by telling our money where to go!

Anyway, we knew we wanted some sort of storage rack, but it had to be large and sturdy enough to hold a good amount of our items.  Places like Target and Home Depot just didn’t have what we wanted in our price range.

They had a decent amount of items like this (plastic):


and this (metal):


but we were thinking of something more like this:


The first two options just were not wide enough for the amount of storage we wanted, with dimensions of 72.0 " H x 36.0 " W x 18.0 " D.  They were good prices, though, ranging from $45 to about $65.  However, we wanted something strong, built to last, that we could easily bring along to our first house, which the other two might be able to do, but aren’t as promising as the last photo.

Although we had been regretting ever getting a membership since we don’t use it often enough, Sam’s Club stepped in and saved the day.  We found one just like the one in the bottom photo above for – wait for it – 60 smackaroos!  It was actually a little cheaper than the metal Target shelving unit.  I would say we actually paid for our Sam’s membership and more, since the seemingly almost-identical version pictured in the photo above costs about $300!  Yipee!

Now, let’s get to the after photos I’m sure you are waiting for.  Please don’t expect some ah-ha moment, since all we did was install the new unit and move stuff around.  It’s no prettier in there, just clutter-free, and I can live with that.









BACK WALL (with dresser) BEFORE:


BACK WALL (with new storage unit) AFTER:


You’re clapping right now, right?  It’s not just me, right?  You’re still reading this, right?  Can you believe we had all that extra stuff in the middle of the floor?  No wonder I started pulling my hair out!

And now . . .





Ahhhh!  If you followed along closely, you are probably wondering where the office chair, exercise ball, fan, and mirror went.  I didn’t take an after shot of beneath our stairs since it actually became a little more cluttered when I moved those bigger items over there, but they are hidden from view unless you walk back there, so I thought it was the perfect place for them since that area was hardly being used.

So, what do you say?  It may not be beautiful but it definitely is organized and usable again.  Now Mr. Converse Sneakers can get his kickboxing on with plenty of space.  I wouldn’t want him doing a round house kick into our aqua Christmas ornaments or doing jab cross combo into our beloved cake stand.  Everything now has a place and I can breathe a little easier!

What space in your home do you need to organize?


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