Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Case of the Mondays

Monday. Yes, I know that was yesterday, but I didn't have it in me to get a post ready to go. Some Mondays are relatively painless, while others just kick. my. butt. And that was yesterday. It didn't help that we had a super-fantastic weekend!

As of Friday, the patio was 95% complete. And as of Monday night, it was done! You know a big photo dump is around the corner ;)

Which was perfect timing because we had friends visiting from St. Louis. The patio got a workout with dinner at the table, chatting around our firepit, and enjoying coffee Sunday morning.

Friends! Our friend on the far right perfected "Think of the Savings."

Plus, the Cubs were playing the Cardinals, so we took a field trip to Wrigley Field. It was my first time at a Cubs game and now I can see why people are such Cubs fans. We may have sat 3 rows from the top, but it felt much closer. And I think Wrigley is pretty "cute" with all of its historic charm. Though I didn't get the full experience because I passed on the Old Style.

I could continue on about what exactly we did and where we ate and whatnot, but my biggest takeaway from the weekend was how much fun I had spending time with friends. Which got me to thinking that I really need to work on keeping in touch with friends from home and college. Sure, I can see what's going on via Facebook, but it's not the same as a phone call or in-person chat.

How do you keep up with friends spread about the country or even the world?
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Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Spirit

Elephantine Bellissima bracelet, J. Crew shorts,
DV by Dolce Vita Archer sandals, Gap vintage Olympic tank
The Olympics officially kick off tonight with the Opening Ceremony and to say I'm excited is a bit of an understatement! I swam competitively from 6th grade through college and can't wait to see Team USA represent in the pool and elsewhere!

Now that we have cable, I'm totally DVR-ing the Ceremony and several other events (my favs are swimming and gymnastics). What are your favorite events?

Have a fantastic Friday and weekend!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Who Will Save Your Sole?

Now that this song is sufficiently stuck in your head, let's talk shoes.

Being fiscally chic isn't just about buying something on sale. Sometimes it's worth it to pay a little more (possibly even full price...gasp!) for a quality item that will last for years.

For instance, a good pair of leather boots. With proper cleaning, polishing, and care they should last for quite some time.

But how do you find a good cobbler or shoe repair service when your shoes need a little extra work? You can check Yelp, but sometimes the results are skewed. Obviously you can ask friends and family for recommendations, but what if you're new to a city?

One of the best ways of finding a reputable shoe repair shop is to call your local Nordstrom, Saks, Neiman Marcus, or other high-end shoe retailer and ask for their recommendation of a high quality shoe repair shop.

Repairing shoes is infinitely less expensive than buying a new pair. Just last week, I had these booties repaired. The cost of replacing the heel tips at our local cobbler? A whopping $10.

And while we're talking shoes, this product is amazing for literally saving the soles of your beautiful high heels. I met Kathryn of Protect Your Pumps at a Business in the City meet-up and this girl has a great thing going on.
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Friday, July 20, 2012

Let there be Gravel!

I went with the Shabby Apple navy striped skirt. Thanks for the feedback!

To be honest, I don't have it in me to create a fab Friday's Fancies post. My mental energy has been channeled at work and whatever I have left is put into the patio.

Work started on Tuesday, but we've hit a few hurdles with a delivery delay and rain. Oh, the rain! I know we need it in Chicago, but why now? And of course the storms were at night, so I didn't sleep very well. On Thursday morning, our patio hole was looking like a swimming hole!

So instead of filling in the hole with gravel, they were pumping out water and removing part of the driveway.

Fortunately, our permeable pavers were delivered!

And they were able to remove part of the driveway.

We also we went ahead and ordered our patio table and chairs! Yes, they're from Walmart, but the set met all off our requirements:
  • A table for 6
  • A metal tabletop
  • 2 swivel bouncy chairs
  • Under $1,000

The patio set also had really, really good reviews. One lady even left a review 2 years later saying how well it's held up.

In other good news, they're filling the hole with gravel as I type!

Hope you have a fantastic weekend!
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

AKA...John's favorite cookie.

Last week, John was in Kentucky for the Appalachia Service Project with our parish. With an 8 or 9 hour drive from Chicago, I knew they would need some treats. Sure, they already had two passenger vans worth of snacks, but there's always room for something made with love :) 

Plus, I have a little history of baking these cookies for John. While dating in college, he went on the March for Life with a group from SLU. Not one to pass up an opportunity to bake, and show my affection, I sent a batch of cookies with him to Washington, DC.

Which is one of my not-so-secret secrets to a happy relationship: Small, unexpected gestures to show your love for the other person.

Be that surprising them by baking their favorite cookies. Picking up a 6-pack of their favorite hard to find beer. Or just making dinner and cleaning up the dishes so he or she can relax after a long day.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
From a package of Sun-Maid raisins

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or a little more if you're like me)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups quick or old fashioned oats
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350*.

Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, milk, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Stir together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Use a whisk to make sure they're combined properly.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix well.

Stir in oats and raisins. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. I like to line mine with parchment paper for easy clean up.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top.

Remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Blogger Blitzing!

As you may have seen on a few other Chicago blogs, Blogger Blitz Chicago was this past Sunday. It was organized by the gracious {av} and hosted at Market Bar in the West Loop. And it was a blast!

Instagrammed (@fiscallychic) goodies. Including note cards from The Scribble Pad.

To be completely honest, I was a little intimidated going to the event. Sure, I've met a few of the ladies before, but some of them just seem to have it. I'm not exactly sure what it is, but sometimes I wonder if I have it. I was never the popular girl in school, so I can get a little jealous of bloggers' online successes and their seemingly amazing lives. Do you relate?

Picture from Mariel's Window

Fortunately, every gal I met is down to earth and super friendly. Like a page out of a gossip mag, talking with everyone was a little bit like "celebrities bloggers, they're just like us!" We have 9 to 5 jobs that don't involve social media, we have to look for new apartments when rent gets too high, we shop at the grocery store (instead of beautiful year-round farmer's markets), we sit in traffic, we complain about the heat, and so on.

Alison and me

So if you're looking for a few good reads, I highly recommend these lovely ladies:

Cathy (me!) Fiscally Chic
Jennifer Darling Notes
Jillian (though she missed b/c she's now a Mrs!) cornflake dreams
Mariel Mariel's Window (she posted lots of good photos!)

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Something Polka Dotted, Something Blue

Sequin clutch (Etsy seller GiftShopBrooklyn), J. Crew woven bangle, Nine West peep toes, J. Crew dress,
Kate Spade bow earrings and necklace, BHLDN rosy-cheeked coupes

With several weddings and a baptism on the horizon, I thought it would be fun to create an outfit with my perfect polka dot dress from J.Crew.

And while I'm thinking about polka dots, how about some polka dotted pretties that might not be on their registry?

Rainbow Polka Dots Applique Quilt from Etsy seller AbbysSewAwesome

Hand Painted Gold Polka Dot Vase from Etsy seller DeLyshDesign

Hope you have a fantastic weekend! I can't wait to finally meet {av} and other wonderful Chicago bloggers at Blogger Blitz on Sunday. Are you going?

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How much does a hipster weigh?

Lastest homebrew

It's true. I joined Instagram over the weekend.

Teenage mutant ninja cucumbers

@FiscallyChic if you want to follow along. Food and garden pictures for all!

I told you I was having a thing with stripes

Maybe a few style photos to round things out.

Sewing on a Saturday morning

I still have my moderately intelligent phone, which means I'm walking around taking pictures with the iPad. I'm cool like that.

Roses are blooming like whoa

Are you on Instagram? Leave your user name so we can follow you!
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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Bomb Diggity

You know that adage about home projects taking twice as long and costing twice as much? I think that's going to be our patio. The last time we talked about our brick patio, John and I were waiting to hear about our building permit. Well....it took a few tries to get approved.

Attempt #1: We didn't include three full copies of our plat of survey in our application. We only included a drawing of the patio plan on a close-up of where the patio would be installed. Turns out, they needed to see that the plat was legit. And that it included all the needed measurements and scale to calculate the impervious surfaces of our lot.

Attempt #2: With the full plat of survey submitted, it turns out our design didn't meet zoning requirements. In our defense, the zoning rules are not easily found. Or were they directly communicated to us. According to current zoning rules in our 'burb, no greater than 50% of our lot can be covered by impervious surfaces. In other words, the square footage of our house, garage, driveway, patio, and anything else solid cannot be greater than 50% of the square footage of our property. This is to ensure proper storm water management. And for property prettiness.

It turns out the impervious surfaces of our property before the patio were already at 53%! Our property was probably to code at some point, but obviously is not in compliance with current standards. Fortunately, our impervious surface count is grandfathered in so we can install a patio as long as we maintain the 53%. Which meant a new design.

Good thing there's such a thing as permeable pavers. They're installed slightly apart with pea gravel in between the joints to let water absorb into the ground instead of letting it wash into the sewer. We're really happy that we hired a pro because the gravel base needs to be 18 inches deep vs. 6 to 8 inches deep in a standard brick patio.

But...permeable pavers are still included in the impervious surface calculation. Just as 50%. So if the patio is 200 sf, it only counts as 100 sf. Which means however big we make the patio, 50% of that square footage needs to be removed somewhere else. That somewhere else is going to be part of our driveway.

Attempt #3: To make sure everything was covered, we had a meeting of the minds wth the building inspector, our patio guy, and us. Everyone verbally agreed to the new design and where the driveway would be removed.

With the new design submitted, we were sure we'd be approved! Nope, the building department wanted to get more of the design specifics in writing. Particularly, how deep the layers of gravel and sand would be, the materials to be included, etc. Thank goodness our patio guy was able to submit the design so quickly.

Because after paying our application fees and getting the license for our builder.....WE HAVE OUR BUILDING PERMIT!!!

I seriously think angels were singing.

Now we wait to get on the schedule...
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Friday, July 6, 2012

Earning my Stripes

I'm starting to notice that I'm having a bit of a "moment" with stripes. And the obsession is snowballing. I bought a striped dress from H&M a few years back. No biggie. Then a striped long sleeve tee from the Gap. And then a striped lightweight hoodie from Loft. Now I see stripes everywhere and want to bring them all home.

Case in point: Shabby Apple. I recently won the Shabby Apple giveaway on Cornflake Dreams and shortly thereafter Shabby Apple launched their newest line. Wouldn't you know it's nautically-inspired and striped! To top it off, they're having a 20% off sale (use code "SUMMER20" at checkout). So clearly the $50 gift card is burning a whole in my pocket inbox.

Striped dress in red or navy. Striped skirt in red or navy.

So I need to decide. Get a stripey and summery skirt or dress?

Wrap maxi dress. Desert Modern maxi dress.

Or be a little more practical with a maxi dress that I can wear for more than 3 months of the year?

Roamin Holiday navy striped dress or red striped dress

Maybe these dresses are my solution.

Do you have ideas for wearing a striped skirt or dress so I don't look like I just came from the yacht club? It's recommendation time: ready....go!

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mediterranean Quinoa

One of the things I love about the great US of A, beyond our independence, is the diversity. Not just the people; the diversity of flavors. America really is a melting pot. And if you've ever been to an international grocery store, you know what I mean.

When the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, do you think they could imagine the multitude of cuisines present here today? Obviously Ben Franklin and John Adams spent time in Paris, but what about food from the farflung lands in South America, Asia, and Africa? Or even the regional flavors that evolved over time?

I'm thankful that I was exposed to all sorts of cuisines growing up: Italian, Greek, Polish, Mexican, Chinese, and so on. I was never really a picky eater and loooove spicy foods. It was way more than bland meat and potatoes. Sometimes John wonders where my palate come from.

So when I can't hop on a plane during the middle of the week, at least my tastebuds can go on a culinary adventure.

Mediterranean Quinoa

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water or chicken broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 14 oz. can of quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/2 cup kalamata olives, drained
2 tablespoons pinenuts (toasted)
4 oz. container of feta cheese
Handful of basil (rough chopped or cut into a chiffonade)
Salt and pepper to taste

Pour quinoa into a strainer and rinse.

In a medium pot, bring broth or water to boil. Stir in quinoa. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering about 15 minutes, until quinoa expands and absorbs all liquid.

While the quinoa is simmering, prep the rest of the ingredients.
Once the quinoa has absorbed the water or chicken broth, pour in the lemon juice and fluff quinoa with a fork.

Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Garnish with additional feta cheese and basil.

May be served hot or chilled. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Birthday, 'Merica!

Happy 4th of July! I hope you enjoy some good food, good times, and independence. I'll be back tomorrow with a tasty recipe!

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Monday, July 2, 2012

A Wild Weather Weekend

Hi, friends! How was your weekend? In addition to being hot in Chicago, we've had some pretty severe storms. As I'm typing this post on Sunday afternoon, it's super dark outside and the rain is pelting the house. There's lots of thunder and lighting and sticks flying around. Our sump pump is pumping and the back-up occasionally beeps to tell me it's kicking in. I have me cell phone and two flash lights next to me. Yep, I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to storms.

Beyond the dramatic weather, it was a pretty good weekend. I found the perfect polka dot dress at J.Crew on Friday with Jess. It was meant to be because there was only one available, in my size, and on sale for $50! I can't wait to wear it to an upcoming wedding and other celebrations. And if I style it just right, I'll probably wear it to work.

The blueberry rhubarb cobbler was also a huge success at the neighborhood BBQ! Though I managed to fling butter around the kitchen while making it. I don't know who would be more disappointed in my mistreatment of butter: Paula Deen or Joy the Baker.

Our garden is also starting to yield cherry tomatoes! I picked our first seven on Sunday and I'm hoping for more ripe ones by the time I make Mediterranean quinoa for dinner later this week.

Finally, I'd like to give a special "hello!" to all my new readers! I hope you stick around and make yourself at home. Fiscally Chic is where I share my musings about personal finance, share things that inspire and interest me, and give a little peek into my life. Fiscally Chic is also on Twitter and Facebook if you'd like to follow along there. I use those to share shop updates and other snippets of information that might not warrant a full blog post.

Have a great week!
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