Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fall Style Inspiration

Every so often (OK...more often than I'd like to admit) I stare into my closet and wonder what I'm going to wear. While it's tempting to high-tail it to the nearest shopping mecca, sometimes I just need a little inspiration and help styling an item in a fresh, new way.

For example, I have a camel blazer that I know I can wear this season (and then some). I'm just a little....lost. Enter my BFF Pinterest. After a few minutes of browsing, I found these lovelies:

Top: (L), (R)
Bottom: (L), (R

The best part about these outfits is that I already have most everything in my closet! Camel blazer, black shirt or striped shirt, an inordinate number of scaves, and jeans. Here's my Friday's Fancies version:

Ann Taylor scarf (minus the beads), Gap Supersoft wide-stripe crew, TOMS taupe suede desert wedges,
J. Crew schoolboy blazer, Gap 1969 jeggings

Maybe if I go for it and wear the outfit in real life, I'll share it here :)

How do you breathe new styling life into your clothes?

Have a fantastic weekend!

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Would you like to work with Fiscally Chic?

Practically one year ago, I discussed blog monetization: different ways to earn money through blogging, what I've done to monetize Fiscally Chic, and future plans to earn moolah. The post was written in December 2011 and I said I might start experimenting with ads on my sidebar in January 2012.

Guess what, people? It's now September 2012 and I'm finally making a more concerted effort at creating ad space on my sidebar. Yes, I've sold an ad to my family's custom apparel and promotional products business. But what about your business? Do you have an Etsy shop you'd like to promote?

Over the weekend, I created an account with Passionfruit Ads to help with the whole sponsorship process. I heard about them through Blog Bruch and love it so far! The Sponsorship Brunch recap explained the advantages of Passionfruit as such:

1. Steady income throughout the month versus only being paid once a month
2. Sponsors can buy ads anytime
3. Easy to understand fees
4. Streamlined setup:
a. Set up your sponsors, prices and sizes of ads
b. Install Ad Shop
c. Place your ads however you would like
d. Passionfruit takes care of the nitty gritty after that

If nothing else, I'm on board for the streamlined setup! I also appreciate that there is an ad review process because I want to be sure that any sponsor of Fiscally Chic reflects my personal style and beliefs and will be a good fit for all of you.

If you're interested in sponsoring Fiscally Chic, or even just want to see my nifty ad categories made with Passionfruit, swing by my updated Sponsor page.

Muchas Gracias!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Grasping for Summer: Bruschetta

Before I get into today's recipe, I have to share that the party we threw this weekend was a huge success! It was a surprise 60th birthday party for John's Dad and the largest party in our house thus far. There may have been mustaches, jungle juice, and a large quantity of BBQ in attendance. In short, it was a total blast! And don't worry, I'll share the cupcakes I baked soon enough.

Summer may be officially over, but I'm not ready for sweater-weather yet. Scarves and pumpkin spice lattes, yes. Legitimate jackets, no. We still have all sorts of tomatoes growing in our garden, so why not put off welcoming Fall a few days longer?

Bruschetta is seriously easy to make and is the perfect way to use our bumper crop of cherry tomatoes. It's also super versatile. We topped a warm and crusty baguette with bruschetta for a quick dinner, but you can also top chicken or other meats with it. I've also served it as an appetizer. Provide something to dip with and you're good to go!

Cherry, grape, or tomatoes - about a pint
Handful of basil - rough chopped or sliced in a chiffonade
2 to 5 cloves of garlic, minced. (Add to taste. We love garlic, so I used about 5 cloves.)
Salt and pepper

Sliced baguette
Olive oil

Quarter cherry tomatoes and place in serving bowl. If you use larger varieties of tomatoes, dice them.

Add the chopped basil and minced garlic to the bowl of tomatoes.

Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with a sliced baguette. Drizzle with olive oil if you'd like.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Clean up on Aisle 3

From Hyperbole and a Half

Happy Friday, everyone! No Friday's Fancies for me today. We're throwing a birthday party at for about 30 people this weekend and the weather has turned a bit cold and rainy, which means it's going to be inside. So I'm cleaning the house, decorating, and baking like a mad lady.

Wish us luck!
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Seafood Beer Risotto with Stone Cali-Belgique IPA

Remember when I blogged about a certain cupcake? The fine folks at Stone Brewing Co. took notice, which led to a care package of 8 bottles of Stone brews and a collaboration (!!)

Over the next few weeks/months I'm going to share sweet and savory recipes that feature Stone Brewing Co. beers. Sooo excited:)

I was super excited to try the Stone Cali-Belgique India Pale Ale. Stone describes it as a California-style IPA with an undeniable Belgian influence. Sign me up because I'm a fan of both hoppy-bitter-citrusy IPAs and yeasty-clove-y-banana-y Beligian wheat beers!

I thought the Cali-Belgique IPA would be the perfect addition to seafood risotto as the original recipe calls for dry white wine, like a Chardonnay. A typical IPA can be a little "Type A," but the Belgian yeast in Cali-Belgique IPA balanced the hops' intensity. It's an accountant's dream: balanced. In other words, I loved it.

As for the risotto, who doesn't love a warm and creamy carb-fest? In addition to craft beer, we have a mild obsession with garlic. Any garlic called for in a recipe is at least doubled. So if you don't mind having vampires around, you can use the low end of the garlic spectrum.

By the way, I've picked up a few tricks on making super creamy risotto:
  1. Add the stock slowly to the pot of arborio rice. I'm talking a quarter cup at a time. Stir constantly, particulary after each addition of stock. And don't add any more until the previous quarter cup of stock has been completely absorbed.
  2. Keep your stock heated. That way, the temperature of the arborio rice will remain stable in the pot. Cold stock leads to hard, undercooked rice (via NPR). 
I made the seafood beer risotto for dinner with John and the Livelys. Appetizers included crusty bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping and homemade guacamole. Once again, the Cali-Belgique paired well with both.

As dinner progressed, we cracked open a bottle of the Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale: a slightly hoppy, chocolately and malty, dark ale. And we finished with our homebrewed 3 Floyds Zombie Dust. It's a pale ale brewed with Citra hops that impart a grapefruit aroma and flavor.

Let's just say it was a night filled with great friends, foods, and beers!

Seafood Risotto
Adapted from Eat Live Run

1 cup arborio rice (risotto rice)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Stone Brewing Co. Cali-Belgique IPA
4 cups chicken stock (heated)
1 - 6.5oz can lump crab meat
3/4 lb peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed (I seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder)
1 small bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut on a diagonal into 1.5" pieces
1 lemon
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and saute for about three minutes, until soft. Add the rice and toss to coat each kernel with oil.

Add the beer to the pot and stir. Cook until all the beer has been absorbed---about three minutes.

Add the stock---a quarter cup at a time---stirring after each addition and not adding any more until the previous addition has been completely absorbed. It will take about 45 minutes to complete this step, but don't skip it!

Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for two minutes then drain and run over with cold water. Set aside.

After all the stock has been absorbed into the risotto, turn off the heat. Heat a teaspoon more oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add the shrimp. Quickly cook until the shrimp are pink and curled.

Add the shrimp and can of lump crab meat to the risotto, along with minced parsley, grated cheese and sliced asaparagus. Season with salt to taste. Serve each bowl of risotto with a big squeeze of lemon over top.

Note: The risotto doesn't have an overwhelming "beer" flavor. The IPA (or wine) simply add another layer of flavor that water or stock lacks. Plus, the alcohol cooks off.

In general, you should cook with beer or wine that you would also drink on its own.

PS - I was given this beer by Stone Brewing Co. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Monday, September 17, 2012

IKEA Vittsjo Entry Table Hack

Do you have a room in your house or apartment that's really easy to decorate? That's our front room. In the past few weeks, I bought a few things for the back room that have wound up in the front room. First was this mirror (thanks to MintLife). Most recently was our entry table.

Thankfully, this little beauty is an easy IKEA hack. Which means I'm going to "make" another for the back room :)

IKEA Vittsjo laptop table - $39
1/4 in. thick wood (I used oak hardwood plywood) - $27 for 4' x 8' board
Sandpaper in assorted grits - $5
Extra fine sanding sponge (~220 grit) - $3
Tack cloth - $3 for a 3-pack
Minwax Polycrylic protective spray finish in clear satin - $9

The table originally came with a glass top, which I replaced with wood. Since we have a meager collection of power tools, one of the helpful men at Home Depot cut the board to size (38" x12.75").

Sand the edges: I used the assorted sandpapers to smooth the edges and ensure a snug fit on the table top. I started with the roughest grit in the pack (60), moving to a finer grit (100 then 150) as the edges became smoother.

Once the edges of your boards are as smooth as a baby's bottom, it's time to tackle the top. Since I liked the grain and color of the natural wood, I only needed to seal the surface. You can always stain the wood a darker color.

Prepare the surface: Grab your extra fine sanding block and lightly sand the surface; making sure to sand with the grain. Looking at the picture above, that would be sanding left to right.
Then wipe the surface with the tack cloth. It's a soft, slightly sticky cloth that picks up all the dust and sanding residue from the wood. This is critical because you want a clean surface for your stain, spray paint, or poly.

Spraying/sealing: Holding the spray can vertically (about 12 inches from the wood), spray a thin coat in an even, sweeping motion with slightly overlapping strokes. Following the instructions on the can, I waited for the poly to dry between each coat (about 25 to 30 minutes). I also lightly sanded the surface with the sanding sponge and cleaned with the tack cloth before spraying the next coat. In total I applied 3 coats.

And if you're wondering, here's how the entry table looked in the back room before we snagged it for the front room. The Lively's were over on Saturday for dinner and helped us do a little furniture rearranging.

Lookin' good, if you ask me!
Yea, I like you here too :)

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Fall Splurge: Brown Leather Boots

Melissa Button: Dark Brown, Cognac
Melissa Trapunto: Saddle Leather, Cognac Medium
Paige Tall Riding: Dark Brown Brush Off, Cognac
Happy Friday! It's been a busy week, so I can't wait to kick back this weekend. Exciting things are brewing, which I'll share on the blog in due time.
It's also starting to feel more like Fall in Chicago, which means I'm craving all things pumpkin and a pair of brown leather boots. I've been looking for the perfect pair of boots for a while and might splurge on some Frye's. Based on my experience with off-brand vs. Hunter wellies (hint: I love my Hunters), I'd rather buy a quality pair of boots that will last for years.
At first I was leaning towards the Melissa Button, but then I met her sister Melissa Trapunto and her cousin Paige. Now I'm torn. I tried on a pair of Melissa Button's last winter, but didn't pull the trigger because they didn't have my size in the color I wanted (of course). I'm kind of picky about things (read: I rarely order clothes or shoes online) so I plan on trying on some boots at Nordstom. That way I can check out the color of the leather and the boot's construction in person instead of ordering them online and possibly having to deal with returns.
Do you own a pair of Frye's? Or do you have a favorite pair of brown leather boots you'd like to share?  
Thanks for reading along this weekend and for leaving your wonderful comments. Have a fantastic weekend!

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Money and Marriage

Today is our 4th wedding anniversary! It sounds a little corny, but time really does fly when you're having fun. Sure, we have our ups and downs, but the ups definitely make up for any downs. Plus, being on the same page for several "adult" topics, particularly faith and finances, makes things a little easier.

So in honor of this momentous day, I thought I would share some discussion points and tips for merging finances. Heck, these should be revisted every so often since finances can change over time due to new jobs, new kids, retirement, etc.

Here's a jumping off point for your "money talks:"
  • Are you comfortable discussing money?
  • Are you a saver or spender? 
  • Do you want to have a budget? (Hint: Mint is a great resource)
  • Should we have a joint checking account or separate accounts or both?
  • Who is going to be responsible for making sure that bills are paid on time? 
  • What are necessities and luxuries? Think about going out to eat, cable TV, going to the movies, vacations, etc.
  • What are our assets?
  • How much do we owe in debts (credit card, student, car, mortgage)? How do we plan on paying down any debt?
  • Where does our money go? Spending, savings, investing?
  • What are our financial goals?
  • What are our future plans for purchasing a home?
Extra Credit

You should also consider discussing what to do with your monetary gifts from the wedding. Chances are, you’ll be leaving the reception with a good chunk of change. If you don’t have time to make a deposit before leaving for your honeymoon, have a trusted family member deposit the checks at the bank for you. You’ll also have to decide what to do with that money. Perhaps you'll use it to pay bills from the wedding, save for a house, or pay down debt.

Finally, once you’re all settled back in from the wedding and honeymoon, the real financial fun begins. How will you actually merge your finances? Depending on your bank, you might be able to open accounts online or you might have to take a trip to the bank with a copy of your marriage certificate.

John and I are pretty financially savvy, so we have a joint high interest savings account, a joint checking account, and separate credit cards. Paychecks are deposited into the checking account and used to pay all bills (common and personal). We also have automatic transfers set to move money from our checking account to our savings and investment accounts.

This is simply what works for us. Other people might have joint and separate checking accounts. The joint account would be used to pay common bills (rent, utilities, food) and the separate accounts would be used to pay personal bills.

Keep in mind that whatever method you use, it’s important to maintain your own credit cards. That way you can keep growing and maintaining your credit score. Also, credit reports don’t automatically merge once you’re married unless you have joint accounts. Also, take special care of your credit scores and history if you’re looking to buy a home together. One spouse’s negative credit history could impact your mortgage rates.

Overall, communication is key for a successful engagement and marriage. That and a healthy dose of flirting ;)

Do you have any other tips for merging finances? Or do you have a talking point to share?

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A FIN-omenal Month

Holy mackerel! In addition to it being anniversary month, it's my Dad's birthday!
I'd like to take this oppor-tuna-ty to say, "Happy birthday, Dad!"

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Two Years of Fiscally Chic

Guess who what turns two today? Fiscally Chic!

It's hard to believe that this is post #285. In the past 284 posts, I've written about saving money, making money, refinancing, recipes, decorating, style, getting cable, and more.

Last year, I shared some interesting stats from my first year of blogging. More than anything, this anniversary is making me think about how I want to approach the blog over the next 2 years (and then some). I don't read very many personal finance blogs, but the ones I'm really drawn to are entertaining and geared towards earning more instead of cutting back on lattes. (I'm looking at you, I Will Teach You to be Rich)

Taking my cue from Ramit, I want to focus on the "big wins." Sure I'll still share small money saving tips, but I'd rather write about creating wealth, organizing your finances, and other financial moves that give you the most bang for your buck. (Or ROI for the financial nerds in the house) And you know I'll still be writing about cupcakes, homebrewing, and attempts at decorating our house :)

How does that sound?

Whether you've been reading Fiscally Chic for two weeks or two years, I want to give each and every one of you a big hug and heartfelt "thank you!"

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Family Time

Hi, friends. No Friday's Fancies post for me today. John's Grandma passed away yesterday, so it's time to focus on the important things in life, especially family.

Please keep John's Grandma, his family, and him in your thoughts and prayers.

Thanks so much.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Anniversary Month

I don't know if it's the new school year or the impending change in seasons, but September has had some big changes during the past few years.

It's been an exciting year with my first craft show, being featured in the Etsy Finds email and on the front page, and breaking 100 sales.

To help celebrate Anniversary Month, I'm having a sale in the shop! Use coupon code "ANNIVERSARY15" for 15% off all purchases through September 13, 2012.

As for this year, there are still 25 days left in September to make things happen :)
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