Friday, May 31, 2013

Due Dates are like the Pirate's Code

J. Crew Panama hat and Kira metallic sandals,
J. Crew Factory bracelet, HATCH Plage Caldera dress's my due date. I'm trying really hard (albeit, unsuccessfully) to remain patient and relaxed and zen-like. Frankly, I didn't think I would go 40 weeks. People keep reminding me that a majority of first babies are born late and that due dates are more like ETA's (only 4% are born on their due date). Which reminds me of "Pirate's of the Caribbean."

Due dates are like the pirate's code...they're more of what you'd call "guidelines."

Maybe this comparison, and thoughts of the Caribbean, will help me chill out a little since one of the relaxation techniques we learned at our Lamaze class is to picture yourself in your relaxing, "happy" place. One of mine would be on the beach and chilling in a hammock with John, which is one thing we did on our honeymoon in Mexico.

So that's what I'm doing this Friday. Looking at beach-y pictures from our honeymoon and thinking of hammocks, sand between my toes, and fruity drinks. Maybe I was on to something when I made myself a faux-jito last night...

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tips for Buying a New Car

As you may remember, one of the potential items on our baby to-do list was to buy a new car. My car, a 2003 VW Passat, was getting up there in miles and the cost-benefit of future repairs didn't seem worth it. At the time, we were considering buying a used car.

After we John did extensive research, we decided on the Honda CR-V due to its safety ratings, trunk space, low maintenance costs, decent gas mileage, and the fact that it looks good. To the horror of some personal finance "experts," we came to the conclusion that buying new would be better for us. Hondas hold their value extremely well, so we'd have to buy a CR-V with a lot of miles on it to see any savings. And at that point, why not pay a little more and put the miles on ourselves?

After a bit more research, we put together our strategy:
  • Negotiate the car price.
  • Negotiate the trade-in.
  • Discuss financing.
It's important to negotiate and come to an agreement on each item separately because the dealer is always looking for ways to make a profit. And since we were buying as a couple, we were sure to be in agreement on everything before even starting the buying process.

How do you know what car price to negotiate?
While John did the research on which car to buy, I researched pricing and (of course) put together a spreadsheet. While the dealer may quote you the MSRP (manaufacturer's suggested retail price, i.e. list price), you never want to pay MSRP. Instead, you should know the car's factory invoice price and shoot for a price close to that. You can find out the invoice price by looking at Edmund's or TrueCar. Edmund's and TrueCar will also give the current market price, which is a good starting point for your negotiations.

TrueCar also has the option of locking in a guaranteed price at one of their certified dealers. While we didn't buy from a certified TrueCar dealer, we still printed out a Guaranteed Savings Certificate for our exact make and model and asked our dealer to match the price. We called the dealer and told them exactly what we wanted to buy, down to the exterior and interior color, and told them what price we wanted. They accepted!

Deciding on add-ons
At this point, the dealer might try to sell you all sorts of upgrades and add-ons. The only things we knew we wanted were leather and heated seats. At a previous trip to the dealership, we learned we could have leather and heated seats added to the CR-V's base level model (the LX) for much less than buying the primo level (the EX-L) with unnecessary bells and whistles. Fortunately, we had the price estimate for leather and heated seats in writing because when it came time to buy, our salesman tried to tell us that price was for the leather only.

Other options they tried extremely hard to sell us on were the extended warranty and The Protector, both with a healthy mark-up. The Protector offers rustproofing, fabric protection, and paint protection with a 10 year warranty...all at half of the usual price! (Please note the sarcasm.) There's no need to buy these additional services if you take good care of the interior and exterior of your car. And as John so politely pointed out to the salesman, "Are you suggesting that the paint job and rust-proofing on our new CR-V is subpar and that we need these additional services?" Not to mention our dealership will give us free car washes over the life of our CR-V. If you really want some additional paint or fabric protection, you can do it yourself or go elsewhere for a better price.

They also showed us a list of additional "stuff" we could buy, like a roof rack. We declined these items when signing the paperwork, but realized we wanted to get one thing when we picked up the CR-V. When we asked about buying the accessory, the salesman said he would call us with the price and availability. Guess, what? We never got the call. Shows where he's making his money...

What is your trade-in worth?
Next up is your trade-in. The trade-in price for your used car is one of the many places dealers will try to recoup concessions made for the new car price, especially if you declined their add-on's. We negotiated a darn good price on the CR-V, so the dealer tried to make up some ground with the Passat. Fortunately, we had done our homework and checked the car's value at Kelley's Blue Book, Edmund's, and NADA. I hadn't heard of NADA until I read about it on Words of Williams. While there was a bit of a range in estimates, we knew to walk away from the first (and ridiculously low) quote offered by the dealer.

Since you're not obligated to sell your used car to the dealership where you're buying the new car, we got additional trade-in estimates from Carmax and the local VW dealership. We then took the best trade-in price to the Honda dealership and asked them to match that. Yes, selling the car on our own could have yielded a higher price, but we didn't want to deal with the hassle and possibility of still having an extra car on our hands when the baby came. Plus, selling the car to the Honda dealership helped reduce the price of the CR-V further and lowered our sales taxes.

Negotiating financing
If you plan on buying your car with cash, this step is fairly straight forward. Decline financing, sign some papers, and write a check! Though the dealer may still try to talk you into a car loan to get a little bonus in their pockets.

Remember how I said to agree on the car price before financing? If you tell the salesman/financing department how much you can afford each month, they'll increase the term of the car loan (and possibly interest rate) to lower your monthly payment, but also increase their profits. You're better off knowing what you can afford and sticking to that.

If you do finance a new car, a good rule of thumb is to put down at least 20%, finance the car for no more than 4 years, and spend no more than 10% of your gross income on transportation costs. Another way so see how much you can afford it to get preapproved car financing from a local bank or credit union. Yes, you may ultimately go with a super-lower promotional interest rate at the dealer but it's good to have options and a little leverage in negotiations.

The car-buying process seems like it can be intimidating, but if you stick to your strategy, it isn't that bad. Just be prepared to walk away if the dealer is unwilling to negotiate or is taking advantage of you for their profits.
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Looking Forward to the Weekend

Banana Republic double hoop earrings and dress,
Anna Joyce watermelon stars tote, Mossimo sandals
Who's excited for a long holiday weekend? I am! Even with the somewhat chilly weather in Chicago. Unless a certain baby girl decides to make her big appearance in the next few days, I'm hoping to get a haircut and possibly take a field trip to the Randolph Street Market. I still need want to put a few finishing touches on the nursery, including a big letter to hang on the wall. Maybe something like the "D" on our gallery wall. I also plan on sewing a crib skirt, but that isn't super necessary at this point either.
I'm sure there will also be some grilling and chilling on the patio next to the fire pit. Last Sunday we made an all-American meal of strip steaks with Lawry's seasoning (yum!), homemade potato salad, and lemonade. I wouldn't mind another repeat this weekend.
How about you? Do you have any big plans or Memorial Day traditions?
And a huge "thank you" to all of the men and women who have died while serving in the military forces over the years!
See more Friday's Fancies at {long distance loving}

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Outfit Repeater

Kate Spade Kissing Canaries studs, Marc by Marc Jacobs Classic Q Natasha bag,
Madewell sandals, J. Crew Factory striped cami and dotted chambray shorts

I'm just going to put it out there. When it comes to getting dressed in the morning, I'm done with being pregnant. My belly is reaching epic proportions and only a handful of shirts fit. And some of them are long-sleeved, which I'd rather not wear when the weather is in the 80's. I don't want to buy more shirts and I'd rather not borrow John's t-shirts. My jersey dresses have also been on a tight rotation.

The third trimester is like one massive 30 for 30 remix. I'm sure most people don't notice that I've been repeating outfits, but I'm bored with my options. This whole internal dialog reminds me of a scene from "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" (don't judge):

Kate: ...Lizzie McGuire, you are an outfit repeater!
Lizzie: Okay, I may be an outfit repeater, but you're an outfit rememberer, which is just as pathetic!
I've found myself staring longingly into my closet at the articles of clothing that I haven't worn in months, unsure of when I'll fit into them again: my pink gingham shirt, chambray shirt, pencil skirts, and a variety of other tops. Or I see clothes online or in the store that I'd love to snatch up (Exhibit A: that striped cami).

I'm even running out of steam in the accessories department. My Tar-jay leopard belt has been a workhorse these past 9 months and needs to be replaced soon.

It's a good thing I'm able to work from home during the last two weeks or so of pregnancy. If my belly is hanging out, at least nobody will see it. Plus, my black dress pants might start a mutiny.

Send your fashion tips! Or maybe just a milkshake.

See more Friday's Fancies at {long distance loving}

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Avocado Amor

avocado pear popsicles, grilled avocado with melted cheese, avocado mac and cheese,
fried guacamole, avocado ice cream, avocado and grilled corn salad
The other day, I was perusing my Foodie Love board on Pinterest for dinner ideas and noticed that I've saved lots of recipes that center around avocados. And even some avocado art. I guess that's bound to happen when you marry into a family that once held a guacamole throwdown.

As I touched on last week, I've encountered a little swelling in my feet during these last weeks of pregnancy. My fingers have also had sporadic swelling, but nothing in my face (phew!). When I brought this up to my doctor, she said this is normal (especially with the warmer weather) and then proceeded to give me a list of foods high in potassium to help treat swelling. When I think of potassium, I think of bananas. Surprisingly, bananas weren't the top item on the list. Guess what was?


1 cup of avocado contains 1,000 mg of potassium, while 1 large banana only contains 500 mg of potassium. The recommended potassium intake is 4,500 mg each day.

Looks like the doctor just prescribed a daily dose of guacamole....yessssss :)

What sort of recipes or foods are you currently loving? In addition to avocados, I'm always a sucker for a good dessert.
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Friday, May 10, 2013

Flip Flop Weather

This post is sponsored by Havaianas.

Ella Moss Lila chevron maxi dress, Havaianas Freedom flip flops,
Kate Spade cluster earrings and popsicle necklace, Gap straw clutch and leather belt

We're finally having consistent flip flop weather in Chicago and I couldn't be more excited! Maybe it's all the years of swimming, but I love being able to walk around in flip flops all.the.time! And I'm really loving flip flops and sandals this year because my feet don't always fit into regular shoes. That's what warm weather and the third trimester can do to a girl.

Not only is this Friday's post inspired by the warmer weather and flip flops, but it's also a nod to the adorable and colorful dress gifted to our baby girl by Jess and Mr. Lively.

Little Hip Squeaks headbands, Havaianas Baby Top flip flops,
Gap flutter chevron dress 

Seriously. Isn't that the cutest dress ever? I love all the bright colors and wish it (or at least a shirt) came in my size. Jess bought it in a size for our baby girl to wear next summer (super smart), so I'm OK with creating a "Cathy-sized" outfit that doesn't need to accommodate a belly. And of course her little outfit needed some mini accessories. Those headbands by Little Hip Squeaks are currently sold out and sell like hotcakes once they're available. I managed to snag a set in different colors/patterns and can't wait for them to arrive. And what about those baby Havaianas? Adorbs.

By the way, Havaianas has recently started shipping all orders at a $1 flat rate which has been reduced from $8. Baby-sized shipping costs for baby-, kid-, and adult-sized flip flops and shoes...sign me up!

Pinata by Oh Happy Day
Now that we have outfits covered for next year's Mother's Day/summer, how about an activity? Oh Happy Day posted DIY instructions for making a giant popsicle pinata. And wouldn't you know, it coordinates perfectly!
As for this Mother's Day, we're getting together with family for a bunch/lunch. How about you? 

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nursery Update: Pom Poms and Lanterns

Last week I tweeted and shared on Instagram that the nursery is still in process. A few parents responded that their nurseries are still in process (even after a year!) or that their nursery wasn't quite ready when the baby arrived. While this made me feel a little better, I still wanted to make some progress beyond the crib and dresser. Last weekend's party and a Pinterest Challenge were just the motivation I needed!
Top: Nursery from My Life in Transition
Left: Tissue paper pom mobile from PomLove on Etsy
Right: Nursery from Under the Sycamore
After a flurry of pinning, I decided that the nursery needed some fluffing. Mainly some pom poms and lanterns above the crib a la Julia of My Life in Transition. Her daughter's nursery is perfectly girly, but not too over the top. And let's not forget this lovely collection of fluff above Ashley Ann's DIY pallet day bed.

I had everything I needed from prior craft projects or in my gift wrapping stash. That stack of tissue paper is just from baby showers!

Note: This is for one pom pom. Scale up the quantity of materials as needed.
  • 4 to 6 sheets of tissue paper. (Mine were about 20 x 26 inches)
  • Floral stem wire (20- or 24-gauge)
  • Scissors
  • Hooks for hanging the poms
  • Fishing line or string to hang the poms
Fold your sheets of tissue paper in half (like a hot dog) and cut them in half. This will leave you with a stack of 8 to 12 sheets of tissue paper (~10 x 26 inches).
Make 1 to 1 1/2-inchwide accordion folds, depending on how dense or fluffy you want your pom to be. Mine were probably closer to 1 inch folds. Be sure to crease after each fold.
Pinch the folded stack of tissue paper in the middle.

Wrap the floral wire around the middle of the stack of tissue paper, making sure to twist the wire around itself.

Trim the ends of the tissue paper into pointy or rounded shapes.

Separate and fluff the layers one at a time. (See also Step 3's photo from Martha Stewart's tutorial.) I alternated which side I pulled away from the center so that my pom pom was evenly fluffed.

Give your pom pom a once over and proper fluffing.
At this point, I trimmed the floral wire down a bit and bent it into a loop. Cut the fishing line or thread to your desired length and loop around the wire loop.
In addition to the DIY poms, I picked up a package of pink accordion lanterns from Michaels. They were about $10 after a 40% off coupon and super easy to unfold. String is not included in the package, so you'll need to cut additional fishing line or thread to your desired length and loop it around the wire loop at the top of the lantern.

We used these hooks from a picture hanging kit to hang our poms and lanterns. You could also pick up some J-hooks from the hardware store. Since the lanterns and poms are extremely light, we didn't bother with anchors.

John found that hammering the hook halfway into the ceiling and then screwing it in was the most effective. He then tied the fishing line, which was already looped around the pom or lantern, to the hook. We just eye-balled the placement of the poms and lanterns, making sure to vary the sizes, colors, and heights.

I still need to pick out artwork and some shelves for the nursery, but at least things are moving along!
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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Relaxing Weekend

I'm not usually one to share weekend updates, but this was a good one and I want to remember it! Especially since I'm nearing the end of pregnancy and life is about to change dramatically for the good. Suprisingly, I didn't take very many pictures because I wanted to unplug and had the iPhone tucked away for most of the time.

Photo via Prasino

On Friday night, John and I went to Prasino for a belated birthday dinner. We had seen the restaurant featured on Check, Please! and I've been dying to try the lobster stuffed avocado. From the appetizer to dessert, Prasino delivered. For dinner, I had the braised beef short ribs (so tender!) and John had the butternut squash ravioli. We splurged and had the chomeur maple pudding for dessert.

Photos via Bliss Chicago

While at dinner, John "gave" me my birthday present. He had scheduled a prenatal massage for me at Bliss Spa in downtown Chicago on Saturday. Let me tell you something: it was so incredibly relaxing! While massages are treat at any time, they're especially wonderful when pregnant. I highly recommend getting a prenatal massage during your third trimester when things are a little more achy and uncomfortable.

Once home from my massage, we got the house ready for a "last fling" before becoming parents. It was a low-key gathering dubbed the "Dadchelor Party and Mama-Rama." While the nursery is still in the works, I knew people would want to see it. I made a few pom poms and picked up a box of pink Martha Stewart lanterns to hang above the crib earlier in the week, and John graciously hung them with less than an hour to go before the party. More details on the poms and the nursery coming later this week :)

Sunday was a day of rest. Sleeping in, going to Mass, chatting with friends on the patio, and even a nap. I could have run all sorts of errands for the nursery and baby, but I wanted to soak in the beautiful weather and spend time with John. I guess you could say this weekend was a sort of "staycation-babymoon."

How was your weekend?

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

May Flowers

LexLuxe Teensy Emerald Stud earrings, Ikabags waterproof striped diaper bag,
Bensimon sneakers, Bloom floral blouse, J. Crew Factory 5" chino shorts

We all know that April showers bring May flowers, but what do May flowers bring?

If you said, "Pilgrims" we should be friends ;)

Hope you have a fantastic weekend! We're having some people over for a "last fling" before we become parents. Do you have any big plans?

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's Birthday Time!

That's me 29 years ago!
Today's my birthday! I'm turning the magical 29 that some claim to be for the rest of their lives ;)

While I'm excited to celebrate, I can't help but think about the next big birthday. And no, I'm not talking about 30. I'm talking about our baby girl's! She could make her arrival at any point during the month or even at the beginning of June. I was talking with my Mom last night and she said my original due date was May 14 or 15 (it was a leap year that year). How crazy would it be if our daughter was born on my due date?

Thinking about her impending birth-day also has me extremely thankful for everything my parents did to bring me into the world and help me grow into the woman I am today. Like my Mom toting me around for 9 months.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

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