Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May Cara Box reveal!

Well, May is almost over. I had a wonderful time getting to know two amazing women this month, receiving an awesome box from one of them, and sending an awesome box to the other one! This month's theme was regional, so we all thought of whatever we could from our region that we could send to our new blogger-friends.

If you missed my last Cara Box post, it is basically a little gift exchange between bloggers (and non-bloggers can participate also!). You spend a month getting to know someone, you exchange emails, you look at their blog, and then at the end of the month you send them a box of stuff that you think they'd like. You can learn more about the Cara Box exchange here.

I sent a box to Britt from ItBritt, and I received a box from Jenn from Bad Luck Jenn. Go ahead and check out their blogs, you will not be disappointed!

Jenn really did a good job finding things out about me, and I love love love my box! Actually, I was having a pretty horrible day when it came in the mail. It cheered me up significantly. She even included a few things for my sweet fur-babies!! Since we are living in the same region but in different states, she chose to focus a little bit more on things from Alabama, so she labeled everything with neat facts about how it relates to her state! I loved that.

She included an ice cream scoop and ice cream bowls, as well as Nutter Butters because she knows I have a crazy sweet tooth, bakeware because she knows I love to bake, red nail polish (one of the AL colors!) because I love to paint my nails, some little mice and a chirping cricket for the cats, and a raccoon toy for Clyde! So sweet!

Yes, I do shave FatSpice myself. I am not a good barber! :(

This is literally three minutes after I took the cricket out of the box.

He was guarding this, but Darwin has been the one who has been playing with it! Haha!

Thanks so much, Jenn. You did such a good job! :)

This was my second time doing the Cara Box Exchange, and both times have been a great experience. I will definitely be doing it again, so stay tuned!

Monday, May 27, 2013

$300 for a TEXTBOOK? Save that money, honey, and buy yourself something nice.

Well, it has been a little while since I posted last. Summer semester has officially started! I knew that when I tried to use a Butterfinger bar as the TV remote. Heck, I knew that when I bought three Butterfinger bars. Out of sheer embarrassment of having tried to use a candy bar as the TV remote, I promptly ate it.

Welcome to my most shameful moment. :)

I will be graduating in December, if everything goes as planned, and of course that means I am taking summer courses. Three, to be exact. That means three classes worth of books to buy, which can be very expensive! One of my books alone cost upward of $300. Another was $125! Another professor used a custom textbook, which was cheaper, although not as cheap as I would have liked, and cannot be sold back. Over the years I have discovered several different ways to avoid paying the astronomical costs of new (and even used!) textbooks, and since this has been on my mind lately, I thought I would write a post about it. Admittedly, this is not the most interesting post I have ever written, but it needs to be said! Here is how not to pay the usually-exorbitant costs of textbooks, so you can use your money for more important things, like Butterfingers. :)

1. Rent your textbooks.There are so many book rental companies out there, so price-shopping is easy to do. You can choose the best price and the best shipping option, and use your book for the entire semester for only a fraction of the regular cost. The best part about renting textbooks is that you send them back to the rental company when you finish using them. This is awesome, because you are not left with the responsibility of figuring out what to do with the book, trying to get the most of your money back, etc. I have figured out that I can rent my textbooks for roughly the amount of money that I would be receiving from the bookstore if I tried to sell them back! So, if I paid $300 for a book, and sold it back to the bookstore, I might get a third of that back, MAYBE. so that leaves $200 (or more!) that I spent and am not getting back.
I was able to rent my $300 textbook for around $60, and my $125 textbook for $25 (although I found out later I could have gotten it even cheaper. Fail for me!).
Some of the textbook rental companies I have had the best luck with are:

- Chegg: I like this one best because they send you a box and postage that will allow you to easily send the book back at the end of the semester when you're done using it. Additionally, they send all sorts of coupons and samples when you rent your textbooks from them. I really like that. Score!

- Collegebookrenter.com: They offer coupons also, although in my opinion, not as good as Chegg. They do nice fast shipping though, so that is a bonus.

- Amazon: I love Amazon. Who doesn't? They offer textbook rentals for a price comparable to the other rental companies, along with the option to purchase books on your kindle. The electronic option can still be sort of expensive, but is very handy if you like to have all of your textbooks in one device.

There are so many more textbook rental companies, these are just a few, so browse them all before renting and make sure you get the best price!

2. Buy an older version. This is, of course, if it is not imperative that you have the absolute newest version of the book. I was able to use the same finance book for two classes, and I bought one version older than the one being used for $4 on Amazon, as opposed to the $150+ newest version of the book. The only downside to doing this is that when the professor refers to page numbers during a lecture, the page number in your book may not correspond. I never had a problem trying to find the information, though, if it made sure I did not have to pay a ton of money for textbooks!

3. If the book is a supplemental, share the cost with a friend. I have a class that uses a supplemental case book and assigns case analyses from that book. They only occur every few weeks, so a friend and I split the cost of the book and make copies of the assigned pages (a case does not take up too many pages and we can make copies for free at school) for one of us to use. This really only works if you have a book you are only using sporadically.

4. Borrow the book from a friend. This one is obvious, and you might want to offer to buy it for cheap from your friend, or to give him or her a little bit of money for using it (usually friends don't want your money, but I like to offer anyway) before returning it. This is a great way to do things because the book may still be able to be sold back when the classes are over.

These are the main ways I get around paying ridiculous amounts for textbooks, but I know there are more out there! I hope they helped. How do you get around paying full price for textbooks?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Our summer garden & the perfect pallet upcycle!

As you can tell from the general content of my blog, I love DIY projects and saving money. M and I really love to eat fresh food, especially in the summer time, so every summer, I plant a garden. Not everything grows perfectly here in Georgia, but over the last three years, we have figured out what works and what doesn't. We grow what we can, and we buy what we cannot grow. We have found that squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, and all sorts of peppers grow really well down here. I would like to add that we cannot currently grow squash because our first year growing vegetables, we had a horrible squash bug infestation. We got a lot of squash out of our plants, but they died as a result of the bugs. I have read that once you have an infestation, you should not plant squash for three years. Bummer!

Planting our own vegetables and herbs saves us money and hassle during the summer (and in some cases, in the other months too!), along with being healthier for us, as we do not use any sort of pesticides. One of my favorite things to grow is basil. I routinely prune my basil plants and make batches of basil-walnut pesto. It is so good! I put it into meal-size containers and freeze it for later use. M loves whole-wheat penne with pesto and grilled or pan-fried chicken, and so do I. What a good summer meal!

Below are some pictures of our summer garden, but first, I must tell you about our pallet upcycle!

A friend and I jacked two pallets from [location withheld] (haha), and they were originally intended for a different purpose, but when we realized how heavy they were, that kinda went out the window. She said she had heard of using them as a raised bed garden, which I thought was an adorable idea. We needed some extra space for planting, so I went ahead and dragged one of the SUPER HEAVY pallets to the back yard. I made it, and with only a small scratch and a few splinters.

Since I know you're dying to see photos, here they are!


Here is the pallet, before I did anything to it.

And here is the pallet after I cut some random boards I had around here, and nailed them to the sides to close it in. After this, I filled it with potting soil.

I then planted four cayenne pepper plants and two basil plants in it. Voila! So cool. And now the pallet has a purpose and we have a neat little planter.

Here is our raised bed. I took this before I planted the cucumbers at the end. Growing here: tomatoes, tomatillos, green and red bell peppers, jalapenos, serrano peppers, and dill. 

We also grow herbs and some more compact veggies in pots: porch tomatoes (cherry tomatoes, the sweet & neat variety), basil, strawberries, Thai basil, oregano, thyme & grapefruit mint.

Here are some more cucumbers that will be planted in a few weeks. 

In addition to all of these, we are growing citronella plants and lavender. I hope you enjoyed seeing our summer garden. Do you have a green thumb? What do you grow? I would love to hear about it!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Bare walls be gone... and you too, huge collection of loose buttons!

Finally, a break from school. Only until Wednesday, unfortunately, and then the summer semester starts. Homework, reading, studying, tests and papers all come with it. I am excited though, because this means I am closer to finishing!

During this (week long) break, I intended to finish SO MANY projects... but instead I slacked. I spent time with friends, I slept, I went running... all of it well-deserved. I did finish a few things. The first thing I really wanted to take care of was the fact that M and I have a ton of wall space behind our bed that was not being used. As with the rest of the house, I was sick of the neutral-colored decorating scheme I had used when we first moved in, in an attempt to decorate "more like an adult"... whatever that is. I wanted some color. I also wanted to figure out a use for the literally hundreds of buttons I had stashed away. I found another painting on Pinterest that used buttons as leaves, and thought that this would be a great use for my collection, and a great way to add whimsy and color to our bedroom wall.

 I originally took pictures of each step of the process so that I could post a tutorial, but those were accidentally deleted when the formatting of my SD card went all wacky. I am so bad with technology, I would not even know what the problem was. Darn it.
So here is how I made these:

- I spray painted each canvas a different color. It took a few coats, but I like using spray paint because it is shiny and pretty and bright, as well as really easy to use. It is also very quick.
- I then drew my design onto the spray painted canvas in pencil. Another awesome thing about spray paint is that it is easy to draw on, and then erase if you make a mistake.
- After drawing on the design, I outlined it with the color paint I wanted my tree to be. I used acrylic paint and a VERY thin brush. After outlining, I carefully filled it in with a thicker brush, being careful to stay in the lines I had made. It took several coats to completely cover the area.
- When I had finished putting all of the coats of paint onto the tree, I let it dry and then set my buttons on the canvas where I thought they looked good. I used craft glue one one, and super glue on the other (because I could not find my craft glue), and both worked very well.

Here is how they look on our wall (along with some little boxes I found at Michael's and painted): 

Please excuse my inability to take a picture that isn't crooked!!

So, I hope you like my whimsical trees. I make them to order in my Etsy shop!

How do you creatively fill the walls in your bedroom? Do you prefer a really put-together look, or a more bohemian one?

Until next time!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Wait! Don't throw those hideous shoulder pads away! (A shoulder pad upcycling tutorial)

I LOVE THRIFT SHOPS. I love the thrill of finding something awesome for hardly any money, and I especially love when that something awesome is vintage.

My favorites are really retro vintage button-down shirts. The ones with the ties at the neck are the best! The only problem is, those cute shirts usually have some pretty terrible shoulder pads. I used to throw shoulder pads away and felt terribly guilty about it, until I realized that our cats would probably love a new catnip-stuffed toy.

So, throw your shoulder pads away no more! If you have cats, or know someone who has a cat, this would make a great DIY gift or stocking stuffer.

Here is how I did this simple little upcycling project:

 I started by taking some shoulder pads from a funky shirt I plan to refashion:
Then, I folded it in half and decided about where to put my buttons.
 Next, I folded it in half and sewed it with my sewing machine. I used gold thread because that is what was on my sewing machine now. :)

Afterward, I stuffed it with catnip, and sewed it shut.

VOILA!! Cute little mousey cat toy... from a shoulder pad!

I hope you like it. Do you have any other creative uses for shoulder pads? I would love to hear them!