Awful Office

As teachers, Kim and I actually do a lot of our work from home.  Projects, grading, planning, etc…it all takes up a lot of space.  Of course, we could leave it all in our school offices and work on it there, but really, after being there for nine hours by the time the final bell rings, we just want to be home, under some non-fluorescent lights.    I’m sure most office-bound workers would agree.

In addition, I’m a techo-phile with a good number of computers, devices, and all the cords and accessories that go along with them.  Our current solution for the spare parts are to throw them willy-nilly into mismatched storage boxes and baskets throughout the apartment.  This isn’t such an efficient plan when it takes me half an hour to hunt down an HDMI cable because I forgot that we kept it in a box under the bed (duh…).

When we first chose this apartment, we were jazzed that we could forgo a two bedroom price, just so we could have an office, because our current one bedroom has an office nook (that  doesn’t count towards the bedroom count).  That was all well and good, until nearly a year later, we realized we were using it to store our desktop computer and printer.  Oh yeah, and the dog’s crate.

Instead, we were grading at the dining table, the breakfast bar, the couch, and even in the bedroom.  Papers and notebooks were everywhere, meanwhile the office was languishing as wasted real estate.

And when she’s in a design quandry, Kim goes straight to Pinterest and home blogs.  After looking around, we realized the only way to go was up, like Sarah Ellinger’s office:

Our office is about the same depth as this one, and look at all that storage space!  (We also think that Ikea chandelier makes the office look more intentional.)

The built in desk takes up half the square footage (all 30 feet of it), and there’s no where to put a big enough bookcase.  So, up we go.

We want to create a rustic modern open shelving unit like this and this.  The legs will sit at the back of the desk and be attached to the wall at the top.  We hope that when we move to our next place (wherever that may be), this piece will easily be altered with different pipes and fittings, and maybe extra shelves, depending on the new space.  Long term solutions, for the win!  It’ll be my first building project, so fingers crossed I don’t somehow hack some of my own digits off.

What are your best office organization tips?  Really, we need all the help we can get!

Homegrown Mojitos

I was a total hippie when I was younger (and maybe I still am…)  My long-suffering parents went along with it, though, and generally indulged whatever wacky idea I had that week.  At one point, I developed an interest in gardening, and it stuck!  With all of us, in fact.  Even after I moved out, my parents kept up the garden that I had started when I was around 15.  In fact, last year, they planted tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, various herbs, and mint.  At the end of the season, they pulled everything up, but surprise!    This year, the mint came back with a vengeance!  Seriously, there is so. much. mint.


And what better to do with a gazillion sprigs of mint than make mojitos!  Before this past weekend, I had never even tried a mojito.  I read that sometimes, during a rush, bartenders will fib and tell customers who order mojitos that they’re out of mint, because they’re a bit of a pain to make.  We’re always up for a challenge, though!

rum with lime


We adapted the recipe from All Recipes, using vanilla syrup instead of granulated sugar, thus creating…

Vanilla Mint Mojitos

yields one mojito

  • 10 mint leaves
  • 1/4 of a lime, sliced
  • Shot (1.5 oz) of light rum
  • 1-2 Tbsp Torani Vanilla Syrup (or similar)
  • About one cup club soda
  • Ice

Muddle the mint and half of the lime slices in the bottom of a glass.

mojito before muddle


Squeeze a few more slices of lime into the glass.  Add ice, vanilla syrup, and rum.  Fill glass the rest of the way with club soda.  Give drink a stir before serving.  Pretty it up with a couple of mint leaves or lime slices.

Variations: use flavored rum!  There are a ton to choose from–mango, pineapple, coconut…You could even say you’re just trying to get it all your daily servings of fruit!

Note from Sam: Be careful when  muddling the mint with the lime. I have accidentally over-muddled the mint, and rather than having nice, whole, tasty mint leaves, it looked more like the mint had been blended up. Not good. The little leaf bits get everywhere, and they stick to your teeth, and then everyone laughs at you silently but doesn’t say anything because it’s funnier if you don’t know about it.  Then you go out to the grocery store with the mint still stuck to your front tooth, and the cashier smiles at you and you think it’s because they’re nice but really its just the mint.


While this wasn’t the simplest of cocktails to make, it is so worth it–perfect for a hot, muggy Saturday night, grilling burgers and hot dogs, and watching the sunset.

Do you make cocktails at home or do you prefer to let the professionals do it for you?  What’s your favorite summertime cocktail?


Budget-friendly Gift Ideas

Growing up, I was a very unimaginative gift giver.  I figured everyone just wanted the latest NSync CD (NSync ruled; Backstreet Boys drooled).  As I got older, however, I wanted to give gifts that meant more.  My favorite kind of present to give or receive is some sort of basket-type assortment that goes along with a theme.

-Know a coffee lover?  Then it’s a unique mug with a bag of coffee and maybe a bottle of vanilla  (or hazelnut or caramel) syrup.

-A bookworm?  A New York Times bestseller that I know they’d like, and maybe a kitschy notepad like this or this or this.

-Newlyweds?  Create an at home movie date night!  Give them microwave popcorn, their favorite candy and soda, and these retro popcorn holders.

My best friend is a baking fiend (lucky me!),  so instead of her using boring old plastic measuring spoons, why not give her these and a bag of flour or this folded up with a set of wooden spoons tucked in the bow?  They put the “fun” in functional (couldnt’resist; sorry not sorry)!

All of these gifts are well under $50. What’s more, you can usually find similar items at stores like TJ Maxx for even less.

Just today, I put together a gift for a gal pal’s birthday dinner later in the week.  She has a green thumb and a balcony garden, so  I  picked out some stylish garden items to cute-up her porch.  I couldn’t find exact matches of what I bought, but they were like these garden markersplanter, and seeds.  Just artfully crumple some tissue paper in the bucket, arrange the accessories and seeds, and slap a bow on the front–no gift bag needed!



Also!  A point in my favor is that I got a lot of it on sale, so the entire gift basket (gift bucket?  gift planter?) was around *drumroll* $10.  It’s a bit of a humble brag, but I’m a little proud of myself!

What are you favorite kinds of gifts to give and/or receive?

Renters’ Rule: Always Check with the Landlord

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Doh!  I feel so dumb having to type this.  Thursday of last week, we were all fired up to paint the bedroom a cool gray over the weekend in order to make it our serene retreat…

Not so much…

We called our landlord to check the policy on painting.  They said it was fine, as long as you put it back to the exact tan that it is now, but they didn’t know what exactly the name of that color was.


So we had a decision to make.  Put in a day and roughly $20 into painting the walls gray now, then in less than a year spend another day and $20 painting the walls tan again.  Or tweak our design plan and live with the tan.

Double hm.

Ultimately, we decided to live with the tan.  While we obviously would have preferred to have the gray, it just didn’t make sense.  If we were staying at this place longer, maybe the resulting decision would have been different.  But all these factors pointed to just living with this way-too-peachy/orange-for-our-taste tan (like seriously, why not go with a truly neutral tan or a cream?  /rant).

Our new design board is really similar to the original, but with this as the palette.

To get the (new) color palette, I went to the oh so fabulous Design Seeds, used the color sliders on the palette search feature to match this peachy-tan, and voila! a bunch of combinations that make me think it won’t be half bad!  So, while it’s no longer a “monochromatic” plan, we really love that all the other colors of the palette are cool or neutral to balance the wall color.

The weekend’s plan wasn’t a total wash, though.  True to our word, we hit up TJ Maxx and got a side table for my side of the bed.  According to the tag, it retails for $100, is normally $50 at TJM, but was on clearance for $20!  And this thing is big!  As in, “I can fit a lamp, frames, candles, and all the magazines and books I’m currently reading” big!  We never stumble on deals like this, but maybe our luck is changing.

We bopped over to Target as well to look for a cool-toned lamp.  Granted the blue isn’t the same as in the above scheme, but we dug it.  And really, isn’t that what decorating your home is about?  Going with the flow and finding things that really speak to you?


One thing we couldn’t track down was a throw blanket or pillow (or really any other accessory) in the right shade of green.  So (deep breath), I’m going to crochet one!  We think it will make it that much more special.

Have you ever had a wrench thrown into your decorating plans?  How did it work out?

Nerd Alert: Cash Money Budgeting


*Note: In no way do we consider ourselves experts on the subject of money and budgeting.  Far from it actually. :)  This is just how we’re managing our money at the moment.*

Budgets are generally things that no one likes to talk about.  However, I’m weird, and I LOVE budgeting–the planning, the spreadsheets, the color-coded columns of expenses…  Anyone else?  No?  Just me?  That’s awkward…Well, in the event that there is one other weirdo superstar like me, here is how we budget.

When we first decided to start doing this blog, we knew it would be a financial commitment in addition to being a time commitment.  If we weren’t blogging about it, we could re-do our apartment at a snail’s pace: a lamp this month, a vase the next. (I mean, we still could, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But I’m impatient, and it wouldn’t make for a terribly interesting blog).  In addition to wanting to create a fun, interesting blog, we want to start saving for a house and aggressively paying down our student loans.  To accomplish this, we made a (dun dun dun) budget.

1.  Define your most important goals

Ours are (in order of importance):

A) Meet and exceed minimum payments on all loans every month

B) Save up for a down payment on a house

C) Make our home (wherever it may be) lovely

2.  Make a budget with those goals in mind

This is actually the easy part (step 3 is the toughy).  Just write down all your income, then start subtracting off your bills, fixed ones (like rent/mortgage, car insurance, car payment, etc) and the variable ones (electric, water , gas, groceries).  Really dig deep!  Have a habit of stopping at Starbucks every other day for a grande iced coffee with hazelnut, light on the cream (like me)?  Write that down, because it adds up!  Is your best friend’s birthday this month?  Estimate how much you’ll spend on a gift (and don’t forget to factor in the birthday dinner), and write that down, too.  Once you’ve wracked your brain, check out the balance.  Have a bunch of money left over?  You’re awesome!  Are you in the negative numbers?  Don’t worry!  Just go back through all your expenses and look for ways to cut corners (maybe cut that Starbucks fix down to once a week, and make coffee at home on the other days).

Because we’re huge nerds and love a good spreadsheet, we write our budget in Excel, but really, you could write yours with good ol’ paper and pen.  We actually have our budget planned out for the next twelve-ish months, further proof of our nerd status.

3.  Stick to it

Like I said, this is the part of budgeting that everyone hates, us included.  More often than we’d like to admit, there are days where we want to say, “To heck with the budget!  Let’s go buy a new bed and a steak dinner!”  (And sometimes that second part wins out…)

But balance is a huge part of budgeting.  Trying to cut out all luxuries, at least in our experience, makes us feel deprived and grumpy.  No bueno! What we try to do to avoid this though is to replace that impulse with a much cheaper version.  Instead of going out for apps, steak, and dessert, we get filet mignon with all the fixin’s from the grocery store and cook at home.  Does it still cost money?  Sure, but not nearly as much.  Not to mention, cooking dinner at home can be way more fun (think music from your iPod, candles, and stretchy pants for when you have that second helping of mashed potatoes).

We like to look at it as a challenge–an adventure!

Anyone want to share their goals or budgeting tips?

Bedroom Inspiration Board

As it stands now, our bedroom is neither functional nor beautiful.

Bed? It’s actually a double bed from a children’s collection.  But it was free, and after using it for nearly two years, we’ve kind of gotten used to it.

Bedside tables?  We have one Lack table from Ikea and one tiny, squatty box that is useless due to the inability to put anything on top (what if you need to open it?) or anything in it (what if you need to put something on top?)

Dresser? A flimsy office supply organizer that tips over every time you try to open the drawers.

Lighting? Exactly one lamp on the opposite side of the room from the door.  There is no overhead light, so at night we just have to hope we put our stuff away, for fear of tripping on the way to the lamp.

As for beauty, the wall color was the standard khaki for all the apartments around here.  The tapestry was a stop-gap solution that neither one of us was ever in love with.  It looks majorly college dorm chic, which is great…when you’re in college, but we’re trying to move away from that look. The bedding has been cobbled together from hand-me-downs and clearance sales.  None of it matches (or even coordinates) and some of it is pill-y.

But enough complaining!  Our mattress is super comfy, and the room gets a ton of light all day long.

Now that you have an idea of the uber-bummer, sorta embarrassing state of our bedroom, here’s what we’re thinking going forward.

We want a light, serene, monochromatic room with a vintage feel.  In regard to functionality, we need it to house the regular bedroom stuff: bed, dresser, side tables, but also a desk, since there’s only room for one person at the apartment’s built-in desk.


It utilizes the furniture we already have/can get from family members, and only requires changing up the paint and buying a couple of major pieces (the corner desk, chair, and lamp) and a few small accessories.

Our plan for the weekend is to slap some paint on those walls (we’re thinking Benjamin Moore Gray Horse), scour TJ Maxx for lamps, accessories, and a side table, and hit up World Market to add some color.

Any projects you’re working on this weekend?