**Every season, I post a set of goals that I set out to accomplish. I track my progress here on my blog. I like the challenge of setting goals – it helps me to accomplish so much more. This post features my Winter 14 goals**

diy blackout curtains

DIY Blackout Curtains


Since I had this past week off from work, I decided to not waste any time in getting started with my Winter 14 goals.  One that I felt was the most urgent to deal with (and something that I could complete in a day or two) was getting blackout curtains in our bedroom.  I did some price checking online first for already made ones, but found that ones of decent quality started around $20 a panel, meaning I’d have to spend $40 to get curtains that I may or may not like.  To save money and stick with the curtains we already like, I decided to DIY it instead.  Joann Fabrics was having a sale on blackout fabric, so I was able to get the four yards that I needed to do both curtains for only $16!  There was a lot of trial and error with the first curtain, but eventually I found that taking out all the seams, inserting the liner, and then restitching the seams worked best.  It took a lot of time – I watched a good twelve twenty minute episodes of Classic Doctor Who on Hulu while working on this.  But the effort was worth it.

The top left and bottom right corner pictures were taken about the same time of day, one before and one after lining (I opened the lined curtains so that you could see how much they block).  It’s making a huge difference!  It’s much darker when we sleep now, and on days when I don’t have to wake up at 5:30am, it makes sleeping in much more sound.  Looks like this year is off to a good start.


**Every season, I post a set of goals that I set out to accomplish. I track my progress here on my blog. I like the challenge of setting goals – it helps me to accomplish so much more. This post features an update of my Summer 13 goals**

We’re a little over halfway through the summer now, so I thought it would be a good time to update you on how I’m doing with my Summer 13 goals.

Bacon bruschetta Chicken

Bacon bruschetta Chicken


  • Do a sun salutation every morning - I’ve been pretty consistent about this, and I’ve also started going back to yoga one day a week.  The only thing I don’t like is that I don’t get the full range of motion when I practice sun salutations first thing – my hamstrings are usually pretty tight when I first wake up.  But if I wait until my muscles are warmed up, I forget to do it.
  • Revamp my recipe notebook - Done! Will have a proper post with pictures soon.
  • Try three new Paleo slow cooker recipes - Two down (Bacon bruschetta chicken, Asian marinated spare ribs), one to go (Indian Lamb stew).  Also, used my slow cooker to render pork lard this week, but that’s not really a recipe for eating, so I’m not counting it.


My new pantry!

My new pantry!


  • Turn mud room into pantry – Done!  Still has a few last details left, but it’s amazing.  This one will get a proper post soon too.
  • Use up or donate fabric, fiber and yarn stash - I’ve made progress here.  I’ve gone through my stash and cleaned out and donated what I know I’m not going to use.  I’ve written up plans for what I’m going to make with the remainders.  I don’t think I’ll finish all the projects by the end of the summer, but at least I know what I’m doing.
  • Rehab end table – Still trying to decide what color to paint it.


Shampoo Bar

Shampoo Bar


  • Try no-poo for at least a month - Two weeks in, and my head is a grease bomb.  This is normal from what I’ve read, so I’m pushing through.  I’m also researching variations on no-poo.  Right now I’m using the baking soda/apple cider vinegar method, but I’m looking at coconut milk and aloe gel as another option.  I’m also trying J.R. Liggett’s Herbal Shampoo Bar for an upcoming vacation – it’s made from olive, coconut, castor and essential oils.
  • Get family photos scanned -  Found out that I can get these scanned at Kinko’s.  Have to look into the cost.
  • Have at least 3 “fancy” outfit shoots – 2 down, 1 to go.  See my “fancy” outfit shoots here and here.


Tracking my expenses

Tracking my expenses


  • Find my FICO score & improve it – Done!  I’m happy to say that my FICO score is 790, which is pretty good.  I decided to open up a new credit card account that I’ll pay off each time I use it, because increasing your available credit and paying things on time improves your score.  I’ve also increased my student loan payments by $50 a month to pay them off faster.
  • Save my receipts and track my expenses once a week – Tried this method for several weeks, but it wasn’t working for me.  I bought a Moleskine Cahier Pocket Plain Notebook to write down every penny I spend, and I then transfer this once a week to my budget spreadsheet.  This seems to be working pretty well.



    • Read at least two – three professional development books – Halfway through one.
    • Read at least 15 young adult novels - 8 down.  Most of them were pretty good.  My favorites so far were The Apothecary and Abby Carnelia’s One and Only Magical Power.  I like novels with plucky heroines and magical realism.


Our Wedding

Our Wedding

My husband and I got married back in February, and it was a wonderful, beautiful ceremony.  It was also super budget friendly and planned in 8 weeks!  I figure I learned a few things about planning weddngs, and it makes sense to share some tips for those of you out there who might be planning your own wedding, or helping a friend plan theirs.


Location was my main priority

Location was my main priority

Are make-up and hair important to you, or could you have a friend do these?  Is it important to you to have the ceremony outside, inside, at a church, somewhere else, etc?  If something isn’t a huge priority to you, don’t spend a lot of money and time stressing about it.  For me, getting married in my in-law’s backyard was a very important part of the ceremony.  My make-up was not.  Having a good photographer that I trusted was important to me.  Having fancy chairs for the ceremony was not.  Figure out what’s important to you and your soon-to-be spouse, and prioritize money to those elements.  Go cheap or forgo what doesn’t matter.


DIY programs

DIY programs

Lots of things you can outsource take time.  Getting professional stationary, custom favors, etc.  And many of these things cost a lot of money too.  Figure out what things you can DIY and be happy with.  For me, we just sent out Evites instead of invitations – FREE!  I made my own programs in Microsoft Publisher, which meant almost no turn-around time, getting them exactly how I wanted them to look, and having a minimal cost (I had to buy a ream of cardstock).  However, if you don’t have the design bug, you might want to see if a friend could help you out here.


Shop craft stores for decorations

Shop craft stores for decorations

Little touches can make a big difference, and don’t have to be super expensive.  My sisters-in-law bought fake yellow flowers and tulle at Michaels and made beautiful chair decorations. My brother’s girlfriend bought and decorated little bubble containers for the recessional.  I bought some yellow and white Chinese lanterns to hang around the yard.  None of these things cost that much, but they added some beautiful touches to the wedding and reception.


Don't be afraid of eBay for wedding dresses

Don’t be afraid of eBay for wedding dresses

My dress is a J. Crew Arabelle gown.  I fell in love with it when I saw it on J. Crew’s site, but at the time I was planning my wedding, they were out of my size.  I stalked it on eBay and quickly found one  in my size (new, with the tag crossed out) for half the price!  Even with the alterations, it was still under $300 total, which is insanely good for a wedding gown. (By the way, my husband found his tux at a local vintage store for a mere $35, no alterations needed!).  You can find a lot of good stuff at consignment shops too, especially ones that focus on formals.

(Note: While I do love to sew, I did not want to make my own dress.  I know I didn’t have the sewing chops for something that fancy yet, and I knew it would stress me out to try to make it in 8 weeks.  Unless you’re an amazing seamstress or have a friend who’s an amazing seamstress, it’s better to buy a dress.  Especially if you’re on a time limit).

KEEP THE BOUQUET (and other flowers) SIMPLE

My beautiful, minimal bouquet

My beautiful, minimal bouquet

Unless of course flowers are one of your big priorities.  I knew I wanted something really simple, 1) because I can’t stand the idea of spending a lot of money on flowers that get seen once, 2) because I wanted the focus to be more on how beautiful the location was.  My bouquet was six white roses, one for each year me and my husband had been together.  I also had the florist work in two blue pieces of jewelry – one from each of my grandmothers.  We used live flowers to decorate with – a couple potted gardenias around the ceremony, little potted marigolds at the reception table.  It looked lovely, and we were able to take plants home as a memento.


My husband's brother shucked oysters for the reception

My husband’s brother shucked oysters for the reception

You don’t have to do this by yourself.  You’re getting married – in general, most friends and family will be happy for you and want to help out.  Delegate – find ways to let others help you.  My mom, mother-in-law, step-mother-in-law and sisters-in-law were like my planning team.  They helped take on various jobs that needed to be done so I didn’t go crazy (I was working full time while planning this by the way).  On the day of, everyone pitched it.  Family helped set up the chairs and last minute decorations.  My aunt and uncle picked up some of the food on the way.  My brother-in-law shucked oysters for the reception (one of my favorite foods!).  My sisters-in-law helped serve gelato.  We hired friends too – our officiant is a good friend of ours, my husband’s known our DJ for years, and we met our photographer back at the library where we first worked together.

One note here – if you’re hiring a friend who does whatever you’re hiring them for professionally, pay them their regular rate, unless they offer their services as a wedding present or directly offer you a discount.  It’s rude to assume that just because you’re friends they’ll give you a cheaper rate – they’re doing this for a living, they deserve to get paid properly for their services.




Wedding cakes are mad expensive.  And my husband and I both dislike cake.  After doing some research, we found a local gelato place that offers 5 liter take-out containers for $30 a piece, and include cups, spoons and napkins.  We got four different flavors for a total of $120 – way less than most wedding cakes.  Plus, it was tastier, created good memories for our guests, and was all around awesome.  There’s lots of other non-cake options out there too.  Of course, if a fancy wedding cake it your thing, go for it.  Just bear in mind that a lot of bakeries need a lot of notice, and the price gets crazy fast.


DIY your makeup

DIY your makeup

I always wear minimal makeup – a little powder, maybe some mascara and eyeshadow.  I knew I didn’t want to have tons of makeup on my wedding day, or I wouldn’t feel like myself.   So rather than pay someone else to put more makeup on my face than I would like, I did my own.  I did treat myself to a new eyeshadow though.  Still cheaper than getting it done professionally.


My hairstylist, recommended by my cousins

My hairstylist, recommended by my cousins

Don’t know who to hire for something?  Ask your friends and relatives who have gotten married recently.  Ask for recommendations on Facebook, Twitter, etc.  My regular salon charged some huge fees for wedding hair styling, and it was going to be difficult to have enough time to go there before the ceremony.  My cousins, who both got married recently, suggested the hairstylist they had used, who was willing to actually come to the house.  So much less stressful, and more affordable than my salon too.


Best photo of my dad and uncles ever

Best photo of my dad and uncles ever

This was one of my priorities – I knew I wanted a photobooth.  Our photographer offered it as an add-on to her package, and it was some of the best money we spent.  Some of the best pictures from the wedding came from the photobooth – the kids had a blast, my aunts and uncles got crazy, some of our friends re-enacted Star Trek scenes.  We did the disposable camera thing too, but those photos were no where near as good as these.  Trust me, photobooths are worth it.

So that’s my review of our wedding and how we did it in 8 weeks.  It was fabulous, wonderful and totally “us”.  Five months later, I don’t regret a thing.

Have you ever planned a big event in a short amount of time?  What’s you favorite tip for getting it done without going crazy or broke?





(All photos in this post taken by Kimberly Yau)

I’ve seen and pinned so many DIY earring holders lately, I decided it was time to take the plunge and make my own.  I wanted to create something that would work for my posts and my non-post earrings.  I didn’t want something too complicated or fancy, because I wanted my earrings to be the main attraction.  So I collected my materials and got to work.

  • Picture Frame (I went with IKEA Ribba, but pretty much any picture frame would work)
  • Perforated Metal sheet (I bought this at Home Depot for about $19, but there are probably cheaper options if you look around)
  • Chalk or colored pencils
  • Metal Snips (the ones in this picture sucked.  The ones shown in step 2 are Wiss Long Cut Aviation Snips which worked like a dream)
  • Picture hanging kit (not shown)Step

Step 1: Take the glass and backing out of the picture frame.  Use the glass as a guide to draw the lines you will cut the metal sheet along.

Step 2: Using metal snips, cut along the lines and cut out your sheeting.  Do this slowly and try not to bend or warp the metal.  Oh, and you should wear gloves since you’re working with sharp metal.  I didn’t because I was being lazy.

Step 3: Put your cut-out metal sheet in the picture frame and secure in place by folding down the picture back thingys (don’t know the right word).

Step 4 (Optional): Attach picture hanging wire with picture hanging kit.  I like using this because it lets you adjust the frame to be straight.  I take down my earring holder whenever I need any of the post earrings, so this makes it easier. You could forgo the picture wire and simply set the frame on a table or dresser.

And that’s that!  There’s tons of variations. You could spray paint the metal sheet a fun color.  You could try a hinged double picture frame (I’m thinking of trying this).  You could decorate the picture frame, etc.  It’s a really great way to be able to see all your earrings at once, and as you know, when you can see your accessories, you’re more likely to actually wear them.  Enjoy!


Even librarians have to let their inner rockers out every once and awhile :)  And what better way to do that than wearing the boots I stalked eBay for months to get?

This is one of the reasons why I love fall – my sad, neglected boots get to come out of hiding and shine.  Even if it’s only for a few months, it’s still glorious.

Tunic: Tulle (via Penelope T)
Vintage Slip: Sherry’s Yesterdaze
Leggings: Target
Boots: Frye 8R (via eBay)
Necklace: Self-made
White Clutch: Thrifted

Quote: Linger (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 2), Maggie Stiefvater

I’d had this tank top for ages.   While I loved how it looked with cardigans, I never liked it much by itself, because the cap sleeves were not so flattering to my arms.  A few weeks ago, I decided to get stitching and see if I could fix that.  Here’s my photo tutorial for what I did*:

Step 1: Mark where you will cut. I used pins to mark the cuts while wearing the shirt, so that I could see what they would look like.  If you have a dressform, that would work better, but I don’t (yet).  Make sure to leave about 1/2″ extra fabric to make an elastic casing.

Step 2: Take those scissors, and cut off excess fabric. But remember, measure twice, cut once.

Step 3: Press fabric to make casing. Your iron is your friend.  Use it wisely.

Step 4: Stitch, leaving a small opening for elastic. I think I used about a 5/8 hem.  How large yours is will depend on how wide the elastic you’ll be using is.

Step 5: Thread elastic through casing. If you don’t have one of those elastic threading things (sorry I don’t know the proper word), you should seriously think about getting one.  They’re insanely useful, and make working with elastic so much easier.

Step 6: Stitch elastic together, then place back in casing and stitch casing closed. Try to make sure that the elastic isn’t twisted.  It’s not very comfortable when that happens.


Much more flattering.   Elastic sleeve holes make for a pretty casual look, but I think it fits the vibe of this top well.  I originally wanted to just do a regular hem, but without the elastic, the sleeve holes gapped in a very unflattering way.  Now it fits just fine, and looks great.  Happy sewing!

*I should note, this tutorial will really only work for tops which have a similar sleeve design.  There are many, many different types of cap sleeves, and this won’t fix them all.  Plus, it works best with jersey fabric – woven cotton wouldn’t look the same.

Last year, I posted about the beautiful layered chain necklaces I was noticing on Etsy.  I love them, but I never actually got around to buying one. Recently, I began to notice that I had quite a few silver chain necklaces and bracelets that I never wear.  With a few jump rings and a pair of pliers, I transformed them into a lovely diy chain necklace.

I started out with four necklaces and two bracelets.  The necklace with the largest links will be my base necklace, because it’s easier to work with.  I ended up not using the jump rings pictured, because they were to large to fit into the links of my base.  You can buy supplies like this at your local craft store.  Jewelry pliers would have been better, but I don’t own any yet.

Step 1: Remove end pieces.

Take the lobster clasps and end pieces off of your necklaces and bracelets.  Leave the small ring at the end of each chain intact – you will need these in the next step.

Step 2: Position necklaces and bracelets in the way that you would like them attached, and use small jump rings and pliers to attach them to your base necklace.

It may take a bit of trial and error to find how you would like your chains arranged.  I decided to attach the three necklaces together closer to the top of the chain, while I attached the two bracelets lower.  There’s an infinite number of ways to arrange your chains, and it’s pretty easy to change it if you change your mind.

And that’s it!  Say hello to your awesome diy chain necklace that costs next to nothing, since you likely already have most of the supplies.  I’ve already worn mine several times, and I think it will become a new staple for me.

Since I sew a lot, I end up with lots of fabric scraps.  I especially end up with lots of t-shirt and jersey scraps and sometimes I’m not sure what to do with them.  This week, I found the perfect solution.  I wanted some reusable washcloths for cleaning my kitchen so I can kick the paper towel habit, but I didn’t want to spend money.  I took my jersey scraps and my terry-cloth scraps and combined them to make some awesome, patchwork kitchen cloths.

I sewed all my scraps together into two giant “blankets”, one of jersey and one of terry cloth, cut out 10 by 10 squares, and serged them together.  Then I took scraps of ribbon and bias tape, and stitched them to a corner so that I can hang the clothes on hooks.

Now I’ve got them hanging up near my paper towels, and I’m actually finding myself cleaning my kitchen more, because I love using these!  I keep my kitchen clean with a homemade mixture of white vinegar, water, dish soap and essential oils.  Being green is fun!


You may be familiar with my matching blue and purple Target tunics that I thrifted awhile ago.  You can see the purple one here and the blue one here.  While I love how they fit, I’ve never really liked the length. They were too short to wear with leggings, but an awkward length for jeans.  I tried shortening the purple one a few months ago, but ended up not liking it.  Yesterday, I took inspiration from some amazing re-cons I’ve been looking at lately, and created a completely new tunic.

I measured my tunic against another tunic that I like the length of, and figured out that I needed to add about six inches.  I cut six inches off the bottom of the purple tunic (including the part I had cut off and re-attached).  I then sewed that onto the hem of the blue tunic.  This gave me the length that I wanted, but the color blocking looked odd.  I decided to add some purple details at the collar to give the tunic more continutity.

Inspired by Tatertots and Jello’s recent t-shirt refashion, I decided to create some flower details.  I cut circles from the purple fabric, using my lens cap as a pattern for the larger circle and a paper holder (not shown) to make the smaller circles.  The larger one has three layers and the smaller ones have two.  Following the tutorial, I folded the layers in half, and stitched in the middle, then folded the other way and stitched again.

After this, I sewed them onto the tunic, and stitched buttons in the middle. I chose blue buttons that were a similar tone to the blue part of the tunic, to help further continuity.

I absolutely love how the finished tunic turned out!  I can see myself wearing this a lot more than the old tunic.  It looks amazing with leggings and skinny jeans, and I could even wear it as a swimsuit cover up at the beach.  Next, I plan on fashioning the leftovers of the purple tunic into a new dress or tunic.  Hopefully, I’ll post that next week.

I posted a tutorial on flared to skinny jeans about a year ago, but it didn’t include any photos, and didn’t really go into detail.  I recently altered some boot cut jeans into straight leg jeans, and I documented the steps to create this more in depth tutorial.


My Express Stella jeans have made many appearances on this blog before.  Lately, though, I’ve been tired of the boot cut leg, and I’ve been wanting a hem that would allow me to wear low-heeled shoes.  I decided to alter them to have them look exactly the way I wanted.

Please note: This is specifically how I altered this pair of jeans.  Different jeans may have different constructions, so this tutorial is no comprehensive.

Step 1: Rip out seams. Rip out hem with seam ripper.  Rip out inner and outer leg seams to about 2-3 inches above knee.  Generally, boot cut jeans start to flare out just below the knee.

Step 2: Measure and take notes. Remember that the front of the jeans and the back of the jeans will have different widths. The back of the leg is usually wider.  Keeping notes, measure the width of the jeans at the knee and at the hem.  Measure for the front and the back, and take notes on what you find.  The difference between these measurements will be divided by two, and that’s how much fabric you will take away at the hem.  For example, on the front leg, the knee is 8 3/4 inches wide, while the hem in 10 inches wide.  That’s a difference of 1 1/4 inches.  I decided to take out 3/4 inch on each side, which gives it a very slight taper.

Step 3: Mark your cuts and cut jeans.

Step 4: Analyze and plan for the different seams. In most jeans, the inner leg seams and outer leg seams will be different in construction.

Outer leg seam

In these jeans, the outer leg seam was made by first serging each piece of fabric separately, and then stitching them together with a sewing machine.

Inner leg seam

The inner leg seam is constructed in the opposite order.  First, both pieces of fabric are stitched together, then the seam is serged.  Finally, this seam is also topstitched on the outside.

Because the inner leg seam is top stitched, it’s better to sew it first.  I’ve done it in the opposite order before, and it’s much harder to topstitch a leg seam when everything else is already sewn together.

Step 5: Sew, serge, and topstitch inner leg seams.

Stitch front and back together at inner leg seams.

Serge inner leg seam, then topstitch on the outside.

Step 6: Serge front and back separately at outer leg seam, then sew together.

Serge each panel of fabric separately.  Do not serge them together.

The edge of the front and back are serged and separate.

Stitch both panels of fabric together.

Step 7: Hem both legs. If you’d like your hem to be shorter, cut it now.  I shortened mine by half an inch.  Then fold under about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of fabric, and press.  Fold under to create hem (I prefer a 1 inch cuff) and press.  Top stitch through all layers on the outside.

And voila!  New jeans!  I’m considering going back and making them slightly tapered and slightly shorter, but I’m happy with them for now.


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