Stitch Fix May 2016

Hi, Oddly Lovely crew! It’s the fist of the month, which means it’s Stitch Fix day!

For those of you who don’t know what Stitch Fix is, it’s a subscription box clothing service where for $20 a box, you receive a personal stylist who will send you a selection of clothes picked out specifically for you. Then, you keep what you want and return the rest, while the $20 down payment can be used as a discount against any clothes that you keep.

Unfortunately, this was the first month in a loooooong time that my box just wasn’t quite on the mark. Oh, there were some cute items in here, but I’m sorry to report they were just not items I needed. See what I mean:

Stitch Fix May 2016 3

Skies are Blue Alise Embroidered Halter Top, $48 – Returned

This top is perfectly alright, and I get that it has that sort of southwestern-inspired pattern that I’ve pinned all over my boards. That said I wasn’t crazy about the pattern and the white fabric (I’m a little overly conscientious about just how pale I look in white clothes…). The fit wasn’t anything to write home about either.

Dear John Finnegan Cuffed Short, $58 – Returned

I’ve been asking my beloved stylist, Ariann, for some shorts for summer, and I know she’s trying hard to deliver. I got some perfect ones last month, but these were just a bit too small for me in the waist. Even if they were, the peachy color just isn’t quite for me.
Stitch Fix May 2016 4

Skies are Blue Yaxley Braided Neckline Top, $48 – Returned

Again, I get why my stylist selected this top for me – the braided neckline is very boho! I feel like the way the top comes in at my chest makes my shoulders look a bit broad, though, and I’m never a huge fan of horizontal stripes. This outfit wound up feeling a bit too sailor-y for me and not quite what I was looking for.

Stitch Fix May 2016 2

RD Styl Vierra Off Shoulder Dress, $68 – Returned

Okay, totally cute dress that’s definitely my style! The problem is, I already have a dress that’s nearly identical… dark blue, just above the knee, very summery… and already I don’t wear that dress enough. Good try, Ariann!
Stitch Fix May 2016 1Allie and Rob Brent Crochet Back Pullover Sweater, $58 – Returned

Good lord… I just realized I’m wearing this top backwards!! Haha, how funny! Anyways, I’ve done really, really good stocking up on these lacy, winter sweaters from Stitch Fix, so I understand when my stylist said this one was “too perfect to pass up for you.” The truth is, though, I truly have enough sweaters filling my closet and honestly just don’t need another one! I’m sure I would have snapped this one up in December, but now, I think it’d be smarter to pass. Damn.

Do you agree with my decision to pass on all my items from this box, even though I lost out on my $20? My decision has been made, but I’m still curious!

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How to Start Reading More Books

Reading More Books

I know that most of us would like to read more. That’s why I see so many other bloggers setting goals for new years, like reading 3 books a month or 100 in a year! Still, anyone who is at a job or school full time knows how much of a struggle it is to balance work and chores with reading… especially since at 9pm that binge-worthy TV show can look so much more appealing than a paperback.

Want to start reading more this year? Here are my favorite tips for reaching your literary goals!

1. Embrace the Audiobook

Audiobooks are seriously my favorite thing ever… next to podcasts. They’re the #1 reason why I’m still able to consume books at a steady pace, despite my adult responsibilities. They’re perfect to throw on in the car, at the gym, walking the dog, and while doing chores like laundry and dishes. Here are my recommendations for listening newbies.

2. Only Read Books That Grab Your Attention

Life is too short to slog through a book that you feel like you “should” read (I’m looking at you, Tolstoy) or a book that winds up being pretty boring 100 pages in. Don’t be embarrassed to pick up a trashy fantasy or romance novel! Reading is supposed to be fun and bring us joy. If you’re procrastinating picking up that novel, it’s probably not for you. And “engrossing” doesn’t need to mean “not educational.” Check out my favorite easy to read non-fiction books and captivating autobiographies.

3. Clean Up Your Bookshelf

A dirty bookshelf that’s filled with so-so novels will make it harder to pick out your next selection. Start by cleaning out your bookshelf using my tips, then make a pile of the next books you want to read. That way when you put a finished paperback down, the next ones are right there, ready to go!

4. Sign Up for a Book Subscription Service

You know how signing up for a $50 gym membership encourages you to go, just so you don’t waste money? If you prefer to read books on your Kindle or iPad, a e-book subscription service means that you have thousands of book options at the touch of your finger for just a few bucks a month. In my 6 subscription services that are worth it post, I shared my love for Kindle Unlimited, although these days I’m also a huge fan of Scribd.

5. Use Your Favorite Books to Find More Books

Think of a book, a popular book, that you absolutely loved, and use that book as a jumping off point! Either you can google “Books like the Golden Compass,” or head to Amazon.com, look up that book, and scroll down to “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” for more ideas. I also love using Goodreads for this purpose. Either look for similar books, in a similar way to Amazon, or take advantage of the lists people put together. And, heads up, Harry Potter Fans – you’ll love this list of similar books that I put together last year!

How do you make reading a priority? Do you have a goal of books that you want to read this year?

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5 Tips to Taking Care of Your Eyes

This post was sponsored by Think About Your Eyes as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I received compensation as a thank you for my review.

Taking Care of Eyes

Both of my parents have glasses, and for many years, I was jealous. I’ve always thought glasses were the coolest accessory, and honestly, I still feel that way. But despite the fact that I still get a twinge of envy when helping my mom or a friend pick out their new frames, I’m now grateful for the fact that I still have fantastic vision.

Like the rest of your body, though, eyes and eyesight changes with age. Just like exercising and eating healthy, it’s so important that we protect and care for our eyes, in order to have greater health and vision over our long lives.

Think About Your Eyes is a national public awareness campaign promoting the benefits of eye health. In a recent survey of the chain Life Time Fitness, they found that some gym-goers neglect their eye health despite being very conscious of their body health and fitness.

Today, in an effort to remind you how to care for your eyes, I’m sharing five tips that you should incorporate into your lifelong routine:

1. Wear Sunglasses

Sunglasses don’t just look cool – they also keep your eyes from getting “sunburned.” Exposure to ultra-violet light puts you at a higher risk for cataracts, thickening eye tissue, and skin cancer around the eyes. Pick out lenses with UVA and UVB coatings for maximum safety.

2. Quit Smoking

Smoking not only ages your skin more quickly, darkens your teeth, and increases your risk of lung cancer – it also heightens your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

3. Reduce Screen Time

Hey, I work on a computer all day, I get that computer and phone screens are an essential part of our lives. But staring at a computer for long stretches can dry your eyes out and, in serious cases, lead to loss of vision. Give yourself “eye breaks” frequently by looking away, getting a glass of water, or taking a walk around the block.

4. Wear Goggles

Remember sophomore chemistry, when you had to wear those dorky goggles when doing experiments? Protective goggles may not look as hip as sunglasses or fancy frames, but they’re essential for yard work and cleaning the house with chemicals like bleach. You can even get a pair for cutting those pesky onions or hot peppers in the kitchen!

5. Get Annual Eye Exams

Just like you get check-ups for the rest of your body, eye problems that are detected at an early age are the most treatable. Think About Your Eyes has a eye care professional locator that can help you find a nearby doctor and schedule an exam.

How is your eyesight? Do you get yearly exams? Any tips to add to my list?

TAYE Gifographic_FINAL

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Watermelon Salad with Cucumber and Feta

Watermelon Salad 1

I feel icky. After a work and personal trip this month and a few days of being sick, I’ve not only been skipping the gym too much, but I’ve also been eating at too many restaurants. My fat and salt intake is out of control, and I feel bloated as a result.

So as soon as I got back from my Indiana business trip this week, I went to the grocery store and loaded up on salad supplies. While I’m not a huge fan of traditional lettuce-with-toppings salads, making some creative salads that I can just leave in the fridge for meals or snacks means I’m more likely to reach for a healthy food when hungry.

While my roasted cauliflower salad with israeli couscous is my go-to, I also made a huge batch of this watermelon salad with cucumber, feta, and marinated red onion. It’s sweet, so it satisfies my sweet tooth, and it is so refreshing and light, I actually like it for breakfast! What other salad can you say that about?

What’s your favorite salad recipe? I need more suggestions!

Watermelon Salad 2

Watermelon Salad with Cucumber and Feta

Ingredients

  • 1/2 seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1 english cucumber, cut in half and sliced
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 3 tbsp. red wind vinegar

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine red wine vinegar and 1/3 cup water. Add sliced red onion and marinate for 10 minutes.
  2. Combine seedless watermelon, english cucumber, and feta cheese in a large bowl. Remove red onion from marinate and add, sprinkling some marinade on top, if desired. Gently mix until completely combined.
  3. Enjoy immediately or refrigerate for later.
http://oddlylovely.com/watermelon-salad-cucumber-feta/

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How to Find an Awesome New Hobby

Awesome New Hobby

Dog agility is something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. Ru absolutely excelled at rally obedience and flew through both her CGC and CGCA exams (my weirdo mutt is actually titled by the AKC – can you believe that?). Unfortunately all the dog agility classes are either about a 45 drive north, east, or west of our house in Berkeley, which is a pretty big commitment for new hobby.

Finally, after taking a break from dog training for six months, we signed up for a class and are totally loving it! It comes as no surprise that Ru is an agility wiz, and it’s super rewarding for both of us to watch her confidence grow as she flies through tunnels and over the ramps.

I’m definitely a little unfulfilled with life right now. Work is awesome and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but working from home alone is much less easy than it sounds, and I’m feeling an intense need to fill up my free time with activities and socializing. As a deep and lifelong introvert, that is not something I’m used to needing!

So I’m currently looking for new hobbies and have done a lot of thinking about what that might be. Here is some of my advice if you’re looking for a new hobby of your own:

1. Take a class

This is without question my favorite way to start something new. A little six-week series of dog agility or figure drawing will give you an idea if it’s something you’d like to pursue more seriously, and when you’re first starting, you’ll learn so much more with the help of a teacher than by yourself. Find an interested friend to sign up as well, or use the class an excuse to meet new ones. I often just start by googling something like “metalworking classes Berkeley,” as well as looking through local community colleges, adult schools, and art studios. Think about something you’ve always wanted to try – violin? beermaking? – and give it a try.

2. Use meetup.com and other online sites

I’ve talked about meetup.com for making friends, but it’s also a great way to try new activities! Not only do they have regular old classes there (I took a tarot reading series for a while), but they also just have “clubs” just like back in high school and college. Join a local feminist book club or a dog hiking group to stretch your brain and get outdoors.

3. Buy a book

If you’re not ready to jump head-in to a class or club, a book is a great way to explore a new hobby. I know that you can find a lot of information online these days, but there’s something so much more streamlined about reading your way through a book on chess. I recently picked up a book on sewing and then decided it was probably not the hobby I wanted to throw myself into right now.

4. Ask friends

Pick your friend’s brains for the sort of stuff they love to do. I’m always so surprised when I mention to a friend I’m taking a pottery class only to find she’s a die-hard pottery-head and has been taking classes for years! Get tips from them on where to go or what groups might be fun to join (ultimate frisbee anyone?) – maybe you can join her in her activities or just pick her brain about what the hobby is like, so you can make a more informed decision before investing lots of time and money.

5. Build on your passions

You guys all know how much I love dogs (duh), so I decided to build on my love for training Ru and start volunteering at the Berkeley animal shelter! There I not only get to work with a variety of pups, but I get to give back in a way that’s super important to me. Think about what you’re passionate about in your own life – if you love jewelry, visit your local bead-store and try making your own. If you love riding your bike to work, join a local bike co-op or switch to a new “style” like mountain biking. Get creative, and try something just a little bit out of your comfort zone!

What’s a new hobby that you’ve been trying out recently? I could use your suggestions!

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3 Mobile Apps That Save Me Money

Mobile Apps That Save Money

As a self-employed woman living in one of the most expensive places in the US, I’ve had to get pretty good at budgeting. This is not something that comes easily for me. Unlike my boyfriend who seems to squirrel away $100s like no one’s business, I’m constantly tempted by cute tops or kitchen gadgets or the latest and greatest tech.

Now that I work home alone all day, that temptation has only gotten worse. Online shopping is an easy way to take a ten minute “break” during the day, and either I’ll find myself perusing Pinterest or Craigslist or the latest sale at Sephora. I’m trying to remind myself that shopping only provides short-lived gratification and it can’t be a hobby and “will that blender really make me any happier?” – but it’s a lifelong lesson.

Today, instead of talking about coupon-ing apps or the latest deal sites like Groupon, which only seem to make me spend more money, I’m going to share the real tools that I use every single day to save.

1. Mint

I don’t know how I survived without this amazing website/app for so long. I’ve tried a number of budgeting tools over the years, but it usually lasts about 10 days before I’m over it. Mint, which I talked about in my November favorites post, automatically tracks my bank account, credit cards, bills, debt, and credit score so I can see exactly what’s going on with my money from one simple dashboard. One of my favorite features is how easily I can split transactions, allowing me to easily keep track of the purchases Reg and I share or divide up large Target purchases into their separate categories like home supplies and personal care. Now, whenever I’m thinking about making a medium or large purchase, I head to Mint first to get a real sense of where I’m at with my money for the month.

2. Digit

What Mint is for budgeting, Digit is for my savings. Here’s the basic idea: Every few days, Digit checks your spending habits and removes a few dollars from your checking account if you can afford it. It hides that money away into a separate savings account that’s FDIC backed, so I can be sure it’s safe. That means, it removes somewhere between $1 and $50 every few days into my savings, so I don’t even have to think about it. It’s never so much that I “feel” the pain of money-loss, but the next thing I know, I’ve saved $600! I also like that it doesn’t show up on my Mint dashboard, which means I never factor in this emergency fund to how much money I actually have to spend.

3. Unroll.Me

My email inbox was a real mess before this app came along (and it’s another one I covered in a favorites post last year). Unroll.Me allows you to quickly swipe to unsubscribe from email lists or “roll them up” into a single daily summary instead of getting several emails throughout the day. Now I’m no longer getting 10 emails from JCrew, Urban Outfitters, REI, and my other “guilty pleasure” stores all day every day. I’ve unsubscribed from most of these email lists, but the ones that I really do want to keep getting email from (Sephora coupon codes anyone?), I now just get a single email packed together, lessening the temptation to boredom shop on my lunch break.

What are your favorite money-saving apps? Have you tried any of these?

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