Living Room Rug Change

>> 10.04.2012

I'm back with more commitment issues in my living room! I really appreciated your suggestions on my last living room post- I definitely think that I need a little texture/ color/ pattern action in there. Yesterday I picked up a new 8 x 10 rug off of Craigslist that I thought might start leading me in the right direction:

It's an old Kaley Bloom Rug from Pottery Barn in orange. I paid about 1/3 of retail price, but I can't say exactly how much right now because Nate doesn't know and hates the rug (...drama!). Remember way back when I bought an 8 x 10 Pottery Barn Henley Rug and 8 x 10 West Elm Jute Bouclé Rug for a total of $60. Well, now Nate thinks all rugs are that cheap. Oops!

Back to the indecisiveness: What do you think about it compared to the jute rug?

I did take the pictures in bad lighting, but it does seem like the orange rug brings out more orange tones in the floor. Luckily, it wouldn't be a big deal if we didn't end up using it in the living room because we need to start from scratch in the bedroom anyways. Thrifty Little Tip: ALWAYS have a backup plan for your Craigslist purchases. Remember, you can't return them!

Sorry about the dog butts!

And a rarely seen angle (with horrible lighting):
I'm still working on that corner with the x-benches. Looking at this picture, it's crazy to see all of the things that I bought off of Craigslist- the dining table and chairs (separately), the Parson's desk, the x-benches, the rug, and the coffee table. It's an addiction!

Bonus: the seller through in two pillows, but I ended up paying $10 for the two of them because I had just came from the ATM with a bunch of twenties and I'm apparently too nice.
I think that having an orange rug and pillows in the same room would be too much for me, but I might use them if we switch back to the other rug.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this rug! I'm going to clean it this weekend and see if Nate starts to warm up to it some more.

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Commitment Issues in the Living Room

>> 9.05.2012

 Man, do I have a hard time committing to decorating choices! It's especially tough when they either: a) cost a lot of money, or b) will take up a lot of time. In the living room, I wanted to do some sort of patterned/ colorful curtain to add some life into the room, but after searching for a while, I could not commit to anything :(. Buying two sets of IKEA's RITVA curtains was very easy for me to do because the total cost was $50 for both windows and the white panels would fit in with any other room if I do find more exciting curtains for the living room down the road.

I just had to do something because we never opening the broken Roman shades that the old owner left behind and I felt like we were wasting a big part of what I loved about this house- the natural light!

 See, the room is a lot brighter with the curtains opened!

Yeah, and now only one set is hung. I'm a bit worried that the high and wide curtains will be too much with the future built-in tv unit (that will be my Christmas gift this year!).


If curtains are too much, I could just replace the shades instead...

I've also thought about keeping the existing shades for decorative purposes (they don't really open and shut easily)... but again, I'm not sure about it:

 The good news is that, as boring as this side of the living room is, I've at least added some interest to the entry side of the space by setting up an overscale thrifted museum poster. 

Yes, I know, a blue pillow + one poster does not make for an interesting space. I'd love some suggestions and opinions on where I should be going: curtains or not? shades? prints? I have anonymous comments (and no security code) enabled so I welcome some constructive snark!

ETA: (In response to Heather's comment below) The dining room opening from the living room:

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Is an Ironman worth the price?

>> 8.23.2012

I know that I'm not a fitness blogger and most of you could care less about triathlons, but I thought this topic might be helpful for some people who might Google search the blog or want to participate in an Ironman in the future. 

Fun fact: the largest group (by far) of athletes at our Ironman were the >40 men. To these guys who normally have well-paying jobs, the cost of an Ironman doesn't usually become a big factor in their planning. According to the race organizers, the average salary of the participants was >$150,000! For a <30 female with a husband also participating and a very tight "fun money" budget, the value of the experience was definitely on my mind!

Background:
An Ironman is a multi-sport endurance triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run. The professionals finish in around eight hours while the rest of the group has to finish in under 17 hours. It begins at 7:00 am and ends at midnight. The race is responsible for providing a safe course, food, drinks, medical staff, volunteers and clean-up for the event. The athletes have to provide their own equipment, attend mandatory meetings, and get from point A to point B.


The price:
The entry fee alone was.... wait for it... $650 (each).
Yep. Doesn't sound super thrifty does it? This fee covers things like road closures, food, medical staff, etc. Seeing as there are iron-distance triathlons out there that do it for $100-300 cheaper, I'm not sure how much of the fee was necessary and how much we were paying for the name brand race. We, of course, had to do this event at least once because we wanted to be "Ironmen" officially and not just "Iron-distance men."

Their professional pics cost a lot of money, but we were both feeling sick afterwards so pre-swim pics are all I have!

The extras:
They make you come into town the Thursday before the Saturday event for mandatory check-in/ so that you spend more money at the local hotels. I can't imagine any non-local wanting to drive home after 10+ hours of exercise, so there's really a minimum of three nights of hotel stays for each athlete, or around $600. Personally, I ended up buying a tri-specific bike last winter for $1,300 and needed to buy a gym membership for $25/ month so that I could train for the swim in the winter.

It's easy to get sucked into buying logo merchandise after the event. I bought these cookies and a logo shirts as well.

What they give you:
For Ironman Texas, we received: a finisher's shirt, a finisher's hat, a medal, and a really nice backpack. I'm not sure that you get the finisher's items if you don't finish because they hand them to you at the finish line. 
There were also two non-race meals (pre/ post race) included in the entry fee (family had to spend $30/ ticket). The amount of food/ drink that they offered during the actual race was really impressive and the medical tent was a big bonus as well. Nate and I both had IVs afterward for dehydration at no extra cost! I also saw plenty of people taking advantage of the bike's mechanical support- they had extra tubes and even wheels in case anything went wrong.

The value:
I went into the race upset with myself for feeling the need to do a name brand race. As we did a 100-mile bike ride during our training, I thought, "People pay a lot of money to participate in century bike rides. Why are we paying a lot for this Ironman. We could just do the same distances on our own!" It wasn't until I was participating in the race itself that I really understood the value of the experience.
  • The crowds/ volunteers that show up for an Ironman (vs. iron-distace) are amazing. 
  • The organization and support provided by the company is absolutely top-notch.
  • A racing environment is actually fun. Doing a 14-hour workout alone at home is not so much fun.
  • I know that I'll be able to refer back to this race at age 90 and impress great-grandchildren similar to the way people can bring up climbing a certain mountain peak or running a marathon.
In the end, I did pay a lot of money, but I also felt like I got a lot back. I'd give the race as a whole a B+ for value. I can't promise that I won't do an off-brand event in the future, but I don't regret spending the money on Ironman at all.

My tips for first-timers:
  • Train to finish in <14 hours.
  • Arrive before transition opens.
  • Park near the bike transition. 
  • Remind your friends/ family to take pictures of you. 
  • Follow your nutrition plan! Don't make any decisions during the race.
  • Don't stop during the race unless you need to stop.
  • Don't allow yourself to think quitting is an option. Plan on crawling across the finish if you need to.
FAQs:
Are you going to do it again?
Probably, but not in the next five years. I'd like to improve my time/ feel stronger at the finish.

Was it harder than you thought it would be?
Yes and no. I knew going into it that I would/ could finish and I had experience with doing a half Ironman before. The Ironman was just so exhausting! I started crying during the bike at mile 85 when I realized that I had two more hours of cycling then, during the run, I was thisclose to laying down on the side of the trail and taking a nap.

I've said before that a 5k race can be just as hard as a half marathon depending on how hard you're pushing yourself. The Ironman doesn't even compare to any race. A half Ironman is easy compared to doing a full. EASY. Still... I think that any able-bodied person that puts in the training can complete an Ironman.

Did you stop and take breaks?
I did stop/ walk a few times. I mostly tried to keep up a good pace so that I could bank the time in case of a flat tire or other issues. I stopped twice during the bike to stretch my legs/ use the restroom. Then, on the run I walked through a lot of the water stops while I re-hydrated/ re-fueled... up until mile 19 where I started throwing up. I sat at the medical tent for a while to regroup and then ran/ walked until I threw up again. I walked the last 4ish miles because my stomach was upset and it was really nice to have that option because I had the extra time built in. Remember, finishing after midnight meant "not finishing."

How do you go to the bathroom?
Porta-Potty. They had food/ restrooms every 10ish miles on the bike and every mile on the run.

Why do it?/ You're crazy.
I like a good challenge. More than anything, I like to impress myself. I still remember the first time that I ran five miles without stopping nine years ago because I was so proud of myself. If you would have told me that day that I would eventually finish an Ironman, I would have laughed at you... and that's why I think it's so great that I actually did it!

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when being thrifty =/= weight loss

>> 8.21.2012

I exercise a lot and eat healthy foods most of the time. I'm on auto pilot most of the time with my weight so  when I get off of my routine and gain a little weight or have a reason to cut back I don't have the easiest time adjusting! I have a few runs coming up this fall that I'd love to PR (personal record) in and losing 5 lbs (=2 sec faster/ lb) by then would really help me to reach my goal. I know what I need to do, but my deadline is approaching and I'm still just hovering around my normal weight.

My biggest setback lately? My thriftiness.

It isn't the cheap food that gets in my way (I like to think that most of my inexpensive groceries are healthy)... it's the "free" food! I'm having the roughest time turning away free treats. Whether it's a sample at the grocery store, a birthday cake at work, or leftovers at dinner, I've had a rough time turning anything away. The work treats are the worst. In the last month alone, we've had: breakfast tacos, a catered lunch, cookies, and cupcakes. And of course, there's also a bottomless candy bowl in the break-room!

Because I live a thrifty lifestyle where we budget for about one restaurant meal and one special dessert a week, these work treats (and they're usually from restaurants I rarely get to go to) seem too good to pass up.

Thrifty Little Tip~

When you're faced with free food that gets in the way of your weight loss goals, ask yourself: 
How much is my weight loss goal worth to me? How much would I pay right now to have that weight gone?
Based on the number of people enrolled in diet programs and purchasing special diet foods, I'm guessing it's something. If the answer is >$0, say the following: 
I'll skip that food for now, but set aside that value of the weight loss. When the weight is gone, I can always go back and just buy that food myself.

Chances are that you won't remember the food once the weight is gone, but if you're in a healthier state and have spent a few weeks skipping the freebies, I'd say that you've earned a $3 cupcake* guilt-free!
*or a non-food treat, as the nutritionists might say

story behind cake here

Don't treats taste better when you've earned them? What are your biggest weight loss setbacks? 

ETA: I wrote this post before work and, of course, found a box of these cupcakes waiting in the break-room :(. Brownie Sundae, Italian Creme, Chocolate Hazlenut, and Cherry Bada Bing... I'll just buy one later!

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So you want to move to Austin...

>> 8.17.2012

Maybe it was the fact that we found someone to rent out our tiny garage apartment in less than 48 hours... or maybe it's the fact that our area made up the #2* and #3 fastest growing cities last year, but I've been feeling the urge to share more about the city I live and grew up in.
 *Many, many people move to Round Rock and work in Austin.

I took this picture just a few years ago- there are several new high rises now!

If you're one of the 80+ people moving here each day, there are probably a few common reasons why you're interested in Austin:
  • Jobs- Yes, our (and Texas's) unemployment rates are below the national average. We definitely have job openings here, but make sure that there is a market for your profession before moving! You'll probably find a part time job at a retail store pretty easily, but I can't promise you'll be able to use your marketing degree to its fullest (and you better have a good degree or experience because you're competing with University of Texas students). 
  • Cool stuff- You're right about this as well. We get a lot of our cool points from our festivals like ACL and SXSW. We also keep it weird by encouraging local businesses. That said, if SXSW was your only experience with Austin, you should probably come back again to experience everyday living.
  • Cool people- Our median age is really low thanks to University of Texas students hanging around that "cool stuff" drawing more twenty-somethings in. With that population come more healthy and  I can definitely see how a fifty-something can feel left out around here because things seem to be marketed towards younger generations.
  • Liberal atmosphere- True, Texas is generally conservative while Austin is generally liberal. There are always exceptions to this rule and definitely conservative pockets scattered around the city.
  • Cost of living- It's not as cheap here as you might be expecting (especially near the "cool stuff"). Compared to NYC or LA, yes, but housing is definitely pricey thanks to the rapid growth. Remember, we're renting out a 300 sqft place for $650 (including bills). Also, if you're buying a house, don't forget about that 2.31% property tax!
  • Weather- If you're sick of winter weather, you're coming to the right place! At the same time, this is NOT  the place for people who hate sweating. We're in the "hot" range from around May- September each year. Like, 90+ as the high every day and 95+ July to September.
Thrifty Little Tip: Barton Springs is free during the off season, before 8 am, and after 9 pm.

So, there is a lot of truth to the common reasons that we're drawing people in, but there are also several common things that you might find disappointing or surprising when you get here:
  • Transportation- Traffic is hooorrible and our public transportation isn't the best either. We just weren't ready to accommodate the growth.
  • Attitudes- I'd say that we're generally nicer than average around here, but there's a weird phenomenon going on where people feel like they own Austin. Like it was always cooler back in their day (or when they moved here). Once people feel like they belong, they think the new people don't. Don't worry, these people get over it once they get to know you.
  • Travel options- You can drive to one of the other big Texas cities (Houston 2.5 hrs, San Antonio 1.5 hrs, Dallas 3 hrs) or you can drive 6+ hours to get out of the state. The Gulf of Mexico does not compare to beaches on the coasts and you don't want to drive across the boarder of Mexico at this point in time. By plane, you should expect to have connecting flights if you're not traveling to one of the major US cities. 
  • Big entertainment- This means things like: no professional sports teams, no main zoo, no aquarium, and the big concerts skip us most of the time. We used to be like this with retail stores as well, but we've slowly caught up with the other big cities in recent years. 
  • Diversity- Austin is just not as diverse city-wide as most would expect a bigger city to be. 

With all of that said, I'll leave you with my big three tips for making the most of living in Austin:
  1. Live close to your work. You don't want to cross the river or depend on I35/ Mopac for >10 miles, trust me. 
  2. Live close to the cool stuff (whatever you think it is).
  3. Avoid chain restaurants and stores! I promise that you won't need them- just use Yelp to weed out the so-so places.
Anyone else live in Austin? Do you agree with the points that I've listed?

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The (Garage) Apartment- Ready to Rent!

>> 8.16.2012

For those of you paying close attention... I've symbolically changed the title of this 10-part series because this place finally feels more like an apartment than a garage! I think I'd actually live in the place- which was the goal for our improvements in the first place. Let's take a look at the changes:


As I mentioned in my post yesterday, we replaced the rock "path" to the door with a much more functional path that avoids cutting through our yard.



We painted the yellowed walls and trim, replaced the AC unit, tore out the already ripped sheet vinyl flooring, stained the floors, replaced the baseboards, updated all of the electrical outlets, and added new blinds to the doors. Oh, and it's impossible to show the horrible mold smell in the blog, but it's gone as well!




We did the best that we could with the tiny kitchen area by removing the super narrow built-in (too narrow for a plate), replacing the useless upper cabinet, adding a new outlet to the far wall for the refrigerator, and painting the whole thing.


I tried to unify the kitchen wall by adding shelves above the kitchen cart and refrigerator (shelves which took me three trips to Ikea to get right). The cart was a great $20 Craigslist find that I painted in the same white as the cabinets.



Yes, the before cabinet is was as small as it looks in the picture- you couldn't fit a plate in it either!

We needed to replace the sink faucet because it was leaky, but went ahead and changed the pulls and hinges on the cabinets to make them look more like a set.




There was another broken faucet in the bathroom in addition to the yellowed paint so we swapped everything out for a fresher look. I'm not thrilled with the new shelf, but we were rushing somewhat to get that up. The light green paint was an attempt to tie in the shower tile and kitchen countertop, but I think the dark shelf takes away from the airy feel I was going for.


It was interesting going through this process with the mindset of a landlord. There were definitely a few choices (like buying cheap blinds) that I would never make for design purposes, but decided to do based on the goal of actually turning a profit one day....

Speaking of profit, we have a bit of a happy ending to this story! After contacting a few people directly based on their housing wanted ads, we decided that things were moving a little slowly and put up a descriptive ad with a couple of pictures on Monday. By Monday night, we had six showing scheduled for Tuesday. One of the people has already turned in an application and Nate did the background check yesterday. With a little more luck, it looks like we'll have a lease signed this weekend ($650/ month with all bills paid).

I'm a little scared to take a look at the receipt totals right now, but you know I'll be back with a budget breakdown at some point soon.

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