Friday, March 21, 2014

Planner Organization on L'amour Chez Nous!

Hi everyone!  I just wanted to give you a heads up that I'm talking all about my planner over on L'amour Chez Nous today.  Hop on over and check it out for a sneak into my Filofax and some tips for organizing your own planner!  And be sure to check out the rest of her blog while you're over there, she has some amazing ideas for rental spaces and organization.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Project Life: 2014 Title Page

Hello fellow Project Lifers!  Today I'm finally getting around to sharing my title page for my 2014 album.  Yes I realize we are currently in week 11, what can I say... I'm a little behind.  I've had this page completed for a while now, I just needed to get it up on the blog.

For the title page of this album, I decided to go with a black, white and gold color scheme for the most part, with a few pops of color here and there.  All of the cards I used came from the Midnight core kit.

For the title card, I cut out the year using my silhouette and some pretty pink polka dot paper.  Then I added a strip of thin washi tape, and used my label make for the "will be great" subtitle.  I wanted to add in a nice uplifting thought for the first page of this album.  To complete the card, I simply stuck on some embellishments to give it a little something extra.

The next card I dedicated to the word Melissa and I picked out for our 'one little word' for 2014.  We chose cultivate, because we thought it encompassed everything we wanted to accomplish in the coming year.  We decided to dedicate the next 365 days to building our life into what we dream it will be, instead of waiting for life to happen.  We wanted 2014 to be all about cultivating our dream life.

To fill in the title space at the bottom, I added the 'one little word' hashtag, and a rub on gold star.

In the first 3x4 card slot, I included a picture of Melissa and I on New Years Eve.  I wanted to include a picture of what we looked like right at the beginning of this year.  I used some fun silver paper to outline the picture, and make the card a little less plain.

In the next slot, I included some basic facts about our life right now.  For the prompts, I used a Martha Stewart craft marker.  I also added a tiny diamond dot to the banner on top to bring in a little more bling.

In the third slot, I added an embellished filler card.  I added the year so the card reads "Hello 2014" which I thought was appropriate.  To make the numbers, I used acrylic stamp numbers with glue instead of ink, then sprinkled glitter over the glue before it dried.  I also outlined the quote bubble with dots, again using my Martha Stewart craft markers.

The last 3x4 slot holds a super fun sequin pouch, which I totally thought was perfect for a New Years theme.  I got this card in my very first Project Life card swap, and I am so excited I found the perfect layout to use it in so fast!

The next card displays all the goals Melissa and I have set for ourselves to focus on in 2014.  Having all our goals written out right on the title page of my album will hopefully keep them fresh in our minds and motivate us to follow through.  I used tiny diamond dots to make the list, and I highlighted the most important word in each goal by writing in a different color.

Finally I added a title card for the bullet list of goals.  For the letters, I used gold circle alphas I picked up at the Target dollar spot.  For the glitter arrow, I used the same technique as the numbers on the "Hello 2014" card, and had it point towards the card the title was referencing.  Finally I added a few more enamel dots to finish the card off.

And there is my completed title page for the year of 2014!  Since this is the first current album I am doing with Project Life (still catching up with the last three years), this is my very first completed title page.  And I am definitely pleased with how it turned out!  Now I'm just itching for this year to be over, so I can have a completely finished album displaying a whole year of my day to day life!

Monday, March 3, 2014

How to Find the Perfect Apartment

Hello everyone!  Thank you all for your excitement about my big announcement the other week.  I am beyond touched and so excited to share this exciting next step with you guys!  After searching for, choosing and moving into now five apartments in the last five years, I feel I have a pretty good grasp on the process.  I thought I would help any of you who may be currently (or will soon be) searching for their next dream apartment.

Searching through all the options and available apartments out there can be very intimidating.  Find an apartment that fits all your needs, is within budget and feel like home can get very overwhelming very fast.  Not to mention having to factor in the availability of your dream apartment once you find it (we nearly lost ours to this #thanktheapartmentgodswedidn't).  And there is nothing worse than moving into what you think is your dream apartment, only to discover a few months later it is the 10th circle of hell (been there too).  To help make things simple, I've broken things down into five easy steps you can take to find your perfect apartment.

This step is the most important if you want to be fully aware of your options, and have the ability to select exactly which one of those options you would like.  Melissa and I began our search as soon as we decided we would be moving once our lease was up.  This means we started researching and touring apartments as early as the end of last summer, when we wouldn't be moving until the following Spring.

Starting your search as early as possible will give you the luxury of truly taking your time exploring the many available options.  Instead of trying to cram in 20 apartments tours the month before you move, you can tackle the apartment hunt spread out whenever you have the available time.  With the extra time available to you, it will also reduce the stress of apartment hunting, and can truly become enjoyable.

Giving yourself the time you need will also reduce the risk that you find your dream apartment, but someone has already rented it and you need to move out like NOW.  Since Melissa and I had decided on our dream apartment way back in December, we were able to watch the prices and availability fluctuate, and jump when the timing was right for both those things.  Having that added bit of control can mean the world in something as precarious as apartment prices and availability.

Having plenty of time will also help you make a smarter decision.  By giving yourself time, you can explore your options, figure out exactly what does and does not work for you in an apartment, until you are finally confident in the decision you've made for your new home.  Rushed decisions are always stressful, and may lead you to move into an apartment for the wrong reasons.

Budgeting is always important, but it is especially important to be in the know of your financial situation when thinking about moving.  No one wants to move into an apartment, only to realize a month later they really couldn't afford it after all.  That's why it is a great idea to use your budget to aid you in your search.

Knowing exactly what you can afford will help you know exactly what you can't.  When Melissa and I were searching for our next apartment, we had a range of rent we would like to pay.  If we found a beautiful apartment that fit all our needs but was over our budget, we didn't even consider it.  This helped save time and narrow down our search.  We also knew that if an apartment was on the upper end of our preferred price range, it better have some features to make it worth the higher price.

Having a low end on your budget range can also be helpful.  If you can afford to pay $1500 a month for rent, do you really need to waste your time considering the $700/month apartments?  When setting your budget range, I would aim to give yourself about $200-300 wiggle room, so you can explore a range of pricing options, without giving yourself too many unnecessary options that will eventually get crossed out.

Knowing what you need and what you want out of your new apartment is going to be the meat and potatoes of your apartment search.  Every apartment is going to have some amazing perks, and some drawbacks.  Coming into the search with your own list of requirements and wishes, will help from getting distracted by the amenities that may not actually matter to you.

Apartment needs are things your new apartment absolutely must have.  If an apartment does not have all your needs, don't waste your time considering it.  Here is the needs list Melissa and I came up with, to give you an idea:

  • Dogs allowed
  • Gas stove
  • Two bedrooms
  • Nice area
  • Within budget
  • Washer/dryer in unit

Apartment wants are the things that will truly make your dream apartment shine.  Once an apartment meets all your needs, the number of wants it boasts will help it stand out from the rest of your list.  If both apartment A and B meet all your needs, but apartment A only has 3 wants whereas apartment B has 6 of your wants, you'll obviously go with apartment B right?  So going in with a specific list of things that will truly make an apartment wonderful for you, will be what makes a good apartment into your dream apartment.  Here is the want list Melissa and I came up with:

  • Walk-in closet
  • Separate dining room
  • Third floor apartment
  • Upgraded fixtures
  • Energy efficient windows and doors

Once you know what you need and wants from your new apartment, it will truly be a breeze to narrow down all your possibilities to a few top contenders.

One of the best resources I have found for apartment searching is the internet.  Big surprise there.  Using websites such as (my personal favorite) you can explore apartment pricing, layouts, features and more before stepping foot in a leasing office.  You can even plug in your needs and wants lists into the search feature, and the website will generate a list of apartments that fit all your requests!

Whenever I am preparing for a move, my first stop is always to make a giant list of all the apartments that could possibly work for me based on my needs.  This gives me a concrete jumping off point in the beginning of my search.  Once I have compiled my list, I can start getting picky, and cross apartments off based on my more specific wants.

Another great resource is people.  Anyone and everyone you know can be a resource in your apartment search.  Friends, family, co-workers, you name it.  For this apartment search, it turns out a few of my parents' co-workers had lived at our dream apartment.  Before we had been completely sold on our new apartment, we talked to them to get their experience in the community.

Previous residents always know the inside scoop about apartments, and can point you towards a gem or steer you away from a possible disaster.  If you don't personally know anyone who has lived in an apartment you are considering, try a quick Google search for resident reviews on the community.  But make sure to take these with a grain of salt, as people may be more likely to write a negative review than a positive one on these forums.

Once you have narrowed down your list to a handful of potential dream apartments, now is the time to start touring.  Visit the leasing apartment, and ask for a tour of their model apartment.  When touring the apartment, make sure you ask a lot of questions.  This is the time to get the most information about a place as you can.

Model apartments tends to be the most upgraded version of the apartment they offer.  So do not assume the apartment you rent will look exactly like the model.  Some things that frequently vary in apartments are kitchen cabinets, appliances and light fixtures.  If you see something you do or don't like, ask if that feature is available in all apartments.  They will tell you if it is standard, or only available in upgraded apartments (which will cost more).  You can also request to tour a currently vacant apartment, to get more of a feel for the state of a 'typical' apartment in that community, but it will vary place to place whether they will allow you to do that.

You will also want to privately tour the complex.  Take a drive or a walk around the community and get a feel for it.  Melissa and I try to do this at least twice before choosing a new apartment, once during the day, and once at night.  We were lucky enough to tour both the model apartment and the community multiple times since it was so close.  We even headed over there on a snowy day to see how long it took them to plow their parking lots (same morning!).  The more you know about your future home, the more confident you will be when it is finally time to pull the trigger and make a decision.

If you follow these five simple steps, you will be well on your way to finding your own dream apartment!  It may be overwhelming if you're in the beginning stages, but once you start making your lists and crossing off apartments, your new dream home will find you before you know it!  Happy hunting!

Is anyone else in the process of apartment hunting?  Or have you also found your dream home, and are now waiting impatiently for move in day?  What do you include on your needs and wants list?  Anything else you like to do to make apartment hunting easier?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Moving On Up!

Hello everybody!  Today I have some very exciting news to share with you. This is something Melissa and I have been planning for months, and I am so excited I finally get to share it with you. On march 15 we will officially be moving!

Ever since we renewed our lease for our current apartment last year, we knew it was going to be the last year we spent in it. Our apartment has been exactly what we needed up until now. I was finishing up college, Melissa was still in school and working part time. Now that I have graduated, and our lease is coming to an end, we are super duper excited to move into a bigger and nicer apartment. 

We started the process of apartment searching early last fall. Since we knew we were planning on moving, we wanted to be as prepared as possible. By beginning our search so early, when it came time to choose which apartment we wanted to move into, we were confident in our choice. Since we had time to explore all our options, we avoided that fear of 'well maybe if we had a little longer, we would find an even better apartment'. 

At the beginning of our search we sat down and wrote out a needs list and a wants list. Our needs list included things we wouldn't compromise on a new apartment having which was the following:

  • Dogs allowed ( Dakota needs to be welcome obviously!)
  • Gas stove (Melissa absolutely hates having an electric stove)
  • Two bedrooms (we decided we want an office space in the new place)
  • Nice area (we were tired of living in not the nicest or safest of areas due to our budget)
  • Within budget (we needed to be sure the apartment we chose was affordable and reasonable with our incomes)
  • Washer/dryer in unit (we've done the whole no washer/dryer in the apartment thing, and weren't about to go back to that)

Our wants list included these things, which were all thing we would love to have, but could live without if we absolutely had to:

  • Walk-in closet (two girls + one apartment = a lot of clothes)
  • Separate dining room (we just really like a dining room that isn't connected to the main living area)
  • Third floor apartment (tired of being woken up at 3am to various dance parties, exercise routines or just plain heavy walking from our upstairs neighbors)
  • Upgraded fixtures (the small things are what make a good apartment great)
  • Energy efficient windows and doors (our current apartment doesn't have these, and it really makes a different in the temperature control of our apartment)

So that is what we had in mind when we set out to find our new home. We toured many many apartments. All of them were fine. Some were nicer than others. Some were more expensive, some were bigger. All of them fit our needs, and most had at least a couple wants. But each apartment we saw also had a drawback for every draw. Nothing was just right. Until the clouds parted, angels sang and we found The Apartment. 

As soon as we saw this place online, we knew we were going to move in here. It was perfect!  It not only had all our needs and all our wants, but it had more! I seriously fell hard for this apartment. I love apartment hunting, and I've always gotten excited when moving into a brand new place. But never have I found such a perfect heaven that I will be able to call home. 

But enough gushing, let me show you what I'm talking about. Here is the first official home tour of my new apartment!

When you first walk in the door there is a short hallway that leads into the foyer area. 

There is a little coat closet that doesn't look to big, but will definitely be large enough to hold what we'll need it to.

When you walk into the foyer, you're greeted by two half staircases leading up and downstairs. Yes that's right, I'm going to have stairs!!  After five years of one floor apartment living, words cannot express how excited I am to have stairs of my very own!

I also love that the foyer is only closed off to the rest of the apartment by a railing. It really opens up the space. I just love that when you walk in, you can immediately look out into the rest of the apartment below. 

On the other side of the railing is our living room. One entire wall is dedicated to a gigantic sliding glass (double pained!) door. This lets so much light into the apartment, and I just love this feature.

In the far corner of our apartment, is the dining room.  This was another feature we loved about this apartment.  Many apartment layouts we looked at combined the living and dining rooms into one space.  Our current apartment has this situation, with a large open L shaped space for both living and dining purposes.  We really wanted a separate room for our dining area.

I am also super in love with the light fixture in the dining room.  Most apartments has the cheapest stock grade fixtures throughout, but we were pleasantly surprised with the fancier fixtures in this apartment.  I know many people wouldn't care less about these little things, but to me, they really are the cherry on top of this apartment sundae.

Next up is our kitchen.  You can access our kitchen from both the dining room and the living room, which is awesome.  It is also almost 50 times bigger than our current kitchen.  Ok that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but that's what it feels like.  Our kitchen now can barely handle two people doing stuff in it at once.  That definitely won't be a problem in our new kitchen.

There is also a ton of extra cabinet space, which I can't wait to dive into and organize.  I hope that since we'll be able to spread out a little more, it'll be easier to make things organized and pretty in these cabinets.  This kitchen also comes with an gas stove, which Melissa (the cook of our household) is thrilled about.

Here is the view of the other side of the kitchen.  This is also where our washer and dryer are going to be.  Our washer and dryer in our current apartment also happen to be in the kitchen.  It was a little weird at first, doing laundry in the kitchen, but we quickly got used to it.

There is also a nice big space in the corner behind where I was standing to take the pictures.  It's just empty space, but I'm already planning to add in some wire shelves to add even more storage to our kitchen.  I may even have a pseudo-pantry in our new apartment!  I'm still swooning over all the space we'll have in this kitchen.

Now lets take a look at the upstairs shall we?  If you go up the stairs from the foyer, you're met by a hallway that takes you to all the rooms on the second floor.  

First door on the right leads you to the bathroom.  It's a fairly simple bathroom, but I still adore all the perfect, clean white of it.  The vanity in this bathroom is also slightly larger than our current one, with the addition of two drawers!  Again, it's the little things that excite me.

The main jewel of the bathroom, however, is the linen closet.  Behind the bathroom door is the most amazing linen closet ever.  After having a linen closet that is approximately a foot and a half wide for the last two years, this is another luxury I cannot wait to explore.  I am just imagining baskets and baskets of organized linen goodness all lined up!

Moving down the hallways, the door at the end leads to the office.  We specifically chose a two bedroom apartment so we could have a home office.  This way, Melissa can have a quiet place she can work on homework and projects for her job.  But more importantly, I'll have a dedicated place to blog and do all my crafty things!  This may be the room I'm most looking forward to.

The office also has a full wall of closet space.  Since we won't need to store clothes in these closets, I'm planning to use them as an extension of the office.  I'm currently thinking about lining up a couple sets of drawers along the bottom of the closets, for maximum storage.

Finally, the door on the left of the hallway leads to our master bedroom.  This bedroom is larger than our current one, and will have even more space since we won't have to store my humongous desk in there anymore!

And last but not least, certainly not least, is the master walk in closet.  I know I've said this about like 10 other things, but this may be my favorite part of the new apartment.  This picture does it absolutely not justice, this closet is huge!

And I am just crazy about how they have two layers of shelving at the top.  I have always complained that apartments waste so much vertical space in their closets, because there is only so high you can stack things on a single shelf.  So now I'll really be able to utilize every square inch of my closet!  Cannot wait to fill this baby up, I have some big plans for in here too!

So what do you guys think?  Stunning right?  I am so thrilled to be moving into a place I truly love, and I can't wait to spread out in all the space this place has!  It really feels like we are just bursting at the seams in our current place.  I'll definitely be sharing updates as the moving process moves along (pun intended) and we settle into our new place, so stay tuned!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Project Life: April 2011

So who else out there has gotten buried in a mountain of snow this winter?  I know this is the most extreme winter we have had in Maryland in years!  I can't complain too hard though, since I just enjoyed a nice four day weekend thanks to all this crazy snow that just got dumped on us.  But the single digit temperatures sure make me long for spring!  I am definitely a summer girl, and have been counting down the days until summer since October hehe.

So sharing this spread today is definitely bitter sweet, and only makes me crave flip flops and sun that much more.  But it is nice to be reminded that there is an end to this frozen tunnel!  This layout is from April 2011, so it's nice to know beautiful weather is just 2 months away!

I love the colors I chose for this spread, I just think they so perfectly sum up the brightness and happiness that is spring time.  I mainly focused on pinks, blues and yellows.  I mainly used cards from the Kraft edition core kit for this layout.

For the title card, I used some green alphas that I believe came in a Studio Calico scrapbook grab bag I picked up on Black Friday... but don't quote me on that.  I had the buttons laying around in my craft stash, and thought they added a fun bit of whimsy to the title card.

I also added a little 3D flower embellishment in the corner, but to be honest, looking at it now I'm not sure I'm still in love with it.  I just keep having to tell myself that I'm still learning and to not get too caught up on the tiny details as I'm finding my way!  There won't be any progress without a few bumps in the road!

For this card, I used a "you are my sunshine" stamp I picked up at Michaels.  I then added some washi tape in various spring colors to the corner, basically to fill that big empty space that I didn't know what to do with!

I kept the middle row of cards pretty simple, with minimal embellishment.  I wanted this whole layout to be fresh and clear of clutter.  I used a simple journaling card to tell the story of Melissa sticking something else on our dog.  This time it was a "puppy" label.  It was pretty funny, and sort of useful, since as a puppy Dakota was often thought to be a "kitty" by kiddos seeing her on a walk!

On the right side of the middle row, I added a simple puffy heart sticker to a filler card.  This left the space still simple and clean, but added a little more to it than just a plain card.

This next journaling card tells the story of Dakota meeting our friend Dani's new rescue puppy, Rollo.  Neither of them were quite sure of each other in the beginning, but once they warmed up, they became well... less unsure of each other.  They pretty much ignored each other and individually begged for attention from all the 'parents' gathered around to watch the two puppies play!

In the bottom corner, I added some yellow washi tape.  However, after putting it down, it didn't stand out as much as I liked, and sort of blended into the background of the card.  So I took a light blue marker, and outlined the washi tape to give it a little more 'pop'.  I also added a heart brad to the point of the arrow.

Now onto the right side of the layout.  Still just as simple, and still just as happy!

I embellished a picture of some "just because" flowers from Melissa with some thick alphas I picked up at Michael's.

I was honestly stuck on what to add to this card for a while, considering there was no real story behind the flowers.  I love that I ended up on adding the word bloom to the banner, since it is such a spring word!

For the next card, I added the 'Love This Life' embellishment I got in the Studio Calico Blue Note Project Life kit (that's a mouthful!).

I was really just starting to get comfortable adding embellishments without any real connection to a story in this layout.  That's what I struggle the most with, so I'm trying to add it in tiny doses more and more as I work through my layouts.

Next I have a fun memory with my two girls snuggling on the couch.

I added a simple 'remember this moment' title embellishment, to really let the journaling and picture shine.

I did the same with the next picture, by simply adding a 'blessed' button to the picture.

Since the last two pictures show the same sentiment, I combined some journaling on the last 4x6 card to cover these two photos.  I stamped some arrows to indicate which pictures this card was referencing.  I'm not in love with the looks of the arrows, but they do their job.  I had an idea, I tried it, and I didn't love it, so now I know for next time!

I also added a simple 'oh my' heart stamp below the journaling.  I just love the delicateness of this stamp, also from the Studio Calico Blue Note Project Life kit.

And that finishes up my spread for April 2011!  I'm now one month closer to being caught up with documenting the past.  Slow and steady wins the race...right??

Who else is super impatient for winter to be over and spring to just get here already?  Anyone else doing the learning-by-trial-and-error Project Life method?  This just seems the best way for me to slowly creep out of my comfort zone, and truly become the Project Lifer I want to become!  So if you're like me, and don't really know where to start to get those beautifully put together layouts, just dive in!  There's no wrong way to do Project Life, and you can't get where you want to be if you don't start somewhere!