Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Highs and Lows of 2011

Tonight I’ll be out with the boy and our friends up in Adam’s Morgan to bring in 2012. And I have to say—I’m ready for it.

At this point last year I was celebrating a pretty successful year. In 2010 I scored not only my first but my second grownup job, I moved out of my parents’ house, I installed a dryer, and really felt progress.  

2011 saw quite a bit of personal growth, but not as much in the personal achievement department. My biggest achievement by far this year was buying Fiona, my glorious little car and sign that I am indeed a grownup gal.

But 2011 was also a drama-filled year.

In February, the boy moved out of his parents’ house and into what can only be described as a stereotypical frat house with three dudes. At first the move was great, but it also began to expose weaknesses in our relationship that we had yet to conquer. In March, shortly after my 24th birthday, we went on hiatus. Only, at the time it wasn’t a hiatus. It was something that seemed painfully permanent.

April, May and June saw lots and lots of running. Running so much that my knees hurt and I started reading about running injuries and ignoring good advice that you shouldn’t attempt to go from nowhere to running 8 miles three times a week because that was all I really wanted to do. I lost interest in my DIY projects around the house and spent way too much money on “going out” dresses. And I started eating Lean Cuisines for like, every freaking meal.  

Those months were also full of self-awareness and reflection. I knew that I had lost interest in things that I used to love, but I had some experience in the department and knew that it was OK—that I would emerge and find those hobbies again, and that it’s OK to dive into a period of both self-preservation and reflection when your life requires it.

Around that same time I looked at the Royal Wedding through an all too personal lens.

Sometime around June, July, August?—I can’t really remember—it’s all a blur—the boy and I decided that neither of us was happy with what we would decide was a hiatus. I missed him a lot, but, like Kate Middleton, I don’t regret the time we spent apart.

Over the 4th of July my family went to see my Grandma in upstate New York. She is in her late 80s and has been so sad since we lost my wonderful Grandpa six years ago. She also has dementia. She still recognizes all of us but is more in-and-out than ever before, and she knows it. The day after we left her house, my aunt moved my Grandma into an assisted living residence about an hour away from where my dad grew up.  When my dad talks to her now she alternates between thinking we’ve institutionalized her and that she’s back in nursing school. I prefer the latter.

In August my old Camry broke down and I bought Fiona Fit. I got the loan myself (never done that before) got car insurance myself (never done that before), and even signed all the papers and everything without the help of my dad. The boy was there for moral support and to keep me company, and I was very happy to have him there.

In November, my mom and the store I grew up working in was featured in the Washington Post Magazine and I campaigned to collect as many magazines as I could from the people in my office who actually get the Post print edition.

I spent Thanksgiving at home for the first time in at least 15 years, and for the third time in my entire 24 years of existence. We used to travel to New York and stay at my Grandma’s house, but that wasn’t an option this year and all my cousins’ are growing up, so we had Thanksgiving with my mom’s family. I was happy to be home and have a bit of time off, but I was also a bit heartbroken. I know that in the next few years I’ll probably have my own family and start new traditions but this young 20-something age is a bit of a no mans’ land when it comes to ending old traditions and beginning long lasting new ones.

In December I bought a new computer and redesigned my little blog. And it is honestly the thing I do besides my DIY projects that makes me most happy. It makes me so happy that I stayed up till 3 am on a Friday night playing in Photoshop Elements just so that my Christmassy header wouldn’t be up too long like my Christmas Decorations inevitably will be (but I love them so who cares?).

A couple weeks ago, my cousin got engaged. I was so excited and happy for her and immediately overstepped my bounds by sending her an invite to Pinterest and the link to one of my favorite blogs, Oh So Beautiful Paper.

So this year has been one of many highs and lows. I think I know myself better than I did at the beginning of 2011 and I hope that to always be the case at the end of every year. But I am definitely looking forward to 2012. I am looking forward to entering a time in my life in which the end of eras will be more tempered by weddings and babies and new beginnings. I am looking forward to turning 25, and to continuing to figure out what I want to do with my life and career. I am excited to celebrate my siblings’ graduation from high school and college, and my dad’s 60th birthday. And I look forward to reading this next year and reflecting on 2012.

Cheers to a New Year! May 2012 be your happiest yet. Thank you so very much for reading and I’ll see you in in 2012—with all the projects I’ve been working on, I swear! 

P.S. Here's a great song to bring in 2012!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Creating Your Own Christmas Traditions

Yesterday I posted about why your 20s are a great time to experiment with non-traditional Christmas decor. While I love the idea of playing with different types of Christmas decorations, I do still like the idea of establishing Christmas traditions while you're young. Establishing your own traditions can be just as comforting as participating in the ones you remember growing up.

This year the boy and I participated in a Christmas tradition together for the third Christmas in a row. And I'm not gonna lie, it's probably one of the most mature things we do together all year.

A couple years ago I was volunteering with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing's (APAH) annual Secret Santa Christmas gift drive. APAH is a great organization that owns 12 affordable housing properties throughout Arlington County, Virginia. I really like them because they build mixed use, mixed income properties, they preserve a lot of affordable housing along transit routes, and they provide community-based services for their residents. Oh yeah--I should mention that I value these things because I work in affordable housing as my day job (but not for a provider) and I very much support the targeted and well-planned work that APAH does.

Anyway, I was helping APAH's resident services coordinator sort gifts that were donated by families in the community who had adopted families in APAH properties. When we finished sorting gifts, we determined that there were three families who were not yet adopted. Although I was working an unpaid internship with another local affordable housing developer at the time, I called up the boy and asked him if he would be willing to adopt a family of three with me. He was down with the idea, so I got information about the family and we went shopping at Target for items together.

Two years later, we still adopt one of APAH's families for Christmas together. This year we got to shop for two little boys and their mother. We have our routine down--we try to get the kids a jacket or sweatshirt, pants or a t-shirt, one "big" toy, and one little one. For the mother, we get a gift card to a store depending on what kind of thing she said she needed. APAH recommends a budget of $25 per person, but we spend closer to $100 for a family of three when all is said and done. We try to shop at Target and get gift receipts because it is accessible by public transit from all of APAH's properties, so it's easy for the family to return things if they need to.

I'm really glad that we're able to give back to our community together every Christmas and I hope we continue to do it in the future. I totally encourage you to establish a Christmas tradition like this with your friends, family, or significant other. Stepping up and making donations to your community is definitely a grownup thing to do, and it is a great way to embrace your quasi grownup maturity together (for a little while at least)!

P.S. Props to Maizie from Chic Done Cheap for organizing a group of friends to donate gifts to the Salvation Army's angel tree gift drive. I was happy to participate in it and meet a bunch of new friends in the process!

Friday, December 16, 2011

(Advent) Calendar Love

I know it's already the middle of December so you have probably either made an Advent calendar or scrapped the idea by now, but I absolutely love the one I made so I am still going to show it to you.

My Advent calendar idea was inspired by a couple things I saw on Pinterest. First, this amazing Christmas tree of vintage ornaments hung on a screen:

pinned here
via my fav bloggers, pinned here
I decided to make a magnetic Advent calendar. At first I was planning to just put it on our fridge, but then realized that the ornaments were likely to get knocked off because our fridge is in kind of an awkward position in our house. So I decided to use a magnetic board and hang it somewhere else in the house.

On my way home from work, I stopped at Goodwill and picked up a 16" x 20" botanical print for $7. Then I went to Target and picked up two sets of colorful ornaments.

Because it was nighttime and c-c-cold outside, I started painting the ornaments first. Using Martha Stewart silver craft paint, I labeled the ornaments #1-24.

After the ornaments dried, I used a hot glue gun to attach a magnet to the back of each one.

The next day, I took the glass out of the picture frame, set up shop in the back yard, and spray painted the frame. Learning from a previous projects, I made sure that I primed the frame.

After the frame was painted, I went to Home Depot to get some sheet metal and have it cut. Much to my dismay, the only piece of metal big enough for my 16 x 20" project was $20! No thank you. Instead of using sheet metal, I decided to go to Target and find a magnetic board that might fit. Luckily Target had a number of 16 x 12" magnetic dry erase boards, and I picked up the cheapest one for $7.

I unscrewed the frame around the whiteboard and pried it off with a screwdriver, which left me with this result:

The frame whiteboard didn't fit snuggly in the frame, so I used a hot glue gun to glue the white board to the backing of the original frame. Once I had my magnetic surface, I cut my fabric to size.

I used spray adhesive to attach the fabric to the whiteboard, spraying both the white board and the fabric.

Once the fabric was attached, I squeezed a bead of tacky glue on the inside of the frame. To make sure the board was secure, I also used upholstery tacks to hold the board in place. 

With the board done, I set out to make fabric pouches for each ornament. Using my sewing machine and some utility fabric I found for about $5/yard, I sewed little 3 x 3" ornament pouches. 

First I cut 24 4 x 7" panels of fabric:

Then I cut a piece of yarn and placed it near the top of the bag:

The first  seam I sewed was the drawstring pocket. Leaving the yarn in there made life SO much easier than if I had to pull the yarn through the pocket.

Then I folded the panel in half with the wrong side of the fabric facing me. I sewed along the two open unfinished edges. I was careful not to sew into the drawstring area so that I didn't render the drawstring useless.

Once I was finished sewing the pouch, I knotted the yarn and turned the bag from inside out to outside in.

Using the same silver Martha Stewart paint, I painted numbers on all 24 pouches. To prevent the paint from bleeding through the fabric to the back of the pouch, I used pieces of cardboard and pieces of a shopping bag in between the layers.

To display the bags of ornaments, I braided six strands of yarn together (3 strands doubled up), hung strand over a nail, and used tiny clothespins to attach the bags to the strand. 

I'm excited about the end result! I even glued the bow at the top of the board to a magnet, so that it's completely removable. That way I can use the magnet board throughout the year!

Has anyone else made a cool Advent calendar this year? I think they're a really fun Christmas activity with so many different way of making them your own. 

You Go Girly Christmas Tree

When you haven't been out of your parents' for more than a Christmas or two, it can be really tempting to copy everything that they did in the house you grew up in to make you feel like you're home for the holidays. I get it, especially if you are living in a city far away from where you grew up.

But I still encourage you to stop for a minute and think about where you currently are in your life, where you'll be in even just a couple of years, and the traditions you'll establish with your own family eventually.

If there was ever a time to experiment with fun Christmas decorations or break tradition, it's now! Sure, you can always have fun Christmas decorations, but when you're living by yourself or with roommates, you likely haven't established any traditions besides going ice skating together or having a holiday potluck. Once you're married and have kids, you'll have other people that will want to stick with traditions you establish, and change will become a group decision. Christmas traditions are great for families and I look forward to establishing them at some point, but while I'm not legally or residentially attached to my boo and am sans children, it's fun to try something a little different.

Which is what prompted me to finally get the white Christmas tree I'd been yearning to have for two years. Yes, I geek out on Christmas and admire trees for years at a time. Partly because I used to work here.

I have long loved white Christmas trees. There's something about the lightness of them, the way they reflect the soft glow of Christmas lights, and the way you can see color so well on them. They're happy and playful and I've always wanted one. So this year I got one.

I bought my white 6 foot pre-lit tree from Walmart for $40. The tree isn't the greatest quality in the world and looked pretty sparse when I first put it together, but once I put ornaments on it I was in love. I like that it's girly and on the smaller size, like she (duh, she) is saying, "I am just so cute and beautiful that I don't need to be gigantic and overwhelm your living room." I decorated her with silver, pink, turquoise, and lime green baubles, and then added the personal ones I've collected since I was in college (my nice collection of ornaments that I gained throughout my childhood is still safe at my parents' house where I hope it will stay until I buy a place or have my own rental at least). I also used light blue plastic icicles and silver glitter snowflakes that I bought from Walmart. I topped the tree off with a pink glitter star and used some shimmery batting snow that I bought from Michael's.

One thing I learned when decorating this year was to think more about editing. While our tree last year was huge and very decorated, I wasn't totally in love with it. This year's tree is smaller but it makes me smile whenever I see it, and you can see the detail of the ornaments on it better.

For tips on decorating a tree and information on how to make your tree look beautifully decorated while using your personal ornaments, check out last year's Christmas Tree post.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Back in Action

Welcome to my new and improved blog, Savvy Young Something! I’m thrilled that you found it—it’s always a little nerve-racking to make such a big change. But I’m excited about it.

Sorry if you're really confused right now because you were redirected from the old blog. Hope you'll forgive me. Your eyes definitely will.

To answer a few questions:

Why the new name?
To be quite honest, I was never in love with “Young, Hip & Handy”. I used it because I couldn’t come up with anything else and I just wanted to start posting pictures of my projects. As my blog evolved, I knew that the name didn’t do it justice. I also always knew that there is something…well…not very young and hip about calling yourself “young and hip”.  Through some googling I realized that I was in the company of quite a few “Young, Hip and…” blogs, which further fueled my desire to change the name.

I went through a few options and finally settled on Savvy Young Something. Thanks to all my friends who let me bounce my ideas off of them!

Side note: SavvyYoungSomething is too long for twitter, so I’m using SavvyYoungSarah. I’m only telling you this because I came up with it today and it makes me smile. Oh yes, and because you should follow me.

So what does this new name mean?
A Savvy Young Something is someone who doesn’t always know what she (or he) is doing, but is willing to embark on the process of learning and gaining new skills.

As I wrote my blog over the past year, I realized that I wanted to do a lot more than post about how to refinish furniture.  Between posts about crafting and handiness, I found myself writing about establishing traditions when you’re not living with your parents, thoughts on young love and the royal wedding, my experiencebuying a car, and general appreciation of this quasi-grown up state I’m living in.

This realization coincided with thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life. For the first time in my career, I’ve had the same job for over a year. While I really enjoy the people I work with, I’m not totally in love with the work. I’ve talked with a lot of people my age about this and found that most of them feel the same way I do. We’re all trying to be something, but very few of us have figured out what that something is.

At the same time that I've felt unsure about my professional career, I’ve also found myself better able to gain my footing in places that I wasn’t able to even two years ago. I can go out partying one night, stay at home the next with a book and a glass of wine, and not remotely feeling like I’m going to miss out on something. More now than ever, I can put on an outfit and know immediately whether it’s “me” or not. While I don’t feel completely like an adult, I know that I’m completely capable of growing into one. There are a lot of other things I’m getting quite good at.

I may not always know what I’m doing, but I am getting better at knowing where to look and how to approach challenges of the grown up world. And I feel mega empowered every time I accomplish something new.

My goal in writing this blog is to share my adventures in growing up and let other people learn from my experiences. I’ll still focus on home design and DIY projects—after all, a Savvy Young Something should totally have a sweet place on the cheap—and I plan to keep posting things that I learn (like the buying a car posts) that most young somethings encounter at some point. I’ll also try to expand the information on here to include more “growing up” knowledge, perhaps from other people who are willing to share their experiences with me if I can pull it off.  

Did you design the blog yourself?
Yes! And I’m so pumped about it. I recently bought a new computer and forked over the extra $70 to get Photoshop Elements, which is what I used to design the header. It’s totally still a work in progress, and I have spent a ton of time reading different websites and trying to figure out how to fix certain things, but for now I’m quite happy with the design. And yes, I know I’ll have to tweak it in about a month. Oh well, more fun with Photoshop! 

What happened to all the posts from the old blog?
All of my posts from Young, Hip & Handy are included in this blog. I imported all of them, so they are tagged with all the old labels and everything. I also created a few new pages where I plan to store projects that I’ve completed and topics related to grown up stuff.

OK, I need to stop focusing so much on this redesign and start posting all the stuff I’ve been working on for the past few months! I’ll start with Christmas stuff and reserve a few of the projects I completed over the past couple months for after the holidays.

Thanks so much for making this transition with me!
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