Wise Words: Holiday Cheer

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Guilt-Free Goodies

Moving back home to the suburbs of Massachusetts has given me quite a bit of free time. In less than seven months I’ve gone from a full-time college student and sorority sister to a part-time worker with zero social life. Sure, you’re probably thinking I could spend that time searching for a full-time job…but that’s a discussion for another day.

One of the pros of the extra time I’ve found is that I’ve discovered a new hobby: baking.

Trust me, the irony of having the fiercest sweet tooth in all of humankind and being diabetic is not lost on me. I belong in an Alanis Morrissette song.

Enter: Pinterest. While it is a black hole that has taken many hours of my newfound free time and magically made it disappear, the site has also led me to an endless supply of healthy dessert recipes.

Heaven forbid anyone in my generation do something without posting it to social media, so I’ve been showcasing some of my creations on Instagram. I’ve gotten quite a few requests for the recipes. Initially, I didn’t want to post them because they are not my own (aside from a few adjustments here and there to make them more diabetic friendly). I have since realized that these blogging bakers would welcome the increased traffic to their site, and I wouldn’t have to message my requesters individually.

So, to say what I could’ve said several paragraphs ago, I’m going to share ten of my favorite recipes along with photos of my final products. (You can’t always trust the photos those professional bloggers post. I’ve learned that the hard way.) Just click the recipe name and it will send you to the original post!

Enjoy responsibly! 😉

1) Dark Chocolate Zucchini Waffles via The Candid Appetite

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2) Healthy Zucchini Brownies via Popsugar Fitness

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3) Flourless Peanut Butter Chip Cookies via The View from Great Island

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4) Banana Oat Greek Yogurt Muffins via Running with Spoons

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5) Skinny Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies via Sally’s Baking Addiction *Disclaimer: Remember what I told you about those bloggers and their unrealistic photos? Yeah, that’s why I’m sharing an ‘artistic’ view of my brownies.*

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6) Healthy 100 Calorie Double Fudge Banana Muffins via Yammie’s Noshery

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7) Healthy Cookie Dough Dip via Chocolate-Covered Katie

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8) Skinny S’mores Cookies via Simple Nourished Living *Again: There’s a reason I’m sharing a picture of the batter. Delicious cookies, not so delicious to the eye.*

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9) Mini Pumpkin Oreo Cheesecakes via Just a Pinch 

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10) Pumpkin Chocolate Baked Oatmeal Singles via Emily Bites 

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From Crayons to Crewcuts

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In February 2014, I took to my Facebook page to share a Huffington Post article that had caught my eye – and the eyes of many others, apparently.

The article was all about a budding Instagram sensation who was becoming increasingly famous for her intricate replicas of iconic red-carpet dresses. I know what you’re thinking: yawn.

Well, here’s the kicker.

The “designer” behind the replicas is four years old. And she makes her creations entirely out of paper.

I’m 23, and the coolest thing I can make out of paper is a to-do list.

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Mayhem, the pseudonym for the pint-sized fashionista behind the masterpieces, even has an assistant. Also known as… Mom. Mayhem’s mom helps with the adult tasks like cutting and running their crazy-popular Instagram page  (@2sisters_angie).

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Remember when I said Mayhem’s work had caught the eyes of many?

I wasn’t kidding. The most notable of those eyes (covered in signature oversized frames, I might add) belong to Jenna Lyons. Yup, the cult-followed President and Executive Creative Director of J.Crew.

Lyons contacted the crafty pair herself, invited them to New York to meet with her, and fast forward…

Mayhem has designed a collection for Crewcuts, the children’s branch of J.Crew.

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I didn’t think it was possible to be so jealous of a four year old.

The collection is set to debut this summer. In the meantime, catch up on Mayhem’s past designs on her Instagram page and stay up to date with the current ones by checking out her blog, www.fashionbymayhem.com.

I can’t wait to see what Mayhem and Lyons have come up with. I’m expecting a lot of color, a lot of beading, and a lot of envy for the kids who get to wear it all.

Secrets of a Serial Spender

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I’m Haley, and I’m a shopaholic.

I’ve been completely MIA from the blog lately, but I’m back just in time to help my very-few-but-very-loyal followers with their holiday shopping.

Also, this is step one of my twelve-step program. 😉

Putting aside the three times per week on average that I visit T.J.Maxx/Marshall’s, my addiction mostly manifests itself in ferocious online shopping binges. My lack of transportation freshman year of college led me to join every flash-sale site in existence, and it has pretty much been a downward spiral from there.

But just as I was in college, this post-grad gal is on a tight budget. That’s where my roughly-a-million-dollar per year tuition (sorry, Dad!) comes in:

Research, research, research.

Here are some of my tips and tricks for online shopping on a budget. Thank me later, Santa!

1) Retail Me Not:

My first step while online shopping is ALWAYS to check out www.retailmenot.com. The site has endless coupon codes for pretty much any web retailer you can think of. More often than not I’m able to at least score free shipping. That adds up!

2) Hit the Mall:

If you’re on the hunt for something specific, it’s always a good idea to check out the actual retail store to compare prices to the online version. This is particularly vital for sale items. For example, J.Crew’s online sale prices are often very different from the in-store sale section. Not necessarily better or worse, just different depending on the item.

As for full price items, the price won’t change from site to store, but the discounts will. This fall, I was about to hit the “Order” button on a huge shopping cart of Old Navy items. At the last second, I decided to head on over to my local Old Navy store. Turns out that they were having an in-store promotion for cardholders. I ended up getting hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise for about half the actual cost.

(Side tip: find out which family members and friends have which store credit cards, convince them to let you use theirs, and pay them back that same day. Thanks, Mom!)

If the store doesn’t have the item you were looking for in your size, speak to an employee before heading home to order online. Stores like Gap and Nordstrom will order the item free of charge. Translation? No shipping cost!

3) Tweet, Tweet:

Check all of the social media accounts of the online retailer before purchasing. Sometimes they tweet or post coupon codes that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. This is particularly true for smaller, boutique-style stores!

4) Hand Over Your Email:

I know, I know. It’s annoying to have your inbox flooded with junk. But you may not see it as junk when you realize that handing over your email address usually scores you a minimum of 10% off your first order. Already signed up? Break out those old email addresses that you don’t dare share with the public. You better believe I use my old AIM address, my college address, and my Gmail address – that’s three occasions where I can get 10% off!

5) Hedge All Your Bets:

Does your giftee have expensive taste? You may be able to get them that designer item, after all. For example, whenever I search for Kate Spade items, I crosscheck the Kate Spade website with sites like Nordstrom and Lord and Taylor. Sometimes Nordstrom has that wallet or bracelet on sale before Kate Spade’s site, and vice versa. One of the sites may be having an amazing sale or you may have found yourself an awesome coupon code for one but not the other.

6) Don’t Be a Snob:

Sites like 6PM, Overstock and Zappo’s can be your best friends. They sell the same name-brand items as your favorite retailers, but for a lot less. Sure, sometimes their items are last season, but often you can find current products for cheap. Many of these discount sites offer free shipping to boot. I once wanted a pair of patent leather Steve Madden pumps more than anything, but they were over a hundred bucks. Lucky for me, I snagged the exact same pair on 6PM for seventy-something!

7) Find a Common Thread:

Thanks to my mish-mash of preppy and edgy items, I’ve come to find that the two have more in common than you’d think. For example, Karmaloop may look like it’s on another planet than Piperlime, but both carry B.B. Dakota. I know this because freshman year, I felt the need to spend all of my money on a fur vest… in Miami. I lusted after a specific B.B. Dakota version, and found it cheaper on Karmaloop than any of the other sites. Lulu’s and Nasty Gal are another example – they carry many of the same brands and exact dresses, but their prices are not always the same. Keep your eyes open and don’t judge a book by its cover!

8) Back to Basics:

We’ve all fallen in love with an item on a particular website, only to find that it’s either too expensive or out of stock. That’s where the “duh” factor comes in. Type in the product’s description into Google! My best friend asked me just the other day where she could find a scarf she spotted on Instagram. I typed in a basic description of it: “plaid blanket scarf.” Millions of hits! I was able to find a near-identical version for cheap on Etsy. Which brings me to my next tip…

9) Etsy:

If you don’t use Etsy, you’re seriously depriving yourself. The site features individual sellers who either make or resell products. You can find absolutely ANYTHING on Etsy. It’s my go-to site for personalized gifts. Some gifts I’ve found on Etsy include an engraved leather flask, a carved wood cutting board, a monogrammed phone case, a coordinate bracelet, and a million and a half other things. I’m an Etsy-holic.

10) The Hunt:

My friends are always asking me where they can find an item they saw on Pinterest or social media, but all they have is the picture. If my own sleuthing skills don’t do the trick, I tell them to post it on The Hunt. All you do is post the picture, select your price point, and voila! Other people find the item, or something very similar, for you. It doesn’t cost a thing – it’s more of a pay-it-forward set up. Someone found you that cheetah coat you had been dreaming about (guilty) so you help another stranger find those patterned leggings they want. Win-win!

Happy Shopping!