Dream Home

I like to consider myself a novice real estate expert, thanks to all my late night HGTV watching. I know way more about mortgages, renovation and house hunting than your average 23-year old.

But what is my all time favorite HGTV program? THE DREAM HOME!

Every year, HGTV builds, decorated and then gives away a beautiful home. And when I say beautiful, that is no exaggeration. The houses are done down to the very last detail and they are always stunning.

And the best news (for me at least)?? This year the house is in Martha’s Vineyard!!!

Usually the houses are way too far away for me to consider, since I’d never get to enjoy them. But this year it’s a reasonable proximity to home – woohoo! I’ve been entering every day and thought I’d pass along the link so you all can too!

HGTV Dream Home Entry Form

You can enter once a day on HGTV.com and then again once a day on FrontDoor.com. The contest ends at the beginning of February, so you still have plenty of time to get some entries in.

Good luck, friends! And if you do win – I shall be jealous, but very excited for you! 🙂

New Year Resolutions

2015 is just three days away! How crazy is that?!

I’m not usually one for making resolutions, as I feel like I never follow through. Anyone else have this problem? Maybe it’s the term “resolution” that’s getting me.

I do have some goals I’d like to achieve in 2015, as well as some tips for anyone who wants to make some resolutions along with me.

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My 2015 Goals
1. Get Healthy!: I still haven’t kicked my bad eating and exercise habits leftover from college. In 2015, I hope to take some steps toward being healthy including: regular workouts, less eating out and bringing my lunch from home more often! I have to find what works for me and stick with it.

2. Organize my life: This might sound like too general of a goal, but lately I’ve been feeling very scattered. I have no idea where my important papers are, forget when my various bills are due until a day or two before and my room looks like a tornado’s aftermath. Small steps like a filing cabinet, using a financial organizer (like Mint, as suggested by my boyfriend) and cleaning up regularly before things become a disaster zone will go a long way.

3. Donate at least 50 knitted items: A few months ago, I started making preemie sized items for Stitches from the Heart and I absolutely love it. It gives me the rewarding feeling of volunteering without the stress of a weekly commitment. I made 20 items this year, and that’s only about 3 months of knitting! 50 items is a doable goal that I hope to exceed in 2015.

4. Start saving for a down payment: How much I save will depend on what my raise is at the end of January but my boyfriend and I are committed to buying a condo in the next two years or so. Rent is just so crazy these days!

I have other things I hope to achieve as well throughout the year, but those are my four main things 🙂

Tips for your own goals
Make them actionable. What steps can you take toward achieving your goals? Don’t just come up with a broad hope that you don’t know how you can reach.

Be realistic. It’s good to have some long-term goals that you can’t achieve just yet. But don’t plan to save $40k if you only make $50k after taxes. Think about what you can reasonably do in a year. The big dream is a good thing but try breaking it down into smaller bites so it doesn’t seem so scary and impossible.

Write them down. So you can remember and check back to see whether you’re heading in the right direction.

What are your 2015 resolutions?

Why I Am Boycotting Black Friday

If you’re a loyal reader, I’m sure you know – I love a good deal. Which is why it might surprise some of you that I have decided to boycott Black Friday and the in-store “deals” this year. Here’s why…IMG_2597.JPG
I am a strong believer in the importance of family. For me, holidays are one of the few times throughout the year where I get to see my extended family. I love having the chance to catch up with all of my cousins, aunts, uncles and other family members.

But over the last few years, I’ve noticed something happening at Thanksgiving. Instead of talking to each other about exciting things happening in our lives, the focus seems to have shifted more and more on the next day – Black Friday. Where are you shopping? What time are you going? What deals are you hoping to get?

Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful for everything you are blessed with in life. It is not a day for devising shopping strategies. And then heading to bed early so you can get up before the sun to save a couple bucks.

And yes, I understand that everyone has different views on holidays. Maybe your family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, which is totally fine. But your decision to shop in the wee hours of the next morning affect people other than just you.

There are the college kids, home for just a few days, who have to give up valuable family time to go stand behind the register for you. And I speak from experience in saying that many retailers make Black Friday a mandatory day for all employees.

There are the high schoolers who, instead of enjoying a nice school break, have to head to the mall to fold the clothes and stock the shelves that you’re just going to mess up five minutes later.

There are the store managers with young children who have to hire babysitters so they can deal with any issues with pricing or customers misreading the sale signs.

And in some places, there are the police officers who have to work details at the malls and shopping centers in order to ensure that no one gets out of hand. These men and women already work tirelessly to keep your city safe and now they have to work overtime for crowd control.

I understand – a good deal is hard to pass up. But when you look at the bigger picture, are you really costing yourself and others more than you’re actually saving?

Instead of giving in to the commercial madness, I’ll be spending next Friday morning at home with my parents, boyfriend, dog and new kitten (!!). Sure, I’ll probably browse online for a good sale or two, but that’s not different than any other day for me!

Take the time to enjoy the time with your family and give others the same chance. You never know how much time you have with your loved ones, so make the most of it, especially during the holiday season.

One Year!

Yesterday marked my one year blog-aversary! Time to celebrate!!

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It’s been a great year! I’d like to say a huge thank you to each and every one of my readers!

To be honest, I never thought this blog would last past a few months, so I appreciate all of your support. I wanted to be able to explore my love for writing and, while I’ve certainly done that, I’ve learned so much more. I love this blog and hope to keep it going for some time to come.

Alright no more sappy stuff – on to the fun stuff: stats! Let’s see if we can beat these numbers in Year 2 😊

• 153 Posts
• 670 Tags
• 116 Blog followers
• 43 comments
• 158 shares
• 2,397 views
• 572 Tweets
• 84 Twitter Followers
•1,094 Pins
• 7 Facebook likes (let’s work on that one – help a gal out!)
Most Popular Post
• Throwback: My First Post (before I figured out how to make cool graphics)

Thanks again and here’s to a great second year! 😘

App Access on Facebook

Internet, mobile phones and apps are pretty great – they allow us instant access to information and people in a way that was unimaginable just thirty years ago. But with this comes some negatives, one of which is a greater threat to data security. Downloading and using apps allows the companies that develop these apps to have access to information on your social media profiles, like Facebook.

The other day, I was looking to change a setting on my Facebook app and stumbled across a list of apps that had access to my profile. I had no idea that over 70 apps, most of which I had used only once or hadn’t been used in years. Some only had limited access such as my name but others were able to view (and likely store) a slew of other information I personally would prefer they didn’t have access to.

I’ve slowly been working my way through removing these apps from my accounts, and thus removing their access to my information. In case you’re like me and have no idea what to do, here are the steps. It’s pretty simple!

1. On the app, click “More” on the bottom right and then click “Settings”

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2. On the next screen, select “Apps”.

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3. The first option on this next screen, “Logged in with Facebook”, shows all of the apps that are connected with your account. Click on that to see the full list.

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4. Choose an app to remove, scroll all the way to the bottom and choose “Remove App”.

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5. Be sure to check off the box to delete all of your activity and then click “Remove”.

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It’s as simple as that! It just takes a while since you need to remove them one at a time. I’ve started with apps I had no idea even had access and will work my way out from there.

Good luck!

Password Protected?

Yesterday was not a good day for me. I found out my old email, which I use for most of my personal social media accounts, had been hacked. It was likely a result of the recent Google Heart Bleed virus that swept the internet earlier this month. As a result of my email getting hacked, at least one of my other accounts was tampered with as well. Overall, I wasn’t a very happy camper when I finally figured out what was going on midway through my workday.

Prior to this, I had naively considered myself to not be at risk to web viruses. I don’t download strange things or stream shows from sketchy sites, so how would a virus get to me? I’ll admit I still don’t quite understand the how behind it, but I definitely have realized that everyone who uses the internet runs the risk of getting hacked.

One of the safest ways to avoid hackers is to keep your passwords strong and unique for each type of site and also to change them often. While I have been using strong passwords on accounts I open recently, my older accounts such as this particular email address and my Facebook/Twitter that I’ve had since high school still had easily decoded passwords, raising my risk of getting hacked.

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The best way to protect your accounts is to use unique passwords that are difficult to break and to change them often. But let’s be honest, none of us do that, right?

Instead, try creating a few unique passwords and using the same password for a particular type of accounts. For example, use one password for your social media accounts. Then if one of your accounts becomes compromised, you only have to change the password for those few accounts rather than everything, which you’d have to do if you used the same password.

Another tip is to use abbreviations rather than whole words. You can do this pretty easily. Whether you use the first letter of each word in a short sentence, the abbreviation for your favorite store or snack, or a friend’s initials, avoiding dictionary words makes it much more difficult for your password to be hacked.

Most importantly – keep your passwords for all banking and financial accounts different! Having your twitter account or even email hacked isn’t a huge deal but if you’re credit cards or bank accounts are compromised, you’re in for a huge headache. Better safe than sorry when it comes to your finances!!

Do you have any password security tips? Have any of your accounts been hacked? I’m curious how everyone handles such a stressful situation!

Photo Collages

Earlier this week, when #nationalsiblingsday was trending on my Facebook feed, I decided to one-up my brother’s post by posting a collage of pictures of us growing up. For me, it was a pretty simple thing to do and I enjoyed going through our baby books to find the best pictures. But my parents were amazed by how I put the collage together. When I told them I just used an app, they were shocked!

I realized that something so simple for me was an unknown to them. Have you guys ever used a photo collage app before? I like to make them for special occasions and also use them a lot for the blog. I thought I’d share my favorite collage apps in case you guys want to try some 🙂

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(All of these apps can be found in the Apple App Store)

Picstitch – If you use Instagram, you’ve probably heard of this app the most. It has a lot of basic frame layouts for free and allows you to upload the photo directly to the social media app of your choice.

Photo Collage (Kai Xia) – I use this one a lot for the blog, since it has features that aren’t available on Picstitch. This app includes font options, borders and a variety of layouts.

Photo Frame Editor (Kai Qian Chen) – I don’t use this one as much as the other two above, but it has the most options for fonts and also includes different printed borders. It doesn’t have as many layouts, but there are some fun options!

Have you tried any photo collage apps? Which are your favorites?