Thursday, August 28, 2014

Last Road Trip of Summer with Advance Auto

This is a sponsored post that contains affiliate links.

I've never been much into driving... before, I always had a very basic car without a ton of bells and whistles.  Driving just got me from one place to another!  But then this month, I traded in my old undergrad car (a beloved Toyota Corolla) for a brand-new Subaru Outback.  Holy cow!  Suddenly, driving is like a brand-new experience.

My New Car!

Dan, as excited about the car as me, immediately dragged me to Advance Auto.  I don't usually like auto parts stores (I feel lost and out of my element), but I was pleasantly surprised by how kind and helpful everyone was.  I already have an emergency kit in my car, but we added a tire gauge (I keep losing mine) and a new fire extinguisher since my old one expired.  I also picked up some fabric protecting spray to prevent stains.  I keep my cars well-maintained, but I outsource everything.  Dan even replaces the windshield wipers on my car too!  Most of my mishaps are issues of ignorance!  I never know when to get new tires (or how old my current ones are), and my battery once died because I didn't know they had to be replaced.  Oops.  Wish I'd known about free battery testing!  Thankfully, I've always been surrounded by people who could help.

When Advance Auto reached out to me about their Last Road Trip of Summer campaign, I thought it was perfect timing.  I just took three girlfriends (and ALL our stuff) on a road trip for a DAR retreat, and it felt good knowing my car was tuned up and safe to go.  I proudly packed the trunk like a Tetris pro, loaded everyone up, cranked some tunes, and hit the road.  Now that I actually enjoy driving, I find myself reading more about cars; Advance Auto has some great blog posts on topics like fuel efficiency, which is one of the reasons I chose my car specifically.

Group Road Trip Selfie, taken while parked for safety purposes!

Check out this great infographic from Advance Auto, perfect for girls like me who spend a lot of time traveling and on the road, and might not know everything we ought to about our cars.

Disclosure:  I received compensation in exchange for writing this post about road trips and Advance Auto.  Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own, and I do believe in good car maintenance!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Budgeting Bloggers: August 2014

August was not a big shopping month for me in terms of clothes, mostly because I bought a new car (eep!) and a couple of DAR pins, so I didn't feel like spending a whole bunch of other money on stuff.  In fact, I am considering lowering my budget for next quarter, given the holidays and higher expenses.  I still bought a few things, though!

  1. Classic Toms in Olive (retail $48, paid $38 via Amazon):  My black Toms are getting up there in age and wear, so I knew I wanted a new pair.  I use them when I ride my bike, run around on weekends, etc.  I chose the Olive color because I knew it would be a good neutral that could go with either black or brown.  I might still consider the Ash grey, but these looked good for everyday wear.
  2. eShakti Sadie Dress in Radiant Orchid (originally $75, paid $33):  I added short sleeves to this dress to it would be even more retro.  I almost bought the dress in orange, then I decided the purple would be better to carry me through different seasons.  It's a bit dressy for work, but it's perfect for DAR luncheons and teas.
  3. eShakti Gingham Check Empire Waist Dress (originally $70, paid $18):  I love gingham, and I've been wanting a gingham dress for ages.  It may be August, but it's still 90-degree weather here in TN, so this girl dress will get plenty of wear, and I'd wear it into the fall with a jacket.
  4. Anjolee CZ Necklace (c/o Anjolee):  I received a CZ version of this necklace by Anjolee to review for the blog.  I love how sparkly it is.  Check out my review here.
Not Pictured:
  • Yellow Circle Skirt & Red Circle Skirt ($35 each, free shipping):  After seeing Jade's work on my friend's custom skirt, and learning of her reasonable prices (I've seen comparable ones for double the cost) and the quality looked great.  These were the quality I would expect from a site like ModCloth, so I was very happy with them!  I used a discount code for free ship.  I hope to have some pics of them in a future post.
  • eShakti Cat Print Dress ($13, via Poshmark):  It's hard to take on and off, but I got an adorable cat-print dress for a song.  I'm pretty much done buying any clothes via Poshmark.  I'd rather buy used clothes locally than online, because I haven't been having good luck with anything I buy. This dress I still hope will become something I can wear once I lose a couple of pounds based on the construction.
I know, I know, AGAIN with the eShakti dresses!  But the thing is, I get so many compliments on them!  They do require ironing (bof!) but with a huge sale plus $35 in gift coupon codes, I just had to jump in.  You'll probably see another one at least this fall, because they always throw in a $25 giftcard to use on top of their deals after you purchase something.

$172 spent - $57 earned = $115 total
$$$ savings (lots of freebies and savings!)

Quarterly Budget: $500 - $159 July - $115 August = $226 remaining

Check out the rest of this month's Budget Bloggers at the linkup at Franish!

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**This post contains affiliate links.**

Monday, August 25, 2014

Effortless Weeknight Pasta

Dan and I have discovered a new favorite dish, which I'm calling our Weeknight Pasta.  I was inspired by a weeknight dinner my friend tossed together at her apartment, tossing ingredients into a blender and tossing pasta in the mix.  It was so good, I gave it a try at home.  Now, we toss whatever we have that makes sense into the mix for a super easy, tasty meal.

Example Ingredients

Typically, I'll cook an entire box of pasta, something like rigatoni that will allow the mix to stick.  I save a little of the starchy pasta water on the side for later.

Separately, I'll combine a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil with whatever cheese, herbs, etc. that I want to add in that night.  For these photos, I happened to have fresh basil from my coworker, garlic, and some boring parmesan cheese in a shaker.  But once you toss it all into a food processor or mini chopper (this night I used my mini chopper) and mix it up, you come up with a great flavor.  You could do this to make an easy pesto too, with pine nuts and more basil vs. tomatoes.

Once the sauce gets to a good consistency, I stop pulsing it in the chopper.   It should be well-mixed.

Lastly, I just toss the pasta in this sauce, adding the starchy water I saved to help it all stick.  The pasta water is key to helping it make that great squelchy sound that lets you know it's mixing up well!

Even though there are just two of us, I still use the whole box of pasta.  Why?  This pasta is great warm or cold, and it's the perfect leftover to keep in the fridge.  We pack it for lunch the next day, or eat it for dinner multiple days.  You can serve it with salad, bread, whatever is easy.

As I try to cook more at home, I know that this will be a tried-and-true combo to help me clean out the fridge and pantry.  If there's leftover Italian sausage, why not cook it up and add to this?  I imagine this is something we will eat every other week or so because it's so effortless.  And it looks nice too!

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P.S.  Another weeknight favorite?  A little compound butter.  I typically set out half a stick of butter before I go to bed, then spend five minutes in the morning mixing it with herbs and/or spices.  For this pasta dish, I made some butter with minced garlic and Italian herbs to put on some warm bread.  You just mix the softened butter with whatever you want (sweet idea: cinnamon and sugar or honey to put on your breakfast pancakes!) then wrap it in a little plastic to get back to a stick or ball form and put it back in the fridge for at least an hour.  It really adds some great flavor to whatever you spread it on later.
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