Archives for August 2011

Giveaway: Win $50 for Jewelry, Home Decor, and More

This coming Wednesday is my birthday and in honor of my day of birth, I wanted to give away a little present to my readers!

This giveaway is for a $50 gift card to NOVICA: an online retailer that has teamed up with National Geographic to provide unique gifts and products from all corners of the world.  NOVICA provides an outlet for talented artists and artisans from all over the world to showcase their products.

We want to give artists and artisans around the world a global platform to express their true artistic talents and to spur their creativity. And, we want to provide you with access to unique, hard-to-find items at great values that only the Internet infrastructure can allow.”

I’ve already been perusing the website and everything looks beautiful!  Check out the women’s accessories front page:


And I absolutely love these pieces of jewelry:








One lucky winner will win a $50 gift card to purchase anything they like from the NOVICA website!

Here’s How To Enter:

+1 Leave a comment on this post.  Any comment will work.

+1 Follow @AmberBalanced on twitter and tweet this message (only one tweet allowed and your message MUST include the hashtag to be eligible): “I want to win a $50 gift card from @AmberBalanced  See http://tinyurl.com/3wwrq29 to enter! #bbNOVICA 

+1 sign up for Blonde & Balanced’s RSS feed or email updates (linked) and let me know in the comments. If you are already a subscriber, just let me know in the comments and you will be counted.

+3 Like Blonde & Balanced on Facebook.  Click here or click the like button in the box in the right sidebar. —->

+5 blog about this giveaway, include these two links in your post: http://www.blondeandbalanced.com/novica-giveaway/ and http://novica.com/

**If you’ve done any of the above, please leave a comment and let me know how you have entered so I can count your entries.

I will draw the winner on Friday, September 2nd. You will have until 11/30/11 to redeem your gift card. Good luck!

Thank you for entering and thanks to NOVICA.com for making the giveaway possible!


Psssst.  Sick of Passion Parties and Arbonne Parties?  Consider becoming a NOVICA Live home party hostess!  Check out the details HERE.

Also, check out Life And My Finances who is giving away an iPad 2 in honor of his blog-iversary!  I really really wanna win.  :)

8 Ways To Actually Enjoy Cooking (From Someone Who Used to Hate Cooking)

This spring, I blogged about how I hated cooking.  I talked about how I hated spending my evenings in the kitchen instead of doing things I wanted to do.

But, over the last several months, I’ve started to grow fonder of cooking (especially since we returned from our honeymoon).  I’m not sure what happened – maybe that post forced me to look for the good in cooking.  And there is definitely plenty of good in cooking – it’s healthier and it’s cheaper and, as I’m finding, it can be fun and enjoyable if you let it.

Here are some things I’ve been doing to make cooking more enjoyable:

1. Get more night-time tasks done during the day.

For me, this is blog and freelance work (even though I’m writing this blog post in the evening).  Today, I finished about 90% of a freelance post over lunch, so I don’t have to worry as much about that tonight.  Other things include running errands or making calls – both of which I do over lunch quite a bit.


2. Have at least one glass of wine while cooking.

This makes cooking much more enjoyable. 😉 That’s my crappy apartment oven (I can’t wait to have a nice oven in our new house) and one of our stemless wine glasses that we received as a wedding present (LOVE!).  And that stemless wine glass is filled with Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s.  Thank you for coming to KC, Trader Joe’s.

3. Make things that you want to make.

I don’t want to make linguini in clam sauce or whatever The Pioneer Woman made for Marlboro Man for their first at-home dinner (totally reading that book right now).  I want to make simple, healthy dishes.  So, I do.  Making things you want to make does make cooking much more enjoyable.

IMG_0946 chicken parmesan, twice-baked goat cheese sweet potatoes, & roasted Brussels sprouts (I’m obsessed with these)

4. Have your husband clean after you cook (or clean as you go).

My husband is gracious enough to clean up if I cook.  It’s a good system, but I still try to clean as much as I can as I go.  It’s a huge help after dinner and really doesn’t take much time.  It makes post-feasting clean-up less dreadful.

5. Appreciate the physical movement – especially if you’re a desk-dweller.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because sitting at a desk all day kinda freaks me out.  The habits I listed in this link do help if you sit at your desk all day, but being active after work is important, too.  And since I’ve been working out in the morning, my after work activity is mostly cooking and cleaning up.

6. Make it a group affair.

Sometimes, instead of splitting duties between cooking (me) and cleaning (him), we’ll do everything together.  It’s totally like a date and so cute and romantic. :)  Plus, G is a good cook – but he didn’t get that way by just cleaning the dishes.  He became a good cook by participating in the action.


7. Turn on music.

Make it a party!  This probably makes cooking most enjoyable for me (well, music and wine, anyway).  I love, love, love music so I just set up my iPod on my dock and I’m all set.  It really doesn’t make it feel like a Friday night dance party.  Well, a Friday night dance party with grilled chicken and asparagus….

8. Act like you like it.

Maybe I just finished reading The Happiness Project, but the author is so right on when she says to “act the way you want to feel”.  If you dread cooking and complain to yourself every minute of chopping, cleaning, and sautéing, then you WILL hate cooking.  Act like you like cooking and be careful to take note of the times that you’re actually enjoying yourself and, before you know it, you might actually start to enjoy cooking.  :)

Do you like to cook?  What are you best tips to enjoy cooking?

Workin’ On My Fitness Weekly: July 12, 2011

The Hubs and I are headed to an out-of-town pool party this weekend hosted by one of his college fraternity brothers.

It’s an annual thing and always a lot of fun.  It’s actually the only pool party we’re ever invited to which is kind of a bummer since I love pool parties!

But, of course, along with pool parties comes that whole wearing-a-bikini-in-front-of-people-you-know thing.  I haven’t donned my two-piece since our honeymoon.  I’m a lot paler these days, but I’ve been keeping up with my workouts.  But G and I have been eating and drinking a lot more, too, so I’m a couple pounds up from my wedding weight.  I’m not too worried about it.  I’m a lot happier than I was before the wedding, so I’ll take a couple pounds if it means happiness. 😉

In other workout news, G and I have both been running outside a lot this summer and it occurred to me this week that we only have a couple more months to enjoy running outside.  (Running inside bores me to tears!)  Come November, we will be stuck inside until at least February.  That makes me enjoy outdoor runs that much more!

I’ve also been taking TONS of gym classes.  I love classes!  I kind of got out of the habit for awhile, but am happy I got back into it.  Classes work muscle groups that you would never normally work on your own and they usually push you harder than you would on your own.  Andddd there is always someone interesting to watch in classes.  Ya know?! :)

Have a great weekend!

Do you like working out outside or inside?

P.S. If you have time, check out the First Reader Financial Checkup on Money Under 30 today.  It is an AWESOME new series and I think it will be really popular.  Let me know whatcha think!

Your Balance Story: The Frugal Life in Beautiful Balance

This post is part of the reader-submitted Your Balance Story series.  This series showcases stories by readers where they have achieved balance in their lives.  If you’d like to submit a story, please click here.  This post comes from Shannyn at Frugal Beautiful.

your balance story

Do you ever feel like you’re doing what you “should” but not what you love? Do you ever think you’re happy, or even tell yourself you are, but keep thinking, “this isn’t the life I ordered”?

It’s easy to follow what’s prescribed to us without thinking. Go to school, get a job, get married, and — voilà! — we should be happy! We take cues from everyone else, assuming that they are truly happy and we are not, so we follow their lead. But even when we achieve what thought we should, why aren’t we really content in our own skin?

For the first time in my life, I’m happy — truly, utterly and authentically blissful, content, confident and, yes, a bit more balanced. For years, I did everything I thought I should do but still wasn’t fulfilled. I had to learn the hard way to discover my own unique, hard-won balance and discover what it meant to truly be “me.”

My Three Steps to Balance:

  • Make a big mistake (or realize something’s amiss).
  • Get real with your authentic you & search for balance.
  • Fight like heck to get it! Because your bliss deserves a fighting chance.

    How do I know this?

    A year ago, I wanted to be an educator and writer, I assumed the only way to do that was to earn the right to write by getting a Ph.D. and thus become a “true” educator. I made the BIG MISTAKE of assuming I needed the outward verification and certification of an institution to have a voice, to write, to express myself. I didn’t have the confidence to do it on my own, so I hid behind the fear of failure and thought a degree from a big name university would not only validate my writing, but validate me as a human being.

    While I struggled to convince myself that there was nothing shallow or hollow about my choices and lie that my big mistake was legitimate, since “everyone else did it this way,” I started FrugalBeautiful.com as a side project. That silly little blog I had devoted my free time to lit a fire in my soul and completely shook me to my core. Getting such satisfaction from a blog and not from my academic research, flew in the face of what “real” writing was in the academy. I was in love with this unprofessional, amateurish little hobby blog and it scared the heck out of me! Why couldn’t I just be happy doing things the traditional way? I learned that I had to FIGHT LIKE HECK to forgive myself for loving what I did and FIGHT to do it regularly — to write, to explore, and to unabashedly be ME.

    At that point, I had to do the toughest thing anyone ever has to do:


    Here’s a tip: You know you’re onto what’s “truly you,” when you feel a great resistance towards it. It excites you and makes you ill simultaneously because you know it goes against the grain, but it feels so undeniably right inside. If you’re terrified and excited at the same time? That’s how you know.

    For me, finding balance was a process that started with my writing. Writing caused me to be real with myself and clear out the mental clutter that had been limiting my thinking for too long. It led to things I never thought it would — exercise, eating healthier, adopting a dog (simply because it made me happy), spending smarter and pursuing new friendships. It also made me clear out what wasn’t working — friendships that made me insecure, my penchant for sugary snack foods, clothes that didn’t make me feel gorgeous and of course- I still try and tackle impulse shopping.

    And that’s where I’m at today, I’m still making big mistakes, I’m still asking questions and every day I open up the laptop, I fight like heck to get my best life. But this balance? This happiness? This life? It’s mine and I have learned to forgive myself that it didn’t look like I thought it would. Chances are, you don’t want to conform to someone else’s idea of ‘balance’ either.

    When was the last time you forgave yourself for your silly little quirks, your weird dreams, your big goals and your unrealistic expectations and struck out on your own to find your unique balance? When was the last time you celebrated what is uniquely YOU and utilized it to your advantage?

    For you, finding balance might mean dedicating your time to activities that fill you up and energize you, while learning to better refuse any projects or activities that drain you. It may mean dedicating yourself to healthy eating, or finally tackling your credit card debt. It could be switching jobs or simply sitting down to journal about your feelings.

    If its been awhile since you embraced your true self and prioritized what matters most, start right now. You deserve it, and today, you strike out on a new path towards greater balance.

    Shannyn blogs at FrugalBeautiful.com, where her goal is to create meaningful content for women who want more in life than what’s put on a high interest credit card.