Monday, March 19, 2012

Unwinter Adventures of March

Wisconsin's winter this year has been so unwinterlike, and this March has felt like summer. While it worries me a tad as far as agriculture goes, it's been absolutely glorious to be outside. Case in point: the past two weekends.

Two weekends ago I spent Saturday zip lining across Chimney Rock Park near the Wisconsin Dells through Vertical Illusions. What was originally supposed to be a snowshoe zip line tour turned into a hiking zip line tour, which actually made it more difficult to get up the hill but I didn't care. The weather. was. awesome. Minus a bit of wind - as in the trees we zip lined to were swaying, and so were we - and it would've been perfect. Can't say I wasn't a bit nervous at some points, but I survived and had a blast.

Zip lining! Yeah, this was awesome. 

The next day a group of friends and I played football outside in a park. In early March! Seriously, I am not used to this nice of weather in March. It's been so nice to get outside and enjoy it.

The Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick's Day.

In other adventures, I decided to take advantage of living close enough to Chicago to make a day trip of it and went to the St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago. This resulted in my first sunburn of the year, which actually has come in March for the past 3 years. Everyone's saying "Oh, you got some sun". Why, yes, I did. I stood outside watching the parade for 3 hours and then walked around Chicago the rest of the day. The bf and I drove to Harvard, IL and took a commuter train into downtown Chicago and began making our way to the parade route. I love Irish music, so naturally I loved the parade but my feet were thankful to be walking again and not standing once it was done. We took the time to visit the Riverwalk, Navy Pier, do a Skyline Tour, visit Millennium Park, and eat out before heading back to Madtown.

At "The Bean" or Cloud Gate in Chicago and decked out in green.

There were even more outside adventures yesterday as we visited the UW Arboretum. The weather made it seem like there should be flowers blooming everywhere, but they were only just starting to come up. Still, it's a nice place and reminded me of home where I used to play in the woods for fun and pick cattails because I thought they were cool.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Penny Saved...

Coming from a dairy farm family, I earned my money by working on the farm and later by raising rabbits and was taught to be conservative with that money. I saw my dad working extremely hard on my farm, my mom working off the farm once we were all in school, and my mom trying to save money where she could. She couponed, bought things on sale as much as possible, and frequently went "garage saling". Her and my dad both visited auctions - farm auctions for my dad and the more typical auctions for my mom. Farm auctions tended to have kittens for free. If I went along to one with my dad, I begged to take one home and sometimes we brought home a new barn kitten. :) As much as I love to spend money on certain things occasionally, I like to think I learned a thing or two from my parents about saving it.

One of my friends particularly loves what has been dubbed "thrifting" - aka scoping out thrift stores - so a group of us have been thrifting on weekends fairly regularly now. Thrift stores are fun to check out on your own, but they're especially fun with friends. When we go to Dig N Save, a "last chance" type thrift store where you literally dig through boxes of clothes, we mostly grab at ugly Christmas sweaters, play with Tickle Me Elmo, and laugh at Mrs. Cosby style sweaters. 

My mom liked to go to thrift stores when she got time in a city that actually had one, but she usually went on her own. I started checking out thrift stores when I lived in Kansas City for my internship, which was my first job that required business casual on a daily basis. Of course, we had casual Friday to break out the cowboy boots in that small agricultural non-profit office. Being in college, I had just a few nice professional outfits and needed more. I soon discovered that while The Plaza made it fun to shop outside and had great business clothes with stores like Ann Taylor and Express, it got spendy for a college student. Thrift stores became my new friend as I found the same brands that were at The Plaza for just a few dollars. That summer involved reading for fun whenever I got the chance as I was so excited to have time to do so, and most of those books came from thrift stores. 

This weekend a couple of friends, the bf and I went to the Johnson Creek Outlet Mall. It was absolutely beautiful outside, like a real-life Narnia, because it had just snowed the day before and it was still clinging to the trees. The landscape made the interstate drive, which I would've loved anyways because hey! I got to see farms! and open spaces!, even more enjoyable. A kitchen store in the outlet mall had a cow keychain that lights up and goes Moo!, which I had to get, and a cow spoon holder, which I also had to get. The bf got a pot strainer - he's a bit more practical. Ann Taylor Factory Store was there, so naturally I found a cute top there on clearance far cheaper than any clearance at a regular Ann Taylor. I love Ann Taylor for business clothing, but my wallet is much happier with Factory Store clearance pricing. 

Let me know: How do you manage to shop on a budget? Where's your favorite place to find business clothing at a good price?