Frugal guide to the best at home gel nail manicure

Thanks to my wonderful mom I've found the best product(s) for a gel nail manicure I can do at home that doesn't break the bank and isn't high maintenance!

I cannot say enough good things about Revlon's Colorstay Gel Envy products. I don't know if I should call it a kit necessarily, but there are really only two products you'll need. First, the nail polish color of your choice and second, their Colorstay Gel Envy Diamond Top Coat. I love the colors they have to offer, how quickly the nail polish and the top coat dry. I generally watch t.v. or a movie and have my nails done in less than 1.5 hours which I think isn't bad at all. Especially considering I only paid $16 total, $7.99 for the nail polish and $7.99 for the top coat, which I will get a lot of use of!

Here's how to get the best gel manicure at home in five steps (p.s. I don't even follow the first two steps overtime...I know shame on me.)

Step one: Prep your nails. Cut and file your nails. Here is a really inexpensive manicure set to get you started!

Step two: Push back your cuticles

Step three: Wash and dry your hands

Step four: Apply two light coats of the nail polish. I generally wait 20-30 minutes before I apply the second coat and then apply the...

Step five: Apply the diamond top coat and let it dry. That generally takes 20-30 minutes as well.

Here is a link to one of their kits if you're interested! I like this one because it costs less than buying the individual nail polish and the diamond top coat!

They have so many gorgeous colors! I have two go to's for winter/spring which are a dark grey and a cross between a blush and a nude tone (my husband loves this one so I use it the most!)

Scroll down to see all they have to offer! I hope you're able to enjoy having the best looking nails around...all from the comfort of your own home!

 

 

Our First Married Valentine's Day

Bryan and I's first married Valentine's Day was special and also low key which I really enjoyed- probably because I was starting to feel under the weather (at the time I didn't know I was coming down with the flu at 32 weeks pregnant!!) 

Bryan and I each had to work, but he got home earlier than expected. We ended up going to a really good Mexican restaurant in town and yes- he totallyyyy spoiled me. We've been in the habit of splitting a meal- which honestly has worked out really well lately. How!? Good question, its a miracle...kidding...since he's slimming down and I'm well, eating as much as Lily and I need it works! I digress, on Valentine's Day we each ended up getting our own meal and splitting a delicious dessert. I know, so spoiled.

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We got each other really cute cards. The dollar store has cards as low as .50 cents and cute bags for presents too! Bryan got me flowers and Lily the cutest onesie in Spanish, which translates to, "Little but fierce!" It's adorable, he snagged it at Target, the brand is Cat and Jack! Ummm....can you say, best children's brand ever!?

I got him, well, us this really swanky recipe journal which was a steal at my local TJ Maxx! I found it right after the new year began and decided to hold onto it for Valentine's Day. Luckily, with lots of effort I was able to hide it from him until then, phew, had a few close calls!

The official title of the recipe journal is: The Keepsake Kitchen Diary by Lily and Val. The photo below is linked to Amazon!

I love this diary because it has room for 150 recipes, little pockets for notes, and is well organized! It has six sections: starters, soups/salads, main courses, side dishes, desserts, and a miscellaneous section. It's beautifully illustrated and has a little section to write any memories associated with your fun dinner making activities. 

I think the funniest part about our first married Valentine's Day was technically speaking neither of us gave the other a present for just them which made us feel like we were getting old, haha. Oh well, we were both just really happy to go out just the two of us and chat about our first eight months of marriage and about how excited about our little adventure (baby Lily) coming in about 10 weeks!

We had a lovely Valentine's Day! Ohhh and my in-loves gave us tickets to an escape room activity to use before Lily comes, we can't way to go!

What did you and your loved one(s) do on Valentine's Day!?

Why I never pay full price at Loft (or their affiliated stores)

     I am a Loft Inc. gal at heart. I worked at a Loft store while in college and boy oh boy was it hard trying not to shop for myself especially when I received their wonderful 50 % off employee discount. There was always some piece or accessory I wanted, but I digress!

    Loft and their affiliated stores, Ann Taylor and Lou and Grey have absolutely wonderful sales! Unless its a fashion emergency, you've got the cash and you wanna treat yo' self would I ever recommend buying something at full price. They generally have 30- 40% off everything in the store and also have an amazing sales/final sale rack to keep you busy scouting for what you're looking for! I'm not one to sign up for e-mails but I genuinely feel theirs are the best to receive because of their continual in store and also, amazing online sales. 

     I'll keep it real ladies, there were (and still are) months where my budget for splurging on myself (for wanted) not needed clothing purchases was $25 and I could come out like a bandit with 2-3 amazing pieces!

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OG price: $69.50    Bev the bandit: $6.50

 

    I'd been wanting to buy something small for my mom and literally had $10.02 on a Loft gift card balance. In case you didn't know you can use that gift card at Ann Taylor and Lou and Grey stores and online-wahoo! One of my favorite bloggers posted about this super cute Lou and Grey Poncho Hoodie. I didn't run to snag one because I'm over trying and buying non-maternity pieces. I am so glad I stumbled across this because even though they didn't have it in my size they had it in another which I think will work for my mom. Sshhh don't tell her I just bought it for her for Valentine's Day. 

Here is a quick view of the poncho hoodie- last I checked it was available in size M/L, check out their size chart for more info. This could be a great early-on time gift for a loved one for Valentine's Day! My order is set to arrive to my mom by February 13th!

**P.s. I don't know what it is, but I've got all the feels (lovey dovey) feels after seeing my Lily girl's face this week at the anatomy scan. I am so overwhelmed with love for our little girl I haven't met yet. That got me thinking about how special mine and my mom's relationship is and it just made me want to do something special for my momma this Valentine's Day!**

I hope you're able to share the love to those babes closest to you this Valentine's Day! Do you have any fun and exciting plans in the works? I'd love to hear about them!

Clinique 8 minute make-up routine

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Hi there! I'm not a makeup guru by any means- I'm more of the 8 minute make-up face kind of gal. I pride myself in being able to get ready in less than eight minutes (especially when my foundation doesn't end up ruining my outfit). I love a soft and natural look (as does my husband, Bryan). Here is a quick look at my favorite products... which I use daily.

     Since I know many of you are busy mommas, college students, and young professionals the images posted are linked for an easy purchase from Amazon (our favorite place to shop- from the comfort of our cozy couch/bed, am I right!?)

I love Clinique products especially because of my sensitive and oily skin. It is the only product line I've tried that I have not broken out in hives to (yeah, its that intense). Below is my daily routine!


Generally after moisturizing with coconut oil (any organic and even generic brand is fine) since the air is so dry here in Utah. Then I start with Clinique's Even Better Foundation, I generally use the shade, Cream Chaios 04 during the fall/winter months and ask a consultant to match me with the right shade during the summer (I don't remember which shade I use in the summer). I prefer going to a Clinique shop within a mall's department store because I've experienced great customer service, generally end up being able to save due to their discounts, and because I can gain Clinique Smart Rewards points for every dollar I spend.


I'm not one to contour or use brushes (due to past allergic reactions) so I love using the Chubby Stick Cheek Color Balm in the shade, Roly Posy Rosy. I find it lasts me all day and I only touch up when I'm going out in the late evening for dinner or a special event. Last time I checked it was only $8.50 on Amazon prime. 


Oh my goodness, if I could beg you to try just two products, together, it would be the Even Better Foundation AND any of their Chubby Stick Shadow Tint for Eyes shades. My eye shadow looks the same at 11 o'clock at night as it did at 6:30 am when I applied it.

I cannot rave about their Shadow Tints enough. In the summer (well, almost all year round) I use their #07 shade, Pink and Plenty. 


Here are two of my favorites...

Lavish Lilac- It's actually a very light purple despite how it's photographed on amazon, you can visit Clinique's website to see the true color

 

 

 

Portly Plum- A dark purple. I love to mix this and Lavish Lilac for a beautiful smokey eye which I think looks great for brown eyed gals!

 

 


I love the Quickliner for Eyes (eye liner) in the Violet (purple) and I have the same feedback to share about it as I did with the shadow tint for eyes, stays all-day-long! 

 


    I haven't dabbled with their mascara samples because anything else I've tried makes my lashes "fall down" they just go back to their normal shape, straight (ugh!) but I'm sure their mascara option(s) are absolutely wonderful and I'll likely be trying that soon!

I would love to learn how to really master having amazing eye brows but I haven't put time into it yet, either!

I love, love, love Clinique make-up products and hope they work for you! If there's something you love that's not listed here feel free to comment here on the blog, Facebook or Instagram page. I'm always up for trying something new from Clinique!

When your world isn’t filled with Christmas Crazy

    What do you do in the stillness? In the quiet place where time, time and more time meet in every nook and crannie of your life? 

     While most of the world spins into Christmas crazy...what do you do when yours has slowed down or even stopped? Stopped, stopped maybe physically, emotionally, or socially? Does the time go by in a slightly kind-er pace because you anticipated it? Not necessarily. Are you wishing for the Becky’s kind of business? Sometimes I do. What if we don’t have to?

    And what do you do once you have nothing in your hands except bittersweet time? What does it look like to embrace stillness? Is it the obvious reading a book or doing that thing you swore you would do when you had time? Would you, could you reach out to do that one thing with Jesus, for you that you’ve been putting off? Can you rest— truly rest and be still in His presence or does Instagram pull and thrill to compare and compete?

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    Can you learn to embrace the quiet and slow pace of life and not feel, what’s the word: guilty?  It’s hard, you can, with Jesus to abide and be found in Him.

    It’s a beautiful thing to embrace a slow and steady- yet unsteady, awkward season- whether it be weeks or possibly months. Whether you’re staring at the ceiling or a wall, being still doesn’t make you small. Being  still and being at peace with it is strength beyond measure- and can usher in a season of gratitude beyond compare. Not out of what isn’t there, what is there, Who wants to meet you there. 

    

Ways to save on Christmas gifts!

The Christmas season can be really hectic and you may find yourself running to and from various stores to search for specific gifts. If you do have some time on your hands and a little bit of patience here are a few ways to save on gifts this Christmas.

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1. Make the magic happen

For you risk taker and experienced or even not so experienced craft lovers- consider making Christmas gifts for your family and friends! With so many DIY websites, blog posts, and yes Pinterest there are lots of resources that can walk you through how to make project in 15 minutes or less! It doesn't have to be elaborate, it is the thought that counts right. (Yeah, I know, and so does the execution...of the project, silly!).

2. Search and save

A gift there today will likely be there tomorrow. Don't feel like you have to jump on the very first present you see in the store. Don't be afraid to scout around for a better deal. For example, a certain gift I'm looking for would cost more at Cabela's and Dick's Sporting Goods than it would at a local outdoorsy store like Sportsman's Warehouse here in town :) There will constantly be deals and don't be afraid to take the extra three minutes to sign up for a rewards card (if they offer one) especially as it will generally help you start saving right away!

3. Split and save

There is generally that one family member who can be quite particular about their wishlist and shall we say, has expensive taste! Not to worry, if that's your dad or mom and you have siblings or an awesome aunt or uncle- see if one or maybe a few others would like to pitch in on a gift(s). 

I know this was a super quick post, with all the holiday rush I figured that might be best. Enjoy your shopping...and saving!

A Christmas Gift Guide that won't break the bank!

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Merry Christmas! I enjoy getting ready for Christmas and often times struggle with shopping for gifts. I normally start brainstorming and planning Christmas gift purchases in late October (early, I know!). I thought I'd make a small gift guide for different loved ones based on personalities and interests with gifts at and under $25. We're all about saving money around here, truly being practical, there is no way we're going to go in debt to provide Christmas gifts. We're working on being intentional with gifts and here are just a few ideas so you can merrily be on your way!

 

 

For the camping fanatic

I'm bringing it back to the basics. Every camper needs a good meal, why not ensure they have what they need! I love this Stansport Enamel Cookware set since it offers a set of four in silverware, cups, plates, bowls, and mugs. I think this will cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

 

 

 

For the aspiring artist

My brother loves music for as long as I can remember. If you have a music lover in your family who is also an aspiring artist these sound proofing acoustic foam packages would be a great hit. (Plus may allow mom and dad to still enjoy a relaxing night in!

 

 

 

For the kiddos

If you're looking for a cute movie for movie night and/or a long road trip this is a cute one! And yes, at 25 years old (and no children of my own) I've watched and enjoyed this movie!

 

 

For the tech-y teen

If you've got a teen or even young adult who likes watching music videos or movies at home this could be a really cool option! This Gee-Which Smartphone Projector and what makes it so amazing is that there aren't any cords or batteries required!

 

 

 

 

For the video game lover

Here's a great gift for video game lover who is a fan of simple graphic t-shirts!

 

 

 

 

For the Chip and Joanna Gaines lover

This one's for the gal in your life who loves getting inspired and wouldn't mind cozying up with a great magazine and a cup of coffee this winter! Its sure to make a great little table decoration too!

 

 

 

For the new home owners (wink, wink-family)

If theres one gift card that can't go wrong its one to Lowe's Home Improvement warehouse! Whether the new home owners know it or not all their needs (and wants) can be met at Lowe's. This would allow them to make a meaningful and exciting purchase for home repairs or fun projects they'd like to do!

 

 

 

For the father in law

Who wouldn't want a new comfortable robe (especially for those chilly winter mornings)!? I got my father in law something like this. 

 

 

 

 

 

For the diva (I mean make-up godess)

I don't know too much about make up and brands but I do know know one leaves the house with untamed eyebrows these days?! Right, well everyone except me! hmmm...should I put this on my wishlist!? 

 

 

 

For the Essential Oil lover

Lots of women would love the luxury of an essential oil nearby without the frustrations of carrying it around everywhere. This is such a modern. trendy, lightweight and spill free way of having a favorite essential oil around all day. Introducing an Essential Oil Diffuser Leather Bracelet Band! (ummm... I didn't know this existed, I actually really want one!)

 

 

Although its not a lengthy gift guide I hope this encourages you to know you can gift intentionally and not break the bank! I'd love to read about what types of gifts you've found! Feel free to comment below or visit me on instagram at: @thepracticalpotters. Looking for a specific item in this post or on the blog? Use the search bar below.

We made it to Utah!

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We're here! We've moved to Utah and could not be more excited! Here's a recap of what's been going on!

Bryan is on terminal leave from the Army and has accepted a job offer, yippee! I've started providing childcare for two wonderful families with adorable kids. I feel so lucky to have a flexible work schedule and be able to run errands, schedule prenatal appointments, and spend time with family in town over the holidays!

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A week before Thanksgiving we found out we are having a baby girl! We are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our Lily Anne Potter!

 

 

The following day we took an impromptu trip to Bryce Canyon City with Bryan's best friend and his girlfriend. Afterwards, we took a quick day trip to Las Vegas and I think our favorite part was driving to the Hoover Dam!

We had a lovely Thanksgiving (still eating leftovers) and are eagerly anticipating my brother in law's family in early December! 

Affordable Fashion Friday: Prescription glasses

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I am so happy with the glasses I wear daily and I feel like I love them even more because of the sweet compliments I get from strangers. I buy my glasses from Eye Buy Direct. No joke, I purchased two pairs of PRESCRIPTION glasses for $35.00 and received them in the mail seven days later!

I love their site because they generally always have a coupon you can apply to your purchase- whether you're purchasing for women, men or children! I got you girlfriend, here's the link! I am pretty sure they do 15% off your first purchase when you sign up for their email list.

My frames are called, "Chilling" and they are the pink/floral print and they are currently only $15.

I loved them so much I ordered just the frame (which took longer, not sure why) when I broke the frames while tickle fighting with my husband. All I did was pop out the lenses and put them into the new frames, very carefully. It totally worked by the way!

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The second pair are called, drums. However, after searching their site I could not find a pair in red, they do have it in black and a frosted white. 

As far as the fit- the first pair I purchased, chilling fit a little bigger but after wearing them one weekend around friends, I was sold and decided they weren't too big for my face. P.s. my husband loves them and prefers I wear them and not contacts. What a keeper!

The second, drums are a little too tight but I have them as a back up.

Happy shopping, feel free visit me on Instagram and let me know in a comment which pair you have or bought!

Affordable fashion Friday: Funnel Neck top

Hey friend! 

If you're like me you may do a little eye roll or maybe shrug your shoulders in disappointment when you swipe up on a cute fall sweater on Instagram only to find its overpriced. 

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I've got you girl! Here goes the first affordable fashion Friday, sharing a clothing item or accessory any teen, college girl, or mom on a budget can score and be content with!

 

I've always eyed what they call, Funnel Neck tops/sweaters- they look very comfortable and can be paired with your favorite pair of jeans or keep it low key with a pair of sweat pants or around the house with cute leggings!

 

 

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I found this at Costco- the brand: 32 Degrees and its a Ladies' Funnel Neck Top. I'm wearing a size small in white. It also comes in: black, blue and purple. drum roll....Costs $12.99. Can you dig it!?

Have you scored any great fall finds at Costco? Feel free to comment here or on Instagram!

 

 

 

If you're tuning in passed February 2018 you're likely not going to find it in the store so here's a link so you can snag it at Macy's!

 

 

Wedding series: Our venue and theme

Looking back it is so comical how almost, repulsed my mom, finance (at the time) and I were about this beautiful venue (at the beginning) -don't believe me? Well, its only because we went through what seemed like a back alley entrance which does NOT represent what the space is, at all. 

The venue: Artspace Raleigh North Carolina Artist Studios Art Gallery in the heart of downtown Raleigh, NC. 

If you're a love of authentic hardwood floors with character, great lighting, and art than you've come to the right place! Stepping back after being married a few months I am astounded at the beauty of our venue and how we decorated it. I feel like I'm now seeing aspects I missed, because if you may remember how your wedding day was such a whirlwind.

The breakdown- the theme was a light, blush and gold, romantic evening and my wedding planner (Jessica Hubacher), mom and her best friend made it all come together!

 I love the skylight- it brought in the beautiful natural light during our ceremony. We weretotally okay with the white ceiling and exposed beams since we liked rustic venues- we were hoping for something with character. We loved everything about the lighting (skylight and track lights) except the florescent lights- which were not a big deal, we just didn't use them. The wooden floors were a dream as well- we didn't want to ruin the look or charm by adding a dance floor-we teetered back and forth on it and in the end I'm so glad we didn't get one!

I love the skylight- it brought in the beautiful natural light during our ceremony. We weretotally okay with the white ceiling and exposed beams since we liked rustic venues- we were hoping for something with character. We loved everything about the lighting (skylight and track lights) except the florescent lights- which were not a big deal, we just didn't use them. The wooden floors were a dream as well- we didn't want to ruin the look or charm by adding a dance floor-we teetered back and forth on it and in the end I'm so glad we didn't get one!

 The only obstacle for us with this venue as a whole was making sure the artwork was family friendly- which several pieces were not- thanks to my mom and wedding planner, Jessica Hubacher- they were taken down- hence the empty space.  Bryan and I ended up opting for a sweetheart table and opted to use what the venue provided: a 6 ft. rectangular table. It may seem big and in retrospect it was fantastic. My mom decorated it with flower arrangements she created, one of the vases on the table was very special to me as it was a gift from my mother in law, and a few gold votives, and of course a bottle of amazing chilean wine. The  Chilean wine  was a huge hit, my mom purchased it very inexpensively at her local Trader Joe's.

The only obstacle for us with this venue as a whole was making sure the artwork was family friendly- which several pieces were not- thanks to my mom and wedding planner, Jessica Hubacher- they were taken down- hence the empty space.

Bryan and I ended up opting for a sweetheart table and opted to use what the venue provided: a 6 ft. rectangular table. It may seem big and in retrospect it was fantastic. My mom decorated it with flower arrangements she created, one of the vases on the table was very special to me as it was a gift from my mother in law, and a few gold votives, and of course a bottle of amazing chilean wine. The Chilean wine was a huge hit, my mom purchased it very inexpensively at her local Trader Joe's.

 This vase and the rustic holder it came in us so, so special to me because my mother in-love gave it to me. I knew I wanted to to be a part of our special day. I love, love love these gold votives from Michaels- I think I got 40 for under $25 using my coupons and I'm keeping them for special events and anniversaries, etc. My mom also purchased rose petals white and pink ones for the glower girl and to scatter at each of the tables, I love this soft and lovely touch, it makes the world a difference!

This vase and the rustic holder it came in us so, so special to me because my mother in-love gave it to me. I knew I wanted to to be a part of our special day. I love, love love these gold votives from Michaels- I think I got 40 for under $25 using my coupons and I'm keeping them for special events and anniversaries, etc. My mom also purchased rose petals white and pink ones for the glower girl and to scatter at each of the tables, I love this soft and lovely touch, it makes the world a difference!

 Here is a side view of our table almost complete- the "All you need is love," sign was purchased from T.J. Maxx for the wedding and it was only $7.99 (score!)

Here is a side view of our table almost complete- the "All you need is love," sign was purchased from T.J. Maxx for the wedding and it was only $7.99 (score!)

 My wedding planner, Jessica and mom helped with planning the layout. I loved how we were both near our close families and able to look out and see all of our friends!

My wedding planner, Jessica and mom helped with planning the layout. I loved how we were both near our close families and able to look out and see all of our friends!

 Here's a closer look at the table setting, the blush on blush fabric, and chairs. Swoon, right!?

Here's a closer look at the table setting, the blush on blush fabric, and chairs. Swoon, right!?

 The champagne glasses provided by our caterer, gold votives (Michaels craft store), candles (Michael's craft store), table number blocks (T.J. Maxx), arrangements by mom and her best friend, along with scattered rose petals. I loved how they turned out!

The champagne glasses provided by our caterer, gold votives (Michaels craft store), candles (Michael's craft store), table number blocks (T.J. Maxx), arrangements by mom and her best friend, along with scattered rose petals. I loved how they turned out!

 We probably ended up having 80 guests at our wedding and had originally planned for about 120. It was truly more than enough room for all! While I would've chose different chairs I actually l loved these because they were white, clean, and practical while flipping the space (Gallery 2) from the ceremony to the reception.

We probably ended up having 80 guests at our wedding and had originally planned for about 120. It was truly more than enough room for all! While I would've chose different chairs I actually l loved these because they were white, clean, and practical while flipping the space (Gallery 2) from the ceremony to the reception.

 We ended up asking for rentals from our catering company as they were the least expensive option we could find: we asked for additional tables (since the venue offered us several which saved us money, chairs, linens for the tables- table cloth and napkins, silverware, cups and wine glasses. I originally envisioned  a different colored napkin on the tables and Bryan and I ended up really liking the blush on blush setting.

We ended up asking for rentals from our catering company as they were the least expensive option we could find: we asked for additional tables (since the venue offered us several which saved us money, chairs, linens for the tables- table cloth and napkins, silverware, cups and wine glasses. I originally envisioned  a different colored napkin on the tables and Bryan and I ended up really liking the blush on blush setting.

 One of the great features was being able to use an artist studio spaces as a bridal suite! It was tucked away and what made it special was how my mother decorated it and brought water and snacks while we got ready. It was also large enough to have selected guests come back for a special moment with each- I chose my mom, her best friend, my maternal grandmother, dad and step dad to each have a few minutes together- it made the day so- so special! If I keep typing I won't be able to stop. Stay tuned for Part 2 on the bridal suite!

One of the great features was being able to use an artist studio spaces as a bridal suite! It was tucked away and what made it special was how my mother decorated it and brought water and snacks while we got ready. It was also large enough to have selected guests come back for a special moment with each- I chose my mom, her best friend, my maternal grandmother, dad and step dad to each have a few minutes together- it made the day so- so special! If I keep typing I won't be able to stop. Stay tuned for Part 2 on the bridal suite!

Gotta get moving!

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      Hi everyone! I figured I'd start with a brief introduction about us here at the Practical Potters! My name is Beverly and I married my best friend, Bryan Potter about four months ago. In this short time we've gone through joy, grief and all the feelings in between. We met in Raleigh, NC on Memorial Day weekend and have been inseparable ever since. My husband is from California and is currently serving in the army. Its honestly been pretty easy for us getting adjusted to married life (so far) with lifestyles and schedules (although the army brings a lot of unpredictability). I'm sure what contributed to that was wrapping my brain around the uncertainty of his schedule, presence and absence while dating, thankfully we've been able to spend a lot of time together. I've had to practice patience and learn to be able to go with the flow. 

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     I think we've been a little resistant, not meaning to, to getting to know a lot of other couples outside of the ones we already did, and this because we only had 6 months in this town before a big move across the country! We are now getting down to the wire with only 26 more days in the army before our road trip to Utah! Yes, yay and yikes- time to pack!

     Looking back, we've loved getting to knew a few couples here a little better, eating together, going to church together, having a glass of wine, or dessert along with a fun game night. Sequence is our jam, if you haven't played you've got to! Its only $25 at Target (trust me, its worth it) and I've bought the game several times- for our family, friends, and such. 

     I'm excited for the next chapter in our lives and the adventure to come! For now, its crunch time for Bryan, getting through all the needed paperwork and assigned tasks and for us to clean up, pack up the apartment and gotta get moving! Gotta go pack!

Yo momma and I ain't taking out any student loans and neither are you!

     Our premise here on the blog is stemmed around sharing about a debt free lifestyle and I've decided to share my debt free story. It started with...

     "Yo momma and I ain't taking out any loans and neither are you. " Well, it was a little more proper than that, but thats how I interpreted it.

My parents already worked diligently to get out of debt and there was no going back. They understood the value of being good stewards of what they had and being debt free. It was now their lifestyle and they wanted the same for me. When they told me neither party would be taking out a loan to go to school and I was mortified. I was left asking, how could anyone go to school without taking out loans? When I should have been asking- how can I get financial assistance without loans? In that moment I was introduced to: FAFSA, scholarship applications and grants. 

     BOOM! Did you hear that!? Yeah, those are the scholarship forms and instructions that hit my desk- all 130 of them. Yup, little did I know I would be applying to 130- local, state, and national scholarships from sun up to sun down my senior year. 

     As my dad said, work harder not smarter. A majority of scholarships ask the same 3-4 questions regarding the applicant's background, future aspirations and career goals. I essentially had 3-4 essay templates I would tweak.

     I applied to three in-state four year universities and knew my back up plan would be attending a local community college. There was one in the county I lived in and one in the next one over with multiple campuses throughout the triangle.  

     In the end my parents told me the financial aid packages would help us make a decision. I waited eagerly for each to arrive and with each my heart sunk a little. The only college I did not apply to was the largest, most affordable, and prestigious in the state because I believed I would get lost in the crowd and I let fear get the best of me. My parents however thought it would be a great fit and I rejected the school all together, North Carolina State University.

     I landed at Wake Technical Community College (WTCC) at their newest (and greenest) campuses for two years- with three scholarships awarded to me at my senior year's scholarship award evening. I was ELATED to have earned three scholarships and later found out through the FAFSA ALL of my tuition was paid for in full- and I would be receiving money for books, supplies, etc which I also ended up using for gas, clothing and other essentials, as well as going into my savings account for the following year. I was living at home (saving those dolla dolla bills y'all), working part time doing child care for two different churches that hosted bible studies for mothers of pre-schoolers twice a week, going to school, and through a serious of events making friends at North Carolina State University (the not-so-scary school anymore). 

     After two years of hard work at WTCC I applied and was accepted at North Carolin State University where after applying for financial aid (through FAFSA) was on cloud nine to find out my tuition was paid for as well as room and board (and meals) so I could live on campus with all of the friends I'd made over the past two years. I devoted my time to God (growing in my faith and sharing it with others), my studies (taking every single Sunday off to rest and re-charge, family, friends, and my studies. During that time I decided to really enjoy the exciting new season of life and only took on one chid care position my senior year. 

Saving:

  • To find what I wanted/ needing clothing wise: I shopped at goodwill/thrift stores- of which there are a plenty in the triangle!  
  • For groceries- I purchased at Aldi's (a very inexpensive grocery store), I used bedding and room furniture from what I had in my room at home.
  • Entertainment- I really didn't eat out or travel all that much except for two weekend/ week pack retreats with the student ministry I was a part of, CRU, formerly, Campus Crusade for Christ
  • NO CREDIT CARDS- my parents and I decided the best way was to spend what I had not what I didn't have. The idea was if you can't spend cash on it you shouldn't be buying it in the first place. I said no to credit card after credit card
  • Money from FAFSA, working, work- savings generally paid for my insurance and gas money. 
  • Car- NO PAYMENTS, PAID CASH. My first car was a 2001 Toyota Corolla (RIP CARLA), I spent 2,000 cash for her and she helped me stay humble. After wrecking her ( don't worry no one was hurt or injured) my parents graciously gifted me with a 1992 green machine- Toyota Camry which I drove for several years (RIP).

Thankfully- with my parent's guidance and wisdom I had: NO CAR PAYMENTS, NO LIVING EXPENSES LIKE RENTING FURNITURE, NO TRAVEL DEBT BECAUSE I HAD NO CREDIT CARDS.

All in all I am humbled to be able to have graduated from college debt free. LONG story short, it propelled me into the career path I love. I was able to take a (unpaid) internship serving survivors of sex trafficking, which lead to joining a staff team as a residential staff member as well as a Manager of Volunteer Services- which I fell in love with!

Being debt free can and will allow you to live well, give well, and have financial peace.  Whether you are contemplating being debt free, are  in the midst of your debt free journey, or just crossing the finish line I hope you are/were encouraged by this. Please feel free to share your debt free story with us!

Beach trip on a budget

Summer is coming to an end but not before a final beach trip (or two). Bryan and I really enjoyed our first (married) day trip to the beach. We left around 9am and arrived back at our humble abode around 8pm. 

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      I wanted to surprise him with a kite and some sandle castle building so I spent about $7 at the dollar store and it was totally worth it! This pizza kite didn't last the entire day, but that's okay, it was worth his excitement and delight for the ten minutes it lasted. Just showing my pizza loving man I was thinking about him, made it worth my while. Just loving on him since he does have a pizza my heart. 🍕 (See what I did there!?) 

     We spent $10 (if that) on lunch/snacks we threw in our cooler, filled up a few water bottles, and enjoyed the beach for quite some time!  We brought towels, chairs, books, and a beach blanket- enough but just enough to carry in one trip. 

     We decided we would splurge (just a little) on dinner so we found a funky, quaint restaurant named after Edgar Allen Poe and enjoyed some burgers before heading home! It was a cool place- they even played audio of his poems in the bathroom (weird).

      All in all we went on a fun day trip to the beach for under $50! Wahhooo. 

What do you/have you done to save money for a one day getaway!? I'd love to hear about it!  Enjoy the rest of the summer with your friends, family, and loved ones (pssst, on a budget!)

Birthday traditions!

It has been a tradition in my immediate family to have a birthday weekend. The weekend closest to your birthday would be all about you! A present or two each day of the weekend, festivities: activities and eating around your favorites, and the birthday song sung each day. (We will probably go fishing and play some cards! The rest is up to him.)

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   I am so excited to be celebrating Bryans birthday this week- welcoming him into his quarter life crisis. He has a motorcycle so that's out of the question and the other item (I'll keep a secret) he already wanted (is in the works) so I'm not quite sure where the "crisis" energy will go especially since we're moving, starting school, and lord willing have at least one more life changing event happening within the next year. That should all consume his time and energy! Thank goodness!

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I'm excited to celebrate who he is, what he's accomplished, his dreams and aspirations within the next kick - you know what, year of his life! Excited and very humbled to make it a great one! I love you Bryan! Happy early birthday! Let's go catch 'em fish! 

Three great uses for baking soda!

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Here are three great household uses for baking soda outside of in cooking recipes!  

1. Skin exfoliator- you can mix a small amount of water and baking soda to exfoliate skin gently. I prefer to use it once a month or every other month as a scalp cleanser- and trust me you will feel the difference!

2. Kitchen cleaner- for those of you who have an electric countertop this is perfect because a small amount of baking soda and water will take away grease, grime, and any other sticky mess I leave behind. Because it has no odor, is a great chemical free and safe cleaner it's great for other surfaces: cabinets, microwave, dishwasher cleanser, and your fridge.

3. Pet odor/fragrance- in the event your pet in training has accidents on your carpet. Mix small amount, hydrogen peroxide and water, pour over affected area and let sit for 1-2 minutes and clean up with paper towels. (Careful, not too much baking soda or the carpet will dry up and the top of the carpet will look white, can be cleaned out afterwards). 

What do you use to keep your home or office clean that is not a harsh chemical?! I'd love your advice! I want to have a clean home and be safe when cleaning and having little kiddos (down the road) from unsafe cleaners.

We're moving to 'God's Country!'

I thought I'd take a hot second to share about one of the many exciting changes coming up. Bryan will be completing his commitment to the Army on October 27th. Wahoooo! I'm excited and I know he is thrilled. I'm eager to celebrate him and his service over the past four years! And he is ecstatic to be moving home (to Utah) where his parents retired (he's originally from CA) and Utah is home. I didn't know (because I live under a rock) and it is the 'home' of mormonism (p.s. we are NOT mormons and I've found them to be some of the kindest people around). At the end of the day its about family- my father and mother in love (pictured above) and one of his brothers live there. 

I like it...and hope to love it. It feels wide open like, Steve Moakler's kind of wide open. I feel free. The air is crisp, the humidity is hmm...non existent (which is perfect), and we love how close we will be to adventure, within the state and in surrounding ones!

We will be relaxing with family for a short time and am sure quickly after arriving will be looking for (what I hope will be) our forever home, the home we will have a family in. For this moment, Bryan, Bev, and our little fur babes- Bandit (husky), ad patches (calico cat). I am really looking forward to Bryan being able to actually rest- not be on call 24/7, wake up before 5 am, you know fully rested each night without the constant worry about missing an alarm or call. 

Personally, I can't wait to explore (like a tourist). Find my niche, find sacred places both indoors and outdoors to relax inside and outside, both by myself, with Bryan and our future family.  I am even more excited to build a deeper relationship with my in-loves and family.

For now, keeping it real to say I am excited but very, very nervous. Nervous about the snow too. He handles change really well, me, ugh, not so much. I'm okay with the same ole' same ole'. Looking forward to the day the Utah grind feels like the same ole', same ole'.

The Potters are moving and we can't wait to share in this adventure with you!

Keeping vision care affordable!

Here's a post for my fellow nerds or should I say those whose vision isn't 20/20.

There are a few ways to keep vision care costs low and I figured I'd share a few tips and tricks. A few I've learned from working at an optomologist's office and since I am not a licensed healthcare provider please to read carefully and feel free to do your own research as well.

To keep your vision care affordable you can say no to certain things and/or scout around to get care/services for a more affordable price!

1. Dilation: You don't need to have your eye's dilated for EVERY visit. Most wiser (older) physicians prefer to dilate the eyes during every routine eye exam while younger physicians choose to dilate every 3-4 years. And if you do not have the time and/or a driver you can ask the physician to reschedule the eye dilation for another day.

2. Retinal photos: At the office where I work we explain to patients retinal photos are an optional part of vision care and its a picture of the back of both eyes. Personally, I will probably have them done every 4-5 years. Depending on the office the price may vary, where I work we charge $35 which I think is fair. This may be a great option for those who are over a particular age and/or have family history of diabetes, glaucoma, hypertension, etc. And if you prefer or need to have them done every year, great! 

3. Contacts: If your work does not require it, you have the option to say no to a year's worth of contacts. With my vision: an astigmatism in one eye and needing daily soft lenses, just the contact lenses themselves totaled $600 a year, that does not include the solution, cases, etc. NOOOO thank you. I decided to spend less then a 1/6 of the price for a month's supply of contact and I choose when I want to wear them. I would choose interviews, weddings, special events, babysitting littles whose hands would tug at them. That way I didn't or shouldn't wear contacts I didn't have to! 

4. Name brand/top of the line frames: There's no doubt some glasses make you feel like a million bucks but there's no need to go out of your budget for your eye care, including glasses. Once you have your prescription there are a few ways to save some cash on the lenses and prescription.

  • Visit your large wholesaler. Costco (at least in my local store) has an optical department. They offer routine eye exams and also have a decent variety of frames and prescription sunglasses to choose from as well as contacts. Frame prices typically start at $30 and go up to $200. They will also clean and adjust any glasses you have purchased from them and may even offer 1 replacement within a year for free (ask if they have any other special perks!). And just to help compare prices I've heard that on average the lowest package price for glasses is $380 at Lease Cr*fters.
  • Look online. There are so many websites to purchases frames and add in the prescription for a very low price. I'll let you do your research as to which one to choose from, but I'll only recommend one as they've been great to work with. Eye Buy Direct. The last purchase I made I literally spent $26 for TWO pairs of glasses, with the prescription, a cleaning cloth, pouch for both AND they got to my door step in less than 7 days! I was able to get them for a lower price by finding the discount coupon page on their site (p.s. It's not advertised but if you do a quick google search you can find it.)
  • If you are an individuals who is a beneficiary of someone who has or is serving in the United States Armed Services you may know that you may very likely have vision coverage in terms of a routine eye exam (on a military installation covered at no cost to you!) For example, if you have Tricare prime active duty you have one routine eye exam covered every 12 months at no cost. And it is possible at your local post exchange there be an optical department with frames at a low cost. some as low as $4.98 and high as $99 and also offered prescription sunglasses! I know from experience and I spoke with the kindest sales associate at my local optical vision center who quoted me the prices above (and better yet the optomologist offered walk-ins Monday - Sunday, doesn't get better than that!

All in all, do your research and find out what works best for you and your family! Happy savings!

How you can fight sex trafficking with one phone call/text

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In high school I learned about human trafficking (particularly sex trafficking) after hearing the founder of the A21 Campaign, Christine Caine explain how modern day slavery exists in the form of the trafficking of persons: two forms are labor and sex trafficking. Within those two forms the Polaris Project believes there are 25 manifestations. I read books and did quite a bit of research (there is so much to learn) over a couple of years, prayed and thought about how I could be a part of the anti-trafficking movement. A majority of the U.S. citizens believe it happens solely in third world countries, however it happens all over the world, including the United States. It broke my heart to know every 30 seconds a person becomes a victim of sex trafficking!

In college I had an internship at residential program (safe home) for domestic adolescent survivors of sex trafficking. After graduating from college I moved about three hours away to intern at another similar residential program (safe home). I later joined their staff team as their volunteer coordinator and set up a volunteer program.

What you can do to help!

Whether this is the first time or thirteenth time you've heard about human trafficking please don't feel defeated. You can help end human trafficking! Here are the best two first steps you can take.

1. Awareness is key- it's not a cop out or a free pass to getting a rusty dusty, aka pass for your bum to dissolve into the couch. Do you know how to spot a potential trafficking victim or one who is in the process of being trafficked? Read, be humble, and read some more. Unfortunately, as technologies advance and the trillion dollar industry continues traffickers/pimps' practices advance. It is VERY important to be able to recognize a victim of trafficking. Why!? In order to report it!

2. Report ANY suspicious activity to the authorities and the POLARIS Project- anti-human trafficking hotline. I don't know who coined the phrase, "go with your gut," but they were right! If you feel like something isn't right- it probably isn't! 

Here is an example I shared on Instagram recently. Outside of a shopping center, I saw a man in his late 50's or early 60's with a woman under 25 who was dressed very conservatively ( I mean this with no disrespect- not fashion forward- long jean skirt, frumpy top, and very long hair ) and she walked ahead of the much older gentleman. There was no affection exchanged, they didn't talk or even look at one another...and she was toting a small Victoria's Secret bag. I stayed safe, noted what they were wearing, called 911, and later the Polaris Project's hotline.

Tips can be made anonymously to both. When calling 911, if you believe the victim (male or female) is under 18 years of age you can request a welfare check. Polaris Project's advocates will have a list of questions they will ask you regarding: day/ time/ what you saw/ description of person/clothing/ situation/ surroundings/ ongoings, etc. Polaris Project is capturing as much data as possible to make a case record and use linking software to connect cases and providing this information to the authorities. You can call and make a case record (which they can provide to you) and if you have more to share you can call back referencing the call). Here is the director of the Polaris Project explaining how you and I can make a difference in fighting trafficking by using the hotline

Together, we can make a difference!

Save the number in your phone!

 

How to throw a unique wedding under 10k!

Bryan and I agreed we wanted to have a small wedding with intimate guests and family. We were beyond blessed to be have an amazing wedding planner- Jessica Hubacher, friends offer services (music and make-up) and family contribute to wedding expenses. Here's how you can have a wedding under $10,000.

Location: Think out side of the box. Look for event venues rather than designated "wedding" venues.

Our story: We took a tour of a local art gallery, we were skeptical at first and we knew we hit the jackpot by the end of the tour. Stay open minded and see the potential a venue can have.

Pros: Non-wedding venues could cost at a third of what most venues charge. Venue contract: A 1 pager- can you believe it!? Venue contacts are generally not too busy, quick to respond and flexible with making accommodations.  They may also have flexible guidelines regarding access of the venue and we were able to bring our own alcohol! Privacy: Entire location for us with a guard to ward off the public. It was a private event, you know...VIPs only, people!

D.j.: Ask your planner or vendor for recommendations and don't get the whole package. Sometimes a venue will provide discounts when you book their preferred vendor. Ask the d.j. what packages he offers and if you want the basics- music, one microphone, bridal party, and bride and groom entrance services than say so! You may not need a projector playing the music video in the background (plus it could get a little awkward) or a light show. On the other hand, sometimes d.j.s can provide great uplighting as a part of their services, ask them what they can do!

Pros: My mother helped me find a great bilingual d.j., she asked for the basics to get a smaller package, and he gave us an additional discount. 

Florals: Go online to your local large wholesale store such as: B.j.s, Sam's Club, or Costo (on the east coast that is) we found Costco to have beautiful and very inexpensive flowers which we actually NOT under their wedding packages section!

Our story: As we saw costs increase I did NOT want to purchase flowers BUT I am so glad we did. It made the space absolutely beautiful! My mom purchased a large amount of my flowers from COSTCO online and had them shipped a day or two before the wedding for safe keeping and to start working on the arrangements. She purchased more from a local shop, she was able to splurge (just a little) on my bouquet, boutonnieres, and arrangements for my table.The vases she purchased inexpensively as well. A little goes a long way! Plus- I had no idea flower arrangement services start at $2,000. Heckkk nooo!

 

Wedding dress: Go to that hole in the wall store, boutique, or consignment shop. Heck, know a friend of a friend selling her dress?! You never know where you'll find it. Also, see if another store carries the same dress for a lower price and or has any special(s) going on. Psssttttt...the holidays (holiday weekends) are great times to shop for a dress. Boutiques need business and you need a dress- win, win, and grin my friend!

My story: The most gorgeous wedding boutique was in a quaint town but not in an upscale shopping center. The service was the absolute best. While I did not purchase my dress there I found it there, kept searching with a captivated heart and just couldn't move on to another dress. I ended up getting the same dress at a boutique which had a few Christmas specials including: free veil, credit for accessories, and discount on the dress.

Caterer: Choose wisely! Enjoy and go to the tastings! Be sure to thoroughly read the contract(s). Also have your planner, or wise friend, parental figure etc. give it a good look over, because when push comes to shove, if you signed your name on the dotted line than you'll be responsible. Pssttt...get a receipt for all fees paid associated to your wedding and keep track of it all.

If you want to step aside from catering, think about a fun food truck (Mexican anyone!?) or purchasing alcohol in bulk inexpensively from Trader Joe's or a wholesale store like- Costo, Sams Club, B.j.'s. as well as: napkins, plates, hors d'oeuvres, and more.

Rentals: tables/chairs/lighting. Shop around and get pricing- go to a warehouse and see the quality of what they're providing you. Ask your venue if they provide anything- it'll be free from them and great for you!

I found pipe and drape to rent for $99 online. They send it to you 2 days before your wedding and you have another 2 days to send it back. A 5 day rental for a fourth of the pricing on just one section of pipe and drape! We used it in the back of our room to hide the waiters from coming in and out of our venue's unpleasantly looking kitchen and to keep guests from coming up the stairs into the hallway as the magic was taking place flipping the room.

Miscellaneous items examples: Ring box, props (cute signs/frames for tables: head-cake-and gift tables), flower girl basket, gift card box- I hit up TJ Maxx and asked my mom what she had available.

 

 

 

Words of wisdom. Remember...its yours and your husband's day.

Focus on what matters and is meaningful- making memories. This moment-unforgettable...

At the end of the day- you're still getting married- everything is going to be great- a constant reminder I got from my husband.

What did you do or not do that made yours and your husband's day special!? I'd love to hear about it!