The car-free debate


I am still working on my curtains, but I have run into a few hiccoughs I am working through.  In the meantime, I find myself in the midst of a huge decision that has really been challenging me.

Moving to a downtown apartment in a large city, I was surprised to learn that parking was going to cost around $200/month. I was shocked, to say the least. I’m sure things are worse in really big cities like New York or Los Angeles, but I simply could not stomach the $200 price tag; the most I have ever paid for parking is $50/month.

Luckily, I had a temporary solution. Just before moving, my sister Clara came back from overseas to stay at my mom’s for several months while she finalizes another adoption (yay!).  She brought Harrison with her!  To help her out, I lent her my car for the time she was in the country, allowing me to try the car-free life for a while.

About 1 week ago, Clara called me about the car. Apparently, she was driving it to the mechanic to change the oil, when out of nowhere, there was a huge bang.  Luckily, she was only minutes away from the mechanic, who was able to diagnose it immediately. Apparently, my dear car had suffered from “rod knock,” also known as “the death knell” of an engine. This post I found explains the condition really well (if you care about that sort of thing). In short, it seems my car was not getting enough oil for who knows how long.

Regardless of what happened, the relevant part of the story is the end: I need to replace the engine or say goodbye to my little Camry. After factoring in the cost of labor, replacing an engine ends up being a very expensive proposition.  Depending on what type I choose (new, rebuilt, or used; 60000 miles or 80000 miles on a used, etc.), the price can run from $5000-$7000 (I already decided against a new).

I have been car-free for over 2 months now. I have to admit, it would be nice to have one around, mostly to go grocery shopping, but other then that, I don’t miss it all that much. I live within a mile of work, and there is a small market around the corner from my house. There is a library up the street, as well as many other downtown attractions within easy walking distance.  The nearest full-blown grocery store is about 2 miles away. If I ever want to go there, it is easy to get to on my bike, which I also ride to work everyday.

Five benefits of being car-free:

  1. I am saving a ton of money (see below for more details)!
  2. I get to work faster on the bike than driving (I run red lights on occasion).
  3. I spend less money because I don’t “swing by the store” as often.
  4. Commuting is a lot more enjoyable.
  5. Riding a bike is safer than driving a car, not to mention healthier.

Will I be able to maintain my car-free lifestyle long term? In a city, a lot of people can get by without a car, though a lot of my friends seem disturbed by the prospect of living without a car. How will I feel about no car once it gets cooler outside in a couple of months? Will I feel as safe on a bike then? Will I be comfortable riding my bike to and from work when the days are shorter and it is dark both ways? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but when I think about it logically, I don’t know that it matters all that much when I live less than a mile from work. In fact, I’ll possibly suffer less while biking to work instead of driving because I’ll actually be moving, instead of sitting in a frigid vehicle, waiting for lights to change.

To help in my decision making process, I did a quick estimate on the cost of owning a car:Car ownershipIn short, it would cost approximately $4000/year to continue to run my car. Luckily, I own the car out-right, but if I didn’t, this price would be even higher! Even after owning my own car for 6 years, I never realized how expensive it actually is to maintain.

Some caveats: these are very rough estimates. I don’t know if I found all the fees for re-licensing and titling in my state or not, and I don’t actually plan on spending $300 on repairs (I just think guessing high is safer than low).  Additionally, I don’t know if the insurance price is accurate; I just used the cost of my last insurance bill (I pay in 6 month intervals), but it usually goes up a little every year.  Even without the exorbitant cost of parking, it would still cost me about $1500/year to keep a car.

Although I could afford it, do I want to? At $4000/year, that is over $300 per month!  The main task I would use the car for would be grocery shopping (at most a once weekly affair), but I could easily add an extra $100/month to my grocery budget to finance delivery, and still save money.

Right now I’m leaning very heavily towards not keeping the car; I plan on putting in a new engine, letting me sister use it until she goes home, and then trying to sell it. What do you think I should do?



Dressing a Large Window


I have successfully moved into my new studio!  It was quite an ordeal, as well as expensive (…as moving often is), but I am settling in quite nicely.  I have recently been focusing on a new project, which I didn’t anticipate a need for until living in the apartment for a bit (isn’t that always how it goes?).

My last apartment was a basement walkout, so when I was looking for the perfect apartment to move into, I was ready for a brighter, more spacious living area.  So, when I found this unit, I was absolutely enchanted with the high ceilings (12 feet!) and the large window (9 ft x 9 ft).  The behemoth window is fitted with a lovely, custom-made roller shade, which I thought would be adequate.  Although I thought about window treatments, I decided they weren’t necessary since the shade would provide privacy, and the light was something I craved.

Unfortunately, as a medical resident, I occasionally need to sleep during the day and learned very quickly after moving in that I need complete darkness in order to sleep comfortably.  I seldom had difficulty sleeping during the day in my old apartment, since I had room darkening (though not total blackout) curtains.  These were enough to make my room comfortable enough to sleep in, given the small amount of light that entered the north-facing windows.  My new apartment is east-facing, and with no foliage to help block the light, a lot brighter than my basement digs.  My initial plan of using a face mask was not all that successful, so I have been working on dressing the window with new blackout curtains.  I have made my plans and am currently in the stage of waiting for all my shipments to come in.

Let me share my plans with you!

This is the window in question; sorry for the poor lighting, it was hard to photograph with all the back light.


You can see the roller shade at the top (when open it looks like a projector screen! Not really my style, but maybe useful at some point in the future?).  Below are some drawings I did of the window.  On the left is the schematic with the measurements, while on the right are my plans.  I’m not an artist, but this is the best I could do. :)


Blackout Panels

These are the blackout panels I chose for the window.  I chose the ivory colorway because I thought they would be most versatile for future apartments (I figured I could hem them if needed).  They are 100% blackout, which was super important to me. If you are shopping for blackout curtains, be careful to find 100% blackouts; many that are labeled blackout are really just room darkening.

When I am shopping for the best items for my home, I often start at The Sweethome or Wirecutter websites.  I find that they are a great introduction to the world of whatever item I am shopping for, teaching me important points to consider before buying.  I honestly usually end up buying their #1 choices because the articles are so well-written and comprehensive.  Here is the Sweethome article on blackout curtains.  I ended up opting for their #1 choice.

The blackout panels will go from the ceiling to the sill (108″ curtains).  I chose that length because as the largest option on this page, I initially thought they were the longest I could get.  Just in case you’re looking for longer panels, I eventually encountered a 144″ version of this same curtain on the Bed, Bath, & Beyond website.  Unfortunately, the 144″ version does not have as many color options.  In addition to the fewer colors, I also ultimately decided against the longer panels because with my desk underneath the window, it would be very difficult to draw them closed.  The panels are 50″ wide, so I decided to go with 4 panels for my 106″ window.

As a side note, if you are buying something from Bed, Bath, & Beyond, you can give them an e-mail address and they will send you a 20% off code!  That, in addition to a few codes that my mother had (she always seems to have BB&B coupons lying around), I ended up getting 20% off all of my panels.  Moral of the story: never pay full price at Bed, Bath, & Beyond!

Decorative Panels

After deciding on the 108″ blackouts, I realized I needed some decorative panels as well.  My idea is that they will hang on the side of the windows because 1. floor-length curtains will look better than sill-length curtains, and 2. they will hide the blackout panels when not in use.

I was hoping to find some 144″ panels online, but all I could find that were long enough had grommet attachments, which I kind of hate. :/  I prefer back-tab panels because of the simple pleats they create when hung.  Ultimately, I decided to make my own so I could have the color and fabric I wanted.  The following links are tutorials that I plan on following once the fabric arrives.

  1. View Along the Way: This is one of the most comprehensive tutorials I found.  Her instructions were useful, and her post helped me consider everything I needed to as I was planning my project.
  2. Freshly Handmade: I liked this tutorial because it had very clear stitching/hemming directions. Additionally, it showed me how to best hang my blackout panels (which are rod-pocket style).
  3. Dans le Lakehouse:  I liked this tutorial because the back-tabs style she used seemed more durable than the ribbon ones that The View Along the Way used.

I shopped for my curtain fabric online at  They had a great selection and reasonable prices.  Additionally, they have discounted prices if you order above a certain yardage.  I ordered several samples (each were $3).  They arrived within 1 week, and they were super helpful when choosing a color. One word of caution: I would provide them with an e-mail address you don’t check regularly (in other words, a junk e-mail), because they send a lot of promotional e-mails.  Regardless of how many times I unsubscribed, they continued sending the e-mails. Eventually g-mail was able to get me off the list, but it was annoying to deal with for a week.

Below, you can see the main fabric I chose, “European 100% Linen Cadet Grey.”  I also ordered a standard white drapery lining, “Roc-Lon White Drapery Lining.”


The grey is a nice medium-weight linen that is more of a grey-blue, not a grey-brown like the image shows.  Additionally, the image looks almost velvety/suede-y, but it is definitely a nicely woven, yet slub-y linen. The drapery lining is nice and heavy and I think it is going to help the panels hang very nicely.

Curtain Rod

This was one of the most difficult-to-find items of the project.  I wanted the curtains to be easy to open and close, but I also wanted the rod to be attractive. Ultimately, I found this rod from Lowes.  It is perfect!

680656134818Not only is it attractive, it is also a traverse rod, which will allow me to easily open and close the blackout curtains, despite their length.  I love how the rollers run underneath the supports, allowing me to use as many supports as needed without interfering with the curtain’s movement.  The rollers have rings on them (below left), which will allow me to hang the blackouts with drapery pins (below right), based on the “Freshly Handmade” tutorial.

The only problem I had to solve was how to hang the blackouts and the decorative panels at the same time.  I started shopping around for different options, and thought this rod could work with these rings:

Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure the back rod would support the weight of the blackouts (4.37lbs each, for a total of 17.5lbs).  Additionally, adding extra supports would prevent me from sliding the blackouts all the way to the edge of the rod.  I put it on the back burner and continued to shop.  Then, I found this picture:680656134795It’s a double version of the single traverse rod I already selected!  Unfortunately, it is no longer available, but I discovered this bracket (below).   The two C-shaped spaces are equal in size, allowing two single rods to be hung on these brackets.680656134900Unfortunately, the whole project ends up being a lot more expensive because I have to buy two rods, as well as 5 supports (just to make sure the weight is well-supported).

The Final Breakdown

I have to warn you, this isn’t pretty.  Given the fact that I was in a hurry to put this project together, it ended up costing a lot more then I would have liked.  Here is the breakdown, for those who are interested.


Ultimately, it is a lot more than I wanted to spend, but I’m not sure I could have put curtains up on this window for much cheaper (it’s just too big). I considered holding off on the decorative panels until I earn a few more paychecks, but decided it was worth it to just arrange the entire set-up at once, since it will be a pain to install them.

Now, just to find someone to hang the whole apparatus. I’m crossing my fingers that the apartment maintenance team will come and do it for me, given my tall ceilings.  If not, I’ll need to get a little more creative. :/



Moving yet again


It has been a crazy 4 years since I went to visit Clara, Armistead, and Harrison in Japan.  I was just going over my posts about my Japan trip and I’m so happy I wrote about it!  There were some things that I had completely forgotten about.  I would love to go back to Japan sometime, but alas, they have moved twice since living in Japan and now live in the middle east.

In the time since I last posted, I too have moved twice: first to Virginia and then again within Virginia, and now I will be moving yet again.  I am graduating from medical school in less than a month (!) and will be staying in the midatlantic region for my internship/residency.  I plan to live/work here for at least the next 4 years.

Although moving isn’t my favorite, making a space my own has proven to be the most enjoyable part of the process, and I am really excited to settle into a new apartment and make myself a new home.  Here is a copy of my new floor plan:Floorplan Baltimore

*sigh* I know it doesn’t look like much, but it is in fact an upgrade from my most recent 2 living situations, and I think I will enjoy it a lot.  I sure wish it had a bedroom, but the dishwasher, disposal, and in-unit laundry will just have to do for now. :/  Also, my window is quite large, which is also great, and my ceilings are pretty high.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it is different, so that’s fun.

I would love to keep you updated on the progression of the apartment from generic “unit 924” to home, but I make no promises. :)



ps. Can I still be an adult, even though I’m going into my 5th year of studio living? eek and blah.

Emma Approved.


Remember how I got excited about the “Welcome to Sanditon” series on YouTube?  Yeah.  That didn’t turn out so great.  Boo.  Honestly though?  I did watch the entire series…but mostly just to see if a plot ever developed.  *Spoiler Alert*: never happened.  A plot, that is.  It was disappointing.

But this new one looks different!  It is called Emma Approved, and it features Emma Woodhouse, who is a “life coach and matchmaker”.  I’m excited for this one, because it looks promising…mostly because it seems like a plot is guaranteed just because it is based on a story that already has a plot!  Yay!  Check out the first episode here:



The one downside to this series that I currently perceive: Emma’s personality.  She is a little bit too self-assured…in a bad way, that is.  Which I don’t really like.  In all fairness though, from what I understand this could just be an attempt at the modernization of Austen’s original character of Emma, about whom she herself wrote the following:

“I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” – Jane Austen

And why would no one else like her?  Because, though time has certainly softened the perceived severity of Emma’s qualities, she was written as:

“…rather spoiled, headstrong, and self-satisfied; she greatly overestimates her own matchmaking abilities; she is blind to the dangers of meddling in other people’s lives; and her imagination and perceptions often lead her astray.” – Wikipedia, Emma

Of course, this is the wiki opinion on the topic, so take that as you may.  I have never disliked Emma (though I’ve known of Austen’s quote about her for some time).  In fact: I’ve always loved her character!  The Emma in this series though, is especially irritating.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be a great series though!  I’m very excited about it.  Posting of new videos will be Monday and Thursdays at 9am pacific time.  Check it out and let me know what you think!




ps. What did you think of “Sanditon”?  Did you stick it out to the end?

A Most Adorable Story


I know it has been a while.  I am going to finish telling about my Japan trip someday, I promise!  (Maybe tomorrow?!)  I think I could finish the last days pretty quickly since I probably can’t remember them too well now (it has been a while!)…sad face.  Oh well.

I stumbled over this absolutely adorable story of an old man writing a love song for his recently deceased wife that I wanted to share with you.  It made my eyes water (a fairly rare and therefore significant experience).  So sweet.  It is always sad to think about growing old and leaving, but at the same time, so happy to consider the happy times he and his love had together.  I absolutely loved the pictures they showed and the simple purity of the song he wrote for her.  The song begins around 5:55, if you want to skip the (long-ish) background story.

In other news: I moved!  Over 2,000 miles away!  Of course, we had to complicate things and take the almost 3,000 mile route…but it was fun!  There will be more on that later…because it turns out to actually be a part of my New Year’s Resolutions (where did those go…?  I need to find a copy and have a follow-up post, I think! :)  I will fill everyone in once I finish up my Japan posts.  I would love to continue posting at least a couple times a month, even though I haven’t been very good lately.

What absolutely adorable stories have you encountered lately?



ps. Wait until you hear the news about Harrison I have to share!  I am so excited about recent developments in Japan!  :)

An Anniversary Gift for my Parents


I don’t know about you, but I hate to give silly gifts.  I only like to give a gift when I think the person will really, genuinely like it.  So what do you get your parents?  The problem is that you believe that if they want something, they’ll just get it themselves, right?  So your job is to figure out something they want that they don’t know they want.  Isn’t that true for lots of gifts though?  The best gifts are things we don’t know we want…until we get them!

Now, a little something about my family:  we have a mission statement.  Yes, like a business has.  We also have a motto.  Like a sports team has.  My father wrote these way back in the day (I’m thinking back when leggings (stretch pants back then) were first popular…you get it…a while ago).  It has always been a pretty important thing in our family, and a gift my mom always says she wants (I don’t know why) is for us to memorize the mission statement.  Right.  As a gift.  Well, I’ve never done that, but I’ve always thought a word cloud made from the words in the mission statement would be a cool piece of artwork for my parent’s home. 

I recently discovered, which is an awesome website that will help you create a word cloud in any shape you want!  Look at this one I just made from the website in the shape of the logo: Demo Cloud

I mean, cool, right?  Obviously not art I’m going to be hanging on the wall or something, but this took me about 2 minutes and I think it looks pretty sweet.

It is so easy.  On the front page, you can type in a webpage you want them to mine for words to make a cloud (like I did for the this one), or a blog, or a Twitter handle, etc.  Then, they’ll create it and you can edit it.  There are so many options!  You can choose one of the pictures on the site, or write a word, or even import your own picture (like I did here).

Additionally, on the homepage you can simply click the “Start Now” link, and then type in your own text under “Load … ” tab once the app starts.  This is what I did.  I copied the mission statement into that box, and then I changed the shape to an “H” under the shape tab.  I also chose which font the shape would be in, what fonts the words would be in, what colors the words would be in, etc.  There are so many options!  It is completely customizable!  Here is what I ended up with:

Final Project to Print

So, I chose the “Soft Autumn” theme but changed the background color to one that was less green and more tan (yes, you can do that!).  I printed it off and got it framed, and here is the final product:

Anniversary Gift - monogram

Don’t you think that turned out nice?  It is hanging in the kitchen, and I think my mother simply adores it.  What do you get your parents for their anniversary?



ps.  Make sure to come back on Thursday for a Valentine’s Day treat!

DIY Review: Cereal Box Notebooks, as easy as they look?


I know that just like me, you probably have a lot of project ideas on your Pinterest boards that you have not done; you just pinned them because they were cute (duh, we all do that)!  Well, I’ve been trying to do some of those projects off my boards, and I decided to do reviews on the tutorials I have pinned.  The first tutorial I decided to review was this one, by Crème de la Craft, a super cute DIY blog, focused on re-purposing everyday items.  When I saw this pin, I knew it was one I actually wanted to do someday.  Just type “cereal box diy notebook” into the pinterest search box, and you’ll see lots of similar tutorials.  (Or…let me do that for you!)


(Note: all photos are credited to  Super cute, right?  The instructions seemed straight forward enough, and I decided to do it today because I am in desperate need of a new notebook for my purse.  So, I gathered all the supplies indicated, along with my camera and got to work.  Find out with me if it really is as easy as it looks.

DIY Review: Cereal Box notebooks.  As easy as they look?

Let me be clear before I begin, that I think this project is absolutely adorable, and I was very excited to make them; I thought my notebook searching days were over!  I’d simply make my own from now on!

Also, please note that I followed the directions from the tutorial as closely as possible.

I got all my supplies together; I decided to make  an orange themed notebook.

Supplies for Cereal Box Notebooks

The first step was easy enough.  I anticipated making three notebooks, so I cut out three 5.5″ x 8″ rectangles from two cereal boxes I had.

Three Cereal Box Notebook Covers

I folded these in half and started sewing the button clasp-closure to the front of the cover.  Here is where I ran into my first issue with the tutorial.

This didn’t even occur to me while reading the directions, but as soon as I started sewing a button onto a piece of cardboard, I realized just how ridiculous it was.  That thing is not very secure, and it’s going to be ripped off very easily.  It’s like sewing a button to paper; easy to pull out, especially if you’re using it as a closure (thus pulling on it continually).

Sewing a button to cardboard

I’m sure that eventually this thing is going to come off as I wrap and unwrap the thread around it as a closure.

I didn’t think that was such a big deal though; I decided I could still make the notebook and maybe make a re-useable fabric cover for it or something (future blog post?!).  So, I continued to the next step.

The next step is to glue paper to the inside of the notebook to conceal the cereal box images.  When I did this, I wasn’t surprised to see I could still see these images through the paper.

Cereal Box through Paper

Like I said, I completely expected this, but I thought I’d include a picture so you could get an idea of how it looked with my cereal box.  If it bothers you, maybe you could use another piece of decorative paper to shield the box designs, or maybe just a paper bag from the grocery store.

The next step was to actually sew the paper to the cardboard.  The tutorial recommends using 20 pieces of computer paper (or lined or graph paper…whichever).  I used 20 pieces cut slightly smaller than the cardboard cover.

Here is where I encountered my next big issue with the tutorial.  It is absolutely impossible to sew through 20 pages of computer paper and a piece of cardboard.  I had to resort to hammering holes into the notebook using a small picture-hanging nail and a spare piece of wood I had lying around (don’t ask; I don’t know where it came from!).

Driving pilot holes into the notebook

After driving in these little pilot holes, I had no issues, but don’t you think this is a bit of extreme DIY-ing here?  For a notebook?

Here is a photo of the inside of the notebook after sewing it together.  It looks pretty nice, right?  In this photo you can see a little bit of the cereal box through the end paper, but it isn’t much of a problem, I don’t think.  I like how the orange stands out on the white.

Fully sewn notebook

Finally, I was able to tape up the edge of the notebook with the piece of decorative paper I had selected.  As advised, I rounded off the corners.  Here is the final product:

Completed Cereal Box Notebook

Isn’t that cute?  I really like how it turned out.  I like that you can select what type of paper you use on the inside; I really like un-ruled notebooks, but they can be hard to come by.  With this tutorial, you can make them however you want; I think it would also be cool to have a graph paper notebook.

Okay, so here is my final report card on this project:

DIY Report Card

  1. It was very easy to obtain the materials; the idea behind her blog is using common objects to make beautiful ones, so she definitely succeeded there.  All the materials I used were already in my home.
  2. The tutorial was pretty comprehensive; it obviously didn’t include the hammer/nail.  I also wish she had put the instructions right below the collage she had of the steps so I didn’t have to keep scrolling up and down the page.
  3. It was pretty easy, except for having to nail holes into the cardboard/paper.
  4. It came out very cute.  Full points for this one.
  5. I may use this for a while, but like I said, I anticipate the button will be ripped off easily in the near future, at which point I’ll probably stop using it.
  6. I would not make this again because of the difficulty and the utility…when it comes down to it, it would just be easier to buy a notebook at the store.

The final score on my rubric was a 60%.  Keep in mind though, that I can be a tough grader at times.  If you are willing to pull out a hammer and a spare piece of wood, I say go for it; the final product is definitely adorable, and quite customizable.  But for me?  It just isn’t worth it.



ps. If there are any popular tutorials you would like me to review, please let me know!  I promise that I’m not harsh just to be harsh; I just want to be honest about my experience.  The next review I do will be on a project that was successful!