Tag Archives: 2014 in review

2014 In Review: Stuff I Loved

A new addition to my year end reviews!

 

I have one of those personalities that falls in-love with things almost obsessively until something else comes along and demands more of my attention. Below are the big things I fell in-love with in 2014 and why you should check them out, too!

 

Torrid

 

Let’s not pretend I’m a small person. Okay, I mean, I am small in stature (5’ 1”), but I’m curvy even at my skinniest weight and I’m not skinny right now. As a result, finding cool clothes that fit me has been difficult in years past, leaving me dressed like some old lady – which I am not. In fact, if I had to describe the style that fits my personality most, it’d be edgy. I can’t even remember the search term that brought me to Torrid, I just know I was sadly searching the internet for cooler clothes in my size when I stumbled upon them and was instantly addicted.

 

Admittedly, I’ve nearly replaced my entire wardrobe with Torrid clothes this year, which was a hit to my pocket, but the reason I love them so much is not just because their style is in line with mine, but also because I’ve never paid full price for a thing there. Deals-Deals-Deals, every single day.

 

Having “cool” clothes that actually fit my frame has done wonders for my mental state where my self-esteem is concerned, and sure, I’d still like to be thinner, but I have to admit I don’t hate my fatness the way I did before – where I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror without wanting to cry. At least now, it’s confined properly in clothes designed for a body like mine, that don’t make me look old, and dare I say, I’ve even felt somewhat pretty on occasion this year thanks to Torrid.

 

If you’re a bigger girl (size 12-22) and looking for something stylish and reasonably priced, you should probably check them out HERE!

 

2014_Commission_Jelsa_Small

Jelsa (Jack Frost + Queen Elsa)

 

My good friend, Heather, got me into Frozen this year and I just happened to watch Rise of the Guardians on demand shortly after watching Frozen because I was looking for something similar. It was instant, this love I had for Elsa and Jack together, a crossover that will never happen. My mind drew up all sorts of connections, all sorts of back stories. It was silly, really, but I couldn’t stop myself. And when I told Heather about it, she said I wasn’t alone. That apparently a whole fanbase existed to support “Jelsa.” This only encouraged my imagination and my first OTP became a thing. I love the idea of Jelsa being a real thing so much that Heather got me these adorable Jelsa stickers for my birthday this year and I even commissioned her for some winter Jelsa art. I don’t know if anyone can convince me to stop loving an impossible thing at this point.

 

(I’ve commissioned Heather for even more “fan art” this year. Check out this Ever After High inspired piece she did for another franchise she got me into. For more information on her commission work, click HERE!)

 

Loot Crate

 

Another good friend, Akoss, can take the blame for my love of Loot Crate. She started a youtube channel this year, mostly to highlight her love for reading, and while catching up on it one night, I watched her first Loot Crate unboxing. The video wasn’t even completely over before I knew I HAD to sign up. I wanted every single thing in that box. Just the idea of getting a themed, geeky filled box of fun every month for such a crazy low cost was appealing enough, knowing the kind of stuff that would arrive in them really sealed the deal for me. Sometimes there’s a shirt, or toy, or comic book – lots of the time they’re exclusive items that can only be acquired through Loot Crate! Below are just a few examples of some the boxes I’ve received since. It’s a subscriptions service/treat I’ll definitely allow myself to keep up in 2015.

 

(Click through the slideshow above for a few samples of the crates I’ve received this year!)

 

(Learn more about Loot Crate HERE! Check out Akoss’ youtube channel HERE!)

 

 

Jamberry

 

Yet again, another dear friend, Nakia (aka: my pseudo-sister), can take credit for my love of Jamberry this year. (Look I’m easily corruptible, obviously.) She decided to be a consultant so she could make a little money while going back to school and caring for her son and at first I only gave it a shot because I wanted to support her new venture. I didn’t really expect to love it as much as I did, but 20 Jams later and I’m hooked. Admittedly, these don’t always last the full 2 weeks for me, but that’s okay because I know I’m hard on my nails and they still last a heck of a lot longer than nail polish does. Plus, SUCH CUTE DESIGNS! I couldn’t get these adorable prints with nail polish even if I tried. Maybe they seem a little expensive, especially if it’s your first time, but they really are a nice treat if you’re someone who likes having fun nails!

 

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(If you are interested in checking out Jamberry, you can request a sample or check out Nakia’s shop HERE!)

 
Funko (read: Toys)

 

My love of toys isn’t a new thing, but it has been resurrected, thanks to Loot Crate. When I moved into my apartment 7 years ago, I didn’t bring any of my toys with me. I have a lot that I’ve collected over the years, waiting patiently for me in my parents attic, because apartment living isn’t really ideal for large collections such as mine. I always imagined myself having a whole room dedicated to my toys or maybe one that was shared with my books or something, but here I am 7 years later and still in an apartment and I’m just tired of missing out on something I’ve always loved. Loot Crate exposed me to Funko’s mystery minis back in September. It’s not like I’d never heard of Funko before, in fact I’ve been tempted many a time to pick up a Pop! figure, but once I had that first mystery mini in my possession, I couldn’t stop myself from buying more. And so in the last three months, my collection went from nothing to this (see below) and I think it’s safe to say this toy collector is back in action!

 

Funko 2014

 

In 2015, Funko will be releasing a new line of Frozen Pop!’s and mini’s that I must have and a line of Garbage Pail Kids inspired figures too. I’m already SO excited!

 

I’m sure there were other things I got into in 2014, but these are the handful I’m pretty sure will stick around for a long time to come. What kinds of things did you get really into in 2014?

2014 In Review: Everything Else

Last year, I made myself six resolutions. Relatively easy ones, really, and for the most part I achieved all except one. Let’s review them with a little more depth…

 

1. Have more Moxie: I think this is the one I’m most proud of because I made such an effort that things that used to terrify me, now seem so easy it’s weird imagining myself ever afraid of them before. This year I met my favorite author twice (the second time without an ounce of fear), chopped off the long hair I’ve been hiding behind for 10 years, went to a day long writing conference with a bunch of strangers, took on strangers as clients without making my sister tag along with me to the photoshoots, etc… Sure there was probably a lot of other ways I could have shown moxie, but I’m glad I made this resolution because all year when I was faced with something that would normally scare me, I felt compelled to prove the fear wrong.

 

2. Get another Tattoo: This is really the only resolution I failed at and it wasn’t because I didn’t have enough moxie, it was mostly because I didn’t have enough time. I have four tattoos planned now, all of which I can’t wait to have, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have some sort of new ink any day now. 😉

 

3. Write: SEE – 2014 In Review: Writing

 

4. Live a Healthy Life: Well, I did and I didn’t. I’m still overweight and out of shape, maybe even more so than last year because all that overtime at work bit into my workout time. And I still haven’t taken myself to the eye doctor, despite my quickly declining sight. But I did get myself on a better sleep schedule and my skin has never been healthier thanks to a daily H2O+ skin cleaning regimen. I also went to the dentist twice and they couldn’t even yell at me for not going in so long because they said I take extremely good care of my teeth. I’ve definitely still got some things to work on next year and I plan to, but I don’t call this one a total failure.

 

5. Give More: This one is also a yes and a no. Sadly, my biggest contribution last year, Sevenly, ended up being my smallest contribution this year. They’ve stopped carrying cuts suitable for a girl my size/shape and so I didn’t buy nearly as many cause shirts as I might have liked to this year. But I did give in other ways like: cookies to all delivery type people (mail and food) during the Cookie-Thon. That was one of the most rewarding acts of giving, seeing their unexpected appreciation and entire demeanor change over such a small gesture. I helped out at church for the big events – Valentines Day, Easter, etc…, I donated some books to the library. But I think the thing I did most was giving of myself this year. To anyone that needed me. Sometimes that meant missing out on my own life and sometimes other people’s burdens were super hard to carry, but I feel like being there for them was necessary and I’d gladly carry the burden any day.

 

6. Save More: SEE – 2014 Savings Challenge

 

I know some people aren’t fans of resolutions and I can see how they’re not for everyone, but as a list maker who is too busy for her own good, making a list of things I’d like to work toward really keeps me guided in the right direction. They’re like little reminders all year long to keep me on track and I’m happy for it.

 

So, what’s on my to-do list for 2015? Just wait and see! 😉

 

2014 In Review: Music

In trying to be more reasonable with my spending this year, I really made an effort to only buy the songs I had to have this year. So that meant previewing everything on YouTube several times before actually committing to the purchase. Turns out that was only 379 new songs this year added to iTunes. Only, ha! Still, it’s far less than last years 517 so I guess I can pat myself on the back a little.

 

For the most part I was left to my own devices in finding *new music again this year (boy do I miss the days when other people corrupted me) but I actually did look this year and didn’t just rely on all the bands I already loved releasing new things (though they did that, too!). Of the *new bands I discovered, I had two favorites, both Christian artists in two very different genres than I typically gravitate toward (which is heavy rock, in case you didn’t know).

 

*new to me

 

Andy Mineo

 

andy mineo

 

I found myself listening to this Christian radio station NGEN a lot this past summer, for the upbeat, God-centric lyrics, to get me through those 13 hour workdays with a positive attitude. And in doing so, I discovered all kinds of Christian artists I’d never heard of before, Andy Mineo being one of them. What struck me the most about him, though, wasn’t necessarily that he was a Christian artist (I mean, that’s an awesome bonus, don’t get me wrong), but that he was such a skilled rapper on killer beats. It’s been a really long time since I’ve gotten super into rap. I grew up in the 90’s when rappers actually had talent and outside of the stuff with catchy beats that get trapped in my head, I just can’t get into the crap that qualifies as rap these days. But Andy, ooh, he’s actually got talent. And lyrics with a real message. This combination makes him addicting to me. If you haven’t heard of Andy Mineo, he’s definitely worth the listen. Click HERE!

 

Citizens & Saints

 

citizens and saints

 

This is another band I discovered thanks to NGEN and my first taste of them was this 80’s-esque track that was impossible not to bounce along to. Upon further research, I found myself buying everything they had online and loving so much of it equally that there are 5 Citizen & Saints tracks in my top 20 most played tracks this year. Even their Christmas album is a perfect collection of songs. They’re the kind of indie band you can’t help but sing along to. The kind of praise band I wish my church had. Whenever I’m jamming to Citizens & Saints I always find my hands in the air reaching for God. I just can’t help it. It’s something about how the instruments get inside of me and how Zach Bolen has a perfect voice for this style of music. If you’re in need of feel good, happy making music, you must check out Citizens & Saints. Click HERE!

 

 

And now, the part you’ve all been waiting for (you have been waiting for it, right? haha)…. The Top 10 Most Played Tracks of 2014! I’ve had to modify this list just slightly to feature a different artist for each because if I was completely honest, Andy Mineo and Citizens & Saints actually hold the top 4 ;). Some of these are predictable, Artifex is a favorite band and they had a new album out this year, Underoath is heavy on my Dreamsters playlist, etc… but if you haven’t been following Music Friday all year and this list is unfamiliar, you should definitely click all of these links! (Fun Fact: The Most Played Track was played 478 times!)

 

10. Karnivool – “The Refusal”

9. Underoath – “Desperate Times Desperate Measures”

8. Tides of Man – “Drift”

7. Family Force 5 – “Chainsaw”

6. Artifex Pereo – “No Stranger to Worry”

5. Finch – “Two Guns to the Temple”

4. Phantogram – “Black Out Days”

3. Bring Me the Horizon – “Don’t Look Down”

2. Citizens & Saints – “In Tenderness”

1. Andy Mineo – “AYO!”

 

If anyone would like to corrupt me in 2015, I’m taking any/all music recs! 😉

 

2014 In Review: Books

Like everything else that suffered as a result of too much work in 2014, reading took the biggest back seat. For a moment there, I went months without reading a book. MONTHS. That was unheard of in years past for me, and in truth, it made me feel a bit crazy this year. I need the escape reading gives me! While I succeeded in really restricting myself from buying anything outside of my pre-orders this year, I failed at coming even close to my usual reading count of 50-60 books.

 

The list below are the 24 books I read in 2014 in the order I read them, with clickable links to my reviews on GoodReads. Fingers crossed I can tackle far more of my TBR pile in 2015.

 

 

Cold Spell (Fairytale Retellings, Book 4) by Jackson Pearce
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel by Ransom Riggs
The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, Book 1) by C.S. Lewis
The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, Book 2) by C.S. Lewis
 Hollow City (Miss Peregrine, Book 2) by Ransom Riggs
The Unbound (Archived, Book 2) by Victoria Schwab
Fracture Me (Shatter Me, Book 2.5) by Tahereh Mafi
Ignite Me (Shatter Me, Book 3) by Tahereh Mafi
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Illusion (Chronicles of Nick, Book 5) by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Sinner (Wolves at MercyFalls, Book 3.5) by Maggie Stiefvater
What I Though Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Drowned by Nichola Reily
Crash (Crash, Book 1) by Nicole Williams
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld
Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, Book 1) by Kendare Blake
Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff
Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker
My True Love Gave to Me by Stephanie Perkins
Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Misc. Other (aka: Comics)

Afterlife with Archie, Vol. 3 & 4

The Walking Dead, Vol. 132 (LootCrate Exclusive)

Batman, Vol. 36 (LootCrate Exclusive)

2014 In Review: Photography

It seems strange to have enough to say about photography this year to give it its own post. I certainly didn’t start 2014 with the intention of becoming a real photographer, but that’s sort of what happened. I’m not complaining of course, but it IS strange that it just happened without actually trying.

 

Apparently, I did 16 actual photoshoots/events this year. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a lot because people who do this for a living probably have multiple shoots booked every weekend all year long, but for someone who works full time (during a year that required more overtime than ever before) it feels like a lot to me.  Especially since the bulk of those shoots took place in just the last three months.

 

Sadly, right at the height of a photographer’s busy season, my ancient Rebel XS lost its ability to focus internally. I thought maybe it was just a lens issue because I could get a different lens to work a little more consistently, but eventually even that didn’t work. I’d be sitting there, clicking away, and the camera would just seize on me, refusing to even try to take a picture. According to everything I read online, death was near. So I was faced with a tough decision: buy an equivalent camera around 800 bucks or upgrade into the enthusiast level for 1400 bucks. It seemed silly to stay in the beginner levels of camera’s since I’m definitely not a beginner anymore. And I’m also definitely not a professional so I wasn’t even tempted by the even pricier models, but enthusiast did sound like a way to describe myself and Canon’s these days have far more versatility than they did 7 years ago. I’ve hardly even played with this new camera yet and already its features blow me away.

 

1 (9402)

 

Anyway, I took the plunge and treated myself to a Canon 70D at the start of December with a 18-135mm lens since my other two lens’ will still work with this new model. With the warranty, it’s the most expensive thing outside of my truck that I’ve ever bought myself. I still feel crazy over it. But, if 2015 ends up being as photo-centered as 2014 suddenly became, I’m hoping it will be worth it.

 

People are always asking me for prices now and schedules far in advance. I suppose I’ll work on updating the photography section of this site a little more often and add a calendar and pricing list for anyone interested. In the meantime, here’s a few of my favorite pictures from all the shoots I did in 2014!

 

(Click through the slideshow below!)

 

 

2014 In Review: Writing

Oh, writing. :/

 

Work, both my real job and my side jobs, kept me so incredibly busy in 2014. So busy it hurt my brain. So busy that when I did have free time, work had sucked all my creative juices dry. That means this years word count is a sad number and there were no short stories this year, even though I had two I wanted to work on. I literally went months without writing a single word. MONTHS. In fact, it’s been so long since I’ve written something new, I’m not even sure how to throw myself back into it. Like Victoria Schwab says, “I’ve forgotten how to book.” But I will figure it out again and soon, I promise you that.

 

And it’s not all sad news to report this year. Even though I’m disappointed in only writing 29,415 words this year, I can proudly say that I actually finished my first novel in 2014. And I don’t hate it. In fact, I like it so much I hope that 2015 is the year I shop it around and publishing becomes a real, achievable dream. Another thing worth noting is the writing workshop I attended this year. Even if I couldn’t be producing new words, I still made sure to finally start learning what it takes to be published. Prior to my novels completion, I’d sort of avoided it like the plague. You know, no sense in learning about a future that can’t even be a possibility without a finished manuscript. I’ll be facing 2015 with some valuable information now!

 

Last year, I only promised myself I’d write and that’s all well and good, but this year I really do hope to achieve more and so as a guideline or reminder when I’m starting to drift from it again, in 2015 I’d like to:

 

  • Start looking for an agent with a finalized version of Dreamsters
  • Write at least 1 short story
  • Move Crack the Sky towards completion 

 

If I try extra hard and track my progress with the sticker method, these could be feasible goals. Just so long as work doesn’t steal my life again. *Fingers Crossed*

 

2014 Savings Challenge

This year I resolved to save more, not just for the actual Savings Challenge, but as a whole in my life. I’ve been carrying around a lot of debt for too long, debt that keeps me from living the life I imagined myself having (namely, owning a house) and it was time to do something about it. Time to utilize my income in the smartest way.

 

I made small efforts like only allowing myself to buy X amount of pre-order books at the start of the year and to fully preview albums before just buying the whole thing because I frequently only end up liking 2-3 tracks and it would have just been cheaper to buy the singles. It’s unreal how much those two things I love rack up quickly.

 

I made other choices that impacted my spending money, too, like water consumption. Water is all I drink (well, and tea, too) and I drink a lot of it (on average about 120 oz. a day). Prior to this year, I’ve always just bought water bottles to drink at work (I have an H2O Filter Pitcher at home), but after realizing a great many of my headaches could have been a result of BPA’s, I bought myself a Tervis (BPA-Free) and a Whirlpool EveryDrop (also BPA-Free) and stopped buying water bottles altogether. When I did the math, it looked something like this:

 

2 cases of bottles a week at approximately $4 a case = $416 a year in bottled water

 

-OR-

 

1 EveryDrop + 4 pack of filters (that will last me longer than a year) = $50 for the first year, $30 for every year after

 

Leaving me with a savings of $366 a year. Just from water consumption. It’s sort of amazing when you look at it that way. Not to mention, so much healthier for the environment, right?

 

I didn’t factor my Tervis into that calculation because any cup will do, I just prefer Tervis. But even if I did factor it in, we’re only talking about an additional $20 which is still an impressive savings.

 

The biggest contributing factor to my success this year was all the overtime I put in at work. For almost half of the year I was working 60-70 hours a week and as you can imagine my paychecks were nice and fat as a result. But instead of growing accustomed to the temporary increase in pay, I started throwing large swaths of money at my credit card debt, starting first with the card that had the highest interest rate and not stopping until they were paid off. I also steadily dumped extra money every week into the Savings Challenge envelope, leaving me with $3000 instead of the $1300+ I was hoping to save. In addition to that, I actually let my real savings account bloom, too, setting aside almost 2K for Christmas and emergencies.

 

All of this savings helped me pay off and close 4 credit cards this year worth almost $9000. Sadly, I still have a ways to go before I’m in the clear, but I will definitely be keeping these techniques in tact in 2015. I can’t wait to see where I am financially this time next year! I’m a firm believer in being responsible for the debt you acquire and it’s really rewarding to see it on the decline by hard work. Certainly, I’ll never find myself in this place again.

 

Did any of you try the savings challenge this year? Have any tips for spending your money more wisely? I’d love to hear about it!