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  1. Savvy on Career: Episode 1

    September 16, 2013 by SavvyInTheCity

     

    Last month, I re-entered the workforce after 12 weeks of maternity leave. This milestone is bittersweet, as I miss my little one and feel guilty leaving her at daycare, but at the same time, I know I enjoy my company, job, coworkers, etc. In fact, I may be in the minority of people who love their job. Every day is different. I am proud of our company. We have a hard working, innovative employee culture. Big fan.

    But there was a time, not terribly long ago, when I had been laid off and was looking for a job that I could love. It was 2009 when lots of other people were being laid off, too. I have a pretty good story about that time in my life, which I realized I never shared with you all. So here we are; Savvy on Career: Episode 1.

    That's right. It's STORY TIME, friends.

    Some friends of ours own a franchise location of a local fast casual restaurant (the kind where you order at the counter then someone brings you your food think like Chipotle or Doc Green's). The corporate office for this restaurant chain had a job opening for a Marketing Manager. Our friends helped me get a food in the door, and because my experience was fitting enough, I found myself having a phone interview with the hiring manager.

    The conversation was brief, but good enough. Opportunity to travel some, move up, get to know franchisees and help them with marketing… sounded good to me. At the end of the call, the hiring manager (let's call him Bob) said, "Okay, before we go any further in the process, I want you to do a little homework and send it to me."

    "What kind of homework is that?" I asked.

    I didn't anticipate the breadth of his answer  which red flag number 1 (or 1, 2 and 3 depending on how you look at it). "Make a packaging label for a line of our products that will soon be available in Costco. Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis for our brand. Oh, and create a social media strategy we could roll out with our franchisees. After you send me that stuff, I'll decide if we want to bring you in."

    Ummm. okay. I can do that over lunch. Ummm. Not. Considering I was somewhat desperate and feeling guilty about not contributing to our mortgage, groceries, etc. I decided to go for it. But I did at least call back a few days later to say that if I was going to invest my time in these ideas, it seemed only fair that Bob would listen to be present them in person.

    He obliged (blessing or curse?) and I went in a week later to meet Bob and present my ideas. My friends were telling me that it wasn't fair that he expected me to be a social media guru, market analyst, graphic designer and employee communications maven all in one. I saw the opportunity to try lots of new things.

    I arrived at headquarters. After Bob showed me to his office, I waited in there for 20 minutes while he did god knows what (red flag 2). He eventually came back and asked for me to show my packaging design sample. That was relatively uneventful; he noted that I followed the brand standards in terms of logo, colors, etc. We moved on to the SWOT analysis.

    Naturally, I started with the Strengths. I talked about the booming business happening in the fast casual segment, the low turnover among franchisees, etc. I stopped after going through my list to ask: "Having reviewed my ideas, what strengths might I have left off my slide?"

    I didn't see this coming. Bob looks side to side, thinks for a minute, then points two thumbs at himself and says, "Well… me."

    Having just seen red flag 3, I wasn't sure he was joking or serious or crazy or what. I just stared at him and no one said anything, until I said, "Okay, on to the weaknesses." I talked about how the restaurant's regional name may not resonate in other parts of the country. I spent a few moments on key competitors with better name recognition, and how the franchisees who refused to remodel their stores were bringing down the brand. Not much fanfare on this stop in our journey.

    On to the Opportunities. I touched on expanding the company's bakery line in big box stores (Costco, Sams, etc.). We talked about the evolving brand. Like with Strengths and Weaknesses, I stopped and asked the hiring manager if he had any questions, feedback or other Opportunities he wanted to share. He pauses, shrugs, reaches under the desk, grabs a stuffed animal pickle and strokes the top of it. He says, "yeah, uh, this pickle could be our mascot."

    Throw the red flags everywere. Is this a joke? Was he joking with me? Flirting with me, some combination of the above? I think it was around then that I blacked out. I barely remember going over the Threats, then sharing with him social media ideas — then the dude ushering me back to the main conference room to give my same presentation to the owners of the company. Wait, how did that happen?

    Thank goodness somebody mentioned more than 50% travel. That was an easy out, as I was not on board with being away from husband/friends/family quite that often. I politely (or eagerly?) declined talking any further about the opportunity.

    About four years later (while at a new job — thankfully not that job), I was telling a client of mine this story. We compared notes and it turns out her sister worked for this guy (in other words, I interviewed for the position her sister vacated). She said her sister and her were pretty sure "Bob" wore the same pants every day for a few months sometime in 2009 and slept in his car following a nasty divorce. Or did I just hit him on a bad day?

    The all-too-obvious moral of the story is that sometimes no job is better than a job working for crazy. And if you have to jump through too many hoops in the interview process, there may be a red flag (or seven) in waiting…

    What's your worst job interview story? And how do you feel about that amount of pre-work for an interview?

    Speaking of work, remember those days not too long ago when I used to take pictures of my outfit? Ha. Those days feel like a distant memory. Long gone are the ten minutes of spare time, fancy camera tripods and white balance and shutter speed adjustments. This is my new reality (iPhone selfie with hair I washed two days ago and slept on). I haven't ironed anything in five-plus months…

    Selfie_2


  2. Margot’s Nursery: Source List

    August 9, 2013 by SavvyInTheCity

     

    So, I've been a quiet blogger. This is the longest silent stretch I've had in my four-plus years of blogging. Shame on me!

    Well, I'm back. Back-ish. I have a new title in addition to blogger and full-time employee: mom.

    Speaking of being a mom, a few months ago, I said that I don't plan on this blog becoming a mommy blog. That's still not the plan (note: no offense to parenting-centric blogs; I read and enjoy many of them)… but being a mom has pretty much been my world for the last three months and I'm head over heels for our little babe, so it's only natural that some of my content will be related to being a mom now, and forever. That said, I would imagine my mom-esque content will still be true to the theme of this blog: affordable shopping with possible a little bit of "style" mixed in.

    One of my big projects this year was creating a fun and personalized space for our little girl (who arrived on May 12 — Mother's Day! — weighing 6 pounds, 10 ounces and measuring 20 inches long). I didn't want a "bed in a box" type room with matchy matchy bedding, curtains, decor, etc. Dan loves the zoo (seriously, you'd think he's an eight-year-old boy when he's at the zoo… he gets SO excited) so we decided on a jungle/safari theme. Some pinks were okay with us, but I didn't want a look that was over-the-top frilly girly.

    IMG_0531

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    I thought I'd share what we found and where it all came from. Being bargain hunters, big sources were Craig's List, Etsy.com, Amazon.com and eBay. Online shopping is a big time saver for me, as who has time to deal with Atlanta commutes and run around to the mall chasing down items when you can easily have them delivered to your doorstep? Plus, it's like you're winning when you FIND the item then you get giddy all over again once it's delivered. #WinWin

    Nursery_sources_1

     

    1. Probably the most epic buy(s) of the nursery. Dan found this Pottery Barn Kids dresser (with changing table addition/extension) — plus a matching bookcase and crib — on Craigslist. They were asking $1,200 for the three new pieces (well over half off retail). Since they'd been listed for a while, he offered the sellers $800. They took it! Score! Dresser no longer available on the PBK website, but this one is similar. Moral of the story: make an offer!
    2. My Uncle Tom made this mirror for us. Most of our other furniture is darker wood, so it worked out perfectly that this framed mirror happened to be a very similar color to the Craiglist Pottery Barn furniture. Thanks Uncle Tom!
    3. Roman shades were made custom from a great seamstress I found on Etsy.com. They're durable, have blackout backing and I got to pick out the fabric! Check out KODesigning's shop on Etsy here. The material is from Fabric.com, which is a great source for affordable fabric. They offer inexpensive swatches of many of their fabrics.
    4. Since baby clothes are small, I opted to get this teeny basket from Home Goods instead of a traditional, larger clothes hamper. Plus, when it gets full, it's a directive to get some laundry done (I don't love doing laundry and make many excuses not to do it). Dan calls it the "snake charmer basket."
    5. My mother-in-law gave us a super sweet little rocking chair (see below). This was especially neat because my MIL had one in her daughter's room and wanted Margot to have a similar chair. (She purchased the chair in the Panama City, Florida, area — where my husband is from — don't judge! I will try to find out where it's from.)
    6. Fluffy shag rug is from Overstock.com. A great deal for $100. Super cushy and thick. (Note: the listing on Overstock shows a $125 price tag. There are TONS of coupon codes for Overstock on the interwebs, so do yourself a favor and look one of those bad babies up. I used a new e-mail address and got a new customer discount of 15%.)

     

    Nursery_source_2

     

    7. These jungle/safari prints (also from Etsy) are one of my favorite parts of the nursery. The seller has (had?) lots of types of prints available (like dinosaurs, farm animals, maps), with TONS of colors to choose from. So when I realized I wanted the nursery to be feminine jungle/safari, I knew I had to get these prints. It looks the seller I purchased mine from ("AlleyKids") looks to not be on Etsy anymore. (Update! Susan from Alley Kids let me know her prints are available on her website now: http://www.alleykids.com – check out her stuff! Super cute.)

    8. While not my original choice for fabric, this green/white gingham glider (that came with a matching ottoman) ended up being a great find. Dude, gliders are expensive! But they are a must for nuserys, especially nursing moms. We found this bad boy (or girl?) on Craigslist also. SOMEHOW new ones are about $1,000. Here's a new one on Wayfair.com. Highway robbery, right? We considered getting ours re-upholstered, but that would have been an additional $300-ish. No way.

    9. The little lampshade and brown baskets with safari animals are identical in design but came from two different places. I found the shade on eBay for $5, then my mom found the two little baskets at TJ Maxx and used them for a baby shower. She had a feeling they were similar to the shade I already had, but we had no idea they were exactly the same. Worked out great. The lamp base is Pottery Barn Kids via eBay.

    10. These fabric cubes are from Amazon (manufacturer is ClosetMaid) and come in a million colors. They are hiding the chaos of books, toys, loveys, etc.

    11 and 12. (Bookcase and crib) See item #1 (part of the Craigslist baby furniture jackpot previously mentioned)

    Nursery_source_3

    14. Love these custom name letters (also from Etsy; see shop The Pattern Bag). The sisters who run this store are so nice, communicative and detailed. In fact, they are very disciplined about putting a cap on the number of orders they can fulfill monthly because they want each order to be just right. I sent Chantel and Cherina pictures of Margot's sheet, curtain fabric and art prints and they came back to me with pattern, color and design ideas to match. Their orders really are custom and awesome.

    15. We had a little trouble finding a floating shelf to match the nursery furniture. This floating shelf (we bought it from Home Depot and had it delivered free to a local HD store) wasn't right on color-wise but was close enough. It's also available on Amazon.com but is about $8 less at Home Depot. (Shocking, right? I thought Amazon's pricing was almost always best!)

    16. Carter's Jungle Jill music mobile. I don't know why I had to have this mobile, but I did. It only plays music for about two minutes before it stops and you have to wind it up all over again. At least it looks cute? Anyway, I probably wouldn't recommend it to a friend because of the short time the music plays and mobile animals rotate. I try not to think about the other things we could have purchased with that $50.

    17. Crib. Part of the CL deal-of-the-year Dan scored (see item #1). Dammit, I already numbered the crib as item #12. I'm too lazy to rejigger my photoshop pictures, so I guess I'll just leave it on the list twice. Whoops.

    Nursery_source_4

    18. Monogrammed pillow was a gift from sweet Etsy shop owner Stacy (see store Hearth and Home) as a thank you for a big order she did for our kitchen (linen roman shades). This was Dan's favorite item for the nursery. It was the first thing that came with her name on it (about six weeks before Margot was born), which made having a baby feel much more real. Similar pillows in Stacy's shop retail for $35 plus shipping. Also, she did a great job with a custom window seat cushion for our kitchen. (Note: Fabric for this monogrammed pillow was also sourced from Fabric.com.)

    19. Carter's safari brights sheets. Sadly this item is out of stock on Amazon and essentially anywhere else on the interwebs, but here's some info about the sheet on the Carter's website. Even though I'm listing this item almost last, these sheets are the first thing we purchased and the inspiration for the rest of the nursery.

    20. Disney giraffe print mesh/breathable bumper. I know the experts say that bumpers of any kind aren't totally safe, but I'd rather have these then wake up to see our little one's legs sticking out between the crib bars (which has already happened).

    Ooops… forgot a few items: The picture frames are from Home Goods, TJ Maxx, Kohl's, etc. I wish I could link to them but who knows where the heck they originated. Each frame was under $10.

    Oh, and here's a picture of our little lady. We're in love.

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    Oh, and a shout out to two of my favorite moms who blog. Kelly over at Fitting Back In and Leah at Leah Case Online. Kelly's blog has some great healthy, easy recipes plus she's great at sharing her monthly and daily personal and parenting goals. She has a precious baby girl named Beckett and she's doing a great job with creating fun activities for Beckette each day, not to mention keeping up with household chores and her fitness. Reading Kelly's blog makes me want to be a more productive human! I love Leah's posts about her sweet daughter Elliot's milestones and her reminders that life is too short for us moms to be trying to outdo each other or judge one another. Check 'em out!


  3. Catching Up: Hair Cuts, Renovations, Asheville (and Baby)

    April 11, 2013 by SavvyInTheCity

     

    Hello blogosphere! Gosh, it’s been way too long. I’ve missed you guys!
     

    Here are the Cliff’s Notes on life since we last “chatted:”
     

    I’ve been a bad blogger because spare time has been dedicated to baby things (and I’m not sure if you want to read a lot about baby things) or a little after hours work. 33 weeks down, 7 to go. Okay, I was trying to not post many baby things, but here’s a sneak peek of the nursery (I love the bright colored animal silhouettes I found on Etsy). Baby Margot’s nursery theme is safari (using bright colors and chocolate brown). I didn’t want to buy a bedding or decor set, so I’ve picked up affordable things here-and-there (from eBay, Amazon.com, Hobby Lobby, etc.).

     

     

    We celebrated three years in our Decatur, Georgia, home in early March. Would you believe that’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one house? Crazy to think about, but true. I’m hoping we can stay put in this version of Mallory Manor for quite some time. We have 1,450 square feet upstairs (including our renovated kitchen, which I still need to share photos of), plus about 1,300 square feet of unfinished basement we plan to one day turn into another bedroom, bathroom, family room, office and laundry area. Dan is putting up the finishing touches in the kitchen (beige linen roman shades) then I’ll have some pictures up pronto! Here's a QUICK look at the kitchen (forgive all these iPhone photos. Sheesh. You'd think I didn't have a nice camera or something!)

     

     

    The hubs and I took a long weekend trip to Asheville, North Carolina, last weekend. If you haven’t been, go! It’s like the Earthy side of Athens, on steroids! So much good food, art, music, etc. This time around, we checked out Laughing Seed (again), Tupelo Honey (again), Bouchon, Lexington Ave. Brewery (aka “LAB”), Cucina 24, French Broad Chocolate Lounge and Early Girl Eatery. Even though we’re not vegetarians, Laughing Seed was our favorite dinner again this round (be sure to order the raw spinach pesto manicotti). Tupelo was another incredible breakfast (I had the Tupelo Honey oatmeal and a side of bacon; Dan had the fried egg BLT… both were divine). As far as activities go, we walked to the River Arts District on Saturday and enjoyed that side of town. Also drove the Blue Ridge Parkway for a bit. (If you have questions about our experiences at any of these places, holler!) Possibly the best decision of the trip was booking three nights at the Urban Nest (a condo downtown we secured through HomeAway). For the same price as a downtown hotel, we got a 1 bedroom (plus office) condo. We used the kitchen to make coffee each morning, and it was nice to do some relaxing in the living room (with a great, big window overlooking downtown).

     




    I chopped off my hair. It was getting REALLY long (probably ridiculously long) and I was feeling ready for a change. Not to mention I figured shorter hair would be easier to style and maintain with a baby. My inspiration photo was this long bob style of Nicole Richie’s. Miss Mary Verrilli did a fabulous job as always on the cut. Looking forward to getting back in her chair in two weeks to refresh my highlights/lowlights. (Full disclosure, Mary gives me a discount on my cuts/colors because I’ve sent a lot of business her way. But to be honest, I’ve sent a lot of business her way because she does a great job and her prices are reasonable!)

     


    (Photo from Glamour.com)

     

    Verrilli Hair Studios

    1151 Hammond Dr NE , Suite 200, Studio 126
    (in Salon Studios above Old Navy)
    Atlanta, GA 30346 (770) 361-3557
    Read her reviews on Kudzu
    here.

     

    So nothing ground breaking happening in our world… just yet. But life is good, no complaints! More from me soon!


  4. My First Look: Victory Sandwich Shop Decatur

    February 22, 2013 by SavvyInTheCity

     

    On Saturday, I checked out Victory Sandwich Shop's new Decatur location with some friends (right next to Raging Burrito behind the Square — on Church Street).

    Over lunch, natural light poured into the joint (it's a long dining room, with a huge wall of windows). The sandwich shop's vibe is industrial, simple, cool and hip (think subway tile, grey grout, lots of galvanized metal). The staff is equally hip and cool (almost feeling like they were transplanted over from nearby Little Five). Despite the place being brand new and there being no shortage of great restaurants around, the place was popping with people.

    (Darnit, I wish I'd snapped a picture of the interior.)

    We didn't know how ordering worked, so it was nice to be greeted by a server who explained that you order at the counter for lunch (regular table service for dinner). We found a spot at the end of a long, community table and pondered over the menu. Thing was, this was somehow a Victory first experience for all three of us. As we checked out the menu, we chatted about how unbelievable it was that none of us ever hit up the popular Inman Park location (which we hear is set to close to make room for a new building… but I'm having a hard time confirming this news online).

    Womp womp. On to happier things… like how the place is revived… but in Decatur!

    The menu works like this: sandwiches are half-sizes ($4 for a half), so most people order two along with a side ($3.50 or $4). So that means the average diner's food portion of the bill would be $12. 

    After much deliberation, I decided on a half of the Hambo (prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula, reduced balsamic), half of a Castro (essentially a Cuban… slow roasted pork, ham, pickle, fontina, yellow mustard) and a side salad (mixed lettuces, radish, apple, parmesan, walnuts and sherry vinaigrette). The Hambo was a good balance of sweet and savory (i'm a sucker for the prosciutto/apple/cheese combo). The Castro's ingredients came together well (who doesn't love a Cuban?) but I did find the pork to be a little dry. However, in a restaurant's first week, I'll give them a break — and overall the sandwich was still tasty. The salad was a great sized portion and reminded me of the Farm Burger "Market Salad," which I'm a big fan of. Sandwiches came with kettle chips (peppery, delicious ones).

    Greg and Travis, my fellow diners, were happy with their choices as well. Greg had two halves (so, in other words, "a whole?") of the Mile High Club (smoked turkey, ham, avocado, dijon mustard, fontina cheese) — with a side of potato salad. Mr. T had a whole Castro sandwich, also with a side of potato salad.

    Since I can't or shouldn't drink at the moment (see last post), I admired the brief but fun/varied beer and cocktail list. If I could have ordered a beer, I would have grabbed a La Chouffe. I spotted several IPAs and pale ales (Dale's Pale Ale, Bells Two Hearted) that I knew the husband would like when we returned together.

    Service was attentive, even more attentive than I'm used to for a counter service setup.

    On my way to the restroom, I saw they have a ping pong table tucked away back there. Random, but cool.

    I'll be back, or we'll be back*. I could see grabbing some lunch here or maybe coming for just a beer and a snack before mozying on to another nearby restaurant for dinner.

    Victory Sandwich Bar
    340 Church Street
    Decatur, GA 30030

    (Check out even more Victory Decatur info on their Facebook page.)

     

    *Update: I did go back, on Monday, with Dan. He had a half Hambo and half Mile High Club. He thought both were pretty good, but that the "winner" of his meal was his "Fancy Nuts" appetizer (warm, spiced, mixed nuts with manchego cheese and dark chocolate for $5). After a bowl of the market soup of the day (creamy leek with veggies — creamy but not too heavy… I think I tasted parsnips), I had a half Mile High Club and the Beet and Goat Cheese Salad – mmmmmm. Salad was the standout with lots of fresh, cubed beets in a tangy dressing. Dan reminded me that while this was good, the best panini-style sandwiches in a mile-plus radius are probably still those at Java Monkey (which also serves beer and wine!). See my previous post about Java Monkey and it's delicious $7.50 sandwiches (with a side!) here. He has a great point… I'm hungry just thinking about that Java Monkey "Bella Prosciutto" sandwich.

    Total Monday night Victory bill including Dan's two beers was $44.
     


  5. Sister, Sister!

    January 31, 2013 by SavvyInTheCity

    (There's much more "baby bump" from the side view — I promise.)

    Yesterday morning I sent my sister a "pregnant outfit/belly update" picture* — to my surprise, I got a fast response… "Shut up!"

    No, she wasn't appalled by my progress… Anna was wearing essentially the same outfit I was (though her pants weren't stretchy waist maternity style, of course)! We'd both picked up this leopard print scarf at Hurs Wholesale Mart (my favorite inexpensive jewelry and accessories place on Buford Highway in Atlanta) on Saturday for $7.99.

    On moi:
    Old Navy tank top ($8)
    Red Gap Maternity pants ($39 on sale from www.gap.com — I've bought a few pairs of similar pants on eBay for less but this pair came straight from the source.)
    Hurs leopard scarf ($8)
    BCBG patent leather loafers — not pictured ($25 if I remember correctly — super sale plus discounted more because I bought them at the Junior League Belk Shopping Event a few years ago)

    Look at Anna's cute teacher self!

    On Anna:

    Steve Madden flats via TJ Maxx – $25
    Old Navy pants – $16
    Gap PURE top from Goodwill – $5-ish(?)
    Hurs leopard scarf – $8

    Have you ever shown up to a party dressed identically to a friend, or to work dressed in tandem with a colleague?

    *Yes, it's a true story! We're five months and some change pregnant, which I think is one of the reasons I've been quiet on this blog (instead I've been brainstorming nursery themes, adding items to my registry, reading message boards on BabyCenter.com, etc.). But don't fret — I'm not planning for this blog to become a mommy blog. If you're into kids and that kind of thing, I'm sure I'll find a blog-type space to post pictures, favorite products, etc. We're excited to welcome the new addition in late May: a little girl!