Thursday, March 31, 2011

What I learned in setting up my budget

I’ll be the first to admit that I am horrible with handling money.  For a long time my way of balancing my checking account was to check an ATM to see how much money I had that I could spend.  However, when I started at DNL in December, after running my own business for two years, I decided to take advantage of my steady income and set-up a strict budget.  It required some work upfront and a change in how I spent and tracked money but four months into it I’m starting to get the swing of things!

In place of any fancy program, I set-up my budget in a spread sheet.  Since I get paid weekly I took all my reoccurring expenses, whether they were monthly like rent or my phone bill or yearly like insurance or Bear’s vet visit, and figured out how much I would need to put to them towards each week.  With the left over money I set a weekly budget for necessary items like groceries and gas.  The rest of the money was mine to spend as I see fit, whether that be dinner with a hot date or new parts for my motorcycle.

After I figured out how much money I needed for expenses, budgeted items and spending I contacted my bank.  I had them divide my pay check into three separate accounts to make things easier to track.  All of my expenses are automatically deducted from their account, I use my other account on items like gas and groceries and then the last account on anything else that I wanted to buy.  This makes it easy ensure that I’m not spending rent money on drinks with the buddies. 

Once that was all set-up, and it did take awhile to go through, the day to day of managing my budget was pretty easy.  I quickly learned to keep receipts for everything I spend money on and once or twice a week I track them in my spreadsheet and check to make sure everything looks correct in my bank’s ledger.  Now that it is set-up, it doesn’t take more than five minutes a week to manage.  We’ll worth it for the peace of mind that I’ll always have money for the things I need! 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Recorded uStream of Q&A with Kyle

Our favorite green celebrities

There are a lot of great people that work very hard to helps sustain a healthy environment.  While celebrities only make up a small fraction of these people, their position in the limelight allows them to draw needed attention to key issues.  Here is what a few celebs are doing to help raise important awareness:

Mary-Kate Olsen: Besides being a part of the highly respected Environmental Media Association, our favorite Full House cast member also started “green carpet.”  The initiative encourages celebs to take hybrid and electric cars to awards shows and parties.  What a great way to spread awareness for the need of more environmentally friend vehicles!

Julia Roberts: Since 2006, Julia has been the spokesperson for Earth Biofuels.  The company develops renewable energies like biodiesel and ethanol.  The initiative is sure to greatly help reduce our emissions in the coming years! 

America Ferrera: The Ugly Betty star puts her money where her mouth is by composting, shopping for local and organic foods and riding her bike to cut down carbon emissions.  You have to love a star that doesn’t just talk the talk but actually walks the walk!

Adrian Grenier: As the star of one of my favorite shows, Entourage, Adrian has used his status to start a website known as SHFT.  The site collects clips, video spots, eco articles and green products for easy consumption.  It has done a great job of raising awareness and motivating for a more eco friendly culture.

Jessica Biel: The bombshell actress literally climbs mountains to support her cause! She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2010 with other celebrities in order to raise awareness for the global water crisis.  That is an extreme way to raise awareness for an important cause!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Our favorite wedding themes

For those daring couples that want their wedding to really standout and speak of their personal style, a themed wedding is a great way to get everyone in on the fun.  From the clothes to the decorations to the cake, a wedding theme is a fun way to let your wedding take on a life of its own.  Here are a few hot themes that we think offer a lot of potential: 

Lady Gaga: Don’t worry, you don’t need to come down the aisle in a gigantic egg!  Although her clothing is often surrounded by a good deal of controversy, there is no doubt that the Gaga has a major impact on the fashion industry.  Dramatic make-up, fun dresses and creative decor is a great way to go Gaga without going over the edge.  Have some fun with it and don’t be afraid to let your inner monster out!

Black Swan: The riveting movie that got Natalie Portman her first Oscar offers us a fashion sense that is truly dramatic.  With feathers as the center piece, the entire wedding can decide whether they are a black or white swan and have a ton of fun in the process.  This is a great theme that is sure not to ruffle any feathers! (I had to!)

Rockabilly: Certainly not a new theme, rockabilly offers a fun “counter-culture” feel to a wedding.  For a generation that is known for their tattoos and piercings, this is a great way to maintain our identity, while honoring some great wedding traditions.

Monday, March 28, 2011

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

The diamond cartel is struggling how to handle the groundswell that Diamond Nexus is causing and is looking for ways to discredit them. The boss calls a meeting of his top employees to discuss the issue...

Friday, March 25, 2011

The top spring and summer fashion trends

As things begin to warm up here in Wisconsin (FINALLY!) we can’t help but turn our thoughts to the impending spring and summer months.  The warm weather will allow us to put away our sweaters and long underwear and restock our closets with the latest fashions.  Here are a few trends that you should make sure to put into your repertoire:

Bold colors
: An outfit featuring a single bold color is a daring fashion statement that will be sure to get you noticed.  Orange is the truly hot color of the season but bright greens and blues are also very in.  Look for dresses or bold tops that will stand out in a crowd.

Minimal white: On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, pure white is a hot trend for the warm months.  The color is sure to keep you cool in the warm sun but the look is red hot right now.  Simple dresses, skirts and all white suits are perfect for everything from the office to a night on the town.

Seventies chic: We’re clearly not the only ones to think that seventies chic is red hot right now!  All over the boardwalk and red carpets the style is making a major resurgence that appears to have staying power.  Find a few power pieces to mix into your wardrobe and celebrate the good ol’ days!

Pajama-esk: Now this is one style that just about anyone can get behind! Who doesn’t want to wear their pajamas all day?  Luckily for us, pajama looking (and feeling!) garments are making their way onto the scene.  Whether you go with silk or flannel, you’ll get to spend your day in comfort and style! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The employees' favorite DNL pieces

Ever wonder what the employees of DNL like to wear?! We head around the Milwaukee office to ask them what it is that they like to rock!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Favorite Wedding Memories

My favorite wedding memory probably comes from my uncle’s wedding many years ago.  I believe I was twelve years old and my family made the long flight from Wisconsin to Louisiana where my uncle lived.  My uncle dated his now wife for a LONG time before finally deciding to get married so Cathy already seemed like my aunt.  However, it was still fun to be able to go to Louisiana for a wedding!

My uncle lives on about three acres in the middle of bayou without too much else around him.  They opted for a very casual wedding at their house since they had so much room. Unfortunately it had rained fairly heavily the few days before the wedding so the ground was completely soaked.  However, it was nothing a few boards and a lot of laughs couldn’t fix.  Sure the bride and groom might have to get a little mud on their feet but that is part of life! 

As the small ceremony started outside my uncle’s dogs decided to join in and take advantage of such a captive audience.  There were many giggles about sniffing dogs and longing looks for a pet during the ceremony.  However, as the ceremony neared the end, one of the dogs decided to make its way to the front of the tent.  There, in front of everyone, he lifted his leg and tried to pee on the pastor!  The crowd broke into fits of laugher and it is something my family can’t talk about without cracking up to this day.  That would probably have to be my favorite wedding memory!

What is your favorite wedding memory?  (No, no one has to be peed on!)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Save water and money with your own rain barrel

Although they may seem primitive, rain barrels are an extremely effective way to save on water costs and help conserve water. Once you collect water in your barrel, you can use it to water your grass, garden or even wash your car. Over the course of the summer months, using rain water for these activities can have a significant impact.

Of course a plethora of rain barrels are available for purchase at a wide range of prices. However, don’t be afraid to take matters into your own hands and create your own rain barrel. This will help you save even more money and can be a fun project!

The below video does a great job of walking you through the process of creating your own barrel. However, don’t feel like you’re limited to a barrel that looks like it rolled of out of the industrial park. By using a little creativity you can paint or plant around your rain barrel in order to make it look like it fits your yard.

One last thing to consider, you may want to keep your barrel off the ground a few feet. This will help with water pressure and will also prevent the bottom of your barrel from rotting. Happy watering!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Have we all gone Sheen?

You can’t turn on the TV, open a newspaper or power up your computer without seeing his face. Almost overnight the words “winning” and “tigerblood” have been cemented into our heads as if they have always been there. But whether you’re a warlock or a troll, you have to wonder where our obsession with Charlie Sheen comes from.

It probably helps that Sheen was the highest paid television actor, was on a show that was wildly popular and comes from a lineage of famous actors. However, over the years the roller-coaster of problems and successes have come to seem almost common place. After having been steeped in so many controversies, you have to wonder why his recent antics have taken on a life of their own.

Sure, he seems to have slide further off the deep end then we’re used to seeing but what is so captive about his latest antics is his openness. Normally the only time we see a celebrity when they are steeped in controversy is as the quickly dash from their car to their house. The remainder of the discussion is left to the press, publicists and lawyers. However, unlike other stars that have taken to sticking their head in the ground, Charlie has done the complete opposite.

Sheen is willing to take an interview with just about anyone that will listen to him. To voice his opinion even more he opened up his record setting Twitter account and highly controversial uStream channel. All of this has allowed us a direct window into all things Charlie Sheen. What is truly so captivating about what he has done is not that he is apparently stark raving mad, it’s that he has completely removed the normal Hollywood barriers that we are used to seeing.

Ever since Ashton Kutcher opened up a Twitter account we have gotten more and more used to feeling like we can have a window into stars’ lives. Although there are many people and brands that still wish to keep their fans at an arms length, perhaps Charlie Sheen can teach us something. Here is a man that is almost certainly out of his mind yet he has millions of adoring fans singing his praises. Is this because he has such and adhering personality? No, he simply makes fans feel like they really, truly know Charlie Sheen with no B.S. or spin.

It is that want for a human connection that has made the likes of Facebook and Twitter such cultural phenomenons. People log in to social networks to connect and share, not be sold and spun. We have certainly attempted to use our social media presence as a place to connect and not a place to slam our message down your throat. I guess what I'm trying to say is that we are making an effort to be more like Charlie Sheen, just a little less crazy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wedding reception tips and trends

David Caruso of Dynamic Events walks us through the latest trends and tips for implementing the perfect wedding reception. His years of experience are sure to help you perfectly execute your dream day.

Check out this video of what David goes through to make sure a bride's dream comes true!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How you can help: The top environmental charities

In our day-to-day lives it can often feel like we’re powerless to truly make a significant impact towards helping our planet.  While most of us cannot dedicate a great deal of time or money, we can do something! There are numerous organizations out there that are doing great things to help our planet and below are a few of our favorites.  Even if you can’t do a lot, just doing a little can go a long way!

Sierra Club: One of the oldest and largest environmental organizations, Sierra Club takes action to protect wildlife, combat global warming and grow healthy communities.  With chapters in each state and membership starting at just $15 it is easy to start making a difference.  If you’re looking for something that will truly make an impact, consider one of their volunteer vacations that will allow you to see a part of our country, help a great cause and connect with like minded people.

World Wildlife Fund
:  As the leading conservation organization, WWF works to protect natural areas and wildlife populations, promote sustainable use of natural resources and champions efficient use of resources to reduce pollution.  Working with WWF provides much needed protection to endangered environments and species around the world.  Our favorite way to provide support is by adopting an animal.  For doing so they’ll send you a sweet teddy beat!  Much to my dismay though you don’t get to take the actual animal home. :(

Shop Green: This one is a little different than the other two organizations.  Shop Green allows you to purchase or gift items that will help benefit our environment.  They also allow you to send donations to various causes, in place of a gift.  Best friend’s birthday coming up?  Forget the sweater you were going to buy her and instead buy her the ability to feed a Haitian family for a year!  It is a great way to spread good will to those around you! 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The right clothes for the right occasion: The office party

Whenever there is a major event looming, it can seem like you just cannot find the right clothes for the occasion.  This can be especially true with an office party.  Yes, office parties are a time to let your hair down and connect with people on a personal level, but these are still the people that you have to look at for forty hours each week, so you want to make a good impression.  When looking for that outfit that will fit these needs, here are a few things to consider:

Keep it classy:  This certainly isn’t the time to show off that new dress with the neckline that cuts down to your navel.  Pick a classic outfit that will look stunning without being shocking.  A pencil skirt or a bohemian chic blouse are great ways to fit the latest trends, look amazing, and not draw attention for the wrong reasons.  When in doubt, think of Audrey Hepburn.

Stand out through accessories: Your accessories are your opportunity to draw some attention to your outfit.  Don’t go overboard, but pick one or two items that really pop and draw compliments.  A brightly colored belt, standout pumps, or a statement ring are great ways to separate yourself from the crowd while still dressing appropriately for the occasion.

Consider comfort:  I certainly know a lot of women who are more than willing to suffer through an evening in order to look great in a pair of heels.  As much as I understand (and appreciate) this, office parties are an opportunity to mingle and network.  You’ll likely be on your feet for awhile, which may be hindered if you’re uncomfortable.  Picking a lower heel or less restrictive outfit may be just what you need to power through an evening of schmoozing and elbow-rubbing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to find a good wedding vendor

Your wedding is a day that you have dreamed about since you were young and undoubtedly, you want it to be perfect.  Unfortunately, you can’t do everything yourself and will require the help of numerous wedding vendors for everything from photography to catering.  Regardless of what kind of vendor you’re looking for, here are a few tips to make sure you get the most bang for your buck:

Make a list of what you want: The most important thing in finding the right vendor is to clearly define what you want from them.  Be specific!  This will ensure that you are able to target exactly what you kind of vendor you’re looking for, instead of just “a good one” which is not a helpful way to narrow down your search.

Ask your network: When beginning the search for a vendor, start by asking your network for suggestions.  Feel free to call or email close friends to ask for their recommendations and also don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions from your social networks.  Even is someone is not your best friend, they might have a great lead or horror story that can point you in the right direction.

Do your research: Even with a good recommendation, it is always good to do some major research about the vendors you are considering.  Check wedding boards, consumer review sites, and the general internet to see what people have said about your vendor of choice.  Finding a few bad reviews is not necessarily as bad as not finding any reviews at all.  Just make sure the bad reviews are things you can ensure will not go wrong with your wedding or are not extremely important to you. 

Ask the right questions: As you begin to meet with your top candidates, stay on your toes and never jump at something just because they offer a great price.  Asking for references and a price sheet beforehand may expedite the first meeting.  Once you’re face-to-face with them, go through your list of what you want and make sure they have the resources or skills to be able to achieve what you’re looking for. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

DNL at the Milwaukee Auto Show

One of our graphic designers, Michael, and his mother Cheri hit-up the Milwaukee Auto Show recently and took the opportunity to photograph some of our jewelry under the bright lights! Below are some pictures of Cheri's Open Arms ring and Candlelight earrings.  Got to love a fun day with DNL jewelry! 

Look at that gas mileage!

What a wonderful color!

Look at the sparkle!

Time for a little reading.

Never too much DNL for mom!

How to maximize your fuel efficiency

Most of us don’t consider fuel efficiency unless we’re purchasing a new vehicle or watching the price of gas skyrocket.  However, smart drivers are taking steps to maximize their fuel efficiency to save some major coin and help our environment.  There is even a select group of individuals known as “hypermilers” that make a competition out of who can exceed the EPA fuel estimates for their vehicle.  Although you don’t have to take it that far, here are a few tips that will help you:

Maintenance:  The number one thing you can do to maximize your fuel efficiency is to keep your car running at optimal performance.  Check your tire pressure regularly and make sure they are inflated to the maximum tire pressure.  Get your vehicle serviced regularly, including changing the air filters and oil.

Prep your vehicle:  How your vehicle is set-up will affect how it drives.  Unless absolutely necessary, remove your roof rack, as they are major gas suckers.  Also, don’t make a habit of driving around with a lot of excess cargo in your car.  That unneeded weight is decreasing your gas mileage.  There is also a good deal of debate over whether you should use your A/C or not.  Some say that running your A/C when you don’t really need it is a gas sucker, while others say that it’s better than driving with your windows down as that creates drag which also uses up a lot of gas.  I suppose a good rule of thumb is that the A/C should only be used if it’s hot enough that more than one window needs to be opened.

Watch your speed:  Every vehicle has its own optimal speed, usually somewhere between 35 to 55 MPH.  Although you may not always be able to stay at your vehicle’s optimal speed, try to plan a route that will allow you to stay as close to it as possible.  If you’re driving a manual, try to stay in the highest gear possible since lower RPMs require less fuel. 

Acceleration and braking: The harder you accelerate, the more gas that you will be using.  By focusing on a smooth acceleration, you will be able to use as little fuel as possible to get your vehicle up to speed.  Likewise, the more often you brake, the more often you’ll have to accelerate afterward.  Anticipate any stops you’ll have to make and don’t race to a stop sign or stop light.  Any time that you can coast to a known stop, you’ll be saving fuel.  

Selecting the right fuel:  Although many people have the perception that higher octane gasoline results in better fuel mileage, this is not true.  In fact, there are those that recommend low octane fuels, even if your owner’s manual suggests otherwise.  We’re not going that far, but we do recommend always using the lowest octane recommended.  Also, as your vehicle ages, it is recommended to use a fuel injector to clean your system and keep it running at its optimal performance.

Use your car less: The simplest way to improve fuel efficiency is not to drive your vehicle!  Look for bus routes that can get you to work efficiently, ask around your office about possible car pools and see if your boss will let you work from home one day a week.  Many studies suggest that people are actually more productive when they work from home so pull together some facts and convince your boss!