Friday, March 30

DIY [heat it up]

Raise your hand if you knew how to emboss before yesterday.
Raise your hand if you should have known how to emboss before yesterday (both mine are in the air).

How did I not know about this easy, inexpensive, yet professional looking method? I mean, though I haven't worked with paper much recently, I still consider myself a pretty serious (if lapsed) scrabooker and card maker. AND WHY DIDN'T YOU SHARE IT WITH ME? What good is a crafty blog if none of you will call me out with a polite, "you know Meaghan, you've been posting DIY and design projects of questionable skill and utility for almost two months now, and we've yet to see the requisite post on embossing. You fool."

Well, shake the powder off your shoulders and take that white wig off, judgey- embossing is here.

Where better to learn a new paper-related skill than the mecca of all things paper-related, the one and only Paper Source?

My lovely and altruistic friend G graciously bid at an auction on a Paper Source class for 6 to be held at the gorgeous Georgetown location above. I wasn't one of the six, but I managed to stalk their party (just kidding).

We were given pretty paper, stamps, ink pads, envelopes, and the like to get started.

A store manager taught us the secret ways of embossing, then allowed us to practice. Basically, you use a stamp (colored or clear, for the "watermark" effect), then shake some embossing powder on (similar to using glitter and glue), shake off the excess, then use a heat tool to melt the plastics in the embossing powder.

It leaves you with a glossy, slightly raised texture to the stamped area, and it looks super legit. They even had pens with stamp-like ink so you could emboss handwriting!

I made a bicycle card. With a bicycle envelope, which had a bicycle liner. I like consistency?

So of course I needed to buy my own tools. I recently snagged a $20 Overstock gift card for $10 using a LivingSocial deal, and they carry a heat tool for just $15. Not too bad, considering Paper Source's version was around $23. Apparently you can't use a blow dryer, because the heat needs to reach 650 degrees (yowza) and a blow dryer will just send your powder flying all over.

 Most of the other tools I needed I got from Paper Source- they did offer us 10% off after the class, and the powders/stamps aren't too pricey. All in all, it was a great experience and I'm thrilled to walk away with a new skill (and a chance to see lovely ladies, including the ever-talented blogess of Breakfast in Wonderland)!

It's Friday people. So what are you doing reading blogs? Go celebrate the weekend.

Thursday, March 29

Potential Replacement for our Elevators

Know what you can't have in an apartment? Your own set of stairs. Which leaves me to long for the beautiful things you can do with them.

Cheaper option? You can paint them: 

Muriel Brandolino
Domino Mag

Apartment Therapy
Pottery Barn

Or, lay down some runners:

Ivy and Piper
Judy Ross Textiles
Paul Massey- these are Ikea rugs stitched together!
I'm happy we're renting now, and in an apartment, as it makes our lives much simpler in some BIG ways. Wanting stairs comes pretty far down the list of things I long for, actually. Top of the list is a work space, somewhere to expel fumes (from paints and primers and strippers) that no one minds, somewhere to lay down tarps and get to work, to store my many projects and tools. Like a garage. Such is the stuff of dreams.

Almost the weekend, hang in there!

Wednesday, March 28

Sock it to me.

If you haven't seen or heard of the sock bun phenomenon, you've been living under a rock with no connection to technology in alternate universe. And even then you're probably lying.

I think it's time, however, that the sock bun be revisited. If you're wondering why I have a problem with the original sock bun, I don't blame you. After all, a sock bun combines all the things I love most: a fuss free updo, big hair, cheap materials, and a sense of superiority over your friends who can't seem to form them right (I'm looking at you, K). My problem is this- who decided a sock was the best base for this classically clean up-do?

Ladies, get yourselves over to Sally's beauty, where you can buy a tool made specifically for this style for $2. When have you ever found a pair of socks for just $2, let alone in the proper color for your hair, the right material, etc? Also, you can't put bobby-pins through a sock, so how are you securing said sock-made-style? Sounds risky and just plain lazy. (And don't tell me that you just used a lone sock you had lying around. Learn to do your laundry better and you wouldn't have solo socks).

1. Get your hair into a neat ponytail- this bun can go anywhere on your head, but keep in mind a higher bun will leave more hair available, so aim high if your hair is shorter.

2. Put your sock/donut at the tip of your hair, and tuck your ends around and under (as if you want to push them through the bottom of the donut).

3. Start rolling down the donut- this part should be easy and go smoothly, if you've set it up properly.

4. Once the donut is tight to your head, fan your hair out to cover it completely. Secure with bobby-pins, and give yourself a pat on the back.

Hope my tutorial has inspired you to get your rear in gear and make this thing legit (with a $2 tool). I'd like to give original credit, however I first saw this on Pinterest, the black-hole of proper sourcing etiquette, and I'm pretty sure even cave women fashioned a sock bun updo out of leaves. I've decided to thank Grace Kelly for the inspiration instead.

Be careful. A lot of men can't handle the regal-ness of an updo (anyone get it?)

Tuesday, March 27

DIY [gold-dipped bowls]

CB2, the younger, hipper member of the Crate & Barrel family,is offering $4.95 flat-rate shipping until April 9th. Combine this joyous news with their great sale section, and you h ave some home decor deals just waiting to happen. If you find their selection of serveware to be a bit sterile, as I did, I have an easy and impactful DIY to share with you.

Start with these beauties- the luna bowls from CB2 (the set below, consisting of one large, two medium, and three small bowls, set me back less than 50 bones including shipping)

Sure, they're pretty and modern and artsy with their curvy imperfect edges, but all-white can get a bit blah for me (see post here for further musings). So, since gold (and any metallics really) seem to be all the rage these days, I thought I'd jump on that shiny glitzy band wagon asap. Each bowl took me less than 10 minutes to complete and couldn't be simpler. So simple, in fact, that I shall teach you via images my four simple steps:

That's it. Really. I can't tell you how they'll hold up yet, but I'm thinking these will be exempt from the dishwasher just to be on the safe side. I already had the supplies at home- the only you may not have lying around, the liquid gold leaf, was just a few bucks at Michaels (be sure to check online for their perpetual 40% off coupon before you go). Let me know if you scoop anything up from CB2! 

Word on the street is that J and I may swing by the Crate & Barrel Outlet sometime this week, since she's got a new home to fill...I'll keep you updated.

Monday, March 26

Cheap Eats [birthday dinner]

D loves chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. And who doesn't?

Uhh, me actually. Cake in general always seems a bit dry and blah. I'm not ready to make the mayo chocolate cake that one of my coworkers is pushing, so I thought a crock pot chocolate cake might be a viable option.

I followed this recipe loosely, but mine came out like bread pudding- her image looks like a slice of cake, but you definitely could not have cut mine up. It was still yummy, especially with homemade chocolate ice cream (the real show stopper, in my opinion). As you can see below, it was very creamy and pudding-like (apparently I have dessert-consistency issues).

We ate some real food before dessert too, I promise. I free-styled some brussel sprouts with bacon (D's favorite flavor) and grilled up some steaks as well.

Have any of you tried the chocolate cake made with mayonnaise?? I've only heard great things, but it creeps me out.

Friday, March 23

deal alert: Martha Stewart Magazines

If you also have a soft-spot for previously-incarcerated DIY diva, check out this deal: $19 for a one-year subscription to Martha Stewart Living and Everyday Food. I've never subscribed to either, so I can't give first-person feedback, but when a friend saw me reading Real Simple he suggested I get on the Martha train STAT. Why not do so affordably?

I bet she led arts and crafts time in prison
Did you know her prison nickname was "M. Diddy"? Thanks Wikipedia. 

disclosure- I can get my subscription for free if multiple people buy it from my link, but I bought mine a few days ago so I'm not sure how that works...just letting y'all know

D's birthday [free stuff from me to you]

As I write this, it is the evening of D's birthday. I'm not neglecting him- he went to the bar for a quick drink with friends. (I am not partaking as I gave up alcohol for lent because I am an idiot love jesus)

What did I get D for his birthday? A bunch of junk mail.

PSYCHE. But kinda.

For his birthday, I've taken the liberty of signing him up for some lovely emails that include sweet (free) deals. Did you know so many restaurants want to celebrate your birth??! Most require you to sign up for emails or join their birthday club- this works especially well if you have a random email account you don't care about, which should include every AOL, hotmail, or yahoo account still in existence. Really? C'mon now. Get gmail.

Here are some of my favorites- it's a better idea to sign up when it's not your birthday, really, since most of these include a treat for submitting your email as well. I'm not including places that only give you a freebie if you buy dinner (chili's, applebees, melting pot, etc), or places that give you coupons (BOGO's, 10% off, etc) because that's weak sauce.

This place…
gives you this on your birthday…
if you…
Au Bon Pain
free salad or sandwich
sign up for emails
Bars across America
free shots
ask the bartender
Baskin Robbins
free ice cream
join the birthday club
Ben & Jerry's
free ice cream
sign up for emails
free cookie
sign up for emails
Caribou Coffee
free coffee
sign up for emails
free grand slam breakfast
show up with your ID
Every chain restaurant known to man
slightly edited version of happy birthday
are with a mean friend
free entre, chips and salsa
sign up for emails
Noodles and Company
free entre
sign up for emails
Planet Smoothie
free smoothie
sign up for emails
Red Robin
free burger
pick up a Red Royalty Card
Ruby Tuesday
free burger
sign up for emails
free birthday item
Join Sephora beauty insider
lots of free stuff
sign up for emails
free handcrafted beverage (so snobby. They mean coffee.)
register a gift card
free frozen yogurt
sign up for emails
Various Strip Clubs
free lap dance
…have a pulse?

We have had a lovely night so far- come back tomorrow for our menu (if you're wondering if I used my crock pot, the answer is duh) and his presents...I can't share them here, since he hasn't opened them yet (here's the view from the birthday boy)

Also- fun florida weekend post is in the future. Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 22

Wednesday, March 21

Welcome [I love you]

Might I just say, this is the best week in my blogging life thus far. EVEN BETTER than the week when I manually and personally signed up ten lucky friends and family members to receive emails when I post to make sure someone out there knew I existed. That was fun. But this takes the cake:

One of my all-time favorite bloggers EVER, Kate at Centsational Girl, included me in her Best-of-the-Blogosphere round up. If by some hilarious trick of the universe you're familiar with MY blog and not HERS, you're a moron. Click on over and join me in worshiping her creativity, handiness, style, and accessibility as a blogger. With almost 30,000 readers, you KNOW she's doing something right. Or everything right, in my opinion.

She linked up to my tripod lamp post, here. Your face right now? The incredulous expression of disbelief? I'm with you.

So, guys, today is the day that people who don't share my last name or college degree are starting to visit for a song. What up new friends! Welcome to the party, please stay awhile (please. please? I'll bake you cookies. or make you a lamp, your pick).

bibliophile [reasonable reads]

I am an avid reader. I have a hard time finding people my age who devote as much time as I do to the written word- I probably need more friends or hobbies. My wonderful brother gave me a Kindle for Christmas 2010; I hate to admit it was rarely used the first year, since I'm too cheap to buy books that I can't hold, decorate with, or lend at will. Once I got a DC public library card, however, I started downloading free novels like crazy. I'd like to start a mini-series on what I'm reading, mainly because I am selfish and I want curated recommendations from you all. You guys are the best.

My favorite books of all time (for this week anyway) would be Shadow of the Wind, Pillars of the Earth, and anything by Wally Lamb, as well as classics of fem literature (Bronte sisters, The Scarlet Letter, Jane Austen, The Awakening, Jane Eyre, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Tara Road, Toni Morrison, I could go on...). As my good friend Matt said when introducing me to Zafón, "drop everything you are doing and read Shadow of the Wind. Now." I pass this message on to you now with great urgency and bossiness- seriously, it is so good.

I favor novels over anything else, but I will literally read from all genres. However, there is a difference between reading and loving, and in terms of that distinction I am particular.

1. I like books to be engrossing, but they don't need to be suspenseful to be page-turners. I would love some advice on an author that can craft mysteries or thrillers while still being good literature. For example, I enjoyed the Dan Brown books, but can I really say his prose was epic? (for a similar storyline AND beautiful writing, check out The Rule of Four).

2. As alluded to above, I need them to be well written- The Hunger Games, while definitely gripping, is not a bastion of literary genius for young adults (which is possible- just look at The Giver, Lord of the Flies, or anything by C.S. Lewis). I enjoyed them immensely, and will probs see the movie this weekend, but I can't move them to the "best books ever" shelf when I feel they were not fully developed nor written artfully.

3. Content does matter a bit, in terms of the subject. I happen to really enjoy fantasy novels (I use to re-read all of Tamora Pierce's novels each summer), but I'm not interested in sci-fi (except for Ender's Game...LOVE). I don't enjoy monsters, boogey men, or vampires (needless to say, Twilight does not meet any of my "good book" criteria thus far). I hate unjust accusation- it makes me feel anxious and self-righteous at the unfairness of it all, which keeps classics like Atonement barred from my literary heart (though I thought another of McEwan's efforts, Black Dogs, was philosophically intriguing). Don't even get me started on how utterly fabulous Ms. J.K. Rowling is, either.

4. Content does matter a bit, in terms of the time-period. Other than 1984, I don't love futuristic novels (and let's face it, by the time I read it 1984 was a history lesson). I love historic novels- for inspired renditions, check out Margaret George (you must read Mary, Called Magdelene, then Helen of Troy, then her novel on Cleopatra and tell me how it was), and for lighter fare check out Phillipa Gregory. The Red Tent, Girl with a Pearl Earring, and Pope Joan were other novels that touched upon history and women, two of my favorite subjects.

I have a couple book lists that I'm working on- I currently refer to the Top 100 of the Random House Board Members, the Top 100 of the Random House Reader's List, The Top 100 from Harvard/Radcliffe (Novels and Nonfiction), and book lists from Oprah and Real Simple for the of-the-moment best sellers.

I would also deeply appreciate your own recommendations for new reads- I devour books, so I'm thinking about doing a "bibliophile" post twice a month to share what I'm reading and solicit ideas. I think I've given you plenty to pursue- you have my word that all of the links above will take you some place wonderful :)

Tell me your favorite book in the comments!

Friday, March 16

Because I love you

Before I leave for the weekend, here are some Etsy options for scarves. They're all affordable.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Someone please buy the butterfly one and then give it to me. My birthday is (kinda) coming up. K thanks.

Bag it Up [tie one on part dos]

Knowing how to tie a scarf isn't that useful until you have scarves. Go get some cheap ones!

1. Retail Store
This hot  pink number was just $14.99 at the United Colors of Benetton Outlet. People often forget about scarves, meaning they're left over at end-of-season sales. When the weather gets cooler, make sure you check your favorite stores to see what inventory remains- this is great quality, from a great store, but at a discount price. It's a pretty big size- I like having a variety of sizes, since you can wear them all differently.

2. Thrift Store
The print on this Totes scarf is busy, with an unexpected mix of colors. I picked it up at one of my favorite thrift stores, George Avenue Thrift, here in DC. Thrift prices are just right- I paid just $3 for this. It still had a Totes tag on it, so I know the condition is great. I still recommend a thorough cleaning! I try to only buy scarves with fun prints, to compliment my predominantly solid-colored wardrobe. Especially if you're beholden to neutrals, scarves give you some oomph without requiring a wardrobe overhaul.

3. Goodwill
This gauzy, sunny scarf is from Goodwill in Baltimore. It was $1.50 during their Saturday sale! Goodwill's in Baltimore have a 50% off sale the first Saturday of every month (check online for local deals). $3 is a great price, but $1.50 is even better, no? I tie this scarf onto gold chain necklaces for a little flair. I can't recall what I paid for the floral scarf at the same Goodwill, but it was cheap. Did you know that you can now shop Goodwill online? You can use it to preview your own area stores, or you can shop another location and scoop all the best designer stuff from LA or NYC (but you will have to pay shipping). It's auction format- I haven't tried it yet, but let me know if you do.

4. Etsy
Including shipping, I was able to snag this pinky-purpley-goodness for $8. The flowers have a tan-hue, so it works great with neutrals. Etsy is a great resource for silk scarves, as there are so many antique and vintage sellers in one place. I have never bought anything from Etsy for the list price, either. Offer to leave positive feedback, buy multiple items, of just ask in good faith- every seller has been willing to bargain with me (and I've bought quite a bit on Etsy in my day).

5. Second Time Around
There is a great Second Time Around in Georgetown that I can walk to from my apartment (I've also shopped this chain in Philly and Boston). It's like upscale thrifting; while it is more organized and a better curated collection, the prices are a bit more too. Luckily, this $20 scarf was part of their 50% off end-of-winter sale (sign up to get their emails about sales and promotions). So far I've only tied this on to my purse, but it would be cute around the neck too.

Since my life is more fun than yours this weekend, I'm off to FL tonight until Monday. Hoping to get some sun, some sand, and some spring training games. Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, March 15

Tie one on.

Scarves in winter = practical, warm, thick, necessary.
Scarves in spring = stylish, light, colorful, accessory.

In the cold months, the main function of my scarf is to keep me toasty warm. As such, I care less about the look and style- honestly, if a trendy way to wear a scarf doesn't cover my skin, it's useless to me. Spring, however, brings the opportunity to treat scarves like an accessory- something I LOVE to do. How does one tie a scarf properly, you may ask?

 Please click here and educate yourselves. This fabulous lady (of Wendy's Look Book) shows you how to tie a scarf in 25 ways in just under 5 minutes! Incredible. Plus the filming is genius, trust me.

We all know that Canal St and sketchy vendors in cities across America are willing to fill our scarf-quota with inexpensive options, but I've found a few better ways to stock up. Besides, those vendors often feature the pashmina-like scarf, which might be a bit heavy for summer months. My favorite type of scarf is either silk or chiffon; since my wardrobe has a lot of basic solid colors, I use scarves as a colorful, patterned splash. Here are my favorite ways to acquire said beauties, all on a budget:

1. thrift stores- get out there and do some digging! Just make sure to wash it or get it dry cleaned.
2. etsy- so many options, so little time.

3. ebay- Hermes or vintage? Every price point, every style, every thing.
Kate Spade
4. grandma or mom- I need it more than you do, trust me.

Your Grandma's closet
Tomorrow I'll show you my personal collection and how I managed to get them all together. None are over $10! I'll also show you some of my favorites from around the web.

Wednesday, March 14

Cheap Eats [apple pie oatmeal]

I've yet to make anything expensive in my Crock Pot. Partially because I rarely make expensive meals, but also because slow cookers lend themselves so well to simple ingredients and basic flavors, which are generally affordable. For my new Cheap Eats series, many recipes will probably feature a slow cooker. Lucky you!

Up first- this gloriousness:

I was recommended this recipe for apple pie oatmeal, made in the slow cooker. You use steel-cut oats, a delicious whole grain similar to oatmeal (often called Scottish or Irish oats as well) but a bit nuttier and chewier than your regular ol' Quaker variety.

With the word "pie" in the recipe, I expected its nutritional value to be questionable, but it's actually a measly 115 calories a serving (before the heaping spoonful of brown sugar I add). I suggest you make this- it's amazingly cheap, totally delicious, very filling, and a little goes a long way.

Divide the cost of those ingredients over 6 meals...This is CHEAP eats! Plan a visit anytime within the rest of my life and you will find some of this in the fridge. Seriously. Since I found the recipe, that statement has been accurate.

The recipe is adapted from Cooking with Jax- she's totally adorable. I'd never heard of her before, but after trying out this recipe, she's got my vote! Her website has more information about cooking time, the difference between steel cut and regular oats, a stove-top version, and tons of other slammin recipes.

Tuesday, March 13

Overstock is STOCKED

I don't use Overstock as much as I should, considering they carry pretty much everything and their prices are way low. My friend J (the one with the condo waiting to be attacked decorated) sent me some awesome monkey pod furniture from there, which got me poking around. How baller is this stool? It's natural, funky, has some substance but still feels delicate, ugh it's fab:

After I realized how much great stuff the O has to offer, I thought I'd do a post on high style found at low prices. On the left are stunning (perhaps both in design AND price tag?) rooms seen all over the blogosphere/pinterest, and on the right are pieces and prices from the great Let's get started!

Amber Interior Designs, Overstock
La Dolce Vita, Overstock
PomaSteven Rug, Overstock

Pinterest, Overstock