Tuesday, April 30

DIY [mail time]

Another wedding DIY for you...and another chalkboard paint project. This is getting as old as my gold leaf, but at this point I'm an expert.

We wanted something to gather the wedding cards, and trust me, there were quite a few at this large-scale wedding. Here's an inspiration image we found on Pinterest:

I bought this mailbox from Home Depot for $18, super cheap. All the parts pop off pretty easily. 

As always, start with a primer. Doesn't need to be fancy, just slap some paint on it and let it dry (FYI, that mailbox is balancing on an empty box of the BEST coconut seltzer ever, La Croix).

Make sure you are stirring your chalkboard paint adequately before you start using it. This was the first project for the wedding that I did using chalkboard, so I didn't know how to use it yet. I ended up doing 8 coats, truly. It should have been 2. I thought it was just thin paint, but the real issue was not enough stirring. Grab a bunch of those wooden sticks at Home Deopt, they're free, and use them better than I did! Below is how it will look if you're not all stirred up:

Finally got enough paint on it and we were ready to stencil.

I ordered these Hillman Group 2 inch stencils for $4 from Amazon. Not sure how many projects they'll last for, as I've only used them once, but they were simple and cheap and got the job done. I laid out all the stencils beforehand so I knew I had adequate space. We wanted to paint on the last name while leaving space to write with chalk- just make sure you're measuring before you get started.

A note about stenciling- use the right tools. First I tried using a sponge- that didn't work at all, because the pores are too big and too deep. I tried using a small brush, but that holds too much paint and is difficult to do without moving the stencil. I didn't have any foam brushes, which is what you should really be using, so I improvised by using a makeup applicator sponge....do yourself a favor and go buy some of these, they should be less than a dollar each.

This was a very simple and inexpensive project, and you can use it after the wedding, unlike many projects related to the big day. I feel like a psycho bride trying to convince my maids they can re-wear their period-piece flamenco gown...but really, everyone gets mail.

What do you think? Here it is in action at the wedding (also, how cute are J and R? J just celebrated a birthday last week, too...happy birthday!)

Monday, April 29

DIY inspiration [chalkboard mailbox]

Happy Monday! Another wedding DIY for you...and another chalkboard paint project. This is getting as old as my gold leaf, but at this point I'm an expert.

We wanted something to gather the wedding cards, and trust me, there were quite a few at this large-scale wedding. Here are some inspiration images we found on Pinterest. Tomorrow you get to see what we put together! Don't worry. I wouldn't be showing you other people's projects if mine wasn't way better.

To get ya started, I bought this mailbox from Home Depot for $18, super cheap. All the parts pop off pretty easily. 

Stay tuned friends.

Friday, April 26

link it up

Ugh, am I the worst blogger or what? In my defense, this week was cray...tough work week, plus super fun social week, equals no sleep nor time for writing. The professional madness continues with events all night and Saturday, but I'm looking forward to a restful picnic in the sun with some college buddies on Sunday. What are your plans?

I have a friend or two attending the dedication of the Bush library this week. This is a funny recap of his presidency.

I don't even LIKE s'mores, but I think I'd like this.

Looking for a new job? Some great, and perhaps counter-intuitive, advice.

Didn't realize D didn't know about one of my favorite comedy bloggers (and honestly, she's so much more than that). Then i realized, it's possible that some of my readers don't know about her either. For shame!

P.S. beerballet&bubbly was INCREDIBLE. You need, NEED to go. Sign up for Ballet Night Tights right now, that's their professional networking group, you can attend special events, get discounted tickets, etc. Below is a shot from their warm up, just imagine how much more incredible it was when they performed the show. Still in awe. Also we saw the dancers at Cava Grill after when D, K, and G and I stopped in for a bite. Amaze.

Wednesday, April 24

discover [beerballet&bubbly]

My friend G has been attending something awesome called Beer Ballet & Bubbly for like, a year, and I've been jealous every time. I used to be a dancer! I love beer and champagne! I love alliterations! I've finally managed to get tickets for tonight's show, and I want to tell you all about it.

The Washington Ballet puts on this rehearsal series, where the dancers practice an upcoming production and allow the public to participate. The shows are in the England Studio, an intimate space. No costumes, no nonsense, no sitting 23498 seats back and relying on binoculars, just you and them. We'll be seeing the world premiere of Septime Webre's "Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises". This happens to be the ONLY Hemingway novel I enjoy (scratch that, old man and the sea is fine by me too), which I read while studying abroad in Spain and was very significant for me. Needless to say, I'm excited.

G got an invite for being a member of Ballet Night Tights, "a young professionals community engagement and ticketing program in which members will be invited to attend specific performances and enjoy substantially discounted subscription and single tickets offers and connect with other young dance enthusiasts." Sounds good to me. It's free to join and, as far as I can tell, is a great benefit.

I'll let you know how it goes, but I'm sure I won't be disappointed. Anyone else done something cool in DC that I should know about??

Tuesday, April 23

bibliophile [sharp objects]

Staying on the Gillian Flynn train...wait til you see what I'm reviewing next week.

Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn

This one was creepyyyyyy but good. It's an excellent read, but it's not Gone Girl, so it's hard to give it a fair review seeing as they're from the same author. Either way, it's a unique story from a phenomenal author.

Here's your wonderful blurb:

Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

With its taut, crafted writing, Sharp Objects is addictive, haunting, and unforgettable.

I think this is an excellent psychological thriller, but it's tough when you compare it to her other novels. There is a great twist, as there must be in any mystery story, and the characters are terrible (literally) but complex and interesting nonetheless. Similarly to my advice regarding Jodi Picoult novels, don't read her works too close to each other, as the layout is repetitive.

Let me know if you've read any of her books! Anyone have similar recommendations  I very rarely read mysteries or thrillers, so I'm kind of at a loss.

Friday, April 19

link it up.

Happy weekend! I'm heading down to Durham, NC this weekend for accepted students day (for D) and party time (for me, my friend J, and her sister, a senior at Duke). Anyone know where I should be eating?

Once he knows all the good places to eat, D may need to brush up on his social skills.

This is absurdly well done, and insightful: absurd pitches (that turned into HUGE companies).

This article sparked some very interesting discussion via email with my group of friends. Should infertility treatments be covered for gay couples? Fascinating questions about the full impact of marriage and sexual-orientation equality, a "right" to bear children, and much more...

Use this when you need to get some serious work done. Especially like the FAQ's.

A creative way to help in Boston. (or? go give blood).

And finally, this hit me emotionally. Two people describe the same person to a forensic sketch artist, and here's what happened.

Thursday, April 18

DIY inspo [marbleized wallpaper]

Although I'm desperately sad that D will be leaving me for B school, it's certainly given me reason to start dreaming up the design for my new place. You know I've already found my new bed, but what of the walls?

The lovely ladies behind Scout Design have me drooling over an inexpensive DIY wallpapering project that I'm planning to replicate. I have really loved our cozy, dark bedroom, but I'm pretty sure I won't have such a large space when I'm living for one, so I'll probably need to lighten up, literally.

They bought large sheets of paper for about $6 each and hung them end to end to create this look:

C'mon really? That looks incredible. I'm seeing an accent wall in my future. I don't even mind the divide, it just adds even more dimension (and makes me a bit dizzy). What do you think? Too much? For now, I may just settle for this clipboard instead.


Wednesday, April 17

cheap eats [bomb egg salad]

Everyone eats egg salad in their life, no? I feel like it was a lunch staple when I was a kid, but I never ate it after that. I think it's the kind of thing that you just get a craving for, and I have a slight twist that makes it even more memorable.

Hard boiling eggs isn't as easy as you would think...as in, if you just wing it, you could mess up. I'll let Real Simple tell us how it's done:

1. drop yo eggs in a pot filled with cold water (1-2" covering the eggs)
2. bring to boil, then immediately remove from heat
3. cover pot and let sit for 12 minutes
4. dunk yo eggs in cold water to stop the cooking process. ta da!

Keep in mind that older eggs (a week or so) are going to be easier to peel. I think the best egg salads are made with some more unique ingredients, including stone-ground mustard, avocado, a bitttt of mayo, celery, salt, and some cayenne. It's a decent volume what with the avocado, so I find that having this over a salad is filling enough.

I know egg salad isn't breaking news, but I've been loving this combination so much lately. I make my tuna salad with mustard as well, a smidge healthier than mayo and far more flavorful (unless you're a mayo lover, hi mom).

Have you jazzed up any basics lately? Do tell.

Tuesday, April 16

Boston prayers

Thoughts and prayers are with Bostonians today. All of my family and friends are safe, if shaken up. Obama is right, it is a tough and resilient town.

I've found a few things to be moving thus far- 

These thoughts, relating to a different tragedy, that still resonate with the attack at the Marathon:

And this post from Patton Oswalt, a comedian/actor. Take care, everyone.

Boston. Fucking horrible. 

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity."

But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths. 

But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."

Friday, April 12

link it up

 Weekend party! I'm dong some crafting, a spring dinner party with friends, seeing the cherry blossoms, and hopefully hitting the driving range. If you're lucky, you'll have weather as good as ours.

Are you a golfer too? You're going to want one of these.

My mom sent this along, for when your blackberry isn't working (here's hoping my employer switches us over to iPhones soon).

I'm losing sleep over how much I admire this man. Go read his interview and then tell me I could recreate this with a thrift store find.

This week, D and I attended a free lecture at the Kennedy Center in honor of Arts Advocacy Day, which was Tuesday. Yo-Yo Ma spoke, and performed, and stunned. It was absolutely incredible and I encourage you to find the time to experience it (hint: skip the long-winded intros, and focus in on 35:30 if you only have 3 minutes of free time).

And on a lighter note, I've been laughing at this all day. It doesn't really get old.

Wednesday, April 10

Bibliophile [song of achilles]

Seems I've been reading quite a few love stories of late, though you could say this one is unique. I read 4 books over my Easter weekend, so a few more Bibliophile's coming your way.

The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller

This is a retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan war, seen through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles childhood friend and lover. I'm a great fan of Homer, both the Iliad and the Odyssey, so naturally I was drawn to this setting. At it's heart, this is really a love story between our hero and our narrator, though there is quite a bit of history included. Here's your blurb:

Betrayal, ardor, war, and prophecies--in The Song of Achilles, author Madeline Miller brings together everything I love about The Iliad without the labor of epic poetry. In this new twist on the Trojan War story, Patroclus and Achilles are the quintessential mismatched pair--a mortal underdog exiled in shame and a glorious demigod revered by all--but what would a novel of ancient Greece be without star-crossed love? Miller includes other good tragic bits--foreknowledge of death, ruthless choices that pit pride and reputation against the lives of innocents, the folly of men and gods--and through her beautiful writing my spine chilled in the presence of Achilles’ mother, the sea goddess Thetis, and I became a bystander in the battlefield of Troy awash with blood, exaltation, and despair. The Song of Achilles infuses the essence of Homer with modern storytelling in a combination that is utterly absorbing and gratifying--I can’t wait to see what Miller tackles next. --Seira Wilson 

There was a light dose of Greek mythology, as there would have to be with any story about a hero of the ages, but I would not say this was heavy on the mystical. Miller studied Classics and is a professor of Greek and Latin, so she knows her stuff. This is her first novel, and I look forward to more- I truly was sad when I finished the novel, and found myself thinking of ways she could have drawn it out and made it longer (it's pretty short). If you're a fan of historical fiction or ancient Greece/Rome, you should give this a glance. While you're at it, Helen of Troy was excellent, though I read it many years ago.

Tuesday, April 9

bag it up [CB2 shelving]

My dear friend J did such a great job styling some new shelving she bought that I wanted to show it off. I always appreciate when bloggers I follow share not just the link and product they're buying, but how they incorporate it into their own style and home. If I could do it myself, I wouldn't need a stylist, duh.

J bought this set of 3 floating shelves from the lovely CB2:
And decided to use them for liquor storage. Make sure you pay attention to the sizing of the shelves. Reputable sellers will always include dimensions, so if you have something particular in mind, make sure it will fit!

Doesn't that look good? You can arrange and overlap in any way, but I think this trifecta is very visually pleasing in a small space.

Any home purchases you've utilized well lately?

Monday, April 8

Cheap Eats [cilantro salsa]

Happy Monday! With 65 degree weather, spring has certainly sprung in DC, leaving me longing for healthy and fresh snacks. My mom makes a killer cilantro salsa, which I recreated with whatever we had in the house this weekend. Hers is better, trust, but the good thing about salsas is the ability to substitute to no negative effect.

Get your cutting boards ready, because this is a whole buncha dicing. We chopped up a full pepper (orange is prettiest, but use whatever you have), 4 or 5 small vine ripe tomatoes, a quarter of a red onion, can of black beans, can of corn (we were out, drats), one jalapeno, the juice of half a lime (we use this tool constantly), and cumin, salt, and pepper to taste. As long as you're of the cilantro-is-delicious-not-soapy variety, we add a TON. 

As long as you're not eating it with chips, this is straight veggie goodness (I ate it with celery, D with toasted naan). Try it with avocado or mango added in- ours weren't ripe yet.

Anyone have any fresh and healthy dishes I should try? My friend J recommended Nigella's Chicken and Mint Salad, it is amazing. Love anything with fresh herbs.

Friday, April 5

Easter recap

Since I did a link up earlier this week, I'm withholding now. Wish I was relaxing in Boston, as I was this time last week! I give you a belated recap of my trip home and some snapshots of what we did. Lovely Easter had by all at the Gibbons' household.

Most nights I'm home, you can find me around the kitchen table with at least the ladies and occasionally the men (dad and brother are less into gaming than mom and sister) playing something. Occasionally a board game, but more often than not it's cards or scrabble. We taught M how to play Pinochle this vacation. She claimed to dislike it, but I think it'll grow on her. What game of cards is complete without snacks and drinks?

Our lovable mutt Fred and I tried to get a nice picture together, but he kept ruining it. At least you can see my Easter dress and my new jewels from Kate Spade (bought on ebay because I'm cheap, duh). Find the necklace here and the earrings here.

 Egg decorating is an art form in this household. It's one of my favorite Easter traditions we have. Get your creative juices flowing!

Bloody Mary's were the drink of choice for me this Easter Sunday. Actually, I substituted gin, which makes it either a Red Snapper, a Ruddy Mary, or a Bloody Margaret, depending on who you ask. I strongly dislike vodka, so I liked the substitution. 

For the eggs, we tried some natural dyes, like coffee, and some marbling a-la Martha. Kept to our tried-and-true as well, including the use of rubber bands, waxy crayons, ombre dip-dying, and overlapping colors. 

If you need more, check out last year's Easter egg post.

Dad and I made it out the the golf course on Monday for 9 holes in the 60-degree weather. Not a bad last day of vacation, that's for sure. I played abysmally, but for my first time out this season I'd expect nothing different.

Anyone else get a break? I'll tell ya, I miss Catholic college where you get a week off for Easter.

Thursday, April 4

Bibliophile [the last letter from your lover]

A nice little dramatic love story for the ages.

The Last Letter From Your Lover, by Jojo Moyes

This love story, set primarily in the 1960's, is a sweet read. I was very interested for the first half, was frustrated by the protagonist in 2003 and thus bored through the next quarter, but liked how things wrapped up for the final 25%. Overall, worth the read. Blurb time:

It is 1960. When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing-not the tragic car accident that put her there, not her husband, not even who she is. She feels like a stranger in her own life until she stumbles upon an impassioned letter, signed simply "B", asking her to leave her husband.

Years later, in 2003, a journalist named Ellie discovers the same enigmatic letter in a forgotten file in her newspaper's archives. She becomes obsessed by the story and hopeful that it can resurrect her faltering career. Perhaps if these lovers had a happy ending she will find one to her own complicated love life, too. Ellie's search will rewrite history and help her see the truth about her own modern romance.

A spellbinding, intoxicating love story with a knockout ending, The Last Letter from Your Lover will appeal to the readers who have made One Day and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society bestsellers.

Well, if they're going to compare this to two books I very much enjoyed, I'm sold. It's a sweet story, a relatively short read, and has a few nice twists that keep you reading. It is a very tender love story, and I love when letter-writing is used as a literary tool (very reminiscent of The Guernsey.., now that I think about it). I think we'll all be in love with the deeply-feeling words of the main male character within a few pages. The writing of love letters is a lost art, one that I may have to resurrect next year as D heads to B school.

Is this the best love-story in the world? Nope. But I enjoyed it and would recommend it just the same.

Wednesday, April 3

Discover: Coffitivity

Unless I'm trying to sleep (in which case it's earplugs all the way), I abhor silence. Especially when trying to get work done, I need a little bit of ambient noise. Enter Coffitivity, the most useful thing I've discovered all week.

Coffitivity provides "ambient sounds to boost your workday creativity". Neither a silent space nor a bustling, noisy workplace is ideal for getting down to business, but soft-commotion may be the goldilocks of audio environments. 

They've had a lot of press and support, ranging from blogs to Popular Science to news sources, and they seem to be growing. It's a ten minute loop, but I've yet to notice any repetitiveness- honestly, it's all undefined noises. If you're apprehensive, they even provide a link to research praising the effects of ambient noise on productivity and creativity. So what are you waiting for? Plug in and be transported to your nearest Starbucks without ever leaving your desk.

If you'd like more options, or get bored of Coffitivity's coffee shop, head on over to Sound Drown for a similar solution. They have waves, rainfall, a few terrible sounds (kids, crickets), and of course, coffee shop beats.

Tuesday, April 2

link up

Still relaxing in Boston on vacation, but about to head to Chicago for work (which will get me back into my routine, which includes regular posting). Haven't seen home in over a week and am getting antsy- I'm a girl of habits and familiarity, and I miss my bed, my blender, and my boyfriend.

Here's some links for your lunch break.

My girl R sent me this, and I died. She has even better stories of in-person encounters with the children she works with, but this was still pretty hilarious.

My sister remembered my post on artful love-words in other languages, and sent me this book. 1., so cool, 2., love that I can read the whole thing in my browser.

This idea is getting me in the summery-feel. Wall art AND organization? Two birds with one stone.

Speaking of summer and speaking of projects, I might try to make these the next time I'm home. I am from a beach town, so it should be easy to procure the materials.

On a more serious note, there is some sage advice here for the difficult task of sympathy-card writing, and a stirring example. Hope it won't come in handy for you any time soon my friends.