Wednesday, November 27

DIY [gold monogram phone case]

I like this project because it fixed an actual issue, the issue being my terribly ugly phone case. I wish I had taken a picture of it to show you- I bought this Cimo frosted clear phone case for my Samsung Galaxy last April, which is not that long ago if you ask me. D has the same case in black, and it still looks great. Mine, however, became discolored- it wasn't dirty, but the clear plastic took on an amber hue that just looked yucky.

Perfect opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade, no?

First, pick a design. I love a good monogram- I think it's a bit playful and fun, but still professional. Pull up the font you like best (I just used one from microsoft, but there are TONS of free fonts you could use available online). I traced the outline onto contact paper, being careful to think about the direction of the font. Cut it out with an exacto or scissors, and slap it on the inside of the phone case.

Step two, tape up the back of your phone, which you won't want painted. Make sure to cover the holes as well, because spray paint has a sneaky way of settling everywhere you'll allow it. Cover it with a light, even coat of paint. You could use a brush, but I like the even, uniform application of a spray paint in this case.

Peel off the stickers and voila! The inside is so sparkly and glowy that it totally bums me out to turn it around, but thus is life. I think that, if the case hadn't turned amber, the gold would be more pronounced. Either way, it's a big improvement.

One more of it hanging out with my office supplies.

Monday, November 25

DIY [paying down debt]

**If you're bored to tears by money talk, a DIY with some shiny gold paint is coming your way tomorrow.

We're just kicking off a season of celebration, and in that spirit I wanted to share something I'm celebrating on the personal side this week: I paid off the $23,000 private loan used to afford my wonderful, worth-it undergrad degree in 43 months, or 3.5 years. Made a final lump payment on Friday evening, and it feels so. good.

the view that was worth $500/month to me
Paying off debt is a huge concern for me, and if conversations with friends and family are to be believed, it is for most of my loved ones as well (for real, I can't remember the last conversation I had with a friend that didn't have some financial/debt element). You can call educational costs "good debt" 'til the cows come home, but it's still debt and it still cripples your vision for the future (and your budget).

We all struggle with finding answers- should I pay more than the minimum? Should I refinance? Am I eligible for loan forgiveness? Should I prioritize debt repayment or building savings? That last one is a debate I've been losing sleep over for years, and a question I pose to anyone even loosely related to the financial industry in hopes of collecting good advice and data to find the perfect balance.

Ultimately, I made the decision to prioritize my private debt, because (1) it had a higher interest rate, and (2) my generous and supportive aunt and uncle co-signed on my loan in 2011. Although they could afford to carry that debt in their portfolio, I wanted to relieve them of that burden as soon as possible out of respect and appreciation. Thanks to their willingness to co-sign, I was able to move from a 9.8% interest rate (holy hell) to a 6.5% interest rate, which clearly saved me thousands and let me focus more energy and resources on attacking the principle balance, rather than just covering interest. This Christmas, I'm asking Santa to bless everyone I know with affluent, supportive family members to help them lower their interest rates, for real.

If my experience with paying off my private loan has given me any perspective, I have two takeaways:

1. It is worth taking on debt for something that is worth it. I have a deep affinity for my undergraduate education, and a lasting loyalty to the Jesuit liberal arts degree I received. I'm feeling a bit emotional as I write this, but the friends I made, the service and community projects I participated in, my introduction to development and non-profit fundraising, and the philosophy degree I earned were, undoubtedly, worth the debt. I don't think this is a message that gets shared as often as it should, as the opposite view of most-colleges-aren't-worth-the-cost is much more popular with my un- or under-employed peers, their parents, and the political sentiments of current society. I try not to complain about my debt, because it is something I willingly signed on for, as I believed it was worth it. If it wasn't a good investment, I had every ability to decline a loan, and with it my Loyola education. I'm a big believer in personal responsibility, but also a supporter of stretching your resources and energy to achieve something you deem worthwhile.

2. Spend your money before it spends itself. If I waited until the last day of the month to pay my loans, there wouldn't be any money left. Get your paycheck, pay your rent, pay your loans, put whatever % you can afford into savings, and what's left is what's left. Reading this post rang so true for me, because we used similar tactics to tackle debt (be careful, her blog is called "the hyperbalist" for a reason). If I didn't actively manage my finances through Mint and LearnVest, I would never have gotten this done. You don't need those tools, but they sure make it easy to track your spending over time, to zero in on problem areas, and to get the 30.000 foot view of your financial health. I endorse both programs whole-heartedly.

If you're concerned that my life will become listless and unfocused now that I don't have debt to tackle, never fear: I still have 5-figure debt with the feds, too. Bring it on (that one is for you, sister).

Friday, November 22

link it up

Let's make this a light week of link it ups, shall we? I head to chilly Buffalo Monday night and need to go out in good cheer.

my favorite thanksgiving tablescape (here)
The ultimate Thanksgiving drinking game. Family? Yes? I will DEFINITELY be doing a lot of these, including unbuttoning my pants, falling asleep, citing tryptophan as the cause, saying my diet starts tomorrow, trying to sneak something healthy on the table, eating too much pie, and starting the Christmas tunes (gotta admit, I've been cheating on Thanksgiving, but only because I had to hear Clarkson's Wrapped in Red). Basically, if we play this, I will be drunk.

these are just great: 24 clever print ads. Some advertisements really are top notch.

Bad engagement photos. People are dumb.

Mean Disney Girls. Combining two of my great loves.

Who has seen this incredible before and after photo? It sparked some heated debate on Reddit about the value and deception of makeup. And then I found this. #gameover

Women in STEM people, women in STEM (says the Philosophy major).

Thursday, November 21

Wednesday, November 20

bibliophile [await your reply]

Ooh a good one. Put it on your list for sure.

Await Your Reply, Dan Chaon

Straight to the blurby blurb:

The lives of three strangers interconnect in unforeseen ways--and with unexpected consequences--in acclaimed author Dan Chaon’s gripping, brilliantly written new novel.

Longing to get on with his life, Miles Cheshire nevertheless can’t stop searching for his troubled twin brother, Hayden, who has been missing for ten years.A few days after graduating from high school, Lucy Lattimore sneaks away from the small town of Pompey, Ohio, with her charismatic former history teacher. My whole life is a lie, thinks Ryan Schuyler, who has recently learned some shocking news. In response, he walks off the Northwestern University campus, hops on a bus, and breaks loose from his existence, which suddenly seems abstract and tenuous.

Await Your Reply is a literary masterwork with the momentum of a thriller, an unforgettable novel in which pasts are invented and reinvented and the future is both seductively uncharted and perilously unmoored.
I'll admit that my favorite reads involve characters I truly care about. This is not that. This is plot driven, with lots of tension and truly thriller-like pacing...almost like a Gone Girl (I hate that GG has become the litmus test for every novel/thriller I read, but there we are). You can just tell how intelligent the author must be to have woven such a complex story, and how imaginative (code for f'ed up). The Times gave a review, with which I largely agree, especially their categorization of Await as "unrelentingly bleak"; when I was 1/3 of the way through, I told a friend in my book club that I was pretty sure the main theme was a wasted life and unmet potential. I like The Times' use of the words "domestic novel" to describe the exact opposite of what Chaon writes- this is far more like a feral cat than a cuddly kitten, that's for sure. But then they liken Await to White Noise, a self-indulgent novel I hated, so it's agree and disagree over there. 

Monday, November 18

discover [oyster]

Something new to share with you all today: Oyster, AKA Netflix for bibliophiles.

You know how much I enjoy reading, far more than any other leisure activity (unless eating ice cream is considered a leisure activity). When I heard about Oyster, I was totally impressed and excited. For $10 per month, users can download unlimited books from their library of 100,000+ titles. Similarly to Netflix, they won't have the uber-new available, since licensing takes a bit to sort out.

Although my initial reaction is positive, I'm growing a bit more suspicious, probably in cohesion with how close I get to pulling out my credit card and setting up an account. Isn't Oyster pretty much a library? Yes, there is no waiting for titles, but you can only read one book at a time anyway, so putting novels I'd like to read on hold doesn't bother me. I can see it being an excellent decision for someone in a book club, because you need to read a specific book at a specific time, and would quite possibly have to buy it for $10 anyway.

I'm going to give their free one-month trial a shot anyway, most likely over the holidays. I want to get the most bang for my buck, what with all the travel time and relaxing by the fire with a good book...or 100,000 of them.

Friday, November 15

link it up

It's a tid bit chillier in NC than it was in Miami, where I spent the week. I don't mind the cooler temperatures, as I'm spending the weekend in the mountains with a few new girlfriends. I'm bringing cozy sweaters and leggings, taboo, a jug of wine and some mulling spices, so obviously this will be good.

I don't think this is what our cabin looks like...but we just won't know until we're there, right?
Hmm. Apparently it matters what kind of onion you use. I'm guilty of buying whatever is on sale...

Incredible. A man buys 10,000 undeveloped negatives at an auction. Check out what he found.

I can't wait to try a few eggnog dishes this season- it's one of my favorite flavors, but I don't think my family or D are big fans. I'm thinking these cheesecake bars or this cocktail.

Thoughtful piece on bringing Catholicism into the 21st century (thanks CM). One thing I've noticed about the South- almost every couple I've met belongs to a congregation. D and I have checked out a few non-denominational variations through the years, but none we connected with. Going to do some Durham exploring for sure.

One of the reasons I look forward to having kids is to mess with them. Dinovember seems like a wonderful place to start (some parents are truly creative geniuses).

Thursday, November 14

pinned [green]

I'm reallllly feeling deep green lately, which is wonderful as we approach the holidays. Here are a few images I've been loving that fit the theme.

Kelly Wearstler
Nate Berkus

Nate Berkus

Wednesday, November 13

bibliophile [the orphan master's son]

Give it some time, and I bet you'll end up liking this nobel prize winner and the first pick of my book club. I certainly did.

The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson

This book is in two parts, and I'll admit, the first part is a bit hard to get through and seems rather disjointed and pointless. One book club member kept asking, "but why?". I don't mind a bit of ambiguity, but it's true that the first half wasn't exactly a page-turner. Then again, neither was my Fave Book of Spring '13. Blurb time:

Jun Do is The Orphan Master’s Son, a North Korean citizen with a rough past who is working as a government-sanctioned kidnapper when we first meet him. He is hardly a sympathetic character, but sympathy is not author Johnson’s aim. In a totalitarian nation of random violence and bewildering caprice—a poor, gray place that nonetheless refers to itself as “the most glorious nation on earth”—an unnatural tension exists between a citizen’s national identity and his private life. Through Jun Do’s story we realize that beneath the weight of oppression and lies beats a heart not much different from our own—one that thirsts for love, acceptance, and hope—and that realization is at the heart of this shockingly believable, immersive, and thrilling novel.

I would say I've never had much fascination with North Korea, but that may be changed now. The author visited the country as part of his research, but was unable to speak to anyone, as of course it is illegal for North Koreans to speak to foreigners (!!!). If these are even remotely accurate insights into the country, this book is worth reading just for the historical and political exposure. If you're the type that needs to like your narrator/protagonist, beware. I didn't strongly dislike him, but I certainly wasn't rooting for him, either. Read it!

Tuesday, November 12

DIY [map coasters]

To go along with the infused liquors, my brother also did some DIY map coasters (apparently we both appreciate a good theme present). Inspired by my bar cart, he mod podged free maps onto simple tile pieces from the hardware store. Each groomsman got a map that corresponded to their home. I thought the Boston one came out great, but I may just be partial to my hometown.

Start out with inexpensive tiles, about 4"x4", which you can get from any hardware store and should be less than $.20 each (here's an option). Ceramic is going to be the most affordable, and you'll have a few options for color, though I'd recommend white or cream. Lay out the coasters on top of the map in the area you'd like to represent. Trim the map using an x-acto knife (be sure to have something protective underneath!) and make sure it fits your coasters well.

To start, I would score/sand the tile, to make a more textured surface and ensure better attachment for the map. Then, I'd spread a layer of mod podge on the tile (I get my mod podge at Michael's, make sure to bring a 40% off coupon!). Lay the map on top, and adjust to the perfect fit. You should have a few minutes to get the placement right while the mod podge is still tacky. Apply a thin layer of mod podge to the top of the map as well, and allow to dry thoroughly. 

I like a coat of polyurethane over this, to ensure the coaster is completely waterproof and protected. Do multiple thin layers of polyurethane, and allow each application to dry. Make sure you're coating the edges of the coaster as well, to be sure the corners of the map are secured.

Maybe the most interesting set was D's, which showcases the national mall in D.C. in one long line. I couldn't get all of them to fit in a frame, but you get the idea.

If you're new here, check out my DIY bar cart post for more map ideas.

Monday, November 11

discover [blogs I dig: interior design]

Welcome to your Monday reading: blogs I dig in interior design. My favorite.

Little Green Notebook- She maybe wasn't the first blog I ever followed, but she was certainly the first I fell in love with, and she has inspired so, so many of my own projects. We either have similar taste or she's a genius, because I truly admire all of her work. And she's a budgeting girl, but takes the time, along with her considerable skill, to upgrade her basics- think Ikea hacks, reupholstering, cleaning up thrifted finds, and the like. 

Emily Henderson- another total star (no really, she won HGTV's design star). She has a very defined style- mid-century modern, white walls, pops of bright colors, natural materials, big, graphic rugs, brass and gold, odd collections, and fiddle leaf figs. If you like those things, you'll like her. She's far more high-powered than your every-day blogger, so she constantly has incredible original content to share, wealthy and creative clients to work with, and time to really do things right. Some of my favorite posts are about her thrifitng at the Rose Bowl or scouring Craigslist for vintage pieces to mix into her designs. Definitely worth the follow.

Peppermint Bliss- Like E Hendo above, Bailey is an actual designer (not to go all Martha scandal on you, but there is a difference between a educated designer and someone who has crazy good raw talent but no training). Because her design is a process and intentional, she can explain how things work- color scheme, scale, framing, texture- rather than just saying "I felt like we needed more light!" she can explain why sometimes you need a couch on legs to balance the room. Plus her rooms are usually whimsical and a little crazy, but with such quality materials that it never looks cheap or kitsch.

The Aestate- Here's an example of a not-designer with a great design blog. She's a watercolor artist with an Etsy shop, but her interior-design-heavy blog doesn't have constant projects or clients. Rather, she posts inspiration, educational posts (on designers, trends, etc), products, and very few but very good DIY's (I like these fabric covered boxes for the closet and these malachite boxes). This is a more realistic blog to follow in terms of emulating: a normal, design-inclined woman working through upgrades and renovations in her own home.

The Pursuit of Style- I feel like this last one is a mix of full-time and blog-only, as she is just starting off on her career as an interior designer (one that I think will be successful). She recently got some traction when her home was featured in Glitter Guide- isn't her foyer fun?! I think she's a smidge feminine and preppy for my own home, but it's good to get a dose of playful color and some inspiration.

Don't forget the classic heavy-hitters, like Design*Sponge and Apartment Therapy, and the recently returned Domino.

Saturday, November 9

pintivity [n; actually doing something you pinned; a great use of your Saturday]

I've seen this DIY un-credited and un-linked on Pinterest over the last few days, so I googled a bit and found the unlikely source: Lowes! Never stop improving people.

I'm going to try to make this matchstick star sometime before the holidays. Doesn't it seem a bit Native American-esque?

Friday, November 8

link it up

Weekend party! I'll be trying a new restaurant in Chapel Hill tonight, my usual farmer's market stock up, and brunch with the girls on Saturday. And going for a run on Sunday, because this is clearly an eating weekend. And actually, I'll be running Saturday, too: Shape magazine tells me that it takes 66 days to form a habit (what ever happened to 21?!), so I'm trying to run for 66 days straight. Which means I have to run on Thanksgiving. Ew.

10 philosophers summed up in a single sentence: as a former philo major, I enjoyed this. Funny but also pretty accurate, for the ones I've studied.

I'm making a healthy no-bake dessert this weekend, and can't decide between chocolate peanut butter, pumpkin oatmeal, or cranberry pistachio. Oh, and did you know you can make a healthier flour just by grinding up instant oats? A new use for Quaker AND a new use for my Vitamix, as if I needed either.

Is this a real thing? Who in the world will teach me how to contour? I find it truly incredible, like artwork. I need a face paint-by-number so I can look like this girl.

Not my first time linking up to something out of Harvard Business School: what to do when you've made someone angry. Great article, and relates well to the pointless and half-hearted squabbles D and I have had lately regarding our insanely hectic and not remotely corresponding calendars. Go for understanding, not agreement.

Been doing stalking on the craig. I think I may be in too deep, because I'm considering buying this chair. For real I need a second opinion (skipping right over D of course). The one thing that is a NON NEGOTIABLE is this. So sassy with the purse.

Thursday, November 7

print magazines [and an incredible deal]

I wanted to discuss what mags you all subscribe to, and share my own preferences. 

The reason I've got them on the brain is because I just re-subscribed to Real Simple, after a few year hiatus. Once upon a time I was given a subscription for Christmas (thanks mom!), but I let it lapse. I found this so-good-I-thought-it-was-a-scam deal: $20 for two years. Say what?! The best deal on the Real Simple subscription page is more than double that. And don't worry, it's not a scam. I got my confirmation email, have been able to log on to the RS website and connect with customer service, and have received a few months already. It's just a flipping good deal that is well-hidden. You can also do $10 for one year...the news stand price is almost $5 a pop, so if you were thinking about subscribing, this is the way to do it.

There are a few other print mags I love: Martha Stewart Living, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, InStyle, and Architecture's Digest. You can find decent deals on most of them if you're willing to do some digging. I received Dwell for a year, but didn't love it (too modern and sterile for my tastes). I've also done HGTV Magazine before, and DIY magazine, but both are too kitchy and colorful and unsophisticated for me. If I could get over the execution (super playful prints, bright hues, etc), the actual ideas are strong, but I get too hung up.

The real excitement this year was the return of Domino, which will be coming out quarterly and is only sold in stores. I rushed to my local Whole Foods to pick up a copy- it's a whopping $12, but people legit horde these things and refer to them for ideas and inspiration for years.

What other can't-miss-mags am I missing? If you're worried print mags are a dying breed, don't worry; I've pulled together some of my favorite online publications as well for next week. Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 6

DIY complete! [reupholstered bergere chairs]

And finally this saga is complete (check out part I, part II, and part III). Here's the finished project hangin' out in my living room.

My brother (who has a far better camera than I do, I think thanks to the wedding for which these chairs were a gift) took a few pictures for me of the chairs in their new environment.

They match the decor, duh. Thanks for following along!

Tuesday, November 5

DIY part III [reupholster bergere chairs]

Welcome to part III of my upholstery project. Check out Post I (prep and stripping) and II (reupholstery). Now we're on to the finishing touches, as in trim. Like I mentioned in the last post, once you cut your fabric down to the quick you're out of options, so make sure everything is in good shape before you do: pattern in line, fabric taut, etc.

Once it looks like this you can add trim. Yay! I bought your standard upholstery trim, but if I had been more talented i would have loved to do welting or double welting. Welting looks like this:

Double welting is twice as fun, and very classy looking. I almost didn't want to post this because I'm sad I couldn't do it myself...but someday. I already promised R and J an upgrade.

Anyway, I folded over the end piece with a dab of glue, since ya gotta start somewhere. I'd say start the trim somewhere discreet, and don't be afraid to lay the glue on thick...just make sure you're using clear glue to avoid any unsightly marks.

You've got to get some of these clamps before you get started. They're super necessary. Once you lay the trim, you've got to keep it tight, and these clamps do the job. By the way, I used Fabri-Tac, as you can obviously see below.

You're going to hit some tricky where the arm rests connect to the chair. Here's a close-up of my tactic, which was to just go around it. Again, glue and clamps are key, because there's some real tension there.

Once that's dry, all that's left is the back. Here I kept it simple, as there won't be much wear and tear to the back of a chair. Here I just went with some spray adhesive and a good ol' tuck. Without taking the entire frame apart, I didn't have too many options.

Here is the finished back, which more or less brings us to the finished project. Yippee!

Tomorrow though. This post has enough photos already.

Friday, November 1

link it up

The weekend is upon us, and I'm in Chitown until Sunday. Enjoy some light reading and DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME. I'm bummed, as I've finally found it cool enough to run outdoors, but will now find it too scary. Can't win 'em all.

These are some of the best baby Halloween costume ideas I've ever seen. Breaking Bad for the win.

As a frequent traveler, I loved this NY Times article, because I so appreciate the places that treat me like a regular.

I happen to completely disregard sell-by dates, so this idea (from the former president of Trader Joe's, my first love) sounds fantastic.

My sister gets credit for this gem: my fave accapella group doing a tribute to queen Bey.

And finally, if you're a Food Network fan (I'm lookin at you, mom), you should check out these 100 greatest cooking tips of all time. Some are basic, but some were really great. If you're cooking a meal even just a few times a week, this is worth the read.

BONUS LINK UP: best flight safety video EVER. I hope I can get this on iTunes.