Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nail Polish That Will Earn You Compliments

In the past couple months, I have been pleasantly surprised by how many people have complimented me on the color of my nail polish.  I am surprised not only because I didn't know I had good taste in polish colors, but also because I feel like random compliments are a rare treasure in our world.  A compliment from a friend, family member, or total stranger can truly make your day - even if it is as simple as pointing out a pretty nail polish hue!

To spread the love, I wanted to share some of my favorite, attention-getting, compliment-worthy polish colors...  Promise I am not writing about these compliments to brag - I am only using them to prove that these hues are THAT gorgeous.  (They all happen to be Essie colors, but that doesn't mean there aren't other fabulous lines out there.  Also, can you tell I love purple?)

1) Essie Splash of Grenadine
- My boss noticed my manicured nails and asked if the polish happened to be Splash of Grenadine.  She knows her stuff!
- A random stranger in Starbucks told me she thought the polish was a pretty color as we waited for our drinks to be served up.

2) Essie Neo Whimsical
- A girl on my team at work AND a girl in one of my classes both let me know they really liked the color.

3) Essie Bermuda Shorts
- The Ann Taylor salesperson in Vegas said my toenail polish looked great with the shoes I was trying on (okay, so she was a salesperson, but I was already sold on the shoes!  Originally $200, on sale for $50... and they were comfy too!  Take a look at my great buy below...)

4) Essie Big Spender
A favorite of mine!  Works well on fingers and toes, great for all seasons.  I once had a pedicure that started with removing my old Big Spender polish and ended with a fresh new application of the color - the woman doing my pedi said, "You sure know what looks good on you!"  Sometimes it pays to stick with what works!  And it was featured in Allure when I first discovered this color, probably a couple years ago or so.

5) Essie Ballet Slippers
My default light-manicure color.  I am a Ballet Slippers girl... I love the slightly opaque pale pink that gives my nails a clean look without being too sheer.  Plus, it's a cute name.

What are your favorite polish colors?  Let me know if you give any of my favorites a try!  And why don't we all try to make someone else's day with a genuine, thoughtful compliment?  It can mean more than you will ever know...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to Throw a Party, "Real Simple" Style

Lucky me!  I received this book at work today: Real Simple Celebrations: Easy Entertaining for Every Occasion.  It's from Real Simple magazine and serves up so much inspiration and so many ideas that I know I will have to host a party soon!  (Gotta pull out all the wedding gifts and put them to good use too!)  I especially felt like this book was made for me when the managing editor's introductory note mentioned Champagne several times...

The contents cover Annual Celebrations (Thanksgiving dinner, holiday open house, and New Year's Eve potluck), Occasional Celebrations (a shower, milestone birthday, and summer barbeque), and Anytime Celebrations (cheese party, dinner party, dessert party).  Cheese and dessert are two favorites of mine... add some good friends and it's a party!

Each party or "chapter" is crammed full of tips and creative ideas.  Invitations, decorations and setup, the table, food and drink (with recipes), activites, Q&A's on etiquette, tips on giving a hostess toast, and a wrap-up (how to store leftovers, what to do with the supplies post-party, etc) are all covered for each party, giving you everything you need to know to pull off a lovely celebration.

And in the back, Real Simple tucked in a special party-planning wheel to help determine how much you need, depending on your estimated number of guests.  For example, 12 guests require 6 pounds of cheese and 7 to 8 bottles of wine.  I cannot wait to bring some of these amazing ideas to life!

For now, I am off to Vegas for a long, relaxing, fun weekend... I'll be back next week.  Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Reading Rainbow

A small stack of books is on display in our entertainment center, and all four feature turquoise-colored covers and spines.  Throughout the room - and throughout the condo - I use turquoise as an accent color.  It is a favorite of mine (behind my all-time favorite color - purple!) but it's also boy-friendly enough to gain Scott's approval.  When I noticed how many turquoise books I had acquired and read in recent months, I pulled them off my bookshelves, assembled this stack and used it as a piece of decor. The color coordination also reminded me of this cute post at a spot of whimsy about arranging books by color.

Despite the fact that all four books match in color, they are quite different in terms of content.  One is a book related to self-improvement and happiness, another is a memoir, and two are works of fiction with very different characters, settings, and plots.

--- The Nine Rooms of Happiness: Loving Yourself, Finding Your Purpose, and Getting Over Life's Little Imperfections by Lucy Danziger and Catherine Birndorf

I first heard about this book in Self magazine since Lucy Danziger is the editor-in-chief of the publication, and the magazine highlighted an excerpt.  The book revolves around the idea that the areas of a woman's life are similar to rooms within a house.  For example, the bathroom can stand as the area of a woman's life that relates to her self image and health.  Even when all but one of our metaphorical rooms are neat and tidy, we as women often focus on that one messy room and let guilt get the best of us.  The book touches on each room - living room, kitchen, attic, basement, bedroom etc - and how we can "clean up" the room if needed, and in turn achieve greater happiness.  Each section offers advice from Birndorf, a women's-health psychiatrist, as well as numerous case studies of women struggling with various issues, and provides ideas on how to restore peace of mind. 

I thought the house was an interesting metaphor, and many of the stories helped bring the rooms to life.  Though it got a bit repetitive after a few sections, I found parts of the book inspiring and helpful.  The advice can put things in perspective and reduce that overwhelmed, guilty feeling when something isn't going right.

--- Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

I randomly picked up this book at the bookstore, flipped through it, and decided to make the impulse purchase.  The story follows a group of four college girlfriends as they move into the post-college world.  Each woman goes her own way as far as family, career, and home, but the characters cross paths and share their ups and downs. 

What appealed to me was the smart writing and the way the story made me think of my own friendships and life path.  Though the characters and many of the events are not truly similar to my friends and my life, there were pieces that are realistic and relatable.  At times, I was frustrated with the characters' decisions or thought the plot seemed a little extreme, but overall, it was an entertaining read and opened my mind to some unique ideas.

--- The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

This is a book I had wanted to read for awhile, and I finally did earlier this year.  The memoir is poignant and moving, as Didion chronicles the year following her husband's death from a heart attack while her daughter battles a serious illness.  Themes of mourning, growth, and reflection abound as Didion writes about life, death, love, and marriage.  The moments and details she includes all add up to a bigger picture of her family and marriage. 

I thought the writing was fabulous, and though the events of the "year of magical thinking" are incredibly sad at times, I wanted to keep reading to see how Didion dealt with everything.  I almost felt like she was telling me her story in a conversation - and I listened intently.

--- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender

I came across this book in the little bookstore two doors down from our condo.  I stopped in there after a long work day and immediately relaxed as I perused the new fiction titles.  Since I try not to buy hardcovers too often, I ordered this book on Amazon right away.  This novel tells the story of a young girl named Rose who can sense the emotions of people through the taste of food they create.  With one bite of the lemon cake her mother baked, she can feel what her mother feels.  Much of the book, Rose explores her "gift" and discovers more about her family members and herself along the way. 

Obviously, magical realism comes into play here, so the reader has to suspend some disbelief, as well as not be thrown off by the lack of quotation marks around dialogue.  I was not always sure where the story was going, but the characters and family relationships fascinated me enough to keep reading.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Campaign Dresser Update

First of all, I am so excited to share this project!  Ever since I have known Scott, he has had this old dresser - so of course, it made the move to our condo.  At the time, I was not as into home decor and apparently did not know the treasure I had on my hands.  A couple friends commented on how cool the dresser was, but I still thought it was dark and a little ugly.

In my blog reading, I came across this post on campaign furniture from Little Green Notebook.  I was inspired!  I did some "research" through some of my favorite blogs and found great instructions and tips on products at Little Green Notebook and Centsational Girl.  The dresser belonged to Scott's parents, so I checked to make sure they wouldn't mind if I updated it.  Come to find out... they have a whole set!  We took a long six-drawer dresser to match Scott's tall one (thanks!) and I went to work.

[I am a little distracted right now by the fact that Scott walked to Home Depot for an errand and it promptly started pouring rain.  And he still insists on picking up a coffee for me - too sweet!]

Here are a couple "before" pictures of the two dressers:

I went to Sherwin Williams for a paint sample and picked out Creamy - a nice white, not too bright.  Paint samples only came in satin finish and I really wanted semi-gloss, so after a couple coats of the satin, I went back for a quart of semi-gloss.

- quart of semi-gloss latex paint (you might need more since I used two coats of the satin first)
- sanding sponge
- mini-roller kit
- painter's tape
Home Depot
- Zinsser primer
- Minwax finishing wax
- Bar Keeper's Friend

1) Prep work: gathered all my materials, rolled up our living room rug, laid old sheets down, and set up the dressers.  Pulled out all the drawers and removed the handles with a screwdriver.  I wasn't ambitious enough to remove the other hardware, but since I was not repainting the black trim, I just left them.

2) Using the sanding sponge, I quickly roughed up all the surfaces I was going to paint.  There was a lacquer on the dressers but I didn't worry too much about removing everything since I would be using a primer.  I covered the black trim and hardware with painter's tape.

3) I applied one coat of Zinsser primer, a favorite of DIY-ers, to the top and sides of the dressers and drawers with a mini-roller.  (Don't forget the tops of the sides of the drawers since you will see them when they are pulled out, as well as the very bottom of the front of the dressers.)  I rinsed the roller brush while the primer dried about an hour.

4) I also used the drying time to clean up the handles a bit.  With tips from my blog research, I sprinkled Bar Keeper's Friend into a bucket, added water and soaked the handles for awhile before rinsing and drying them.  I also tried to dampen the handles and directly apply the powder, but those handles were a tough cleaning job!  They are still pretty dark but I tried my best...

5) I added two coats of satin paint and one coat of semi-gloss.  Other people could probably get away with two coats of semi-gloss, but as I said, I was working with a sample at first.

6) After the paint dried for an hour or two, I was really eager to see how everything looked.  (It was fine, but it is probably best to wait a little longer if you can stand it.)  I removed the painter's tape and gently scraped off any paint that had gotten onto the black trim or hardware.  I reattached the handles and carefully slid the drawers back into the dressers.  LOVE!

7) As a final step, I applied finishing wax with an old white towel.  Since I had never used it before, I was not sure how exactly to apply it, but I rubbed the towel against the hard wax in the can and then gently rubbed the towel in small circles against the painted surfaces.  It made me feel like the dressers were "finished" and complete.

Finally, here are some "after" pictures (with and without flash - the flash shows detail but looks a little harsh - can you tell I am obsessed?).  Stunning!  Now these pieces proudly stand in our bedroom... even Scott had to admit he liked what I did to his old dresser!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Two-Ingredient Brownie Muffins

In an attempt to procastinate before facing my homework and to satisfy my sweet tooth, I whipped up some delicious Yum Yum Brownie Muffins tonight.  The recipe is from the Hungry Girl cookbook by Lisa Lillien - a collection of super easy recipes that are healthier alternatives to all your favorite foods. 

If you are like me, you cannot give up chocolate, pizza, pasta, or nachos, but you do want to eat a little better.  The ingenious twists that Lisa applies to all my favorite treats and comfort foods magically make them lower in fat and calories, higher in fiber, and practically guilt-free without sacrificing taste.  Seriously, a 216-calorie serving of nachos?  Bring it on!  (Check out http://www.hungry-girl.com/ for more info.)

Back to my brownie muffins...  More complicated recipes require bringing a long list to the grocery store or result in disappointment when you discover you are missing one of the zillion ingredients.  What I love about this recipe is the simplicity.  I picked up the two (yes, TWO) necessary ingredients a few weeks ago when I saw canned pumpkin and devil's food cake mix was on sale.  It might sound strange, but pumpkin replaces oil and eggs and supplies a delicious richness, not a strong pumpkin flavor.

I stirred, spooned, baked, ate one of the brownie muffins (they are called "Yum Yum" for a reason!)... and I only wasted about a half an hour of homework time.  A perfect recipe to quickly fulfill a craving without blowing a ton calories!

Yum Yum Brownie Muffins

1 box devil's food cake mix (about 18 oz)
One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the two ingredients together.  Don't add anything else that may be mentioned on the box, like eggs, oil, or water.  The mixture will be very thick, so you might be tempted to add in other things to make the batter smoother.  Do not do this!

Place batter into a 12-cup muffin pan lined with baking cups or sprayed with nonstick spray.  place pan in the over and bake for 20 minutes.

Makes 12 servings
Per serving (1 muffin): 181 calories, 3.5g fat, 357mg sodium, 37g carbs, 2g fiber, 20g sugars, 2g protein

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back to School

Scott and I went to the ND-Michigan game this weekend and had a great time, despite the drizzling and cloudy weather and the tough ND loss (well, Scott didn't mind the final score much since he is a Michigan fan... I know, it's tough.)  We got to see some of my ND friends and their families, as well as go out to the bars college-style.  Thanks to my sister for letting us stay at her apartment!  It was so much fun to spend time with her.  I felt super-cool, treating her and her friends to pizza and some much-appreciated "hostess gifts"... which was good considering my sister introduced me with the comment "She's married!"  That might be true, but I still know what college kids want!

Being back at my alma mater made me miss those times in college when my friends and I would congregate, get ready for the night and head out for fun, then debrief the next morning and laugh about all the crazy times we had.  I think I was trying to relive the college days last night, and now I realize that I am a little too old for drinking too much and staying out too late.  It's Sunday night, I am just starting to be truly productive, and I have some homework to do.

That's right... homework.  I'm going back to school for a Masters in Writing and Publishing.  Last week was my first week, and I am really excited for my two classes.  It's not college though...  These days, I have something called a full-time job too.  A lot of my friends have juggled working full-time, going to school, and having some kind of social/personal life.  I know it's possible, but I also realize that it requires balance and prioritizing.  There are some things I am willing to give up and others that I refuse cut out.  I still want to see my friends, get enough sleep and spend time with my husband.  Going back to school will be a challenge, not just academically but also in finding time for what I need to do and want to do, in achieving a satisfying balance, in keeping my sanity.

Thankfully, I have plenty of support and some great role models.  For those of you who are balancing school, work and your personal life, how do you do it?  What advice do you have for someone like me, entering into this exciting but busy time?  What have you learned?  I'm all ears.

And now, I need to get back to my reading!

My reading list for one class.  Even for an avid reader like me,
the amount of reading required over ten weeks is a little intimidating!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Healthy Glow

Aside from our honeymoon in Hawaii and a weekend at the lake, my skin hasn't seen much sun this summer.  Now it's after Labor Day and the last couple days have been a bit chilly.  I love that it's time to pull out all my cardigans (love them! I could do a whole post on them!), but I am sad that my skin isn't exactly sun-kissed.  During summers in high school and college, I got plenty of sun exposure and ended up very tan by the time back-to-school came around.  Given my family history and my light eyes/hair color and all those other things that mean you are susceptible to skin cancer, it's smart for me to wear sunscreen now and quit "laying out" for entire weekends reading and sweating like a pig.

But... I like how I look with a tan.  I feel like I look healthy and relaxed, maybe because it looks like I've been somewhere warm and beachy, even if I haven't.  Some people can pull off the porcelain-white skin look, but I am not one of those people.  I just look transparent and sick.

My solution is self-tanner.  I know, you are thinking, eww... orange and messy self-tanner?  Enter L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Airbrush Spray.  All you have to do is spray yourself down and let it sink in.  I usually put it on right out of the shower and then get ready while it dries.  What is so great about the Airbrush Spray:

1) You don't have to rub it in - no orange palms! 
2) The mist is very light and color builds gradually, so it doesn't even feel like you have anything on your skin.
3) After a few days, I noticed that the color was visible but looked totally natural.  Just enough to take the edge off...
4) No more wasting time or getting skin cancer while lying in the sun all day.

My mom is a big fan of the L'Oreal Sublime Bronze Tan Towels, which led me to my Airbrush Spray find.  She seems to get a little more color from the tan towels, but you do have to be more careful where you rub your skin with the towels.  With the Airbrush Spray, there are a couple things to keep in mind:

1) Hold the can away from yourself a bit at arm's length - my sister found this out the hard way (but I'm sure she still looked gorgeous!)
2) Be careful not to spray too much on the tops of your feet since that is where the spray settles, thanks to gravity.  I like to lay down an old towel to stand on while I spray since I unknowingly was getting spray on the bathroom rug and then the bottom of my feet turned dark brown/orange from standing on the rug while doing my makeup and hair (try explaining that to the lady doing your pedicure - a little awkward).

I have found myself sharing my self-tanning secret with more and more people, so if you need a little "sun" yourself, try it out and let me know what you think!  Here's to holding onto that summer glow - the healthy way!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tailgating Time

This weekend marked the beginning of college football season. On Saturday, the sun was out, the temperature was in the 70s, and football was on TV all day long. As a recent graduate of Notre Dame (four years out still counts as "recent", right?), I was super excited for our first game of the season. If I was going to be parked on the couch for about 4 hours, I needed adequate sustenance in the form of snacks and drinks.

Before the game started, I picked up a few items at the grocery store. Besides a veggie tray, guac and chips, I bought the ingredients for one of my family's recipes, lovingly called Cheeseball. If you are grossed out by processed cheese, you probably don't want to read further... but it really is delicious!

- two 5 oz. jars of Old English
- one 8 oz. package of cream cheese
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- part of a white onion, diced (I like onion, so I used about half)
- chopped pecans (optional, as desired)
- crackers (I love Wheat Thins with my cheeseball!)

Mix Old English, cream cheese, parmesan cheese, onion, and pecans (optional). Garnish with onions and/or pecans. Yum!

Take a look at the ingredients and finished product below.  (We also enjoyed sweet-tea-vodka + Crystal Light lemonades!) Oh... and ND won - I was one happy girl!

Friday, September 3, 2010

DIY Upholstered Headboard

As we move into this long holiday weekend, Scott and I were talking about the home improvement projects we would like to complete... namely, painting more of our condo.  Updating our home and making it our own has been quite a process, but in the end, it is beautiful and satisfying.  (Thanks to his dad for all his handiwork too!)

I have been all about the decor.  The interior decorator in me has come out and is learning a lot, especially where to find good, inexpensive items!  And in some cases, I have found that a little DIY can really pay off.

For our bed, I wanted an upholstered headboard with nailhead trim, but you would never guess how much they cost until you start looking... hundreds of dollars.  In my Google-searching though, I also found some helpful instructions to do-it-myself.  Scott kindly drove me to JoAnn's and Home Depot (no city driving for this girl) and I put my skills to the test.  (I felt pretty cool using a staple gun and rubber mallet!)

Here's the finished product and some simple instructions:

Still on the hunt for bedside lamps...
but loving the tables I found at Pier 1, Crate & Barrel bedding (yay for wedding presents!)
and the new paint color (no more dark brown!)
Home Depot
- 1/2 inch plywood trimmed to size (for our queen bed, 60''W x 34''H)
- picture hangers/brackets to mount on wall
- about 3 yds of 54'' batting (queen-size bag)
- 2 yds of fabric (will lay horizontally, so keep this in mind if you choose a pattern)
- staple gun and staples
- rubber mallet (doesn't damage the naiheads)
- nailhead trim (I purchased about 12 feet of trim + nails off Amazon - get the kind that you only have to nail in every fifth nail, not every individual nail)

1) Iron the fabric so it will lay nicely and place facedown on a clean surface (carpeted floor works well).
2) Place batting (folded in two) on top of fabric.
3) Place plywood on top of batting.
4) First, pull the batting around the edges of the plywood and staple to the back of the plywood.  Cut away excess as needed.
5) Then pull the fabric around the batting-covered edges of the plywood and staple to the back.  Be sure to pull the fabric carefully so it is smooth on the front (I did the top edge first, then the sides, then the bottom).  When you get to a corner, fold the fabric like you are wrapping a present.  Doesn't have to look pretty on the back because no one will see that side!
6) Turn your new headboard over and line up the nailhead trim about 2 inches from the edge.  Start at one side, go along the top and then down the other side (no need to do the bottom edge).  If you get the kind I found, there is a hole every fifth spot where you insert a nailhead and nail it in using the rubber mallet.  Always take a step back and assess your progress every few nails to make sure the line is straight.
7) To mount the headboard to the wall, I used a couple picture hangers on the wall that can support up to 100 lbs each and a couple rings screwed into the back of the headboard (and a very nice, helpful husband).  We nailed the picture hangers into the wall and then held the headboard up to figure out where to screw the rings into the back of it.  Not super scientific, but we did get it on the wall and straight on the first try!

I love how it finishes off our bed and only cost about $100 total.  With some extra time this weekend, maybe this will provide a little inspiration for your own DIY project!


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