Thursday, August 30, 2012

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Quiet is a thoughtful, carefully researched, scientifically backed exploration of the science, sociology, and fallacies associated with introversion. I first heard about it on NPR. As the author, Susan Cain, described the problems introverts face in a world that idealizes extroversion, I kept thinking yes! yes! I laughed as she described the introvert's Saturday night quandary: Is it weird if I want to stay in and read? I know how I am, but I didn't know why, and I understand myself so much better after reading this book.
I'm not necessarily a quiet person, but I definitely fit the book's definition of an introvert: I strongly prefer to work in a quiet environment. I socialize best one on one, and I'm happiest in settings that allow meaningful, personal communication. Small talk and superficial banter are pointless to me. I didn't realize that "How are you?" wasn't a legitimate question that required a thoughtful answer until I was in my twenties! And I need downtime. Noisy, crowded venues are fun for an hour or two--and then I really need to go somewhere quiet to unwind and reflect. But enough about me. Let's talk about the book!

First, Cain explores the reasons extroversion became idealized in America and the fallacies associated with extroversion. Quantitative research shows that brainstorming in groups doesn't actually lead to innovation and collaborative workspaces don't produce better work. Furthermore, talkative people don't always make the best leaders.

Second, Cain explores the biological causes of introversion and extroversion. This was my favorite part of the book. In a nutshell: Introverts aren't necessarily shy. In fact, many of us are comfortable talking to just about anyone. But introverts enjoy less stimulation because our nervous systems are hyper-sensitive to external stimuli.  For example, a small taste of lemon juice causes introverts to salivate more than extroverts. SCIENCE IS CRAZY, RIGHT?! To find the "sweet spot" that feels good, introverts seek less stimulation, and extroverts seek more. So what feels like a great party to a stimulation-craving extrovert might be a jarring, unpleasant cacophony to an overstimulated introvert. Here's what really amazed me: Introversion and extroversion can be reliably predicted in infants, based on their responses to external stimuli. OMG MORE CRAZY SCIENCE!

Third, Cain describes the differences between American culture, which prizes extroversion, and Asian cultures that idealize introversion. I wondered what it would be like to live in a culture that valued a quiet person's wisdom over a chatterbox's prattle. I'm not sure I'd like that--I love communicating, as long as it's meaningful--but it was something to think about.

Finally, Cain explained how introverts and extroverts can work together, live together, and love each other while respecting each other's different needs. Here's an example: Extroverts obviously need social interaction and stimulation. Introverts need it too, but they like for it to be meaningful and one-on-one. A mixed-type couple can socialize smoothly together in more intimate settings that allow the introvert to pair off with one friend, while the extrovert mingles freely.

I learned a lot about myself from this section. It nailed the reason I was uncomfortable around Keith's extroverted friends when we first met. Every time we went out, we went to a loud, crowded venue or bar where I couldn't hear anyone or pair off into a real conversation. I was miserable! I liked the people, but the setting didn't meet my needs. This section also made me think about some awkward social faux pas (what is the plural form of faux pas?!) I've unintentionally committed. An extroverted acquaintance was weirded out when I talked to her about things that were "too real." At the time I thought she didn't like me, but here I learned that extroverts shy away from serious personal topics, while introverts love that stuff. D'oh.

Whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, this book is packed with useful, thought-provoking information for understanding and getting along with different types. There is advice for everyone--teachers, parents, bosses, and even architects and designers. Open office floor plans aren't as productive as they might seem... read the book to learn why!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Venus DIY Paint by Number

How was your weekend? I celebrated a friend's birthday, enjoyed Keith's teriyaki pan-seared tuna steaks, and finished this small painting of Venus from Botticelli's Primavera mural. Maybe I went a bit overboard on those big doe eyes and that little Clara Bow mouth, but isn't she cute? She's part two of a trio of close-ups from Primavera. You can see the first painting in the trio, a detail of the Graces dancing, here. And as always, I'm sharing my template, so you can make one too! Except for carbon paper, all the supplies are available at Michael's, Jo-Ann Fabrics, or any other craft store.
Supply List:
one 8 by 8 inch pre-primed canvas
carbon paper, one colored pencil, tape, and
three paintbrushes (small, smaller, and smallest)
acrylic paint in black, white, red, purple, pale blue, Caucasian flesh tone, and various browns and beiges

Let's get started!

1. Save these images and print them on standard-size printer paper. Choose the "full page photo" setting, and DO NOT check the box that says "Fit picture to frame." You want two nice, large 8 by 8 inch square images. 

2. Trim the excess paper from the black and white image so you have a perfect square.

3. Tape the carbon paper securely to your canvas, carbon-side down. Make absolutely sure the black carbon side is down; otherwise the image won't transfer. Yes, I once traced an entire painting with the wrong side down, and it's infuriating. Tape the black and white image over the carbon paper, so the image stays securely in place.

4. Use the colored pencil to trace over ALL the lines on the black and white image. Why use colored pencil? Then you can easily see what you've already traced. This part takes about 20 minutes, and it's tedious relaxing.

5. Gently loosen the tape and remove the black and white image and the carbon paper. Your canvas should now look like this. Yay! It looks cool but kind of weird, right? Don't worry! Just keep going.

6. Now it's time for the fun part. You get to be creative, because I don't put numbers on my templates. I want you to have creative license! This is especially important if you want your painting to match your room, or if you want to customize the picture in some other way. Just use the colored template as a guide, and paint your canvas to match (or not). Here's my advice:
  • Paint in sections. I started with the blue sky on the left, then painted her hair, next her face, then her dress, and the background last.
  • I advise painting the eyes and mouth freehand. I didn't like using a flesh tone for the whites of her eyes, and I wanted to line her eyes to give them more definition. I also thought her mouth was too indistinct on the template.
  • Begin with the lightest color in a section, and work with successively darker colors.
  • Mix your paints to get the color you want. If you want a natural looking painting, mix colors that are very similar, especially when painting flesh tones. If you want a more stylized or dramatic painting, then use colors with more contrast.
  • The first few colors you apply will look really dark and dramatic. Don't panic! It's just because they contrast so starkly with the white canvas. As you add more colors, your image will look more natural.
  • If you apply a color and you don't like it, that's okay. Let it dry, remix your paint, and paint over it. But don't rework the area while the paint is still wet. Acrylics get gloppy when you do that.
  • You do NOT have to do this all at once. I did this project over four days.
This is how the painting progressed:

I was excited that her hair matched the template almost perfectly...
And then I freaked out. This looked WEIRD. Hi, Blobface. I don't like you.
Never mind! Hellooooo, pretty lady! I'm SO GLAD I decided to paint her eyes and mouth freehand. 
And... finished! Just one more painting to go before this trio is complete. 

Feel free to use this template for personal use and modify it however you like, but please don't use it for commercial projects. If you do try this project, send me a picture! I'd love to see your finished painting and link up to your blog.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

You Light Up My Life! Chandeliers That Look Like Eggs, Astrolabes, and Bridal Veils

Chandelier shopping! What would look best over this table?
George Kovacs Six Light Chandelier from the Families Collection

Fredrick Ramond Five Light Chandelier from the Opus Collection
Solaris Six Light Chandelier by Crystorama
Golden Lighting Echelon Five Light Chandelier 
Hampton Bay Sully Four Light Pendant
Two of these are very strong contenders, but I can't decide. What do you like best?

A few days ago, I complained to my mother about the old carpet in my bedroom. She said, "Yeah, we should update that before you put your place on the market next year. And while we're at it, let's fix a few other things." We took an inventory of everything that needs to be done, considered our available resources, and decided to DIY a lot of the work.

Things we're going to fix, because we're awesome decorating badasses:
1. The ugly light fixture above the kitchen table
2. The nasty old beige carpet in the bedroom
3. The cheesy green fake marble kitchen counters
4. The poorly installed sliding doors on my bedroom closet
5. The ugly, boring, cheap looking kitchen cabinet doors


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Shakespeare in the Park, or, Much Ado About Gorgeous Vintage Clothing. I Need Polka-Dotted Swing Trousers!

On Sunday, my vivacious friend Stephanie and I met up to see a funny and stylish 1940s musical version of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing at Centennial Park. From the opening scene, I loved it. The boys are coming home from World War II, and loves and intrigues abound at Leonata's diner... not to mention beautiful vintage outfits!

Barkcloth circle skirts! Handsome men in Navy whites! Saddle shoes and two-tone Mary Jane heels! Victory rolls, polka-dotted swing trousers, rhinestone brooches, and villains in devilish red and black zoot suits. I was in vintage clothing heaven. Oh, and the live band? SO much fun! Maybe it's silly, but I love the cheerful cheesiness of community theater.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lazing On a Sunday Afternoon

Yesterday was perfect. I spent the morning laughing with Keith and teasing the puppies. Later, I took a walk to buy raspberries and fancy cheese for girls' night out at Shakespeare in the Park. But I have a problem: West Elm and Anthropologie are between my house and Kroger. Oh, the temptation! I reasoned that it would be practical to shop cool off in their air conditioning.

West Elm Butterfly Shower Curtain
At West Elm, the butterfly shower curtain I've been admiring for months was finally on sale! It's the perfect combination: An antique botanical print with the stark, black and white simplicity of pop art. $49.00, the original price, was too much for me to justify, but $29 was just right. I was so excited to finally buy it!
Brooklyn Hard Candy
On the way to the cash register, I saw these gorgeous apothecary bottles with pretty cork lids marked down from $8.00 to just $1.97. I was put off by the garish, unnatural color of the candy inside, but I bought a jar of Wild Strawberry candy anyway. I knew I'd reuse the bottle. Major bonus: It's really tasty! They're like Luden's Cherry cough drops, except you're actually meant to eat them like candy. Yum.
West Elm Bedroom with Sunset throw in Goldenrod
The only other thing that really tempted me at West Elm was this mustard colored throw. I have a weakness for throws, but I think they're terribly overpriced. Fifty or sixty dollars for a mini-blanket half the size of the blanket on my bed? Yeah, right! This one felt wonderfully luxurious, though, and the color is so rich in person. It's definitely going on my Christmas wish list.
Peaceful Swan Cardi from PB&J Boutique
After stopping at West Elm, I visited Anthropologie, but nothing really excited me. I was hoping to find cardigans like this, and I didn't see anything similar. I just discovered Knitted Dove, and I'm so smitten with their elaborately designed, vaguely Art Deco cardigans. I came home, looked online, and discovered that the store next door to Anthropologie does carry Knitted Dove. D'oh. I'll be stopping there soon.
Black and White Anemones
Black and white anemones! Why am I showing you black and white anemones? Because I like them. It's like Andy Warhol and God collaborated. I really, really wish the floral department at Kroger carried them. Kroger? Are you listening?

Edgar Allen Poe's psychedelic nightmare!  Click the link for butterfly templates. 
Whoa. Why am I showing you this riotous cacophony of butterflies à la bibliothèque? Because the image is so arresting! Martha Stewart calls it Halloween decor, but I call it gorgeous. Wouldn't a few of those butterflies look pretty perched on your computer at work, or on the edge of a lampshade, or maybe even on a barettte? The template is online, and free. Click the link--you know you want to!

It was a wonderful Sunday.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Botticelli's Primavera DIY Paint By Number

Happy Friday, y'all! What did you do this week? I made a paint by number template and recreated a small portion of Botticelli's Primavera. It was really easy, and you could do one this weekend.
A lot of people find me here because they searched for paint by number templates, so from now on, I'm going to share my templates with you. Want to paint along with me? Great! Except for carbon paper, all the supplies are available at Michael's, Jo-Ann Fabrics, or any other craft store:

Supply List:
one 8 by 8 inch pre-primed canvas
carbon paper, one colored pencil, tape, and scissors
three paintbrushes (small, smaller, and smallest)
acrylic paint in black, white, red, pale blue, and various browns and beiges

Let's get started!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Modern Floral Upholstery Options

Decisions, decisions! I'm looking for a new fabric to use on the four chairs around my kitchen table, and I'm not sure what to choose. We use these chairs constantly, so they need to be covered in something sturdy, like home decorator or upholstery-weight fabric. This limits my choices and makes shopping a bit easier. I've decided I want a modern, cheery floral on a white background. I'd strongly prefer to incorporate the colors in the living room rug, because the dining area and living room are really one  big open space, and I'd like for things to match.

Tracy in Beachcomber by Richloom
I love this print, but I think the background is too taupe. I want something with a whiter background.
Loulouthi in Tart by Anna Maria Horner
It's velveteen! It would be so fuzzy. I like that.
This one is a strong contender. I LOVE Anna Maria Horner's designs (I used one of her prints
when I upholstered my headboard), and velveteen would be very durable and luxurious.
It's a huge print, so not all the chairs would look identical, and I like that.
Cevennes in River by Richloom
I love anemones and the white background. This is also a strong contender.
But I'm not famiilar with Richloom. Can anyone vouch for their fabrics' durability?
Amelia in Graffiti
This one is just fun. Rainbow anemones? Yay! I also like that it has the same shades of plum and raspberry red
that are in the living room rug. Again, I don't know the manufacturer, though, so I don't trust the quality.
Santa Maria in Gem by Waverly
I love these colors, but the print isn't my favorite. It's a structured damask, and I want a more playful floral.
But it's Waverly, and I trust that name. Their fabrics are high-quality. I know it would be durable.

What do you think? Vote!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Kitchen Table Makeover - Stripping and Refinishing Wood Furniture. Or, Why Minwax Polyshades Sucks.

What do you do when you have a high-quality piece of vintage hardwood furniture that doesn't really match your decor, but any cool looking replacement you might buy would be a wobbly piece of garbage? That was my dilemma. My Heywood-Wakefield kitchen table is built like a tank. But the light finish didn't match my furniture, and those turned legs aren't my style. I prefer cleaner lines.

Still, I'm fond of the table. My mother found it at Southern Thrift in 2007, disassembled and looking pathetic with its legs painted red (!). Mom saw the Hey-Wake stamp on the underside and said quietly through her teeth so our competitors the other shoppers wouldn't hear, "You. Want. This." I bought it and spent hours restoring the tabletop and painted the legs black, hoping the dark paint would make them disappear.
Black is supposed to be slimming, right? Black pants are supposed to make thick thighs look less prominent. But black paint doesn't make table legs disappear... especially not against a very pale gray background. Oops! After I painted my walls, it was time to do something about the table. I'd love to replace it with a Saarinen Tulip Table, but hahaha, yeah right. That's not gonna happen! IKEA and CB2 make affordable Tulip Table knockoffs, but the reviews aren't great, and a wobbly table would drive me crazy. So I spent last week making over my table. Inspired by this and this, I set out to paint the legs white and put a dark finish on the tabletop.

For a step-by-step guide to the refinishing process, along with advice about which products to use and which to avoid, keep reading...

I feel like the caption should say INGERDIENTS FOR CANCER RECIPE. This stuff was pretty nasty.
Day One: I used Citristrip paint stripping gel to remove the original finish. Citristrip claims to smell like oranges. For two minutes, it smelled like nuclear-strength Tang. After that, it smelled like paint stripper mixed with sewer gas. But it worked! Thirty minutes after I applied Citristrip, the original finish scraped off easily with a plastic putty knife.
This project required me to say ridiculous things like, "Where's the stripper?
 I could've sworn I left the stripper on the floor!"
But in all seriousness, this stuff worked much better than expected.
Day Two:  I removed residue left from the stripping gel with a rag dipped in mineral spirits. Then I applied one coat of Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner to ensure a uniform finish. Half an hour later, I applied a very thin coat of Minwax Polyshades Stain & Polyurethane in One in American Chestnut. This is where the project went downhill. I will never use this product again! When I was shopping for stain, I thought Oh, how nice. They included a polyurethane protectant. Wasn't that sweet?

Not really! I wanted a stain that would allow the natural wood grain to show. This is actually a very thick paint, not a stain.  If you read the fine print, it's a product for lazy people who don't want to strip their furniture first; it can be applied over an existing finish. This mess was as thick as maple syrup, and it was impossible to apply a thin coat smoothly. After one coat it looked bumpy and gross, but I hoped the second coat would smooth things out.

Naked, conditioned wood. Ready for stain!
Day Three: I applied a second coat of Polyshades, and the mess got worse. The more I brushed and tried to blend it, the rougher and nastier it became! I used a thicker coat on the right side of the table, and that looked better. Check out the picture below. You think you're seeing wood grain in that pic? NO. You're seeing brush marks and paint glop. I resolved to start over tomorrow. Than I went to bed cursing Minwax.

Left side: I used a thin coat, worked hard to smooth the finish, and made a huge mess of it.
Right side: I used a thick coat, obscured the natural wood grain, and it was alright.
But I really really hate this stuff, and I'll NEVER use it again. 
Day Four: I grabbed an apron and a face mask and used a random orbital sander to remove the previous night's work. Using power tools while Keith made dinner made me feel like Rosie the Riveter--major fun! I used a coarser 150 grit first, followed by a finer 220. I cleaned the dust off, then applied a slightly thicker coat of Polyshades. A thicker application was easier to blend. Even though it obscured any hint of natural wood, it looked better than the previous night's work.

Hellooooo, table. Nice legs you've got there, Meeeee-OW! Rustoleum High-Gloss Enamel is my FAVORITE.
Day Five: I applied a second coat of Polyshades and painted the legs white with an oil-based, high-gloss Rustoleum enamel. I absolutely LOVE high-gloss Rustoleum. The legs look like porcelain.

Day Six: I applied a second coat of Rustoleum to the legs and did a happydance. Yay! Finished! I still don't like the finish on the tabletop. It looks like I painted my table with pudding. But I do like the colors. The tabletop matches the chairs, the apron and legs match the trim, and everything looks much cleaner and more cohesive. Success. Ish.

Why YES, we DID go all Lady & the Tramp and enjoy
Italian accordion music with our spaghetti. Thanks for asking.
P.S. Since we didn't have a usable kitchen table, we had adorable dinner picnics all week. This part was awesome.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Evoking Faraway Places and Sundrenched Memories... Sea, Field, & Tribe

I just went to the beach last month, and I already want to return to the ocean! So yesterday I was excited to discover sea, field & tribe, a beautiful new blog written by a marine scientist and museum curator living in Puerto Rico. Chelsea's photography is gorgeous, and her etsy shop is chock full of beautiful handmade things that will make you feel like you're on vacation somewhere pristine and wild.

Stock your cabinet of curiosities with seaborne treasures.

handpainted stones

explore and find mixed media art - postcard print

wander first to discover mixed media art - postcard print

painted driftwood wall art
Visit Chelsea's blog, and enjoy her curation of all things sea, field, and tribe.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Book Review: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

I promise, I do read about things besides YA romance and time travel. But it's summer, and right now we need poolside reading and airport books. So for the foreseeable future, it's all YA romance and time travel, all the time! Do you like your time travel with a side of medieval pseudoscience and a heaping helping of secret societies? ME, TOO! So read on.

Here's the premise: For 500 years, time travel has run in Gwen Shepherd's family. Starting around their 16th birthdays, certain members of the family swing through time like pendulums. They use a unique gadget called a chronograph to control when (not where!) they go, because travelling to Plague years is no fun. 

Gwen's prissy cousin Charlotte inherited the time travel gene in their generation. Charlotte's life has been like a weird history/etiquette/fencing bootcamp in preparation for her time traveling activities, but don't feel sorry for Charlotte--she's a bitch with a superiority complex! So Charlotte is due to start hanging out with Marie Antoinette at any moment... but instead, Gwen is the one who falls through time.

Here's where it gets awesome: (also, minor spoiler alert!)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New Gray Dining Room with Behr Silver Screen Paint

I love my new gray walls. On Saturday, my parents helped me paint my dining room and entry hall. The red dining area was dramatic, but what once reminded me of Amelie was beginning to just feel dark and weird. We used BEHR Premium Plus Ultra Paint & Primer In One, in Silver Screen. Doesn't that name sound like Best Paint Ever Hyperbole & Repetition? That's okay, because it is the best. Just two coats covered the red perfectly. It went on thickly but smoothly, cleaned up easily, and dried quickly. I was a Benjamin Moore snob in the past, but I'll definitely use BEHR again.
Paint: BEHR Silver Screen
Elvis Costello Poster: Boss Construction
Table: Heywood Wakefield via Southern Thrift
Wall Unit, Chairs, and Milk Glass: Pre to Post Modern
It's a tricky color to photograph, and the first picture captures the color best. It's a pale, cool bluish-gray. Some of these pictures make it look slightly purple, but it doesn't look that way in person. It's so fresh! I'm excited because it makes my old things look new to me again. Everything pops and looks so clean. And the dining room opens into the living room, and the new color harmonizes with the darker gray in there.

The shelves got a makeover, too. I bought the milk glass a few months ago in an insane thrifting fit, and I never posted pictures because I couldn't make it look right. I kept trying to put it in the wall unit and on the shelves, but it looked wonky. Too much like Mom's china cabinet. I mean... I love you, Mom! But I like this more casual arrangement. Books and a dinosaur conquering Jane Austen make everything better. Oh, and I spray painted that teapot white. I bought it for $3 at the flea market because I liked its shape, but it was a really ugly cream color that clashed with the milk glass. I'm diggin' it in white, though.
Hello, my pretties. I use the term "milk glass" loosely--a lot of these are marked AVON. But aren't they nice?

It's not really this purple. I promise.

The new color makes two design problems painfully obvious: The kitchen table and light fixture have got to go! The light fixture seemed like a good idea five years ago, when I wanted to channel Amelie and hadn't yet honed my taste, but it looks awful with the Danish modern wall unit and chairs. The red paint was so crazy, it sort of hid that, but now the light fixture stands out too much.

And the kitchen table was a good buy ($80 for Heywood-Wakefield?!) when I was a broke grad student and needed a table--any table! But the turned legs and those clashing wood finishes don't look right. It's a shame, because that table is built like a tank. In my dream world, I'd buy a Saarinen Tulip Table for this space, but $1,800?! Dream on. IKEA and CB2 make tulip table knockoffs that look good, but the reviews aren't great. I don't want a wobbly table, or a tabletop that scratches when I just look at it! Do you think painting the legs on this table white and refinishing the tabletop to match the wall unit and chairs would help? I'll probably try it. It can't get much worse!

I think I might reupholster the chairs, too. Even though Apartment Therapy likes my blue velvet chairs, I'm bored with them. This area is looking really masculine, so I want something more girly on the chairs. Perhaps a delicate black floral on a white background? What would you use?
I admit it: The dog crate normally goes under the Elvis Costello poster. THIS IS SO STAGED.
Hey, it's adorable pet time! Stella posed for me while I shot the first few pictures, and when she wandered off, Cadet was like Hey, I'm really cute too! Look at me! and posed in the exact same spot. Who's cuter? VOTE!