Friday, June 28, 2013

DIY It! Turn a Book Into a Remote Control Holder.

Once upon a time, a printing press and a television fell deeply in love... From Country Living
A few weeks ago, I received a message from a stylist at Country Living. Cue a big SQUEEEEE! He had a question about my friend Luke's work, which I'd written about here. I was thrilled that this little ol' blog was promoting a friend's career! But... County Living? REALLY? I never thought that Country Living was something I'd want to read. My mom subscribed to it in the '80s, and I remembered rustic cornhusk dolls, butter churns, and faux finished walls. Ick. But after they contacted me, I took a peek at the magazine, and I loved what I saw. 

The Little House on the Prairie look is gone. Now they ought to call it Awesome Vintage Stuff with Cool Typefaces and Crafts You Can Actually DO magazine. Check out this kitchen... Wow. This weekend I plan to make Country Living's remote control holder project, pictured above. I found a pristine copy of this gorgeous old book on the FREE shelf at the library, and I can't wait to attack it with an X-Acto knife. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Aside from that, I'm looking forward to seeing Monsters University, dining at Firefly, seeing a lot of the lovely ladies listed here, and going to a crawfish cookout. Phew! What are you doing this weekend?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 2013 Ipsy Bag: On the Wild Side

For those of you just tuning in, Ipsy is a beauty subscription service. For $10 a month, Ipsy sends 4 - 5 surprise beauty products to your door in a cute cosmetics bag. They even mail it in a shiny hot pink envelope! Seeing that envelope in my mailbox always makes me dance around like a little kid. If you don't want to get in a beauty rut, Ipsy is for you.


It's Ipsy bag time! This month's review is late, because honestly, I wasn't sure what to do with some of this stuff. This bag's theme is "On the Wild Side." I suppose I"m not wild enough, because I have no clue what to do with false eyelashes and body glitter! The value breakdown is very good, though. Take a look:

NYX Rouge Cream Blush in Natural: $6.00
Chella Ivory Lace Highlighter Pencil: $18.00
J. Cat Beauty false eyelashes: $3.99
J. Cat Sparkling Cream Palette in Volta: $4.49
Starlooks lip pencil in Tipsy: $12.00

TOTAL VALUE: $44.48
Ipsy Price: $10.00

Ipsy recently started customizing the items in our bags bags using our beauty quiz results. Three items in this month's bag were sent to all subscribers, and two items were matched to us based on our personal preferences. They still have a long way to go, but I can see what they were trying to do.

All Ipsy subscribers received a NYX blush, and they chose a color for us based on our quiz results. The cream blush I got is very blendable and delivers a subtle, natural-looking flush. It might be too subtle for some makeup lovers, but I like it precisely because of its subtlety. Lately I've been wearing highly pigmented Be a Bombshell blushes, and I needed something more natural-looking.

All subscribers also got a Starlooks lip pencil. The product itself has a creamy formula that applies smoothly and is long-lasting. Unfortunately, the pale coral color is too bright and light for my skin tone. It makes me look like a child playing dress-up with Mommy's makeup! I wish I could wear this, but I can't.

Finally, all subscribers received a body glitter palette from J. Cat Beauty. This is the big WTF item. It's basically Vaseline with big chunks of glitter in it. REALLY? I don't know any post-college, adult woman who would wear this, except perhaps on Halloween. Or if she was a burlesque dancer. Which I am NOT. It might be pretty on the eyes at parties, but the online warnings explicitly say not to use it in the eye area. This is useless.

Ipsy sent me a Chella highlighter pencil based on my quiz results, and I love this. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I've used it every day since I received it, and I'll buy another when it runs out. Swipe it on your waterline, at the inner corners of your eye, and directly below your brows. It does what Benefit products promise to do: It makes you look better without making you look like you're wearing a ton of makeup. People will ask if you got a fantastic night of sleep, or if you just fell in love!

Finally, I got a set of false eyelashes. Really? Really? I subscribed to Ipsy to get out of my comfort zone beauty rut, and ohboy, this item does precisely that. I'm not opposed to wearing them, but I haven't had the right occasion yet, so I can't comment on their quality. However, I do know that the eyelash adhesive is black--and I love that. I've used fake eyelashes with thick white glue that did not dry invisibly, and it looked like eye boogers. EW. I imagine that this will make you look like you're wearing black liquid liner. WIN!

This isn't the best bag I ever received, and none of the brands stood out to me, but I'm wearing the blush regularly, and I REALLY love the Chella highlighter. Ipsy received a lot of flack on the forums for the trashy body glitter, so I don't think we'll be getting anything like that again--thank goodness!  Overall, I think Ipsy is just going to keep getting better. What did you get in your bag this month?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How to Make Felt Flowers on Stems for Bouquets


Tired of flowers that wilt before you've enjoyed them? Looking for a cheap alternative wedding bouquet or a bunch of flowers that perfectly matches your decor? Make these! Seriously. They're fun to make, people ooh and aah over them, and they never die. I did this to make my wedding bouquets, and I'm not even going to be modest: I love them. A lot of people have asked how I attached the stems to the flowers, so I'm sharing step by step instructions here. I know there are lots of DIY felt flower instructions online, but I couldn't find my method for attaching stems anywhere else, so I figured it was worth sharing.


You'll need:
felt
scissors
wine (optional!)
pre-cut floral stems
small roundnose pliers
glue gun and glue sticks
the straight, sharp tool in a pick set (this is the secret weapon!)

First, let's make flowers! 

1. Cut a circle the size of a dinner plate out of felt. Easy, right?

2. Cut a spiral into the felt. When you're done, it should look like a snail shell. Take an optional sip of that optional wine.

3. Cut a scalloped shape along the outer edge of your spiral. These will be your rose petals. Don't worry about making them identical. It looks more natural when there is some variation in the petal shapes.

4. Roll up your spiral from the outside in, gluing along the bottom edge as you work to hold the flower together. I like to squeeze out a 3 - 4 inch line of glue, roll, and continue. Picture 4 shows the beginning of the process.

5. Keep going! In picture 5, the rose is about halfway finished.

6. When you come to the end of the spiral, the underside of your rose should look like this. You'll have a rose with a round flap at the end. This is a good time for an optional wine break.

7. Cover the underside of the rose with hot glue. You're almost finished.

8. Press the round flap into the glue to hold your rose together. Good job!
That's pretty, but you're not done yet. Do you need a refill? Okay, go pour more wine. Now let's attach the stem.

1. Assemble your supplies. You'll need a felt rose, small roundnose pliers, a pre-cut floral stem, a glue gun, scissors, and some felt scraps.

2. Grasp the end of the floral stem with pliers and bend the end of the stem into a circle.

3. This is the special step that makes these flowers so much easier than all the similar projects I've seen online. Are you ready? Check it out: Take the sharp, pointy tool and poke a hole through the center of the rose. And don't stab yourself. Hint: This step does NOT work well if the glue you used to glue the rose together is still warm and gooey. Take a wine break. Wait until the rose cools.

4. Now slide the wire through the hole. The round, bent end of the wire should hold it in place.

5. It should look like this. It ain't pretty, but that wire isn't going to fall through the end of the rose.

6. Let's make it pretty! Take a scrap of felt and cut it into a 2 inch long strip. Squeeze a thin line of glue down its length.

7. Roll it up into a cute little felt Cinnabon, like so.

8. Glue the little felt roll into the center of the rose to cover the ugly wire. God job, you're done! Gee whiz, that's pretty.

Here's where it gets really fun: You can use these instructions to add stems to all kinds of felt flowers, not just roses. Craft Snob's felt flower tutorials are some of my favorites. I especially like her felt chrysanthemums. I got crazy and designed some of my own felt flowers, and then used this stem attaching method to make the bouquet you see here.


I know you're probably thinking Um, Jen, no offense but I'm not so sure about that crazy pokey tool. Just trust me! If you plan to make a lot of flowers (like, enough for a whole bouquet), the tool makes the work so much simpler. And it makes the roses look much more professional and streamlined, with no weird bumpy places on the outside of the flower where the stem is attached with glue, floral tape, and who knows what else. I'm really glad I invested in this tool stole this weird little thing out of Keith's toolbox.

I hope these instructions helped you. Now I need your help! Please let me know if anything you see here doesn't make sense. Even if you're just browsing the instructions and not actually making any flowers, I appreciate your input. I'm teaching a class on this at my library in August, and I'm a little nervous about it. Your feedback will help make the class better.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dinosaurs! Pegasus! Bright Ideas! Decomposition Books.

Keith and I went to Parnassus Books on Saturday to pick up our copies of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Yes, I finally have my hands on the new Neil Gaiman novel, YAY! While we were there, I spotted the gorgeous Decomposition Books line of notebooks from Michael Roger Press. If you're an old-fashioned type who likes to jot notes and actually write your to-do lists, these are notebooks you can feel good about using. They're made of 100% post-consumer recycled paper processed without chlorine and printed with soy ink, so you can recycle them again. Aren't they beautiful? Which one is your favorite?
RAWR!!!
Last weekend was so good. Can I tell you about it?

In no particular order:
1. Not one, but two beet and goat cheese salads
2. A snake in the water!
3. The Princess Bride
4. Swimming! But not swimming with a snake.
5. One very obscene birthday cake: "Oh my God, there's a penis on it!"
6. Cards Against Humanity and many growlers from Kay-Bob's
7. Sipping lemonade and admiring the supermoon as it rose over the lake
8. Running away from the water snake like a little girl. AHHHHHH!
9. Finding a fancy, unused calligraphy set and book at McKay's for $8.00. WIN!
10. Keith's family, my family, and some of my oldest and best friends

I'm happy about that calligraphy set. When I was a kid, someone gave me a calligraphy set for Christmas.  My Grandma said, "You can practice addressing your wedding invitations!" Umm, I was eight years old, so I was a huge brat and laughed at her. Sorry, Grandma! Later, though, I sat down and taught myself the basic calligraphy alphabet. I liked it, and I hope I can pick it up again in time to actually do what Grandma said. You win, Grandma!

Now I'm happy, tired, and about to immerse myself in The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Bye!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Review: The Elite by Kiera Cass


The second book in Kiera Cass's Selection trilogy is out! These books have a such crazy premise: Imagine if The Bachelor took place in a futuristic dystoipia with a strict numbered caste system, and the girls weren't just competing for roses--they were competing for a prince and a crown. It sounds silly, but it's so much fun. I was so excited to read The Elite; I checked our library's catalog every day between its release date and the day it finally was added to our collection. Obsessive, me? Noooooo, not at all. Hey, look over there at the distracting thing!

The Elite begins with six girls remaining in the competition. Our heroine, America Singer (yeah, the name makes me wince, too), has finally decided that she does indeed like Prince Maxon. Despite his title, he's a sweet, humble guy with an endearing sense of humor. Because duh, princes are perfect. But America still pines for Aspen, her ex-boyfriend. After America entered the Selection, Aspen joined the military. Coincidentally, he's now a palace guard, and he guards her bedroom door. Uh-oh!

Just like the first book, this novel is chock full of palace intrigue, petty catfights, and adorable dialogue between America and Maxon. But in the second installment of the series, it gets real. One of the Selected girls undergoes a shockingly brutal punishment for breaking the rules. Violent rebels break into the palace repeatedly. America ponders what it means to be a princess, and whether she is up to the challenge. And then she gets moody, because Waaaaaaah! She can't decide between Maxon and Aspen. That's the weakest part of the story. Spoilers ahead.



No, really. Spoilers ahead! Are you sure you want to keep reading?



In my mind, Maxon is the better guy by default, because Aspen sucks. Here's a newsflash, ladies: If a guy puts your life at risk, that's not romantic. Are ya with me? Aspen is reckless and selfish. He's come a long way since he was in the lowly sixth caste, but he still has a chip on his shoulder. I think he's locked in a petty ego battle, and he loves his pride more than he loves America. If he really loved her, he wouldn't arrange foolish little trysts that literally put her life in danger

Every time America met up with Aspen in some quiet corner of the castle, I wanted to throw the book across the room and yell, "Don't do it, girl! Don't do it!" Meanwhile, good, smart Maxon sees that America isn't 100% gung-ho about him, so he's beginning to consider marrying one of the other girls. But we all know that he loved America first and loves her best, so no worries there. Yawn.

Despite the weak love triangle, I'm eager to read the next book for one huge reason: There were some tantalizing hints that outside the castle, America has become a folk hero, and at least one of the rebel factions attacking the castle reveres her. WHAT?! I hope the last book, The One, is less about the love triangle and more of a thoughtful exploration of royalty. 

I hope it explores the function of people who serve as symbols in their societies. Royals are largely symbolic, and their function is ceremonial, but royalty endures. Why? In a Jungian sense, why are kings, princesses, and so on important to people? What need do they fill in a society?  Why did I get misty-eyed when I watched Kate Middleton marry Prince William? And oh my God, why did one of the rebels drop into a curtsy when she saw America? I must know!! Unfortunately, I'll be waiting a while. The One doesn't come out until Spring 2014.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Quite Contrary - How Does Your Garden Grow? Wedding Flowers That Aren't.

Wedding, wedding, wedding. Just when all the planning started to feel overwhelming and scary, it got fun again. Yesterday I met with my florist, Elaine McCord. Even though I'm making bouquets for me and the bridesmaids, I need some help with centerpieces. Elaine is even going to use some of my felt flowers in the centerpieces to bring it all together--how cool is that?! To be honest, I'm not crazy about big bunches of froufrou flowers, but I love fiddlehead, lotus seed pods, and lamb's ear. Yes, those are their actual names! Now that I've seen them, I'm excited about our floral arrangements. I feel so contrary; my favorite flowers aren't flowers!

Whether you call them fern curls, fiddleheads, or monkey tails, they remind me of Tim Burton.
And I find them quite compelling. As seen at the Chicago Bridal Fair.
Frosty succulents juxtaposed with dark, woody lotus seed pods arranged by Selena Bond, as seen on Ruffled.
Velvety lamb's ear leaves and berries arranged by European Flower Shop, as seen on Style Me Pretty.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pretty Papers for Ladies in Love

It's finally happened: I've reached my wedding planning threshold. There are simply too many options! The choices are dizzying, and they eventually become paralyzing. It's true that people react poorly when they have too many choices, and this fascinating article describes the phenomenon: "Overabundance of choice seemed to freeze shoppers' decision-making skills... Your search for the better might be making your life worse."

The article focuses mostly on dating, and I'm not interested in searching for a man other than Keith. But my search for wedding invitations needs to end now--it's only making me crazy! I love the idea of purchasing a customized suite of coordinated designs for paper goods--from invitations, to programs, to thank you notes--having them printed locally, and assembling the invitations myself. Your paper goods can be as luxurious or as economical as you like, depending on your choice of paper and printing methods! 

My jaw literally dropped when I saw the Vintage Botanical Wedding Invitation by 3EggsDesign
The Botanical Bird Wedding Invitation set by 3EggsDesign is just as good, though! How's a bride to decide?
The Rustic Bird Wedding Invitation by KayleighDuMond is perfect for those who want a simpler, more modern option.
Not getting married? Who cares! Buy a year of pretty cards from KayleighDuMond.
I think we're actually going to choose a simpler design and dress it up with some DIY touches. But I love these botanical illustrations so much--I'd like to frame them and hang them on my wall. But enough about wedding invitations, right? How was your weekend? 

I think I gained 10 pounds in three days, and I don't even care because I feel so happy and loved. Keith treated me to a luxurious date night at Table 3 on Friday. Their pink starfish cocktail tastes like a mermaid's kiss--it's so salty and strange! I love it. Then my entire family got together for my sister's birthday celebration at Etch and a walk on the Shelby Street Bridge on Saturday. And on Sunday, we had a Father's Day get-together at the lake house with mountains of hot chicken from Hattie B's and a few sidesplitting games of Exquisite Corpse. Last week I was a frazzled ball of wedding planning nerves. But after all the hugs and kind words shared over the weekend, I can't stop smiling! It was so hard to say goodbye to my sisters today.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wedding Planing Update. Bridesmaid Dresses: Check!

This is what I thought my wedding party would look like. Minus, you know, the me being Christina Hendricks part:
Christina Hendricks and Bridesmaids, as seen on Elegance & Simplicity
Or perhaps this (minus the whole yellow floral thing):
Mismatched maids, as seen at Belle
Basically, I envisioned an eclectic mix of dresses. I wanted our wedding to be an excuse for my favorite women to buy themselves an awesome new dress they like (within a certain color family), not a reason for me to dictate their clothing choices. I feel super-weird about telling my friends what to wear. And generally, I don't like matching bridesmaid dresses because I don't feel good about grown-ass women wearing the same dress. Women don't like showing up to a party in the same dress as some other chick, period. But my girls had other ideas!
Bridesmaids in pretty neutrals, as seen on Style Me Pretty
Five of my six 'maids, my mother, and I went to Bridal Warehouse on Saturday. I wanted the girls to wear shorter hemlines and dresses in a certain color family. Other than that, anything was okay with me. Chiffon? Sure! Lace! Cool. Satin? Yep. They pulled armloads of dresses they liked and headed to the dressing rooms. The fashion show was fun. My friends and sisters are so pretty!
I love these soft, sweetly mismatched colors! As seen on Style Me Pretty
Unfortunately, Bridal Warehouse mostly stocks a weird and limited number of sample sizes. If you want to shop there, keep that in mind. It was difficult to imagine what some of the dresses might look like in the proper size, because they were so very, very off. Until, that is, Stephanie came out of her dressing room wearing The Dress and announced, "I'm wearing this!" It was so flattering, everyone wanted to try it. The Dress came in a size that somehow fit everyone, and it made all my girls look beautiful. They wanted the same dress.
Is that Jessica Alba in the wedding party? Whoa! As seen on Belle.
What was a bride to do? Throw a fit and say, "But I imagined that you would all want different dresses, waaaaaah!" Um, no. I wanted this to be an excuse for them to buy any dress they liked--and they all happened to love the same dress. It's a fantastic, dress, too: Lauren says, "It makes me feel like Audrey Hepburn on a boat." Um, who doesn't want to feel like Audrey Hepburn on a boat?!
Swoon! As seen on Belle.
Since they knew I craved variety, we picked two almost-the-same colors. Three girls will wear the greenish version of The Dress, and three girls will wear the bluish version. We're going to look less like the other pictures, and more like this. And my mother is so relieved!!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

You'll Never Forget an Experience at the Catbird Seat.

Presentation matters! I love this little guy's 5 o'clock shadow.
19th century Rabbit soup tureen from 1st dibs
Today I have no words. No words, that is, to describe our extraordinary dinner experience at the Catbird Seat. My beautiful sister, Erin, is visiting Nashville from Hong Kong, and on Monday night she treated our family to the best dining experience I've ever had. I want to do the meal justice. But unlike Old Red Boots, I'm not a food blogger, and I don't think my culinary vocabulary is up to the challenge! 

Each course was a delicious surprise: We had two appetizer courses, soup, monk fish, duck, lamb, something that tasted like a tiny Reuben, and three (!) desserts. But that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the experience. The chefs' attention to detail, thoughtful combinations of textures and flavors, and playful wit (Porcini and Parmesan savory Oreos!) elevate food to art.

I asked so many times, "This is really potato? How did they make potato DO that?!" We're still talking about the experience and trying to decide which course was the best. I think dining at Catbird changes one's approach to food; two days later, I'm looking at food differently and experiencing each meal more thoughtfully. Erin, thank you so much for making this dinner possible--you have no idea how much it meant to us!

What is the best meal you ever had? And if you've  been to the Catbird, a) what did they serve that night, and b) Did you frame your menu? I'm seriously thinking about framing it and hanging it in our kitchen!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dramatic, Moody Rooms Full of Glamour and Elegance

How was your weekend? Mine was a whirlwind: I caught a loud, crazy show at the Springwater on Friday with Keith. It was a night of friends, spilled beer, and laughter. On Saturday, I met up with my five of my six bridesmaids to shop for their dresses. I was so thrilled to see my sisters--it's rare that we're all on the same continent, let alone in the same place! Our shopping trip didn't turn out the way I expected, but I love what the girls chose. I'll tell you more about it later--promise! On Sunday, I worked on a knitting project, walked the pups through a dazzling cloud of fireflies, and admired the dark, elegant work of interior designer Todd Yoggy. Look!

Oak Lane home: Distressed leather, dark wood fireplace, and bottle green draperies.

Oak Lane home: Bottle green walls, velvet sofa, and crisp white trim.

Oak Lane home: White matelasse bedspread, black lampshades, and stark black and white contrast.
On the surface, it's not the most, um, attainable look. But there are so many things here that even budget-conscious decorators can do. It would be easy to channel this glamorous look with bottle green or bright white paint and a bit of animal print or velvet. Switching white curtains for dark, dramatic draperies isn't hard. Changing out beige lampshades in favor of black ones, or adding a finial to a lamp, wouldn't be very difficult. And most of us hang our art in intentional disarray. But hanging it in neatly aligned rows with matching frames looks so classic (and it would probably be much simpler). What do you think of these rooms? Are they too dark and somber? Or do you like a traditional look with a touch of moodiness?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Thrift Store WIN: Curtis Jere Raindrops Wall Sculpture

Curtis Jere raindrops wall sculpture, as seen on Freshome
I don't post very often about thrift store finds. Most of my thrifting posts would sound like this: "I bought a white plate because I broke a white plate last week. Here is the white plate I bought. How thrilling." It's not that I don't thrift; it's that I rarely buy anything very exciting. My mother, on the other hand, is the queen of exciting thrifting. She's always finding Waterford crystal and high-end furniture. But yesterday's find is her crown jewel!

Yesterday I received an unexpected call from my mother. "Jen? You know those Curtis Jere wall sculptures you like? I think I just found one at a thrift store. It has the C. Jere signature on it. But I don't love it, and it's $59. I don't want to buy it unless it's something really special." I congratulated her, but cautiously. I didn't want to get my hopes up. "I can tell you what it is. Send me a picture?" 

Curtis Jere, or C. Jere, is the name signed to the metal wall sculptures made by Artisan House. Their iconic work in the 60s and 70s is now very collectible, and you often see it on Mad Men and in movies.  I'm just a little obsessed with the older C. Jere sculptures, but I like certain pieces much better than others. "Raindrops" is probably their most iconic and desirable work. Raindrops was reissued by Jonathan Adler in 2007, and these reproductions sell for $1,800.
My phone beeped, and I saw a photo of the C. Jere signature on a shiny silver disc. Could it be? I called to Keith, "Guess what! Mom found a Curtis Jere sculpture. I just saw a picture of the signature. She's sending me another picture of it... wait, hold on... OH MY GOD IT'S RAINDROPS!!! HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!!! Keith, I think Raindrops sells on eBay for, like, thousands of dollars!"

Keith popped his head in the room. He was holding his phone, and he said, "Actually, it's priced between $4,000 and $7,500, depending on the size and condition. How big is it?" Ha. Keith, you're a know it all. I don't like to get too hung up on the prices I see online. Just because someone online is asking that price, it doesn't mean anyone will actually pay it. But this is an incredible find. Mama done good, y'all. Mama done REAL good.


After work I went to her house to admire it. I've never seen a Raindrops sculpture in person until now, and it's gorgeous. It catches the light from all angles, and photos don't do it justice. Also, it's HUGE. Just look! Okay, I'm only 5'4, so maybe it's not that big. But it fills the space over a sofa perfectly. Congratulations on the find of a lifetime, Mom! And hey, if you're reading this, I heard that you and Dad don't actually like the way it looks. If that's the case, I'll be glad to, um, store it for you. On my living room wall. My own Jere is lonely; I think it needs a friend. *grin*

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

You think YOU had identity problems in high school? You didn't have anything on Max.
(vintage hand mirror from LilyPieVintagex on Etsy)
I've never read anything like Golden Boy, and I don't think I'll ever forget this story. Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin is about gender, ambiguity, and secrets. It's about the discomfort some people feel when they can’t neatly categorize others, and the damage well-meaning parents can do when their "help" becomes invasive and inappropriate. It just came out a few weeks ago, and it will probably be controversial, but it's an excellent story.

Sixteen year old Max Walker is popular, athletic, and attractive. Teachers and girls love him, and his mother thinks of him as her perfect angel. But Max’s family is hiding a secret: Max is intersex. Strictly speaking, he isn’t biologically male or female. But Max identifies as a boy and he likes girls, so his parents raised him as a son. When Max was born, his parents couldn't agree on a course of treatment, so they did nothing. The Walkers seem to think they can make Max’s condition go away if they simply ignore it. But Max's secret has been ignored too long, and it comes to the surface in a terrible way. The book begins with a bombshell. One shocking event creates a long list of questions and a twist that I really didn't see coming. At its heart, it's a coming of age story, but it has the tension of a mystery novel. I could not put this book down.

Max, his mother, his brother, his doctor, his girlfriend, and his father take turns telling the story from their own points of view. I was impressed, because each character's voice is believable. Max's unnaturally logical, robot-obsessed 10 year old brother is especially funny.

This is Abigail Tarttelin's first novel, and it's so good that I can only think these small criticisms: She always shows that characters are nervous by making them blush or chew on things, and it gets distracting. And the doctor is a flat character that exists only to impart medical information. She sometimes sounds like Wikipedia, not an actual person.

But my complaints are small, and I'm so impressed by Tarttelin's multifaceted approach to the story. She shows the many ways that the secret and all its ensuing fallout affects the entire family, not just Max. At the end, though, my favorite thing about this book is that  Max isn't the problem; the secret is the problem.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Balcony Makeover: Before and After. The Stage is Set. Romeo, I'm Ready for the Balcony Scene!



Do you have a place where you pile all your junk, close the door, and pretend it's all disappeared? For me, that place is was my balcony. Last month I looked at our balcony from the outside and thought The HOA could probably fine me for that mess. It was piled high with tools, littered with remnants from old spray painting projects, and topped with towels hung out to dry and then forgotten. The flowerpots had nothing growing in them but weeds, and the string lights were too far from the outlet to plug in. Classy!
A thorough cleaning, freshly planted petunias, hand-sewn bunting and chair cushions, and a splurge--a Safavieh rug--make a huge difference. I can't do anything about the air conditioning unit on the balcony, I'm afraid, and the varnish stains under the table are sadly permanent. But now when I drive home, I look forward to relaxing outside after work with a book and glass of wine. And I'm not dreading an assessment from the HOA anymore. I considered spray painting the chairs, but I couldn't commit to a color. What do you think?

For more before and after excitement, check these out: 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Wall Sconces? How Electrifying.

So last night, Keith and I were walking the dogs while I chattered about my bedroom redecorating project: "Tomorrow I'm going to buy paint samples and fabric. I wish we could install wall sconces in the bedroom. There are outlets on each side of the bed, but I don't like the sconces with cords the hang down the wall." Keith says, "Since there are outlets right there, I could install real, hardwired sconces." UM, WHAT?!

I was incredulous. "You can install sconces?" He shrugged, as if we were discussing a simple task like, I dunno, tying shoelaces or boiling water. "Yeah, I can do that." I should have known this about Keith: He designs circuits for fun. Still, I was so impressed. Wall sconces, here I come! I love these sconce-bedecked bedrooms, and I'm hoping to do something similar.

I love the neutral colors, matelasse bedspread, and subtle blush color on the walls.
It's a little fussy, though. I'd like to add a skull or something playful to punch it up. From Houzz.
I love the black and white floral on the walls and pillows! This easily could've become
grandmotherly, but the graphic letter C and the owl doll keep it fresh.  From Houzz.
I love the stark contrast, moody painting, statement chandelier, and ruffled pillowcases.
This is the sort of room I admire but could never recreate, because I don't have this much
restraint when it comes to color. But oh, I love it. From Houzz
I prefer adjustable, swing-arm sconces. And that's not just because they're called library sconces! Ideally, I'd like something in oil-rubbed bronze with a vintage-industrial look and accordion-folding arms. But first, paint! And then reupholstering the headboard, re-covering the pillows, and editing all the stuff in there. Ugh, so much stuff.

Discovering Keith's secret identity as an electrician wasn't the only great thing about the weekend: On Friday, Keith treated me to a delicious dinner at Silly Goose. Their honey beet ice cream is incredible, so earthy and sweet. On Saturday, I got up early to lazily float down the Duck river with beer in hand kayak down the richest river in varieties of freshwater animals on the North American continent. That sounds really pretentious, so let's not attibute those words to me. Let's attribute them to The Nature Conservancy! Even though we got caught in rain for the last 15 or so minutes of the day, I came home blissed out on sunshine and friends, and ready to begin new creative projects.