end of the month review: may

May was such a great month! I continued getting settled in Chicago and entered my apartment in the Small Cool Spaces contest. I started a podcast with Jewels of Oven Lovin’. I had a fantastic vacation over Memorial Day, and I read some great books. The top viewed posts of May are:

living room #smallcool Continue reading

what’s in your beach bag?

beach bag from target

I am still recovering from Memorial Day weekend. I went to Michigan and spent some glorious time by the lake and pool. My beach bag is from Target, and it’s sort of a rubbery material that’s very easy to clean. But the best part of a beach bag (besides going to the beach) is what’s inside.

what's in your beach bag

I have a water bottle (gotta stay hydrated!), my sunglasses case, my kindle for some heavy reading and comic books for light reading, my nerd pouch (it’s filled with chapstick, money, my phone, and any other small things I might need), my cool microfiber cloth that cleans my glasses, an extra hair elastic, and of course, sunscreen.

What do you keep in your beach bag? Am I missing anything? It’s too bad I didn’t remember to take these pictures while I was at the beach. Guess I’ll have to go back.

 

my small cool space 2014

rae's small cool space #smallcool

As I did last year and in 2011, I entered Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool Spaces Contest. I think I’ve stepped up my game this year, and I’m so glad it’s ready to show off. If you have a minute, step over to the contest page and vote for me! (You know, if you feel like it.) I believe you have to register for Apartment Therapy, but it is free.

This is one of my favorite times of the year on the Internet. It’s so fun to see all these different homes and how they are designed. I really really enjoy checking it out. And I also enjoy sharing my own home.

living room #smallcool

This is the other side of the living room, across from the couch. I love having my pictures framed and on the wall. Each year I try to make my apartment a bit more grown up, and having things framed and properly on the wall definitely was a step in that direction for me. Things can absolutely look sophisticated and nice without a frame–I just couldn’t figure how to do that in this space.

I am also pretty excited about this big fake tree I have in the corner. I think it looks pretty good and not too fake, and it’s safer for #fatcat because he tends to eat real plants.

craft space #smallcool

This is my sewing area, which you’ve seen before. I added an embroidery, and of course you can see the lamp and pictures on the wall next to it. It leads to my kitchen and dining area.

dining room #smallcool

Which I love. It of course has the table and chairs that I redid and the mirror that I spray painted. I like the bright primary colors, it’s just a happy space. But my favorite detail might be the shark coming out of the kitchen table. (It’s a piggy bank I got from Target. To put money in, you have to reach into the shark’s mouth.)

bedroom #smallcool

I really like my bedroom in this apartment. It’s got great windows and a ceiling fan. I have a new headboard, which also feels more grown up to me. And I really like having the shutters and mirrors on the side of the bed.

bedroom #smallcool

There’s room for a few dressers, and the jewelry rack I made by painting another one of those wooden racks–the same kind you see in the sewing area.

There’s still projects that I want to do, but I’m really excited for my apartment. I like spending time here, and I can’t wait to have people over. It makes me really proud to come home to something that I love and a space I created (with lots of help, of course). Don’t forget to stop by the Small Cool Contest!

to do lists of the semi-adult podcast: episode 1

the to do lists of the semi adult

I have exciting news–me and my great friend Jewels of Oven Lovin’ have started a podcast! You know that feeling of not knowing what you’re doing, or like you’re a great pretender at being an adult? Us, too. Which is what we’ll talk about, among other things, every other Wednesday starting today on the To Do Lists of the Semi-Adult Podcast. You can catch new episodes on my podcast page, and we’ll be on iTunes and Stitcher very soon.

We will talk about a lot of things, like our day jobs, blog life, food, relationships, decorating, books, crafts, and fashion. Check it out and let us know what you think! You can listen to the first episode right here:

Episode 1.

In this episode, we talk about: moving tips and tricks, fun movie theaters (Music Box in Chicago, Ragtag in Columbia, Mo., D-box seats), decorating on Rae’s instagram, Emily Henderson’s interior design blog, decorating ideas on Jewels’ pinterest and Rae’s pinterest, painting tips for furniture and spray paint, Apartment Therapy’s Small Cool Spaces contestRae’s GoodreadsJewels’ GoodreadsAuthority by Jeff VanderMeer, and every book by Joshua Ferris (Then We Came to the EndThe UnnamedTo Rise Again at a Decent Hour)

interview with courtney hamilton, author of almost royalty

almost royalty

Almost Royalty is a really fun read about some really terrible people (and a few good ones). Courtney, the main character, is a witty narrator who prefers Velveeta to caviar and struggles with finding her place in a very complicated social landscape in L.A. Author Courtney Hamilton is so nice and funny and was able to answer some questions on where she got inspiration for these terrible dates, her favorite Velveeta recipe and more. Almost Royalty comes out May 28 and you can find it on Amazon. Thanks for talking with me, Courtney!

Before I ask you about the story: What has been your favorite part of the process of going from idea to finished book?
My favorite part of the writing process was that by creating this story, I was able to synthesize many ideas that have floated around my head and give them a cohesive framework. By writing “Almost Royalty,” I think I explained to myself what my subconscious was trying to tell me, which was: GET AWAY FROM THESE PEOPLE!!!!

What surprised you about writing the book?
I was surprised that I actually have a great time when I’m writing. I’m in the middle of writing Almost Royalty Book #2, and when I actually stop procrastinating and do it, I usually have a good time and laugh a lot.

I have to ask, what’s your favorite Velveeta recipe?
Velveeta Junior Pizza–you take a slice of bread, put some cut tomato slices on it, and put Velveeta slices over the tomatoes which you then place in a toaster oven or microwave, or whatever you use to melt cheese with. The Velveeta melts on the tomatoes–it tastes great. I also really like the Velveeta Chicken which I mention in Chapter 3. Unfortunately, we are on somewhat of a health kick in my household, so I’m not allowed to eat cheese-type foods too often, make that ever. BTW, it might interest you to know that some people have refused to read the book because Courtney eats Velveeta. I’m not kidding.

You share a name with the main character–how much of Almost Royalty, if any, was autobiographical?
I seem to be a magnet for insane people and outrageously bad behavior so a good portion of “Almost Royalty” was drawn from my real life.

Courtney went out with a lot of … interesting men. Were any of the terrible dates from real life inspiration–and can you tell us which ones?
L.A. is a very tough town for dating, so–as bad as many of the dates I describe are–they’re a fairly typical blend of what people experience when they date in L.A. Parts of almost every date I describe have happened to me. But honestly, the interesting thing about writing the book is the amount of people who have told me their bad date experiences. Some of them are so awful that the make mine look like a lovely picnic (with Velveeta) in an Alpine Meadow filled with wild flowers–they’re enough to make you decide that you will never, ever, attempt to meet another person. Which reminds me: In honor of the Official Publication Date of “Almost Royalty,” we are going to hold a “Describe Your Worst Date Ever” Contest starting on June 1, 2014. The top 3 winners will receive a signed, publication copy of “Almost Royalty”, a $10 Amazon Gift Card, and have their description of their “Worst Date Ever” featured on my blog, FB page, and Goodreads.com post.

Courtney’s home is styled a lot differently than the homes of the Ivy Elite. I especially liked the bright orange bean bag chairs at an Ivy Elite book club and the bathtub in the back yard garden, none of which you’d find in Courtney’s home. How do you think the decor added to the idea of being part of the elite?
The “Elite” home described in the Prologue was the home of a true B-Level, sort of the aspiring or true “almost royalty”– so they’ve pretty much overbought on their home and are in a cash-poor position. Courtney doesn’t really care about those things, so–when she visits their home, it’s as if she’s an anthropologist, trying to understand how this strange tribe lives. She’s not at all impressed with them and stunned that her friends are.

A big theme in the book is wanting to keep up appearances, often leading the characters to spend money they don’t have. Do you think “keeping up appearances” has been influenced by the recession, do people act the same way today?
I think that there will always be people who care about “keeping up appearances,” even if we are in the middle of a dystopic melt-down, and by that I mean something straight out of a zombie-filled future like “The Walking Dead.” Someone will always be creating some ridiculous hierarchy by which to compare themselves favorably to others, even if it’s “See, only the really good-looking Zombies try to eat me, but you get all of the scruffy ones” or “They gave me the large bomb shelter to live in, but you only got a medium.”

How has working in Hollywood influenced your story and characters?
I think that my stories have been influenced by working in Hollywood only to the extent that I’m not impressed with it and see Hollywood as just another industry. Truly, if I were living in Palo Alto, I would be writing about the “Almost Royalty” of that town–like that new Mike Judge show “Silicon Valley”, and if I were living in London, I’d probably be writing about their main industry, the Royal Family (specifically Duchess Kate, Princess William and baby George) and what it’s like to live among them, especially the disgruntled Almost Royalty–now that would be interesting, especially because we never get a contemporary show that portrays their lives, we only get something that happened almost 100 years ago, so no one gets upset. . .or sued.

And lastly, how will people be able to read Almost Royalty–where will it be available?
“Almost Royalty” will be available on May 28, 2014, on Amazon.

Thanks again, Courtney!

easy project friday: spray-painted mirror

I have this mirror that I really like. It’s from Ikea–you’ve probably seen it before. I love that the frame is sort of ornate, but it’s small and different enough that it seems modern and fun. I like the black and I had it on my wall in black in my old apartment.

mirror

In this new place, I had just the right place to hang it, but the black wasn’t what I wanted. I have bold primary colors in this kitchen, so I tried to keep things light.

I covered the mirror with newspapers and used the same yellow spray paint I used when I spray painted a shelf last year–which I am now using in my bathroom. (It’s still yellow.)

spray painted mirror

And it’s like I have a whole new mirror.

dining area with spray painted mirror

I can’t afford to replace everything every time I change my mind or my apartment, even though I’m tempted to. But with some work and creativity, I really think you can make your home reflect your changing style. Even if it’s just details, like the color of a mirror.

Supplies:

decorating inspiration: valour and vanity

Last week I finished Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal. I completely enjoyed it, and you all should, too. In the book, Jane and Vincent face all kinds of trials after they lose all of their money and are stranded in Murano. After staying in a downright dreary small room for their apartment, they use glamour (super cool illusion-making magic) to make their hopefully temporary home look better than it seems.

You know I’m a big believer in decorating your home to lift your spirits.

Vincent turns their small, low-ceilinged room into a beautiful orangery with views of the countryside.

drawing from valour and vanity

Their bed stayed its same old wooden self, but they made the floor appear as if it were a gray stone. A fire warms the place up and allows them to cook dinner. Outside the glass walls, the landscape appears perhaps a bit more vivid than it would in real life–a relief from their claustrophobic dreariness. Ornate archways reach up to their vaulted ceiling.

I, for one, wouldn’t mind coming home to that one bit. If you wanted to use this style in your home, you could do something like this.

jane and vincent's room
Plenty of mirrors keep things airy and bright. Rustic wooden furniture would be charming, and architectural lamps would add beautiful lines reminiscent of archways. Don’t forget to add some fruit–Jane and Vincent had orange trees, after all.
Valour and Vanity (Kindle here) is the fourth of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Regency England histories that follow the couple Vincent and Jane, and their families.

the zoo and what i wore

a casual summer outfit

Over the weekend I had a wonderful time at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The weather was perfect and all the animals were out and doing something adorable and interesting.

My casual summer adventure outfit is a cotton dress from H&M; shoes, bag, and sunglasses from Target; and chambray from … shoot I can’t remember.

After the zoo we walked to the lake to take a look at the skyline. It was a lovely day.

Also, it was super cool to be featured as the Chicago Tribune’s reader of the week! Check it out!

a lion at the zoo

a group of flamingoes

a gorilla

the chicago skyline

the start of a sewing space

sewing and craft area

Remember that rack I bought for my jewelry? I also got one for my thread.

sewing rack before

I saw this idea on Sublime Stitching and thought it was really great. So one day as part of my tiny projects, I got some embroidery floss and sewing thread on my rack. But it still needed some work. I used some spray paint primer and painted it white to blend in more with my wall.

spray painted sewing rack

I have this wonderful big picture frame (you may remember it from my old jewelry rack) that fits around this rack as if they were made for each other. I hung the rack using two 3m hooks, and the frame just leans against the wall. It’s pretty heavy so I haven’t hung it up, but I think it fits pretty perfectly like this.

sewing rack

I’d still like to do some more things to this space, but this is a big improvement. I’ll probably add more to the wall and I need to do something about those cords. Plus maybe a rug? I’m not sure yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

Supplies:

I bought my supplies myself, but the links are affiliate.

valour and vanity by mary robinette kowal

valour and vanity by mary robinette kowal

Valour and Vanity (Kindle here) is the fourth of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Regency England histories that follow the couple Vincent and Jane, and their families. I have not yet read the three books before this, but that did not keep me from enjoying Valour and Vanity tremendously, and it should not stop you from picking up any book from this series either.

The Regency era is Jane Austen’s England. The Prince Regent, who is the son of Mad King George (remember him from learning about the revolution, my American friends?), is a big proponent of excess and art, and Jane and Vincent work as his glamourists. Glamour is basically magic that creates illusions by manipulating light and sound.

And that becomes Vincent and Jane’s trade in this novel: not glamour, but illusion.

When the couple heads to Murano to find a glassmaker, they are waylaid by pirates. And that is the least alarming thing that happens to them on this trip. They end up swindled by those they thought were friends and can’t leave Murano until they pay back what they owe.

It seems so simple right? If you lose your money on vacation, you go back to your hotel and call the bank, or your mom, or the American Embassy, if things really go wrong. But Jane and Vincent don’t have telephones or airplanes or online banking. Penniless, and with no practical skills save for glamour, they are left with nothing but each other. Well, that and Jane’s wedding ring, which they pawn for cash.

We never have quests any more. When is the last time you had to go somewhere to find something or bring it back or travel to create something you need or fulfil your destiny? We don’t even have to go to the mall at Christmas time, you can just order everything online. Our problem solving these days is very different from what Jane and Vincent face.

But what they go through is familiar. I’ve been poor and struggling to pay the rent. I’ve bought something fancy and small as a treat just to beat myself up about the extra $5 it cost. I haven’t been able to find a job and have lied about how great I’m doing in the meantime. And I’ve fought with loved ones and tried to hide the painful truth. And I’ve turned to something drastic to get back on my feet again.

When Vincent gets to the edge of what he can take, the couple gets a lucky break. (As so often happens in life, as well.) Their lucky break allows them to make a plan to take back what was stolen from them. Using every glamourist trick they know, plus new tricks in the physical realm, they embark on their dangerous plan–with the help of some new friends.

This heist is more fun than any I’ve ever been a part of (which, ok, is actually none in real life), and it includes feisty nuns. So while Jane and Vincent’s plan may go wrong, those reading about it can’t lose.

I loved this story and I love Jane and Vincent. I’ve been known to roll my eyes at romance every now and again, but I could read about this couple forever. Neither of them is perfect, and they fight and struggle like everyone else. Romance isn’t nonstop perfection or the absence of conflict. That is exhausting and impossible. But their love seems true–true to life and true to each other.

Hopefully next week I’ll have some sketches inspired by the book. There were some lovely images, and I can’t really pass up the idea of decorating an apartment with magic.

I choose this book on my own and was not paid to write about it, but the links are affiliate.