Sneak peek!

When I started 40 is the new 30 in January 2010, my friend, Kristen, made a comment on my About Me page. She said my blog reminded her of this quote:

It’s never too late to be who you might have been. ~ George Eliot

I wrote about it, pondering the questions: who am I and who am I meant to be? I was in my fourteenth year of teaching. I was taking care of my mom and volunteering at church. I had a great family and wonderful friends, but I was stuck in a rut. I knew (hoped!) there were opportunities for me to be and do more, but I didn’t know what they were or where I would find them. One thing I could do for sure, though, was write.

I have always been a writer. Stacks of really (truly) awful poems and stories will attest to that. I kept journals from middle school on, so blogging was a great outlet for me, especially during the first nine months of my mother’s illness. I wrote about my mom and cancer and how heartbroken I was that she was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I wrote about visiting my sister and her family in Seattle. I wrote a lot of posts about education, including a series on Nurture Shock, a book that challenged everything we thought we knew about raising children. There were posts about decorating and shopping and even a few about cooking. I blogged about my goals, my attempts to achieve my goals, and even my failure to achieve my goals. 40 is the new 30 was as complex as I was!

When I became a Stella & Dot stylist, I started writing about fashion and accessories in addition to cancer, decorating, and education. When I transitioned from teaching full-time in a classroom to homeschooling, tutoring, and selling Stella & Dot part-time, I began to write fewer posts on children and teaching and more about scarves and statement necklaces. I felt like I was writing two different blogs, and I held back on topics I really wanted to explore.

The solution? A second blog! There are many topics I want to write about that are serious and take away from light-hearted posts about fashion, style, and Stella & Dot. I have ideas for fashion-related posts, but I don’t want to put too many of them on 40 is the new 30 because fashion isn’t really the focus of that blog. So I’m keeping 40 is the new 30 as my personal blog and creating a new blog to showcase my business.

I found a really talented illustrator to do a custom illustration for me and a great website designer to design my new blog and give 40 is the new 30 a new look . The blogs aren’t quite ready for their close-ups, but I wanted to give you a sneak peek of what’s to come.

This is my brand-new blog button!

New blog button

I can’t wait for you to see the illustration that goes with the button. It will be the header for my new blog, and it is so cute, I can’t stand it! It’s everything I hoped it would be. I’m not going to tell you who the illustrator is because her style is distinctive, and I want you to be surprised. :)

So, now you know about the biggest do-over in my 31 Days series! Follow me to make sure you get the latest posts and don’t miss the big reveal!

31 Days of Do Over 2013

Click button to read more posts in this series.

Click here to read what other 31 Dayers are writing about.

Five on Friday: Tidbits

A collection of awesome things on the web lately.

One.

As a hearing-impaired person (and someone who stubbornly refused to wear her hearing aid as a child), this warms my heart immensely.

The Blue Ear

Four-year old Anthony Smith didn’t want to wear his hearing aid because superheroes don’t wear them, so his mom, Christina D’Allesandro, asked Marvel Comics for help. Watch what happens when Anthony discovers that superheroes need listening devices, too!

Two.

I Want Her Job is a “website for independent-thinking women everywhere in search of the next best thing.” From founder, Brianne Burrowes:

Through I Want Her Job™ I’ve had the opportunity to interview successful women from all over the country, and even world, who love their jobs. These are women who wake up excited to go to work and set ideas into motion. These are women who take the time to stay late and answer that e-mail from someone dying to get into their industry. These are women who have found what makes them professionally happy right now and want to help you make your dreams come true.

This week is Stella & Dot week. Brianne and her team interviewed four stylists about what they find fulfilling about their jobs. I especially like former teacher, Amanda Keely’s, interview.

Three.

Christopher Jobson describes his blog, Colossal, as

…the intersection of art, design, and physical craft. I enjoy artwork that is tactile, physical and non-digital in nature, especially sculptural work and installations that use impossible numbers of components, or sequences in a process. During the course of a week you’ll find roughly 15-20 posts on photography, design, animation, painting, installation art, architecture, drawing and street art. I share things that I feel are accessible to everyone, requiring little explanation or theory, so in that sense, I hope people not involved directly in the arts can also find it interesting.

I collected miniatures growing up and spent countless hours setting up furniture and accessories in my little, red farmhouse with black shutters and white trim and a green porch swing in the front. My dollhouse had wallpaper and was wired for electricity, and Mom, Dad, Billy, Mary Ann, and the baby (I can’t remember her name!) lived there happily amongst the tiny home goods. Which is why I flipped out when I saw the pictures in this post:

Flipped out, I tell you! I would have died to find these at my favorite miniatures shop, Jacqueline’s, and I would have thrown money at them like a gambler on a winning streak. Look at the crust on that french loaf! And the salami! And the avocado!!! Adorable! I might have to get some of the sculptor’s miniature food jewelry on etsy. I’m not kidding. It’ll look good with my Stella & Dot, right???

Four.

One day, Karen, a Canadian TV host, looked around her house, saw that it was not good, and sold everything in it. Then she redecorated., finishing the  entire project in one month. O. M. G.

Five.

I love Kate’s philosophy: women should be able to eat cake and not feel guilty about it. She blogs about beauty, body image womanhood, and dessert at eat the damn cake. At the end of each blog post, she does an “Unroast” – something she likes about the way she looks that day, and why she likes it. She also posts pictures of women eating cake. The next time I’m eating cake, I shall take a picture of myself and send it to her. :)

Have a fabulous weekend!

Mom’s Bedroom – Inspiration

Mom's Bedroom

Inspiration

I’m helping my mom redecorate her house, and she needs new bedding and accessories for her bedroom. The walls are Benjamin Moore’s Palladian Blue, the most gorgeous, soothing blue-green with just enough grey to keep it from veering into aqua. I have it in my bedroom, and my mom has always loved it, so we used it for her room, too.

Flipping through a Pottery Barn catalogue on Friday night, I spied the perfect bedding: the Mari Duvet Cover and Sham. Mom sometimes has difficulty making decisions because she wants to make sure she has seen every possibility and has chosen the absolute best option. Fortunately, she loved the bedding as much as I did, and we snatched it up as soon as we hit Pottery Barn Saturday afternoon.

Her current bed is from Crate and Barrel circa 1994 and looks a little like this:

It’s a perfectly fine bed, but when she bought it, we decorated the bedroom in country cottage with florals (blue and pink hydrangeas on a yellow background) and gingham (big blue bows atop a white balloon valance.) I think it’s time for an update, and I’d love for her to get an upholstered headboard similar to the one in the inspiration board, but the soft blue bedding is a perfect match to the wall color and will look good on the birch bed for now. I want to get a bench for the foot of the bed, and I’m leaning toward the Little Hipster Raspberry print. Don’t you just love the name?

Palladian Blue plays well with so many colors – blood orange, burgundy, magenta, lime, marigold – but I saw this in a local gift shop and knew that my mom would like the color as well as the sentiment:

The above picture looks more raspberry than the one I used on the inspiration board, and it’s closer to the color of the picture in the gift shop. Mom has a beautiful drawing of Rice University that will look great on the other side of the bed. I’ll post a picture of it later.

We both liked the sleek crystal lamp from Pottery Barn. I’m not sure if I want the lamps on either side of the bed to match. The bedside tables (or chests) will probably be different, so maybe I should use the same lamps. What do you think? I’ll put a picture of Mom’s Bichon, Coco, next to her bed instead of that cute beagle, though. :)

Mom’s bedroom is spacious, and this is just one wall! I will try to change out the bedding and begin accessorizing this week so I can write a real Before and After post. I can’t wait to get started!

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Weekend Bloggy Reading

Before and After: Summerizing the House

My sister and her family came from Seattle this weekend to celebrate Mother’s Day and my mom’s birthday, which is on Tuesday. I went to my mom’s, and they stayed at my condo, which needed a little spiffing up. There’s nothing like a visit from family to light a fire under you! I washed, dried, and fluffed the towels; hung new shower curtains and liners; switched out the faded kitchen rug for this one; and stocked the fridge (with a little help from mom) with everyone’s favorite foods (GoGo squeeZ for L, M & M’s for AJ, and beer, wine, and champagne – for Mother’s Day mimosas – for Susan and Pete.)

I had every intention of decorating for spring/Easter, but I never got around to it. The living room looked kinda sad, so I decided to summer-ize it with seashells. It looks a lot more cheerful now, and I think it added a bit of warmth and coziness for the rain-weary Seattleites (although, ironically, the weather in Seattle was warm and sunny, and we had a terrible  thunderstorm on Friday night!)

[Excuse the weird-looking candles in the fireplace. The air condition vent did a number on them at Christmas, and I haven't tried to pry them out yet.]

 

Before

After

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The Lettered Cottage

The Closet Wizard: Mom’s Closet (Before and During)

Before

Before - more disorganized than messy

My mom has a fabulous walk-in closet in her bedroom. It’s almost too fabulous. How can that be, you ask? It has so much room and holds so many clothes, shoes, and accessories that it is not necessary to weed out items because of space limitations, so my mom can keep things for years that she really should get rid of. The downfall to this is that she has clothes that no longer fit and/or are out of style, and when she gets dressed in the morning, she has to comb through each section to find a shell/sweater/skirt/pants that fits and still looks good.

She keeps her jewelry strewn about on the harvest table along a wall next to her bed. She has a jewelry box filled with her fine jewelry and a Stella & Dot display piece to hold her necklaces and bracelets from S & D. Also strewn about on the harvest table: magazines, paperwork, files, books, more magazines, picture frames, and keepsakes. And magazines. Once she selects her outfit, she has to locate the jewelry to go with it; as you can imagine, this takes up the better part of the time she has to get dressed in the morning, and she was starting to feel like one of those cartoon characters who run, screaming from their closets while a wave of clothing and handbags threatens to engulf them.

Sounds like a job for…The Closet Wizard!

I decided to tackle the closet from back to front, starting with the shoes, then moving to scarves and handbags, then purging and organizing her clothes. It’s a work in progress – we have to take a break while she is having her bedroom painted – but I’m pleased with what we’ve done so far. The first two pictures are from before we started; the rest are during. I will take after pictures once the painting is finished.

Before - left side of the closet

Before - right side

During

During - shoes organized on shelves

Shoes on shelves, handbags in hanging garment organizer, and scarves in Elfa shelves

During - the shirts on the left are now organized: shells/tanks, short sleeves, long sleeves, sweaters, jackets (all in ROY G. BIV order of course!)

Pants, skirts, dresses, and coats

The painting should be finished later this week. We still need to go through everything on the top shelves and tidy up the floor; switch all of the hangers to these; organize the clothes by sections using these; and relocate the jewelry to the top of the shoe shelf using this and this.

Stay tuned for the after pictures – they’re going to be great! :)

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Patio Before and After

When I bought my condo four years ago, I received a patio table and two chairs as a housewarming gift. I love sitting on my patio when it’s cool, but the sparse, brown, wooden fence is not very scenic. I had planned to do some light landscaping, but buying a new air conditioner and water heater were higher on the “things to do before I move in” list, and I never got around to sprucing up the patio.

So, to celebrate my 4th home-iversary, I went to Home Depot Sunday morning and selected some flowers and plants for the patio makeover. My patio faces west, but the tall fence and my upstairs neighbor’s balcony overhang prevents it from getting a lot of sunlight, so I needed plants that do well in shade. A very knowledgeable salesperson named Cindy helped me pick out just the right plants of varying heights, textures, and colors. I’m going to see how these do (i. e. can I keep them alive for more than two weeks?), and if they do well, I will probably go back and get some hanging baskets and/or flower boxes to pretty up the view at the top of the fence.

Before:

View from the living room

Corner

Another corner

During: 

My trusty assistant monitors my progress.

Of course, I had my rugs shampooed yesterday!

Jasmine and gardenia

Not sure what this is...

Someone made a big mess!

After:

Looking better already!

Starting to like the view!

Impatiens and Agapanthus (?)

Light landscaping complete. (Only 4 years later!)

The Gardenia and Jasmine are both white, so I switched the Gardenia for the Impatiens to provide a contrast between the colors of the low and high plants.

I loved going to Home Depot and pulling that flat cart around with all of my pretty plants. I can’t wait to see what it looks like in the morning! What’s on your patio/balcony/porch/outdoor planting area? Have  you spruced up for spring? Tell me about your spring planting in the comments!

Edited to add: this is the view this morning. We are having a gorgeous April day in Houston – sunny, clear blue skies, cool. I could sit out here all day!

Everything's coming up luscious!

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Five on Friday: New Blogs and the F– Word

I find new blogs every day, which is making it VERY difficult for me to limit my computer time, but I can’t help myself! I love, love, love, blogging! Here are some fantastic blogs for your viewing pleasure:

One.

Sadie commented on my scarf-tying post, and when I clicked on her name and visited her blog, I was so taken with her posts! The first photo that popped up was this gorgeous living room. I love everything about it (originally found on this blog): the couch – OMG! – the windows, the view, the light, the ottoman. I could be very happy in this room! Sadie blogs about my favorite things – interior design, fashion, and puppies. I have a feeling I will be spending some quality time with her in the future!

Two.

I found this blog from a link celebrity designer and Stella & Dot collaborator, Maya Brenner’s, Facebook page. This is a fairly new blog with TONS of information for every girl who wants to style her own life. It’s a place where women can nurture their creativity and find support for pursuing their dreams, something that really resonates with me right now. Check out the Career section under Features. The editors interview women who have successfully launched their own businesses. (BTW, women-owned businesses are the fastest-growing sector of the private economy.)

Three.

Just what I needed: another interior design blog. I am sooooo curling up in my comfy chair this weekend and reading all of her posts. I downloaded her Blogging Bliss E-book; I am really into finding tips on how to grow your blog. It probably says “don’t sit at home all weekend because then you won’t have any good stuff to write about,” but I’m gonna do it anyway. Maybe I’ll go to Starbucks. At least I’ll be out among the living.

Four.

This isn’t really a new blog for me, just rediscovered. I adore Emily’s style – it’s what my style would be if I knew what I was doing. Crisp, clean, transitional with a twist, Emily’s design sense is always on trend, never trendy. And she’s a mom of three – with two more on the way! Whew!

Five.

On a more serious note, my friend, MaryAnn, blogs about the F– word (it’s not what you think) at The Blue Room. I’ll have more to say on this topic in the future.

Have you found any great blogs/websites/articles this week? Please share in the comments!

Worth Mentioning: Online Artisans

Alternately titled: On My Love of Online Shopping

I love to shop at stores like Ikea, HomeGoods, and Target. Also Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, and West Elm. And Home Source (great imported furniture), Louis Shanks, Danish Inspirations, Mitchell Gold-Bob Williams, Ethan Allen, and Kuhl-Linscomb. Basically, I love to shop for anything related to home furnishings and interior design.

I also like to buy accessories and artwork that you can’t find in any of the aforementioned stores. One of my favorite resources for artwork and accessories is etsy.com. I can usually find pieces that are unique, and I like supporting small businesses, so many of which are owned by women.

Some of my favorite online artisans are madebygirl, annechovie, and milkandcookies.

I have this poster from Jen Ramos at madebygirl:

I haven’t bought a frame for it yet (will probably get one at Ikea) but I plan to hang it in my office. I also like these prints:

You can only get one name on the ABC name print, or I would have sent one to Anna Jane. Rats. The LOVE poster comes in a variety of colors, as do most of Jen’s artwork. Jen also has a fun blog.

I adore these pillows from milkandcookies:

And these:

I think I could have an entire closet devoted to pillow storage so I could rotate my pillows seasonally. Or  monthly.

Anne Harwell’s (Annechovie) art was featured in It’s Complicated, a movie I watched solely for the interiors. This print is hanging on a bathroom wall in one of the character’s homes:

I also love these:

You may have seen this a few places:

As far as I know, the design was originally Anne’s (well, not the original British WWII poster, but the modern art!) Anne’s blog is here.

I was recently introduced to an artist from Montreal, Eve, who sells her art at etsy under evajuliet:

I simply must have this one, but I don’t know, en Francais ou Anglais? Really, I don’t know! Help me decide!

I could use one of those prints in every room in my house! Helena, a British blogger, is celebrating her one year blogging anniversary with some great giveaways, including art from Annechovie and Eva & Juliet, both of which I entered. I’ve never won a giveaway before; perhaps this will be my first time!

Another online artisan is Em Tanner of emtannerdesigns. I first saw her initial and big sibling/little sibling t-shirts in a local shop, Petite Maison. Em’s wares have been featured in magazines and on the Today Show and on shows like Jon and Kate + 8 (before it all went to hell in a handbasket!)

She has the cutest backpacks, water bottles, and now, iPhone and iPad covers:

She doesn’t have a cover for DROID yet (the manufacturer doesn’t make one) but she’s working on it! The second she does, I’m ordering it in the green polka dot (or maybe blue). I am a fan of Em’s on FB, and I swear, that girl is constantly working and blogging and mothering and facebooking – I think she must get about 3 hours of sleep a night! I wish I had her energy. Recently, people have been making cheap knockoffs of Em’s work. Jen from madebygirl has had the same problem. I certainly hope Anne from Annechovie licensed all of those Keep Calm and Carry On products!

In conclusion (haven’t written that transitional phrase since high school), shop online artisans for unique wares. Great for gifts for yourself or for others. Support small businesses while stimulating the economy. It’s a win-win, right?

Worshipping at the Church of Sweden

I went to Ikea today instead of church. And it was communion Sunday! I promise I did not eat Swedish meatballs in lieu of bread and grape juice – honest! I wanted to go to church, I really did, but I had pictures to purchase and lamps to look at procure.

{Hate ending a sentence with a preposition, but I love alliteration. What to do, what to do?}

I am trying to pull together my living and dining rooms. All of the major furniture is in place – couch, coffee tables, media shelves, dining room table and chairs – but I have an empty corner in the living room, a blank wall in the dining room, and no window treatments. One side of the living room has no lamps. So, after two hours of wandering through Sweden, I came home with this:

Well, I didn’t actually come home with the curtains – they were out of stock – but I’m considering them. They may be too stark white for the space, although I really like the white-on-white geometric design, and you can hem them with some sort of iron-on hem tape. Yeah, that would be me, considering hemming curtains with iron-on hem tape.

Anyway, the picture frames I got are a little different from the one in the above collage. The ones I got don’t have a mat, they’re just light, thin, silver-grey frames. And, no, I didn’t really need ice cube trays that make ice cubes in cute little shapes, but, hey, they’re adorable and only cost $1.99 each! It’s a crime against Sweden not to get them!

I then went to Pier 1 and bought this chair:

{When I searched for it on the Pier 1 website, I noticed it had been marked down to $169.99 from $199.99 – in the 6 hours since I got it!!!}

I was afraid it would be too bold, too red, too brown, too gold, but I think it works in the space because I don’t have any other patterns (besides the rug), and I really needed some color in the corner. The shape and size are perfect with my couch and the other wood furniture in my living room. So now all I need are two end tables (one for the chair and one for the sofa), a lamp for behind the chair, and the elusive butler’s tray table that I simply cannot find available for purchase anywhere on the World Wide Web! And some curtains. And an end table and lamp for the sleeper sofa in my office. And a desk chair. And a reeeaaaalllly narrow console for my “entryway.”

Possible side tables:

Tomorrow, I will be worshipping at the churches of Fired Clay Animal Shelter, Directional Tree, and Square and Round Containers. I am all about respecting other faiths.

*Pictures of my living and dining rooms tomorrow! I may even be able to put together a “Before and After” if I can find the pictures I took while I was renovating my condo.

Summer Bucket List: Revisited, Deux

So, I wrote a post about my Summer Bucket List on June 3, checked in on my progress in this post, and now I’m checking in again. I feel like maybe I need a sponsor for my summer “to-do” list. I’ve at least earned my 30 day chip!

  • read Nurture Shock (assigned reading for school) I’ve read the whole book and have written 8 blog posts. Need to do 3 more in the next week or so!
  • read two more of Donald Miller’s books I read Blue Like Jazz at Lost Pines last weekend. It’s the book he was making a movie of when he wrote about story in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. This is going to count for my “second book” for work. Yesssss – killin’ two birds with one stone!
  • read some fiction I’ve let pile up, including (maybe) the Twilight series Read the whole Steig Larsson series.
  • eat at some of the new-ish restaurants in H-town that I’ve never been to (The Glass Wall, Reef, T’afia, Little Big’s) Ate at Block 7 on Shepherd just off Washington. Drank delicious sangria.
  • redecorate my mantle Done!
  • purchase new throw pillows for my couch (I am in love with this one from Trina Turk, but I don’t know if I can live with the price!) Done! Ordered two more pillows and a throw half off from One Kings Lane. All pillows and throws purchased for less than the cost of one Trina Turk pillow. Although I still love it!
  • completely redo (w/ exception of the pull-out sofa and the existing paint, light fixture, and window treatments) my office/guest room Still in progress. I got a new desk top – it has a little dent in the middle. Trying to live with it. Will begin hanging organization components and art this weekend.
  • label every last box/bin in my garage Fun project for this weekend!  (Air quotes around the word fun.)
  • get rid of some furniture (tables, chairs, computer cart) – ebay? Craig’s List? garage sale? Done! Will have some lamps and accessories to sell after I finish the office.
  • slipcover the oversized chair that currently takes up one corner of my bedroom  Received swatches from Fabric.com. Called upholsterer. Slipcovering is freaking expensive. Reconsidering this.
  • start tutoring business I’ve tutored some, not nearly as much as I would have liked.
  • find “best” time to exercise – early in the morning or after sunset I admit it: I’m a treadmill kind of girl. I like walking inside in the air conditioning and watching TV while I walk. I’ve started training again, too.
  • have Coco over and take her to the dog park Coco’s coming for a sleepover this weekend, so maybe we’ll do it tomorrow or Sunday.
  • go to Discovery Green – I can’t believe I haven’t been there once since it opened!
  • go antiquing on Westheimer
  • hang out in the most NYC/Chicago/San Fransisco-like section of Houston – a little block of West Gray just west of downtown
  • see some summer movies – the best air-conditioned escape from Houston’s heat! Saw The Girl Who Played with Fire, would love to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Kids Are All Right, and Inception. And Toy Story.
  • spend lots and lots of time playing with my darling niece! Yes! I think she likes me now!

I also enjoyed a weekend at Lost Pines, started collecting milk glass, and ran out of gas.

That last one wasn’t really on my list, but I’m giving myself credit for doing it anyway.