Karen Thompson Walker, author of The Age of Miracles was on her book tour and about to visit Seattle where I was living at the time a few years ago. Our mutual friend told me the amazing story of the life of this book and how wonderful Karen was, encouraging me to attend the signing.
I read the book within the week and headed to the signing with a very specific question in mind, “Is this young girl character you?” The book is set in San Diego (my heart’s home town where I lived for over 10 years) and follows an adolescent girl, through “the slowing,” a slowdown of the earth’s rotation and the events that follow.
After she read an excerpt and opened up the floor for questions, I had my chance. Her answer was so striking to me. No, this girl was not her but the inspiration for the life events were her adolescent self’s worst fears. A boy snapping your bra for a non-spoiler example.
Since then I sometimes imagine what my worst fears in a situation would be and it TOTALLY makes for an intriguing storyline.
These photos are from a lunch in Laguna Beach a little while back. We sat down at Nick’s but Grant was SO over dining out at this point so we changed our burger orders to to-go and ate by the beach. WAY better.
Now I know where the idea for SHARKNADO came from.
Flower crowns are WAY easier than I thought! We whipped three of these up in just about an hour and a half!
Here are the supplies:
Silk flower bouquets. These are the most economical way to go. They are also a good scale for size.
This brown paper-covered flower wire. Buy them in packages of six and use two per crown. This is what I refer to as “the crown.”
Green flower wire
Green flower tape
1. Use 2 of the brown paper-covered flower wires to create one crown. Just twist both ends together and create a ring. Make it loose so you can adjust it. You want a bit a room because once the flowers are attached, they will make it tighter.
2. Cut the flowers off the bouquets if the stems are thin. You can use these flowers as is to wrap around the crown. If the stems are thick, pull the flower head off and insert a piece of thin green flower wire as pictured. Use the pliers to hold the wire in the base and bend the rest of the wire down. Then wrap the wire tightly many times. You’ll have some excess wire that will be used to wrap the flowers around the crown.
3. Now lay out your flowers to see how you want them arranged. Wrap them so that the base of the flowers are close to the crown.
4. Use the green flower tape to cover the wire and keep the pokey parts at bay.
For years I was humiliated as a child, watching as my mother would bargain for things from clothing to hotel rooms. I mimicked my father who would silently stand by, cringing, ready at any moment to pounce on her and apologize for her, pretending like this never happened. How did it always end? Well, we had a nicer hotel room and extra money left over to buy more clothes or toys. She always did it with a smile, often with lots of laughing and arm touching. The transaction would complete with a happy/sometimes relieved guffaw (front the salesperson) and we were granted our wishes. My mother is Korean and in the Korean culture, most things are negotiable.
As I got older and had to shop on my own, I totally started playing with her little techniques…and they WORKED to my total novice surprise. Now I got to embarrass the non-bargainer (nargainer) victims who accompanied me. At first I only tried this magic in countries outside of the U.S. but then I brought this trick to America and it was even more magical.
I started with little American-acceptable things like, “Excuse me, this piece of art has a slight scratch on the frame, would you be willing to take 10% off?” That was easy enough. Then I got gutsy and started trying it in department stores. “Excuse me, I really like this ____, would you be able to do a better price for it?” I hold back my laughter when they meet me with a shocked face but they end up responding with something like, “Well, let me get my manager.” Then I think, “Wow, I’ve done it now…what do I do next?” Then the manager may ask me to possibly sign up for the store credit card but I decline and then there is some little deal that is made. Bingo.
**Bargaining is a muscle you exercise and tone. ANYONE can develop it.
Here are some tips:
If you know you are going into a negotiation, be conscious of how you look. Leave the fancy stuff (jewelry, handbags, clothing) at home. A salesperson sizes you up immediately and decides what you can “afford.”
Salespeople are people too and they like to do things for people they like. Friend it up as you would anyone else. Chit chat. Ask questions. Find out what you have in common even if it’s just a love for the product they are selling. Touch on any connection they may have to the product.
Take your time. A good deal may take a little patience. No need to rush the sale.
Be cool. Desperate for the item? That’s like a force field, shielding your from a possible deal.
Having a wingman/woman can be really nice. Sometimes it’s neat to have “good cop” “bad cop” where one person says the item is great and the other sort of points out maybe why the item has some slight drawbacks.
Be honest. Do you really only have $200 to spend today and the item is $350? Did you see a similar item for $180 but you like the $350 item so much more? Tell the salesperson. You know this is a very low offer but can they work with you a bit more?
Start as low as you dare but you may want to start somewhere north of half the price. This may start some laughter but go with it and get a feel for what the person is willing to do.
Be grateful. Really let the person know how happy they have made you.
My friend, Cindi asked me to meet her at the Los Angeles Rose Bowl Flea Market. I’d heard it was amazing and it sounded great. Cindi is an interior designer and she KNOWS furniture. You can follow her work & style or contact her for a consult HERE. We found this stall and she fell in LOVE with this dresser for her daughter’s room. She got a GREAT deal on it.
I could see myself blogging away and photo editing at this gorgeous desk. The owner collects these pieces and refinishes/distresses them himself. I recall it was about $175.
These nightstands are a dream!More vintage furniture at another vendor.Other chackas.Fur? There were TONS of fur coats at this stall.Cindi couldn’t pass on this darling baby doll high chair for her daughter.
What a shopper’s high! Love it when my friends get a great deal.
What is the BEST bargain you’ve had? What did you do to get it?
Did you see these swishy pink tassels from our friends’ Paso Robles wedding a few months ago? I was drooling and ever since, I’ve meant to find an occasion for them. They are still super hot and SO festive!
So, my desk in our home is in a little built-in cubby off the kitchen and needed some fun. I was reminded of these banners by Lauren Elizabeth‘s Instagram. She had one from by Studio Mucci on Etsy. If you want a gorgeous perfect one delivered right to you, Studio Mucci is the place (the owner/creater is super cool looking) is the place to get it from. If you have some time on your hands, try making one for yourself. It’s very inexpensive and I’m tickled by the celebratory vibe it gives any area. My desk needed a party banner of its own. So I looked up a bunch of tutorials and I’ve made my own, combining techniques from different sources and developing my own.
I wanted a pinky gold one:
All you need is:
wrapping tissue (I bought a multi-pack from Michaels $7.99?)
twine (I used sisal)
a chopstick or skewer
twist ties (optional)
mildly crafty hands
1. Each tassel is composed of a sheet of tissue folded in half at the top. Any size works. I did a mini banner. Just keep the sizes consistent.
Cut even strips up to fold and leave just a space uncut at the top as shown. You can go OCD and use a pencil to draw a line across the top but you’ll see that you can use a shortcut and wing it a bit.
Make a practice tassel to see how thick you want the look of the steamers to be.
P.S. With the first one I made, I used a photo paper/scrapbooking cutter with a sliding blade. It. Was. Perfect…and totally unnecessary.
2. I like to use the chopstick to open the paper at the fold.
3. For these mini banners, I used half a twist tie and placed it at the bottom of the center of the fold. Feel free to do it twist-tie free if you like. You can find twist ties in the bakery section of Michaels ($.99 for a pack of 50). The colors won’t show through so any colors will do.
4. Break out those crafty hands and start rolling tightly all the way to the top. Keep the streamers from getting too tangled up or wrinkled.
5. Now TWIST. TWIST. TWIST that paper around the twisty tie.
6. Perfect. Now bend it in half and use the chopstick to make room for a loop that the twine will pass through. Twist the base of the loop to secure it.
7. String them up and use a little tape to secure.
Looks like I was stalking Emily Henderson’s birth story during this shoot. Fascinating stuff, childbirth. That is a “painting” I did of Charlie last winter in Seattle. You find hobbies in the cold dark vampire world. I tried to keep them peppy ones.
I get super excited when someone starts talking about engagement rings! I think all of them are gorgeous and shopping for them is a total flea market-like hunt to me. Lots of searching, comparing, educating and then the big bang! I love to hear my friends’ stories about how they came to choose the setting and how they decided on the diamond. It’s also fun when their fiancés pick something out for them! I loved talking to Nancy (hand pictured above) about her rings! I even tried on the engagement ring (one of my favorite things to do).
We can’t all afford the Pink Star. No matter what kind of budget you (or your significant other) has, you certainly can buy a diamond for a very good value. Two very sweet women who know jewelry taught me some very different views about jewelry, specifically diamonds. They are what most of this information is based upon. They are pros and I appreciate the lessons!
**If you are reading this as a person who is buying a ring for their fiancé, you are so smart and in luck!
One friend says, “When it comes to diamonds, guys are into quality and girls are into size.” For me, this is totally true-now. Here are the things I prioritized when looking for an engagement ring diamond and setting (or any diamonds):
1. Carat (the size)
2. Color (how bright white)
3. Clarity (flaws)
4. Cut (how sparkly)
5. Shape (the shape)
Not all women choose their ring! I was very happy to! My husband proposed so romantically and then offered me the choice of choosing a ring of my liking. Yay!
This takes some time and research to find out what is most important to you. It starts with daydreaming about what you envision on your pretty ring finger and then seeing what is out there that fits with your budget and lifestyle.
Are you active and want a lower setting where the diamond is less likely to catch on things (people wearing gloves at work)
Do you want a wedding band to be able to fit with it?
Do you want a band alone and not a “big diamond” on a band?
Is there a family diamond you want to reset and make your own?
Who do you know who has purchased a ring recently and may have some good advise/a jeweler?
What is a timeless style that will be beautiful to you day in and day out?
Once you have the look/feeling of your ring (vintage, art deco, Tiffany solitaire) and if you are looking for the center stone, start surfing the web to see what these things cost. Look at the most perfect diamonds and the least, find the parameters you are comfortable with and then compare within your parameters.
Great online sourcing for price comparisons for solitaires and/or single loose diamonds:
PLEASE go to Tiffany & Co. or Neil Lane and see what the most expensive rings really look and feel like in the flesh. It’s FREE! Lots of people do it! You should compare the quality of high-end rings and rings from less expensive stores.
***AN EXPERIENCED JEWELER CAN MAKE YOU ANYTHING YOU LIKE FOR A FRACTION OF THE COST OF ANY STORE. So, if you see something you like in a catalog or store, bring in a picture or link and see if it is something the jeweler can do. If it is a popular setting, then the jeweler has probably made it many times already.
Think about the size you feel looks good on your finger, what feels comfortable with your style and what feels appropriate to your budget. If you want to make a stone appear bigger, look at halo settings where a ring of diamond encircles the center stone.
**Say you are looking at a 1 carat ring. Consider looking at .92 carat rings. They can be considerably cheaper but appear the same size. They can appear even slightly bigger if cut differently and this is more noticeable as sizes go up.
When you go into a jeweler looking for diamonds, they love to show you how YELLOW a diamond looks by putting a colorless diamond next to a diamond that falls lower on the colorless chart (i.e. has a tint of yellow). When compared as bare stones (especially upside down) under a UV light, you would NEVER want that YELLOW diamond.
In reality, no one will ever be looking at your ring upside down under this ridiculous lighting, next to a perfect (super expensive) diamond. Remember, your diamond will also be in a setting. Take some time to look at rings and even ask people the color of their ring if you’re comfortable (bf’fs or your mom).
D, E & F gradings are all colorless
G, H, & I and J are near colorless
Below that you get into the faint yellow colors that are visible to the naked eye but D-I gives you a LOT of wiggle room when it comes to price tag here. Personaly I would recommend going J or above.
How do you feel about clarity?
GIA diamond clarity grading scale
Very Very Slightly Included
Very Slightly Included
A flawless diamond is exponentially more expensive than an Included one.
The GIA diamond grading scale is divided into six categories and eleven grades. The clarity categories and grades are:
Flawless category (FL) diamonds have no inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification.
Internally Flawless category (IF) diamonds have no inclusions visible under 10x magnification, only small blemishes on the diamond surface.
Very, Very Slightly Included category (VVS) diamonds have minute inclusions that are difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification. The VVS category is divided into two grades; VVS1 denotes a higher clarity grade than VVS2. Pinpoints and needles set the grade at VVS.
Very Slightly Included category (VS) diamonds have minor inclusions that are difficult to somewhat easy for a trained grader to see when viewed under 10x magnification. The VS category is divided into two grades; VS1 denotes a higher clarity grade than VS2. Typically the inclusions in VS diamonds are invisible without magnification, however infrequently some VS2 inclusions may still be visible. An example would be on a large emerald cut diamond which has a small inclusion under the corner of the table.
Slightly Included category (SI) diamonds have noticeable inclusions that are easy to very easy for a trained grader to see when viewed under 10x magnification. The SI category is divided into two grades; SI1 denotes a higher clarity grade than SI2. These may or may not be noticeable to the naked eye.
Included category (I) diamonds have obvious inclusions that are clearly visible to a trained grader under 10x magnification.Included diamonds have inclusions that are usually visible without magnification or have inclusions that threaten the durability of the stone. The I category is divided into three grades; I1 denotes a higher clarity grade than I2, which in turn is higher than I3. Inclusions in I1 diamonds often are seen to the unaided eye. I2 inclusions are easily seen, while I3 diamonds have large and extremely easy to see inclusions that typically impact the brilliance of the diamond, as well as having inclusions that are often likely to threaten the structure of the diamond.
SI 1 and SI 2 diamonds and above, in my humble opinion can be spectacular. I’m sure there are even some spectacular rings that are included. I have seen at SI 1 and SI 2, there are many stones that do not have anything you would EVER see, even if looking closely. I have known a couple people with rings that DID have very visible blemishes (not sure which clarity) but these blemishes were hidden by the setting of the ring-like under a prong for example.
Also, rings that are in settings other than solitaire do not require as “perfect” as a diamond to look as wonderful.
Choose a cut that makes your diamond sparkle. Certain setting that let in lots of light are also great for maximizing sparkle.
**Keep in mind the setting’s ability to be cleaned! If it has a nice open back then you can easily clean the ring back to perfection with a toothbrush and home jewelry cleaner.
Consider different Shapes:
I have an oval shape. I told our jeweler the shapes that I was considering and he offered me the oval one at the best cost-for-size at that time. It depends on what is in stock etc. A round brilliant will always be most expensive though because more of the rough stone must be cut away in order to result in these dimensions.
Keep in mind that with different shapes comes different things to look for. For example, with an oval shape, the “bow-tie effect” (where it looks like a black bow tie is in the ring as the light hits it) can be prominent or unnoticeable.
Not all diamonds are graded equally. I would recommend a GIA or AGS graded diamond to ensure the standards are high and accurate. This will be good for resale if one day you should decide to upgrade (not in everyone’s taste, I know) too.
Alternativos (I heart Spanish):
**Remember, stores mark up the cost of their diamond rings many times more than an individual jeweler. Feel free to ask for quotes and shop around. This is a big investment and choice and YOU’RE WORTH IT.
(Pictured- my friend Nancy sports an enhanced classic with lots of bands to make it modern. I totally snuck this photo.)
Thank God For Cardio Barre. Class is one of the only times during my day that I fully allow myself to love my body as she is while also appreciating the different ways she’s still developing. Most of the time, I am the first to criticize physical parts of yours truly that are far from perfect, but in class I find respite from the voice of my inner critic, and I get to experience myself without her constant jabs at my belly flab, arm jiggle and unwanted stretch marks. I feel the potential of everything I am and can ever be.
I am proud of myself for being able to complete the strenuous exercises and that gives me the sense of my growing physical strength. Italso provides me with a greater capacity to take on things that feel difficult in my personal life. For example, after class one morning I am walking down the back stairs of the building to the parking lot when a very handsome man opens the door and holds it for me from a great distance away. He waits patiently until I exit and instead of looking down until passing, I smile brightly and say “thank you”, never loosing eye contact. This is a big stretch for me.
Normally, I let my shy part take over from looking directly at any guy I find attractive, sometimes coming across as intense or unapproachable as my protector parts come out to defend her from having vulnerability exposed. But after spending an hour feeling good in my body, I actually feel delighted to look into this stranger’s striking blue eyes and give this beautiful man a glimse of my own self confidence, emanating brightly through my sweaty tank top and messy hair. In this moment, I put myself in his shoes and let the proud part of me see the beauty he sees as he waits those extra seconds until I pass through the door. And that moment, my inner critic learns something new; I am totally worth waiting for 🙂