Monday, March 30, 2015

Restoration Homes

I have several joys in life - British television, interesting history, home renovation shows and DIY projects. And over the years I've nursed many tv addictions to shows in each of these categories.

But this weekend, something magical happened - I found my television soul mate: BBC2's Restoration Home. This perfect, flawless show features ambitious individuals who have purchased historic buildings in England (code for "super fancy fixer-upper") and decide to turn them into beautiful homes. There's DIY, before and after shots, interior design. AND. AND they have a historian and an architectural expert who research the history of the building and its former inhabitants. It's like if Rehab Addict, History Detectives, and Pride and Prejudice had a baby. THIS IS THAT BABY.

Take a look at the show's first showcased project, St. Thomas à Becket Church.







Oh, hello beautiful archways and light-filled hallway.


That staircase. 


Because who doesn't want an altar and beautiful stained glass windows
in their kitchen and dining room?


Did I mention this was ALL done by ONE guy - a twenty-something with no pre-existing carpentry skills or interior design training? How's that for inspirational. Makes you want to buy a church.

On a different note, regularly scheduled DIY, clothing, and decorating posts will resume later this week. Sorry for the delay - very exciting things have been taking shape in my life, which I'm under strict orders not to discuss with the outside world.
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Saturday, March 21, 2015

6 Reasons To Try a Diva Cup

I got my first period on December 27, 2002. My whole family was staying at my grandparents' house for the holidays. I was asleep on a blowup mattress in the basement, next to all four of my younger brothers. That morning, I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what until I was in the bathroom with my pants around my ankles. When I saw the blood, I was angry. Not because I was having my period - I knew I was approaching that stage in my life. Not because my favorite pink pajama pants with purple crescent moons were ruined (RIP, pj pants). No, I was mad because for years my health teachers, my girl scouts leaders, and my favorite authors had led me to believe that my first period would be some quaint red dot on my underwear, a cute little crimson blossom, a beautiful emblem of womanhood.

Instead, it looked like I had shit my pants and filled them with a pound of brown-red goop. It was disgusting. And I felt lied to.

Where were the dainty flowers I was promised? WHERE?

I was so mortified by what my body had done, that I refused to talk about my period with anyone other than my mom for years. I hid pads, and later tampons, and remained silent even when my closest friends brought the topic up at sleepovers. Period talk was always a tremendously uncomfortable topic.

My comfort level with periods has improved dramatically since 6th grade. But 18 months ago, I found myself knee-deep in the same sort of shy embarrassment as I considered buying a Diva Cup (affiliate link). I was desperate to know who among my friends had tried one. But I was also far too mortified to actually ask.

Knowing that there might be 1 or 2 or 100 more people in that same situation, I want to go ahead and save you the discomfort of asking around to find someone who has tried the cup. So, without further ado, here are the reasons you should use a menstrual cup.

1. You can wear it for 12 hours at a time. 

That means you only have to take it out twice a day! That's it!

This is actually the main reason that I switched to a Diva Cup. On my period, I bleed a lot. Like, A LOT. On the first few days of my period, I would fly through super tampons. Sometimes they would barely make it an hour. I was happy if one lasted two. With my Diva Cup, even on the heaviest days, I usually only change it every six hours or so. On normal days, it can stay in for 12 hours. No more spending the whole day in and out of the bathroom!

2. You will save so much money.

One Diva Cup costs about $30, and it can last years if you care for it properly. In the year and a half that I've owned mine, I've already saved well over $100 just because I don't need to buy a box of tampons once a month. I do, however, still buy pantiliners occasionally because even Diva Cups leak sometimes.

3. You'll never stain underwear (or sheets) again. 

Once you get the hang of it, a Diva Cup will rarely leak. Though I usually wear pantiliners on the heaviest days of my period, I almost never need to. The cup has four tiny holes which allow it to create a suction seal in your vagina (don't worry, you can't feel it), preventing any blood from seeping through.

Also, you can put the cup in before you period starts (no TSS risks here!), so no need to worry about a period happening overnight and staining your sheets. Sometimes, I'll wear mine for a full day or two before my period starts just to avoid any early-period surprises.

4. It's so comfortable, you'll forget you're wearing it. 

The cup is super comfortable. When I first saw the cup, I thought that there was no way the thing was going to fit inside me, much less be comfortable. But the cup is made out of flexible silicone, so it bends easily and doesn't poke or pinch once it's in. I often forget I have it in or that I'm even on my period.

I should note that menstrual cups generally have a knob at the end that help you pull them back out. When I first started using my cup, I had a hard time positioning it so that the knob didn't bother me. But by the end of the first cycle, I had the hang of it. Now I never notice it's there.

5. It can be a little gross. But it's kind of cool?

Okay, yes. It can be kind of gross. More than once, my bathroom has definitely looked like a murder scene. But I've tried tampons and pads, too, and of the three , I think cups are the least gross option available. Sometimes the cup comes out at a weird angle, and blood can spill a bit. Or a lot. That's true. But I honestly prefer that to walking around with a blood-soaked pad rubbing against my nether regions. I mean, really.

And in a weird way, it's kind of cool to see the blood that was in your body. Kind of.

6. You will learn so much about your body. 

This is hands down, my favorite thing about my Diva Cup. Because the Diva Cup has measurement lines, I know exactly how much I've bled every month. I have learned so much more about my body since I started using the cup. I know which days I bleed the most, what an average flow looks like, exactly how long my periods last. I just have such a clearer picture of my body and my health. And I love it.

Please, please, please feel free to ask any questions you may have about menstrual cups below. Or share this with friends who may have questions.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

14 Children's Books You Should Read in Your 20s

I'm a sucker for children's books. Even before I taught elementary school or began editing children's books, I loved picture books, middle grade adventures, and YA novels. Children's books have just always held a joy and love of pure storytelling that I found missing in books for grown ups (ha). Today, I thought I'd share 14 of my favorite children's and YA books, from picture books to lengthy novels.

[All images from]

1. Waiting Is Not Easy! by Mo Willems

This book may be aimed at elementary schoolers, but it could have easily been written for all the 20-somethings waiting for their lives to start. Elephant & Piggie totally get it.

2. The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

In my experience, Calvin and Hobbes only get better with age. Every time I read these comics, I find additional layers to jokes that I missed in my younger years.

3. ish by Peter H. Reynolds

This story about a young artist who loses his confidence and motivation is inspiring at any age. But I have found it especially useful when navigating my mid-20s identity crisis.

4. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

With hilarious illustrations and a simple, but witty premise, this is easily one of my favorite picture books right now.

5. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

I remember this book partly for teaching me curse words in 3rd grade. BUT it's still a beautiful, tragic story that takes on another layer of depth when read as an adult.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Because Harry Potter.

7. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Remember getting to high school and college and realizing so much of what you'd been taught in elementary school was a lie? (Like, can we just talk about Christopher Columbus for a minute?!) Chains is one of those books that works against the dumbing down history for young readers. Anderson presents a wonderfully complex look at the politics of war and slavery during the Revolution and it's awesome.

8. Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda's intelligence, cleverness, and bravery are even more impressive when you're old enough to get her literary references.

9. Frindle by Andrew Clements

This story is a reminder that ideas can go viral without social media. Nick Allen, the protagonist, is an excellent example of the value of creativity, wit, and determination.

10. The Invention of Huge Cabret by Brian Selznick

This book is illustrated by Brian Selznick, the long-time illustrator for Andrew Clements (author of Frindle). In this book, Selznick captures the wonder of discovering your first passion. And the images are just stunning.

11. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Another book that packs a stronger punch once you have the knowledge of history to back it up. This is a book that is moving at any age.

12. Looking for Alaska by John Green

Oh John Green, how I love thee.
13. The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston

I would be remiss if I didn't mention at least one of the many wonderful books published by Lerner, where I work. Owen is a refreshing novel about a young dragon slayer and his bard...set in the modern day. Bonus points for no forced romance between the two. (Though I am a sucker for romantic tension.) 

14. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

It's easy to write off the relationships we had in high school now that years have passed. This book is a reminder that first relationships can still be just as meaningful and life-changing as the ones we have as adults.

What books would you add to this list?

**This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy one of the linked products, I'll receive a small commission. However, I have not received any free products, and all opinions are my own** 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Outfit of the Day: 3.15

We've been having (what I'm told is) unusually warm weather here in Minnesota. I've been adjusting very slowly to this frozen tundra land, so a whole week of 60 degree temperatures and sunny days felt like a Godsend.

Knowing that we would have gorgeous warm weather this week, I planned for a glorious weekend of sun dresses and picnics.  I pulled out one of my favorite sun dresses to welcome spring. But it was a little premature to completely do away with scarves and cardigans. And I'm too wimpy to pull out the sandals.

I thought I had finally figured out how to take clear pictures with my phone. I was wrong. 

Dress: The Limited (old) | Cardigan: Loft (similar) | Scarf: Target (old)| Shoes: Hush Puppies (my wedding shoes!)

Can I just say that choosing flats for my wedding was one of the best decisions I made that weekend? Like, my list of good decisions that day was:

1. Eating waffles
2. Marrying Kenny
3. Wearing comfortable flats.

I highly recommend comfy shoes. Anyway...

Decked out in sunny attire, Kenny and I visited French Meadow Bakery here in the Twin Cities. We had a fabulous meal - toasted croissant sandwich with eggs, cheese, bacon, greens, and guacamole. The real goal of the outing was to eat pie for pi day, but tragically, French Meadow had only cakes and tarts. What kind of bakery doesn't sell pie on pi day??

Later that day, we packed a picnic of sandwiches and Nutella cups and headed south to visit Northfield, which is one of the cutest towns I've ever seen. I'm in love. Northfield is home to two small liberal arts colleges, St. Olaf and Carleton. Carleton was just overwhelmingly adorable. I want to just permanently move into a cute apartment above one of the local coffee shops and visit the Historical Society Museum every single day. Isn't that what people do in adorable small towns?

The building on the right? A POST OFFICE.

We finished off the day with an episode of House of Cards and Hershey's Chocolate Creme PIE!

How did you celebrate pi day?

**This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy one of the linked products, I'll receive a small commission.** 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

5 Tips for Decorating Your Apartment

As I've journeyed into apartment decorating, I've gathered some tips I wish I'd had myself 9 months ago. Hope these are helpful!

1. Hang curtains with tension rods. 

But Ellen, you say, that's not a tension rod! YES. IT IS. I'm telling everyone I know about how much I love Target's no-drill curtain rods. (No, they're not paying me. But they should!) Target sells tension curtain rods that actually look and hang like real curtain rods! And they don't make any holes in your walls! I'm in love with them. Kenny and I bought both the $22 Threshold rod and the $16 Room Essentials rod. Both work beautifully. The curtains have been up for several months, and they've never fallen.

2. Fill space with books.

One of my frequent decorating problems is filling space. When Kenny and I moved in, there were empty walls and empty shelves and empty tables everywhere! For me, the easiest way to fill that space was with books. As a book editor, I already owned a ton. But you can never have too many! I added more books to my collections by shopping at thrift stores and used book stores. You should be able to find books with cool bindings for only a few dollars each, if not less. Much cheaper than the $20 knickknacks at Target!

3. Hang heavy items with sidewinder hooks. 

I'm in love with Hercules hooks. Though our landlord doesn't want us making big holes or drilling screws into the walls (hence the tension curtain rods), we are allowed to make small holes that can be easily patched and painted over. Picture nails are just fine for hanging small shelves and frames, but I really wanted to hang a mirror in our entryway and a picture nail wasn't going to do.

These sidewinder hooks don't even need a hammer - you press them into the wall, guide it as it curves up until only the hook at the end is exposed. The rest of the contraption fits inside your drywall. And the hook can hold up to 35 lbs!

4. Grab cheap picture frames.

When I graduated college and started buying big-kid decor, I was shocked at home much picture frames cost. $15?? For a picture frame?? Hah. No way.  There are lots of great tutorials online for how to make dollar store picture frames look amazing. But I was too lazy even to acquire a can of spray paint. Instead, I scoured the clearance sections at Target, Home Goods, Marshalls, everyone. I ended up nabbing a lot of really nice picture frames for less than $5 each.

5. Don't be afraid to thrift and refinish. 

One of the things Kenny brought to our marriage was an old coffee table he had gotten at a garage sale for $5. $5! For a coffee table! When we moved in together, it was a bit of an eyesore. The table top had a shiny, light-wood finish with water marks, and the legs and body were an emerald green. It was not attractive. I promise.

Kenny and I decided to strip the old stain and restain and paint the table. Since it was our first DIY project, it did take a few weekends to get everything right. But we couldn't be happier with the results.

What DIY decor projects are you working on?

**This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy one of the linked products, I'll receive a small commission.** 

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