Sunday DIY: side table transformation and 5 tips for spray painting furniture

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We have had fleeting days of good weather (even though it’s mid-April!) and I’ve been wanting to get outside and transform this little side table since the winter. Finally this weekend, some sunny and sixties weather descended and I jumped at the opportunity.

This table must be more than thirty years old: I remember it housing our printer when I was just a toddler at my parents house, then it hopped a ride with me to college to hold my very own printer. Since then, it traveled 3,000 miles with me to my current apartment where it’s been struggling to find it’s purpose, not only because I no longer need a printer, but also because it was so hideous looking.

Browsing the spray-paint aisle, I settled on a teal-grey color scheme, and decided to accent both surfaces with the bright blue color, and painting the rest grey. I like how it turned out, but unlike my last spray painted furniture adventure of a little end table, this one was much more challenging because I couldn’t simply separate the pieces I wanted to be different colors.

For this, I gleaned the following few quick tips if you’re thinking about spray painting your own well-loved furniture:

  1. Clean your furniture first. Little specks of dust will definitely show up if you try to paint over it. Try to remove as much as you can first.
  2. Painters Tape: always and often. Especially for nice edges, it’s a worthwhile venture to spend time trying to get the lines of tape just right, and make sure they thoroughly covered. Spray paint can leak beneath the tape for an uneven edge, and this looks messy.
  3. Beware of the wind. It may seem like doing things outside in a “well ventilated area” as they say on the can is a good idea (and it is) but try to choose a less windy day for your spray painting activities. I ran up against little bugs, pieces of grass, all kinds tiny things that would love to stick to your wet paint.
  4. Be patient. Let’s be honest, I am not the most patient person. But waiting for the first coat to dry before applying the second is absolutely essential if you want an even application. I had to wait at least 20 minutes in between.
  5. Use a piece of cardboard to touch up the edges. I found this tip the most useful. With a two-tone piece like this, sometimes I missed a spot and want to give it a quick spray of one color without disturbing the other. For that, I held a piece of cardboard against the edge to spray a clean straight edge, while protecting the other color on the opposite side. I didn’t risk using tape over the new paint, even if it was mostly dry, so I just shielded it with strategically placed cardboard.

Even though I had this table lying around waiting for a makeover, I’d really like to pick up some free and more interesting pieces on Craigslist and make them over. I think I *might* be addicted to furniture DIY.

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12 Days of Meals: Eating Inspiration

As the wedding draws closer (140 days away!), I’ve been trying to make an effort to eat healthier. Unfortunately, it’s easy to fall into a boring food routine, where branching out becomes take-out. And while I’m an expert eater, I shy away from the stove unless it’s for Mac ‘n Cheese or breakfast foods like fried eggs, pancakes, and french toast. Fortunately, my fiance more than makes up for my lack of stove talent by growing his cooking skills exponentially, and I just had to share some of his creations here.

For a several weeks now, my culinarily inclined fiance tried really hard to make interesting and delicious food to tempt me away from the ever present graduate school pizza. This is seriously no joke: during the last week, I had pizza for lunch three days in a row and twice for dinner! Extremely bad for my waistline. Eating home-cooked food is always better and cheaper than ready made meals, even if the foods we choose to eat at home aren’t the most calorically restrictive. For example, one of the meals we had is a burger, which is probably the least close to diet food, but having bison meat instead of beef is much leaner and just as delicious. We drew inspiration from many different cuisines to keep it interesting, and just had fun with it. If anyone has ideas for fun and interesting recipes, please send them my way!

From Left to Right, Top to Bottom:

  1. Puff pastry stuffed with ground chicken, currants, and parsley
  2. Roast Chicken with Quinoa, chopped Brussels sprouts and toasted almonds
  3. Roast lamb with Bacon collard greens
  4. Tomato poached eggs with ground beef and cous cous
  5. Chicken Mole burritos
  6. Tempura battered Fish with homemade tarter sauce
2014-02-23 21.09.417. Homemade Ramen with shaved beef and enoki mushrooms
2014-02-23 21.15.248. Roasted honey mustard and bacon Brussels sprouts
9. Spicy sausage tacos with guacamole and pickled cabbage
10. Coconut lime mussels
11. Kale and chorizo Portuguese stew
 
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12. Homemade Bison burgers with a fried egg and homemade pickles
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The challenge for this coming week is not to buy anything at the grocery store that contains added sugar. It’s going to be tough, but just the simple awareness of ingredients in the food that we are buying can help us become more conscientious eaters, on the path to healthier eating!

Easy Knit Slouchy Beanie Pattern

I first fell in love with this hat when I saw it on a friend of mine: It just looked so comfy and effortlessly cool. But it wasn’t until I kept drooling over it on random passersby that I knew it was a perfect candidate for some DIY. But my memory is pretty bad, so when I found myself standing alone at the bus stop one dreary morning with, OMG, someone wearing that hat, I took an incognito picture of the back of said person’s head with (sadly?) only mild guilt. From there, I devised a pattern (not exactly the same, but whatever) using any yarn I happened to have on hand. The results are below.

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It’s actually super comfortable and fits my head great! I think I have a rather average sized head, so one size should fit most. It’s a pretty quick knit, and I used only one skein, with a bit to spare. Happy Knitting!

Materials:

1 Skein Caron SHEEP(ISH) Vickie Howell Yarn in Olive(ish)*

*alternative: any 30z/85g medium weight yarn of approximately 167yds

1 pair of size US5 (3.75mm) double pointed needles, or equivalent circular needle

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Abbreviations:

CO= cast on

PFB= purl1 into the front and back of the next stitch to increase by 1 stitch

K2tog= knit two together

Stitch Guide: Ribbed Seed Stitch

Row 1: K1 P1

Row 2: Knit

Repeat Rows 1-2

Pattern:

CO 88 Stitches (22 stitches on 4 dpn’s)

Rows 1-10: Rib stitch K1P1, or for 1.5inches

Next Row: *Purl1, PFB, P20, PFB, P1,* Repeat from * to end. 96 stitches on 4 needles.

Rows 12-15: Purl

Rows 16-20: K1P1

Rows 21-26: Purl

Rows 27-34: Work in Ribbed Seed Stitch for 8 rows (see stitch guide)

Rows 35-40: Purl

Repeat Rows 21- 34 four more times (about 7.5inches from CO), or until desired length

Next Row: Knit

Knit for 4 more rows, then begin the decrease

Decrease:

Row 1: K2tog

Row 2: Knit

Repeat until 12 stitches remain on 4 needles, break yarn and draw through remaining stitches, tie off

Because this was retroactively devised from the finished product, apologies for any inconsistencies, let me know if there’s questions!

Pretty Embellished Sweater Part II

A few posts ago, I embellished a sweater with metal brads, adding a little extra something to a plain orange cable sweater. I’m now hooked on adding special details to my clothes, and I’m especially loving all things chevron. So, when I discovered that another girl at work had the same bright pink GAP sweater as me, I knew it would be the perfect candidate for a little make over.

2014-02-23 20.00.47Starting out as a regular plain sweater, I added two triangle shoulder details on either side. I alternated large and small brads to create a little extra detail and add a fun eclectic vibe. I didn’t want to overpower it with details, I think it’s just enough to jazz up a shirt and jeans combo, or pair with a summery dress. As a graduate student, it’s easy to fall into wearing jeans and a t-shirt every day, but adding a little pop or detail helps dress it up and look fairly put together without much effort.

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Because it’s so easy to fall in to a daily routine in this dreary gray cold weather, wearing bright colors with fun details in the middle of winter definitely puts a spring in my step and helps me brave the next day’s commute.

The Imposter in the Room

I was acutely and nervously aware of the irony of my situation at that moment. I was about to crash an exclusive seminar by passing myself off as “staff” using a defunct email address (which in all fairness, did at one time exist) to register for an event to which I was not at all invited. The seminar was actually a workshop about conquering Imposter Syndrome. Yes indeed, I was the literal imposter in the room, sneaking myself in to learn all I could about how to overcome feeling like an imposter.

How did I get here? Let’s back up. Some time ago I had read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, in which she describes feeling like an “imposter” in school and at work- a phenomenon where rather than taking pride in one’s achievements, she brushed them off as luck, and felt fearful that others would discover a “true” lack of talent or accomplishment. I was interested in this, mostly because her experience of putting the name “Imposter Syndrome” to her feelings, as outlined in her book, was mirrored uncannily in my own experience. The scenario she described was a scene from my own life, (if it was at UC Davis instead of Harvard and another honor society altogether) in which her mind is absolutely blown by a speaker at her Honor society’s initiation ceremony. I had to know more. From the book’s references I went and read the original research paper that described this phenomenon for the first time. More digging revealed a test (omg! a test!!) that would rank the severity of your imposter feelings on a 1-100 scale.

I was all about this: any number I could attach to my feelings made them measurable and therefore understandable, definable! I couldn’t ask for better validation. Like a dutiful researcher, I contacted the lead author of the paper asking for permission to reprint/cite her paper and test as source material for a discussion with other lady scientists I was slated to have the next week, thinking it would provide some good talking points.

Some weeks went by, and our discussion of imposter syndrome went well: consistent with the paper we read, all of us high-achieving women (save one) had experienced imposter feelings, and scored highly on the test. Reactions run the gamut from very surprised to a non-nonchalant shrug. My reaction was somewhere in between…I wasn’t surprised but I was still feeling quite shocked and at a loss at what to do.

Then, out of the blue, I receive a missed call at work. This is very unusual, everyone who wants to reach me never bothers and simply calls my cell phone. It was Dr. Pauline Rose Clance, author and discoverer of the Imposter Phenomenon, calling from Georgia. She knew I had requested to use her materials for a discussion with other women in STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math) and was following up with me, using the phone I list in my work email signature. Would you, she inquired, be willing to write about your experiences for my website and be a resource for other women in STEM? I was pretty shocked she wanted to put something I write on her website.

I couldn’t have been more intimidated, nervous, and starstruck all at the same time. Like the excited spazz that I am, I blurted out a yes- conveniently forgetting that I’m also planning a wedding and doing my PhD. And so, when I heard about an “invitation only” seminar about Imposter Syndrome at a nearby prestigious university, I had a fit of inspiration and decided to do everything I could to attend.

So here I was, feeling very off balance and doing everything I could to act like I belonged. In my mind’s eye, I could just slip in the back of the seminar and no one would notice me. However, as soon as I ascended the stairs I was greeted with a huge well-dressed crowd, mingling and enjoying a large display of catered treats: five kinds of mini-quiches, coffee, tea, juice, fruit plates, and every kind of cookie, cake and brownie imaginable. Ushers in matching suits (the school colors of course) with name tags waved guests to registration tables…where computers waited to take your name and institutional email.  I panicked, it didn’t say anything about registration on the event flier I had found! Also, somehow the title of the “seminar” had morphed into “workshop,” which to me implied a much more interactive session, meaning the chances I would be found out had drastically increased. But then, amidst the panic I felt a wave of calm descending, in which I calmly marched up to the computer and entered my information. If it rejected me, so be it! Miraculously, however…”Registration Accepted” appeared on the screen and I sort of stood there a little confused for a minute. The Usher kindly gestured me toward the food line and like a zombie I just trudged over and started grabbing whatever was in sight. I got in!

The “workshop” turned out to mean questions posed by the speaker and lots of raising of hands and audience participation. At one time there was even the formation of small groups for intimate activities, and I thought for sure my group-mates would discover the gaps in my personal experiences and realize I didn’t belong there. I played it all off, and everyone nodded in support of me, and asked to borrow my pens, and didn’t even seem the least bit suspicious. Once, an usher in the corner gave me a squinty-eyed serious look, and I thought for sure he would walk over and escort me out. As time went on, I was more comfortable, and I left still feeling nervous but also exhilarated and enlightened.

It was so worth it. I’m still waiting for the email “finding me out” and stating the consequences but so far nothing has arrived. And although it’s taken me several months to even begin composing something worthwhile about Imposter Syndrome, having an idea that I am not alone and not the only one at a loss at what to do sometimes, can make all the difference when deciding where to start. So although I literally had to turn into an imposter to learn how to cope with feeling like one, it somehow became an inspirational experience that ended with a sense of belonging.

I’m still composing something for Dr. Clance’s website, which will *hopefully* follow this post sometime soon.

Getting a Fit-(ting) figure

It turns out that the Freshmen 15 in college is just a red herring- it’s graduate school where all the pounds fly on. Graduate school should be renamed carb city: for all the free pizza seminars, bagel-strewn lab meetings, and of course journal club donuts. Long story short, since joining this carb city club I have put on about ten pounds–all of which needs to come off before my first wedding dress fitting in four months time. Let the countdown begin!

My conundrum is this: yes, I COULD eat a carb-less diet, exercise, and lose it all in weeks. Other unattractive options include juice cleanses and developing a sudden distaste of chocolate. I’ve decided I will instead develop pizza blindness and eat more healthy carbohydrates: yes apparently these do exist. I’ve discovered this wonderfully chewy and indulgent oatmeal that I’ve fallen helplessly in love with, which can fully and completely satisfy my carb cravings, no pizza required.

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They are steel cut oats (what all the doctors say are the best), and just look at all that protein! I’m not going gluten free, but if you are it’s even more amazing. Half a cup of this, with some fresh or dried fruit is simply the best. If I want extra energy, I add a little chia seeds. Here I used dried currents and apricots with a teaspoon of chia seeds. It came out looking like this:

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3 cups water + 1 cup oatmeal+ simmer 15 minutes = 2 people having the best oatmeal ever

It has a wonderfully chewy texture which I absolutely enjoy, but if you like it softer like my fiance, you can simply cook it longer with a little more water. After this, I feel ready to tackle the day and, you guessed it, exercise! To move my exercise regimen along, I’ve committed to at least 30-45 minutes every 1-2 days, with aerobic weights and yoga. Apparently everyone has the same idea because 10lbs weights were virtually sold out everywhere during the New Year. I don’t do yoga usually, but it’s such an easy thing to do at home (since it’s -20 degrees out, and for the gym I have to go outside), so in order to motivate myself I whipped up a cute crocheted bag for my yoga mat, with a knit I-cord drawstring:

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It’s a great craft for those who want to sit down for many hours and watch football, but feel a little too guilty to just eat and drink beer the whole game. I had some extra yarn to use up and I’m not an advanced crocheter, so during the NFL playoffs I literally sat down for two whole games and crocheted the whole thing start to finish. I paired it with Jillian Michael’s Yoga Meltdown the other day and the result was fantastically sore muscles and an exciting new exercise regimen! Here’s to hoping I can keep it up.

Weekend DIY: easy embellished sweater

Embellished sweatshirts have been a trend this year, which I’ve admired from afar and briefly indulged the idea of DIY-ing myself one, inspired by many of the How-To Tutorials out there, like this one. However, I’m more of a sweater than a sweatshirt girl myself, and come Christmas I found myself with several wonderful new sweaters I couldn’t wait to wear. One of them in particular I liked a lot, but looked similar to some others already in my closet, so I was looking for ways to make it special and unique. I really like the finished product:

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I was inspired by studded shoulder details on sweaters and sweatshirts. A quick visit to the local craft store disappointingly revealed that there were no studs I could glue on, only the punch-on kind for actual leather. I ended up in the scrap-booking aisle and found some different size brads: which look like pushpins but then open up to secure themselves on paper, or I thought, perhaps my sweater? Time to experiment!

My materials included the sweater, some fabric jewelry glue (optional, I discovered), two sizes of brads, and a strip of blingy rhinestones I didn’t end up using:

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Next, I stuck the brads, pin-like, in my sweater to experiment with different shoulder patterns until I found an orientation I liked. Then I stuck them through (carefully, so they didn’t rip the threading) and opened up the backs of the brads horizontally. This is what it looks like front and back:

2014-01-11 12.49.33The best thing about using these brads is that they are completely removable, without damaging the sweater. I thought I would have to glue them on to keep them in place, but they stay great, so I didn’t even have to use the glue but I’m sure you could for a more permanent makeover. The inside looked pointy and potentially uncomfortable, but after wearing it all day I didn’t experience any poking or itching.

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I’m in love with the end product and the best part is I have only a few bucks I have extra brads for many sweater makeovers in my future. If I find other studs or beads I could easily use the craft glue I now have, and the possibilities are practically endless!