Day 18: Keep Calm and Lawyer On

This week at work has been one of those weeks.  For some reason my mind always wanders to that scene in Michael Clayton where that lawyer suddenly cracks in a deposition and starts stripping off all his clothes and runs out of the room all crazy.  The reality is that nearly all jobs are that way, right?  You have days that are not so bad, and you have days that make you think maybe selling everything you own, living out of your car, and working part time at a food truck would be preferable.  Or am I alone in thinking that?  😉

The point is, after five of those days, I decided to take a quick break from work to search around the internet for something to make me think happy thoughts about being a lawyer and/or remind myself to chill out.  I started googling around for a “Keep Calm” poster for lawyers.   Back during WWII, the British government produced these posters that said, “Keep Calm and Carry On” which were intended to boost morale during the war.   Somewhere in the last decade, the posters were rediscovered and have become fairly popular.


Now, people have made all kinds of posters.  Keep Calm and Sail On.  Keep Calm and Sew On.  Keep Calm and Write On.  Keep Calm and Eat a Cupcake.  You get the idea.  (I seriously approve of that last one!)  So I started looking for a lawyer one, but I couldn’t quite find what I was looking for.   However, I did find this great Etsy shop called Encore Prints that prints “Keep Calm” sayings on old antique book pages from the 1800s.  I LOVE the look, and totally intend to buy some (I am leaning toward the “Keep Calm and Write On” one to hang in my home office and encourage my non-work writing).

And it gave me a great idea!  I have an “antique” (1930s) Blacks Law dictionary.  I couldn’t bring myself to tear an actual page out of it (Encore Prints prints on real pages!), so I decided to photocopy a page.  To add extra lawyer nerdiness, I picked a page with super lawyerly words such as “res judicata.”

I had a frame laying right by the printer that I bought at Ikea a few years ago but never used, and it was perfect for this project.

I measured the opening, and then hopped on my Mac to create a “Keep Calm” template in Pages.  I used “Arial Hebrew” font, and I googled “scales of justice” to find a little icon to put at the top.  It was super easy to drag the icon right from the google page into my document.

(Note: I took this photo today, while waiting in the car for Dave… I did not make this project in the car).

Then I put my photo copied page back in the printer, and printed my template (making sure to load the paper right so that the words would print on the correct side).  And I got this:

This is the kind of thing that would normally require trial and error but I happened to get it right on the first try!  Then I just had to trim the edges so it would fit in the frame, and I was done!  So, from start to finish, including googling around to try to find a print I could just buy, I spent about six minutes on this project.  And here is the finished project:

I LOVE it.  I am contemplating redoing it with slightly bolder letters.  But otherwise I love, love, love it!   Especially since it was basically free.  Hopefully this will help me remember to calm down and not run out of the room naked like a crazy person 😉



Day 17: Every Girl Loves to Sign Her Bonus Check Over to the Dentist

I had grand ideas for my year-end bonus I received in December.  Mainly of the OMG!EUROPE!FUND! variety.  Unfortunately, my mouth had other plans.  Dental bills are crazy.  Even when you have insurance, you still have to shell out hundreds of dollars for things that seem like they should be routine and fairly inexpensive.  So when you are raised by a single working mom with 3 kids, and a single filling costs $$$ even with insurance, let’s just say you’re not going to have routine and consistent dental care.  And given that braces aren’t covered at all, and are $$$$, braces are out of the question if you are that one kid of the three who has crooked teeth (me).

So I finally got a job where I could afford whatever dental care I needed, but with the slight complication that I didn’t have time to go to the dentist.  Last March, I was so busy at work that I got a killer tooth ache and just tried to power through it for the week because I really didn’t have time for an emergency dental visit.  I was slathering that oragel stuff in my mouth every 15 minutes or so… which is completely against the recommendation (something like only 3 times per day).  It was a miserable week.  I couldn’t sleep.  Then, finally, on Sunday, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I was pretty sure I was going to have to rip my mouth off my face to survive if I didn’t see a dentist ASAP.  Unfortunately, pretty much no dentists are open on Sundays.  There was a very, very sketchy sounding emergency clinic in downtown L.A. that I found on the internet, but I was not entirely confident that I would leave with all of my organs if I went there.  Then, it turned out I had a friend who had a friend who was a dentist, so I drove down to Redondo Beach on a Sunday afternoon for an emergency dental visit.  The decay was so bad she had to pull the tooth, and then put some bone in there and stitch it up because I basically had no bone left in that spot.  Yep, I have a random dead person’s mouth bone in my face.  That’s not weird or creepy at all, I know.

(Let me just clarify that nobody at work said, “No, Michelle. You can’t go to the dentist.” I was just so crazy busy I didn’t know what to do.)

She said there was more work to do, but of course I got too busy again and didn’t go back.  So finally, January rolled around and I decided to go back to the dentist.  However, I wasn’t even thinking about cavities or anything like that, I was just thinking about finally getting my crooked teeth fixed.  I was open to veneers or invisalign, but I needed something.  When they realized I hadn’t been to the dentist since last march, they asked if I wanted a cleaning.  “Sure!” I said.  Bad news bears.  It turned out I needed two root canals, and two cavities filled.   Even with insurance, the total was somewhere in the neighborhood of $2500.

However, after 3+ fairly painful and tedious weeks of dental visits, my teeth are in pretty good shape.  And the good news is: I am eligible for Invisalign!   When I first went in, we were newly engaged but keeping it a secret for the time being (except for our families), but I totally spilled the beans and was all, “I’ve been wanting to fix my teeth for a long time, but I just got engaged and now I’m getting married and I really want straighter teeth for the wedding! And OMG let me tell you all about my ideas.”  (Later when I told Dave he was like “… you told the dentist?!”  Men just don’t understand, amiright?! ;-)).

The bad news is that it is going to take close to two years.  The good news is that while they won’t be completely fixed by the time our September wedding, they should be significantly better.   And the dentist is throwing in a free zoom whitening as a wedding gift 😉  And Dave is getting invisalign too so we’ll be invisalign buddies.  He already has a great smile, but he thinks his bottom teeth could use a little help.

Me getting fitted for molds. I look hot, right?!

It’s a really small dental office with a dentist, assistant, and receptionist and they are GREAT.  The assistant actually told me to take the above picture and post it on Facebook.  A woman after my own heart.


Day 16: Lady & The Tramp (Not the Disney Kind)

It’s always a bit difficult to ease into a new relationship when kids are involved.  In our case, kids = dogs.  When we met, Dave had an 18lb Rat Terrier named Cosmo that he had rescued from the vet several months prior.  I had a 9lb Manchester Terrier that my coworker had rescued from the street about a year earlier.  I thought maybe our dogs could be friends.  Most people think our dogs are or should be good friends.  Not so much.  The picture above?  They were only sitting so close because we were in Oregon and it was COLD.  A better depiction of their relationship is this:

Ellie is thinking, “Poor me” and Cosmo is thinking, “Girl, please. You are lucky I let you exist.”

The first time our dogs met, Cosmo had to wear a muzzle so he wouldn’t bite her.  He was defening the home front.  Then, for several months after we started dating, he would still bite Ellie on occasion, particularly if she dared try to sit in either my lap or Dave’s lap.  Even now, Cosmo and Ellie have been around each other regularly for nearly 10 months, and Cosmo will still randomly start sniffing Ellie and then bark at her like she’s an intruder.

The good news is that we’ve made progress.  For the most part, he’s stopped biting her.  Also, she used to cower away whenever Cosmo barked.  Then it turned to her flipping out back at him, like “LEAVE ME THE HECK ALONE ALREADY.  I’M HERE TO STAY. GET OVER IT.”  Now, they sometimes try to play together, and will share a lap when it is advantageous to both parties (as in both dogs… generally because I am the only one around).  But Cosmo still does the barking thing sometimes, and Ellie still does the “I WILL CUT YOU IF YOU DON’T LEAVE ME THE HECK ALONE” freak out in response.  Hopefully this will gradually work itself out.  The signs of them playing give me hope.

But this post is not actually about how well they do or don’t get along, it is actually about how incredibly different they are, which we find amusing.  They are both “small dogs,” both rescue dogs, both LOVE to eat, and both breeds were bred to hunt rats.  But that is about where their similarities stop.  Dave referred to them as “The Lady and the Tramp” the other day, because we often joke that Ellie is originally from Bel Air and Cosmo is originally from the hood.  Ellie definitely has a snobby, drama queen attitude, and tends to treat Cosmo like he’s below her.. which is probably why he tries to pretend she doesn’t exist 😉

Here are just some of their differences:

Cosmo: Must be touching a human at almost all times. If Cosmo is not touching a human, and a human is home, you better be on the look out, because he is not the type that wanders off into another room to be good.  It’s always bad news if Cosmo is not in eye sight.
Ellie:  Would almost always rather not be touching a human.  If nothing exciting is going on, she prefers to be buried under blankets in a room by herself.  If she isn’t in sight when a human is home, 95% of the time that means she is sleeping.  The other 5% of the time she is accidentally locked in a room or accidentally locked outside and we think she is sleeping.  The point is, there is pretty much no chance she is doing anything bad.

Cosmo:  When humans aren’t home, as long as any bedroom doors are closed, all he will do is sleep.  There is rarely any evidence that he moved at all, no matter how long you are gone (Dave has left him home alone for over 12 hours before.  No sign Cosmo ever left the couch).  We never have to worry about leaving this guy alone anywhere.  (But if the bedroom doors are open, he will bite holes in blankets).
Ellie: Like I said before, if humans are around she mainly sleeps.  If humans aren’t around and she is left alone, about 80% of the time she’ll just sleep and perhaps rearrange shoes and undergarments in a sort of mafia like “leave me alone again and I won’t just move these I will chew them up” fashion.  The other 20% of the time she  does in fact chew things up.  She is the biggest fan of destroying leather products and electronics.  Particularly if they belong to men i.e. Dave.  And she is a ninja jumper, so even things on counters and top shelves are not safe.   This is why I gave in and Ellie now hangs out in her “penthouse” when she is left alone.

Cosmo: Will not sit on command unless you are holding a treat or something he wants.
Ellie:  Will sit on command even without a treat, but won’t necessarily stay there.

Cosmo: Will freak out like the world is ending if you attempt to put him in a crate.
Ellie: Will go into the crate voluntarily if you say, “Ellie, Crate.”  She LOVES it if the door is open and she chooses to go in there, and will often sleep in there voluntarily.  She is not the biggest fan of being locked in there. But she doesn’t whine or try to get out.  She just lets out a big sigh and buries herself in her blanket.

Cosmo: He assumes any stuffed toy is fair game and will destroy the heck out of it in under 5 minutes.  The first time he came to my apartment in L.A., he got one of Ellie’s owls and had it ripped open, stuffing torn out, and ripped into tiny shreds in less than 3 minutes.  If we take him to someone’s house who has babies, he will steal the baby’s toys and try to kill them.  The only thing he can’t seem to destroy is his red kong.  But he doesn’t try to destroy anything that isn’t a toy, so that’s good 😉
Ellie: Loves to play with stuffed toys and does not kill them.  She tries to mimic Cosmo but can’t seem to figure it out.  How is it that the girl can chew up blue tooths and game controllers like nobody’s business, but can’t figure out a stuffed animal??  On the bright side, her toys last way longer than they would for Cosmo.  On the downside, she can’t play with her toys around Cosmo.

Cosmo:  White fur, Male, acts like he’s from the Hood
Ellie:  Black fur, Female, acts like she’s from Hills

Cosmo:  Is not remotely bothered/interested in the TV.  Does not even appear to be aware that any sound comes out of the TV.  How is it that he will bark at a dog barking outside, but not be remotely concerned about a dog barking on the TV?
Ellie:  Loves watching TV.  Particularly HGTV, and action movies.  She also growls at crying/whining kids or babies on TV (as well as in person).  She is going to be a TREAT when I have my own kids.

Cosmo:  Chubby.
Ellie:  Extremely skinny/lean build.  Not worth eating (kidding!!)

Cosmo:  Totally cool with babies, children, or humans of any kind.  Also completely unaware that cats exist (a cat can walk right by him and its as if the cat was invisible).  However, he will pretty much try to fight any other dog to the death, regardless of size.
Ellie:  Not a fan of children, babies, old people, asian women, anyone on wheels (e.g. wheelchairs or bikes).  Absolutely HATES cats, but totally cool with other dogs.

Cosmo: Likes to go outside, but would prefer to stand around and stare and smell things, not so much a fan of walking.  And would rather take the elevator than the stairs.  Always lags behind.
Ellie: LOVES to go outside, and loves to cover as much ground as possible.  She will hike up and down a mountain without so much as a pant, and she will look back at me with judging eyes like “My legs are wayyy shorter than yours.  What is your problem?!”  She always leads the way.

Cosmo:  If you ask him where his “monkey” is (his kong), he will run off and sniff the world until he finds it and will bring it to you to throw it.
Ellie:  If you ask her where anything is, she will have no idea what you are talking about.  Even if you point.

Seriously, I’m not sure they could be any different aside from one of them being a Great Dane or something.  Regardless of all of their differences, they both have TONS of personality, and overall they are both really good dogs.  I think we make a good blended family 😉

Day 15: On Being Grown-Ups.

It’s funny how as a kid being a grown-up seems so awesome.  From a kid’s perspective, it kind of seems like adults just swim around in piles of money, eat candy for breakfast, and otherwise get to do whatever they want.  I think that’s how they get you.  The grown-ups that is.  They want you to grow up so you can start taking care of yourself and pay taxes and stop being a burden on anyone else.  So they lure you in with these grand ideas of fun and endless money and candy for breakfast.  And then they’re all “GOTCHA! Now you must have tons of bills and stress about money and plan for your future and raise your own bratty babies!”

I’m mostly kidding here, but let’s face it:  being a grown-up is not quite as awesome as it seems from the eyes of a child.   But I really can’t complain too much because I did in fact eat cookies for breakfast this morning.  But the truth is, even when you have money, being an adult and making “adult” decisions can be stressful.  And at the very least, not what you expected as a kid.

How did we spend our Valentine’s Day?  No, not swimming in a pool of champagne and flowers and gorging ourselves on chocolates.  We spent our Valentine’s Day discussing our married life budget, our financial goals for the next couple of years, and two very different but awesome rental houses (no need to buy a southern CA house when the Navy could ship us elsewhere in 1.5 years).

The house situation is TOTALLY like an episode of House Hunters.  We have narrowed it down to two:

Option 1:

  • Pros: Very affordable, super close to great hiking trails, 3 car garage (which means plenty of room for both cars, bikes, and DIY projects), completely updated kitchen, huge master suite, front loading brand new washer and dryer, smoker and fire pit included, central air
  • Cons: No view, wasted space (the house is 2200 sqft, and includes a formal livingroom/sitting room and an extra bedroom that we just wouldn’t use), cookie cutter neighborhood (every house looks pretty much the same), some parts are carpeted and hardwoods are fake (we love all hardwoods), 2-story (we like one story better), not much counter space in kitchen, and microwave is on kitchen counter (so even less space)

Option 2: 

  • Pros: AMAZING ocean and canyon views (you can hear the ocean from the back deck), amazing outdoor spaces (see last pro!)– huge back deck, sizeable front yard with grass for the dogs and two side yards, real hardwood throughout (no carpet), one story, no wasted space, TONS of counter space in the kitchen, not cookie cutter at all
  • Cons: 25% more expensive (and when you are talking california rental prices, 25% is a LOT!), Kitchen is not completely updated (pretty sure the stove is the same stove from the 60s), no A/C (although it is right by the ocean so super breezy)

Both houses are about the same distance from Dave’s work, both are in quiet, safe neighborhoods, neither house is really walkable to shops or restaurants but neither is too far of a drive, both have nice outdoor spaces (although the the outdoor space at #2 is considerably nicer given the size, ocean views, and sound of the ocean), both have plenty of storage (including walk-in closets), and both have laundry rooms and plenty of kitchen storage space.  Also, both have very open floor plans which we love (although House #1 is a little more open).  And while House #2 doesn’t have a 3-car garage, it does have a 2-car garage which is plenty for 2 people with only 2 cars. It would just be nice to have that little bit of extra garage space 😉

In the end it comes down to:

#1:  Really too much space, and no view, but a great house and a great price
#2:  Views to DIE for, and a great house, but can we justify the price?

This is what turned our plans of a quiet night cooking a Valentine’s dinner together to discussing finances for a few hours.  And those are the moments that make me think, “holy cow I am an ADULT now.” (Even though I’m 27 and should be fully aware that I’m an adult now, after nearly 10 years of legally being one).

Which house will they choose?  Stay tuned, y’all 😉

Day 14: A Day For Love.

Ten on Tuesday questions from RootsAndRings.

1. How do you feel about Valentine’s Day?

I have mixed feelings.  I’ve never been a fan of forced romance, and it kind of pressures people to be all cliche romantic.  But I’m not all “I hate it it’s a hallmark holiday” either.  I just don’t want red roses and a stuffed monkey holding an “I love you” heart.*  I’ve also never been one to feel bummed that I am single on Valentine’s Day.  To be honest, the best Valentine’s Days I’ve ever had were (1) getting all those sweet valentines in grade school; and (2) spending the evening with my best girlfriends during college.  I’m pretty sure every year we cooked dinner together, made brownies, and watched Blue Crush.  I’m not sure why we didn’t figure out that there were other movie options, but I loved those Valentine’s Days just the same 🙂

2. Are you in love?

Excuse my french, but heck yes 🙂

3. What is your favorite love song?

I’m not a big “love song” person.  I don’t hate love songs, I just don’t tend to sit around on a regular basis listening to them.  Whenever I try to think of one, I think of the part in the Wedding Planner when Fran and Eddie are listening to a CD trying to pick their “song” for their wedding, settling on “I Honestly Love You” by Olivia Newton John.  And then later Mary (played by J. Lo) says, “Oh, oh, and I Honestly Love You as your wedding song? You might as well commit matrimonial suicide right now!”  What? Doesn’t everyone think of mediocre romantic comedies starring J. Lo every time they try to think about love songs?  Nonetheless, I do plan to gather a ton of cute love songs to play at my wedding reception.

In non J. Lo news, today I heard the song “Today” by Joshua Radin and I LOVE it.  Unfortunately the reason I heard the song was because apparently some people named Cane and Lily are getting married on The Young and the Restless.  I can’t have a song at my wedding that was on a soap opera wedding, right?  Darn you Cane and Lily!!

I guess what I should have just said is, “No. I do not have a favorite love song.”

4. Did your parents do anything for you on Valentine’s Day when you were a child?

I can’t really remember.  When I try to think of Valentine’s Day as a kid, I only remember this one time in 4th grade where one of my (male) classmates wrote “I love you” on one of my valentines.  And I was all “OMG HE LOVES ME” and then it turned out his mom made him write that to everyone 😦  Attention all mothers:  Do not make your 4th grade sons (or any aged sons) write “I love you” on any valentines to any girls.  It is misleading.  Of course, in 3rd grade I got a box of chocolates from a boy and thought I was special, and it turned out his dad worked for a chocolate company and made him give everyone chocolates.  So maybe I just jump to conclusions a little too quickly.  Maybe all those grade school let downs are the reason I now hate cliche romantic gestures.  Who knows?  We’ll save that conversation for the therapist I don’t have 😉

5. What is your love language? 

So… I’ve never read the Love Language books but I have always thought my love language was attention (although I know that is not technically an option).  Not in an “I need attention 24/7!” way.   But I feel loved by pretty much any action that shows the person was thinking of me.  The smallest things (like sending me a random text message, picking something up from the store that I mentioned I needed, an unexpected hug or kiss, or washing my dishes) can make me feel SO loved.

I just took the quiz linked above, and my love language score was 10 for quality time, followed closely by acts of service and words of affirmation.  My score for gifts was 0.  You can’t buy my love, y’all.

6. How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Gifts? Dinner?

Almost always having dinner with girl friends, because I’ve very rarely been dating someone on Valentine’s Day.  This year, I am engaged and the husband-to-be and I are not exchanging gifts, but we are making dinner together.

7. What is your favorite flower?

I like simple flowers.  I was in love with tulips for the longest time.  I still like them, but they are probably tied with gerber daisies in terms of flowers I’d like to receive.  But I mostly have various types of white flowers on my mind these days, because I have wedding reception centerpieces on the brain and I’m leaning toward simple white flowers.   I pretty much don’t like any roses.  Especially not red roses.  However, I think I can get behind white roses.

8. What is your favorite love story? (Book and/or movie.)

Eh, it would be hard to pick my favorite love story of all time, but I can’t get enough of Runaway Bride.  “I guarantee there’ll be tough times. I guarantee that at some point, one or both of us is gonna want to get out of this thing. But I also guarantee that if I don’t ask you to be mine, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life, because I know, in my heart, you’re the only one for me.”

9. What is the most romantic thing someone has ever done for you? Or you have done for someone?

Dave’s map letters were super romantic.  That was an intense labor of love, y’all.  I also think about one time at my apartment when I was out of dishwasher soap and Dave washed all of my dishes by hand.  Or when Dave took my car to get it washed and waxed while I was getting two root canals.  Ok, so maybe acts of service are my love love language?

10. How did you meet your spouse/significant other?

We met on a dating website after we both had friends encourage us to join.  I dated a guy I met in law school for over 3 years and it ultimately didn’t work out, and I went on a few dates with others in between.  When I “met” Dave, we talked daily via email for about two weeks before we exchanged phone numbers, then talked for hours a day for about a week before we finally met up for a first date, which ended up lasting around 14 hours and is recapped here.  I also wrote a post about love recently mentioning a few more of the details here.  The rest is history.  🙂


*To be fair, I did once receive a stuffed monkey holding an “I love you” heart from a boyfriend, and my anti-cliche romance heart did like it.  But that was also because we had a thing for monkeys, and it was a particularly cute monkey.  I have also received stuffed giraffes holding “I love you” hearts from family members that I thought were adorable.

Day 13: Another Map Craft–Our Pin Map.

This one isn’t quite as unique (or time consuming) as the personalized map letters.  However, we love it because we made it completely with things we already had laying around.  And as Portland native low-budget furniture commercial salesman Tom Peterson would say, “Free is a very good price.”

We’ve seen quite a few pin maps around the internet, and Dave (not knowing that I actually read YoungHouseLove on a regular basis) particularly liked this inspiration:

Pushpin map from YoungHouseLove

Picture, and post, from here.

So we totally planned to buy a map and some cork board off Amazon, and a frame from IKEA.  The total project still would have been less than $50.  However, I’m no expert at math but I do know Free < $50.

After making the map letters, we had a whole sheet of the foam board left.  We also discovered that the atlas from Dave’s dad contained a full U.S. map.  And I remembered Dave had a random framed print in one of his closets that he wasn’t using so I pulled it out to see if the frame would work.  It turned out the frame was the perfect size!

The U.S. map was split across two pages, so Dave had to carefully glue it on (using the Modge Podge glue and foam brush mentioned in the Letters post) to make it look seamless.

Then I brushed a thin layer of the Modge Podge glue over the top of the map to seal it and make it look finished, and we began putting in pins.  This was our finished product:

This close up, you can see the letters on the opposite pages of the atlas showing through.  But from a distance (where we usually see it from) you can’t see the letters at all.   We went a little crazy with the pins.  We have a pin color for where we were born (red), a pin color for where we lived when we met (yellow), a pin color for our first date (white), a pin color for everywhere we traveled together (black), and even a pin color for airports (green), because some of our trips have been roadtrips and we didn’t see airports at all.   And the last one was mostly because one or both of us may have wanted more pins 😉

So there you have it!  Our free map project.  Sadly, we have actually had “where can we go next so we can get more pins??” conversations.  Taking vacations to get more pins on your pin map is expensive.  Just FYI.

Day 12: This is Why People Love San Diego.

Ok.  Technically it rained this morning.  So this type of day isn’t QUITE the reason why people love being in Southern California.  And technically there are clouds in the picture I’m about to share.  My point would be greater if the photo didn’t look like a storm was rolling out.

However, it is still amazing that you can drive 15 minutes and be sitting at a waterfront restaurant on Coronado looking out at the San Diego skyline.  In February.  People were out riding bikes, kayaking, and playing in the sand.  In February.  I’m still not interested in living in California long term, but I can see why people do.  In the meantime, I am really looking forward to another few years down here.

Village Pizzeria in Coronado

Day 11: I’m Not An Artist But I Like Painting!

Yesterday Dave and I started looking at rental houses.  We went to one particular open house where the house had tons of wall space, including a great room with 20′ ceilings.  The following conversation ensued with the real estate agent:

Me (to Dave): There is TONS of wall space.  I could paint something really big for the living room!
Agent: Oh, are you an artist??
Me:  Uh, not a “real” artist.  But I like painting sometimes for fun. 

I just can’t get behind thinking abstract art requires a “real” artist.  I consider an artist someone with talent, and I just can’t understand calling someone who splatters paint on a canvas “talented.” (Sorry Jackson Pollock and Mikey Teutul).  Does it really take talent to splatter paint on a canvas, or paint a couple boxes a la this piece on display at a New York art museum?

I don’t think so.  Obviously this is just one girl’s opinion.  Plenty of people think that splatter paint and simple lines are brilliant.  That is why these things end up in museums and sell for kajillions of dollars.   Don’t get me wrong, I think abstract paintings are interesting, and I love looking at them, I just don’t think they require a ton of talent.   I think to myself, “Self, why should you pay a kajillion dollars for one of these fancy paintings, when you can paint one yourself for the cost of a $15 canvas?” It also helps that I am not the kind of person who would get jollies out of having expensive art pieces created by well known artists on my walls.  I’m a simple girl.

So that’s what I do… I paint simple paintings myself when I have a piece of wall that says, “Hey, I could use a little sprucing up here.”  It’s really simple.  All you need is a canvas, some paint brushes, and perhaps a little inspiration.  For one of my recent paintings, I used a picture Dave had taken of San Diego city lights at night.   Dave had just bought an easel for me to encourage my painting, so I broke it in by painting something for him.  First, I painted the top half of the canvas a super dark blue like the night sky.  Then I painted the bottom a dark reddish tone that matched the bottom of the inspiration picture and let it dry.  Then I came back with a bunch of different colors and just wooshed them around in the middle to look like a very loose interpretation of the city lights. 

Below is a picture of the painting, and you can see a framed photo of the inspiration picture on the end table below.   I love how it looks in the room.  It replaced a print of a Picasso, and I think it looks so much nicer having a real painting there rather than a framed print.

I guess the only amount of skill involved here is remembering how to mix colors to get the colors and shades I want.  I only own the primary colors + white and black.  I am not a skilled painter.  You should see the ornament I “painted” several years ago at a ladies event at my mom’s church.  Awful.   But I’ve got the hang of mixing colors and wooshing lines of paint around a canvas.  I might even say I am really good at doing so 😉

Day 10: Personalized DIY Map Letters

I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile because several of my friends have asked how we (technically just Dave) did it.  This will be a very boring post for anyone who is not interested in making their own letters.

I have been pinning various ideas for personalizing a D and an M (for Dave and Michelle) for awhile.  Then one day, I left pinterest up on my laptop and between pinterest, blog surfing, and internet searching, Dave came up with the idea to cover a D and an M with maps.  And not just any maps… He decided to cover a D with Georgia (his home state), an M with Oregon (my home state), and an “&” with Southern California (where we lived when we met… and still live).

We had this idea for awhile before we got engaged, and technically we were already engaged the day Dave did most of the work, but we were keeping it (mostly) a secret at that point.  However, when I posted a picture of the completed product on Facebook, I started getting quite a few texts, messages, and calls from people wondering what was going on with us.  And after we publicly broke the news of the engagement, several people mentioned they thought something was up when they saw the map letters.  I guess a guy probably won’t spend hours making sentimental craft letters for a girl he’s not planning to keep around awhile, eh?

It ended up being a fairly complicated process that resulted in a time-intensive, tedious, completely homemade, but beautiful and sentimental project.  I would recommend looking for pre-made cardboard letters at a place like Joann’s.  We didn’t know about those letters at the time, and after not finding any letters at our local Michael’s that we liked, we decided to make our own.

Supplies We Used:

1) Maps of Oregon, California, and Georgia (Dave’s dad had an old Road Atlas he got from work that he let us use, although we also looked around some thrift/antique shops and contemplated just printing some off the internet).

2) Pre-Made Letters OR Foam Board + Letter Stencils + Box Cutter

3) Modge Podge Glue + Foam Brush

4) Patience.  Particularly if your letters contain curves (like D and &).


First, we printed stencils using our computer, printer, and regular paper.  We tried out a few fonts and settled on Arial Bold.

Then, we traced out each letter on the foam board.  We initially had a different idea for how to make the foam letters, but realized it would be extremely difficult with the curves on the D and the &.  So instead, we traced out 3 of each letter, used a box cutter to cut out each letter, and then glued the 3 together.  The only part I helped with was the tracing.  Me and sharp objects don’t mix.

The process of tracing and cutting out 9 letters was extremely tedious.  Plus, of course cutting things with a box cutter isn’t perfect, so we had to go out and get sandpaper to sand the sides down once we attached the 3 together.   It was such a tedious process that the white, uncovered letters sat on this bookshelf for a few days before Dave started up the project again.  That is why it is better to just BUY letters.  You save the most tedious and time consuming part.

When it came time to cover the letters with the maps, we (I helped again!) traced out each letter on the part of the map we wanted.  It was important to us to make sure that certain parts of each state made it on the map.  For example, the “&” ultimately shows a lot of ocean because we wanted to make sure to include Catalina–the location of our first date.

After we traced out each letter on their respective maps, we knew which portion we wanted to cover the front of each letter, and so we glued the letter onto that portion using the Modge Podge glue.  It is very important to apply the glue thinly and evenly, and smooth everything out before it dries, or the map will dry bumpy (we learned that lesson the hard way with another map project I’ll share later).

The M was super easy since the sides were all straight… Dave just had to fold the sides of the map over and trim as needed.  But the D and the & were tricky when it came to folding the map around the sides of the letter in a way that didn’t look bunchy/bumpy.  Dave cut little slits in the map, which helped the sides fold over flat.

In some cases, when Dave folded the edges of the map around the sides of the letters, there wasn’t enough map to fully cover the sides which left some gaps.  So Dave found similar looking portions of other maps to fill in the gaps (e.g. if the portion of the map was ocean, he’d find another ocean piece to fill in the gap).  After a letter is completely covered, and the glue underneath has had time to dry, you can brush a thin layer of the Modge Podge glue all over each letter to give it a more finished look.

In the end, the letters looked like this:

I think these letters would look great on a shelf alone… particularly a floating shelf or a mantle.  But I put them there mainly as a safe place away from Ellie, and then we liked it so much we left them there.  I really love how the D and M each have our hometowns, and the towns of our favorite football teams 😉  And the & symbol not only encompasses Los Angeles, San Diego, and Catalina, but it actually has a dotted line from Long Beach to Catalina showing the exact path of the boat we took to and from Catalina on that fateful April 30th day.   It’s probably my favorite DIY project ever, even though my involvement didn’t go much beyond tracing.  I am an AWESOME tracer, y’all.  Just call me for all of your tracing needs.


Day 9 (A Little Late): The Many Hairs of Michelle

Somehow I completely forgot to update yesterday.  Oh yeah, that was because I was rapidly trying to review 450 documents with a hair appointment I couldn’t cancel thrown in the mix.   I was way too busy to take a break for a hair appointment, but you have to cancel 24 hours in advance (which I forgot to do because forgetting things is how I roll if I don’t have a giant post-it in front of my face these days).  So I suppose getting my hair done took the place of keeping up with my goal to update every day and get myself back into the blogging thing.

Over the years my hair has been blonde, brown, red, and various combinations of the three.  I like how I look with every shade, and I tend to get bored after keeping one particular shade for too long.  Every time I change my hair, I think “OMG I love it  (red/blonde/brown).  Why did I ever change it?!”  Except I think that every time.  A sampling, in no particular order:

(Note: Before people judge how particular colors looked on me, the above photos are not all the greatest photos of me with particular shades.  I just quickly pulled a sampling from facebook.  I have really loved pretty much every color my hair has been… except for when I have gray hairs ;-)).

When I summered with my current firm, I was blonde.  When I returned as an official lawyer a little over a year later, I was brunette.  Some of my coworkers didn’t even recognize me.  Then, after awhile of that, a few people suggested I should go back blonde to get a man.  I did.  Although admittedly more because I was bored with brown hair than to meet someone.  But hey, apparently going back blonde worked for me 😉   And, although I’ve been blonde again for awhile now, I have decided I would like to have long blonde hair for my wedding, so I am gradually working back to long and super blonde.

Kind of hard to tell in this unshowered, bathroom photo… but it’s really blonde!  As a little girl, my hair was practically white it was so blonde.  So even though my natural hair color has gone pretty dark as I’ve grown older (the darker tone you see peeking out at the bottom in the picture above is my natural hair), I still feel most like a blonde.

And probably anyone I know can tell you I am definitely blonde at heart 😉