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Catching up: Portland April 8, 2010

Posted by Emily in blog, Blogs I read and like, photography, things that make me smile.
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With an online presence comes online responsibilities, of sorts. One of my favorite blogs announced yesterday that they are going to stop posting so that they can devote more time to other things in their lives. And I respect that prioritizing, even as I’ll miss reading their blog.

As for me, I don’t make money from my blog or from posting to Flickr or Facebook. When I get home from work, where I spend the whole day online, I often have zero interest in pulling out my computer to do some of my personal stuff online. And so I’m perennially a couple of months behind. And sometimes it bugs me – I’d like to post more up to date photos and not play catch up all of the time – but I’ve just decided not to let it stress me out too much. When I have something to write about, I post. When I have a night at home and nothing else I’d rather be doing, I upload photos. Maybe one of these days I’ll get all caught up. Or maybe not.

At any rate, thought I’d take advantage of the new WordPress slideshow option to post some photos from Portland, a trip that took place…just under two months ago, over President’s Day/Valentine’s Day weekend.

Pardon my tardiness.

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These photos and more in my Portland Flickr set.


My love/hate relationship with HGTV February 19, 2010

Posted by Emily in Blogs I read and like, design, rants.
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My name is Emily, and I’m a design addict.

My Google Reader is bursting with “homies” blogs and typography blogs and blogs with names like “Lovely Package” and “Happy Tape” (who knew cool tape – patterned, colored masking tape from Japan – could be so entertaining?) But none of it takes the place of flipping through a well-designed design magazine.

But where to go?

Domino, one of the greatest home design inspirations, closed down about a year ago.

Living Etc is a British decor magazine I love, but I can only, in good conscience, allow myself so many $8.50 issues every year.

I started subscribing to Country Living, and though it leans a bit more, well, country, than I’d like, it sort of holds me over. What Country Living lacks in cheekiness, my ReadyMade subscription more than makes up for. There’s twee urban hipsterness to spare, and sometimes interesting spaces, but it leans a bit too “look, I’m modern and eco friendly”  for my taste. Dwell is the same but even more.

The last two New York Times Habitat features have been so incredibly DULL, as Decorno and others have noted, that I find I’m throwing up my hands.

Honestly, outside of blogs and the occasional Living Etc droolfest, I get my best design fix from reading through my mom’s Better Homes and Gardens magazines.

And so we come to HGTV. Like Country Living and ReadyMade and so on, to some extent HGTV only factors in due to lack of better options. 95% of the houses they feature are blah beige suburban split levels with massive garages – not really my thing. And so few of the people featured have any sense of the possibilities of the house, what it could become. They want new, low maintenance, move-in ready. They pay way too much attention to paint color (which, I will admit, is atrocious when it’s not beige – lots of bubblegum pink bedrooms). And so their wishlists are eerily similar:

  • stainless steel appliances
  • “open plan living”
  • “room to entertain”
  • hardwood floors
  • if one of the few urban episodes, off-street parking
  • and most want a formal dining room

They tour the three houses, each of them saying “this must be the master” as they walk into the biggest room.  For some reason, most of the episodes seem to take place in Canada, so I’ll admit, there’s a little giggle value with the accents. On Property Virgins, pushy Sandra Rinomato guilt trips them into making swift decisions, as though their Canadian outposts have three houses, total, on the market. On My First Place, plenty seem to think their dads will mow their lawns (say wha?) and then they feign surprise when the house they buy gets one room kitted out with boring furniture and lame Target art on the walls.

Is this the best we can do? I remember thinking, back in the day when Trading Spaces didn’t suck, that most of these people didn’t have bad taste to work with – just no taste. Matching bedroom sets, sectional couches around massive TVs (and little else), no moldings or interesting features, berber carpet (or the ubiquitous new hardwood floors) and white or off-white paint, maybe with an awkward accent wall. It’s all such a snore. And somehow, also the American dream.

And am I solving that exasperation via HGTV? No. I’m still flipping on the TV after work some days and shaking my head at what HGTV usually has to offer. But I am looking out for some alternatives, and currently taking any suggestions you might be able to offer.

Portland! February 10, 2010

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, Blogs I read and like, design, Travel.
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I’ve had enough of the gray slushiness around here, so my fella and I have decided to head to Portland – home to more gray, I’m told, but at least it’s warmer gray weather! We head off on Friday and will roll back into town on Monday – a lot of driving for one weekend, but I think it will be an awesome break. We have a lot to celebrate – including Valentine’s Day and being together for a year. Hooray!

On Valentine’s Day, we are meeting a friend of his and doing the 18 mile Worst Day of the Year bike ride. I wasn’t so sure at first but was persuaded by promises of chai, baked goods, fruit and lunch along the way. I think it’ll be a cool way to see the city – although I did say that if it’s pouring rain, actually the worst weather day of the year, I reserve the right to stay warm and cozy in one of the stops along the way with a book and without any judgment from my male companions. Hopefully it won’t come to that. 😉 After the ride, we are going to make our way to IKEA, aka mecca. I don’t have quite the shopping list I had in California in November, but I’m going to pick up a few things that didn’t fit in my carry-on last time. Chief among them: a Ribba picture shelf (which the ladies at Nestled In use so well behind their couch) and the Helmer drawers.

Helmer drawers in white, from ikea.com

Yep, love them, especially in this house. (did you see those tape dispensers? be still, my heart)

So now I’m just working on the finishing touches of my little V-Day present project and thinking hard about a killer road trip mix. I feel sort of out of the loop, musically. What’s been playing in your ears of late? Or, any classic songs no road trip mix should be without?

Inspiration September 20, 2009

Posted by Emily in Blogs I read and like, books, design, jobs schmobs, moving, photography, working.

It’s funny, because lately I’ve been coming up with ideas for posts all of the time. Funny/ironic, mostly because I’ve written so little for so long. I have this great idea brewing and then I realize that I haven’t done laundry in six weeks. And I think, “I want to sit down and write, but if this laundry doesn’t get done tonight, I’ll be wearing a swimsuit to work tomorrow because I’m officially out of clean underwear.” (yes, I have about six weeks’ worth of underwear –  crucial in times like these)

Truth be told, I’m not quite certain how I am going to link all of the thoughts I’ve been having lately about big things like Life and Work and Love and Happiness. Nonetheless, I know an obvious connection exists, even as I may struggle to pull them together here. So here goes.

For a while now, I’ve been sort of in the throes of “What the hell am I doing with myself?” In some ways, this is normal. And sometimes even good. But I’ll get to that in a minute. The other side of that has been some form of quarter-life crisis, right on time (In a moment of weakness/insanity last winter, I even checked out a lame self-helpy book from the library with a title pertaining to this point in life. It was, obviously, useless). This moment involves a fair amount of self doubt and a penchant for getting emotional when reading about the economy. I’m currently working three jobs and waiting, waiting for things to finally die down. Talking to friends who are in grad school and hating it, or who are recently married, have moved, and are job hunting without any success, my situation seems pretty OK. And I’m reminded that a year ago, I would have been so psyched to have even one job. Three isn’t ideal, no, but it’s three more than many people have. For a moment I feel guilty for hogging so many, until I realize that I sort of need all three, at least in their currently functioning forms, in order to pay rent and buy food and generally pretend to be a semi-adult.

Sometimes I have some doubts, as I’m running from one gig to the next, about whether this is worth it. Or when I get a paycheck for one job that seems almost laughable. Or when people ask me what it is I want to do, longterm. With my life. Whether I’m working toward that. And I have no real way to answer them.

I think I have a pretty good idea of one thing I’d like to do with my life. But once I get on that train, it’s next stop Career. And Adulthood. And those aren’t such bad things, not at all, but they don’t let you ever go back. I won’t be in this responsibility-lite moment forever, and I don’t want to be. But I try (I really try, even though I often fail) to remember that that is where I am now. And that it’s something to be taking advantage of. Besides, it’s not like I’m going to be able to do some of the coolest adult things for a long while, like buy a house. And perhaps referring to one of the most important moments of a life as “cool” means I’m not ready to be a full-blown adult anyway.

So then there’s the title I stuck to this jumble of thoughts, inspiration. In a lot of the reading I do, inspiration comes up over and over again. It’s thrown around design blogs like you wouldn’t believe, it’s often a question in interviews with musicians and artists and writers and sometimes even CEOs. The other side of the “What the hell am I doing with myself?” thing can only be called “figuring some things out.” I know I have learned a lot about myself in the past couple of years, things that I didn’t learn in college.

I’m dealing with failure and the truth is, I didn’t have a lot of experience with it before. I’ve used my free time to do some interesting reading, to try improving my photography.

And so I attended a workshop a week or two ago by Mary Virginia Swanson, a photography marketing expert. I don’t want to be a professional photographer, it’s mostly just a hobby, but I’ve made a little money with it and it would be fun to display my work somewhere at some point, whether in a public setting or in a publication or two. And so I listened to her talk with interest. She made a lot of excellent points, ideas I hadn’t thought about but that apply to websites, marketing, networking, and resumes/portfolios in general. But one thing that really stuck with me was when she said, “To help people get to know you, share your sources of inspiration…To create and communicate, educate yourself.”

Since that night, I’ve been thinking a lot about what inspires me. Whether I feel inspired, or when. It’s felt a little elusive for a while, and I waver between feeling envious of people who talk about inspiration all the time and annoyed, convinced that it’s a put-on, that it’s maybe a little pretentious and not quite real. Who feels so damn inspired all the time? Sometimes I barely have time for the basics – work, sleep, eat, shower – and feel too drained to educate myself about my passions, let alone sit down and share my thoughts with someone else. Don’t these people start to feel overwhelmed by dishes and messy rooms and six weeks’ of laundry piled up?

Probably. My cousin Megan, who authors a blog much more frequently updated and generally more pulled together than mine, sent along a link to me about personal posting. I often hesitate to write here about things going on in my life, especially when they are negative. Having been a semi-professional job hunter for quite some time, I think being a little guarded is smart. But in reading through the article, I came across this one on the same site, which sums up a lot of what I’ve been working toward lately. I found the concept pretty fascinating. Basically, there is a certain threshold one must reach, be able to provide shelter and food and a little bit of beer money, in order to be happy. Being in responsibility-lite mode, I am thankful I don’t have a mortgage, or car payments, or daycare costs. I have some student loans, but that’s about it. I don’t have health insurance, but that’s not by choice. (young people without health insurance=irresponsible? That’s a whole other post.)

But what really matters is your relationships – with your family, your friends, someone who cares about and appreciates you. Sometimes it’s hard to identify at the time, but spending time with the people I care about is often directly rooted to me feeling inspired. Perhaps it’s indirect. Something they say or do leads me thinking some new thought, or checking out a new singer or book or whatever. Or my brain finally flips into off mode for a while with them and, walking home, there’s room enough for some moment of real appreciation. Happiness. Inspiration.

Sometimes my room is messy (ok, almost always). And I’m not as good about keeping up on the dishes as I should be. Sometimes I reach into the back of the fridge and uncover leftovers turned science experiment, and I’m a little disgusted with myself. My shoddy housekeeping can’t be completely excused away.

But in the current situation, my free time is sparse. I find that I am really protective of it. So when I get off work and I have a choice between spending time with people I care about, who help to make me feel inspired and who help to make sense of all of these jobs (it’s how I’m here), and between cleaning out my car or tidying my room or doing laundry, I choose them as much as possible. A perfectly ordered house where I’m alone doesn’t inspire me. If I sleep one hour less because I got to spend that hour with people that matter, that time was better spent. In the end I feel more rejuvenated. All of this only functions to a point of course – I’m not a total degenerate – but working more isn’t going to make me happy. An impeccable, design mag-worthy apartment isn’t going to do it, either, as much as I may fantasize. The people I care about are what make it. And I choose them.

At least until I am out of clean underwear.

Palette love July 6, 2009

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, Blogs I read and like, design, moving.
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It has recently come to my attention that I am obsessed with palettes.

Strange, I know – especially coming from a person whose paintings are often taken for early grade school projects. Really embarrassingly bad.

But a nice palette makes me giddy. I only just recently pulled together lots of my favorite things to make that connection.

Exhibit A:

The mother of all palettes: Pantone. When feeling stressed in high school journalism, I used to crawl into a corner and flip through the Pantone chart. I still find spreading the fan of colors incredibly high-inducing. I’d like to have one, just to look at it when I’m on the phone or while I’m waiting for the water to boil, but unfortunately, they cost a couple hundred dollars. (yes, for a bunch of pieces of paper with colors on them – but it’s Pantone!) To tide me over, I am still contemplating adding a couple of mugs to my collection, but one or two just can’t compare to the full chic rainbow.


photo from yumsugar.com

To continue the color choosing fun, Kuler. It’s a little-known Adobe online application that is invaluable for choosing colors – whether for a website, a wedding, or just trying to decide on something fun to wear for the day. I also love the palettes people can save and share. With titles like “Christmas in Italy” “Venezuelan Beach” or even “Chocolate Mint Coffee” – I find them incredibly transporting. You can also get colors based on an uploaded photo. This has saved my life during more than one boring period at more than one boring job.


As part of my move, I’ve been spending more time than usual perusing paint palettes at Lowe’s and Home Depot. One dresser I painted a classic Decorator’s White, but the nightstand will gets its last coat today of – Tucson Teal (the darkest shade)! So fun!


I recently came across this blog, Creative Holly Color, where she posts palettes based on people or events, personal or famous.

I am convinced that I was an artist in some past life, as my favorite shopping might possibly be art supply stores, where there’s very little my art-incapable self can actually use.

green palette, scrapbooking

scrapbook store, Great Falls, MT

So many colors, so many shades!

Because I love free May 5, 2009

Posted by Emily in a few of my favorite things, Blogs I read and like, design, jobs schmobs, Missoula, moving.
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Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? (just attend random political get togethers on college campuses…you may have to listen to some weirdos, but they almost always have pizza)

As I’m currently pieceing together a couple of part-time gigs in town and have started the search for a place to live, I’m becoming well aware of the obscene cost of living/pay ratio in this town and am feeling a little lean in the pockets. Blah. I don’t think I’m asking for so much–a one bedroom or maybe even a studio that’s preferably not in a (dark) basement and isn’t a trailer, but so far those criteria seem hard to meet for less than about 500 big ones. Ouch.

For that reason and because, well, I love free, I’ve really been appreciating these two things lately:

  • Free music on Amazon.com. Forget Apple and their weird limitations on where you can play the music you legally bought and head over to the Amazon MP3 store. They offer ridiculously good prices–Ben Harper’s newest album can be downloaded for $3.99 this week–downloaded music is automatically added to your iTunes library (if you want it to be), lots of albums include a free track, and they have over 8,000 completely free songs ranging from well-known artists to obscure music from around the globe. You have to download this small Amazon Music Downloader application and then click, click, click your way to free music. I’m so in love with this guilt-free music (did I mention it’s totally FREE?) that I’m thinking of highlighting some good tracks I found over there in a series of posts. Yes.
  • Handwriting fonts at Kevin and Amanda’s blog. About a month ago, the woman behind Chez Larsson (a Swedish home organization blog I’m sort of infatuated with) wrote that she got a free font made of her (obviously perfectly neat) handwriting. By the time I got around to writing out all the alphabet and beyond, the site had changed the fonts to $9.95 or $14.95 with special characters. Lame. But when I searched around a bit, I came upon Kevin and Amanda’s blog. I have no clue who these people are, but hundreds of people have submitted handwriting samples to this lady, who then turns your handwriting into a font–which she emails to you for free and posts on her site. I think handwriting fonts can be so amazing when done well (and so cheesy when done poorly–Bradley Hand, anyone?) so I was psyched to download over 300 handwriting fonts with the single click of a button. Wha? Yeah, I know. Awesome. I’m totally submitting my handwriting to her tomorrow. (Amanda, if you read this, pick me!)