January 27, 2010

open letter to Alex Trebek

Dear Mr. Trebek (or may I call you Alex?):

For a few years now, my husband, Nick, has been trying to get on your show. You know, that little Jeopardy project of yours. Frankly, I find your show kind of taxing to watch because of all of that fast-thinking involved — I mean, I've already spent nine hours at work; do I really need to spend 30 more minutes straining my brain? — but Nick lives for it. He watches it daily, spews out questions before you've even finished saying the answers, and calls his parents to let them know that he got Final Jeopardy right again. It's annoying, yet endearing, all at the same time.

He takes your online qualifying test whenever it's available, and I'm always amazed at how many answers (er, questions) he knows (since I stand over his shoulder watching nervously to see if he knows them). Sure, he misses a few, and occasionally puts "turd" or "turdville" in the response box when he doesn't know the right answer (er, question), but you like a good sense of humor, don't you, Alex? Isn't it important for Jeopardy contestants to be smart and entertaining?

I know a lot of people think they should be on Jeopardy. But the thing is, I know that my husband should be on Jeopardy. He'll probably get mad at my for "hyping him up" in this letter, but I just thought I'd give it a shot, because I think he's really, really smart. And handsome... but that's beside the point.

Anyway, please consider my plea. Oh, and if you need some new business cards or something, I'd be happy to design some in exchange for getting Nick on your show. It's the least I can do. Think about it.


PS, have I told you how great you look without your mustache? Like a fine wine, you have only improved with age! (Too much? Okay, I'm done...)

January 26, 2010

babies & blocks

Every time I turn around, another friend of mine is pregnant. At least, that's what it seems like. In preparation for the windfall of baby showers in my near future, I've been on the lookout for some hip items to give to my equally hip friends. I was most excited when I came across the awesome wood alphabet blocks from Delaware type foundry House Industries.

Check out these Neutraface Slab blocks. Neutraface is one of my favorite fonts of late... so how can I possibly resist?

These PLINC blocks are equally awesome.

And last but certainly not least are these Alexander Girard blocks. Gorgeous, no?

What hip baby gifts have you seen around the internet lately?

all images via House Industries; also seen on Duet Letterpress

January 25, 2010

"If you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

If you follow me on Twitter, you know by now that I am 100% on "Team Coco." Conan O'Brien has long been one of my favorite late-night personalities, but up until last year I usually only caught his Late Night with Conan O'Brien on Friday nights since it was on so late. When he took over The Tonight Show, I was thrilled that I'd at least be able to catch his opening monologue a few nights a week, which always had me laughing out loud. Sadly, as you probably know by now, The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien is no longer, and I admit — I shed a tear while watching its final live broadcast on Friday night.

Conan took a moment toward the end of the show to say a few heartfelt words about his experience, and he couldn't have said it better. In case you missed it, here is what he said (you can watch the video here):
"Before we end this rodeo, a few things need to be said. There has been a lot of speculation in the press about what I legally can and can't say about NBC. To set the record straight, tonight I am allowed to say anything I want. And what I want to say is this: between my time at Saturday Night Live, The Late Night Show, and my brief run here on The Tonight Show, I have worked with NBC for over twenty years. Yes, we have our differences right now and yes, we're going to go our separate ways. But this company has been my home for most of my adult life. I am enormously proud of the work we have done together, and I want to thank NBC for making it all possible. I really do.

A lot of people have been asking me about my state of mind, and I'll be honest with you — walking away from The Tonight Show is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Making this choice has been enormously difficult. This is the best job in the world, I absolutely love doing it, and I have the best staff and crew in the history of the medium. But despite this sense of loss, I really feel this should be a happy moment. Every comedian — EVERY comedian — dreams of hosting The Tonight Show and, for seven months, I got to. I did it my way, with people I love, and I do not regret one second. I have had more good fortune than anyone I know and if our next gig is doing a show in a 7-11 parking lot, we will find a way to make it fun. We really will. I have no problems.

And finally, I have to say something to our fans. This massive outpouring of support and passion from so many people has been overwhelming for me. The rallies, the signs... all this goofy, outrageous creativity on the internet... the fact that people have traveled long distances and camped out all night in the pouring rain to be in our audience, has made a sad situation joyous and inspirational.

To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for your kindness to me and I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing, and I'm asking this particularly of the young people that watch: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism — for the record, it's my least favorite quality, and it doesn't lead anywhere.

Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

So true, Coco. So true. I firmly believe that being a good person will take you far in life, and I believe that Conan is one of those good people. I also hope that some young people (and adults, for that matter) heard his message and will now think twice about their cynicism and lack of kindness. Life is just too short.

Thanks to Conan for some wonderful years on NBC, seven awesome months on The Tonight Show, and for being such a stand-up guy. I can't wait to see what he does next.

January 22, 2010

forgotten tune: "While You See a Chance"

Until a few years ago, I thought of Steve Winwood only as a guy who knew how to rock the quintessential 80s synthesizer and shoulder-pad-blazer look. It wasn't until my husband turned me on to some of his older music that I realized what a musical genius Winwood is, with amazing songs like "Dear Mr. Fantasy" and "Can't Find My Way Home" in his repertoire. I had no idea that he was only 14 years old when he joined his first band, The Spencer Davis Group, which shot him to fame, and I have learned about the many other bands he has been a part of over the years.

After having a bit more insight into his career, I gave some of his 80s hits a second listen... and I realized that if you can listen past the synthesizers (and really, really strange videos — exhibit A below), he has some really great songs. "While You See a Chance" is one of my favorites that I had forgotten about until I heard it on my drive home from work recently.

Nick and I went to the Steve Winwood & Eric Clapton concert last summer in Philly, and it was, hands down, one of the best concerts I've ever been to (second only to Paul McCartney). Both musicians have only improved with age and we became even more impressed with Winwood after seeing him master so many instruments on stage. He is a rare talent, indeed.

January 21, 2010

reason #753 to kick myself for donating the wrong stuff

I have really come a long way in de-cluttering our home. When I lived here alone five years ago, the place was completely full of STUFF, just because I had the space and I felt that it should be filled up. When Nick moved in with me two years later, I had a lot of purging to do, and it was not easy. Since then, I have made sure to routinely de-clutter and reorganize the spaces in our apartment that so easily get out of hand with clutter from who-knows-where, and we have minimized the number of duplicate items that we had.

While I'm proud of myself, I can't tell you how many times I have gotten rid of something that I later end up wishing I had never let go of. Example #753:

This pitcher. This chartreuse Russel Wright pitcher that I just happened upon for a whopping $90 at Sundance. I had almost the exact same pitcher in our living room for a few years, and I used it as a vase. I paid no more than $12 for it at a Gabriel Brothers store in York, PA, and I thought it was pretty; it coordinated with our cheery, yelllow-green walls. Nick didn't like it, though, and when we acquired several more vases as shower and wedding gifts, he convinced me to get rid of the chartreuse pitcher. The majority of the stuff in our apartment is "mine," so I compromised and donated this item (to Goodwill) that he didn't like and we didn't really need.

Now, I am not blaming my husband. Yes, we had too many vases (particularly as people who have fresh flowers in our home maaaaaybe 3 times a year) and yes, it was time to get rid of some clutter. But I would feel a much larger sense of victory right about now if I still had that stupid $12 vase that is a dead-ringer for a $90 version!!


That is all.

January 20, 2010

following the famous

By now, I'm sure it comes as no surprise to you that I have a little obsession with popular culture. Ask me who sings an obscure 80s song, and the answer will come out of my mouth before I even have to think about it; mention Julia Roberts, and I'll tell you the name of her twins (Phinnaeus and Hazel, in case you didn't know); ask who Carly Simon wrote "You're So Vain" about, and I'll tell you that only she and one other person knows the right answer, but a lot of people think it's about Warren Beatty (and I'll also remind you that Mick Jagger sings back-up on that song).

Sometimes I surprise even myself with the useless pop culture knowledge that resides in my brain. I cannot find my way to my friends' houses without my GPS, but I can tell you that the girl who plays Brittany on Glee was actually one of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" backup dancers at the American Music Awards, and she was cut from season two of So You Think You Can Dance in the Vegas round. The first time I saw Mad Men, I immediately recognized Betty Draper (played by January Jones) as one of the American girls from the scene at the bar with Collin in "Love, Actually," where she probably had all of 4 minutes of screen-time. I love watching obscure performers get their big breaks, make names for themselves and pursue their dreams, and I love having "known" them when they were just getting started.

I don't even know why I know this stuff. It's like a sickness.

But I can't help it. I LOVE pop culture. And the internet only feeds my obsession. Twitter makes it oh-so-easy to know what celebrities are doing at all times. Blogs make it fun to see what they're really thinking (like the hilarious Ingrid Michaelson, the tree-hugging Jason Mraz, and the average girl next door Kelly Clarkson, whose open letter to Kanye West written after the MTV VMA debacle is priceless). People.com keeps me constantly in the loop with the latest happenings in Hollywood. I do draw the line at TMZ and Perez Hilton, though — let's keep it classy, ya know?

The way I explain it to Nick is that I love peeking into the lives of celebrities because, sometimes, compared to their crazy lives, it makes me feel very normal. And there is nothing wrong with normal. Plus, ya know, I like to see what they're wearing.

Are you a pop culture fiend?

January 19, 2010


I think this print by Eva Juliet is charming in its simplicity:
It reminds me of something that artist Lisa Congdon would post on her new blog, A Collection A Day, where each day she presents (you guessed it!) a different collection, either photographed or drawn/painted.

I don't collect any one specific thing, and Nick would probably kill me if I decided to take up a collection (I already have enough stuff)... but I do love this idea. Collections always make for such interesting visuals.

Do you collect anything?

January 18, 2010

Pantone color of the year

I'm not saying I'm a total trailblazer or anything.... but have you seen Pantone's color of the year?

And have you seen my wedding details?

above photos by The Wiebners

... and my kitchen (which I painted five years ago [please ignore the mess in the sink])?

... and my DIY vanity?

I'm just sayin'....

January 14, 2010

a Swift confession

Confession: Taylor Swift songs make me teary-eyed.

I can't help it. I mean, have you heard the song "Fifteen"? Don't you remember how much high school sucked sometimes? And how it's now so clear to see just how naive you were back then? High school had it's high points for me, but it was also full of some not-so-high points of feeling misunderstood, let-down and unsure of where I fit in. This song takes me back to that confusing and frustrating time that is still a bit bittersweet for me to think about.
I've found time can heal most anything
And you just might find who you're supposed to be
I didn't know who I was supposed to be at fifteen
I don't often openly admit to enjoying mainstream pop music because, well, it's just not "cool." But I can't help but have a soft spot for Taylor and her extremely honest and sweet songs. It's refreshing to see a 20 year-old performer who has her head on straight and who seems genuinely humbled by her success. I can't help but like her.

Oh, and don't even get me started on her song "The Best Day." Don't. Even. One word: sobfest.

So, there you have it — I am seven months away from being in my thirties (oy), and Taylor Swift songs make me teary-eyed. What's it to ya?

Now please tell me I'm not the only one...

January 11, 2010

sit. stay. work.

I have been coveting the Skruvsta Swivel chair since I saw it on Weddingbee Pro in the workspace of Mackenzie Sala — she of Kenzie Kate and Something Old, Something New. I even mentioned it here way back in April, and I haven't stopped thinking about its cheery color and pattern that would spruce up my otherwise dull office space. What can I say: I'm a sucker for color.

With the help of some Christmas money that came my way, it is now mine! Soon I'll be showing you the mini-makeover in my home office space that has made it much more user-friendly. And since I'm the user, it makes me very happy.

January 7, 2010

10% off Night Owl Paper Goods calendars!

Well isn't that nice! The friendly folks behind Night Owl Paper Goods (whose work I bragged about the other day) are offering 10% off all calendar orders placed before January 15, just for Claremont Road readers. (That's you!)

Check out their fabulous selection of calendars right here and simply enter the coupon code "claremontroad" at checkout to receive the discount.

Happy shopping! (And thank you, Night Owl!)

January 6, 2010

on the turntable: a little L-O-V-E

Happy hump day, all. How has everyone been faring back at work this week? I could use a nap... or three.

I thought it would be fun to share with you the mix that Nick and I made for our wedding guests as a part of our Save the Dates (which we sent nearly two years ago — sheesh! How time flies). We chose fun, upbeat love songs (including a few guilty pleasures) that we thought all ages could enjoy and sing along to. It is still one of my favorite mixes to listen to when I need a little energy or am trying to cheer myself up.

I have linked to each song in iTunes if you feel inspired to purchase any. Happy listening :-)

1. You Got to Me - Neil Diamond
2. Sunday Morning - Maroon 5
3. Come By Me - Harry Connick, Jr.
4. Where You Lead - Carole King
5. Eight Days a Week - The Beatles
6. You're My Best Friend - Queen
7. The Way I Am - Ingrid Michaelson
8. Ain't No Mountain High Enough - Marvin Gaye & Tammy Terrell
9. Still The One - Orleans
10. For Once in My Life - Stevie Wonder
11. Sunshine of Your Love - Cream
12. That's Amore - Dean Martin
13. More Today Than Yesterday - Spiral Staircase
14. The Longest Time - Billy Joel
15. To Be With You - Mr. Big
16. I Will - The Beatles
17. Oh How Happy - Shades of Blue
18. This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) - Natalie Cole
19. Better Together - Jack Johnson
20. You're the First, the Last, My Everything - Barry White
21. I Get a Kick Out of You - Frank Sinatra
22. I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) - the Proclaimers
23. Walking on Sunshine - Katrina and the Waves
24. Gimme Some Loving - The Spencer Davis Group
25. L-O-V-E - Nat King Cole

Good luck getting through the rest of your week!

January 5, 2010

a grainy year

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was having trouble narrowing down my favorite 2010 calendars. I had, however, kept coming back to a favorite that I mentioned to my mom, and I was gifted this lovely desk calendar for Christmas:

2010 Pattern Calendar from Night Owl Paper Goods

I am loving the wood grain paper, and I just adore Night Owl's whimsical designs.

Did you find yourself a calendar (or two) to get you through 2010?

Number 10: Blurb wedding albums

Ever since we got our wedding photos back from our photographers last February, I have had a very big to-do hanging over my head. It made it to number ten on my 101 in 1001 list:

10. Create wedding albums for parents

Finally I was able to cross this biggie off of my list this Christmas (with glee, might I add). In early December, I hunkered down and designed 12" x 12", 50-page hardcover albums, which I had printed by Blurb. I had never used Blurb before so I was quite nervous for the outcome, but after reading so many rave reviews from the ladies at Weddingbee, I took the chance... and I am pleased to say that I am extremely satisfied with the final result.

I designed my layouts in Adobe InDesign, using one of the helpful templates that can be downloaded from the Blurb website. (If you don't already have a layout program you'd like to use, you can download the Blurb BookSmart® software to lay out your book.) The templates clearly show the "safe zone" for all images and text, and illustrate how much bleed to include in your layout for photos or other images that should bleed off the edges. This is especially helpful if you don't want to chop off the heads of any of your wedding guests :-)

I was also impressed by the cover templates, from which there are several to choose based on the number of pages in your book and the paper used for printing (which affects the width of the spine). I had created smaller, soft-cover books a few months back with Shutterfly, and my cover layout was not what I was expecting in terms of placement of the text on the spine (it ended up on the back). With my Blurb books, everything was lined up exactly as I had set it up on the cover, spine, and back cover.

I think the back cover is actually my favorite... I included our silhouettes and monogram that I had also used on the menus and drink signs at our wedding. I'm a sucker for silhouettes!

Overall, I was very pleased with the image quality and the vibrant colors. While I wasn't expecting absolute perfection, I didn't see any problems with skin tones, and I thought the ink coverage was impressive (and consistent) throughout each book.

(I look a bit pale, but, um... I am pale :-)

I ordered three books total — each 12" x 12", 50-pages, with image wrap covers and Premium paper. The final cost for each book: $85.95 plus shipping (which I actually got for free with a holiday coupon code). Compared to how much professional albums would have cost, we saved hundreds and hundreds of dollars and still had really beautiful Christmas gifts for our parents.

Does a Blurb book match the quality of a professionally designed and printed album from your photographer? Of course not. Even with the Premium paper selection and the image wrap cover, you aren't going to get the same attention to detail and the high quality printing that you would otherwise get from a professional album company. But for the money spent, I am elated with the final result, and I'm pretty sure our parents are, too.

In terms of timing, I ordered all three books together on December 8; I received free FedEx Ground shipping with a holiday coupon code. My books were shipped on December 15 and received on December 17. Considering the size and number of pages in my books, I think this is an exceptionally fast turnaround time.

If you're considering ordering from Blurb, a few pointers:
  • Pay a little extra for the Premium paper; the final result is worth the additional cost.
  • Use the templates provided on the Blurb website (or download their BookSmart® software to lay out your book) to avoid unexpected cropping of photos off of edges or in the spine.
  • If you have questions, be safe and contact Blurb customer support before placing your order; I had a few questions and they responded very promptly.
  • Selecting the option to remove the logo page from the back of your book (like I did with my first upload) will add quite a bit of cost — for me, it would have cost another $20 per book! And once your book is uploaded, you cannot reverse this selection. Unfortunately, I had to go back and re-upload my entire file, which, because of its size, took a few hours, but was worth the $20 saved. And the small logo on the last blank page of each book isn't so bad :-)
What's your company of choice for self-made photo books?

All photos included in our album by The Wiebners

January 4, 2010

bedroom overhaul: I'm so vain

I know I promised a peek into our bedroom overhaul a few months ago, to no avail. Fear not, faithful followers — our bedroom is still a bit of a work in progress, due to a teensy shortage of funds to do everything I wanted to do, and the fact that the holidays ate up most of my creative inspiration (and aforementioned fundage) for the last month.

While I still have a bit more work to do before I show you all of the before and afters (I was going to call it "the big reveal" but let's face it, my home decorating skills are nowhere near being awesome enough to call it that), I thought I'd at least show you one bedroom project that is complete: my vanity!



I have never had a little place all to myself to keep my jewelry and makeup — a place to sit each morning and primp as I begin each day. With the help of my best friend, Kelli, who gave me a great desk and chair for free (in exchange for me buying her dinner on our monthly dinner date — deal!), I now have my own little beauty depot. And let me tell you, I absolutely love it.

As you can see in the before photos above, the desk and chair were originally painted white and had white wooden knobs. It was in great condition — I just made it over a bit to fit with the rest of our new bedroom decor.

Nick sanded everything down for me using a power sander, and I then got to work painting the desk in Glidden's Totally Teal color (with a semi-gloss finish). The paint went on so easily, it was almost too easy. One coat probably would have sufficed, but I went over everything with a second coat for good measure.

I switched out the wooden knobs with some glass ones found at Anthropologie; I also picked up a new mirror at HomeGoods and a small accent lamp from Target to add a little light. I topped it off with my jewelry stand and mirrored toiletry tray, put four 1" brads in the wall from which to hang my necklaces, and I had a lovely new vanity!

Here's the rundown of how much everything cost:

desk and chair: $25.00 (dinner for my friend as a thank you for giving this to me)
one quart of Glidden Totally Teal semi-gloss paint: $8.96
five glass knobs from Anthropologie: $40.00
new mirror from HomeGoods: $29.99
accent lamp from Target: $9.99
mirrored tray: free (it was my Nana's)
jewelry stand: free (anniversary gift from Nick)
1" brads to hang necklaces: free (already had these)

Total for project: $113.94

Is it totally chic and representative of amazing interior design? Absolutely not. But is it functional and cute? I think so. I would have loved some better lighting and maybe a prettier mirror that stands alone, but the items I found were inexpensive and still decent looking. Most importantly, I have a nice place to sit each morning to get ready for my day, all of my jewelry and makeup have their own place, and it makes me happy. It's also great to have the little bit of extra storage that it provides.

Whaddya think?

Monday morning pick-me-up

Chances are, many of you are returning to work today after many days away from the office — days spent relaxing, feasting, and enjoying the holidays with loved ones. I have a sneaking suspicion that you may need a little pick-me-up. And I think I found it.

You're welcome.

January 2, 2010

start the year off right...

Happy new year, friends! Did you do anything fun to celebrate the beginning of 2010? Nick and I went out to dinner, then went out for a drink... and then realized we're old and pathetic and didn't really feel like staying out until midnight for the ball drop in our town. We decided instead to go home early and were in our cozy PJs in our warm bed by 11:00. Lest you think we're complete losers, though, we did at least manage to stay awake to see the ball drop in Times Square at midnight. And then we were promptly snoring by 12:02 :-) Oh wells!

Anywho... how about some good juju to start the year off right? I have mentioned before that I am a big fan of the work of Jessica Hische. If it's at all possible, I'm now an ever bigger fan after reading on her blog that for the first week of 2010, all of the profits from her store will be donated to the ASPCA. Yup — 100% of the profits. How great is that?

So head on over and buy yourself something pretty... after all, it's for the animals!