Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Craft Club #3: Making Holiday Cards

Craft Club marches on! On Saturday, December 6, my friend Stephanie had a turn hosting our monthly club of creativity, and we nourished both our craftiness and our bellies by designing holiday cards while eating pizza.

The Friday before last (December 5), I went down to Steph's Canton condo for a pre-Craft-Club sleepover. We were supposed to watch the first two Home Alone movies, as I had stopped at Target earlier that day and was de-freaking-lighted to find that they were being sold together in a combo pack for only $19.99! However, we discovered in the twelfth hour that the box set I'd purchased was in fact full of Blu-Ray discs, and not DVDs at all. #Impostors. This terrible realization led to much fist-wagging and cursing of the inventor of Blu-Rays. So, confronted with that fail, we just colored in my brand new coloring books (also purchased at Target that afternoon) and watched The Roommate on TV till bedtime. The Roommate, by the way, is a movie so bad that you can't really turn away. We watched the entire thing.

The next morning I ran across the street to get us some Dunkin Donuts coffees, which we sipped while waiting for our Craft Club companions (Lauren and Anna) to join us. Steph prepped her living room by covering the floor with a big white sheet to protect the rug from the glitter bomb that was about to go off. And boy did it.

Once everyone had arrived, we spread out on the sheet, surrounded by all of the supplies that Steph and Anna had bought:
  • blank white and off-white cards/envelopes
  • tons of embossing glitter and accompanying clear rubber stamp pad
  • heat gun for embossing
  • sparkly paper in christmassy colors
  • scissors
  • glue sticks
  • stickers
  • rubber stamps
  • Sharpies in tons of colors
Steph turned on some Christmas music and showed us how to use the embossing materials, and we all got started on our cards. I felt like each of mine took a really long time to conceptualize before I actually began making each one. But whatever - not like we were in a rush. There's no rushing in crafting.

Craft Club: Making Holiday Cards

Art supplies for making holiday cards

Check out the below pair of owls haha! The one on the left was an example card that Steph had made before we arrived, using embossing glitter on both an owl stamp and a Merry Christmas stamp. The one on the right was Anna's first attempt at using the owl stamp, and since the owl looked so drunk we suggested she hashtag it #eggnog.

Holiday cards using owl stamps and embossing glitter

I'd never embossed anything before, and though the glitter was very messy, the end result was really cool. I ended up making four cards...

My first card was made with embossing glitter, a Merry Christmas stamp, and red, green, and white glittery paper:

Merry Christmas card, red, green, and white glittery paper
My second card featured a strand of Christmas lights around the perimeter, with Merry Christmas stamped in the center. I drew the black cord with a Sharpie, but each gold light socket and each colorful bulb is individually embossed. Here's a little step-by-step:

Using gold glitter on a Merry Christmas card
Gold embossed Merry Christmas holiday card
Holiday lights Christmas card

The third card I made was the classiest, I think. Using gold glitter, I embossed the snowflake stamps, and cut out lots of different sized circles from some white and gold glitter paper. The end result was trimmed down so that the circles weren't overhanging, but I forgot to snap a picture of that! 

Holiday card, gold glitter snowflakes, gold and white glittery circles
My last card was my least favorite, but the other girls said it was their favorite that I made! I tried to split the Merry Christmas stamp into two different words, but as you can kind of see each stamp left some trace remnants of the other word in it. Mreh. The gold, silver, and red were each individually embossed. 

Merry Christmas ornament card

Making holiday cards at Craft Club, making a mess

Here's a snowflake card that Steph was working on:

Blue and silver snowflake holiday card

And of course we can't forget about the other important aspect of Craft Club... the food and drink! Here's what we enjoyed that day for vittles:
  • pizza
  • holiday brownie bites
  • red velvet cookies
  • popcorn
  • wine
  • prosecco/cranberry juice mimosas
Steph's boyfriend Gerry had asked us the night before how long we'd be crafting that day, and my response was that the first rule of Craft Club is that there's no "end time" to Craft Club. With that no-limit attitude in mind, we probably spent about 5 hours playing around with our card project that afternoon. Craft Club is seriously the best.

On an unrelated note (you know how much I like my notes to be unrelated), I neglected to post a nail polish blog last week - but it wasn't because I hadn't done my nails. On the contrary, my nails looked awesome and holiday chic, but an unexpected work project found me using my hands extensively to pack up an entire office worth of documents, and my nails were destroyed in the process. My hands and fingers were even covered in paper cuts, so my digits were altogether unphotographable. Apologies. I hope it didn't ruin your week. It certainly didn't ruin mine.

And to bring it back to a related note... you can read about our other Craft Clubs here. :)

Do you send out holiday cards? I don't normally, but this sure gives me a good reason to.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

2 Ways to Style an NFL Jersey

Earlier this week, I was invited to participate in a style challenge with Fanatics.com, a retailer specializing in sports apparel. The challenge was to choose an NFL jersey from their site and build a stylish outfit board based around that jersey. Fortunately for Fanatics' social media coordinator, she reached out to me right on the heels of a Patriots win, so the idea of creating a style board based around one of their jerseys sounded DAMN GOOD to me! Hooray for style and football in one fell swoop!

The challenge was to create one outfit, but my excitement may have accidentally overflowed into two different game-day outfits: one for watching at a friend's house (or AT the actual game, if that's how you roll!), and one for staying in, being cozy, and watching from home on a chilly December day.

After browsing around their selection of NFL jerseys (read: navigating straight to the Patriots section), I decided to base my outfits around the women's style jersey of Mr. Rob Gronkowski. It was pretty difficult to choose a player, so Gronk was chosen more or less because he just had a great game on Sunday night against the Chargers. Also because going with Tom Brady seemed too cliché, handsome and talented though he may be. Sigh. #DatSmileDoe.

Below are my two looks, and if you love any of these items, I've included links to where you can buy them (not affiliate links, just REGULAR LINKS).

LOOK 1 - Watching at a friend's house, looking all fly 'n shit:



LOOK 2 - Watching at your own crib, lookin' all cozy, not givin' a whaaaaaaaaaaat:


I obviously chose these jerseys because I'm a Pats fan, but which jersey would you choose? Do you root for a team? Did you choose your team by location, random family loyalty, color scheme? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Granary Burying Ground: Where All the Cool Revolutionaries Go to Get Buried

A few weeks ago, I awoke early on a Saturday, got ready, and left my apartment with the initial intention of heading to my friend Anna's apartment down in Roslindale. A change in plans led me to take a spur-of-the-moment trip into downtown Boston instead, where I headed into one of the old historic cemeteries, snapped a few photos, and then popped into Downtown Crossing and did some Christmas shopping.

The Granary Burying Ground is located beside the Park Street Church on Tremont Street in Boston, and it's old as shet - founded in 1660. While there are about 2300 gravestone markers in the cemetery, there are said to be up to 5000 Bostonians buried there - several of them notable historic figures from the Revolutionary War era. 

Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts
.  click for a larger view!  .
Tombstones in Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts



Not to drop names, but here are some of the more recognizable people buried in the Granary Burying Ground:
  • John Hancock
  • Paul Revere
  • Samuel Adams
  • Benjamin Franklin's parents
  • Victims from the Boston Massacre
  • Legend has it that the "real" Mother Goose may even be buried here!
Paul Revere's gravestone marker
.  this is a newer grave marker, obviously  .
.  there is an older one next to it  .

As you can see, the old gravestones are super thin and creepy looking.

Gravestones in Granary Burying Ground, Boston, Massachusetts

Many of them are adorned with skulls...

Skull engraving on tombstone in Granary Burying Ground

While the above depicts a skull and cross bones, many of the other gravestones are topped with an engraving of a skull with wings. According to the Freedom Trail website, "One of the most popular motifs was the 'Soul Effigy,' a skull or 'death’s head' with a wing on each side that was a representation of the soul flying to heaven after death." So. Now you know.

Park Street Church, Boston, Massachusetts
.  the park street church  .
This particular cemetery is along Boston's Freedom Trail, so if you're ever in the area doing that touristy activity, you'll get to see this historic gem. There's also another old church and burying ground just a few blocks away at the King's Chapel. 

For more pictures of Revolutionary-era Boston things, check out this blog that I wrote last year!

Have you ever been to Boston? The Freedom Trail and other historic adventures await you :)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sparkly Grey Nails, A Health Update, and Weekend Plans

I did these nails yesterday so you know that they are 45% peeled off already right now. That's why I need to take pictures of my nails immediately after finishing them - otherwise they will simply not last.

Revlon Diamond Texture silver sparkle nail polish as accent nails with China Glaze Recycle nail polish

Revlon Diamond Texture silver sparkle nail polish and China Glaze Recycle nail polish

This is two coats of China Glaze's Recycle on my pinky, middle and pointer fingers. My ring and thumb nails each have one coat of Recycle topped with one coat of Revlon's Diamond Texture, which is a really opaque, fine silver glitter with larger silver rounds mixed in. I was seriously shocked at how well this Revlon polish covers with just one coat. It does also have a slightly grainier texture to it when it dries.

Grey nails with silver sparkly accents

In other news entirely, the appointment I had with the orthopedic doctor on Wednesday provided both questions and answers about my long-lasting neck/shoulder/arm pain. X-rays on my neck and spine showed what looks like a freaking bone spur on my lower neck, which has been wreaking havoc on the nerves in my whole left shoulder and arm. The doctor also said that my neck and spine were both very straight - like they had no curvature. I looked almost arthritic, which he said I was too young to be displaying. He even asked if I'd been in a car accident! What the actual heck! To answer that question - I was rear-ended in my car literally 10 years ago, but it wasn't something I considered to be a major accident at all. The person who hit me wasn't going that fast - we were entering a rotary in the center of Pittsfield. Could that accident really have set this bone spur in motion?? How would I even know for sure?

Regardless of what caused it, the good news is that it won't require anything invasive (surgery) to fix it. The doctor prescribed 6 weeks of physical therapy, which I will start next week. Hoozah! Maybe my arm will stop going numb soon!

On a way cooler note, I am really excited for my evening tonight and my afternoon tomorrow. Tonight, I'm driving down to Canton to my friend Stephanie's condo and we are going to hang out and have a sleepover! The last time we had a sleepover at her place, we watched a lightning storm, colored in Care Bears coloring books, and watched movies. Tonight we might go ice skating or see a movie, or maybe even color and watch movies again! I'm heading to Target this afternoon to see if they have any copies of Home Alone and Home Alone 2, and if so I'll bring those to Canton tonight as well.

Tomorrow morning Steph is actually hosting Craft Club #3 at her place, so we'll be joined around 11AM by some of our other girlfriends for an afternoon of making homemade holiday cards. I'll bring my camera along - OBVI - and make sure to report back on how it goes. Spoiler alert: It's going to go AWESOMELY.

What are you up to this weekend?
Anything sparkly or fancy festive on your nails today?
Do you send out holiday cards?

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{Linking with The Nail Files, Beauty Frenzy Friday, and Friday's Fab Favorites}

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Holiday Gift Wrapping Ideas

The Christmas season is just about my favorite time of the year. I love the holiday lights, the smell of Christmas firs, the carols and holiday songs on the radio (nope, they don't drive me nuts), the crackle and aroma of cozy fireplaces, hot cocoa with way too many (is there such a thing?) marshmallows, and buying presents for my loved ones.

Picking out gifts is something that makes me really excited and happy... but wrapping the gifts also has a special place in my heart. My dad has always been a phenomenal gift-wrapper - think cleanly cut lines, crisp folds, and minimal tape - so the beauty of a finely wrapped present has never been lost on me. Fast forward to this day and age when Pinterest and DIY crafting is abound, and gift wrapping is finally getting the mainstream respect it so plainly deserves. There are entire Pinterest boards dedicated to beautiful wrapping ideas to suit every taste.

And my wrapping taste, personally, is something a little bit earthy-crunchy feeling - and I'm refining that taste as the years go by. For wrapping gifts last year, I went with plain brown parcel paper, tied with a string of hemp cord and a string of red sparkly twine. This year I'm not quite sure what to do, but I hope to make it a step up from last year.

Here are some of the Pins that have been inspiring me so far:

 
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(There are a TON of amazing wrap ideas at this site!!)

 




This holiday season is certainly going to be a different one than in years past - it already has been - but some things remain the same. With things like songs and snow and friends and Christmas trees and fun gift-wrapping ideas to keep me occupied, this December will still be a good one.

Speaking of good things and gifts... I just bought myself a new-to-me car. Well technically my brother-in-law Doug found it and bought it for me, but I quickly paid him for it and took it under my own wing. It's a 5-speed 2007 Toyota Yaris, and it's just right for me. It's the newest car I've ever owned... the only one that's ever had a line-in jack for an iPod. So that's exciting. #MovinUp.

How are you planning on wrapping your holiday gifts this year? Do you stick with tried-and-true rolls of wrapping paper, or do you like to venture out with some fun additions like the above ideas?

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Monday, December 1, 2014

My Body Is Rebelling Against Me

Today's blog is a big EFF YOU to my body, so please only continue reading if you want to hear some whining. I never would have supposed that you guys like to read this kind of stuff, but the feedback I got on my last un-sunshiney post let me know that it's OK to use my blog for venting, if needed. That said... it's time for me to talk some serious shit to my body, because it has been slowly FAILING me this past half a year or so. Fair warning: There is some talk of "lady things" in this blog. Proceed at your own risk.


Let's start with the infamous and much-lamented Shoulder/Neck/Arm Pain that I've been battling since late July (which, over the course of the last several months, has transitioned from super painful to simply disturbing, because it's making parts of my arm/hand numb throughout the day). Trying to avoid expensive medical bills from an MRI, I attempted 12 sessions with a chiropractor this fall to see if it would help. It did help... but only because I wasn't using my body for anything strenuous in the meantime. (I'd stopped going to the gym, afraid to aggravate the pain.) Now that I'm trying to workout again, the ache is back in full force and the tingling/numbing is getting worse. Time to see an orthopedic doctor to get this shit solved once and for all. I have an appointment on Wednesday and I expect some damn answers!

Next, remember the Cyst and Infection that took up host in my body back in August? That mothereffer came out of NOWHERE and knocked me down pretty hard, physically and emotionally. Having just moved across the country alone with an absolutely shattered heart, the last thing I needed was an excruciating pain in a very sensitive part of my body to keep me lying in a hot bath tub for a week, sobbing uncontrollably and using up mad electricity to keep that water hot. I didn't go into the details of having the infection treated (because... ew), but that was damn near traumatizing, too. To boot, I've read that this type of cyst is prone to repeat appearances. So there's THAT to look forward to. God dammit.

And hey, now let's talk about some freshly Bizarre Menstrual Cycles that have otherwise been incredibly stable and predictable for the last 10+ years. It's been a damn dog's age since I've been surprised by my period (I track that shit like a boss), but I've gotten it five times now in the last three months... most recently, for 3 weeks and counting. DA fahk?? What am I supposed to do with that?!?!? WHAT IS GOING ON.

In other "falling apart" news, I Freaking Fainted a few weeks ago after experiencing some out-of-nowhere abdominal pains. Now, I'm absolutely prone to fainting, so fainting itself isn't new for me. But it was still a shitty afternoon activity, especially while I was alone at my apartment. Fortunately, I was on my bed when it happened, so at least I didn't fall on my face or anything (which I have done in the past). And those abdominal pains? Probably absolutely nothing because they were gone within 20 minutes of me coming to. They were just enough to scare me into fainting.

Finally (I HOPE), there's been an Ache in My Lower Spine that's gradually become worse since August. Over the last few months, I've continued to try to convince myself that there were logical reasons why my back would hurt in that spot, but I've hit a wall with that wishful thinking; there's no good explanation at this point. I'm going to have the orthopedic doctor I see on Wednesday inspect this, too. Mystery spine pain is terrifying.

I've struggled with anxieties my whole life, but none so much as my health-related anxieties. I'm a hypochondriac (my mother - a nurse - will confirm this with a chuckle, even though I don't think it's funny at all), but part of my toolbox of coping skills involves trying to assure myself that the mystery pains I feel in my body are probably nothing.  And usually, that's right. Usually, they're nothing. But it's becoming REALLY hard to convince myself that I'm totally healthy lately. I feel like I'm actually falling apart.

Complaining is not my favorite thing to do, but you wouldn't know it by speaking to me at any point during the last six months. I feel like I'm the worst person to know, the worst person to be friends with, the worst person to listen to. Now I'm even complaining about complaining. BUT HEY, you asked for it ;)

Thanks for letting me do some body-bitching. Hopefully the orthopedic doctor I see on Wednesday begins to answer at least some of these questions for me...

I hope YOU'RE in good health! If you're not, please feel free to do some bitching of your own in the comments. We can commiserate.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A November Weekend in NYC

The weekend before last, I was given an absolutely fabulous excuse to make a trip to New York City: my good friend April recently got engaged, and her future in-laws were generously throwing an engagement party at the New York Yacht Club to celebrate!

April and her fiancé Phil live in Manhattan, and while it's always been fun to make weekend trips to play dress-up and go out in the big city, it's definitely been a few years since my last trip. So on the morning of Friday November 14, I hopped onto a Bolt Bus from Boston's South Station and tolerated the 4-hour bus ride south to the bustling streets of NYC.

After getting dropped off on the eastern outskirts of Midtown, I made my way up 1st Ave to the Upper East Side, where I'd be staying at my friend Mar's apartment with her and her boyfriend Mark - another couple of cats who I don't see often enough but who are both excellent reasons to come into the city. Mar was at work, so I spent the afternoon shooting the shit and having some laughs with Mark. He gave me exquisite instructions on how to get from their apartment to the train that would take me downtown that afternoon for a hair appointment - insights that would all prove extremely valuable when I then had my first-ever adventure taking a train in NYC. (Random traveler observation: Taking the subway system in NYC is a loud experience, above all else.)

To properly get into the "fancy Manhattan" mindset, Friday evening was kicking off with appointments for blowouts at DreamDry - the "premier destination for the ultimate blowout." Now, I'd never before gotten a blowout that wasn't at the end of a haircut, so this was definitely something new for me... but what a fun thing to do to get ready for a fancy engagement party at a yacht club!

That night I was meeting up at the salon with April, as well as our friends Anna, Becca, and Izzy.  I saw on the DreamDry website that they offer a "blowout and a braid" option, with several different braid styles to choose from.  I immediately became obsessed with the "Audrey" style - a gorgeous topknot with a sleek French braid running up from the nape of the neck to the crown. Between two different friendly and talented stylists, this hair design was recreated on my head, and I was positively delighted by the final look. Unfortunately the only photo that was taken of this amazing hairstyle came out terribly dark and blurry (see below). There was a great picture of it taken by Anna, but the next morning the picture had mysteriously ghosted itself off of anyone's phones, and now it's nowhere to be found! #Curses!

After our hair appointments, I Ubered with April from the salon to the New York Yacht Club, where we continued to get ready in an upstairs powder room. (The words "Ladies Powder Room" were actually on the door... that's how fancy it was.) The dress I was wearing to the party was a royal/navy blue number with a pink and white geometric print on it:

Royal blue dress with pink and white geometric print

Fun shopping fact: This dress was on sale at my local Kohl's - marked down from $48 to $14. But when I brought it up to the checkout, it only rang up as $9.80.  That's a pretty sweet price for such a cute dress, BUT YOU DIDN'T NEED ME TO TELL YOU THAT.

The engagement party was being held inside a grand room in the club that was absolutely decked out in boats from floor to ceiling. You can see my photos below, or check out professional 360-degree photos of the room here. One wall showcased tall glass windows overlooking the street below, and another featured a stately and ornate fireplace that stretched up towards the high ceiling.

New York Yacht Club, 44th Street, NYC, fireplace
.  the huge fireplace  .

New York Yacht Club, 44th Street, NYC
.  boats err'where  .

The room quickly filled with guests - of which I'm told there were nearly 150 in all! We enjoyed drinks and hors d'oeuvres while meeting several of April and Phil's friends and family members.

Friends at the New York Yacht Club
.  me and izzy  .
April and Phil at their engagement party
.  april and phil  .
Of course there were toasts made and many congratulations expressed before the club eventually told us to get the hell out (JK, fancy places don't use that kind of language). I made a quick and sneaky costume change, throwing on some black opaque tights and exchanging my heels for a pair of sparkly black flats, because it was damn cold outside and my feet were starting to hurt. At that point, we were led through the streets by a damn bagpiper like a bunch of ballers as we made our way to the after party at one of April and Phil's favorite bars (the name of which escapes me entirely... oops).

Friends at the after party
.  izzy, april and me at the after party  .
Terrible photo of my hairstyle in a dark bar
.  the hairstyle photo that wasn't  .
After the party it's the hotel lobby, Mar, Mark and I Ubered back up to the Upper East Side, where I crashed on their couch around 3AM.

On Saturday morning, Mar had to head out early-ish to join April for some wedding dress shopping (whoop!), so I headed out on my own and walked from her apartment on 89th St over to Central Park, then walked south through the park and along 5th Ave till about 55th Street.

It was chilly out, for sure, but the sky was a beautiful blue and there was (what I deemed to be) a surprising amount of fall foliage still available for the snapping:

Big tree with yellow leaves in Central Park

Foliage and buildings around Central Park in the fall

View of buildings around Central Park in the fall

Fall foliage along Central Park on 5th Ave, NYC

After grabbing a quick "lunch" of a berry smoothie, cappuccino and chocolate croissant, I met up with Becca in Times Square, and together we figured out how to get to Brooklyn, where Anna and her boyfriend Tom were both staying with Tom's brother Corey. The five of us spent the afternoon at a large indoor Brooklyn flea market, scoping out vendors of food, antiques, clothing, books, records, knick knacks, furniture, and so much more. For my first-ever trip to Brooklyn, it was a good one.

That evening, the five of us left Brooklyn and met up with Izzy, Mar and Mark at Mercadito in Alphabet City for some dinner. We ate a buttload of Mexican food and my compadres drank a buttload of tequila, before we scampered through the brisk night to a bar (the name of which, again, escapes me. Apparently I just keep my head down and follow people into bars without glancing up at the name above the door.) Here, we happened to score an amazing table right by the door that we comfortably held down for the rest of the night.

Friends in an NYC bar
.  MY PWETTY FWIENDZ  .
.  izzy, becca, anna, mar, me  .


The next morning it was time to say goodbye, and I woke up early to catch a cab from the Upper East Side to Brooklyn, where I'd be jumping into Anna and Tom's car for a ride back to Boston. First, however, we indulged in some bagels from the Olde Brooklyn Bagel Shoppe, which we scooped up just a short walk from Corey's Prospect Heights apartment. Armed with food and coffee, we made our way back north to Boston.

With this trip now in the rearview, it means that I need to start finding my next excuse to head to New York City! What'll it be next time? A concert? Ballet? Birthday? #NOEXCUSENEEDED?

When is the last time you went to The Big Apple? What's your favorite thing to do while you're there?
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