Friday, August 2, 2013

Apartment Remodel on the Cheap: Artist's Studio

My home DIY project (for the last four months; I'm a slow worker) has been to fix up the "useless" space under the stairs in my loft.  

I had an AHA moment when the roommate mentioned that he wished he still had his own desk to do his art on - why not make it a creative studio space? Roommate has a place to work, I don't have to share my coffee table with art supplies, the cat doesn't eat acrylic paints and die, everyone's happy. (I jest: we are very careful not to let anything ingest the poisonous paints). 

I'm posting because I always get discouraged when I read remodel posts and think, "oh, I can't do that, I live in an apartment, not a house" or "man, I wish I had $1000 to gussy up my apartment with, too." This is pretty simplistic stuff, but I think it might be helpful for someone else looking to spruce up a smaller space. 

The challenge has been getting as much use out of the space as possible, because it's so tiny; it's perhaps five feet deep and I can barely touch both side walls with my arms outstretched... not a scientific measurement, I know, but my measuring tape has gone missing.

Personal goal: do it on the super cheap, too, because spending money sucks.

I am soooo close to being done now; mostly I just need to straighten up and get some trash tossed, but the foundation of the space is there. 

Here is the part ready to show:

Cabinet cost: free! Snagged it from some acquaintances who moved recently, and I had screws for mounting already in my tool box. A little tightening on the loose handles, a good wipe-down to get the grime off, and it's pretty much ready. If I hadn't found it this way, I probably would have used freecycle or Craigslist. Someone is always moving and unloading shelving. 

[Protips: Hell, if you can't find anything online, just go cruise a neighborhood Saturday anytime after about 4pm when the garage sales close and grab stuff off the front curbs. Also good: apartment complexes near college campuses in May, August, and December when a lot of students are moving. They'll leave stuff by the dumpsters so they don't have to cart it home or take it all the way to Goodwill. I have in my time scored a vintage orange-leather chair and floor lamp that way, and a small patio table, and a milk create full of old books, and a rolling table I use as my mail center, AND a nice dark-wood bookshelf in mint condition. Bottom line: people are lazy; use this to your advantage. 

I draw the line at entering the dumpsters, because they tend to be full of trash and bugs, but anything outside is fair game if it's in decent condition. If someone left it next to the dumpster, chances are they recognized it was too nice to just throw away.]

The close-up tour:

Shelf for sharpeners, and samples of spray paint and paint markers. 

Cost: Free - I sent a sample request from the Liquitex website, and the sharpeners have been floating around the apartment for ages. 
(If anyone knows of any other free art sample spots, please do let me know)

The pull-out drawers are full of artsy pens, markers, and pencils. 

Cost: $20/month for an ArtSnacks subscription, grand total of $80 so far (more on ArtSnacks in a future post). I've been collecting the art supplies they send for about 4 months, so the roommate has something to art with. This is basically the only cost I've accrued on this remodel, so I'm not too concerned. The beauty of ArtSnacks is that I get cool art stuff to add to the stash without having to go buy entire marker sets or research art supplies at length.

 If you wanted to do this for less, I would recommend Craigslist, freecycle, and Goodwill. Also it can never hurt to contact art supply companies and ask for samples. 

Outer view of the fold-out drawers. I love these things!

Mini-moleskeins and some sort of fancy eraser, also through ArtSnacks. 

Top shelving! Will house things like the acrylic paints I don't want the cat getting into. 

Top of cabinet, with bonus stack of canvases I picked up at Michael's. 

Cost: $20/6 canvases. I love Michael's, and this was a glorious meeting of 1) waiting for a big sale and 2) downloading the iPhone app so I could use one of the attached coupons. Seriously, Michael's are almost always offering coupons (paper and electronic) and having sales; it really pays to wait until you can get something cheaper. 

Total cost for the remodel so far: $100 even, and that's really the bulk of the cost - I think everything else I have gathered was free. 

More to come on Unveiling Day...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Scenes from the Texas Legistlature

Just going over some photos from the prochoice rally (well, one of several) at the Texas Capitol while SB2 (previously HB1, previously SB5) was up for debate and testimony. 

It makes me so happy to see the number of people who will come out to support reproductive freedom, and stand for those who couldn't get the time off work or couldn't drive all the way across the state to make it. 

Perry signed the bill this morning, but there's no way it will hold against the first legal challenge brought to it. *sigh* This great big waste of taxpayer time and money brought to you by the Texas Republicans. 

(Please, let us not even get started on "tampongate" or the myriad other ways the Republican party is making Texas look like a group of backwater fools.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

View from the Texas Capitol Last Week - SB5

I was privileged to be at the Texas Capitol last week, out in support of the Texas Democrats, and against the restrictions on reproductive health care that the Republicans sought to pass. 

With a new special session coming up, it seems like a good time to lay some of the rumors going around to rest:

1. This was not an "unruly mob" - hundreds of people waited quietly in the gallery or in line between Sunday and Wednesday. We only got loud late on Tuesday when it became clear that the Republicans in the Senate were not going to abide by morality or the law. Did you know that at least one of the "strikes" they upheld to get Wendy Davis to stop filibustering was not, in fact, in line with the law?

2. The crowd was, as far as I could tell, mostly Texans. The prochoice movement in Texas is not as small as the people saying "we'll the crowd was bussed in from other cities" want you to think. 

3. This is not a prochoice/anti choice debate. SB5 would not outlaw abortion, as roe v. wade is still the law in the United States. Rather, the new bill would have closed all but 5 abortion providers in the state, causing huge segments of the population to be most likely unable to access their legal right to an abortion (getting an abortion takes multiple visits to the provider, and Texas is huge. Some women would lose up to four days of work, and in this economy that's unacceptable). SB5 would also outlaw abortions after 20 weeks. 

4. The Republicans falsified records to show that they had voted before the special session ended. This is not only morally reprehensible, it's illegal. 

Here's the scene shortly after midnight last Tuesday. I w proud to stand in defense of women's rights, and I can only hope we've gained some new activists who will stand with us as the new-new special session begins this afternoon. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend


The best decision I've ever made for a vacation: I split a cottage rental with two friends, and it was lovely! We got breakfast certificates for local restaurants (bacon waffles. Bacon. Waffles.), we made a fire, we spent far too much time in the hot tub (we set up a Super Nintendo). The best part is that bringing friends brings the cost down. 

And the cottage was adorable. I mean, look at this: 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Shopping adventures

I cannot stop looking at the baby cartoon on this packaging. It's terrifying! (Or do you think I'm overreacting?)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

ClassClown Pictures is making a movie - GIVEAWAY!

Whoa, have I got a giveaway for you, dear readers! How often do you get the chance to win free swag AND get producer credits in a feature film?

The Company
Class Clown Pictures is an Austin-local, independent production company that wants to make funny movies for everyone to enjoy:
Our projects are written to engage the audience with intelligent, entertaining stories that do not rely on the usual short-cuts of extreme or gratuitous violence, sex or toilet humor. We will not substitute quality with “shock value” or “cheap thrills...” though we do appreciate the poetry of a well-timed belch.
Class Clown Pictures is drawing on a great pool of talent, and they have a fantastic array of movies lined up that they want to create. I've been privileged to help edit most of these scripts, and I can attest to the fact that they're funny and family-friendly without relying on gross-out humor.

The Movie
The film that Class Clown Pictures is currently working to fund is Code Enforcers, a comedy about the "joys" of housing authorities and the people who enforce their rules. If you've ever had to deal with an HOA I think you'll relate, but if you haven't Class Clown has plenty of links for you to . . . enjoy. For example: 10 Things a Homeowner's Association Won't Tell You. How can you possibly turn the ruthless rule of an HOA into a comedy? Well:
Dave Petty was never able to make it as a super cop like his forefathers, instead he spends his days - with his conspiracy-theory-loving partner Sue - enforcing the codes in Lakefield Hills, a snooty gated community in the Texas Hill Country. They make sure that trash receptacles are brought in from the curb on time, and grass does not grow past three and one quarter inches in height.  
Dave's only hope: every year the Governor holds a competition, with the best-of-the-best Texas law enforcement officers being hand-picked to enroll at the legendary Texas Rangers Academy... (read more)
The Giveaway 
Because Class Clown is funding this movie through the help of (future) viewers like you, this giveaway is focused strongly on helping them raise money and awareness. Which leads us to...

The Prizes!
This giveaway gives you so many chances to win something neat!

  1. If you just want to help raise awareness, you can friend Class Clown Pictures, Like the Code Enforcer Facebook page, and tweet about the giveaway to be entered to win one of two Class Clown mugs. 
  2. If you contribute any amount to Code Enforcer, you get extra entries!
  3. If you contribute $40 or more, you get extra entries AND one of the bonuses from the Class Clown donations page! ($40: Class Clown Bumper sticker; $45-100: Class Clown T-Shirt; everyone who donates over $50 gets a free copy of the DVD) 
  4. If you interact with Code Enforcer on Facebook by sharing your homeowner or HOA horror stories, you can get a ton of extra entries AND two contributors will be chosen by Class Clown to each win a mug!
  5. If you get a team together to contribute $101 or more, you get producer credits in the movie AND you are eligible to win one of the two mugs AND the team that raises the highest amount gets free t-shirts for everyone in their team! And this doesn't have to be a whole lot: if you're a team of five and you each contribute just over $20, you're in the running for these prizes.
I am personally going to contribute a box of my favorite tea to anyone who wins a mug, as a nifty little bonus :D

I know you're all very excited, so I will cut to the chase and let you loose on the Rafflecopter form:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, March 23, 2013

One Week Left to Enter!

Remember, there's just one week left to enter my Where Monsters Go When You Grow Up giveaway:

The Giveaway
Greg is giving away two autographed copies of Where Monsters Go When You Grow Up to one of my readers! I just know you're going to love it, so I've included lots of options for you to earn entries! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below, and remember that you can tweet twice per day (there are two different sets of text) for bonus entries!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Aw, my vacation is over

But I did get introduced to some interesting, small-town architecture. Had you ever seen a Jesus in cowboy boots before?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

I need a vacation from my SXSW vacation

Hours and hours of helping people promote themselves at SXSW later, I am so ready for a looong weekend.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Happy International Women's Day!

It's that time of year again!

Wait, what's that?

You hadn't heard that International Women's Day is coming up?

If you had, count yourself lucky - I just heard about it a few weeks ago. Which is sort of sad, considering how long the holiday has been around:

What a great idea, though - a day to celebrate the gains women have made, while recognizing that we still have a ways to go. There are some wonderful resources on the International Women's Day website: conversation-starter videos, a list of celebrations by country, and ways to join in through social media.

In high school, I remember once hearing a male classmate ask a friend "what did women ever invent...other than tampons? (hurr hurrr)." How nice it would have been to, instead of fuming silently, be able to direct him to a video like this:


Are you participating in some way for International Women's Day?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Awesome Things: #2 (Gelatin Flowers)

I was both honored and humbled to be able to attend one of the Las Comadres comadrazos this past weekend. These Las Comadres events bring professional Latina women from all over the country to meet, make connections, and bond.

One of my favorite parts (other than the panels) is the exhibitor tables that are set up all around the main conference floor room. There were so many hispanic- and woman- run businesses to see, and most of them were completely new to me.

I was completely surprised by the table for Gelatin Flowers. Gelatin Flowers is, well, exactly what it sounds like: This company makes adorable, edible flowers in convenient little containers. I never thought I'd use the words "delicate" and "gelatin" in the same sentence, but just look at what they can create with what is essentially jello:

Beautiful. I graduate with my Master's this May, and I've been trying to think of something cute and summery to give as a parting gift for my guests. These gelatin flowers seem kind of perfect for the occasion:

*Sigh* Okay, enough time staring at tasty treats - I have classwork to complete if I'm actually going to make it out of school!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Creepy Photography #1

I know I'm not the only one who's noticed that most fashion/advertising photography involving women tends to look like it was done by a latent serial killer. Heck, Ms. Magazine's No Comment section has been posting examples for years.

Lately, though, it seems like every time I open a magazine there's at least one gratuitous example of an ad that is either over-sexed, murder-y, or both. I've decided to start keeping track of them for my sanity's sake, because I've had people look at me like I'm delusional when I point it out.

Today's photo is from Lucky Magazine. Maybe I've been watching a little too much Criminal Intent, but this reminds me of a crime scene. You've got a faceless victim, laying on the floor, surrounded by debris:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Where Monsters Go When You Grow Up Giveaway (TWO WINNERS!)

As an (aspiring) English teacher, I recognize the importance of reading to a child's development. And not just reading alone - reading together with adults is not only a great way for the adults to model good reading skills, it's also a wonderful way for children and family to bond.

Enter Where Monsters Go When You Grow Up! This book, written and illustrated by a father of two from Austin, TX, is designed specifically for adults and children to read together.

The story centers on a little girl,

the monsters in her closet,

and Daddy, who always comes in to save the night ("because everybody knows monsters are afraid of parents!").

Where Monsters Go When You Grow Up is not only a loving look at a parent who addresses his child's fears in a kind and humorous way, it is also a story of life and growing up: What does happen to those monsters in the closet when a child stops believing in them? What happens to Daddy when his little girl doesn't need him to save her from the big, bad monsters anymore?

I'm not going to lie; I tear up just a little every time I read this book, and I don't even have children yet. But, as Reading Rainbow said, don't take my word for it - here are some of the reviews from

As long as kids continue to have imaginations, monsters will always be with us. But just because we might know they're creatures of the imagination, does not mean that we should ignore the fears of our children who "know" they're real. This book shares one father's very loving way of dealing with those "pesky" monsters, while at the same time validating his child's beliefs and fears.

My wife and I just finished reading this children's book and intend to read it to our little grandchildren. In a very tender and sensitive way, Mr. Dorchak has handled children's irrational but very real fears of "monsters in the closet." Through this wonderfully crafted story, we see a parent not ridicule his child's irrational fears, but lovingly meet the child at her own level of understanding and deliver her safely from "the monsters." For every parent with a child who fears those "monsters" in the dark, this book offers a solution because everybody knows monsters are afraid of parents.

Where Monsters Go is a really cool book. It's great to see a children's book that is done specifically for parents to read to and with their kids! This is a fun, touching story with really cute drawings. The words chosen and ideas presented encourage conversations between parents and their kids. I especially loved the fact that it allows the parent to be the hero in their child's world - that is priceless.

The Giveaway

Greg is giving away two autographed copies of Where Monsters Go When You Grow Up to one of my readers! I just know you're going to love it, so I've included lots of options for you to earn entries! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below, and remember that you can tweet twice per day (there are two different sets of text) for bonus entries!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, February 8, 2013

Awesome Things: #1 (Stickygram)

I'll admit that I was kind of late to the Instagram party. When I first heard about Instagram, the joke was that the entire app was dominated by people snapping photos of their lunch and hipsters posting photos of . . . whatever it is that hipsters like to photograph, I suppose. It took me ages to realize that Instagram could be a lot of fun (particularly when taking a road trip out into the middle of nowhere and wanting to leave a trail of clues, just in case you disappeared mysteriously).

As much fun as Instagram is, though, I found myself just a little disappointed. I kept thinking that there must be something "more" I could do with my pics and their hip filtered looks. Enter Stickygram:

Stickygram connects with your Instagram account to let you upload your pics. From there, you can do something that I think is very cool:

StickyGram began as an experiment by Kejia Zhu and the team at Mint Digital to create physical objects from the web. Bringing Instagram into the real world turned out to be an idea that excited people. After much prototyping and coffee, the StickyGram service was born.

For a perfectly reasonable price, Stickygram will send you nine-packs of magnets (each is about the same size as the photo appears on your smartphone) featuring your favorite photos! This service fixed two problems for me - I got to do something tangible with my Instagram photos, and I finally have magnets on my fridge that aren't those freebies you get from food-delivery places in college. Not only does my fridge look snazzy now, but my friends have been pleasantly surprised to come over and see snapshots of the fun times we've had together!

Despite the fact that they're shipping from overseas (assuming you live in the U.S., at least), I didn't find the wait to be terrible. The package that arrived was definitely worth it!