February 2012 archive
It’s time for the first installment of my DIY posts! And, the project should cost you no more than $2/coaster so it’s a wallet-friendly one, too!
Paul and I recently moved and I’ve been slowly trying to make our new place our own with little touches that make it unique. I’ve got lots planned (be on the lookout for many Ikea hacks, a homemade headboard, and a refinished dining set from Craigslist!), but I wanted to start with an easy project so I figured coasters would be a perfect first project. Anyone can do this, it requires no art skill whatsoever (I have zero), and it can be completed in one afternoon!
So, here are the steps and pictures to help guide you:
1. Start with ceramic tiles (I got mine from Home Depot for 0.16/tile. They have them in many different colors, but I just stuck with white), a small foam brush, printouts of patterns/images you like, scissors, Mod Podge, polyurethane spray (not shown in picture), and felt or cork (optional and also not shown in above picture).
2. Put a nice size glob of Mod Podge on the tile and use the foam brush to spread it out. I usually repeat this step 2 times.
3. Take one of your printouts and either cut it in a square that’s about the size of your tile OR you can cut out the shapes of the pattern you have and just use those (like the flowers in the last picture). You can certainly buy fun paper at your local craft store or you can do what I did, which was the practically free method! I basically went online and did google image searches for such things as “Moroccan print”, “trellis pattern”, etc. Use any keywords that you think would go with your home decor- the possibilities are really endless. I then just copied and pasted those images into a word document where I could resize them, make multiple copies of them (this is a good idea in case you mess up one time or if you wanted 2 of each coaster like I did). As for that “E & P” coaster you see in the last picture above– if you go to stationary stores online (I won’t name them since this is probably frowned upon by them, but really any of the major ones will have these personalize options) there are many that let you personalize notecards, invitations, etc. right on their site and they draft a preview of it for you. You can screen print the preview they show you (or copy it if that’s allowed, but many times they is not possible), and then copy that screen shot into a word document and crop the image as needed. Voila! Easy and pretty much free! I just printed all my patterns and images on plain white paper and cut them out the way I wanted. Then, you can play around with the layout on the tiles and figure out which way you like the best!
Now, place your cut out on the tile on top of the Mod Podge layer you have just brushed on (let the layer of Mod Podge sit for about 1-2 minutes, but not too long- you don’t want it to dry!). You might get some slight bubbling- just use your finger to smooth them down and you should be good to go!
4. Put a little glob of Mod Podge right on top of the pattern you just placed on the title and spread it out again using your foam brush. You basically want to make a new layer across the whole tile on top of the paper you just put down. Do this 2-3 times, each time with about a dime sized glob.
Let the coasters dry for a few hours and when they are dry to the touch get your polyurethane spray (I use semi-gloss) and give them a good spray (2-3 coats in a row). Make sure you spray them in a well-ventilated area or outside as the spray can be pretty strong.
I got my spray from Home Depot
Let the coasters dry overnight and if you want, you can add felt pads or cork to the back of the tiles to make them a little smoother on the back (cork is much more expensive). I used these that I also got at Home Depot:
They come with a sticky back too so they are easy to apply to the tiles!
So, there you have it! They are super easy and very inexpensive. I love that you can personalize them by finding images online that really go with your existing home decor. In fact, the blue pattern one that’s showcased in the photos above is an actual image from the carpet that’s in our living room that I got offline. And, it’s pretty easy to add initials, names, change colors, etc. through stationary/invitation websites. So, have fun and let me know if you have any questions along the way!
The title of this post comes straight from the first line of a recent NY Times Sunday opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof, and I think it’s an accurate description of what is going on in a remote region of where Sudan and South Sudan meet. I debated for awhile on whether or not I wanted to post this to my blog, thinking it might be a little too heavy and the stories a little too gruesome, but then I realized that sharing stories like this one on a platform such as a blog, whether to an audience of thousands or just a few, is sometimes the only way to get them the recognition they deserve.
Many of you are probably familiar with Darfur. It received international attention around 2004 after government and militia groups went into the region to take out the rebels who felt like the region was oppressing non-Arab Sudanese in favor of Arab Sudanese. The causality count varies, partly because the Sudanese government had blocked aid organizations from conducting such counts in the past, but there are estimates that range from under 20,000 to several hundred thousand dead; it is regarded by many as genocide. Currently, the rebel groups from Darfur and the Sudanese government are in negotiations for peace agreements intended to end the conflict there.
But, in the Nuba Mountains along the border of Sudan and South Sudan a similar story is unfolding. South Sudan seceded on July 9, 2011 and since then there have been large conflicts between them and Sudan. At the source of the conflict is oil (75% of oil reserves in Sudan are in South Sudan) and the refineries and pipelines that serve them (100% of which Sudan controls). Practical thinking would say that the two sides should work together, but that has not been the case.
In Kristof’s Op-Ed column he shares stories from those who have been directly affected by the conflict. He reports from a refugee camp in Yida, South Sudan where many are trying to flee in search of safety and food. Mass starvation has become a major issue in this region since Sudan is blocking aid groups and food assistance from reaching the area in hopes of starving off the rebels. But, while Sudan tries to combat the armed rebels, hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians are caught in the path and suffer.
Kristof shares a story from a 22-year-old Nuban woman who was kidnapped, witnessed her father and brother-in-law executed, and watched soldiers gang rape and then cut the throat of a woman. Oh, and then they stabbed the woman’s 3-year-old son to death. Sadly, these stories are not uncommon for many in the area. Arab Sudanese soldiers target Nubans because of their darker complexion, their Christian beliefs, and because Nubans have supported uprisings against oppressive Sudanese rule. The most heartbreaking part of this piece for me was when Kristof says this: “Nuban children are already growing up in war. When kids surrounded me in the refugee camp, I asked them how many had lost a brother or sister in the war. About one-third raised their hands. ” Can you imagine 1/3 of your peers having lost a sibling in war? It seems unfathomable, and yet, it’s happening as we speak.
I share this story not to bring peoples’ spirits down, but mainly to just bring light to the issue and to hold myself accountable to recognizing that the world has many issues that need attention beyond our soil. In an election year it is easy to get consumed by our own country’s problems. I fully recognize that we have major issues ourselves. Healthcare, education, unemployment– these are major ares of our country that need work. But, I don’t think that means we can ignore foreign issues that are having grave effects on hundreds of thousands. South Sudan, the world’s newest country, is also the poorest- 90% of its population lives on less than $1 a day. Mass starvation is happening. Children are becoming orphaned every day. Many are fleeing to refugee camps like the one in Yida, but the Sudanese military has started bombing those paths to cut off those routes. Countless others are being raped, tortured, and executed simply because of the shade of their skin or religious beliefs. The situation is indeed a humanitarian catastrophe.
So, what to do? I obviously don’t have the answer to ending this conflict. It is one that will likely continue for awhile until both sides can agree on a solution. And, given Sudan’s explosive history, that might not happen for years. Until then, I encourage you to, at the very least, share the story with someone else. It can have a domino effect if they too share it with another person, and then we are at least having a conversation about it. You can also write your local representative to share your concerns with that is happening between the Sudan and South Sudan border. It may seem like one letter won’t do anything, but Senator Paul Simon, who died in 2003, once said after the Rwandan genocide, “If every member of the House and Senate had received 100 letters from people back home saying we have to do something about Rwanda, when the crisis was first developing, then I think the response would have been different.” You never know what can happen. And, if you share the story with others and they too write to their representatives, it could have a bigger impact then you realized. There are of course many organizations dedicated to helping the region, so I don’t want to say no one is doing anything. I’m just saying we can probably do more. Samaritan’s Purse is just one that is dedicated to helping the refugees in South Sudan, and they are doing amazing work.
So, today’s post was to mainly get you thinking. And, not just thinking about the people in Sudan and South Sudan, but also about the millions of people who don’t get to enjoy the modern day comforts that most of us reading this do. Simply stated: we are lucky. So, be thankful for what you have and if you can, share this story. The innocent civilians of Sudan and South Sudan deserve our attention.
No picture of mine would ever do this post justice so I’ll leave you with actual images from Sudan and South Sudan. Maybe they will inspire you to start the conversation.
*quick update: looks like Kristof just posted a video from the Nuba Mountains this morning, stating print can’t do justice to what’s actually happening there. You can check it out here.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day passing this week I thought I’d start off my news post with an article I recently read in the NY Times. It caught my attention right away with the title “The Generous Marriage” (by Tara Parker-Pope and found here). Before all my non-married friends click the “x” box on the browser or pass on this post in their reader I want to say that this article and what I’ll comment on is NOT only for married people. The article resonated with me for all my relationships, and I think you’ll find that its thesis can be applied to any relationship in your life. So before you disregard this post and cue “All the Single Ladies” on your iPod (btw, have you seen this video? hilar), give me a chance here…
The article is very short so it’s a quick read, but if you don’t feel like actually reading it I’ll sum it up in 8 words: We need to do more for each other. Ms. Parker-Pope talks about how the value of generosity is not only important in society (e.g. with acts of philanthropy), but also in our most personal relationships. She cites a study from the University of Virgina’s National Marriage Project that examined the role of generosity in the marriages of thousands of couples. What they found was that those who scored high on the generosity scale were also far more likely to be “very happy” in their marriage. In addition, the benefits of generosity were more profound in couples with children. They asked questions regarding such things as “how often they behaved generously toward their partners. How often did they express affection? How willing were they to forgive?”
It seems obvious, right? I’m sure we all agree that being generous to the people in our lives is something we all strive to do and think we sufficiently do, but it isn’t easy nor does it always happen organically. We often get caught up in the routine of relationships, performing only the tasks that need to be accomplished for living (cook dinner, do laundry, clean dishes, etc), but what about the extras? If anything, I hope this article ignites a spark in you to do more than the day-to-day routine every now and then, to make you question yourself by asking “what else can I do for ___ to make their life easier or better today?” The marriage researcher from this study said that the most successful couples generally do or say at least 5 positive things for each negative interaction with their partner. FIVE things, that’s a lot! And, I’ll be the first to admit that I have not done that. One or two, sure. But, definitely not five.
So, as not only a married woman, but also a friend, sibling, etc. this article summed up a lot of what I’ve believed in my life, but perhaps haven’t put into practice enough. Small things matter, they add up, and acts of kindness go a very long way. Going above and beyond is not expected, but always welcomed. Expectations are often set in relationships early on; in romantic relationships, be it if you’re married or not, you’re expected to be faithful, run errands, do chores, etc.; if you’re a friend you’re expected to be loyal and to always be honest (I one time had a friend tell me that I could not go out with my hair looking the way it did because it looked a hot mess. For the record, I thought it looked awesome, but it was brutal honestly only a good friend would give). But, I bet if you think about some of your favorite moments with the people in your life there will be many that involved the unexpected, the times where they caught you off guard and surprised you.
If you know me well, you know that my mother was and remains a central part of my life (she will be mentioned on this blog often). Simply stated, she was my best friend. And, she was full of unexpected acts of generosity. She always went above and beyond to make sure the people in her life felt taken care of and loved. I strive to have her spirit of generosity that seemed to just come so naturally to her.
So, today and everyday I challenge you to practice acts of generosity towards those you love. I know that I will strive to do more in my own marriage and relationships. It could be as simple as picking up coffee or a favorite snack for your honey (Emily Medina, I know you’ll hate that I just wrote that term), or surprising your friend with a custom playlist for their workouts or upcoming road trip, or giving a little back and foot rub before bed one night (ahem, Paul). Whatever it is, know that it will go a long way. And hey, research shows you’ll be happier. As someone who works in research, I’ve got to believe the stats
And, speaking of Emily Medina, look at this awesome gift she gave me- it’s not even my birthday! Generous or what? And, she made it herself!
Happy long weekend everyone!