How to Become a Pirate Hunter: Book Release & Review

You guys. Fun news!

Today, March 14, marks the release date of a fantastic new young adult novel, "How to Become a Pirate Hunter." Written by Marty Reeder, high school English teacher extraordinaire and also cousin of yours truly, this book was a delight for me to read and review. Check out the review and a fun interview with the author himself here.  

Don't forget to order your own copy of this fun, creative novel!
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Exercise: Trick Yourself into Getting it Done

If you're like me (or, frankly, anyone in the galaxy), you have a hard time being motivated to exercise sometimes. I've dealt with this lots and lots over the years as I've trained for marathons, ultramarathons, and just the day-to-day routine of staying generally healthy.

So I've compiled all the tips and tricks I've used over the years on days I just really didn't want to work out but knew I needed to. It's called, "The Benefits are Real, But the Struggle is Realer." 

Check it out on if you're interested! And if you do, reviews are always appreciated!
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My first eBook

Just wanted to let you know I've published an itty bitty eBook of short vignettes. It's not life-changing, it's not inspiring, it's not terribly thought-provoking. I tried to make it entertaining, but I may have failed on that front. It is, however, short. So. There's that. 

I'd love it if you had a few minutes to check it out...and then a few minutes after that to read it...and (you see where this is going, don't you?) then to leave a mildly positive review. :)

- Brittney

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How to Build a Grape Arbor

Hey! It's been a while, I know. This tends to happen every spring... I fall off the blogging radar. I still manage to keep busy around my house and yard, I just don't post as much.
Like what we just completed in the ol' backyard - a grape arbor, slash, privacy shield.
If you're looking for ideas on building a grape arbor, building a decorative arbor, or sprucing up your backyard space in general, check out the full tutorial I wrote for  

We love this thing. It's beautiful. Now, whether or not the grapes will grow is a whole nother story... 
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Rug Pads for Carpeted or Hardwood Floors

Happy mid-January, everyone. Is it just me, or is time FLYING by lately? I have had barely a minute to even think about my house or home décor over the past few months. Which is both good (time with family, exercising, pursuing other interests) and bad (my home needs some freshening up). But it is what it is, I guess.
Nevertheless, I have a very important, albeit not-super-glamorous, discovery to share with you all. It involves rugs and a product that keeps them squared up and in place.
We've got wall-to-wall carpet in our living room (although we hope to remedy this in the near future), and you may or may not remember the two rugs (first and second) I've tried out in here. Over time, I'll admit to having gotten a bit frustrated because the rugs wouldn't stay put. They would inch, ever so slightly, to some slightly askew position, even with furniture legs holding them down.
Like so (this is a straight-on photo; notice the clockwise shift of the rug?):
Every week or so, I'd be on my hands and knees moving living room furniture aside so I could yank a couple of unruly area rug corners back into place. Not my fave activity.
You can, hopefully, imagine my delight when a representative from Rug Pad USA contacted me with an opportunity to review a couple of their products. The company is based outside of the Greater New York area and specializes in manufacturing premium rug underlays for area and Oriental
rugs...but, more importantly to me, they thought they could fix my rug-shifting woes, both on carpet and hardwood floors.
After giving them two rug dimensions (one larger rug on carpet, one smaller flatweave rug on slippery hardwood in my kitchen), Rug Pad USA custom cut the pads and promptly shipped them out. I have been living with the rug pads for several weeks now, and they.are.awesome.
For the rug-on-carpet dilemma, I was sent an Premium-Lock felt & rubber rug pad (I think), which consists of a grippy rubber mat...
...attached to (surprise!) some thicker felt for padding.
I laid the rug pad down (rubber side on top of carpet, area rug on top of felt), adjusted the squareness of my rug, and went on with daily life for weeks. This rug hasn't moved, people. And we've even had some major Kinect-playing hours, full of jumping and sliding and shaking all around by humans young and old, right on top of this thing. I'm sold.
For the flatweave on the hardwood (which had a rug pad underneath previously, although you wouldn't know it by how slippery it was), Rug Pad USA recommended their Eco-Solid organic rug pad. Again, the pad came custom cut, so I opened the package and put it under the small rug in front of the kitchen sink (after a lightning-fast disposal of my old, useless rug pad) and went about my life.
Weeks later, I'm impressed and satisfied and able to easily recommend both the products and service provided by Rug Pad USA. I find I still need to adjust the kitchen rug slightly, but I think that's more because the rug itself gets rammed and upheaved by the legs of bar stools that my toddler pushes around the kitchen to "help" me with dishes. Which inevitably ends up in my having to towel down the entire kitchen, top to bottom, an hour later.
But that's another story for another day.
In the meantime, if you have a pesky shifting area rug, no matter the surface of your floor, you should check out Rug Pad USA. No lie. It may just change your life.
This post is sponsored by Rug Pad USA. Opinions expressed are 100% my own. 
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Living Room Mood Board

Hi. Most of you don't even remember me, I know. Because I took a month-long hiatus from blogging whilst the holidays were upon me. Forgive me? No? Rats. But...oh well. We'll both live, now, won't we. :)
I'm helping my super awesome and stylish artistic friend update her living room. Like I said, she's a legitimate artist and has a great eye for colors, lines, and textures. She recognizes trends without being trendy, if you know what I mean. The main challenges of their living room are:
1) Space. With a large farmhouse dining table on one end of the modest-sized living room, there's not a ton of extra space.
2) Her husband digs contemporary minimalist style, she leans toward eclectic with soul and personality - a little tribal, vintage, industrial.
3) There are five children and a puppy to consider.
4) Budget. It's not inexpensive to makeover an entire living/dining room in one fell swoop. But they're ready to take a stab at it.
Without further ado, here is the preliminary (translation: expendable, jumping-off point, could be waaaaay off) mood board for their updated living room design:

(pre-script: Walls will be white.)
1 - Contemporary sofa. This Avec sofa from CB2 has clean, modern lines, while its grey tweed upholstery adds a bit of warmth and texture. (A similar form could also be replaced with light leather.) 
2 - Two-tiered coffee table. I like the combination of square shape (we'd use two), warm wood tones, and industrial vibe of this table. The under-shelf is necessary for a select few of the family's many many books and cool treasures.
3 - Red wooden side chair. They have a fireplace, and I envision a vintage chair pair (mismatched would be fantastic) flanking it. This little vintage red number caught my eye.
4 - Navy gooseneck barn sconces. Because floor space is so limited, side tables (and, consequently, their table lamps) are a big fat question mark. A couple of wall-mounted lamps will make a big difference in the room's lighting.  
5 - Palm frond throw pillow. What can I say? Just for fun. A little unexpected pattern and earthiness.
6 - Suzani rug. Tribal meets geometric meets modern meets perfect foundation for eclectic in this bold, graphic area rug. The colors can read as neutral or as great jumping-off points for other parts of the room.
7 - Mint velvet throw pillow. Nothing adds freshness to a fairly traditionally colored space than a bit of mint velvet. It's unexpected. I'd add contrasting navy piping.
8 - Medium-tone wooden bookcases. Two of these exist in the living room and aim to stay. Great wood bookshelves can almost always be worked with successfully.
9 - Leather butterfly chair. Provides a hip, retro vibe while still being classic in leather. Also, what can beat those lines? Nothing, that's what. Breaks up the solid chunks of a living room's inherently larger pieces (e.g., fireplace, sofa, dining table, etc.).
10 - Mustard and white herringbone window shades. Paying homage to the love of geometric shapes without competing with the rug or other pieces, this simple fabric adds just the right touch of visual interest and color.
11 - Medium-tone wood floor. Looooove a wood floor, especially if that wood floor is authentic and well-lived. A perfect start to a room's makeover, if you ask me.
12 - Brass pharmacy floor lamp. This type of lamp successfully bridges the gap between classic traditional and modern. Plus, every living room needs a bit of brass.
13 - Newsprint rhino head. A wall-mounted animal head, just for the fun of an eclectic living room. (Actually, upon seeing the mood board, my friend nixed the rhino head. No sweat. I want her to be happy!)
14 - Printed throw pillow. We'll vary the prints, patterns, and colors of the throw pillows. Not too many, but enough to bring a little life into the room.
15 - Leather armchair. This already exists in the room, which I'm glad about. Classic comfort.
16 - Mismatched dining chairs. As I mentioned, a large chunky wood farmhouse-style dining table sits at one end of the living room. It has a significant visual presence. Currently, the chairs are all dark wood like the table. I'd like to encourage a mix-and-match feel with the chairs, leaning toward vintage industrial.
This will be such a fun project; I'm excited to get going and will keep you all updated on our progress. Stay tuned!
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Christmas Decorations: Bows

Bows. We put them in hair, we put them on gifts, we even put them on our car grilles. (Okay, we maybe don’t put them on our cars, but we’ve all seen it done. That counts for something.)
The truth is, bows have been around forever, and it’s for a reason. Bows can provide a polishing touch to whatever they’re put on…and they often provide a bit of heart-warming nostalgia as well, which is never a bad thing, especially during the holidays. You might want to consider adding a few bows to your décor this season – inside or out, it’s never too late.
  Welcome guests to your home with some oversized bows atop miniature Christmas trees. Keeping the tree décor restricted to the bows alone helps this look not be too overdone, although the stars on the silver buckets are a festive and unobtrusive addition.

Large red bows on your green garland on the stair railing is a classic look. And the thing about classic looks is: you can’t really go wrong with them. Ever. Add bows to both ends of the garland (start and finish) and a few places in the middle.

Hanging a simple boxwood wreath (or a greenery wreath of any kind, for that matter) is a hallmark of Christmas décor. (Psst - it's not hard to make your own boxwood wreath.) You can customize the look with an oversized satin bow and hanging ribbon. Keep the bow ribbon light and neutral for a fresh, modern look.

 A perfect and unique idea for a holiday dinner, or just to dress up your dining room for the season, is to tie bows around each chairback. This is particularly striking against white slipcovers, although the bows would look well against any color (and type) of chair.
Centering a large bow on your mantel garland is a good way to capitalize on the attraction of symmetrical décor on a naturally symmetrical feature. This one isn't exactly to my taste, but I can certainly appreciate the holiday spirit behind it. (But, for the record, that brass-legged coffee table? Yes, please.)
We’ve all seen stars or angels or other items atop a tree (which are lovely), but if you’re looking to freshen things up one year, you might consider adding a bow as your tree’s finishing touch. This is an especially sweet look in a rustic or country styled Christmas space.
Or, if you really like your figurine on top of the tree, maybe decorating the tree itself with bright, cheery bows is the thing for you. Contrast bright satin ribbons with something natural, like pinecones or, in this case, dried hydrangeas.
What about you? Do you like adding bows to your Christmas décor, or is it not your style?
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