DIY colorful painted houseplant pots

All four pots

Final product of my DIY painted planters.

I have a dark confession: I don’t like houseplants. I know for some that’s a crazy concept and it makes me out to be a nature-hating city dweller. That is far from the truth. I love nature and the outdoors. But, for whatever reason houseplants aren’t my thing.

Unfortunately, my boyfriend is big into the houseplant scene. In an effort to be the type of person who can compromise for the ones she loves (blah, blah…) I concocted a devious plan to bring pops of color and design to his green friends. I decided that in smaller, aesthetically interesting pots I could learn to love the plants, or at least cohabitate with them.

This plan brought me to Pinterest and then to Home Depot – a dangerous string of events. My creations were inspired by posts on Eva Daiberi’s blog Miss Renaissance and Amanda Wright’s blog Wit & Whistle. The posts offered tips and techniques that proved to be advantageous.

Overall, this project was fairly cost efficient. I escaped Home Depot only $25 poorer as I already had paints, brushes and some plants. I bought a succulent and a cactus because I think they’re more interesting than the large leafy green plants we already had. My suggestion is to underbuy when you’re taking on a new DIY project as you may have things you can substitute in at home or you may end up hating the project. If you don’t like that philosophy just make sure to save the receipt. Here is everything I needed:

Supplies: 

-Plants

Terra Cota pots and bases

-Cactus

-Succulent

-Acrylic paint and brushes

-Painters tape

-Rubberband

-Water cup

On To Painting

If you want vibrant, deep colors you first need to prime your planters. Basic white acrylic paint works fine. Primer helps display the color as it is lighter than the paint and the pot. I wanted to experiment with multiple looks so I tried some pots with and without primer.

I painted this entire pot white because I wanted to cover it completely with a bright yellow. After it dried I used painters tape to block off a triangle. It took two coats of paint for each to ensure it was opaque.

I primed the entire planter to prepare for a design that covered the whole body.

I primed the entire planter to prepare for a design that covered the whole body.

I left the base the original terra cotta color since the pot has so much going on.

I left the base the original terra cotta color since the pot has so much going on.

Next I played around with color blocking. I took two approaches here, one with a rubber band and one with tape. Wrapping a rubber band at a diagonal around the pot helped me create a clean line with a nice curve. These pots look like they were dipped in a paint can.

For a curved color block look I used a rubber band.

For a curved color block look I used a rubber band.

Finished rubber band planter

I painted a turquoise color over the primed portion that was blocked off by the band.

To get the ombre look below I taped off the bottom half of the pot. It gave me a clean line level across the pot. I painted the bottom half red and then worked yellow paint into it from the top to create the fade. I made sure not to paint over the faded area too much so as not to mix orange.

Cactus

After a bit of repotting and resoiling I now have colorful plants scattered through my living room. This was an easier project than I originally anticipated and a great deal of fun! I would definitely recommend it for anyone that wants to spruce up the look of their houseplants.

New summertime recipe

Naked Greek Feta-Zucchini Turkey Burgers

In my never-ending attempt to eat healthy I have become bored with my staple menu of low-cal, low-sodium, low-carb, low-fat, easy-to-make recipes. While each was beloved at first, they’ve lost their appeal with repetition. I decided it was time to spice things up. (Oh the joy of cooking puns…)

Seen here grating zucchini. A more treacherous exercise than I first gave it credit for. After the zucchini is grated you have to squeeze a surprising amount of liquid out of it  as it is mostly made of water.

Grating zucchini is a more treacherous exercise than I first gave it credit. After, you have to squeeze a surprising amount of liquid out of it as it is mostly made of water.

My first stop in search of a new recipe is always SkinnyTaste.com, curated by Gina Homolka. In nearly two years of experimentation, her dishes have never disappointed. She uses healthier ingredients and methods but still manages to retain full flavor. I’ve also pushed myself out of my comfort zone trying my hand at some of her recipes, ultimately improving my skill in the kitchen.

Searching for inspiration last night I happened upon her post for naked Greek feta-zucchini turkey burgers. Feta cheese, burger, naked…how could I resist?

This had me tearing up more than I'd like to admit.

This had me tearing up more than I’d like to admit.

Worried at first having never used grated zucchini in a dish and never making a burger, Gina walked me through the steps with grace and ease (on her end seemingly at least…mine however involved a few narrow misses of grating my fingertips and breaking one of the patties mid-flip…)

In the end, the burgers and the Greek salad were absolutely fantastic! A perfect mix of garlicky goodness in a moist burger, which Gina says is due to the zucchini. This is one of my favorite cooking adventures that I have taken with Gina to date.

The hidden gem of this recipe is the Greek salad you make to go with the burger. I'll be making this with many meals from now on.

The hidden gem of this recipe is the Greek salad you make to go with the burger. I’ll be making this with many meals from now on.

What I’m reading these days

Photograph by Kate Ter Haar

Photograph by Kate Ter Haar

So far the summer has given me a wonderful opportunity to catch up on my reading. I’ve had time to escape into fiction, discover new fitness trends and follow stories that pique my interest. In the event you’re looking for some light distraction from the Monday grind, this is what I have been reading by as of late.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

This fantasy fiction novel is the perfect read for anyone who waited for their Hogwarts acceptance letter or hoped to travel to a magical land through their bedroom closet. I was introduced to the trilogy while working with Syfy network on the NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Upfront. Syfy will soon premiere a TV show based on Grossman’s series that looks fantastic. As any true bookworm can attest, I had to read at least the first installment before the show began and, let me say, I am now a big, big fan.

10 Cool Podcasts Every Woman Should Know by Madison Feller

There’s no doubt about it, radio is making a comeback in the form of the podcast. After falling victim to NPR’s Serial, as many did, I have a new found appreciation for the medium. This article from Levo League highlights 10 podcasts that are especially appealing to women. First up on my list is Dear Sugar, featuring the one and only Cheryl Strayed.

Blast Calories With This Full-Body Tabata Workout by Anna Renderer

To say that I’m addicted to Popsugar Fitness would be an understatement. Their daily email newsletter is the first thing I check in the morning and my go-to lunch time debrief. They have great health and fitness tips, videos, recipes and routines. Lately I’ve been varying my workouts, focusing on exercise classes and HIIT routines because plantar fasciitis has me taking a break from running. Anna Renderer has nearly every type of fitness video you can imagine and is a fantastic virtual trainer. My goal is to some day work with her in person.

Lauren Conrad Bans the Word “Skinny” from her Website by The Hollywood Reporter staff

Hooray!! I was thrilled to read that style and lifestyle icon Lauren Conrad banned body shaming terms, such as “skinny,” “slim,” and “thin” from her popular site. Whether you like LC or not she is an influential figure to women and girls around the country. Many covet her site for tips on fitness, health, cooking, fashion and home decor. In my opinion, this is a win for the fight against negative female body imagery found all over the media, especially on health and fitness platforms. Conrad is taking a step in the right direction to give young girls positive, healthy role models to look up to.

Which Social Network Should You Advertise On? by Olivia Allen 

Olivia Allen breaks down the pros and cons of using LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook for advertising and when companies should focus on which platform.

Diversifying my workout

Since high school I’ve been a self-proclaimed gym rat. I am not a fan of team sports, lack great hand-eye coordination and do not generally enjoy exercising outside during the warmer months. This laundry list of limitations left me staring at a gym membership.

WeightsIt turns out that the air conditioned climate, complete with TVs and an endless supply of water within reach is just what I needed to get active.

Not too long ago I noticed  that I had been doing pretty much the same routine all these years. It was a combination of 45 minutes of moderate to decently intense cardio (usually running on the treadmill or elliptical), 10 minutes of stretching, 15 to 20 minutes of abs finished off with 15 minutes or so of weights.

This is nothing to scoff at. It is a balanced workout (I think…?) and typically left me with a sweat. However, I noticed I started to plateau after a while. The runs that used to leave me panting and clenching my side now barely made me break a sweat. Crunches that once caused me to wake up with a sore stomach the next morning were gradually a piece of cake.

I realized I wasn’t varying or increasing the intensity of my workouts.

Flat-belly workout courtesy of POPSUGAR Fitness.

Flat-belly workout courtesy of POPSUGAR Fitness.

My goal as of late has been to change this. I downloaded the POPSUGAR Fitness app, which I open every day at the gym for new ideas and routines, and started tracking my workouts with MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun. These apps help me stay focused and quickly identify when I’m slipping back into my old ways. I’ve challenged myself to do interval runs at an incline to  amp up the intensity of my daily cardio fix. And, I’ve started mixing in more weights and circuit training.

So far the results have been great. I’ve noticed my endurance has shot up and my muscles are more sculpted, thanks to the weight training. The best outcome is that I’m having more fun at the gym because I’m not doing the same tired routine again, and again.

Today I pushed myself to try two new workout plans, a flat-belly workout that combines cardio and crunchless abs and a circuit training workout for legs. I felt them target muscles that I hadn’t hit before and push others further than I normally do. It was also just fun to try a new set of exercises. I lost track of time in the gym because I was working to get a grasp on the new routines.

DIY Christmas decoration on a budget

Being on a fairly tight budget I eat a lot of pasta and go through an embarrassing abundance of spaghetti sauce jars. When I was taking out my trash one day I realized that the glass jars are actually quite pretty under the label. So I decided to keep a few, unsure what to do with them.

Yesterday, while searching for a nice bowl to put nuts in when I realized I could use one of the jars.

This is how I turned a sauce jar into a decorative holiday piece:

Step 1: Eat a delicious pasta dinner with your favorite sauce.

Step 2: Wash the left over sauce, and smell, out of the jar.

Step 3: Remove the label. Soak the jar in hot water and the label will start to peel off by itself. There will still be some glue residue that you can scrub off with a wire sponge.

Step 4: Fill it with something festive! Growing up my mom always had nuts and nutcrackers in beautiful dishes around the house during the holidays, so I decided to fill my jar with nuts. But you could put anything in it .

And voila! You have a pretty, cheap holiday decoration.

Two pastels from this summer

This summer I drew two pastels for my boyfriend Kevin that I gave to him as gifts. I took his two favorite pictures of himself, one of him building a fire in Vermont and one of him Kayaking in Maine, and recreated them. This is how they came out.

My tea set lamp; the first DIY project of the summer

The final product.

The final product.

Continuing my post grad adventures, today I built a lamp. Let me preface this post by stating that I am not the handiest girl around. I can manage a hammer and screw driver, but once you get more advanced than that I am out of my league. Today was a real learning experience, luckily I was with someone who knew what he was doing. I was inspired and advised by two blogs: Vintage Revivals and My Repurposed Life.

My handy boyfriend Kevin I created a lamp from pieces of a tea set. I bought all the tea set parts cheap at Home Goods and the lampshade at Ikea (although after assembling it I realized the shade is too small and I will have to get a larger one).

My pre-lamp tea set.

My pre-lamp tea set.

Before we could begin putting anything together we made a trip to Home Depot to buy a drill bit (I didn’t even realize these were customized by purpose and size!), a lamp kit (this has all the wiring and bulb appliances needed), a threaded rod and rubber washers (these go on either side of the ceramic to keep it in place).

You have to drill holes in each plate/cup in order to stack them on top of each other and run the rod through them. We put the hole in the center of each piece except the teapot which I decided to orient at an angle, as if it were pouring tea. We chose a 3/8 inch drill bit because that is the side of the rod I bought.

IMG893

Drilling these ceramic and china pieces was very intimidating for us because we were scared we would crack them. A bunch of DIY blogs I read said to start drilling at a 45 degree angle and slowly raise the drill until it is perpendicular to the plate/cup and then to let the drill grind without pressure.

While I think this is probably a good method for some plates, it did not work for us. We had to apply more pressure than was recommended to make any mark on the plates and we did not find any advantage in starting at a 45 degree angle versus starting perpendicular. My advice would be to try the careful way first and see how it works for you. It just did not do it for us.

IMG890

The best tip I found was to drill under water. The drill and plates got very hot as we drilled so doing it under water made sure it didn’t over heat and ruin the drill bit. At first I slowly poured water, letting it collect within the lip of the cup or plate and replenished it as it evaporated. But the drill started getting really hot so I switched to a hose which I sprayed on the “mist” setting continuously while Kevin drilled.

Pouring water onto the underside of a saucer.

Pouring water onto the underside of a saucer.

After drilling through the set, which we found can take 3-5 minutes per piece, comes the fun part: deciding how to order it! I tried it a couple different ways before settling on one.

My final order.

My final order.

Then I followed instruction in the lamp kit on how to string the wire up through the rod and connect it all at the top. Finally I put the lampshade on and voila: