How To Feel + Look Awesome Even When It’s Ridiculously Hot

look good when it's hot(I published a version of this post last summer, but I’m reviving it because hey! It’s hot again!)

You’d think since I live in Minnesota (land of the six-month winter) I’d be poorly versed in sweat-soaked tank tops and underboob sweat.
But you’d be wrong.
Since Minnesota is so far inland, our summers are nearly as rough as our winters – 90% humidity, 100 degree days, opaque curtains of mosquitoes. This, coupled with a year and a half spent in tropical Taiwan, has taught me how to navigate three months of sweat and sun. And to supplement my knowledge? I asked the lovely people of Twitter and my Facebook lady friends.
Here, for your summer reading pleasure are 13 ways you can survive (or actually enjoy!) the heat of summer while still looking reasonably cute. 
1. OMG, dresses
Are dresses the answer to every question? Probably. They make you look fancy and pulled together when they’re really just an elevated onesie. You’ll feel even more comfortable if you buy dresses in natural fabrics (I love this cotton one) or find a cut that’s simultaneously cute and a little roomie (like this one (for $23!))
2. Natural fabrics
Let’s talk about 100% cotton and, yes, linen. Also, let’s take an official stance that wrinkled clothing is chic. Natural fabrics breathe a million times better than rayon or poly blends and they also help us look like those casually beautiful women who drink tea while sitting on weathered Adirondack chairs. It’s also worth noting that we’ll all enjoy summer more if we extend the natural fabric policy to our underwear. Isn’t this linen skirt cute?
3. Reconsider your bra situation
If you’re super well-endowed you should probably stick with your trusty underwire, but if you’re smaller than a D-cup, I’d make the argument that you could probably switch to a sporty-ish bra, cute bikini tops, or tops with built-in support.
During the summer, I almost exclusively wear these – they’re a million times more comfortable than underwires, you can toss them in the wash, they work with any racer back tank tops, and they’re lined and have separate cups so you don’t get the Dreaded Uniboob. Bikini tops look cute peeking out from your tank tops and are made to be washed a million times.
Also: keep your bras in the freezer! Heavenly.
4. Wear your hair up (of course) 
You’ve read this advice a million times because it’s good! I like to do a three bun faux-hawk-y thing, but there are piles of cute, easy hairstyles for the summer. I also love this braid/bun thing and this ‘boho chic’ thing.
5. Buy some summer-specific accessories
Here’s what I don’t leave the house without: a hat (I wear this one all the time), a cute water bottle, and I recently bought a super cheap collapsible sandalwood fan. I was worried I’d look a bit Blanche Dubois, fanning myself dramatically in the park but tons of people have asked me where I got it. I’m on a one-woman mission to convert Minneapolis hipsters into fan-carriers.
I’ve also seen people carrying those non-environmentally-but-probably-really-amazing aerosol cans of Evian. I’m putting off trying them because I’m afraid they’ll be life-changing and then I’ll be the sort of person who sprays herself with Evian AND fans herself with a tiny wooden fan in public. Ugh/awesome.
6. Give up accessories and makeup that’s not heat-friendly
Big cuff bracelets and liquid eyeliner are part of my everyday uniform, but in the summer those bracelets sweatily stick to my forearm and my eyeliner flakes off. So I made the executive decision to put them away for the summer. I’m also giving up on scarves, pointy toed ballet flats and skinny jeans. Nope.
7. Use products that melt in an appealing manner
Everything is going to melt off within an hour or two, so you might as well use stuff that’s going to look good as it melts – cream eye shadow, tinted moisturizer, tinted chapstick. A friend from Arizona gives up perfume for the summer and just uses scented lotion or sunscreen. This 30 spf sunscreen apparently smells like sugar plum and freesia!
Also: keeping your cosmetics and skin care products in the fridge feels great and (I’m guessing) prolongs their life.
8. For the ambitious: dye your eyebrows and/or eyelashes
Since I’m blonde and capable of getting a tan, every summer my eyebrows bleach out to the same color as my face. Awwwwwesome. While that’s not something everyone would care about I’m vain and I like visible eyebrows so I dye mine with Just For Men beard gel (yes, really). I don’t do it regularly, but in the past I’ve had my eyelashes dyed which makes me feel like an old Hollywood glamazon, waking up and looking all bright-eyed and made up.
9. Deal with the chafing
As far as I can tell, the only benefit to having a thigh gap is that you will never have to endure summer chafing. For the other 99% of us, let’s talk about this anti-chafing gel, under-your-dress-shorts, or good ‘ol baby powder. Personally, I’m more likely to opt for the gel because I’m loathe to wear another layer in 90 degree weather but I know many women who swear by those shorts!
10. Eat all the cold things
Gazpacho! Cold quinoa salads! Mango lassi popsicles! Beet lemonade! They’re all easy, healthy, and you can prepare them ahead of time so you can eat them right out of the container, standing in front of the fridge, bathing in that glorious cold. Hypothetically.
11. Wash your feet with cool water before you go to bed

This seems extraordinarily strange, but I swear it works. If you’ve been padding around the city all day in sandals, your feet are probably surprisingly gross and putting cool water on your extremities is a great way to bring down your core temperature. I give mine a wash with a scrub brush and some zingy tea tree body wash.

12. Cool your pressure points
Did you know you can cool your whole body down by cooling your wrists, the back of your neck, or the small of your back? Sure, you probably don’t want to pad around the office holding a cold, well towel to the small of your back, but if you’re out and about, you should totally try these awesome/weird ice cube bracelets and necklaces! I bet these would be particularly great for long days hiking or at an amusement park.

Does this actually make you feel cooler? No. Is it fun to do anyway? Yup.

Warm climate friends! Share your advice in the comments!

P.S. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, this is for you: 11 Tricks To Looking + Feeling Fairly Awesome Even Though It’s Freezing

Read // Eat: Lane Cake from ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’

My awesome food stylist friend Ben is taking over our Read // Eat column! You might remember the tour of his gorgeous, light-filled loft or his ‘True Story: I Converted To Judaism‘?

recipe from To Kill A Mockingbird

If you happen to have found yourself living like a young Kimmy Schmidt the last few months you’ve missed the release of Harper Lee’s second novel, Go Set A Watchman. With the flurry of excitement that comes with this release, there has been increased chit chat at the work lunch table about Ms. Lee and her classic novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.

Having not read the book since my youth (and not enjoying it at the time) I was very intrigued to hear the opinions of my Southern co-workers, who grew up in a time where To Kill A Mockingbird was more current fiction than historical. To them, the adventures of Scout, Jem, and Dill were shared memories of a less complicated time.  With all the chatter around the lunch table, I thought it best to pick up a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird and give it a second chance.

I wasn’t but a few chapters in that I abandoned my high school English class point of view and started to appreciate the story that my co-workers spoke so fondly of. And though I know the novel teaches us many things, my new interest was greatly influenced by the food that is casually mentioned throughout.

Having relocated to The South within the last year, I have spent many meals trying “new to me” Southern delicacies. So when cracklin’ bread was mentioned I was excited having heard stories about grandmothers actually having made this. Between the collards, scuppernongs, bread and butter and sugar sandwiches there is enough food mentioned to make this an unofficial cookbook of The South.

Making repeat appearances in To Kill A Mockingbird is a Lane Cake. This cake whose Alabama origins date back to 1898 is simple to make (and can be made more simple if you choose to cheat with a box mix) and has booze it is. So win-win. Below is a more traditional approach to the cake. However, like I said, I am sure you could speed up the process with a box mix if you desired. Just don’t skimp on the bourbon.

To Kill A Mock 2

Lane Cake (recipe from Saveur Magazine June 2014)

16 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pans
3 ½ cups cake flour, sifted
4 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
½ tsp. cream of tartar
8 eggs, separated

Filling and Swiss Meringue Icing:
2 ½ cups sugar, divided
½ cup bourbon or brandy
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup raisins
1 cups chopped pecans
1 cup grated coconut
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
¼ tsp. kosher salt
4 egg whites


Make the cake:
Heat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 3-inch-deep 9-inch cake pans; set aside. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat butter, 1 2⁄3 cups sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Alternately add the flour mixture and milk in three batches until just combined, to make a batter.

In a large bowl, whisk together cream of tartar and egg whites (reserve yolks for filling) until soft peaks form; slowly add remaining sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Add to cake batter and fold until combined.

Divide batter between prepared cake pans and smooth tops; bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Let cool for 30 minutes, unmold, and cool completely. Using a long, serrated knife, halve both cakes horizontally to create four layers in all; set aside.

Make the filling:
Whisk together 1 cup sugar and reserved yolks (from cake recipe, above) in a 4-qt. saucepan; whisk in bourbon and butter, and heat over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, and cook until mixture thickens to the consistency of loose pudding, about 2 minutes.Remove from heat; let cool completely. Stir in raisins, pecans, coconut, and vanilla; set aside.

Make the icing:
Combine the remaining sugar, corn syrup, salt, and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer; place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water so that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Cook, whisking often, until the sugar dissolves and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the egg whites reads 140°.Place the bowl on the stand mixer fitted with a whisk, and whisk the mixture on medium-high until tripled in volume and stiff peaks form.

Assemble the cake:
While the icing whips, place one cake layer on a cake stand and top with 1⁄3 filling; repeat with remaining cake layers and filling, leaving top layer uncovered. When icing is ready, spread it over the top and sides of the cake until the cake is evenly covered, creating swirls, if you like. Chill before serving.

If you guys have any ideas/requests for future book/recipe pairings, leave them in the comments!

True Story: I’m A YA Author

author maggie hall
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi! I’m Maggie Hall, I’m 32 years old, and I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico with my husband and our two cats. I grew up in Albuquerque, went to college in LA (Fight on, USC!), lived in New Orleans with stints elsewhere, and have traveled a lot in between. My husband and I just spent a year traveling around the world.

I’m currently a full-time writer and part-time graphic designer. My first book, The Conspiracy of Us, is the first in a young adult international thriller trilogy (kind of like a teen DaVinci Code), and the second in the trilogy, Map of Fates, comes out March 2016.

How did you come to be a YA author?
After college, I worked in marketing and events at an independent bookstore. This probably should have discouraged me from writing, because it taught me how hard the publishing world is, but somehow, it was the opposite. It fascinated me. At the same time, I heard about this thing called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is where you write a whole novel in one month. I didn’t end up writing Conspiracy during NaNo, but the idea that it was something a person could do even if they hadn’t been writing since they could hold a pen and didn’t have an MFA or connection to the literary world inspired me to start thinking about it.

Around the same time, I started reading YA, but I could never find the exact book I wanted to read. I loved conspiracy thrillers, and I loved travel, and I loved YA romance…and at some point, it came together in my head. This was the book I wanted to read, and it didn’t exist—so I’d write it.

In your opinion, how is writing YA fiction different than writing ‘traditional’ fiction?
It’s hard to generalize YA, because it’s so diverse—it’s not a genre, but an age group that encompasses every genre. I do think YA has some commonalities, though. It tends to be very plot-driven or very character-driven, or both, which makes it easy to read, and I mean that in the best possible way. Even on the more literary end of the YA spectrum, you’re usually not going to find YA where nothing much happens.

Also, YA tends to have a stronger emotional core than some adult fiction. Since YA characters are teenagers, so many experiences are new to them. For me, this is one of the most fun parts to write: everything that happens matters so much.

Have you encountered any snarkiness or condescension from writers who write for adults?
I haven’t experienced this personally. Authors tend to be really cool people, and they understand that writing and publishing is a huge undertaking no matter what you write. I’ve actually encountered more of this from certain non-writers who think every YA book is just a ripoff of the Twilight movies.

Signing a three-book deal with Penguin for your first book is a huuuuge deal! Can you walk us through that process?
The typical process to try for publication with a major publisher (for fiction—non-fiction is a little different) goes like this:

1. Write the book. If you’re a debut author and not famous, you must have the book finished—there’s no selling on ideas at this stage if you’re a newbie.Query literary agents. Here, you’re seeking a literary agent to represent you, as they are the only ones who can submit to major publishers (they don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts directly from authors). This part of the process can take a long time, and it’s very common for an author to not get an agent on their first (or second, or fifth) book.

2. Submission. Once you’ve secured representation, your agent will send the book out on submission. This involves choosing editors at various publishers the agent thinks might be interested in the book, and then sending it out. Like the query stage, it can sometimes take a while.

3. Accept an offer. If an editor is interested, and the publisher wants to buy the book, you have a book deal! At this stage, your agent negotiates various things, such as how many books the deal is for, the advance you’ll be paid, etc.

As for my experience…Conspiracy Of Us was my first book. I worked on it for a couple years from idea to querying (which seemed like forever!). I got an agent pretty quickly, but then I edited with her for a few months before going on sub. I was on submission for six days, but then it was two years until publication! My deal was for three books, because I knew going in that CONSPIRACY would be a trilogy, and luckily, Penguin agreed.

What does a typical ‘work’ day look like for you?
I’m not on quite as strict a schedule as I’d like to be, but my schedule lately (on a revision deadline) goes something like this:

5:30 am – Wake up to a cat in the face, and go straight to the computer either at home, or out at a coffee shop. I make myself a revision to-do list the night before, and now I work through as much of it as I can.

8 am – Go for a walk or run, eat breakfast, get ready for the day.

10 am – More editing, or sometimes design stuff.

1 pm – Realize I’ve allowed myself to turn the internet back on to research a fact, then accidentally spent the last half-hour reading about what Brad and Angelina got the twins for their birthday. Oops. Eat lunch with my husband (who also works from home) and spend the next couple hours running errands, doing stuff around the house, etc. I’m terribly unproductive at this time of day, so I try to schedule things that aren’t writing.

4 pm – Work on a graphic project or two. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of book covers.

6 pm – Make dinner, maybe watch a TV show.

7:30 pm – Back to work! Early and late in the day are when I do my best writing work. (Though if I’m not on a tight deadline, sometimes I’ll take the night off.) 😉

Author Maggie Hall

maggie hall books

Where do you find creative inspiration?
Well-written books. Great TV. (There’s so much good TV these days!) Stories in general.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
I do, and I find it’s usually from one of two things: something’s wrong with what I’m writing, or I’m being lazy. If I’m being lazy and resisting the huge amount of work I to have to do, a deadline will generally snap me out of it. But if I’m really stuck on a storyline, or I have no idea what should come next, I go back as far as I need to until I find where I took a wrong fork in the road, and fix it.

What tools/apps/platforms/coping techniques have helped you write these books?
Scrivener (a word processer that’s a zillion times better than Word for novel writing—seriously, if you’re a writer, GET IT).

A small notebook I keep with me all the time, including by my bed at night, just in case anything pops into my head.

Whiskey. (That’s a valid coping technique, right?)

There’s a lot of talk about how the publishing world is changing and authors are expected to do more of their own marketing, etc. What things have you, yourself, done to promote your book?
That’s true—I think almost all authors are expected to do at least some of their own marketing. I personally find the best way to promote is to connect with readers in whatever way I can. Whether that’s doing events (I got to go on tour with a few other Penguin authors earlier this year, and have also done a few events on my own) or by interacting on social media, or by doing giveaways, I really love talking to readers.

What surprised you about the process of writing these books?
How much the characters become real to you. It’s not surprising, I guess—I sometimes spend way more time with them than with real-life people! And also, how LONG the whole process takes.

Who are some of your literary idols?
Is it too obvious to say JK Rowling? I am obsessed with her ability to tie details and storylines together from book to book. Keeping all that together in your head for three books feels impossible some days—I can’t imagine seven!

Also Hemingway—his writing style is not my thing, but I love that he lived as fascinating a life as he wrote about.

What advice would you give to others who are trying to get published?
Write something, and finish it. So many people mess around with one chapter for five years and give up because they can’t get it quite right. As much as writing is an art, if you want to get published it’s also a business. And if publication doesn’t come easily, don’t give up! I’m an anomaly having gotten my first book published. If you don’t, it doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes. It just means this book wasn’t quite right for agents or publishers at this time—but your next one might be.

Thanks so much for sharing, Maggie! Do you guys have any questions for her? 

Web Time Wasters

Hi, guys! The July Network of Nice was pretty sparse, so I’m just tucking them in here!

I’d love insights into the legalities of changing my first name
I’m trying to plan out a more specific date for when I will legally change my first name, but to do that, I need to figure out what debts, if any, I owe (e.g. hospital, other things, etc.) to pay them back. I just don’t know where to look or start. I’m looking for someone experienced with figuring out what debt(s) they owe who knows how to start that process.
lizlawson91@gmail (dot) com

I would love to chat with anyone who works on preventative medicine
I’m a nurse in an ICU but my passion is in nutrition and preventative medicine. I am trying to figure out a way to focus my nursing practice on keeping people from ending up in the ICU from preventable illness! Has anyone done integrative nutrition’s health coach program? Could you tell me about your experience with that (especially nurses)- how does it end up working out transitioning to be a health coach? Can you make it full time?
alyssa.mccutcheon@gmail (dot) com

I’d love to know about moving to Washington or Oregon
I plan to move to Washington or Oregon in the next few months and I want to make some friends before I go! I want to learn more about the best areas to live and what I can expect when I move. I want to get to know people who live in the area. I am a 25-year-old freelance writer and I currently live in southern California. I love cats, wine, crime documentaries and running.
missingtheexit@gmail (dot) com

Links for you! 

Ooooh! Famous European theaters as seen from backstage!

I work from my sun porch these days but I loved these tips on how to save money and time on your commute.

Yes x 1,000. Conscious optimism vs. lazy, pseudo-spiritual optimism. Please make a choice.
So that vision of the world we want to live in…it requires wide awake optimism to create it. Those lives “of service” so many of us are trying to live… Service is being informed. Service is being enraged. Service is keeping your heart open even when you’re enraged. Service is being ruthlessly honest about the facts — and then choosing to be optimistic. Service is fuelling your optimism with action. (And yes, meditation counts as action.)

Quick! Before summer is over! Fill 100 water balloons per minute?!

Man partner, are you reading this? Please buy me these for my birthday. Also: this brooch.

Things we should all cook/bake/eat immediately: Crispy tofu kale hash, peach and plum Caprese salad, asparagus three cheese tart.

Focus At Will is the newest tool in my productivity toolkit. So good! This is the oddly specific way I use it.

Here’s your Sunday weep: a story of a couple’s last vacation together as the wife dies of cancer.

“First I need you to promise me something. Not for now, for after.”

I take a deep breath and find it hard to form words; all I come up with is a nod.

“I want you to do the things you always talked about doing but never did,” she says. “The house on a lake you wanted. Buying the vineyard that will use up all your money. Another dog, to keep Gus company. Just don’t let too much time pass before you do. Each day is like a year, as I found out the hard way. And I want you to be happy, as I always have been. That’s my wish for you.”

“I don’t want to do any of that without you,” I say. “It won’t mean the same.”

“It will have to be without me,” Susan says. “That decision has been made.”

The best natural sunscreens.

Related: Ca-yute! And a perfume that allegedly smells like the beach.

How to create a sustainable grocery shopping list #lentils

Do you also love creepy, creepy Shirley Jackson? What if she wrote “What To Expect When You’re Expecting”?
Chapter 3: Mother, Mother, I’m Coming, I’m Coming, Mother, Just A Minute Mother, Mother, Stop Banging On The Walls, Mother I’m Coming, Mother Mother ᴍᴏᴛʜᴇʀ
On The Moon We Speak A Soft, Liquid Tongue
Look Down On The Dead Dried World • A Huge Cloud Of Looming Nothingness • There’s No One Here Named Charles

I moved into a new place a few months ago and I’m struggling to make my  old pieces fit in the new place. I liked Kelsey’s series on decorating a new space with intention (instead of just buying cute, mismatched things at Goodwill, like I usually do.)

Tech housekeeping = yes.

Are you healthy or cheap or vegan or lazy? If so, have I got the summer dessert for you!

A photo essay about a 22-year-old nun.

Ooooh! A super easy DIY for your own upholstered headboard.

And a few Yes & Yes posts you might have missed: How to take a sabbatical without ruining your career and 7 style tricks to fool people into thinking you’ve made an effort with your appearance.

12 of the best, most helpful articles about blogging/business/creativity

1761023_8202819_pmYou guys! There have been so many awesome, helpful things on the internet this month! I rounded up 12 for you over on my small business blog – including a 4,000-word post about using Pinterest, thoughts on building healthy business boundaries, and my new favorite list-making method. Pop over and check it out!

How To Choose Furniture That Will Work In Any Space

furniture for any spacePhoto credit

Hi, Yes and Yes! I’m the new design & DIY contributor and want to make myself acquainted. I’m an interior designer and professional member of the ever-so-fancy ASID. I have an intrepid attitude when it comes to the DIY realm. I’ve also only lived as a renter; from a military kid to the “temporary” rental in middle school that lasted until I moved on to a series of apartments as an adult.

I spend my work life helping homeowners renovate and personalize their homes while I live in a cheap apartment on Cleveland’s west side. Straddling the worlds of high design and rented beige-town on a daily basis leaves me thinking a lot about how to merge the two!

I currently work for an amazing luxury design firm but am transitioning to my own gig after my husband and I decided to move three states away from my employer. Traveling and working remotely can’t continue forever, and we just decided to put down permanent roots here in Cleveland, where homeownership is financially possible. So I’m starting BOLSTER, a studio focusing on helping renters and homeowners create the most incredible living spaces possible. I’m offering e-design and hourly consultation services now with full-service design rolling out in September. I couldn’t think of a better time to start writing for Yes and Yes!

Let’s talk about collecting the right furniture to make your rental space feel like home while keeping future moves in mind.

My advice for furnishing a home doesn’t stray too far from the advice we’ve all heard about building a wardrobe: define your style, buy timeless pieces as a foundation, focus on versatility, and account for current trends with accessories and less expensive pieces. Not that I take that advice when it comes to clothing; 92.6% of what I wear is black because I love stereotypes. And I’m lazy.

Defining your style will make it easier to shop for furniture or turn away free items from well-meaning relatives. Don’t let mom’s cast-off wingback chair crush your dreams of having mid-century decor.

This decorating style quiz is a good place to start.


Photo credit

Once your style has been identified, build the foundation. Sofas, dining tables, beds, and storage pieces that are timeless with refined details lend themselves to evolving trends and tastes. The classics also elevate your style and will look purposeful in a variety of architectural environments, including spaces where you can’t control paint colors.

Keeping it simple goes for fabric on large pieces unless you’re down with slipcovers. Remember the black and white damask trend of 2007? It’s easier to change pillows on a white sofa than address dated upholstery.
Photo credit left, right
Sturdy materials like wood and metal will hold up to multiple moves better than laminated particle board. My $200 Swedish superstore dresser only lasted three years and collapsed after two moves. But the two solid wood vintage waterfall dressers found at a garage sale for $90 are in it for the long haul.
Photo credit left, right
Focusing on the versatility of furniture will help you make a home in future apartments.  An entire room of matching furniture purchased from a warehouse is not only stayed and overpriced, it’s also inflexible. Versatility is aided by mixing in metals, acrylic, painted finishes, and neutral upholstery that complements the style and scale of foundation pieces. It’s easy to move pieces from room to room if all works together!
Choose seat heights that are consistent. A sofa with a 17” seat height won’t mix well with a chair that sits 4” higher. Seat heights are critical if several dining chairs are part of the plan.
Avoid oversized pieces. Don’t be like me and drag home a free, oversized sectional to a 98-year-old apartment with narrow doorways. Go with two sofas for the same function.
bolster-7 (1)
Be mindful of ceiling heights. This 101” tall wardrobe would be incredible in an apartment with soaring ceilings, but it will never fit in a place with standard eight-foot ceilings.
Once you’ve built the base of classic and sturdy furniture pieces, go wild with bringing in personal style in ways that won’t break your bank when you’re ready for a change. Save the shots of color for occasional tables, drapes, accessories, and art. Pillows may be recovered with little effort or cost, and go a long way to breathing new life into those classic foundation pieces.
 bolster-10 Photo credit
So much helpful info, right guys? If you have any furniture or decor questions for Liz, leave them in the comments!

In Which I Choose My Life Over A Book Deal


this is me, being contemplative

I devoted most of May and June to the sort of indulgent, naval gazing self-analysis usually reserved for early 2000’s emo music.

As I drove across the country, I wondered (aloud, to my empty car) what I should do about The Book Thing. In Idaho, I thought I had it figured out. In California, I reconsidered. In New Mexico and New York and Kitchener, I bored every friend I saw with my concerns about The Book Thing.

See, over two years ago, I signed with a literary agent. After a year of half-hearted attempts on both our parts, I politely suggested that we see other people and promptly signed with another – significantly more impressive – literary agent.

There were big ideas and big plans and a lush, professionally designed proposal. We planned to turn the True Story series into a gorgeous gift book filled with all my best, unpublished interviews and beautiful photos.

You know, the kind of thing they sell at Urban Outfitters and museum gift stores.
The kind of book you proudly display on the coffee table or give to your Cool Aunt.

I was totally aware of all the reasons I should want to publish a book.  
It would introduce my work and this blog to a whole new audience. It would open doors that I didn’t know existed. I could charge more for my services and get booked as a speaker. I’d get to live out my childhood dream of being a published author.

But all I could think of were the reasons I didn’t want to.
I’ve watched multiple friends write and publish books. I’ve seen the book-writing process totally consume their lives – frequently at the cost of their health and their relationships. I’ve ghost-written books for major publishers and worked through those merciless edits.

I don’t want to shuttle around the country on a book tour or appear on morning television in Spanx and heavy makeup. I don’t want Yes & Yes to fall apart as I spend all my time on another project. I don’t want to give up the client work I love doing or the new things that I love trying.

Rather greedily, I want to publish the best interviews myself. I want the instant gratification of your comments telling me how the story resonated with you or how it introduced you to something new.

For me, pursuing a book deal felt like exchanging money for the next two years of life.
Instead of poking around the back roads of Ontario, I’d be chained to my laptop. Instead of roller skating date nights or cabin weekends or weird new recipes, I’d live in my inbox.  Instead of writing posts about how to trick people into thinking you’ve made an effort with your appearance, I’d be chasing down photo release forms.

I didn’t want that. I don’t want that.

Which is, perhaps, not a particularly inspirational conclusion. Maybe I’m taking the easy way out or I’m afraid of failure. Maybe in a few years I’ll regret this decision. Maybe my eighth grade English teacher is shaking her head right now; I’m sure my former agent is rolling his eyes.

But instead of the childhood dream I thought I wanted, I’m choosing to pursue the day-to-day reality I know I want right now.  It’s equal parts scary and anti-climatic but – at least for now – it’s the right choice for me.

True Story: I Flip Houses

woman house flipperTell us a bit about yourself!
Hi! My name is Lindsay Bjerke. I was raised in the small town of Waseca, MN on a five-generation family farm and made my way to St. Paul for school and work. I have a degree in Interior Design and am a licensed realtor for a small independent brokerage.

I’m 32-years-old, happily married and in love with my one-year-old pup, Gordon. For fun, the husband and I travel, play tennis, mountain bike and tinker in the yard.

For those of us who don’t know, what does it mean to ‘flip’ a house?
Flipping is purchasing a home at a discount that is in need of updating/repairs with the intent to remodel/rehab/repair into a respectable home and then re-sell (ideally for a profit).

How did you get into house flipping?
I’ve always been a wannabe hybrid of Designer-Realtor-Contractor. I’m equally interested in business as I am design and DIY projects, so I love that this career allows all of those qualities to shine.

You contracted out some of the work on your house but you did a lot of it yourself. What did you DIY and where did you learn your DIY skills?
Yes – I like to get dirty (and save money)! I did all of the demo, sheetrock hanging, taping/mudding, tiling, cleaning and refinishing of woodwork, sanding and refinishing of wood floors, painting (interior and exterior), trimming, landscaping, and (of course) all of the designing, shopping, budgeting, scheduling and managing of vendors.

What I didn’t know from past experience I learned by reading books, taking classes at a local home improvement store and watching a lot of YouTube videos. I also had a couple handymen to call on to assist when needed and give me some “on the job training.”

If you take your time and do the necessary preparations before starting the work, there is so much you can do yourself and do well!

dining room remodel

kitchen remodelIn your opinion, what changes make the biggest impact? What are some things that just about anyone can DIY and what should be left to the experts?
In terms of small cost-high-reward, the power of a clean house and a fresh coat of paint is HUGE! I’ve walked into houses that make you want to run home and shower, but after a thorough cleaning and fresh paint you might just want to move in!

If you are interested in this type of work and are attentive to details, much of the demolition and painting should not be a problem. With a little research, most people can tackle basic tiling, landscaping, floor refinishing and hanging sheetrock.

I don’t touch plumbing and electrical. It is always smart (and usually required) to pull permits. This will be asked of you when you complete a seller’s disclosure statement and a savvy buyer will look into whether proper permits were pulled and completed prior to buying.
When you’re looking for a flip house, what qualities are you looking for?
Above all I need to be proud of the work I do when the day is done, so I look for a house that makes my soul happy – one I would be proud to have my name on. Making money is number one priority, but if I know I won’t be excited about the end result, I’ll pass.
Besides location, the layout/functionality of the home is key. I look for homes that have an existing fabulous layout or a way to easily achieve a fabulous layout with a few (relatively) minor changes. Kitchens sell houses, so a nice kitchen layout is essential.

Properties should have good bones without a lot of remodeling needed. I look for poor kitchens and baths since those give a good return on investment. You don’t want to spend all of your budget updating plumbing, electrical, etc. (these items are expected to be in working/updated condition and go largely unnoticed).

Ideally the home would have (or could have) three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a dining area (to open up the home to the largest pool of buyers).

The home has to have at least one “wow moment” when everything is said and done. Something to remember the home by. Something that keeps people in the house and dreaming of living in it.

kitchen remodelbasement remodelDo you ever get a bit misty-eyed when a house sells after you’ve put so much work into it?
I get pretty attached so that moment of first putting it on the market is bittersweet. But it doesn’t take long for that feeling to wear off. Once the house is sitting empty sucking money, trust me, you’ll be counting the days to closing!

How much can someone expect to make on a typical flip?
I think a general industry standard is to shoot for a 20% profit on your investment.I get much more detailed before writing an offer, but one simple formula I use for calculating a reasonable purchase price for a rehab is as follows:
Highest Reasonable Offer = 70% (Most Likely Resale Price – Total Rehab Cost.) The 70% takes into account the costs of purchasing, holding and reselling the property as well as preserving a margin for a reasonable profit.

What tools/resources/websites really helped you with this process?
As an interior designer, I designed and managed remodels for many years before I decided to take on an independent flipping project. I had many contacts to draw from in the home remodeling industry.

I have read many books and taken rehab classes to prepare myself for the business side of the industry.
Being a licensed Realtor, I can easily assess property values with my access to MLS data. If you don’t have access to this resource, you want a good agent on your team to help you determine an accurate resale price so you don’t overpay on the buy side.

What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in flipping their first house?
Do your research, know your market and what buyers are looking for in that market.

Find a house with a good layout and good bones.

Get bids and add at least 10% for unforeseen add-ons and 30% to proposed schedule/timeline because something unexpected will happen and there will be delays.

If the numbers don’t work, move on. It’s so easy to become emotionally attached and want to help a sad house shine once again, but at the end of the day you need to make money.

Please don’t do your research by binge watching HGTV. Most of those shows are so unrealistic, but don’t get me started…!

Thanks so much for sharing, Lindsay! I know I fantasize about flipping a house. Have any of you guys done this? Do you have any questions for her? 

Web Time Wasters

How was your week, friends? I showed off my backyard tiki bar for the first time (to just one friend – the backyard’s not cute enough for groups or Instagram yet!) I’ve also started luring my friends into walking around Lake Nokomis with me when we meet for coffee, rather than just sitting in the coffee shop – there’s something about moving that makes the conversation better!

But enough about me. Let’s talk about you, internet. 

I found so many awesome videos and songs for you guys!
1. A persistent baby goat who reallllly wants to headbutt this horse
2. A bike-riding raccoon
3. This song encapsulates my party-exiting philosophy
4. This song is for summer rooftops
5. This teenage girl is a phenomenal beat boxer

I love stories of people living intentional lives – even better if they’re here in my own city. Skyway Mom moved her family of four from the suburbs into culturally diverse, walkable downtown St. Paul.

Such a cute swimsuit!

Risotto made from … sunflower seeds? Tell me more.

I’ve got lots of space in July’s Network of Nice. Do you need a hookup – new friends? professional insight? beta testers? Send me 100-ish words about your non-promotional, un-Google-able hookup and I’ll introduce you to my 12,000+ daily readers!

What. What? I think these are theoretically for kids but I’m all over it.

Over on Instagram, I shared my new trick to win dinner parties and a mug we all need.

Ooooh! Did you know about these Amazon Prime perks?

All I want to wear is jumpsuits this summer.

Say yes to the little things.

Agreed. Can we just, like, get over the way women talk?
At first blush, all of this speaking advice sounds like empowerment. Stop sugarcoating everything, ladies! Don’t hedge your requests! Refuse to water down your opinions! But are women the ones who need to change? If I’m saying something intelligent and all a listener can hear is the way I’m saying it, whose problem is that?

Go camping near NYC! Without a car even!

Say yes to starting.

You’re buying me this book for my birthday, right?

I’ll be trying to win parties with this polka-dot cake.

There’s no such thing as ‘finished’

I loved this essay on the need to tell women they’re beautiful.
I hate that people think that’s what I, or anyone else, wants to hear. That we hinge our self-worth on our own wrapping paper. Sure I lie awake at night feeling bad about myself sometimes, I feel uncomfortable in crowds, or awkward in my own skin—but my reasons are more complex than my low cheekbones. I worry about by intellectual worth, my originality, the strength of my voice, and the relevance of my vision.

Ohhh! I never thought about beautifying my clothes doors!

A mockumentary about the effects of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act on the residents of a small town.

I love tiny houses but even I enjoyed this hilarious post.

A subscription box for hippies and new-age-types.

Hope you had a great weekend, guys!

Who doesn’t want more online friends + followers?

This post is brought to you by more comments on your blog posts, more emails from clients and collaborators, the letter B and the Building Your Online Community ecourse.


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