Monthly Archives: January 2011

My Unusual Journey to Blissdom

I spent the better half of last week in Nashville, attending Blissdom, a blogging conference.  My goals?  Stretch my wings, get inspired, meet new people, and learn as much as possible.  I knew Blissdom would be quite an experience – after all, it was my first blog conference – but nothing could have prepared me for the adventure that last Wednesday turned into.

Wednesday, Jan. 26:  My Journey to Blissdom

My journey began with a simple metro ride to the airport.  Silly me for worrying I would miss my flight – it was delayed when I got there. Ok, no biggie.  I needed some time to finish my first Rental Decorating 101 post, after all. But then it was delayed more and more.  Heavy, wet snow was beginning to fall outside, and by the time we were bussed out to board our plane on the tarmac, a good inch of ice and snow lay on top of it.

Sitting there restlessly on the plane, I did what any smart, hip, and bored girl would do – update my Facebook status, of course.

Oh Lordy, I’m flying to Nashville in the midst of a snowstorm in the tiniest plane EVER.

Really, it was tiny.  So tiny, in fact, that carry-on suitcases couldn’t fit into the overhead compartments. So I sat waiting on that tiny little plane, trying not to worry about how it would handle the storm, and staring at the snow that was piling up on the wings, the ground, and everything in-between.

The captain periodically came over the loudspeaker to give us updates on the wait.  When, after an hour, he informed us that the planes were not being de-iced successfully, I started to worry about bigger problems than a tiny plane.

What if, after I spent my hard-earned money on this conference, I couldn’t fly out until Thursday or Friday?  I’d miss most of the speakers,  and almost all the networking events. I was seriously freaking out.

flight cancellation signs US Air

My heart sank when the captain’s voice came over the speaker again.  We wouldn’t be flying, and we had to be de-planed.  (What does that mean, anyway?  Were we “planed” prior to that?)  Suddenly a guy behind me said “I’ve rented a car and I’m driving to Nashville tonight.”

Without a moment of hesitation, the woman next to me swiveled around to face the man behind her, saying “Do you want company?  I’ll split the cost with you!”

Then another woman spoke up “I’ll go too!”

I looked first at these women, both of whom seemed smart and sensible, and then at the guy.  He looked like a normal, decent guy too.  But seriously, we all know that it’s not safe to judge on appearance alone.  I would never get into a car with three strangers, right?  Especially not to drive 12 hours out of state, in the middle of the night.

But I looked at the women again, and back at the man, and it was like some other, more daring woman took over my mind. “If you ladies are going with him, I’ll go too.”

And just like that, four strangers were becoming friends, and piling into an SUV to drive to Nashville overnight. Assuming no one was an axe murderer, we’d get there much faster by driving. The airport was a disaster, and the following days’ flights were already overbooked.  And the way the storm was going, there was no guarantee the following days’ flights would even take off.

As we carefully navigated south out of the city on I-395, I was shocked by the disaster that lay all around us.  Downed trees, cars stopped in the middle of the highway, the works.  The first few exits off the highway were completely blocked by rows of wrecked or stuck cars, buses, trucks.  Even some of the city’s snowplow/salt trucks had veered off the exit ramps and wrecked.  My heart went out to the hundreds of people who were stuck on the exit ramps.  And it’s a good thing we were headed south, because there was no way we could have exited the highway for the first 10-20 miles.

Once we had gotten an hour south, into less snowy territory, we stopped at Wawa for some food and a bathroom break.  Being the good blogger that I am, I got everyone to pause for a photo because I already knew I’d be documenting this adventure on the blog.

Sidenote: I think it’s a bit tough for non-bloggers to understand just why we bloggers tend to photograph and log everything.  But this group was so easygoing about it!  (I did, however, promise not to name any names for the sake of their privacy.)

As the night wore on, we traveled south to Richmond, then veered west towards Charlottesville, VA.  There was more snow around the C-Ville area, and I wished there was light so I could see the gorgeous mountains around my fave VA town.  (Hey C-Ville bloggers, I thought of you all as I passed through!)  West of the Blue Ridge mountains we headed south on I-81 to Tennessee.  As we rolled into the mountains through the cover of night, the conversations got deeper, sharing items such as the “craziest thing we’ve ever done.”   I continued to be amazed at how interesting and positive everyone was.

Somewhere around Blacksburg, VA (Go Hokies!) we stopped for gas, and ended up going to Wal-Mart for beverages/snacks and a bathroom break.  At that point I couldn’t help but laugh at how our excursion was similar to a college road-trip; the kind where you drive all night to do something like watch the sun rise over the ocean, even though you know you’ve got class the next morning. There’s always a late-night Wal-Mart visit involved in trips like that!

The roads became treacherous somewhere along the mountains of I-81 in Virginia.  We even passed a few bad wrecks, but our driver did a fantastic job and kept us safe! He was definitely a good driver for that bad weather.  As the ladies in the back seats tried to get some sleep, I did my best to stay awake and keep him company – but it was a bit awkward because I didn’t want to talk his ear off!  At one point I did drift off for a bit; I just couldn’t help myself.

We finally crossed into Tennessee somewhere around 4 am.  We stopped for gas and for a change of command around Bristol, TN.  The ladies started driving and talking and the guy and I both tried to sleep in the horridly uncomfortable backseats of the Ford SUV.  (Note to self!)

Finally, about 21 hours after I had initially set out for the airport on Wednesday afternoon, I arrived in Nashville.  I had already made some new friends, learned a bit of Southern jargon, and the conference hadn’t even begun! I checked into my hotel, get a quick shower, and race off to Blissdom.   I was only about 30 minutes late for the opening keynote address, and I had a great adventure under my belt in case I ran out of things to say to all the new people I was about to meet.

And that, my friends, is the story of my journey to Blissdom 2011.  Looking back on it almost a week later, it seems almost surreal – but I can guarantee you it’s 100% real.  I’m so touched that a group of strangers were willing to trust each other, taking a risk, and working together to get home in the midst of the storm. And not only were we all trustworthy, I think I can speak for the group when I say that the icing on the cake was how well we all got along.

I just won’t ever tell my kids I did such a crazy thing.  Not until they’re my age, at least.

PS:  I’d just like to say one last THANK YOU to my traveling buddies, for coming together like that!  I wouldn’t have gotten to Blissdom until Friday if it weren’t for you three!

While the blogger’s away…

Shhh. Keep it down. You’ll get me in trouble.

She’s away for the weekend at her girly blogger conference and I thought I’d show you all some real DIY.

I see a lot of bloggers go for the “safe” projects. Like… “here is a pedestal I made for my embalmed cats, Viscount Gregory Wyndham and Admiral Westinghouse!”

They look so realistic!

They look so realistic!

But I don’t go for that.

So you may have heard that she won some award for sticking a branch on the wall. Think that’s cool? Thanks to the snowstorm we had yesterday I have PERFECT opportunity how to show you how to mount a real branch on your wall.


  • One GIANT branch
  • So, Command Strips, what do I get for using this?
    Source: A Tree.  Our yard.

  • One of these –
  • I also listen to “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel while using it. It helps!

  • A lot of this stuff. Like 7. Or 60. Depending how things go.
  • So much better than that Slo-Crete I bought.

    This is also a perfect opportunity to sneak in a few tools that you don’t need for this project but you wanted to get anyway. (But really, what project isn’t a great opportunity to do this?)

  • For this project I bought a dinosaur.
  • Living things are tools too.

    Now what you first need to do is carefully mark out where the branch is going to go. Some people may have hung the branch parallel to the wall but in my projects I find it very important to create a textured result with some depth. So I’m going to mount this perpendicular. That’s right. 90º angle. I feel that it really pulls the room together and defines the area.

    It’ll look like this:

    Like this, but awesomer.

    Like this, but bigger and a bit awesomer.

    And about 15x the size. And sticking straight out of the wall. And probably through the next wall too.

    After marking out the area, it’s time to use the sledge hammer to knock out the appropriate size piece of the wall. I generally use the 6:1 rule of thumb. For every 1 inch of space you need, I take out a 6 foot chunk of wall. If you do it right it should look something like this. Notice the clean lines.

    Clean lines.

    Clean lines.
    Source: Rafah Kid

    That’s all for now! For those following along at home, just throw up a dropcloth over the work area and we’ll be back next month to learn how to finish!

    SNEAK PREVIEW: It was too large to fit through a door so I had to get creative. It turned out amazingly though. Imagine wowing your neighbors with something as fashionable as THIS!

    Sneak preview!

    It now also pulls your front lawn together and defines the area of your driveway.
    Source: http://www.baltimoresun.c

    Liked this?  Check out Ryan’s other posts here.  Go on, you know you want to!

    Rental Decorating 101: 6 Tips for Painting Rentals

    As mentioned in my 33 for 33 list, this year I really want to focus on making The Borrowed Abode a great resource for rental decorating ideas and tips. Today I’m tackling that goal by launching a set of posts called “Rental Decorating 101.” Every other week I’ll try and tackle one specific challenge or topic related to rental / apartment decorating – and I’ll keep going until I run out of things to talk about. So if you’ve got a specific topic you’d like to hear my take on, just let me know.

    Rental Decorating 101 6 Tips Painting Rentals

    Rental Decorating 101: 6 Tips on Painting Rental Homes & Apartments

    Seeing as I’m painting several parts of our rental house this month , I thought this would be a good time to talk about painting a rental home (or apartment). First, let’s establish that paint is by far the easiest and cheapest way to jazz up and personalize a rented home. It really is. But before you slap some glossy fire-engine red on your boring apartment-white walls, here are my tips for painting a rental – without pissing off your landlord and maybe even losing your deposit!

    1. Gauge your landlord’s tolerance

    If your landlord seems at all reasonable, talk to him (her) and attempt to compromise. I know the lease may say you’re not allowed to paint, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. To make your life easier, ask if there’s a neutral color (anything’s better than pure white) you could both agree on, so that you won’t have to paint over it upon move-out. Explain that it would not only rock your world to bring a bit more definition to the walls, but it would really make the space look even classier to future tenants.

    In my last apartment, I did this – with great results. My landlord agreed that I could paint the walls a neutral (taupe, beige, etc) and not have to paint over it. I had him write it into the lease as an addendum, just to ensure there were no snags down the road. Always, always get these agreements in writing!!

    2. Always paint a test patch

    In that last apartment, I eagerly went ahead and slapped that taupe-y paint all over the walls, only to wake up the next day and realize my walls were flesh-colored. That sucked. 4 months later I found a much lighter off-white, tested it out, and repainted. Lesson learned? Always do a test patch, and live with the color for a few days to be sure you like it in every type of light – daylight, night with the lamps on, etc.

    Watermelon Living Room Old Apartment

    3. Choose lighter colors

    Unless you’re an odd person who loves the idea of painting and priming upon move-out, go easy on your future-self and choose lighter hues rather than dark, bold colors like navy, dark teal (been there, done that), bright yellow (been there, done that too), dark terra cotta (it became tiring in my old bedroom), or bright red (yep, been there too.)

    2-Old Apartment Bedroom

    4. Drop cloth everything!

    Cover, drape, protect. I can’t say it enough – especially if you rent!  Don’t risk splattering (or worse yet, spilling) paint all over your floors or carpet – that would really eat up your rental security deposit, and make your landlord wish he’d never let you paint. Use old sheets, or plastic drop cloths, to protect your floors. And your furniture.

    Got it? Good.

    5. Choose your paint finish wisely

    Chances are, the walls of your rental are not so flawless. So hide the ugliness: choose flat paint, it’s like the concealer of the paint world. Mask the fugliness of the [most likely] holey, uneven walls by using a flat or eggshell paint. The glossier paint reflects more light, and thus shows off the flaws. It’s like shiny beacons of light emanating from the imperfections, screaming “Look at me! Look at all my old cracks and poorly patched nail holes!”

    Worried you’ll dirty your flat-painted walls and won’t be able to scrub them? Although the flat paint may show dirt faster and be tougher to wash, it’s super-easy to patch over with a quick flick of the brush. I have dogs and cats that love to rub along the walls, so trust me when I say that touch-ups work.

    6. Use accent walls to define spaces

    Our current rental home has a nice open floor plan, with the front door opening directly into the living room, which flows straight into the dining “room,” which flows into the kitchen. The light, airy feeling is good, but we had trouble really defining the living room seating area. To create some real definition of the actual living room, we’re going to paint two neighboring accent walls a contrasting color to set them apart from the rest of the open living space.  An accent wall can really help do that, especially when you’re unable to do any construction or improvements to the structure of your space.

    (Update:  We painted the accent walls in our living room and it made an amazing difference.)

    The accent wall example below is from my old apartment, where I turned the dining room into an office, and used bar stools and an accent wall color to define the the bar as “separate” from the rest of the room.

    Maybe you need to inject some light into your dreary and dark living room? Pick a bright, cheerful paint color that ties into your space, and cover your favorite wall with it. It’s guaranteed to wake up that space.  That’s what I did with my new studio.

    Jewelry Display Organization Window Frame

    So those are my tips for painting your rental. I’m sure there’s some thoughts that I’ve left out, so please share your tips in the comments! And if you’re a renter who can’t seem to sweet-talk the landlord into allowing paint, then stay tuned for another episode of Rental Decorating 101. I promise to cover options for transforming your walls without paint.

    Charlie’s Update & A note on pet health

    I wanted to share an update on my dog Charlie. Thank you all for the positive vibes!!

    I’ve got good news and bad. Let’s start with the bad.

    The bad news is that I tried so hard to write a funny update “from” Charlie’s point of view. But the fact is that I just suck at pretending to be a dog writing a thank you letter to blog readers. So I deleted it.

    Now the good news: Despite the fact that all is not right with Miss Charlie, the good news is that the xrays and bloodwork did not show any problems or tumors or kidney issues. So the pup got some acupuncture, and I returned home from the 8hr excursion with nothing but a bottle of Prozac. For the dog, not me. Oh, and a big hole in my wallet. But let me tell you this: I’m happy to have spent the money, because I’d rather be safe than sorry.  Of course, we still don’t know what’s really wrong with her, and she’s still acting very tired and withdrawn, but fingers crossed that she’s just scared of the rumbling noises the furnace makes.

    Let’s take a moment to discuss veterinary care and bills. Why?  Because when I was researching local vets and reading all the reviews online, I was shocked by how many bad reviews hospitals got, simply because people were horrified/angered that they were expected to pay for the cost of care.  And expected to do so at the time of service.

    I used to work in the veterinary field.  Both as a hospital manager and as a vet assistant (at a regular vet, an emergency center, and a specialty surgery referral center.)  I also worked with rescue groups.  So I’ve been there, done that, and along the way have seen many people balk at the cost of veterinary care.

    I groan when I see reviews saying that the business is just trying to make a profit.  Yes, it’s a business.  Not a non-profit.  But the CEO is most likely not trying to get rich.  There’s a lot that goes into a successful and quality veterinary facility – salaries for the vet as well as all the staff, expensive medical equipment, the cost of the building.  And yes, people don’t like it, but there has to be some profit left over after covering all those costs.  Why?  So that vets can get rich and buy Corvettes?  No, not at all.  You need to have a profit left over so you can invest in the business and continue to buy the latest and greatest equipment, provide training for your staff, etc.

    Trust me, you don’t want to take your dog/cat/ferret/potbelly pig/bird to the little old facility that has an 80-yr-old vet and has never charged enough for services.  Sure, he may agree to “bill you later,” but I bet if your pet needs surgery, it’s not being hooked up to a modern anesthesia machine or heart rate monitor.

    So I repeat:  Vets do NOT make a lot of money.  And they have huge vet school loans to pay off.  And the lovely assistants? Barely more than minimum wage.

    So please, trust me when I tell you that most places are not trying to take your money just to pad their pockets.  Quality veterinary care does cost a bit, which is something that’s good to consider before adopting a pet.  Of course, I didn’t think about that when I adopted four animals right after college.  If I’d known what it cost to keep them healthy. . .

    Also, I know it’s tough to have to pay up front when dealing with an emergency.  Your beloved family member is sick, you’re worried about him/her, and the last thing you want to do is deal with a $1000 vet bill.  But many hospitals are reluctant to “bill” you later, because they so often have stacks and stacks of bills that have to go to collections.

    And one recommendation: if you have a “senior” pet, one of the best things you can do at their annual exam is to get bloodwork done.  A “senior profile” will probably run you around $150 for bloodwork and urinalysis – but it can show the vet any problems that may be developing, so that they can be addressed (such as poor kidney function) early, giving you more healthy time with your pet.  It’s much cheaper to do the bloodwork and start them on a special diet or medication than to suddenly deal with a very sick animal down the road.

    So that’s my 2 cents, sorry for the rant.  Just trying to share an alternate point of view.  Any questions or counter-argurments?  Go ahead, throw them at me. I can take it.

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