Category: how to

How To Stay Smart

How to stay smart

I’ve railed on before (um, several times) about how I think that smart is sexy.  And awesome.  And The Best.  If you pressed me to list three favorable adjectives about myself, one of those three would be ‘smart.’  (Along with ‘memorizing-ful’ and ‘cheese-loving.’  What?)And yet?  If you asked me to name more than 10 American presidents, the capitols of all the states, or explain the situation in the middle east, I would quickly change the conversation to Maru.

I realize that we only retain knowledge about things we discuss or use on a regular basis.  So I can tell you all about refugee resettlement policy, how to use Hootsuite or the different cliques of hipsters in the Twin Cities.  But since nobody’s asked me about John Adams or Trenton, New Jersey lately, I don’t have much to say on those topics.

Unacceptable, self!  Not good enough!  You guys, I live in fear of becoming one of those people asked on the street to identify a man in a photo.  And then I can identify Donald Trump and The Situation but I can’t identify my state senators.  And then the video goes viral, gets forwarded all over the world and reinforces the stereotype that Americans (and blonds) are dumb as bricks.

It’s a pretty specific fear.

So in attempt to Stave Off The Stupid And Stay Smart, I’ve compiled a list of resources that help me sharpen my mind and decrease the likelihood that I’ll identify Africa as Italy on camera.

Nerd Fighters
They’re smart, they’re funny, they teach you interesting things whilst talking really, really fast.  Imagine how smart you’d get if you watched one of these videos every day over your morning coffee.Every NPR podcast ever
National Public Radio makes approximately a gajillion great podcasts on approximately a gajillion different topics (Politics!  Science!  Health!) And they cost zero dollars.  Why aren’t we all listening to these on our commutes?  If I’m feeling really ambitious, I listen to a podcast on a topic I know little about (re: the economy) rather than the topic I already know a lot about (re: pop culture.)  That’s me!  Just aiming for mediocrity!Yale’s Youtube Channel
Few of us can afford tuition to Yale, but we can all watch their youtube channel.

TED talks
Well, duh.

Brain Pickings
This is one of my daily reads and (as you’ve probably noticed) a source for many a Web Time Waster link.  Billing itself as “a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in.”  Yup.  Correct.
3,000 videos covering topics like math, biology, chemistry, physics, finance and history. And each video is only 10 minutes long so even the short-attention-spanned among us can handle it.
Sociological Images
I am a complete dork for Sociology, so I’m all over this and the articles about race and The Hunger Games, class differences and spending on children and class privilege and parental leave.  The writing can be a bit dry and academic, but none of us ever died from looking up a word, did we?What do you do to stay sharp?photo by jd hancock, cc

How To Refashion a Silk Shirt

Want to refashion a silk shirt from the thrift store? This tutorial doesn't even require a sewing machine!

Did you find a cute silk shirt at the thrift store you’d like to refashion? Alli of the now defunct One Pearl Button blog has your back! 

When I’m thrifting, I shop as much with my hands as with my eyes.  As long as you’re at a reasonably priced thrift store, high quality cashmere and silk are always worth buying, so I’m on a constant hunt for them.
When I came across this silk shirt on the dollar rack, I knew immediately that it was coming home with me.  The fabric was thick, soft, and beautiful – it was clearly the highest quality silk, and I wanted to wear it everyday.  The only problem?  Um…it wasn’t quite my style.
That’s okay, though, because I know an incredibly simple technique for refashioning an outdated button-up, and today I want to share it with all of you!

How to refashion a silk shirt

What you’ll need:

Iit doesn’t get much easier than this one; all you’ll need is a button-up and some basic sewing supplies (you don’t even need a machine!)

Step 1: 

Pick out a good Pandora station (I went with New Slang by The Shins).

Okay, I suppose this step is optional, but Step 2 can take a little while, so I recommend finding something to keep yourself entertained.

Want to refashion a silk shirt from the thrift store? This tutorial doesn't even require a sewing machine!
Step 2:
Use a seam ripper to carefully remove the sleeves and collar of the shirt, keeping the seam allowances as neat as possible.
Want to refashion a silk shirt from the thrift store? This tutorial doesn't even require a sewing machine!
Step 3:

Chose which side of the shirt will be the front (I wanted mine to button up the back, so I reversed front and back), fold the front of your shirt in half with the shoulder seams lined up, and draw on a new neckline.  I traced the neckline of another shirt to make it nice and easy.
Want to refashion a silk shirt from the thrift store? This tutorial doesn't even require a sewing machine!
Step 4:
Cut along your traced line.
Want to refashion a silk shirt from the thrift store? This tutorial doesn't even require a sewing machine!
Step 5:

Hem the raw edges.  For the armholes, I simply folded the original seam allowance over once and stitched in place (no need to press!).  For the neck hole, I hid the raw seam by folding over twice, pressed, and stitched.  I’ve been on a hand sewing kick lately, so I did this by hand, but you could easily use a machine.
Want to refashion a silk shirt from the thrift store? This tutorial doesn't even require a sewing machine!
Annnnnd done!  Now you have a pretty, modern shell, perfect for the hot weather that’s coming or for layering on chillier days.  I wore mine to watch the Cincinnati Rollergirls destroy Dayton and Fort Wayne on Saturday night – fun!
Want to refashion a silk shirt from the thrift store? This tutorial doesn't even require a sewing machine!
Want to refashion a silk shirt from the thrift store? This tutorial doesn't even require a sewing machine!
silk shirt after small
(I realized after looking at this shot that I should tack up the back so it doesn’t gape open – oops!)
I’d love to see photos, if you give it a try!

On Making Actual Things With Your Actual Hands


In the most vague sense, I make things with my hands all day.  I write this blog, I edit other people’s writing, I’m constantly tapping away on my keyboard with my tiny, oddly androgynous digits.  But I’m frequently haunted by the thought that my job is ‘imaginary.’  The words I write rarely appear on actual, made-from-trees paper and I rarely make things that I can hold in my own two hands.A while ago I read this article about how few of us actually work or create things with our hands any more.  In my social circle, I know exactly one person who does work that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer or speaking in front of a class.  One person!  The rest of us teach/write/consult/design/manage/organize.

So in an effort to bring a bit more joy and a lot more awesome into my life, I decided to make the effort to turn off my various screens at 7:00 pm and devote the rest of my night to fun and friends and (when time allows) making actual things with my actual hands.

I dabbled a bit in jewelry-making (which turns out to be an oddly expensive hobby), trying out complicated, overly-involved recipes (which did not agree with my skinny jeans) and knitting (nope.)  Finally, I settled on that hobby favored by septuagenarians the world over: paint by numbers.
What?  Yes.  It’s calming, it’s detail oriented and when I’m done I have something I (hopefully) want to display in my home.  Yes, really.

Some other actual things you could do with your actual hands?

* Magazine photo collages
It’s like Pinterest!  But in real life!

* Make fimo beads from polymer clay

* Bake bread
Cheap, delicious, makes your house smell amazing

* Paint or refinish a piece of furniture
I promise you, this is so, so much easier than you think

* Sew new buttons onto an old cardigan
Totally transforming!

* Sew slip covers for your throw pillows

* Come spring, get a spot in a local community garden and have a dig and a plant

* Learn some basic car repairs
I know how to change my spark plugs and my oil and it never ceases to make me feel smug and clever

* Take on some home improvements

Home Depot and Lowe’s are always offering free classes an heaps of topicsDo you feel better or happier when you’ve created something tangible?  What do you like to do with your hands?


The Secret To Perfect Gift Giving

Friends, we are nearing the year’s second most highly-anticipated gift giving holiday.  And Valentine’s Day can be fraught with even more anxiety than Christmas!  Because, really, not much hangs in the balance if your aunt doesn’t like that Target gift card.  But if your lover hates that sweater/book/kitchen gadget?  You’re going to be getting I’m-disappointed-in-you face for at least two weeks.

I like to consider gift-giving one of my super powers, but if you don’t have the time to rehash every conversation you’ve ever had with your special someone, here’s your shortcut:

Ask their best friend.

That BFF know exactly which video game he wants, which book she’s been meaning to buy, which sweater they almost bought, which fancy scented soaps they like.  And the BFF will probably be impressed and touched that you thought to ask them.  Two birds!  One stone!

Are you giving anybody anything for V-day?

How To Survive Holiday Dinner With Nosy, Judge-y Relatives

Survive holiday dinner even if you're surrounded by nosy aunts, naughty nephews, and drunkles. Here's how. //
This season is a celebration of family and gratitude and the fruits of our labor, right? Well, yes.

Annnnd it’s also the only time of year you see those weird cousins with the mullets and eat so much your eyes cross. It isn’t always easy to navigate the deep waters of extended family and sweet potato casseroles.


Your snarky second cousin eyes that empty ring finger and starts quizzing you on your dating status.

Laugh knowingly, slap her on the knee and say “Ohhh, you! Now tell me where you got this great applique sweatshirt! I love that penguin pilgrim!”


Creepy Uncle Joe has a few too many glasses of Thanksgiving Bud Light and decides that you need a back massage.

Give him the dead eye and say, “You know what I’m thankful for this year? Personal boundaries.”


Your sister’s tiny darlings more closely resemble gremlins and spend the afternoon climbing all over you, screaming about grandma’s lack of Wii and torturing the family pet.

Devotedly wait for the tryptophan to kick in. Failing that, perform the 1-2 punch of playground time followed by a darkened movie theater. Works every time. At least, it works on me.


Aunt Judy brought her famous ‘Sunshine Salad’ which consists of orange jello, grated carrots, mayonnaise, and raisins. You’d rather chew off your arm.

Make sure she’s looking while you take one bite and enthuse “Mmmmm! That sure is something!” Hide the rest of it under your baked potato skins.


The host of the meal is acting the martyr, rushing about, sighing dramatically and refusing help from anyone.

Sidle into the kitchen and compliment your host on her excellent taste in aprons. Don’t ask, just join in the chopping while you regale your host with hilarious anecdotes of Thanksgivings past. Graciously thank her for including you in the festivities and tell her how much it means to you to spend time with these people you love.


You’ve stuffed yourself to near sickness and are now wallowing on the sofa like Al Bundy, torturing yourself with visions of the elliptical machine.

Have a cup of coffee and go for a walk. Better yet, change into the post-dinner outfit you brought of yoga pants and a concert t-shirt.

How do you deal with days of extended family and gastronomic excess?

P.S. 13 things to do on Black Friday that aren’t standing in line at Target

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

25 DIY Gifts That People Will Really, Truly Love

Want some DIY gift ideas that don't suck? That people will really, truly love? Click through for DIY gift ideas for the man, woman, traveler or pet-owner in your life! >>

So we’ve established that we loving giving non-stuff gifts, right? But sometimes, the holidays call for something a bit more stuff-ish than non-stuff. And I don’t know about you, but I would rather gouge my eye out with a grapefruit spoon than deal with the mall this time of year.

So DIY it is! DIY gifts can get a bad name, so I rounded up 25 beautiful, interesting, I-actually-really-want-that gifts ideas for you!

25 DIY Gift ideas 

25 DIY Gifts That People Will Really, Truly Love // yesandyes.orgFor the ladies in your life

Adorable throw pillow made from a vintage silk scarf.

Scented bath fizzies, sugar body scrub, and lotion bars for all-important bubble baths.

Sachets. Because we all want scented underwear, right?

These felted nesting bowls are so cute I’m almost inclined to learn how to knit. Or devotedly hope that my knitting BFF makes them for me. cough cough.

25 DIY Gifts That People Will Really, Truly Love // yesandyes.orgFor kiddos 

This mobile proves that nurseries don’t have to be a mess of teddy bears and ruffles.

I have fond memories of making these scribble cookies as a child. And fighting the urge not to eat them.

You know how you give a kid a million dollar toy and they spend the next hour playing with the bubble wrap? These simple and cute toys fill that same need.

These finger puppets are too cute for words.

Stuffed animals made from your old sweaters.

25 DIY Gifts That People Will Really, Truly Love //

For your lover 

For a sexy gift, make your own honey dust and apply with a fluffy feather

25 DIY Gifts That People Will Really, Truly Love //

For animal-lovers

For the design nerd/animal owner in your life, the world’s hippest pet bed.

You don’t like preservatives and processed ingredients, neither do pets. Dog and cat treat recipes.

25 DIY Gifts That People Will Really, Truly Love //

For your traveler 

Help your traveler find their luggage faster with these cute luggage tags.

Being abroad during the holidays can be hard. Make an mp3 of you and your friends rehashing funny stories. Your traveler can listen when they’re feeling homesick.

Hardcore backpackers swear by stuff sacks, little nylon bags used to divide backpack contents. Lucky for you, they’re super easy to make.

25 DIY Gifts That People Will Really, Truly Love // yesandyes.orgFor just about anybody

A car travel kit, you’re entertained and there might be fewer arguments about directions.

How sweet are you? Making cool, modern silhouette portraits your friend and their loved ones?

Put those old Milli Vanilli tapes to good use by turning them into cute wallets.

Did your wool sweater go through the wash? Make mittens out of it!

Super easy, cheap and fun to make, suitable for anybody: marble magnets
What are your favorite DIY gifts? Leave links to awesome projects in the comments!
Photo by on Unsplash