May 29, 2014

Lovely Links vol. 5

Happy Thursday, y'all! I hope your week is truckin' along smoothly. Here are some projects + reads to make the rest of this week even more fun:

Cauliflower-based mac and cheese – I'm intrigued!

How cute is this fabric scrap twine? DIY tutorial here.

Homemade hot sauce is important, y'all. Cooking Stoned teaches us how to grow our own pico de gallo garden.

101 Cookbooks teaches us how to dry all the extra herbs we'll soon be growing.

Did you know that kombucha cocktails are all the rage? Kombucha is healthy, so this mint julep is too, right?

Sleio is a search engine that gets all its results from Google AND donates all profits to charities of your choice. Amazing!

This Tiny Buddha post about finding your life's purpose is really inspiring.

I'm sure you've heard of / seen artist Nick Cave's Sounsuits, but now's the time to see them again:

Not exactly cheery, but an important paper came out this week identifying the everyday chemicals that cause breast cancer and how to avoid them. Please read and send to your friends and family.

And finally, from one of my favorite bloggers, what is the real meaning of this "self-love" business all of us bloggers keep rambling on about?

Glitter + hugs,

May 24, 2014

8 Proven Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

I'm endlessly fascinated by researching ways to optimize + magicalize (that word is copyrighted, y'all) everyday life and lately I've been thinking a lot about health. I'm in the process of revamping my diet + exercise habits (you can join me in my quest to dump sugar!) and I spent some time recently combing the internet trying to figure out ways to naturally, safely, and effectively speed up your metabolism. I'm not on some get-skinny-quick kick but if tweaking a few things can get my body working more efficiently AND mean that I can eat more tacos, I'm all for it!

Here are my findings:

1. Exercise of course, but smarter.
All exercise burns some calories, but some high intensity workouts like interval and weight training will stimulate your metabolism for hours - up to a full day - afterwards. Try this: rather than doing the same old cardio, sprinkle in 30-45 seconds of maximum effort intervals. Weight training with heavier than usual weights will also do the trick. Change things up, try new things, rev up your metabolism.

2. Eat often.

Eat every 2-3 hours. Each time you eat, you stimulate your metabolism for a short period of time, which means that the more often you eat, the more you’ll increase your metabolism. It's a biological fact: By eating frequently, you reassure your body that you aren’t going to starve; that food will always be available. Skipping meals freaks your body out it thinks it will never get to eat again and spirals into fat-storing mode. Keep your body happy and well-fed, y'all!

3. And eat right.

Just because you are eating more often it does not give your excuses to eat snacky foods. Instead, think of each time you eat as the chance for a delicious, complete mini-meal with a serving of vegetables and protein like eggs, chicken, fish, or nuts. Upping your daily intake of high fiber foods like veggies will make your metabolism work harder to digest all that fiber, revving it up. Your body also handles protein-rich foods differently than high fat or high carb foods. You actually burn about 30% of your protein calories just by digesting it so by upping your protein percentage you are burning more calories without lifting a finger.

4. Eat more fish.

Not only is protein great for your metabolism, but the essential omega-3 fatty acids found in fish increases levels of fat-burning enzymes in your body and lowers levels of fat-storage enzymes. Sushi is sounding pretty great, right?

5. Add green tea into your routine.

Green tea seems to have particularly strong benefits for your metabolism, even above any little boost that might come from it's caffeine. A recent study shows that 4 cups of green tea per day created measurable metabolic increases AND (even cooler) seems to convince your body to use more of its fat stores as energy. 

6. And while you're at it, stock up on cayenne and other spicy peppers.

Spicy food has been shown to boost your metabolism for a bit after eating it and capsaicin, the spice compound in cayenne and other spicy peppers, has the largest effect and might also encourage you to feel full faster and avoid overeating. Also great, though to a slight less-effective degree: black pepper and ginger.

7. Make sure you are getting enough iron.

My diet tends to be low in iron (side effect of being mostly vegetarian) and iron is incredibly important for your metabolic system – not getting enough of it can seriously slow you down and leave you feeling generally fatigued. The most iron-rich foods out there are shellfish like oysters, clams, and mussels. If you want plant-based iron try pumpkin seeds, lentils, and tofu, though plant-based iron is not as easily absorbed by your body so you'll have to make sure you're getting enough.

8. Track your diet to see where you could improve.

I will occasionally use the Myfitnesspal app to track my daily diet and make sure I'm getting all the iron, protein, and other important nutrients I need. If you are trying to lose weight keeping track of your daily consumption can be also be a really effective strategy.

I've been trying to implement all of this lately and I swear I can feel it working! I've been feeling much more energetic (the no-sugar thing I helping tremendously, too, I'm sure!) What about you – do you have any health or fitness tips you swear by? Let's share!

Hugs and health,

May 18, 2014

DIY Jewels: Brass Top Knuckle Ring

Hi y'all! I'm super pumped about today's tutorial – it's one of the first things I taught myself how to make when I decided to learn how to solder metal jewelry and it's a great starter project for anyone else interested in learning.

Plus, top knuckle rings are so fun to wear!

Now soldering requires fire which might seem scary, but this project and many, many others can be created using a basic handheld butane torch like this:

Mine is a only a little more heavy-duty than your run-of-the-mill kitchen torch (think creme brûlée). It has an adjustable flame so it is versatile for different projects. You can buy it from Rio Grande jewelry supply here. For small brass, silver, or copper projects you're making on your kitchen table like this, this small torch is really all you need.

The rest of the supplies are a very basic soldering set up. Once you have them, you'll be ready to make just about anything you can dream of.

I use: a firebrick set in a pie tin surrounded by pebbles (these are to catch any molten hot metal that might fall from the brick), a set of stainless steel tweezers with heat-proof finger grips, a third hand to hold it in place, and some brass soldering paste.

There are a few other supplies in the above photo that are very basic jewelry-making tools and will be a good foundational set of supplies to have: the #2 hand file for getting rid of rough edges, a rawhide mallet for shaping your metal without marking it, the stainless steel bench block as a hammering surface, the ring mandrel for shaping rings, and the snippers for easy, short cuts.

So, gather your supplies and let's make a ring!

DIY Brass Ring 


Brass bezel wire (mine is 26 gauge, 1/8 inch wide, purchased from this etsy seller)
Brass soldering paste (I purchase mine from Rio Grande)
Butane torch
Soldering surface like a firebrick
Stainless steel tweezers + third hand
#2 hand file
Rawhide mallet
Bench block
Ring mandrel

To clean:
Your pickle solution of choice, see below for my organic pickle recipe

To polish and seal:
Your preferred polishing device, I used a Dremel and 3M radial discs, see below, and then I seal with Renaissance polishing wax.

Step 1: Cut your brass bezel wire to the desired length. 

The easiest way to know what length you need is to measure your finger with a piece of string and then measure that string. You can make this a regular ring or follow my lead and make it a top knuckle ring.

Step 2: Shape your brass.

If your bezel wire is a little bent at the end from cutting it, flatten it out with your rawhide mallet against your bench block. Also notice if your cut was clean and straight - if not, you many need to file the edges a bit. Shape your ring against your ring mandrel, hammering with your mallet to get it into shape. For soldering, you want your edges to align perfectly and smoothly with no space between them. Any space at all will mean your joint won't solder correctly.

I usually shape with the mandrel, then take the ring off and push the edges together, moving them back and forth, edging them closer together like you would when you're closing a jump ring. Play with it until your edges meet nice and neatly.

Step 3: Get ready to solder.

Place your ring in the stainless steel tweezers (I always use the kind with heat-proof finger pads) and place in your third hand over your soldering surface. I currently use a firebrick which is essentially just a heatproof brick.

Step 4: Solder!

Make sure your soldering paste is right in the ring's seam - I used a needle to really it in there.

When you've heated your metal up to the point it glows a dull red your solder paste will "flow" and liquify and seal itself into the ring's joint. You'll see it bubble up and change colors and move really quickly. It happens fast and as you'll see in the video, it doesn't take long for this to happen.

Now, at this point, you have a ring! You'll just need to clean it up a bit. Let it sit in the tweezers for a minute and then quench in a bowl of water. Be careful! Your tweezers, your ring, and your soldering surface will all be extremely hot at this point and should not be touched (hence the heat-proof finger pads on your tweezers).

Step 5: Pickle your ring.

Pickling is the process of cleaning the fire scale or dark, burntness off of your metal. There are many, many formulas for this out there but most involve some pretty nasty chemicals. I make my own basic organic formula.

Organic brass pickle:
2 parts white vinegar
1 part hydrogen peroxide

It works pretty great, though I have to say not as quickly as the toxic stuff. Let your ring sit in this solution for 15 minutes or so, stirring it around in there every once in awhile to loosen the gunk up.

I'll take my piece out after 15 minutes and rinse with water and scrub with a little steel wool - if that doesn't take most of the fire scale off, the piece can go back in for a bit. Note that leaving your piece in this solution for too long will etch the surface with a faint texture - basically the solution eating into the metal. This isn't the end of the world and will likely be buffed out when you polish the piece.

Your solution will turn a bright blue when it is used up – in my photo above, my solution is only just barely starting to turn blue so I can likely use it again to pickle my next project. Keep it covered so it doesn't evaporate.

Step 6: Polish / Finish

Polish your ring with any method you know and like. I use a Dremel power tool with a flex-shaft attachment and an assortment of 3M radial discs to get any remaining fire scale off and buff out my surface. When using a Dremel or any other buffing tool it's a good idea to hold small things like this ring in a wooden hand vice (these are super cheap and super handy and keep your hands from getting too close to danger).

This is a really great tutorial on how to use 3M discs.

I then seal all my brass with Renaissance polishing wax and a lint-free towel.

I also paint a thin coat of clear nail polish on the inside of all my brass rings since brass has a tendency to turn some people (like me!) green.

And voila! You can solder a ring!

This project might seem complicated, but simple joint soldering like this is one of the foundational skills that will allow you to make so, so much more once you've mastered it. And in the process, you'll make some pretty sweet rings!

Love and happy making,

May 12, 2014

Work Style: Put a vest on it

This is my favorite mumu.

...ok, so this dress isn't technically a mumu but it is loose, comfy, and I wear it constantly, both to work and laying around on the weekend.

I love, love, love the back of this dress –

Anything that exposes my back makes me feel super smexy but makes it a little risque for professional meetings and such so, enter my new favorite summer-tastic work attire trick: Put a vest on it!

I got this drapey denim vest from H&M at least a year ago and it definitely one of the most versatile things I own. It looks cute with just about everything and covers any creative backless situations your summer clothes might have going on.

                                Dress: Urban Outfitters /// Vest: H&M /// Shoes: Target /// Jewelry: By me!

It makes it super easy to go from work to hang out – I just drop the vest and have a totally different vibe.

That's it for now dear readers but stay tuned for new work style tips + some cool upcoming jewelry tutorials!


Psssst: Have you read about my 40 day sugar purge? I'm on Day 9 and feeling pretty snazzy. Join me!

May 7, 2014

Links I love, Vol. 4

I hope y'all have had a great week so far. Mine has been hectic to the max, these are the awesome things from across the internets that have sparked me up lately:

1. Photographer Nick Meek covered Costa Rica in 8 million flower petals - it's pretty awesome.

2. Aunt Peaches recently posted about avocado and chocolate sandwiches. To which I say: What? And: Sure!

3. DIY statement rings by Lotts & Lots - probably going to make at least 15 of these.

4. Beet juice is the prettiest color in the universe - why not use it to frost cookies? Genius!

5. How cooking at home can change the world - inspiring post by the always excellent A Couple Cooks.

6. Korean food in a slow cooker? Sign me up!

7. One of my fave bloggers recently posted her favorite DIY beauty products - have you even tried to make your own skincare products? It's so fun!

8. I've written a little bit about being a graduate student. All this really means is that I spend a lot of time reading depressing and exasperating books. However, this book, despite the fact that it is about impending environment doom, is actually one of the most clever, interesting, and empowering books on the topic I've read yet. Good stuff!

9. Did you know that doing simple, everyday but creative activities like cooking and gardening actually releases serotonin and decreases anxiety? Yes!

10. Photographs of the oldest living things on earth. Check out this weird 2,000 year old shrub!

11. "When your whole body lights up with joy, it’s really trying hard to tell you something—it’s saying, 'hey, this is important, please pay attention.' More awesome life advice from Sharon Ann Lee here.

12. Yoga as reflected in Ancient Indian visual culture, so cool!

13. Did you know that if you live near a park you are more likely to consider yourself a happy person? Nature, y'all!

14. I found this amazing art history blog this week - SO many great images, ideas, a place of beauty.

15. 6 steps to better brownies, yesssss.

15. And finally, a spell to re-genius yourself from Rob Breszny, high priest of empowerment.

Love, hugs, and virtual scalp massages,

May 4, 2014

The Sugar Epiphany: 40 Days Without Sugar

Do you ever have repeat epiphanies? Where you come to MAJOR, life-shaking-up conclusions and then realize, oh, wait a second, I've definitely had this epiphany before!?

I'm choosing to interpret my latest such brain goof not as a mistake or failure, but an opportunity to learn this lesson again (which I oh-so-clearly need to!)

So, this week I've been obsessing (again!) over how completely true it is for me that I am what I eat.

If I'm feeling a little down or blue or confused and think about what I've ingested that day, chances are it was pretty bad and usually pretty sugary. End of semester stress eating has had its way with me the last couple of week and I know all the sugar is not doing me any favors with my stress levels.

So! I'm about to embark on a 40 day no sugar extravaganza. Why 40 days? I love symbolism and 40 is a number loaded with cleansing and healing meaning – in ancient Jewish traditions it takes 40 days to ingrain new ways of being into your mind plus think of all the Biblical uses of 40: Jesus wandering the desert for 40 days, and Noah for 40 years. The number 40 clearly has ancient, powerful roots.

I have a feeling it's going to be a tough 40 days, but I also suspect that by the end of it I'll be feeling pretty amazing – care to join me? Follow me on Twitter and let's motivate each other! 

Cheers and carrots,

P.S. Beautiful artichoke image cred goes to this fabulous etsy shop.

May 1, 2014

DIY: Easiest 3 Ingredient Strawberry Face Mask

It's finals week over here in grad school land which means I'm running on less sleep and more coffee than usual and it's my skin that's been taking it the hardest - it has been feeling simultaneously parched, breakout-y, and dull so as a post study session treat, I made myself a batch of my favorite 3 ingredient face mask.

Strawberries are all sorts of good for your skin: they are packed with vitamin C which is scientifically proven to fight signs of aging when applied to the skin and they are high in natural alpha-hydroxy which makes for fabulous gentle exfoliation action. I've spiked my berries with a little honey and olive oil to give my skin a mega-dose of moisture. Simply blend it all together and apply, allowing it to do its thing for 10-20, or until dried. Rinse off with warm water for your softest, most refreshed looking skin in ages.

This recipe makes enough for several applications - feel free to chop it down. You can store the mask in the fridge for a few days, but note that the longer it sits, the less potent the skin-nourishing properties become.

Easiest 3 Ingredient Strawberry Face Mask

3 large strawberries (preferably organic)
1 tsp organic, raw honey
1 tsp olive oil

Blend together. Apply in a thin layer and let sit for 10-20 minutes, until dry. Rinse with warm water.