Workday Reading

The Weekly Edit: Thank You, Next

This week was a tough one.  Election Night always makes nostalgic for my Capitol Hill days.  But, as one reader put it in the comments on last week’s Edit, I have to focus on the future, and just say, “Thank you, next” to the past.

Toward the end of the summer, Kyle bought a mid-century modern home that we just started renovating.  It is, in a word, a mess.  Having lived through the build on my current home, I thought I was ready for this, but nothing prepares you for renovating a home that was built when Kennedy was in office.

Television hosts, bloggers, designers, they all make it look like houses miraculously transform from fixer uppers into breathtaking palaces.  However, they don’t show the hours spent on the phone with delivery people, or the nasty, costly surprises lurking behind every wall (oh good, it’s mold!), or the painter whose four-day estimate is now running into its fifth week.

At first, I thought I was just being cynical and glass half-empty (me? never!), but then, on Monday, Kyle– Mr. Optimistic, Mr. Focus on the Positive, Mr. Brightside–broke like an egg.  The cause?  The ancient electrical panel that isn’t up to code, followed closely by the revelation that several of the 100-ft pine trees in the front yard are listing at angles that make the arborist use phrases like “catastrophic” and “liability.”

In a single day, the project budget was decimated, and we had to scale back to just the essentials.  But hey, I used to live in a 425 sq ft studio that cost more than my mortgage, so perspective is nice.

Now I’m the positive, calm one.  This is not a role I was born to play.  I have no instruction in this area.  I am, at best, winging it.  But, hey, if he needs me to smile and say Pollyanna things like, “Honey, look how much light there is now that the contractor removed the wall (that was on the verge of collapse because a previous remodel weakened the supporting beams), it’s so bright!”  Then, I’m totally here for that.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to spend the weekend painting the house I already paid someone else to paint while plastering a smile on my face and talking about how beautiful it will all be when it’s finished.

(Seriously, I’m not cut out for this.  Luckily, I have vodka, the love of Jesus, and a spray gun.)

Want a good laugh?  Tell your boyfriend that you want to watch a documentary about high school kids who do spoken-word poetry.  The look on his face makes a great iPhone screensaver.

Louder than a Bomb is one of my favorite documentaries.  The film follows several Chicago students while they prepare original pieces for the world’s largest poetry slam.  It’s funny, endearing, and definitely worth your time.

Pardon the screen grab from my Instastories, but I need to talk about these glasses.

My vision is trash.  I’ve had glasses since I was 8, and the 11+ hours a day that I spend looking at a computer screen is not helping matters.  Recently, my eye doctor suggested blue-light blocking glasses to reduce eye strain and make it easier to read computer text.

I picked up these Prive Revaux Alchemist glasses on Amazon, and I love them.  This style is a bit big for my face, but my eyes feel amazing.  Not more twitching, straining, or 3:00PM headaches.  I love them so much that I also picked up the cat-eye Thoreau frames.

Prive Rivaux also makes shockingly inexpensive sunglasses.  The founder advertises his sunglasses as well-made, polarized lenses designed to disrupt the eyewear industry.  I may have to try these cool Madam cat-eye sunglasses.

I’m prepping for our yearly Christmas cookie swap.  Last year, I made six recipes.  It was, without question, too many.  Because as much fun as I had, someone has to eat the cookies, and the snaps on my jeans don’t want it to be me.

I love the idea of making a simple cookie and using icing and decorations to make them look like melted snowmen.  I’m definitely going to make these, and maybe just one or two more, because I have a disease called Baking Fever, and I probably can’t be stopped.

Let’s talk about fishnets, micro-fishnets to be exact.  The colder weather months require leg-wear.  And while tights may be the most common choice, instead of traditional nylons, micro-fishnets give you the blurring, smoothing effect of nylons in a more modern way.

This DKNY pair of micro-fishnets has such small stitches that they are incredibly subtle.  They give you a hint of sultriness without being obvious.  If you’re looking for a less expensive pair, Target has this $10 pair in their A New Day line (also in 1x/2x).

After seeing the promos for the movie, A Private War, I decided to look up the source material.  This Vanity Fair article details the story of Marie Colvin, a war correspondent who crawled through a storm drain to reach the city of Homs, so she could deliver the truth about the war in Syria.  Her story is truly one of the most impressive that I have read n years.

Nordstrom is having their fall sale in preparation for the holidays.  There are thousands of discounted items in every department.  I loved this Vince Poet Dress in a pale blush, and this Treasure and Bond drape cardigan.  I also found these fantastic Blondo waterproof boots (perfect for commuting).  And if you’re looking for a cheap thrill, this $26 Leith Trapezoid Tote in a lipstick red is really chic.

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  1. JBRINDC says:

    This post is a treasure trove. Perfect for a slow rainy Friday at work. Thank you! Have a good weekend and good luck with the house!

    November 9, 2018/Reply
  2. TheLOOP says:

    I LOLed at your description of your home remodeling experience. I am currently in the home buying process and many similar horror stories from friends have turned me off completely from going after a house with “character” despite what HGTV says. Give me a house built in the last two decades with clean lines and no hidden surprises, please.

    November 9, 2018/Reply
  3. CM says:

    I like the glasses! I also have blue-blockers that are too big for my face, but I don’t think yours look that big.

    Good luck with the house! I’m in awe that you’re both homeowners…I’m still plugging away in DC holding out hope that someday we’ll “make it” in life and own even a condo. HA.

    November 9, 2018/Reply
    • Crystal says:

      Check out Southwest DC! (True/Old Southwest, not the new Wharf.) It’s convenient to metro, bus, and the interstate; there are some real gems; and the prices (for DC) are still good. <3 I rented my unit before I purchased it, and my rent — including utilities — was less than my rent (without utilities) when I lived in Arlington 6 years previously. Good luck — you'll get there!

      November 9, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      My house here cost 1/3 what the condo I rented in D.C. would cost to buy. Welcome to middle America, there’s nothing to do, but the housing is affordable.

      November 9, 2018/Reply
  4. Ling says:

    I heard that the spray gun is a lot of fun, if not messy, and very therapeutic. Painting is not my fav, but I remember how good it felt when I finally make clean lines on the edges. Another activity that I remember fondly: pulling out all the staples that was put in by the carpet padding on the sub-floor. The carper installer guy was really impressed! Have fun on the renovation, it’s a journey and you will have good stories to tell forever.

    November 9, 2018/Reply
  5. SLG says:

    As a veteran of two renovations (one almost complete and one in-progress), I hope it’s reassuring to know that nothing — NOTHING — ever goes like you think it will. And living in a place that’s beautiful because I made it that way with years of blood, toil, sweat, and tears is a special kind of accomplishment. It does feel great when it’s done.

    If no one has told you this yet, Concrobium does work for mold, and Home Depot sells it. If you have a lot to take care of, it’s worth buying the cold-fogging machine they recommend.

    And if you need a laugh or just to see that someone else’s fixer-upper is worse than yours, check out Daniel Kanter at He’s been renovating his historic home for years, tells it like it is, and is hilarious.

    November 9, 2018/Reply
    • Kay says:

      I lived in my DC row house for a year while it was under construction and 4 months of those were the winter with no heat, shower, or kitchen. Nothing like a single woman trying to date when she doesn’t have a shower!

      I am sure you are learning all the wonderful tricks of home renovation, but just in case, here are two of mine. It is worth it to buy virtually everything from Home Depot or Lowes. Because you can return it. I call Home Depot the Nordstrom of home repair. I installed a toilet that turned out to have cracked in transit by my plumber, pulled it up and returned it for the full price. (I feel a little bad since they didn’t crack it but I also couldn’t afford a new one.)

      Also is amazing. People bid against each other for jobs so you can start to get a sense of what prices should be instead of what they think they can charge.

      November 9, 2018/Reply
  6. Mritz says:

    It may be a little on the nose for you to fully enjoy right now, but Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is a favorite movie in my family. Good luck with the renovations!

    November 9, 2018/Reply
  7. SC says:

    My parents put a major addition onto our house when I was in 8th grade and that was enough to turn me off fixer-uppers or home renos completely! We were a family of 5 sharing one bathroom (where we also did laundry and washed dishes), cooking with a microwave and an electric skillet. For an entire winter. In Alaska. And the divider separating new house and old house was nothing but a sheet of heavy plastic.

    Godspeed, AB!

    November 9, 2018/Reply
  8. Cl says:

    About halfway into a massive fixer upper project so I feel your pain! Our mortgage is half of my dc rent and we only live 45 mins outside so that alone makes it worth it. I’d love to see reno picture and follow you on this journey too if that’s something you want to share.

    November 10, 2018/Reply
  9. NEENS says:

    Good luck with the home reno! Just wanted to chime in that the Blondo boots are my absolute favorite, wearing them right now in rainy grey Brussels and with black skinny pants and a slightly oversized sweater i still feel chic and professional, and most importantly – dry 🙂

    November 12, 2018/Reply
  10. Nel says:

    Pretty please do a post on the remodel? Or any learnings you’ve had along the way?

    November 12, 2018/Reply
  11. R says:

    BBC Radio 4 serialised Lindsey Hilsum’s new biography of Marie Colvin last week. You can find it here:
    (You should be able to listen from outside the UK – I do).

    November 13, 2018/Reply
  12. AEM says:

    I almost bought the nude fishnets at Target last week, but couldn’t decide if they are work appropriate for a business casual office–any thoughts?

    November 18, 2018/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I wore them in a professional office on mid-casual days. I realized most people aren’t looking that closely.

      November 18, 2018/Reply
  13. Meghan says:

    More info on glasses please! Similarly blind – have been in glasses since 3rd grade and the legal profession has not been kind on my eyes. I feel like people don’t talk about glasses a lot (or bloggers’ prescriptions are so small that I can’t relate). My prescription is pretty intense so my glasses are really expensive – I try not to update them frequently because of this, but the jig is up. Where do you get your glasses? Have you ever used online sites that promote selling cheap glasses? Are these blue-light blocking glasses prescription or are you wearing contacts as well? Are those your full-time glasses now or just for when you’re at work in front of the computer? Would love to see a post on this topic!

    November 19, 2018/Reply