Five favorite abstract artists

27 March 2014

One of my favorite things about our interconnected world is how easy it is to discover marvelously talented people today – people who, even just five years ago, I might never have had a chance to encounter. The internet and independent storefronts like Etsy have made it so much easier for talented folks around the world to set up shop and find like-minded consumers – and I love that!! I think it’s so neat that someone who might never have found a market for their DIY keychain kits or cutest Disney princess dresses or wooden toys in their hometown can now grow a booming, worldwide business thanks to the simple and inexpensive tools at our fingertips.

In the same vein, I don’t often set foot in galleries, so until recently my chances for learning about talented young artists were slim. With Etsy and Pinterest, however, I now have more options than I have walls. Here are five of my current favorites:


Artist: Yang Yang Pan
Medium: oil
Print pricing: from $25 for an 8×10″ print to $75 for a 16×20″ print
Original pricing: unknown

Artist: Belinda Marshall
Medium: acrylic
Print pricing: from $40 for a 7×8″ print to $140 for a 16×23″ print
Original pricing: starts at $275

Artist: Emily Rickard
Medium: acrylic (I think)
Print pricing: $32 for an 8×10″ print
Original pricing: starts at $575

Artist: The Fox & She
Medium: acrylic
Print pricing: n/a
Original pricing: starts at $135

Artist: Michelle Armas
Medium: acrylic and oil
Print pricing: $35 for a 13×17″ print, $350 for a 36×36″ canvas print
Original pricing: starts at $200

I know that Michelle Armas’ work is nothing new in the online world, but I adore it. That particular painting just fills me with glee – it’s all of my favorite colors in one square, and I will have it in our home one day!

In the meantime, I’m wondering if it might be worth it to try my own hand at an abstract? I have no experience whatsoever with painting, but I think it’s good to try something creative and outside of your comfort zone every so often. Have any of you worked with acrylic or oils before, or been interested in trying? If I’m not the only one, I might try to convince one of my best friends (a very talented painter – she graduated from RISD!) to give us a primer. Let me know what you think :)

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Marvelous Money: A Beginner’s Guide to IRAs

20 March 2014

A few months back we discussed saving for retirement through a 401k (and a few months before that, we talked about why saving why retirement as early as possible is a good idea!). I promised to address the other way most people save for retirement – IRAs – and now I’m here to deliver! Question and answer seemed to work last time, so we’ll try it again :)


What is an IRA?
An IRA, or Individual Retirement Account, allows you to save money for retirement with tax advantages. The account is held at a financial institution, not through your employer. There are two main types of IRAs – Traditional and Roth – and they have different advantages.

What is a Traditional IRA?
In a Traditional IRA, you’re able to deduct your yearly contribution from your taxable income (reducing the amount of money you have to pay taxes on – yahoo!). Ideally, the money will build up over time, and then in retirement, you’ll pay income taxes on it when you take it out. Many people find themselves in a lower tax bracket when they retire, since they’re not making a salary, so their withdrawals might be taxed at a lower rate than it would have been earlier in life. Tax benefits today, taxes when you withdraw.

What is a Roth IRA?
In a Roth IRA, you pay tax on your income as usual, then contribute to your IRA. Then, your money grows tax-free, and you can withdraw it tax-free in retirement (assuming you retire after age 59 1/2). Taxes when you contribute, no taxes when you withdraw.


Why save in an IRA instead of another type of account?
Great question! First, if your employer offers a 401k, and especially if they offer a match, max out your match first! (Don’t leave money on the table!) But, don’t stop there :) Since experts estimate that you might need up to 85% of your pre-retirement income in retirement, you might not be able to accumulate enough through just a 401k (there are limits on the amount you can contribute per year).

Also, most IRAs offer a wider range of investment choices (stocks, different funds, etc.) than most 401ks, giving you more flexibility. And of course, the investment options you get with an IRA can earn you much more than a savings account, a CD, or other taxable accounts.

How much should I contribute?
Well hold your horses – first you have to have earned income. (I know that seems obvious, but I do have lots of students reading!) For 2014, the maximum amount you can contribute is $5,500 if you’re under 50 (assuming you’ve made at least $5,500 that year). There is no minimum. $5k sound like a lot? John and I love Megan McArdle, and she recommends saving 15% of your gross income for retirement. On the other hand, note that there are some contribution limits based on income – Fidelity explains them here.

How do I get started?
Yay for you! Many financial institutions offer IRAs – we have used Fidelity and Scottrade in the past, and I would recommend both. Most allow you to sign up and make contributions online. A tip – once you have everything ready to go, set up an automatic monthly draft so you don’t have to think about making a contribution each month!

As usual, this is a great time for me to remind you that I am neither a financial planner nor a tax adviser, and that this is a very basic guide to IRAs. Retirement savings are VITAL but can be complicated, so I highly encourage you to seek assistance along the way. As a bonus, many companies, like Fidelity, offer really amazing guidance over the phone, at no charge!

You know why it’s fun to talk about IRAs right now? If you haven’t yet filed your taxes, you can still make a contribution for 2013!

Do you save for retirement with an IRA? Did you choose Traditional or Roth? I’d love to hear!

No. 49: Canoe down the Haw River

17 March 2014


This weekend, two of my best friends from childhood and their significant others came down to visit us (hooray!). Most of our time was spent in general relaxation (eating, taking walks, eating, playing board games, eating, and chatting), but we did plan one big activity – canoeing down the Haw River! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for over a year now, and we figured special visitors were a good enough excuse to make it happen.


Our rental was through Haw River Canoe & Kayak Company, based in Saxapahaw, and we chose the “half day” Bynum Upriver Paddle. It was $50 per couple, and they’re really flexible about what time you want to head out and come back (the whole experience took about three hours). We completely lucked out with our weather – mid 70’s and sunny!! We’d love to try a few other trips they offer in other seasons, so I doubt this will be our last canoe trip, but we’re glad to have one under our belt!

See my full 60 Before 30 list here!

Dining room table lighting options

10 March 2014

I am currently feeling very stymied over our dining room table lighting situation. The pendant lights are in, but we are no closer to a decision on the dining room table fixture than when we moved in — I feel like I’ve been looking for months, and still haven’t found an option that satisfies our criteria and that I feel totally confident in. And since this will be an expensive purchase and a prominent piece in our home (much like our rug), I want to get it right. Perhaps y’all might be able to shed some light (har har) on the situation?

Here is our inspiration. I like the classic smokebell shape…


On left, from Young House Love


On right, from Cote de Texas

I like the canopy style…


Em for Marvelous


Better Homes & Gardens

And these fancy red ones are nice…


Sunset Magazine


Style at Home

Using those rooms as inspiration, I’ve searched and searched for options within our budget (ideally under $500) and with a minimum of three 60-watt bulbs or four 40-watt bulbs (John’s request). It has been surprisingly hard to find fixtures with enough wattage for John in the style we like. This is what we have so far:


A. Star of the Show Island Chandelier from Shades of Light ($566 with 10% off, 4 60-watt bulbs, also available in “blackened rust”)
B. Hundi Lantern from Pottery Barn ($269 with 10% off, 3 40-watt bulbs)
C. Classic Canopy Lantern from Shades of Light ($540 with 10% off, 4 60-watt bulbs)
D. Darlana Medium Lantern from Circa Lighting ($630, 4 60-watt bulbs)
E. Remington Pendant Chandelier from Ballard Designs ($212 with 15% off, 4 40-watt bulbs)
F. Classic Smokebell Lantern from Shades of Light ($350 with 10% off, 3 60-watt bulbs)

Since we’re not in a rush, I noted the discounts I’ve seen frequently and feel confident we could snag :)

The Hundi lantern is probably the safest option – it’s solidly within our budget, and it shows up again and again in rooms I pin. I really think A and C could be special, but they’re both above our ideal budget.

And that’s pretty much where we are at the moment. Any favorite lighting resources you’d like to share that I could try? Have something in mind that I must see? I’d love to hear!