Monday, April 30, 2012

I am watching the Milken Global Conference panel on tax reform, and I want to shout....

...the reason fewer people are paying federal income taxes is that more people are making low incomes.

Our Spring Mantle (Two Ways)

Hi all!  If you've been reading along for awhile, you know we don't have a fireplace or a mantle in our house, but the console table in our entryway has functioned as a little display area over the years.  Right now, we're showcasing some lime green in honor of Spring!  I've styled our table two ways, I'm curious if you prefer one over the other.

Our first vignette features family photos and things in our home which have a way of playing musical decor (like the Target runner and jar from Home Goods, which were previously on our breakfast table).  

I've got some faux blossoming branches in the jar next to my favorite, inexpensive green apples ($1 each) from WalMart.  We typically have fresh fruit on hand in the kitchen which always adds a nice splash of color to the room, but here in the entry, I like the pop of color the faux apples add. 

My favorite recent find is the ampersand I got at Target.  It's hollow and adds a cute bit of character.  I'm sure at a later date it will look great in one of our bookcases or in my office. 

Then, because I'm actually not crazy about all the dark wood (mirror and console), because I think it looks and feels too heavy, I traded out the framed photos for a propped up Made By Girl "LOVE" print, which obscures the chunky wood mirror some.  

I like the simplicity of the second table, but the family photos are a nice personal touch to come home to.  What do you think? 

The area is constantly in flux, so there's no right or wrong answer:) 

You might remember last Spring, we had a simple arrangement of huge sunflowers in our entryway. 

Our Nativity Scene stayed here at Christmas.

Our you styling your mantle for Spring? 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Both George Will and Paul Krugman are right about the retirement/social insurance problem

I watched the economic panel on This Week with George Stephanopolous this morning.  Toward the end, both Will and Krugman made salient points about Social Security.  Will pointed out that increased life expectancies have produced longer average payout periods for Social Security to beneficiaries.  Krugman pointed out that the more affluent half of the country has seen life expectancy rise far more rapidly than the lower half.  Will used the former statistics to argue for raising the retirement age.  Krugman used the latter statistics to argue that raising the retirement age would be regressive policy.

At minimum, all this suggests that one "fix" to Social Security (which actually needs less fixing than a lot of other things, but never mind that for now) would be to lift the cap on incomes that pay into the retirement portion of FICA.  But I can't help but think there is something to what Will says about life expectancy--I really see no reason why people with cushy jobs and long life expectancies shouldn't retire at a later age.  I am just not sure how one creates a retirement policy that links retirement age to lifetime income without creating some really weird incentives effects.

Friday, April 27, 2012

baby james is too cool

This time last year I couldn't get the guy to wear a hat for more than two seconds, let alone shades.  

Look at him now!

(The hat is from Old Navy and the sunglasses are from Target).  He wants to wear the hat all.the.time!

We were headed to a block party in our neighborhood.  I had no idea how many young couples and little kids lived in our neighborhood.  We really had a good time meeting everyone, a great group of people.  Now, we just need to stay in touch!


Our house guests are here:) and thankfully, their new room is much improved!  Go HERE to see where we left off.  I'll have to share some photos next week!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Decorating Under the Staircase

Thanks to my friend Stephanie (Cre8tive Designs, Inc.) and her Pinterest board, I found a lovely velvety grey-blue Target settee with nailhead detailing for under $300.  Although I originally thought it would be perfect in our entryway, for now it's made a home under the stairs, an area of our home that was previously barren.

Today, I wanted to show you the progression in this little area of our home with the Target settee.  I originally started with some pillows I already had on hand and the silver side table I got at Home Goods.

It was an improvement, but still lacking.  The colors were drab and weren't really showing off the settee like I'd hoped, so I made envelope pillows using the two fabrics from our dining room and living room drapes.  I think the two patterns mix nicely together. 

I also changed out the blue flowers for these two faux leaf branches from Hobby Lobby.  The woven basket is from West Elm (y'all know I love my baskets and trays!)  I'd been wanting to get an area rug for that space, but hadn't gotten around to it until now.  I found a 6-foot round rug at Pottery Barn and it was "free" because I had a gift certificate and rewards points:)  (I can feel my husband rolling his eyes at my use of the word "free" here!)  The rug is nice- very thick and soft.

I liked how it was looking, but wanted to add another layer, so I brought in this lime ombre throw from West Elm.  I like the contrasting color so much- it's fresh!  They also sell it in coral. 

I'm liking how this area is coming along, but wonder if I should put something on the wall?  Perhaps a round mirror?  Or is the blank space nice?  I get anxious if there's too much going on visually in one area and we do have a large framed family photo on the adjacent wall.  

* * * * * 

It finally hit me this weekend that our home is really coming along, feeling like home.  More spaces and rooms have been given the love and decorative touches.  When we moved in nearly two years ago (it will be two years in July 2012!), we literally started from scratch.  It's nice to finally look at all the progress we've made and feel a sense of satisfaction with all the little touches that make it ours.  I love being home.  

Have you taken the time to step back and admire the progress you've made in your home?  I hope so.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The National Association of Realtors misrepresents how many people use the Mortgage Interest Deduction

An NAR Spokesperson says:

“NAR is actively engaged to ensure that the nation’s 75 million homeowners will continue to receive this important benefit, and we will remain vigilant in opposing any plan that modifies or excludes the deductibility of mortgage interest.”
The problem is that not all homeowners use the mortgage interest deduction.  Those without debt don't use it.  Those who don't itemize don't use it.  According to the US Treasury Department, in 2009, only about 37 million households took the mortgage interest deduction.

NAR is in the business of representing its members, who benefit from the mortgage interest deduction.  But they still need to get their facts right.  

(For data on number of returns with deductions, go to the SOI site, scroll down to "Individual Income Tax Returns with Itemized Deductions: Sources of Income, Adjustments, Itemized Deductions by Type, Exemptions, and Tax Items," choose 2009, and look at column CA in Table 2.1).

I Heart Organizing

Today I'm thrilled to be sharing with Jen over at her wonderful blog, 

I'm sure you know her, and her amazing organizational and design skills, but if you've lost touch or haven't been over in a while, please come say hi!  

See ya there!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Our Breakfast Bar

With two working parents and a baby to get to school, we need to be ready to roll in the morning.  For me, that means coffee STAT!  I like to have it already brewing while I'm still waking up and getting out of bed:)  (Our machine has a setting where we can set it to brew before bed- love that!)  I've been making an effort to get up earlier, and always start my day with a big cup of coffee.  We are Starbuck's espresso roast folks over here, and I add glug of Coffeemate caramel vanilla to it.

Our breakfast bar is set up so that everything we need is at our fingertips.  Our ground coffee, coffee scoop, and packets of Splenda are at the ready since my husband likes to sweeten his coffee pretty well.  

And we both usually eat oatmeal in the morning, so our glass canisters are stocked with rolled oats, raisins, and sliced almonds.  I add cinnamon too, so I keep it nearby also. 

Shelli from House of Smiths was sweet enough to send me the vinyl decals for our glass jars.  I got my jars at Pier One, but I've also seen them at Hobby Lobby.  I like them because they have rubber inside the lid to keep them air tight. 

I don't normally keep flowers near the coffee maker, but moved them from the breakfast table for this shot:)  Also, our Cuisinart coffee maker has survived about 5 years, but we just bought a new one this weekend, the same model, just the newer version, because our plastic lid got burned and started leaking coffee when pouring.   I took these pics before we replaced it.  The new one looks a little nicer, as far as coffee makers go. 

You may remember my post about keeping things corralled on trays, and the tray below I especially like because it's got a great woven texture and is really large.  I found it at West Elm.  

Making our coffee ahead of time and having the oatmeal jars out on the counter help make our morning routine run smoother.  The weekday mornings can be hectic if we both have to get out the door early, but I so enjoy the weekend mornings when I get a chance to linger a little longer with my coffee and some magazines I've been waiting to read!

How's your morning routine?  I'm always curious if you drink coffee in the morning like me, or prefer tea or some other caffeinated beverage, or nothing at all??  It's those little things that make me feel like I know you better:)  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bringing in Freshness with House Plants

Hello!  I hope you had a great weekend!  Since I spent the better part of Sunday morning in our yard pulling weeds (and ruining my fingernails) and trimming bushes, I thought a post about the new greenery in our house was rather appropriate:)

I've been loving the fresh impact that our Fiddle Leaf Fig tree has given the living room, and wanted to bring that same lively energy into another room in our home.  One day after work last week, I detoured into Lowe's and picked up two bright green houseplants.  They've since made their home in our master sitting room.  I'm digging the way they freshen up the space.

Since there's a lot of brown happening in this area, the bright green is a refreshing addition.  The plants are called Dieffenbachia, although they must be different varieties because they have different care guides- or they may just be from different sellers.  According to my instructions, the plant on the left is supposed to get high light, specifically, 3-4 hours of indirect light per day, while the plant on the right requires indirect medium light, but it didn't say how many hours per day.  

This particular spot in our home gets quite a bit of afternoon light, and I can easily adjust the blinds to allow more or less light into the room.  Hopefully, I don't kill them!  So far so good, but it's only been a week.  Do any of you have tips you'd like to share? 

Aren't these big leaves gorgeous?  I like the difference between the two.  

I was pleasantly surprised by look of the Allen & Roth line of accessories sold at Lowes.  Both white vases are from that brand.  It's a crisp, clean look that I like for now, even though the shelves are also white (Sherwin Williams Divine White).  

Here's an older wide shot of the room so you can see the difference.  (You may also notice that I changed out the black framed photo of James for a softer canvas print.  You can see the picture better in the first shot in this post.  I still die over all that black hair.  He was 2 weeks old in that photo:)  That $35 starburst mirror is from Home Depot!

I'd really like to get a nice, big houseplant for our entryway, but that area is poorly lit naturally.  I've had my eye out for something that may work in size and maintenance, but haven't found it yet.  Any suggestions? 

Hope you have a great Monday!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Has the Variable Rate Mortgage saved the European Mortgage Market?

Just as in the United States, many European countries have had large run-ups and crashes in house 
prices. Consider the data from the European Central Bank below: one sees in particular large price increases and declines in Spain and Ireland.

Remarkably, default rates in Ireland and Spain in 2009, while high by historical standards at 3.6 and 2.9 percent respectively, were substantially lower than in the United States, where the default rate was 13 percent (see Fiorante and Mortgage Bankers Association of America).  Dwight Jaffee has argued that this difference in performance is the result of the fact that mortgages in Europe give lenders recourse to the borrower.  I find it plausible that recourse matters, but not that it matters quite so much.  For example, while purchase money loans in California are non-recourse, refinance loans are not.  The preponderance of mortgages in California are refinance loans, and California's default rate is extraordinarily high.

So why haven't borrowers in Spain and Ireland defaulted more?  According to the European Mortgage Federation, more than 80 percent of loans in Spain and Ireland are variable rate mortgages.  As a consequence, as market interest rates fell, so too did mortgage interest rates.   The typical mortgage borrower in Ireland and Spain is currently paying considerable less than 4 percent on their mortgage.

 This has almost certainly been beneficial to Europeans, and suggests that robust TARP 2 program, where underwater borrowers can refinance their loans at lower interest rates, could help mitigate default.  On the other hand, as interest rates rise in Europe, we might have reason to become very, very concerned about defaults there in the months to come.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Open Kitchen Shelving

Open shelving in the kitchen can be a little controversial.  People have a tendency to think, "I don't want everyone seeing all my mismatched dishes." or "I don't want the pressure of having to keep everything neat and organized all the time."  

But if you choose a few specific, key items to keep on "display" and have a certain spot for each of those things, open shelving can be really pretty and open up the room.  

In our kitchen, our glass cabinet shelving holds our everyday plates and bowls, as well as a few decorative wooden bowls and my favorite Mikasa chevron plates and cups. 

The light olive plates are from my single days and are made by Calvin Klein.  The off-white place setting is from our wedding registry at Crate & Barrel.  The wooden bowls are from Pottery Barn.  

Jimmy's bachelor white Ikea plates and bowls are still with us.  

It's easy to keep things organized when you don't have more things than you have room for.  Every dish has a specific place where it goes. Whoever puts the dishes away knows exactly where to put them.

Lately, I've been considering doing something with the back of the cabinets (paint, wallpaper, fabric??).  

I still love these Calvin Klein plates and bowls.  I remember they were my first "set" of dishes as an adult and I searched all over before finally deciding on them.  They have a great weight to them.  (p.s. I found them at Macy's).

The black plates with the gold rim are from Z Gallerie.  

Do you like open shelving in the kitchen or prefer to keep your things behind closed doors?  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Guest Room- The Fabric Plan

The guest room is coming along, and as you saw yesterday, I even cleaned out the closet!  But the room needs drapes!  I originally bought plain, white cotton panels, but they looked too boring, especially against our very pale gray walls (and I'm not in the mood to paint right now).  I couldn't find ready-made drapes that I was in love with, so I figured I'd make my own- or have my seamstress sew them!  We'll see, I've done both before.  (I made the curtains in my office and it was such a chore working with all that fabric for a beginning sewer, but I had my seamstress sew our living room and dining room drapes).

I was browsing Spoonflower for fabric online and found several in the aqua color I was looking for.  It's hard when you're looking at fabric online because obviously, if you haven't seen it in person before, you don't know how true the color is, how the repeat will look etc.

My duvet cover is an orange and white geometric pattern from WalMart, but I also have an orange and white Greek Key duvet cover from Z Gallerie that would work in the room.

Originally, I planned to use the Z Gallerie duvet and make drapes from the WM duvet (the orange side), but changed my mind when I decided to add aqua to the room.  

I just placed my order for the fabrics below, so I hope they work out. 

The first one is what I'm thinking of for drapes.  I like that it's aqua with a bit of a pattern that looks like texture.  I won't really know until I see it in person if it looks like how I picture it.

I'm thinking of using the fabrics below to make throw pillows.  I'm not very good at mixing fabrics and patterns, so I appreciate your feedback.  I'm hoping the coral in the fabrics goes with the orange in the room.  

Thanks to The Handmade Home for posting about great fabric sources.