New Year, New Look

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I’m a homebody. I really, really enjoy being home, especially if said home is perfectly decorated. I also happen to be a very extroverted extrovert, so my best moments are when people come to my house. And said house is perfectly decorated.

I always thought I had a specific taste in mind when it came to decorating my home, but over the years, that taste has morphed into a perfectly -or maybe not so perfectly – balance of different styles. And I like changing stuff up around he house.

So this is why I have compiled this list of cheap and easy ways to change the look of your home in a cinch.

  1. Paint. Paint is one of the easiest ways to make a big impact with a little cost. If you can paint, then try it! It will change how the room feels and you can definitely try different ways: all of the walls, an accent wall, 3/4 of the way up, just the ceiling? The options are endless.
  2. Re-arrange your furniture. Moving things around can give you a fresh angle to decorating. Sometimes we move into a space and envision furniture a certain way and sometimes moving it around can work much better with how you use your space.
  3. Shop in your home. Do you have some pillows in your bedroom that you are growing a little tired of? Maybe move them to the living area! Same with throws, curtains, chairs. There are many possibilities to change the look without investing in some new pieces.
  4. Art. Art can be one of the most impactful  (is this even a word?) add ons to a space. Just make sure that you go big to fill the space and create the most impact. There are a lot of places where you can buy art at affordable prices, like Minted or Etsy.
  5. Add some texture and don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit! Texture can bring your flat space to a more 3D level. You can do this by adding a fluffy pillow, a rustic console table or even some inexpensive plants in different sizes.

What are some other, inexpensive ideas you have to refresh your home?

Source: Top 15 of 2015 by Sarah Sherman Samuel

Career goals 2016

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I’ve spoken here about my personal goals for 2016 and I laid out a monthly plan for tiny goals to achieve that will make for a nice, whole year.

I also have separate career goals or resolutions for this year. I’ve been working at the foundation for a year and a half already, and I still have a lot to learn – both about how the foundation operates and also about philanthropy in general. I want 2016 to be the year that I do something significant, whether it is learning something new, develop or further my career or just being prepared for wherever the job might take me.

So here are some resolutions / goals / steps I want to take in 2016 to improve as an employee:

  1. Be an intentional learner: As I said before, I have only been in this job for 1.5 years and this is my first time in philanthropy, so I still have a lot to learn. I am continuously looking for ways to learn about philanthropy and in 2016 will intently look for opportunities for classes, conferences, workshops or networking events that can further my knowledge. There is a big conference in September in Detroit that I have my eye on.
  2. Take ownership and have a purpose: One of the many great things about my job is that I have a lot of ownership of the projects I do. However, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the task and not remember the purpose. So this year, I want to think about the purpose: know “what” to do, “how” to do it and achieve it, think about “why” I’m doing it, and “when” to accomplish it. The goal is to take a strategic approach to the task and having a clear sense of what I want to accomplish.
  3. Be concise and smarter with words, talk straight to the point and be confident. My boss always says that I am the expert at what I do, so I shouldn’t be shy to raise my voice and talk about the work.
  4. Be cooperative and respectful: Not that I am not, but be mindful of my team and work together towards one goal, which is to advance the work of the foundation and not just to manage my tasks.
  5. Network and gain visibility: One thing that I haven’t felt prepared to do just yet is to network. I don’t feel like I know everything about the foundation / philanthropy so I shy away from talking to others about my work. But I’m ready to do this! I’m already part of a Communities of Practice group in Seattle, and I think that this could be a great jumping off point for me.

Happy New Year! Do you have any career goals for this year?

Photo © Maria Rigou for Groundhog Design

Welcome 2016!

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This is the last full year before I turn 30, so I have decided that I am going to treat m’self all. year. long. But it’s not only about material stuff, I also want to do things for me that can make me feel better about myself, my career and my home.

Starting today, I will take on a new goal each month that will build on until the end of the year. Towards the end of 2016, I will come back and revisit my ‘resolutions’ (if you want to call them that) and grade me on how well I did.

So, without further ado, these are my monthly goals:

January: Start eating healthier! I don’t eat a lot of junk food but I am slightly disorganized with my meals. I never eat breakfast and I drink way too much Diet Coke. I started the Whole30 plan (not a diet), which eliminates certain food groups from your daily diet to ‘reset’ your metabolism. It basically consists of eating protein, vegetables and fruit and no grains, dairy, sugars, legumes and processed anything. So far, not good. I’m starving but I think it’s all in my head.

February: Start training for a Half Marathon. I think I’m going to enroll in the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Seattle in June. Run a 5k.

March: Plan an anniversary getaway for me and my husband. It doesn’t have to be the trip of a lifetime, but maybe a weekend away to somewhere picturesque like Leavenworth, WA.

April: Promote my art: I have a new show this month. It’s at Local Color, in Pike Place Market here in Seattle. The idea is for me to get out there and be more active with my artwork. Hopefully I’ll sell some art! Run a 10k.

May: Plan a mid-ish year vacation. We don’t go on vacation enough and I would like that to change this year. Maybe Disney World, just because we can.

June: Run a Half Marathon and finish decorating the condo (this could be tricky as I change my mind every single day about my furniture!)

July: Enjoy Seattle in the summer. They say that Summer in Seattle is from 4th of July until Labor Day, so I plan to go to the beach every. single. weekend.

August: Conquer a fear: I am deathly afraid of heights so I think going sky diving is the perfect cure.

September: Take another vacation. I think that if I take small, strategic breaks throughout the year, I won’t burn out by the time December rolls around. This year I was this close to burnout it wasn’t even funny.

October: Create something and remember it: plan the most EPIC Halloween costume of all times.

November: Learn something new. Maybe enroll in a life-drawing class, or a sewing class, a graphic design course, or a social media certification? Who knows. I still have time to plan this out.

December: Have fun.

I never set ‘resolutions’ when the new year rolls around. This isn’t something that is very common in Argentina, but I think that the new year is a good opportunity for some changes, either minor or major. Though most of these goals are quantitative, I think that my whole idea for this year is to grow as a person, as a professional and a wife, and be ready to receive the big 3-0 in 2017.

What are your goals, dreams, aspirations or resolutions for this year?

Photo Isla Catalina, Dominican Republic; © Maria Rigou for Groundhog Design

Painting of the Week – Jacarandá

The world is a wonderful place, you see. Full of mysteries and wonders.

There is this tree, called the Jacarandá (no idea how to pronounce it in English), that in Buenos Aires, lines a lot of the main avenues and a great number of the parks. When it blooms, it looks like a giant agapanthus flower, lining the streets.

It was one of my grandmother’s favorite trees. And no wonder! It’s beautiful.

Actually, besides being beautiful, the Jacarandá is one of the tree species that consumes the most CO2, approximately 4,000 pounds a year! Beautiful and ‘green’ at the same time.

The following painting, ‘Jacarandá,’ reminds me so much of the Bosques de Palermo – these amazing plazas / parks that line the Avenida Libertador in Buenos Aires, where a lot of these trees are planted. I used to spend many afternoons in these parks when I was a kid.

JacarandaRGB copy

I worked on this piece a couple of months ago and I started by using colors that I liked. As with watercolor, you never know what the end product will look like because it dries differently, and now, the piece reminds me so much of Buenos Aires and so much of my grandmother that I can’t give it up. I made a print of it and have it hanging in my office. A daily reminder of her.

‘Jacarandá’, watercolor on paper, 5×7 in.

If you would like to purchase some of my art, you can visit my shop!

Photo © Maria Rigou for Groundhog Design

 

DIY gift wrapping ideas

With the holidays approaching, I thought it would be fun to show you some inexpensive ideas to wrap gifts for your loved ones.

Back home, when you purchase a present, people at the store have different options for wrapping, and most stores around the holidays will gift wrap for you. Here, however, with all the shopping we do online, I feel like there is more space for creativity and uniqueness with gift wrapping.

Here are some quick and easy ways to DIY gift wrapping and make gifts look like a million bucks without spending a million bucks:

  1. Hand painted paper: For example, kraft paper with some brush strokes in different colors – acrylics are a great option for this type of wrapping because they are water-based and they dry quickly. You can even use a specific color scheme or go all out. Check out Lay Baby Lay’s tutorial with great-looking painted paper.
  2. Lately I have been hoarding beautiful magazines, especially the ones that are given out for free at the airports or visitor centers, that have amazing photos of picturesque places in the country. Some of these pages can be used to wrap small boxes and the end product can look like a collage of paradise. Same goes for old calendars!
  3. Kraft paper and twine and greenery (from your yard, balcony, old flower arrangements… you get my drift). Like found here on Odessa May Society.
  4. Newsprint is always easy to find and a quick way of upgrading a generic gift. You can also use different types of washi tape to close it off and decorate it.
  5. You can also use washi tape on white or kraft paper to create a holiday-ish pattern, like what Molly at Almost Makes Perfect did.

Do you have any other easy and quick DIY ideas for wrapping gifts?

Source: Lay Baby Lay.

Weird

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You know that feeling when you sense something will happen, there is a strange vibe in the air? I’ve felt weirdness in the air since I woke up Monday morning.

This week is not over yet but it’s definitely been along week and I think I might need more than a weekend to recover from this.

Weird. That’s all. And I want it to go away.

Photo © Maria Rigou

Painting of the Week

unnamedI present to you “Landscape in Coral II.” I worked on this piece this past week for my upcoming show (Nov. 13 in Phinney Ridge, Seattle) but it took me a while to complete, so I don’t think it is going to be ready and framed in time for the show.

The past couple of months have been complicated – moving, a lot of work, a lot of visitors and my trip to Argentina – so I’ve been unmotivated, to say the least. I’m happy that this piece turned out as it did!

I have been noticing, however, that I’ve been migrating from pools of color to more ‘landscapey’ forms for the past couple of months, but completely by accident! I consider my art to be abstract, but you can definitely see a hint of a landscape here, no?

If you would like to purchase some of my art, you can visit my shop!

Photo © Maria Rigou for Groundhog Design

Linked and loved

After 4+ years, Adele has finally released a new single, and a new album is coming out next month! Her previous album, 21, was such a powerful album and it remained No. 1 in the Billboard 200 for 24 weeks, the most ever for a woman. It was an album about heartbreak, and it helped me with a lot I was going through at that time.

I’m excited to listen to more 25 tracks (the album will be out Nov. 20) and see what this is about!

My favorites from the web this week:

  1. Adele, ‘Hello’ from the new album 25,  out November 20.
  2. The City of Seattle is experiencing some mayor growth in recent times and, originally, they looked at San Francisco to follow their steps. But then they realized that SF was NOT a good model to follow, so now Seattle is trying to decide how to grow but keep its essence on the way there.
  3. I’m in love with these John Vogel chairs from West Elm. I wish I could justify the need for new dining chairs…
  4. A HUGE win for prisoners and their friends and families! It will now be easier for prisoners to communicate with their loved ones, with lower phone rates.
  5. Unfortunately for us, we still have to negotiate more than just a salary in our workplace. I am in no need for maternity leave, but do think that something desperately needs to be done to address this issue.

Source: Adele.com

Lessons learned

I’m back from my ultra-quick trip to Argentina, where I – finally! – got my visa and also visited some doctors and spent some nice time with my family, especially with my grandfather (who is 80-something years old and misses his wife – my grandmother – terribly since she passed in 2012).

Going back is always hard. Family draws you in and it’s hard to say good-bye, but I also noticed other things that I miss, and things that I definitely not miss. Here is my list:

  1. I do miss my family, especially now that it’s getting warmer (it’s going into Summer in the Southern Hemisphere) and weekends are getting busier. I especially enjoy the fact that my parents have a nice house with a big yard and entertaining area, so it is great for family (and friends) gathering on the weekends.
  2. I definitely miss the food. I managed to eat everything I wanted that I can’t get here, like empanadas, gnocchi, milanesas and tartas.
  3. I do not miss my fellow Argentineans. I felt like as if everyone is always on a rush for everything, angry at themselves and hating their lives. Example: I was at the eye doctor and there was an older lady before me that was hard of hearing. She was asking the receptionist every 5 – 10 minutes if she had been called, only to be responded every single time with a “calm down ma’am.” How hard is it to just say “ma’am, when we are ready for you, I will come up and get you, don’t worry” ? And that is only a small example…
  4. And almost along the same lines… people complaining about how hard their lives are and how easy I have it because I live in the United States. Look, OK, so maybe I am better off, I have a great job and a nice place to live, but we are also missing out on a lot of things back home: family, friends, services ($10 weekly manicures, help around the house with chores, accessible day care for children – not that I need it yet -, etc). Sometimes it’s about putting everything on a balance and prioritizing what you care about the most. For us, right now, is having a steady job where we know we are going to grow, maybe save some money and then we’ll see. Other people prefer to be close to family. But again, it’s about personal balances and trade offs.
  5. I absolutely DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT miss driving a car – any car – in Buenos Aires. It’s chaos. Cars everywhere. Motorcycles everywhere. I get violent and yell. So no more driving for me, thank you very much.

All in all, though, it was a good trip. I got to spend some time with a couple friends from college and my best friend from high school. I spent time with my uncle and grandpa, and with my parents. It’s hard to leave but it feels nice to be back. Too bad about the weather…

Source: NuNomad

One year cativersary!

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One year ago today, Benito, our orange domestic medium hair, joined our small family!

I always knew that I wanted to have a cat but my husband was never really convinced. He has been – and I think will always be – a dog person.

Before we got Benito, we had been talking about getting a cat since moving to Michigan. At the time, we were both in school and uncertain of where we were going next, so we delayed the process of running to the shelter to adopt and waited until we were settled.

On October 18, 2014, we intently drove to the Seattle Humane Society in Bellevue to “just look” at the kitties there. We had stopped by the previous week but could not find a parking spot, so we left without even getting out of the cat. On this rainy Saturday morning, we found the last spot in the small parking lot.

We walked into the building and realized it was free adoptions weekend! Not that we cared, but it was a nice incentive. We checked in, filled some paperwork and then started to look at cats. When we talked about cats, my husband insisted on a young one, not set in its ways. So we headed over to a small room with about 6 or 7 different kittens.

And there he was. Sitting on one of those kitty condos, looking out the glass door. Every time something moved, he turned to look at it. He went up and down, moving around and inspecting every single corner of the room. The attendant outside told us that Benito (then-named ‘Tito’) had arrived to Seattle the previous day from a shelter in Olympia.

Apparently, he was found on the street some months prior and was about 6-months-old. We knew he was for us. Ginger, curious and young.

We entered the room to meet him and all he wanted to do was play with a tassel hanging from my coat. It was a done deal. We took him home and we have been hooked every since. And to think that we had gone the week before… He wasn’t even there that week!

My husband says he is the best dog in the shape of a cat he has ever had.

These are some of the things he likes to do:

  • He plays fetch with a little foam ball
  • As soon as we walk in the door, we tells us all about his day
  • He licks his lips when we are prepping his wet food, and patiently waits, sitting down, for us to set the bowl on the floor
  • He sits on command
  • He hates stuffed animals and attacks everything that is on sight
  • He likes cheap toys – as in used zip ties or empty candy wrappers cheap
  • Benito sleeps with us on the bed, usually in between my legs. When he is ready to sleep, he will scratch my legs, asking me to open them so that he can use that space is his little enclosed bed

We are head over heels with this furry child. Every day he gives us a little glimpse of what our family can be in the future. My husband is definitely the authority figure, Benito pretty much laughs at me when I scold him. But we love him very much and hope that he stays with us for a long, long time.

Happy cat-iversary, Benito!

Photo © Maria Rigou for Groundhog Design