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.

Changes at out House...

Being so focused on the interior of my home has left our outside a bit less than desirable.  When we moved into our house, we set priorities &  so the poor outside had to wait.  We fell for our house because it has a large, private back yard...  the back of it sort of turns into a mini forest and a stream runs behind our fence. 

I like that the woods in the back feel really natural and a little out of control (wild roses, honey suckle, clematis, black berries & a ton of other things spill out the edges of it into our grass) but I've always imagined that one day it would be a tad more manicured & purposeful...

{See how crazy it gets back there??}

Last year (and the year before) we made a few garden beds around the yard like the one below for dwarf holly (which looks sooooo much like boxwood) and herbs...

  But we never edged them properly and they've gotten a bit out of control... 

{Here's the beginning of our vegetable garden last year...  THAT's how we edge....  It's more like:

me- "Hey Dav, let's make a veggie garden today."  (I've never mentioned this but I actually call my husband "Dav"...  an old college joke where we used to call him "Daveed" and "Dav" stuck)

him- Big sigh... "Okay."

And he starts digging...  But before he can finish, I'm in his way planting stuff and saying, "Forget about the edges... And don't worry about turning up all that dirt.... Yeah, it's fine that it's clay."

SO... as a result, my garden beds are full of weeds and the grass runs right into them.  I sort of have Scarlett O'Hara's "I'll think about that tomorrow" attitude with my yard. 

{Can I tell you how much I love this fabric???!!!!}

BUT we found some great guys through a friend & got a superdeal on having our entire yard edged & mulched.  I AM OVER THE MOON!!!!  They came yesterday and went to town...  They're back today and are working on edges like this:

{not my yard...  image from   They're still working so I'll post pics as soon as I can}

I am soooooo  excited.  Then...  we were at our friend-neighbor's house borrowing a wheelbarrow for the guys and she mentioned she was planning on getting rid of her kids' swing set now that they're getting older and so they gave it to us!!  My 4 year old is giddy beyond belief. 

...And....  (ok, truly nesting here; I have issues) I think I'm ready to change up our downstairs family room again...  I love the blue that's on the walls but I've always felt that it doesn't really fit with the feeling of our house & surroundings (with the blue walls and some of our accessories, it feels kind of coastal...  I originally had it REALLY coastal with this old painting... 

But it was driving me crazy...  so I switched pillows & accessories to ones with more of the green I crave:

{the room's pretty trashed in this pic...  sorry!}

...But I stole the rug, educational chart & lamp for other areas of the house & now my room's back to blank and blue... 

I'll be a little sad to say goodbye to the blue walls but I think I'm ready for the change.  We're keeping all of our furniture and I'll just rearrange rugs & artwork we already, have but the big change will be painting it white...  I sort of want it to feel more like my boys' playhouse:

I want it to be a more casual version of what we have upstairs & I'm hoping we can buy the paint today.  (I am aware this is nuts to do with our life/ schedule right now...  but I'm okay with that.)  Will be back with pics!!

xoxo, Lauren
If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

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.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Beyond Ötzi: European Evolutionary History and its Relevance to Diet. Part I

In the previous post, I explained that Otzi descended in large part from early adopters of agriculture in the Middle East or nearby.  What I'll explain in further posts is that Otzi was not a genetic anomaly: he was part of a wave of agricultural migrants that washed over Europe thousands of years ago, spreading their genes throughout.  Not only that, Otzi represents a halfway point in the evolutionary process that transformed Paleolithic humans into modern humans.

Did Agriculture in Europe Spread by Cultural Transmission or by Population Replacement?

There's a long-standing debate in the anthropology community over how agriculture spread throughout Europe.  One camp proposes that agriculture spread by a cultural route, and that European hunter-gatherers simply settled down and began planting grains.  The other camp suggests that European hunter-gatherers were replaced (totally or partially) by waves of agriculturalist immigrants from the Middle East that were culturally and genetically better adapted to the agricultural diet and lifestyle.  These are two extreme positions, and I think almost everyone would agree at this point that the truth lies somewhere in between: modern Europeans are a mix of genetic lineages, some of which originate from the earliest Middle Eastern agriculturalists who expanded into Europe, and some of which originate from indigenous hunter-gatherer groups including a small contribution from neanderthals.  We know that modern-day Europeans are not simply Paleolithic mammoth eaters who reluctantly settled down and began farming. 

Read more »

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).

My Room in Better Homes & Gardens Magazine

April has been a super-busy month so I'm a little late on sharing ,but I am thrilled about the article published in this month's (April's) Better Homes & Gardens Magazine!   The photo shoot took place last May in my room, at the 2011 DC Design House and my good friend, photographer Helen Norman took the photos. 

{The little aqua "one line a day" book is now mine & I use it to record funny things my kids say & little family stories.}

Here's a really pretty shot of the window seat we had custom-made by our go-to builders, CarrMichael Construction with custom layered cushions fabricated by Paul David Designs (our workroom, who we absolutely love.)

{The window seat is a mix of fabrics by Peter Dunham Textiles who generously donated their fabrics for the showhouse and some of my new fabrics.  The distressed silver llama sconces were donated by Porta Romana.}

Here's a shot of most of the room which shows off the grasscloth walls & diamond-patterned sisal rug (by Stark, fabricates by the Carpet Customizer)...

The article is by BHG editor Joanna Linberg {who is one of the kindest & most genuinely sweet people I've ever met} and I love how she broke everything down for the article & delved into the concept of "perfectly imperfect ." 

She listed a few of the must-haves I like to include when designing a room:

The oversize painting is by my good friend John Matthew Moore and I arranged the leather parsons desk (by Edelman Leather) so that was askew from the painting for a slightly "off" and more casual look.  I tucked the glass lamp with bright green tin shade (donated by Stray Dog Designs) right next to the painting to compensate for the assymetical desk arrangement.  I'm always really awkward in photos by myself and so I curled up in one of my Madhatter Chairs & it made me feel much better.  :)  The curtains are my Happikat in black & white and the Fabric on the back of the chair is by Michael Smith.

Here's a page they included at the end of the article about botanicals (which you know I'm pretty much obsessed with) and I'm loving the black backgrounds on a few of the botanicals & that pattern on the journal.  (#3)

The article itself includes all of our resources, but I want to be sure to mention that we borrowed antiques & artwork from some of our favorite local shops:  John Rosselli, Spurgeon Lewis and German Favorite Antiques.  Being a part of the DC Design House, which benefits Children's Hospital in Georgetown, was really such an amazing experience & through it, I made friends I know I'll have for life.  The 2012 House is open right now, so if you're in the area, be sure to go check it out!!

And finally, I turned 30 yesterday!!!!!  My 20s were over & I have to say they did not go out with a bang- 8+ months pregnant just doesn't put you in the partying mood ;) - but I will be sure to make up for it when I'm out of Baby #3 haze. 

xoxo, Lauren

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lessons From Ötzi, the Tyrolean Ice Man. Part III

There are two reasons why I chose this time to write about Otzi.  The first is that I've been looking for a good excuse to revisit human evolutionary history, particularly that of Europeans, and what it does and doesn't tell us about the "optimal" human diet.  The second is that Otzi's full genome was sequenced and described in a recent issue of Nature Communications (1).  A "genome" is the full complement of genes an organism carries.  So what that means is that researchers have sequenced almost all of his genes. 

Read more »

Agostini at the Stafford Bike Show this Coming Weekend

Giacomo Agostini flying over Ballaugh Bridge during the 1970 TT festival

Giacomo Agostini is guest of honour at the Stafford Bike Show this coming weekend. 
To mark the occasion I'm issuing a Limited Edition Print Run of 50 of the above painting.
I'm hoping to get Agostini himself to sign the first one (if the queue isn't too long).

Pre orders are available to mailing list and Facebook followers right now, and the remaining orders will be taken at the show. More information on the show can be found here:

Classic Bike Shows 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Prescott Bike Festival 2012

Prescott Bike Festival certainly pulled out the stops for it's second year. A huge turn out of bikes and trikes made it down to the event, making it a very enjoyable show. Unfortunately not much sketching was  done by myself at the event due to the constant on / off rain.

1933 Rudge TT Replica (digitally painted ink sketch)

This Rudge TT Replica is all original (apart from a couple of shiny bits). It was a joy to see an example in this condition. 

The owner a very nice Dutch man now living in France was running another Rudge up the hill (below), which allowed me time to sketch this fine example in between rain showers.

One of two Scotts (unfortunately this one ceased up on the day) both were heavily tuned by Roger Moss and looked very impressive especially off the start line.

A group of Morgan Three Wheelers lined up on the Morgan Stand

 Brooklands had bought a very impressive line up seen here lined up in the Paddock

There Was a nice little line up of BSAs near the bar.

 The Morgan Three Wheeler Club also hosted there Opening run at the event so there was a lot of them there which is always good to see.

 Hang on this one's got an extra wheel!

Morgan Family, which actually arrived caring a family, well done.

There was a wide range of bikes on display here is my pick from the paddock.

 Triton Sidecar Outfit


 One of the race bikes waiting to go up the hill


Before & After: Client's Dining Room

Last year, we began working with our clients who were undergoing a major renovation to their home.  The renovation was a thoughtful reworking of the existing space with the only addition to the house's footprint being the new screened-in porch.  The entire floorplan of the first floor was reworked and my clients created a massive open kitchen with an attached dining room and entry out of what once was the kitchen, dining room, living room and entry.  The wife likes bold fresh colors & has slightly modern taste while the husband is pretty traditional so we were really after a blending of the two.

We did the full house but I thought I'd start out by sharing the dining room with you.  Here's a photo of the dining room "before" which was at the back of the house:

And here's the dining room now:

Like me, my client loves botanicals & we couldn't resist these two massive ones by Natural Curiosities.  I flanked them with large bright green lamps to balance out their size.  The trestle table is paired with lighter carved chairs and I love the detail on the seat backs.   We found the neutral Greek key rug at Stark.  On the table, I used modern garden cloches on the table filled with ferns and orchids.  

We had the existing sideboard laquered white and my client had the GENIUS idea of adding a wooden board painted with chalkboard paint to the top of it:

It looks like slate but was super-inexpensive.  (I know, I know, chalkboard is EVERYWHERE... but I still love it in enexpected places!!)  We had planned to use honed granite or concrete & I'm so happy she did this instead!!!  It's so convenient now to label food & drinks set out on the bar.

For curtains, we used an overscale blue paisley by Schumacher and throughout the house we used a combination of bright blues & greens.  This project was particularly special for us to work on for a number of reasons and the "big reveal" had me teary... I want to thank my clients so much for letting us into your home &  your lives. 

I'm off for the day- am having contractions and am heading in to doc to check it out & am doubting this is "it" but they make you come in anyway so we'll see.  I'll keep you posted!!
UPDATE:  I'm home from doc and all is good & contractions will be coming & going but they aren't painful enough yet to be very productive!  Will keep you posted & hopefully I still have a couple mroe weeks to go :)

xoxo, Lauren

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

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

Attention ! - Opéra - Paris

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   Attention ! - Opéra - Paris
   Photo by Easy Fashion Fred

Nadia - Les Tuileries - Paris

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   Nadia - Photographer & Blogger - Les Tuileries - Paris
   Photo by Easy Fashion Fred

Zoe - Le Marais - Paris

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   Zoe - Le Marais - Paris
   Photo by Easy Fashion Fred

Daphne Guinness - FW - Paris

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   Daphne Guinness - FW - Paris
   Photo by Easy Fashion Fred