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In vlog form! Soon you will see why I don’t do vlogs. I ramble without the ability to edit text.

My Big Goal for the Upcoming Year from Nicole Balch on Vimeo.

If you can’t watch, surprise, I want to write a book. I went through an agent interviewing process and have started my proposal, then life got in the way when we decided to sell our house and buy the new one. Moving, blah blah blah, still working on the proposal.

If I put it out there, I’ll hold myself more accountable, so that’s what I’m doing. I want a book. I’m writing the proposal and making it the best lil’ proposal it can be before it gets shopped around to publishers. The book is my number one goal for this upcoming year, and I’m ready to devote a whole lot of time and energy to making it happen.

Thinkin' of a Master Plan

The Tote Bag I Designed for West Elm

I worked for west elm, briefly, when they opened their first retail location nearly ten years ago. I remember being so excited that my favorite catalog was finally opening a brick-and-mortar location, and that it was going to be right over in Oak Brook! I had left my full-time job at the bookstore that summer, so I applied to earn a little extra money there during the holiday season while I continued my other part-time job and tried to make a go of my stationery business. Now, as they were moving from their original Oak Brook location on 22nd, into a new space in Oakbrook Center, I was working for them again. This time, drawing and designing a tote bag to be given away for the grand opening.

Free West Elm Tote Bag, Drawn and Designed by Nicole Balch of Making it LovelyIMG_7539-Edit640

I sometimes think of the digital mood boards and room designs that I create in Photoshop as my version of window shopping. Way back though, before this blog, I used to sketch rooms, furniture, and clothes that I liked on paper. Doing this illustration project for west elm was a lot of fun, because it tapped into that old practice. I drew ten or so of my favorite products from west elm, and then another ten local landmarks, first in pencil and then outlined with a Micron pen. Then I scanned my drawings, cleaned them up in Photoshop and vectorized them in Illustrator, and then added color. I also played around with the layout, choosing my favorite illustrations and constraining them to the proper size.

Illustrations by Nicole Balch for West Elm

The people at west elm that I’d been speaking to as I worked on the project were not from the area. They had initially requested images that say “Oak Brook” so… the McDonald’s headquarters and Oakbrook Center? Right. If you’re wondering why the tote is more Illinois and Chicago-themed, there you go. We expanded the range.

West Elm Tote Bag Drawn and Designed by Nicole Balch of Making it Lovely

I visited the new store, which just opened today, and it’s gorgeous. I’m so honored to have had this opportunity to work with them again, in such a fun way! Thanks, west elm.

West Elm's Oakbrook Center Living Grow Wall Behind the Cash Wrap

p.s. Cookies, with my illustrations!


Clear to Close!

Finally! Late last week, we got the clear to close from our mortgage lender. New house, here we come!

Garden Path

Brandon and I wanted a conventional, no-surprises kind of loan. I knew that my self-employment would probably be an obstacle, but we were pre-approved for a huge mortgage. Since we weren’t actually going to borrow as much as we could have (because whoa that feels risky), we hoped the process would be easy. Nope!

When we bought our first house in 2007, I was self-employed then too. But those were the days where you could just declare your income with a low doc (or no doc) loan, and be good. You know, those loans that contributed to the whole housing bubble and subsequent crash? Yeah, thankfully the banks aren’t doing many of those anymore.

So we knew the process would be different this time around. We had a lot of equity to go toward a down payment, but to qualify for the mortgage I had to give our full tax returns from the last two years, explain transfers and deposits from the last few months, provide bank statements from all accounts (business checking and savings, personal checking and savings, custodial kids’ accounts), do a choreographed dance routine, and recite a sonnet from memory. Then the market rates changed (for the worse, then for the better again), some documents changed, and I had to do it all over again. That was super fun! We discussed some creative financing options with the lender, but in the end we were able to secure a good rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage. We’re happy. And relieved. (If you’re in the greater Chicagoland area and looking for a mortgage, or to refinance, contact me if you want the name of the woman that helped us. She was fantastic.)

Assuming everything is still on schedule, we’ll close on the house next Wednesday. Looks like my presumptuous “Our Victorian House” category title will hold up!

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