Category Archives: construction

Great Renovation Tips to Help Tackle Flipping Projects

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Blue living room interior with a gray sofa during renovation process. Unfinished floor, boxes and a ladder in the corner. 3d rendering mock up

Flipped homes represented 5.6% of home and condo sales in 2018 with 207,957 houses fitting into that category. The average gross profit of flipped home sales was $65,000.

But not all house flippers come out ahead when they sell. Going over budget, taking on too making projects, or overestimating your experience and skills can cut into your profits.

Making smart renovation choices increases your chances of making high profits on your project. Renovation tips to keep the project on time and on budget help guide your decisions.

Keep reading to learn ways to renovate your flipped house to improve your results.

Know When to DIY and When to Contract

The DIY route seems like the cheapest way to renovate when house flipping, but it can cost you more in the long run. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re more likely to make a mistake.

That mistake may force you to buy new materials or eventually hire a professional to do the work anyway. Your mistake could also cause damage to other parts of the home that force more repairs and renovations.

Taking on jobs outside your expertise also takes longer to complete. It can delay other projects and extend the timeline of the flip. That extended timeline costs you money because it means a delayed sale.

Hiring professional contractors for specialized renovations costs you more in labor. That extra money may be well spent by keeping the project on time. You also get the work done correctly the first time.

When planning your project, be realistic about your abilities. Identify the jobs you can handle yourself and the ones you need to hire contractors to complete. Start looking for contractors immediately to ensure you find someone who’s qualified and available when you need the work done.

Ensure Structural Stability First

Interior finishes and cosmetic work make the house come together. Those are the things potential buyers notice and can make or break the flip. But it’s a smarter decision to make sure the house is sound first.

Starting with the structural integrity prevents additional problems and protects the work you do inside the home. If you start refinishing and painting walls to find out you have leaking issues, you’ll have to redo that work.

A professional home inspection helps you identify those structural issues. Ensure they’re fixed properly before you move inside to work.

Keep the Buyer in Mind

Home renovations for a house flip are different than your personal renovations because the finished product isn’t for you. It doesn’t matter what your tastes are if they don’t match up to the people who’ll likely buy your flipped home.

Consider the location, price range, size, and style of the home to anticipate the type of buyer. A small starter home in an older neighborhood isn’t going to attract the same type of buyer as a larger home in a more affluent part of town.

Buyers of a lower-priced home won’t likely expect or want to pay for high-end finishes. Buyers in a more upscale neighborhood expect those better finishes. Make design decisions based on who might buy it.

Create a File of Specs

Organization is essential to keep your flipping project on time and budget. When you’re remodeling the entire home, you’ll have lots of finishes, materials, dimensions, and other specs to track.

Create a central spreadsheet or file to contain that information. This becomes a quick reference when you need those details. It comes in handy if you need to reorder materials or make sure you’re using the correct materials in each space.

Be Specific in Your Plan

Before you start any work, decide on the scope of the renovations. Write down a specific plan for everything you want to change.

If you hire contractors to help with the work, make sure they know exactly what you want to be done and how you want it done. This is especially important for detail work, such as tiling.

If you hire someone to help with demo, make it clear which items you want to be removed and which you want to keep. Maybe an older home has old wood floors or tin ceiling tiles you want to keep and refinish. Communicate those plans to the demo crew so they don’t destroy them.

Focus on Kitchens and Bathrooms

Kitchens and baths get a lot of attention from potential buyers. A home that has the buyer’s preferred style of kitchen is extremely or very important to 58% of buyers.

Outdated kitchens and bathroom stand out when people view homes. Buyers know it’s not cheap to renovate a kitchen or bathroom. Having the work done for them makes the home more appealing because they won’t have to shell out more money after making a major home purchase just to make the kitchen or bathroom decent.

Avoid Too Much Improvement

Making a good first impression attracts buyers, but going too high-end can hurt your profits. The cost of those materials cuts into your flipping budget. You won’t likely recoup those costs in the sale price.

Choose a few high-end pieces can make the overall home look more upscale. Pick cost-effective pieces for this strategy. A stainless steel wall-mounted hood vent is relatively inexpensive, but it creates a high-end feel in the kitchen that makes it stand out.

Choose Lasting Materials

Even though you don’t want to over-improve your flipped home, you want to use materials that last. Buyers will notice cheap, low-quality materials. It may look okay for the open house, but potential buyers may pass on the home if they feel the finishes won’t last.

Learning about different materials and choosing the ones that work best for you helps you make those buying decisions. Learning about teflon polymer and its use in paints, bolt coatings, and other uses may influence your decision on material purchases, for example.

Follow These Renovation Tips

What are your favorite renovation tips for flipping a house? The goal is to make the house appealing to buyers while keeping your costs low for a quick sale and maximum profit.

Check out our past issues for more construction advice and information.


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An initial report on the Common Fund Data Ecosystem

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For the past 6 months or so, I’ve been working with a team of people on a project called the Common Fund Data Ecosystem. This is a targeted effort within the NIH Common Fund (CF) to improve the Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reusability – a.k.a. “FAIRness” – of the data sets hosted by their Data Coordinating Centers.

(You can see Dr. Vivien Bonazzi’s presentation if you’re interested in more details on the background motivation of this project.)

I’m thrilled to announce that our first report is now available! This is the product of a tremendous data gathering effort (by many people), four interviews, and an ensuing distillation and writing effort with Owen White and Amanda Charbonneau. To quote,

This assessment was generated from a combination of systematic review of online materials, in-person site visits to the Genotype Tissue Expression (GTEx) DCC and Kids First, and online interviews with Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) and Human Microbiome Project (HMP) DCCs. Comprehensive reports of the site visits and online interviews are available in the appendices. We summarize the results within the body of the report.

The executive summary is just under four pages, and the full report is about 30 – the bulk of the report document (another 100 pages or so) consists of appendices to the main report.

I wanted to highlight a few things about the report in particular.

1. Putting your data in the cloud …is just the start.

This may be obvious to those of us in the weeds, but supporting long-term availability of data through the use of cloud hosting is only one of many steps. Indexing of (meta)data, auth and access, and a host of other issues are all important to spur actual data reuse.

2. Just, like, talking with people is, y’know, really useful!

We did a lot of interviewing and found out some surprising things! In partial reaction to our experience with the Data Commons, we are taking a much lower key and more ethnographic approach to understanding the opportunities and challenges that actually exist on the ground. A lot of the good stuff in the report emerged from these interviews.

3. Interoperability is contingent on the data sets (and processing pipelines) you’re talking about.

The I in FAIR stands for “Interoperability”, and (at least in the context of the CFDE) this is probably the trickiest to measure and evaluate. Why?

Suppose, not-so-hypothetically, that you want to take some data from the GTEx human tissue RNAseq collection, and compare the expression of genes in that data with some data from the Kids First datasets.

At some basic level, you might think “RNAseq is RNAseq, surely you just grab both data sets and go for it”, right?

Not so fast!

First, you need to make sure that the raw data is comparable – not all RNAseq can be compared, at least not without removing technical biases. (And I’m honestly not sure what the state of the art is around comparing different protocols, e.g. strand-specific RNAseq to generic RNAseq.)

Second, the processing pipeline used to analyze the
RNAseq data needs to be the same. Practically speaking
this means that you may need to reanalyze all of the raw data.

Third, you need to deal with batch effects. I’m again not actually sure how you do this on data from a variety of different studies.

Fourth, and more fundamental, you need to connect your sample metadata across the various studies so that you are comparing apples to apples. (Spoiler alert: this turns out to be really hard, and seems to be the main conceptual barrier to actual widespread reuse of data across multiple studies.)

There are some techniques and perspectives being developed by various Common Fund DCCs that may help with this, and I hope to talk about them in a future blog post. But it’s just hard.

4. Computational training is second on everybody’s list.

This is something that I first saw when a group of us were talking with a bunch of NSF Science and Technology Centers (STCs): when asked what their challenges were, everyone said “in addition to our primary mission, computational training is really critical.” (This broad realization by the STCs led to two funded NSF supplements that are part of Data Carpentry’s back story!)

We saw the same thing here – a surprising result of our interviews was the extent to which the Common Fund Data Coordinating Centers felt that computational training could help foster data use and reuse. I say “surprising” not in the sense that it surprised me that training could be important – I’ve been banging that drum for well over a decade! – but that it was so high on everybody’s list. We only had to mention it – “so, what role do you see for training?” – to have people at the DCCs jump on it enthusiastically!

There are many challenges with building training programs with the CF DCCs, but it seems likely that training will be a focus of the CFDE moving forward.

What’s next?

This is only an interim report, and we’ve only interviewed four DCCs – we have another five to go. Expect to hear more!


Brown, C. T., Charbonneau, A., & White, O.. (2019, August 13). 2019-July_CFDE_AssessmentReport.pdf (Version 1). figshare. doi: 10.6084/m9.figshare.9588374.v1

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7 Essential Tools for Your Metalworking Projects

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Whether you’re a professional or a budding hobbyist, metalworking projects need some specialized tools to make your plans a reality.

For those just starting out, however, there’s a bewildering array of tools available.
That makes it hard to figure out what you need from the outset.

If you’re trying to find the essentials, then you’ll want to pay attention. We’ve put together a list of seven essential tools to make your metallic dreams a hard reality.

1. Hammers
Hammers are one of the quintessential metalworking tools, but the carpenter’s hammer you use to tap in nails twice a year isn’t going to cut it.

There are a surprising number of hammers out there for metalworking, each with their own use. They range from lightweight finishing hammers for precious metals to heavy sledges designed to beat stubborn stainless steel into place.

A heavy club hammer is a good place to start for those who plan on working with steel, while those working with softer metals may find themselves looking for something like a ball-peen hammer.

Regardless of your intentions, if you’re planning on working with metal, you’ll need the right hammer.

2. Anvil
Anvils aren’t just for the blacksmiths of old; they’re an essential part of any metalworker’s toolkits.

Anvils provide a smooth, hard surface to allow for hammering heated steel. The horns can be used for further forming and curving.

They’re heavy, often expensive, and an essential part of the metalworker’s toolkit. In the past, they were the primary tool used for forging and shaping metal, although modern tools have largely replaced them.

It’s still essential to have a nice flat space to handwork metal, and there’s nothing better for that than the good old-fashioned anvil.

3. Bandsaw
Intricate cuts are made with a bandsaw. There’s really no other tool like them, and there are different variations for every material — from wood to metal to stone.

A bandsaw runs a blade which is… well, a band. Intricate cuts can be made easily due to the thin nature of the blade. If you’re looking for smooth, rounded curves or detailed cutouts, bandsaws will quickly become your best friend.

They can also be used for chopping down smaller stock, although you’ll want to be careful of which blade type you use. It’s all in the teeth, so make sure you’re using the right blade for the stock you’re working.

These are often expensive tools. Some people prefer to pick up a high-end bandsaw from an auction, rather than go with a cheapy. If that sounds right up your alley, you can learn more about equipment auctioning and get on your way to a cheaper saw.

4. Hacksaw
Hacksaws are a hand saw, but with the right blade, they can make short work of tubing, sheet stock, and even smaller solid rods of material.

Hacksaws are simple to use, don’t require power, and as long as you have the metal in a solid hold, they make for easier cuts than most suspect.

Unlike chop saws and other larger power tools, they’re also quiet and relatively safe to use as long as you don’t try gripping the teeth and pulling.

Those who have time invested in their skills might find themselves using power tools more often, but a hacksaw remains an essential part of every would-be metalworker’s toolbox.

5. Flux Core Welder
Really, any welder will do, but flux core welding is the simplest for those who haven’t welded before. They operate in essentially the same fashion as a MIG welder but don’t require you to use an inert gas for shielding.

Flux core welding is remarkably forgiving due to the lack of extra gasses. You’ll still need to spend a lot of time learning how to manage your welds. But, in the end, flux core welders are suited to be used pretty much anywhere and are more newbie-friendly since you don’t have to work with the shielding gas.

The core of the electrode’s flux is enough to shield the metal and prevent oxidation during the whole process in almost all cases.

With the right technique, they can be used to weld most metals.

This is undoubtedly the most advanced tool on our list, but without some kind of welder, you’ll find yourself quite limited in the workshop.

6. Drill Press
Drilling holes should be a simple process, but when it comes to metal, nothing is simple.
You can use the right bits in the old drill sitting in your garage to drill through metal in most cases. But you won’t turn back once you’ve used a drill press for the first time.

Drill presses hold the bit entirely stationary, making clean holes through any flat surface. All you need to do is twist the wheel or levers and bring the bit into contact with the metal.
No messing with off-balance drills or the slight variance that occurs with the human wrist, just a solid connection that’ll drive the bit straight through any surface it will cut.

7. Die Grinder
Die grinders are essentially a more powerful, scaled-up rotary tool. Think “Dremel on steroids.”

They’re also something that you need to have around if you’re planning to do any kind of welding. Die grinders are primarily used to clean up welds after they’ve been made, leaving a smooth and even surface.

With the right attachments, they can also be used to polish, hone, and even machine.
Essentially anything you can’t manage with the other tools on this list will be accomplished easily with a die grinder.

Make Your Metalworking Projects a Reality
When it comes to metalworking projects, you’re always going to “need” more tools. That’s why it’s important to sort out the essentials as you get into the hobby.

The above list is enough to get any amateur on the way to a great finished project. With all seven in your shop, you’ll find metalworking much easier than you ever thought.

It still takes time to build the skills up, however. Why not browse around and see what you’ll need in a workbench while you’re waiting for your tools to arrive?

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Vintage Camper

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Remember this project?  Yeah, I’m not sure it really deserves the name “project”, hmmm…maybe it’s more of a remodel. I can’t believe the amount of time and energy we put into this camper.
After months of working on it, we still haven’t even started on the exterior!!  Think Teal on the bottom and white on the top. I’d love to just get it done, but I guess it’s smart to do it right.  We’ve still got to seal all the windows and potential openings before we can even think about paint.
Thankfully, we’ve finished the inside!!!  Don’t worry, we’ve been using it to camp in through each stage of progress, but now it’s finally complete. 

is this the world’s ugliest kitchen?

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The missing door: poor bugga nearly made it. Was hanging on by one tiny nail. But Steve kept forgetting its state and it fell on his foot one time too many and spent its last few days beside the fridge.

It might well have been. But unfortunately it can’t claim this distinguished title because it NO LONGER EXISTS!!!! It’s sitting all partly smashed up on my front sandpit (what pathetic grass we had has been fried in the heat). And it’s never looked better. Even Z is glad to be rid of the “kitchen mess” as he calls it. Gee, do you wonder why I never posted pics of this room? I’m completely embarassed to show this, but seeing that it’s all in the past, let’s have a laugh, shall we? Yes, I’ve put up with this for five years. My medal better be in the mail…

A few incredibly exciting facts:

* I painted the doors white when we moved in because I couldn’t imagine living with green doors for any amount of time. I did such a crap job, I was wishing for the green to come back.

* The previous owner’s son thought himself a handyman. He wasn’t. He installed the taps himself did such a bang-up job they didn’t work properly. They were replaced numerous times and ground back and had lots of work but no makeover could save the cold one which exploded one day. I’m so used to using warm/hot water for everything I rarely turn the cold water tap on in the bathroom. He also cut a hole too big for the tap nozzle and didn’t bother doing anything about it. My non-handyman husband figured expanding filler would do the trick temporarily. It sealed the hole, but, well, look at it! Ugh.

* The tiles are on big sheets of some asbestos-ridden material and weren’t the same depth as the rest of the wall, so there was a weird uneven gap no one ever bothered fixing. I don’t remember how the piece of wood make its way there but there it is!

Hmm, what’s sadder? The contact-covered sheets? The mssing door? The paper towel stuffing the hole where the cold water tap used to be? The lovely aged yellow stains or the fish plug that for some INSANE reason I never replaced??????

One of the delightful tile prints I could admire while cooking. They clearly shopped at the Ugly Tile Shop – same place they got the sunflower tiles that were in my old bathroom!

And another one – I guess they just couldn’t decide between the two beauties and chose both…

On a happier note, I did wonder if I was utilising the space enough with the new design. Would I fit everything in? Considering I was ruthless and thew out half the contents of the kitchen cupboards as well, I have a feeling I’ll be just fine. Aside from another bag out of sight, this is all I have! I sense a shopping spree coming on!

I started building the cupboards so I had something to store it in. Four packages down, 48 to go…

So I was feeling the pressure with all your “can’t wait to see the new kitchen” comments. But I guess, looking at this, anything is going to be a huge improvement isn’t it?

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What I wore: Family Pictures

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Life is delicate, No? We work so hard and worry so much about making it the way we want. Yet, We have such little control over it. In a single instant our entire world can change. A child gets sick or a spouse is taken before we can prepare. People save their entire lives just to lose everything they’ve worked for.  Women that would make incredible Mothers struggle to become them.  The worst part is that not one of us is invincible and it’s only a matter of time before we are faced with our own trials. 
 My way of coping with these thoughts is through memories.   Making them, I mean. And taking way more pictures than my family appreciates.  I never want to regret not having documented each and every stage of life. Not because I want to live in the past, but because when things get rough, we need something to remind us what makes it all worth it.
And so you see why I love having family pictures taken. Especially by someone as talented as Jennifer Fauset.  She was a gem to work with, and the photos are exactly what I was looking for. Seriously, I could spend hours on her blog looking at all her beautiful work.

What We Wore:
Top and Scarf: J. Crew
Skirt: Target
Belt: Downeast Outfitters
Shoes: Steve Madden
Jewelry: Express
Undershirt: Target
Button down: J. Crew
Sweater: Gap
Pants: Express
Shoes: Aldo
Shirt: Crew Cuts
Cardigan, Jeans and Shoes: Gap Kids
Shirt and Necklace: Crew Cuts
Cardigan: Baby Gap
Jeans: Joe Jeans
Boots: Target
Hairbow: Made by me 

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can you just imagine this coming towards you…

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How frightening.

I’d feel way too guilty whinging about living without a kitchen and blogging about the reno when so many people have lost their lives, homes and livelihood in the disastrous fires so I’m going to give it a miss today. On Friday afternoon there was a fire somewhere in our area – it would have been miles away, but the smoke and smell was quite intense and I found it hard to breathe at times. I thought to myself “here we go…” and sent out a silent sympathetic thought to the firies who we’re in for a big weekend and made bets with my husband how long it’d be before the freeway was closed and the trains stopped running. Pretty much every year the central coast gets blocked off for a while due to fires. This is an incredible pain in the rear for anyone who needs to travel to Sydney or is stuck in Sydney trying to get home. It can be hours – at times days – before you’re given the all clear. After this horiffic weekend in Victoria, we of course, have no right to complain. In fact, I’m sure every one of us up here would have happily been inconvenienced for a while if it meant Victoria had no fires, no deaths, no devastating tragedy. I cannot imagine the emotions being felt down there…

My husband suggested if the latest federal Stimulus Package is passed, they should immediately halve the amounts they’d planned to hand out and give the other half to the fire victims and to rebuilding the demolished communities. He also said part of it should go to upgrading our firefighting equipment, procedures and training. Because as temperatures rise year to year, our country is only going to burn faster, further and with more fury.

And for those insert-angry-adjective-here animals lighting these fires, I only hope they’re found and punished accordingly. I might not be the world’s biggest advocate of capital punishment, but in this case, I think being burnt at the stake highly appropriate…

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News from the NIH Data Commons Pilot Phase Consortium

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You may recall that about a year and a half ago, I got involved in the NIH Data Commons.

Between then and now, we built a project execution plan, ran Phase 1 for six months, and then in October took a planned work moratorium for the purpose of doing future planning.

Then, in February, we received word that the the NIH Data Commons Pilot Phase Consortium (DCPPC) would not continue in its current form. Here’s what we received:

The NIH Office of Data Science Strategy has been asked to lead the next phase of trans-NIH data ecosystem development as described in the NIH Strategic Plan for Data Science. The deliverables from the DCPPC will inform next steps, but we will not pursue a second phase of the DCPPC. New initiatives may emerge from the ODSS and/or from the ICs in response to the Strategic Plan, but they will communicate their plans as they are established.

My award finished at the end of March, and I thought it would be a good time to update y’all (especially since I’ve been receiving questions!)

What did the NIH Data Commons Pilot Phase Consortium achieve?

I think we achieved quite a lot in our fairly short stint! (And there’s a fair amount of public material that was made available as part of it, although it’s not well advertised.)

I’m going to focus on things my team helped with, because that’s what I know best. There were lots of technical prototypes as well, but those were produced by other teams and are not mine to discuss. (See the list of deliverables and their reviews for more info. Happy to connect you to the authors if you’re interested – drop me a line at [email protected].)

First off, here is the top link to the public site that we created for the end of the first Pilot Phase. There are links and documents in there that I continue to find useful, and expect to find useful for many years to come.

I’m particularly happy with how the Use Case Library effort was proceeding. I think we set a good path for collaboratively developing use cases for Phase 2, and even without a Phase 2 I will be making use of this approach and this material for other projects.

The Centillion search engine that my team built was pretty cool!! See the October writeup of it, here and also the public GitHub page, here.

The “On Commonsing” document we wrote up after a workshop on “Data Commonses” is something that I will be coming back to regularly!

People interested in pragmatic standards development might be interested in Why Multiple Stacks are Necessary.

I continue to think the FAIRshake portal is unreasonably cool… check out the projects.

Personally, I learned a lot about interoperability and creating and growing community from this experience, and I think the same is true of most of the other participants. Completely apart from the technical and infrastructure efforts, the coordination and community aspects of this Pilot Phase seem likely to have long-term positive impacts on how many of us deal with these kinds of projects in the future.

So what’s next?

I’m not sure!

I think it’s fair to say that the problems the NIH Data Commons effort was tackling are not going away (you can see more about these problems in my talk slides from my 2018 talk at the Dutch Techcentre for Life Sciences). And the NIH and broader biomedical research community will certainly be working on many things in this area. And I may not be involved but I’m sure to have opinions. So, stay tuned!


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i Heart Radio

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Feeling quite happy about being home with these two munchkins after a spontaneous trip to Vegas with Steve to see the i heart radio music festival.  Grandpa stayed over and we made the 6 hour journey on the hope of scoring tickets from someone down there, which was rather crazy considering this concert sold out in under 10 minutes. We did find someone to buy tickets from, but sadly he never showed. Thankfully, having a super chatty husband pays off and some of the clear channel peeps we met down there hooked us up with FREE TICKETS!!  The lineup was insane. No doubt, Taylor Swift, Usher, Rhianna, Aerosmith, Pink, Green Day, Pitbull, Miranda Lambert, Deadmau5, Bon Jovi, Enrique Iglesias, Swedish House Mafia, Lincoln Park, Jason Aldean, Brad Paisley, Lil Wayne, Mary J. Blige (with a special appearance by Prince) and Calvin Harris. The best part was the little to no downtime between acts. However, I did feel old when we didn’t even use our after party credentials because we were too tired. 

1. Had time for a quick haircut by the fabulous Shep before we left.
2. The set up at the concert, the huge screens were pretty deluxe. 
3. The gardens at the Bellagio. That pumpkin is real and yes I’m wearing pants 😉
4.  i Heart Radio LED bracelets that lit up to the music.
5. Scoring free tickets.
6. My most favorite celebrity ever, Gwen Stefani.
7. Pink. Ugh, love her. 
8. After party credentials 
9. Us
As glamorous as it all was, I must admit, I was missing Alfie and Juju something fierce by the end of the 2nd night.
 So while my real life looks more like this ^  and can feel a tad bonkers at times. It’s nice to be reminded that no celebrity, or credential or lifestyle is quite as rewarding as a family.  Glad to be home.