Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wall Arranging via Computer

Yet again, Paint Shop Pro has come in handy for home decorating. I had a collection of framed images I wanted to put on this wall in the Dreaming Room, but I wasn't sure how to put them all together in an aesthetically pleasing way. So I laid them all out against the wall and took a picture:
Then I cut out each image as a different layer, and moved them around the blank wall in different arrangements. I tried about five different ones, but this one was my favorite, and Tom agreed:
Then it was only a matter of using the image as a reference, and hanging all the pictures in reality!
At the far left in this picture, you can see the gothic arch shelf we bought recently at my favorite local antique and craft mall. The smallest oval shaped frames have antique images of the exquisitely beautiful early silent film actress, Maude Fealy. In my opinion she's one of the most beautiful women to ever live. The bottom right image was from a recent photoshoot, and the photographer, Silent Shudder, gave me a beautiful 8x10 of the image. And I'm absolutely elated to have found room finally now for The Lady of Shalott. It just didn't quite seem like home without her on the wall, and she'd been leaning against this wall since we moved in.

I still hope to paint this room green eventually, but I just couldn't wait to get more art on the walls.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Thankful Month Days ...and a Plea for Help

Well, that somewhat puttered out, didn't it? I've still been taking time each day to think of something I'm thankful for, but it has usually been a few moments right before sleep at night. For instance, on the fifteenth I was thankful for art and creativity in my life, and on the sixteenth I was thankful for a good warm bed, since it was absolutely freezing last night.

But blogging about it seems to have slowed, as these things sometimes do. I will confess there is a reason...I've been obsessively preparing for the upcoming holiday season. The holidays for me always mean not only baking cookies and decorating, but also making numerous (in the double numerals usually) homemade gifts for family. The preparation for this part has to start at least in mid-November, and gets me in the holiday spirit (yes...gasp...before Thanksgiving).

This year I've also been distracted by trying to plan out the decorating ideas for the new house. We have literally twice as much space here to play with as we had in our apartment, and I'm hoping we can find or make enough inexpensive festive things to fill all the space. One area that still is a riddle to me is our front porch.

Right now, it is decorated festively for autumn...

...but I know once I have to take down the pumpkins, the wicker plant stand, the mums, and the overblown but dying plant on the stand, (basically everything green on the main stoop) the front porch will look alarmingly bare, as it did in this listing photo from last year before we bought the place:

I have the leaf garland around the door secured with hooks I plan to use for faux evergreen garland, and I have a wreath for the front door, but the problem is that everything large-scale, like a set of faux Christmas trees, or a pair of topiary plants in urns, that might make a holiday impact on this porch also would cost us an arm and a leg we don't have to spare right now.

So please, internets, help me...what can I put on my front porch that will be impactful and festive for the holidays, but won't break the bank??

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Thankful Month Days Thirteen and Fourteen

So, somehow the weekend was chaotic, and when I sat down to post two thankful posts last night, I quite literally passed out on my laptop computer. So let's try to play a little catch up, shall we? Today's thankfulness post actually works for two days, because I am expressing thankfulness for two mom and dad.

Saturday, I attended a big "epic" photo shoot down in Jackson, Ohio, and while we were driving down there, my friends Chris and Ellie were playing their iPod on random songs. They are enthusiasts of bluegrass music, and all of us were enjoying the tunes. The topic came up of how thankful I was for some of my parents' cool hobbies and enthusiasms. Growing up, they might not have seemed so cool to me, but as an adult they have stuck by me, and I appreciate them all the more.

My dad raised me on bluegrass and folk music. He also had a side job as a magician/balloon artist/juggler/clown. Growing up was occasionally a bit of a three ring circus, and at the time it seemed like family scenes like this at Christmas:

..were entirely normal. Didn't everyone's dad sit around and play the guitar in greasepaint?

Of course now I have a special fondness both for bluegrass and folk music, and for the carnivalesque atmosphere of magic and clowning.
(No, this is not my dad in the picture. Yes, you can find just about anything on Google images, including a banjo-playing clown)

Thanks, dad. You're pretty cool.

My mom, likewise, also loved folk music and encouraged dad's creative pursuits. But I appreciate that she always loved fantasy and imagination. When asked what her favorite book was, her answer was always the same: Lord of the Rings. And this was long before the films made the books popular or even known at all. She often would receive blank stares from people who had no idea what she was talking about, but she knew what she loved.

Every Saturday night from the earliest age I can remember, our family had pizza and Star Trek night. I actually remember the tradition from before The Next Generation premiered in 1987, when we would watch the original series. We moved in to TNG, then to DS9, then the habit changed to pizza and Babylon 5. But there was always pizza and Sci Fi. My husband and I recently started rewatching TNG, and just hearing the sound effects of the show gives me a Pavlovian desire for my mom's handmade pepperoni and cheese.

Thanks, mom. You're pretty cool.

So I wound up being a sci fi and fantasy geek who loves magic shows and banjo music. I think all has ended as it should be.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Thankful Month Day Twelve

Today I am thankful for little surprises from friends. My dear friend Kirsty, in England, surprised me with a little care package of various drool-worthy items from recent Pre-Raphaelite exhibitions she has attended. I love it that she does this, because it makes this poor American feel like she has actually attended the exhibitions, on some level.

Also, I almost bought a print at an antique store today of the above artwork, "Hope" by Watts. I came home and one of the items was a postcard of the image.


Friday, November 11, 2011

A Thankful Month Day Eleven

Today I'm thankful for the new finds around the house.

Okay, this is mostly just an excuse to show you some of the newest finds around the house.

Our non-Halloween Autumnal mantel.

Featuring a set of three apothecary jars I picked up at my favorite spot. (nuts, moss, and pine cones inside)

Another hurricane glass mom picked up at a garage sale, filled with more pine cones.

A pared down version of our vase flowers (I like this better now) with an Irish language house blessing.

The newest acquisition for the house: a very heavy solid oak side table for the couch. Note the lovely cut scrollwork on the ends.

Atop it is a solid and also heavy wrought iron candelabra picked up at a positively wonderful antique and salvage barn sale I attended last Saturday with my mom and my friend Sarah. It was the sort of event where items were artistically displayed, and the prices were clearly set by someone who knew how to make a profit, but I still think I bought this candelabra for a pretty good deal. I stood there for a while debating between this or a gorgeous old hand colored portrait in a huge decrepit frame.

The indoor plants are starting to take over. We keep getting more of them! I am trying to cut myself off...

Now that Halloween is over, the artwork in the four frames above the television are filled with prints of Mucha's Four Seasons. A nice default filler for when there is no specific holiday to display.

A Thankful Month Day Ten

Today I am thankful for the song "In My Mind" by Amanda Palmer, shared with me this morning by Ellie. The lyrics are amazing and inspiring.

And in my mind
When I'm old I am beautiful,
Planting tulips and vegetables
Which I will mindfully watch over

Not like me now
I'm so busy with everything
That I don't look at anything

But I'm sure I'll look when I am older

And it's funny how I imagined
That I could be that person now
That that's not what I want
But that's what I wanted
That I'd be giving up somehow
How strange to see
That I don't want to be the person that I want to be.

And in my mind
I imagine so many things
Things that aren't really happening
And when they put me in the ground

I'll start pounding the lid,
Saying, "I haven't finished yet,
I still have a tattoo to get,
It says, 'I'm living in the moment'".

And it's funny how I imagined
That I could win this win-less fight
Maybe it isn't all that funny
That I've been fighting all my life
But maybe I have to think it's funny
If I want to live before I die
And maybe it's funniest of all
To think I'll die before I actually

That I am exactly the person that I want to be.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Thankful Month Day Nine

As I was getting ready for work this morning, I looked out at our beloved Hawthorn in the back yard and said "oh my, two male Cardinals in the tree!" I ran to get my camera, sure they'd be gone by the time I could get some window pictures, and by the time I got back, there were five male red cardinals in the tree!

I am thankful for our gorgeous Hawthorn, and the resting area it provides for birds.

A Thankful Month Day Eight

I am thankful to have such fun and friendly neighbors.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Thankful Month Day Seven

Today (well, yesterday technically...I was so tired last night) I am thankful to work in a library, where I get to surround myself with the books I've loved since I was a little girl, talk to people about good authors, and get paid for it. **

**Mind you, there's more to the job than that, but still...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Thankful Month Day Six

Today I am thankful for moss, autumn leaves, and running water. I spent the gloriously beautiful sunny afternoon at Dawes Arboretum with Ellie Lane and Kelly Murphy, being mythic and artistic, and enjoying the gorgeous utter autumn-ness of the environment...hillsides of moss, rock paths through a pond scattered with autumn leaves, and an island glowing with Avalon-esque sun. Days to remember.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Thankful Month, Day Five

TodayI am thankful for impromptu visits to my Grandma. She is truly an amazing woman, and I cherish every moment I get to spend with her.

My favorite picture of us:
A recent picture of me, Grandma, and my sister Karen:
I love my Grandma's sense of humor. Here's me trying to get a picture sitting on her lap:

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Thankful Month, Day Four

Today I am thankful for the beauty of the past. I feel blessed to live in a time period where there are such wonderful modern technologies and luxuries. Simultaneously, however, I have thousands of years of human history and the beauty contained therein that I can celebrate and enjoy through creative, costume, decorating, theme-parties, and so on. I feel so thankful to be able to go into an antique shop or flea market and find beautiful pieces of furniture, clothing, and ephemera, and to know that these pieces were made with quality and have a patina of history on them. I am rarely tempted by furniture or decor from modern sources. Even if they try to make them look like historic pieces, they just don't have that same history. I'd rather take a cabinet with a few crooked shelves and water marks from being used over a modern piece that is immaculate but was made in a factory.

On any given day, I can wake up and decide to dress like a vampiric drama queen, a bohemian gypsy, a medieval princess, or a flapper girl, and as long as I keep it within a certain level of non-costumeyness, it is perfectly acceptable in our society. I love living in a time with such freedom to be creative and express what one loves. For me, one of those things I love to express is my love for the past.

My favorite eras are medieval, Victorian, Victorian Medieval (meaning...the romanticized view they had of the earlier period), and the 20th century from 1900 up to 1950, especially Art Nouveau and WWII era style. What are yours?

(Photographer credits clockwise from upper left: Tuttle Images, Tuttle Images, Lotus Moon, Fan the Flame)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Thankful Month, Day Three

On November 1st, a friend on Facebook declared that she would be posting a new thing she was thankful for every day from then till Thanksgiving. I have done this in the past a few times, and when I read what she wrote, I realized that this daily ritual would be especially important for me to do this year. You see...the last three or four months have been very difficult for me. I had some excruciating physical ailments (that have not yet been officially diagnosed) and a debilitating round of strep throat. Then my beloved Uncle passed away last week. The year has been a roller coaster, and right now I am struggling against the downward swoop of the track. It is a time to remember what I have to be thankful for.

For a long time, I struggled with my feelings about the holiday of Thanksgiving in general. It was difficult for me to celebrate a moment when the Native Americans gave so generously to complete strangers who looked different, talked different, and behaved different...and then only had their generosity eventually betrayed in the worst possible way. Then there was the commercial prevalence toward skipping most of the Thanksgiving festivities and going straight for the big kill: Christmas. Friends would vent angrily over any signs of Christmas decoration or music occurring before Thanksgiving, but I had mixed feelings. The Christmas holidays always take a lot of preparation for me, and I always have to begin at least buying presents before Thanksgiving. Surely there had to be a way to enjoy the preparation for both holidays simultaneously.

Finally a couple of years ago I had a Thanksgiving epiphany. I eliminated the story of the Pilgrims and Indians in my mind, choosing to instead focus on the truest meaning of the holiday. I now consider it the grand and beautiful gateway holiday to the Christmas season, when we can gather around a table before things get too chaotic, and take a moment to truly focus on what we have to be thankful for.

Well of course Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. This news was nothing new. But all of a sudden, I *got* it. I finally truly understood why this holiday of thankfulness was important for my own life, and how it fit in with my seasonal celebrations.

So this year, as I said, I need the warm positivity of this spirit of thankfulness more than ever.

To catch you up on the month, on Tuesday I declared how thankful I was to have had my Uncle David in my life for 31 years. Wednesday I was thankful to have re-found two of my oldest friends for whom I had searched for years...Bethany and Jamie...on Facebook. Today's thankful moment is a bit more elaborate and takes some time to explain.

A book came in at the library for me today...Martha's Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations (with Martha Stewart). It was a thick coffee table tome capable of doing serious damage. As I flipped through the pages of the book, I was awed by the gorgeous and elaborate experiences she had set up for her guests as she entertained. A Halloween party featured gorgeous table settings, a centerpiece with an enormous tree branch surrounded by Spanish Moss and pumpkins, and real owls flying around, borrowed from a friend. I started to feel the pang of inferiority I get sometimes when I see these breathtaking home interior and party set-ups. It is fickle and transient, I know, but I think "oh I wish I could put on a party like that. How does she DO it??"

Then, all of a sudden, a quote I heard from one of the first episodes of a reality show popped into my head. The show was The Fabulous Beekman Boys, and though I quit watching it after a few episodes, there was a moment that really stuck with me. The show was about a couple from New York, city slickers, who bought a farm and started a business that romanticized country life...selling upscale homemade products and the company name.

In the episode in question, the "boys" were planning an elaborate party to introduce their brand, and everything had to be just-so. (One memorable scene showed one of the guys, Brent, asking the local farmer in their employ if he could possibly make the hardworking barn full of farm animals smell more appealing, and please wash the barn windows) In fact, Brent used to work for Martha Stewart Omnimedia, and I could tell that his goal was to throw one of their pristinely beautiful style fetes. When the party began, his partner wanted to relax at the party with a drink and a friend. When Brent insisted his partner be professional and keep a stiff upper lip, the partner vented to the camera:

"I'm used to going to parties where people can relax and enjoy themselves." He went on to say...“Brent comes from a world of Martha Stewart parties, where everything looks perfect but nobody’s having a good time.”

I was really struck by this quote. It made me realize that the veneer of luxurious beauty presented by Martha Stewart and some of the blogs I love to read online may not necessarily tell the whole truth. Now. Do I love to look at gorgeous pictures of home interiors arranged artfully and just-so? Of course. Do I love to try to express myself in the same way? Definitely. Am I inspired and impressed by images from parties and events where the hosts have outdone themselves with establishing a theme that comes through in every aspect of every inch of the event? Definitely. But this quote from a Fabulous Beekman Boy just slapped me across the face with a reminder that there is another old expression that may perhaps also hold true: "Style over substance."

With all that preamble in mind, I am ready to say what I am thankful for today. I am thankful I have a substantial life. I am thankful that the parties I both throw and attend with friends are ones where we can kick our feet up and put on Tardis hats. Do I still want to throw a Midsummer Day tea party in our backyard, complete with glowing lanterns, garden flowers, and faerie wings? Well, yes. But if that party also includes paper plates for the hors d'oeuvres and a bit of a sunburn, hopefully I can remember the Beekman Boy's quote, and be thankful that I can both try to surround myself with beautiful things and also celebrate the imperfections of life.