Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Going for Glitter

My dear friends Whitney & John gave us these vintage planters as a housewarming gift. They are totally age-appropriate to the house and have flanked our front door since we received them. Each season, I struggle to keep anything alive in them. Not because of the planters, but because I kill anything green. Fast forward to Michael's as I shopped for some ideas to decorate the front entrance for Christmas. The glittered and gilded faux flowers and garlands were so tacky they were border line cool. I decided to try and put my spin on them & mix them with some real pine clippings from the yard. Petra was on board as soon as she saw the sparkles through the shopping bag:

I figured we would do the window boxes in one shot.
I found green foam the exact diameter as the pots- so no cutting necessary.
I just started shoving the clippings in working from the center out. 

A little bit of foam showed along the ridge, so Petra and I pinned
extra moss I had left over from the terrarium project. 

To add some color to the window boxes, I had these glass balls that I no longer hang on the tree.
Originally, I wanted to hot glue them to wooden skewers,
but when I realized we had used them all this summer,
I grabbed some sticks from the kindling pile. Worked just as well.

I'm pretty happy with the results. Nothing genius, but it got us in the holiday spirit.
Yes- I cringe looking at the scrolled brackets. They will get replaced this spring.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Books I'm Craving Right Now:

This holiday season, as usually, I'm finding it much easier to find items I would love to receive rather than ones to give. Stumped for gift ideas for others, I drift into making a list of these beautiful books that I would gladly stack on my coffee table:

My love for Simon Doonan continues to grow.
(Doesn't hurt that he's married to my fave Jonathan Adler)
This is sure to be pumped with iconic ads to inspire any Mad Man.
Any photo book by Slim Aarons I would gladly look through
and dream of the finer things in life...
Living in CT I have become intrigued by the artistry involved in the rock wall. 
Going to Burning Man was always on my bucket list.
Until then, this book should tide me over. 
This book snoops through homes of those who inspire me:
artists, architects and designers. What could be better?
Loads of inspiration in here. 
Love the casual approach to decorating in this book.
Reminds me to try and add some of my own personality here & there.
Any book that lists ways to be happy- I'm in.
If the list is written by Jonathan Adler- 'nuf said.

Happy Shopping.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas Light Plea

Tomorrow I am busting out our Christmas tree. The kids will be so excited, the boxes will unload all over the living room, the tree will slowly get assembled and decorated. This time of year is my favorite. I love driving around at night, seeing all of the houses decorated with twinkling lights and wreaths on doors. Wait. I used to love the twinkling lights. Not so much anymore. In our ever growing consciousness to save the earth, save money and save energy, we forgot about my aesthetic. Case in point:
         Incandescent lights = warm, inviting glow                    LED lights = Lights Emit Depression

Don't get me wrong. I really applaud the efforts being made to go green and run a more efficient household. I do my part. But not with my Christmas lights. I may lose a few friends here. I'm sorry for being so honest- but the LED lights simply remind me of when I lived in the East Village and from our apartment we could see directly into all the other apartments about 4 feet away through the air shaft. There were many small, dirty, kitchens lit by flickering fluorescent lights that gave off a cold, creepy, crack-house vibe. As I drive past houses lit by the LED lights this holiday season, the same feeling comes over me and it's just not warm and cheery. 
pure white = LED
Don't you just love the warm white?
If you had to stand in a room for an hour, which one would you chose?

Maybe you will hang LED lights this year. Maybe you'll choose to save hundreds of dollars in electric bills because LED bulbs use 80-90 % less energy. Maybe you'll choose them because they last 66 times longer than incandescent bulbs, are mercury free and emit 90% fewer Co2 emissions leading to the decrease of landfill waste. Or maybe, just maybe, you'll think of me and what makes me feel warm & cozy. Get your priorities straight this holiday season. Happy decorating.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Things My Grandfather Taught Me

My Grandpa. Manhattan in hand, always smiling.

Earlier this fall I wrote about all of the wonderful things my Grandmother taught me living next door. What I didn't mention, probably because I knew how emotional I would get- is that I was much closer to my Grandfather growing up. My Grandfather was 100% Irish, worked hard every day of his life. He raised his three kids in a close knit lake community in New Jersey during the 50s and 60s. He and my Grandmother later bought the piece of land next to my parents in upstate New York and he built his house all by himself. He was known in my neighborhood as Gramps. He was every one's Gramp. He went to all of picnics, softball games, regattas and cookouts. If someone needed help with something, he seemed to just show up to lend a hand. 

He was everything to me. He picked me up from school if I was sick, he waited for the school bus with me in the freezing cold. He drove me to the mall to meet my friends and then taught me how to drive myself. My favorite memories were outside in the yard, raking leaves until it was dark. We would smell the wood stoves fire up and go inside for dinner. I raced home from school everyday to be with him, no matter what he was doing, I would find him, and join in whatever he was up to. I did this every day until I went to college in late August of 1989. He suddenly passed away a few days after I left for my freshman year. (I secretly think he couldn't bear to live without me at home next door). Here we are together at my high school graduation a few months before I left for college. The last photo of us together: 
I have yet to meet someone that makes every one they meet smile and laugh the way he did. He made being happy look so easy. Here are just a few things my Grandpa taught me:

-how to take pride in raking your lawn
-how to make small talk fun
-how to be a good neighbor
-how to be there for your kids and their kids
-how to tell a joke
-how to pull up a lawn chair and sit & watch & talk
-how to never give up on your kids, even when everyone else does
-how to belong to an organization, be involved
-how to provide for your family
-how to uproot everything comfortable and familiar for your kid's sake
-how to drive: cars &amp and riding lawn mowers
-how to drive manual transmissions
-how to fill a gas tank
-how to read the funnies on a Sunday morning with your Grandkids curled up in your lap
-how to listen to the radio all day, no T.V.
-how to hold hands in public, always.
-how to dress up for the holidays
-how to slow dance
-how to appreciate simple food & simple drink
-how to stock the house before the holidays
-how to love a dog as a best friend
-how to make getting stitches not so bad
-how to tell someone how to do something without sounding superior
-how to take care of your tools
-how salt can add so much flavor
-how to loan money to family, no questions asked
-how to accompany your spouse to events you really don't want to be at
-how to treat brother & sister-in-laws as your own family because you know how much it means  to your significant other
-how to smile and laugh and be light-hearted
-how to stand in the sun, hands grasped behind your back, eyes closed to stay warm at the bus stop
-how to let people lean on you without asking any questions
-how to never say goodbye- just: so long, see you later, thanks for the warning.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Instagram = Instacool

As a teacher of middle school students, I find myself torn between wanting to be respected as a teacher and being accepted by my students as a 'cool' teacher. In my mind, a 'cool' teacher naturally earns the respect of the kids, right? They feel more understood if their teacher can relate to the social dynamics, fashion issues, and trends that affect them each day of their dramatic lives. So, this year, once again,, I am struggling to stay in the know and hip with all the things my students are into, especially my 8th graders, as they are the hardest to motivate.

Here are 3 examples how of uncool I was back in September:

1. After a short summer, I was reunited with my Nantucket-tanned students. They filed into my art room and as they chatted and caught up I waited for a chance to join the conversation. I was transported back to eighth grade. I tried to interject what I had been up all summer when I suddenly confessed my love for One DirectionI realized I was behind by two years when no one could look me in the eye until about a month ago when I mentioned my new love for Macklemore.
2. When I tried to rock a braid in my hair like all the girls did last year, I soon realized that was SO last year:
3. When it rains out here in CT, all the girls bust out their Hunter wellies, and of course I sport mine. I didn't get the email that they need to be a pair of the fun new colors. That's why my classic black ones get some turned up noses. 

Don't feel sad for me, no tears, I have saved myself. I think I have finally found a way to prove my coolness. Instagram. Facebook is not used at all by this generation. Everyone in seventh and eighth grade has an Instagram account. They share photos, follow friends and leave comments. Basically a cooler version of FB. When I mentioned I have an Instagram account, they were a bit curious, a bit impressed. They are not allowed to follow me, I do not follow them. 
I created a bulletin board outside of my art room dedicated to their favorite Instagram photos that they print out in a 5 X 5 square. I have printed out some of my photos as well and they are all mixed together in one large collage that keeps growing. Of course it is linked into my art curriculum. Their photography certainly includes the basic principles of art = shape, space, color, line, etc…Here it is growing:

I'm so impressed by some of the photos taken by my 'non-artist' students. Even some of the boys from the jock clique are excited to share their work. I finally found something they are excited about, something creative that they are eager to share…until the next cool thing comes along. I'll be on my toes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bursting with a Bargain!

The brass 'bursts' I ordered have arrived. I can't help myself, but here is yet another ridiculously overpriced version of the brass wall sculpture I was initially inspired by. I found it on 1st Dibs.  It has 5 pieces ranging from small-medium-large. This is the artist, Curtis Jere, that Jonathan Adler carries. It was listed for $6250!!

I opened my shipment today from Z Gallerie and am so happy. The seven I bought for only $125. are beautiful sculptures in themselves. They look much better in person than online. I had some trouble arranging them in an organic arrangement though. The symmetrical tendencies in me can't quit. I admit I am a symmetry dork. I planned the design on the floor and hung it I was once satisfied with height and line. Here's how it turned out:

At first Josh was concerned it was not going to be substantial enough for such 
a large wall, but once hung, it covers just fine.

What bargains have you found lately?
*Send me some high-low items you have been thrilled to find to Cara's email
and I will post them!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Things My Grandmother Taught Me

 How lucky was I? My grandparents lived next door to me growing up at Lake Sunnyside. We walked to their house across our lawn, so often, we wore a path in the grass. That's my yellow house and their white house in the background. I honestly spent more time at their house than my own for most of my childhood. I loved my grandparents as much as anyone else- well no- I loved them more than I've ever known anyone to love a grandparent. There. I said it. My grandparents were simply the best and yours cannot compete. 
My 100% Irish grandmother never worked a career job. She raise three children through the innocent 1950's and teenagers through the turbulent 1960's. She was a stereotypical housewife that stayed home, raised the kids and took care of all household details. She did this all without ever driving a car. She was driven around town by my grandfather, eventually my mother, and then, briefly, us grandchildren. When we went over to her house to see her, we did not have the distractions my children have today when visiting with their Grandparents. We didn't turn on the TV . We didn't carry over our ipads, laptops, or choose from hundreds of shows to watch on-demand or stream movies through Netflix. We actually spent time together. We followed her around the house and did things with her. 
On Friday nights, my sisters and I would pack a suitcase, kiss our parents goodbye and walk next door for the weekend with our Gramma and Grandpa. At the end of the weekend, everyone would come over for Sunday night dinner and we'd sit at the table and talk. I look back and am so grateful for everything they taught me. As my kids spend time with their grandparents, I'll try and remember to leave all the technology at home and see what magic can happen. 

Here are some wonderful things my Grandmother taught me: 

-how to be a good hostess 
-how to prepare for company without stress (still working on this)
-how to make a bed properly- every day.
-how to pack away seasonal clothes
-how to organize your jewelry drawer and label each box
-how to make a cake and display it on the kitchen counter
-how to set a table
-how to address a letter
-to appreciate nice stationary and the art of letter writing
-how to write a nice note in each Christmas card
-how to make company feel welcomed with drinks & a hot dinner ready
-how to make stacks of pancakes, bacon, coffee and juice to feed a houseful- hot and all at the same time.
(she would even heat up the maple syrup)
-how to fold laundry 
-how to iron
-how to darn socks
-how to sew simple stitches
-how to dust furniture & vacuum
-how to mix a Manhattan, Tom Collins and a Shirley Temple and serve it on a tray with a napkin
-how to stock a fridge with things you know your guest will like- even if you don't
-how to listen to a friend on the phone- for hours!
-how to dress up for the Holidays (head to toe in green for St. Patty's Day)
-how to rock costume jewelry
-how to put something festive in each room for Christmas
-how to dye Easter eggs
-how to use a shoehorn
-how to sift flour
-how to sit quietly in church (suck on hard candy)
-how to say grace
-how to disguise passing gas with a laugh or cough (which may not always work)
-how to have a hot meal on the table for your husband even if he's retired too
-how to be there for your children through thick and thin
-how to say you love someone. She rarely said 'I love you' but you knew she did.
-how to put on lipstick even when you're just running out to the store
-how to keep a bowl of hard candy on the coffee table at all times
-how to give your honest opinion when asked (or not)
-how to serve ice cream with chocolate syrup and peanuts
-how to have a few cocktails and not act drunk and sloppy (I am still working on this one)
-how to age gracefully and embrace the white hair
-how to be appreciative when others need to care for you
-how to keep your humility when you lose your ability to do things for yourself
-how to close your eyes while telling a story so you can imagine being there
I miss you everyday, Gram.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Outdoor Furniture Inside

Lacking proper storage for the butterfly chairs we had on our deck all summer, I brought them inside. They are now opposite the couch and I think they look pretty good, but a placeholder for sure. I will continue to search for a pair of upholstered chairs that make me happy. Once they were moved inside, and I sat in them to get a feel for the new arrangement, I honestly noticed my bottom was chilly. I kid-you-not. I remember seeing many examples of butterfly chairs with sheepskin throws on them when I was researching the frames and now I know why. Here are just a few of the sheepskin combos that inspired me to go grab some for my own chairs:


I ran to Ikea and picked up these 2 sheepskin throws for a mere $29. each. They really do make a difference in the coziness factor. Here's a peek at my new winter living room seating:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Inspired by Banksy

Bansky is one of my all time favorite artists. He is currently doing a residency in New York City for the month of October called Better Out Than In. Each day he posts where he has left a piece of his street art or installation and people flock to check it out before it is defaced by other street artists or plain old jerks. You can see what he has been up to each day this month at www.banksyny.com. Here is his work from today:
I am currently launching a unit of study on his month's body work at school with my seventh graders. I'm curious to see what the youth of New Canaan can decipher from his political activism and sarcastic social commentary. 

Last year, I dug up a few old reproduction paintings by Van Gogh that the former art teacher at my school used for visual reference. Since they were covered in mold and seriously faded, I decided to put a 'Banksy' twist on them. Although he is primarily known as a street artist, I was inspired by work he did a few years ago where he snuck into museums and galleries and hung his own work next to priceless masterpieces. These first four examples are by Banksy:

I up-cycled these three dusty Van Gogh canvases and hope to dig up more soon. I want to acknowledge these are directly pulled from Banksy works I was inspired by. I give Banksy full credit for the concepts.  I just hoped to show my students first hand how to make statements within their art that is more global and far reaching than their soccer fields and cheer leading squads. These are hanging in my art room:
Van Gogh & Beatman, inspired by Banksy
Van Gogh & Beatman, inspired by Bansky
Van Gogh & Beatman, inspired by Bansky