Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Photography - Art for your Home

Unfortunately, I am not good at remembering my camera, and my phone isn't fancy, but I do try to take photographs whenever I can. I couldn't even tell you what I like to photograph, it is so random, but I guess it is really about whatever provokes a reaction inside me at the time. Gradually, I am learning to look at my photographs as memories, that become art, but it is definitely a work in progress.

When I visited Tahiti, I had lots of crazy photographic moments. One in particular, was when I went to see the Paul Gauguin Museum. I booked a tour, and was beyond excited to see his work in the actual place where he had lived. To this day, the entrance to that Museum still makes me catch my breath with surprise.

As we turned off the main road, the bus hit a pot-hole, and the dirt made me wonder if the driver really knew where he was going. A moment later, I grabbed my camera at the first glimpse of the Gauguin name; a rickety wooden sign, written by hand, in front of a weed-covered wall of concrete.The road quickly opened up into beautiful Tiki gardens, and the museum sat in the center. It was quite modern, with simple lines, thick walls, and no doors; lizards ran up and down the sculptures, exotic birds flew in front of the colorful mural's, but I really didn't care, because I loved that rickety sign the most...

I know when I first started using photographs as art, the whole concept seemed wrong, and I didn't even like cropping them, never mind altering them. I worried that I would lose the integrity of what it was supposed to be, that I was cheating, and creating my own reality. But then I realized that it was in fact the opposite - I wasn't losing the original image, I was creating pictures for my home that were far more meaningful than something I could buy in the store.

Sometimes, we put off buying art, in the quest for something expensive and rare, and while fine art has it's place, there is a lot to be said for redefining our own belief in what we want to look at. Because really, that is all that it is about, what do we like to see on our walls, and in our space? Photographs and memories are often the answer.

Most of us have a photo editing program on our computer, but if you don't, or are not sure how to use it, check with your local copy store, or search for a service online. There are many sites that will let you download your own image, edit it, and create your own, personalized work of art (make your own poster, create a photo image on canvas, design your own coffee table book etc). Many of these sites also offer technical assistance by phone.

So, next time you're wondering what to hang on that wall, take a look inside your camera instead...

p.s. This is the original photograph (it was blurry because we were driving) I then enhanced, cropped, and made into black and white.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cheap and Cheerful Remedies for your Home

Now that the holidays are over, January can feel a bit flat, and our bank balance can seem a little empty. What better way to cheer you up than with some unconventional (sometimes wacky) and inexpensive (cheap) ways to help you clean and maintain your home... 
- Brush your Carpets:  Take a sturdy outdoor broom and brush your carpets. I promise, you will be embarrassed by the amount of dirt, dust and hair that comes off them.
- Don't drink the Koolaid:  Use it to clean the inside of your dishwasher and toilet instead. The citric acid in the Lemon Koolaid (not sugar free) will help remove stubborn stains; add to the dispenser in your dishwasher, and run an empty cycle. Same goes for stubborn stains on your toilet; sprinkle around the perimeter, leave for a few hours then scrub.
Sand away Tarnish and Grease:  I use a fine grade Sanding Sponge constantly in my kitchen  treat it like a regular sponge; add warm water and a bit of soap to remove tarnished silver on your utensils (it's gone in seconds) and, I clean my cast iron, stainless and regular frying pans (not non-stick) with it as well. Stubborn grease residue and burn stains come off easily (it does not ruin the surface, or take the seasoning off the cast iron). Just rinse when done, and store near your sink. 
- Not just for Coffee:  Durable, lint-free and porous, coffee filters can be used for so many things - to plug the hole of a plant pot (dirt will stay in, but water can still drain), an impromptu paper towel to clean windows and appliances, the perfect taco holder for little children, to absorb the grease when draining bacon and fried foods, wrapping and storing Christmas ornaments etc...
- Eat your Bananas: Then, use the peel to remove scratches on a DVD or CD (just wipe in circular motion with inside of the skin, then polish and rinse with the outside). And, what about taping a piece to a wart or splinter for the night (by morning both should be better), polishing your shoes and silver with it, and, laying the peel on your forehead to relieve a headache? 
- Chinese Food First Aid:  Instead of throwing away those little extra packets of soy sauce and mustard, freeze some to use as mini ice packs. Perfect for soothing little bumps, burns and bruises (and your child might just think it is funny enough to make them feel better).
- Coffee Deodorant:  Don't just throw away the grounds; place them in a bowl and use them as an odor neutralizer for your fridge, freezer, coat closet, kitty litter area, stinky shoes and garbage pail. Or, sprinkle them around your plants to repel ants and add nutrients.
- French Toast? Au contraire!:  White bread is not as popular as it used to be, but maybe you want to keep some in the freezer just in case. Ball it up, and rub on the walls to remove crayon and pencil marks. Same idea will remove sticky fingerprints on photographs. Add a slice to brown sugar and baked cookies to keep soft, and place a few pieces on top of cooking broccoli to dilute the smell. A few torn pieces added to your coffee grinder will clean it, and a few slices will help pick up splinters of broken glass (wear gloves too, of course).
- Economical Toothpaste:  Keep a  tube of the old fashioned, no-frills kind, around for all sorts of things. The mild, no scratch, abrasion will polish chrome, clean silver and freshen bathtub sinks. And, a dab on the skin will stop the itch from a mosquito bite, and dry out a pimple while you sleep.
- Not just a condiment:  Ketchup will clean your copper pans, so that they look like new again; just rub and rinse. If your pet gets sprayed by a skunk, you could wash them in ketchup to get rid of the smell, and, you could wash your own hair with it as well to get rid of chlorine green. Shampoo in, leave for about 15 minutes, then rinse. Also fun as an easy and tasty finger paint for children.
Well, there are a million more ideas, but I thought this was enough for now. None of these will harm anything, and I am pretty sure most of them work (or will at least make you smile while you try).
Thanks so much to Apartment Therapy for the photograph.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

If you have to ask.....

One of my favorite parts of a magazine is when they show a photograph, pinpoint the items, and tell you where you can get them and how much they cost. Whether it is a single sofa, or a completed room, it always gives me just enough to pique my interest, and get me thinking. Within moments, I will find myself dreaming,  or idly scanning the computer for creative alternatives to the room laid out on the page in front of me.

This morning, I was struck by a wonderful photograph. The designer had managed to incorporate everything that a modern family could ask for; space for a television, fireplace, game table, desk and a reading nook. As I gleefully scanned the room, deciding what I did and didn't like, I couldn't wait to find out more about the specific items; the wooden wing-back chair was my absolute favorite - it looked really classic, very uncomfortable, but begged to find a place in my home.

As I moved to the next page, my fun ground to a screeching halt; five out of the eight items were labelled "price upon request" or, "to the trade". Surprised, I began to search for the price of the chair, but every link fell short; referring me to another page, or asking me to fill out a very long registration form and contact the show room.

I know, that occasionally, a special item is listed this way (we've all seen the more-than-the-price-of-a-mortgage red soled shoes kicking back in interviews) but to see so many pieces on one page really surprised me. Is the magazine trying to appeal to a more exclusive clientele, or, on the flip side, do they assume that the readers of the magazine simply cannot afford them? Were they afraid we would all faint from sticker-shock? 

It made me wonder, if you have to ask, should you be even thinking about buying it?

Of course you should! I am all for saving money, and making do with what you have, but what about the excitement of saving and splurging on something wonderful and new? By limiting our access to expensive (unprintable) items, don't you think they are losing out on an entire new audience, and we are being deprived of a dream?

I suppose, if the piece is so expensive, then one or two sales is all they need to pay the bills, but isn't the idea to also generate interest, create new designs and perpetuate the brand? What if I had just won the lottery, or had a crazy amount of money hidden under my mattress just waiting for that perfect chair? Why would you make me register my name, create an account, call the showroom, and send a fruit basket, just to find out the price? 

And, what if I really, truly just wanted to know the price of the Wooden Wing Back Barrel chair?...

* The photograph above, shows the chair (top right), but is not the actual page from the magazine that I was reading.