Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cowboy Picnics and Doris Day

One of my absolute favorite movies is "Calamity Jane", with Doris Day and Howard Keel; the cowboy version of Cinderella, comes complete with a dashing hero, a pretty transformation and lots of recycled calico. After sweeping out the dust, curtains become a tablecloth, a painted door welcomes you in, and a few wild flowers become a centerpiece. Life never felt so easy.

With Summer almost here, we crave a little simplicity outside. We want to entertain, and have friends over, but we don't really want to try so hard. In the final hour, we don't want to run back to the store (again) for fancy decorations and that special, organic iced tea that only Aunt Matilda will drink. So, why not take things slowly, enjoy the time with your friends, and borrow a few, home-spun ideas from my hero, Calamity Jane...

- Plan the simplest menu that you can get away with, and buy everything the day before. If in doubt, go with picnic food that can be served at room temperature (fresh bread, real butter, cold meat/chicken, cheese, apple pie, quiche, fruit, vegetables etc). If you have extra time, and feel inclined, bake something for dessert, or make a homemade drink (iced tea, lemonade, punch etc).
- Check that your picnic area is relatively clean. Sweep the patio/deck, mow the lawn, throw away any dead plants/twigs, and hide any broken/damaged items.
- Grab a tablecloth, blanket (or sheet) from the house, to put on the main table. Use something colorful,  unexpected, or just go with plain white or lace.
- Pick a big bunch of anything -  flowers/twigs/branches/buttercups - and put them in a vase or a glass on the table.
- Light some candles if you have them (again, just grab ones from the house - even a silver candelabra would be lovely).
- Use your regular (or fancy) cups, platters, bowls, glasses, plates, napkins and cutlery for everything.
- Bring chairs, pillows and blankets outside for extra seating and comfort.

Curl up, eat, have fun, and enjoy!

Picnic photograph borrowed from Better Homes and Gardens

Friday, May 17, 2013

Walls - Pick a Color....any Color

One thing I get asked, time and time again, is how to pick a new color for a room. Many of us watch design shows, and are often told that everyone "should" have color on their wall. The theory being, that color makes the furniture and accessories "pop", it brings a room together, and it kind of says that we are not afraid to take a decorating risk.

We all covet a room that feels warm and welcoming, and often, the room that we admire in the photograph has more color than we would have in our own home. However, if  you feel like a change, and decide to pick up the paintbrush, here are a few thoughts before you begin.....

Color will: 
- Cozy up your room. 
- Enhance your furniture and accessories. 
- Hide dirt, fingerprints etc.  
- Be a definite style statement. 
- Need more cans of paint to get effective coverage (and a colored primer).
- Show imperfections in the wall (spackle fixes etc).
- Appear darker in the Winter months.

How to choose a color: 
Always find an inspirational piece to give you a direction - look through home magazines, watch design shows, choose a favorite painting, a color from a piece of clothing etc.
Get a sample (s) and paint it on a large (3 x 3 foot) piece of paper or cardboard. Move it around the room, in different spots, to see what you think. If you are not sure, try another color.
Upload a photograph of your room to a Room Visualizer on-line. While not perfect, it will give you a good idea of what your room may look like with the new color. 

Useful Links:
Benjamin Moore Paint Room Visualizer
Sherwin Williams Paint Room Visualizer

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Makeover and a Gift

All the parenting books in the world, can't prepare you for being a Mom. It is indefinable, confusing, simple, difficult and beyond wonderful. They say it goes quickly, and it does; before we know it, they are suddenly their own little beings, trying to decide what to do, then running off to throw themselves head first into a new adventure. In between the chaos, we try to remember what it was like, and we adjust to our new normal - we feel almost redundant, but secretly know that we are needed even more.

And, as emotional as the roller-coaster can be, one of the frivolous benefits to having a child is giving myself another excuse to decorate. Not very deep and insightful, I know, but it gives me pleasure, and it gives my daughter a "new" room every couple of years.

Our recent endeavor was to make it a little more of a teen room, instead of a girls room. A bigger bed meant less room for "stuff", and more room for negotiation. Being a child who keeps everything, I knew it would never be a House Beautiful photo-op, but I knew I could make it perfect for what she needed right now. With a lot of patience (and some extra-strong glue), her room was re-done, re-designed and creatively organized.

I won't pretend that it didn't take a lot of time, but the time it took was worth it. We didn't spend a lot of money (just new bedding, and the bed, of course) everything else was sourced from her room, or other rooms around the house.

One of the items we re-used, was her old day bed. After eliciting a promise to not throw it away, I decided to indulge my romantic side, antique it, and use it in the Living Room. Who doesn't want a bed in the Living Room? As it turned out, re-doing her room was a gift; it gave me this wonderful bed to play with. I used all sorts of leftover paint to distress it - copper spray paint, brown house paint, craft paint, and a few speckles of blue-something paint. I then sprayed it with vinegar (not sure why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time) and left it outside in the rain for a few days.

When I put it in the Living Room, unfortunately, it looked like a "Bed in the Living Room", not a romantic thing at all. It was the sheets that were its downfall. So, I went on-line, and found a place that specialized in custom made Slipcovers for Daybeds. For less than $50, I found an elasticated, durable, patterned fabric in all sorts of warm tones. When it arrived, it was perfect! That, and the distressed copper, reminded me of one of my favorite childhood movies - Bedknobs and Broomsticks. (We even have the knobs that turn, on each corner - if you remove them, I wouldn't even mind if you decided to drop secret notes inside ...)

What this bed taught me, was that changing with your children, is a damn sight easier than digging your heels in and complaining; part of the fun is creating your own new adventure, indulging your own childhood dreams (and discovering that you really always wanted a bed in the Living Room......).

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Instant Happiness for your Home

Did you know that certain shapes, colors and scents will automatically make your home happier? Why not include some of these ideas next time you decorate, or, just for fun, incorporate them into a very small area of your life and see if they make a difference.

Use Curves - A circle will bring you more happiness than a square or rectangle. Consider furniture with soft lines and curves for a more lovable (livable) home

Add Yellow - Even if it is not your favorite color, looking at something yellow will give you a boost of energy. What about using a yellow cup to start your day, or planting a lovely yellow rose?

Look at a Bicycle - Not sure if it is the old-fashioned shape, or the prospect of adventure, but seeing a picture of a bicycle will increase your serotonin (those feel-good chemicals that we get from eating lots of  chocolate).

Provoke a Memory - Use "things" in your home to subconsciously remind you of happy times as often as you can (a photograph, a rock, a shell, a treasured gift, anything that makes you smile and brings back a good memory).

Open Up - As often as possible, open your curtains and blinds. And, at least once a week, open up your doors and windows for as long as you can (even on the coldest days). Your home will breathe a sigh of relief, and you will feel refreshed.

Make your Bed - Studies everywhere say that if you make your bed, your day will be automatically happier than if you just left it in a big, crumpled pile.

Nurture Nature - Bring in fresh flowers and/or plants when you can, and take the time to care for them. They purify the air, release oxygen and lower your blood pressure.

A Hint of Vanilla - Anywhere you can use it, the scent of vanilla will cheer you up.

Just for Fun:
- Play loud music, and dance around the house when no-one is looking.
- Walk on your tip-toes.
- Give names to all the inanimate objects in your home, and talk to them for an entire day.
- Paint something you don't like, with a color you absolutely adore - see how it makes you feel.
- Buy a coloring book and crayons. Keep them near for moments when you need to de-stress.

Enjoy your week!

p.s. Beautiful bicycle from Lovely Bike Blog