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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Splurging and Dreaming

 
There are so many things in this world that don't warrant the price tag, but at this time of year we tend to live a lot on emotion, and, I don't know about you, but regardless of where my budget is, dreaming is always pretty high up there on my to-do list.

If I ignore the necessity of it all, finding ways to save money lets me stretch my imagination; it's another way to make life more interesting, and allows me to challenge the obvious solutions to the most mundane of chores. I think, if we have to do boring things, why not make them as enjoyable as possible.

But, I also love a contradiction, and the annual Neiman Marcus Christmas Book is something that I look forward to every year. A tradition for over 80 years, it is filled with the type of unapologetic extravagance that many of us only dream about; it is known for indulgent, luxury items, and the opportunity to buy once in a lifetime experiences. 

Some years are definitely more creative than others, and I do like the ones that have a more whimsical leaning to them. (Note to interested gift-giver's - I will always prefer an inexpensive castle to a rare diamond that has been mined by miniature, hand-raised elephants, and polished for three years by a cloth woven from an extinct silkworm).

Looking through the catalog is almost an indulgence in itself. It takes me a while to sink into the mind of the person who might shop from it, but in no time at all I actually find myself understanding the prices, and starting to think that $344,000. for a new Aston Martin, is actually very reasonable. My greed quickly takes over, and I begin to wonder why I am only allowed to have it in Seychelles Blue instead of Apple Tree Green, and who will actually fix my $1,500,000. Ultimate Outdoor Entertainment Center (that pops up from the ground) if it gets stuck halfway, or I press the button too hard and it catapults into the sky. And, why on earth don't I get a free Falcon if I am paying $150,000. for my very own Bespoke Falconry Companion? (I read the description, and I think it is actually just a fancy picnic set for me to take when I go off falconry-ing with my friends).

Regardless of my budget (and my obvious confusion over falconry) I can happily dream through the pages for a good hour; I stop when I have almost lost myself in the rich life of bejeweled chickens and perfectly coiffed, poised models.

I think dreaming and splurging is good for all of us now and again. It stops us from getting stuck, and it is nice to know what else is out there. And, it reminds me that I really do like driving my Jeep, that the pop-up entertainment center will probably look quite silly, and that I think it is far nicer to watch an Eagle in the sky than to try and tie a string to its leg and escort it around the garden....

Have a wonderful Christmas, and we will see you in the New Year!
                                     
p.s. I am sure that all the diamonds are mined responsibly and kindly, with no harm to any animals or insects. And, I would never, ever say no to a castle (especially a sandcastle).

Photograph adapted from The Telegraph UK (secrets to a successful sandcastle = a splash of water).

Friday, December 19, 2014

Quick Sweets for the Busiest of Days


I was in the baking aisle the other day, and I almost expected the shelves to vibrate from the chaos. People were either on the phone asking for instructions, or they were standing, whispering words out loud, almost waiting for the ingredients to hover in front of them as soon as they called their name.

It was like being at the dinner table in a Harry Potter movie; where the noise level gets so loud that you think you might just have to scream, but you know that if you close your eyes for a few moments, the magic will begin, and everyone will eventually get their hungry wish.

But, this was the supermarket, and all the wishing in the world won't get the candied ginger to jump up, introduce itself, and sit politely in your basket. So, I bought what I needed and left; torn between wanting to help everyone find what they were looking for, and the almost uncontrollable urge to drop everything and run as fast as I could to my nice, quiet car.

I think it is really hard if you don't bake all the time, and you are expected to "bring a plate", or provide sweet treat gifts during the Holiday season. Not everyone likes to do this, and there seems to be the added pressure of being expected to show up with something that is both pretty and homemade at the same time. Buying from the store is secretly frowned upon, and often handed over with an apology and a quick hug.

I actually love to bake, but sometimes my thoughts are bigger than my reality, and I can't always spend a long, lazy afternoon with Elvis Presley in the kitchen. So, for those days, I have my go-to, none-thinking, quick-supermarket-visit, semi-homemade, un-apologetic, inexpensive desserts, that I can make in less than half an hour, make in bulk, the children can help, and, they all have three basic ingredients or less....

COOKIES

Ingredients: A roll of frozen, chocolate chip cookie dough (if you can find one that says real chocolate chunks or chips, that is always nicer than chocolate flavored).
Optional - More chocolate chips, dried cherries, raisins, cranberries, nuts, coconut etc.

Things to do with the cookie dough, other than just slice and bake.
  • Tip the dough into a large bowl, squish in the optional ingredients, roll into balls about the size of a small golf ball, flatten slightly with a floured fork, and bake.
  • Make them extra big, flatten a bit with the palm of your hand, and add a few minutes onto the baking time.
  • Roll it into balls and pop in the fridge for about twenty minutes. Coat the raw dough in melted chocolate, and put back in the fridge for a few minutes until set (just warn people that it is raw dough, but I can't imagine it would harm anyone).
  • Add some colored sprinkles, candies, or brown sugar to the top before baking.
  • Slice per instructions on package, roll each slice into a ball, then roll into a bowl of sugar. Place on cookie sheet and flatten with a fork dipped into flour.
  • Squish it all together, add optional ingredients if you want, and pat it into a pie tin. Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes at 350 F. Cut into slices, and serve warm with ice cream.  
PEPPERMINT BARK

Ingredients: Candy Canes (any amount) and Chocolate (white, dark or milk - any amount).
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, silicone liner or a well-greased piece of foil. 
  • Crush a few candy canes, leaving some chunks..
  • Melt chocolate at 30 second intervals in the microwave until runny. Add  3/4 of the crushed candy canes and stir. 
  • Spread onto cookie sheet and top with last bit of candy canes. Pressing down slightly so it sticks.
  • Refrigerate for about few minutes, then break up into pieces.
* If the chocolate goes grainy when you melt it, just go ahead with the recipe, and spread it as quickly as possible - it will look a little more rustic, but still taste good.

CHOCOLATE FUDGE

Ingredients:  3 cups (18 oz) Chocolate (white, dark or milk) and 1 can of regular Sweetened Condensed Milk (in the baking aisle)  and a pinch of salt.
Optional - 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 cup of nuts, crushed cookies, dried cranberries etc.  
  • Grease and line an 8 x 8 pan with foil or parchment, or just grease a piece of foil and put it on a cookie sheet.
  • Melt the chocolate, condensed milk and salt over a low heat. Stirring all the time (easier with a metal spoon).
  • As soon as it is melted (it doesn't take long) add your optional ingredients and pour into the pan, or spread onto the cookie sheet. 
  • When set, cut into shapes.
By the way, don't worry if you don't have fancy cellophane bags, or festive cookie tins to present them in; just put them on a plate, cover with cling-wrap or foil, and ask nicely for your plate back when it's time to leave.

Photograph of cookie tower from: www.framedcooks.com

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Christmas Tree Story

I am often reluctant to write my blog during the weeks leading up to Christmas; it feels like such a busy, emotional time of year, and I know that so many of you are planning parties and buying presents. I wonder if reading a blog is really high on anyone's list of priorities?

So, let me just tell you what happened with our tree this week. It won't give you lots of time-saving  ideas, but it might make you smile as you write another list and check the cupboard for wrapping paper (don't forget to buy tape and sticky labels as well). Unfortunately, my story isn't very short, so if you want to save time, now would be a good place to stop reading.

Anyway, last year I skipped the day long excursion to the tree farm, and decided to get my tree from the hardware store. It lasted through the beginning of January, and drank so much water that I swear it actually grew during the six weeks that we had it. So, I went back to the same store, and bought one on Saturday. In the rain. It kind of went like this....What type do you want? A Frasier Fir, please. How tall? 6 - 7 foot, please. What about this one? That's fine, thank you! Do you want the end cut off? Yes please. Thank you. You're welcome! Have a Merry Christmas! You too! Bye!

I get home, soaked from the rain, and drag the tree off the top of my car. Pull it up the front path, and leave it for a moment while I open the screen door, and unlock the front door. I prop the screen door open, and start to drag the tree inside. As the cat tries to run out, my boot catches on the netting at the front of the tree, I trip, and the tree catches on the screen door. I try to untangle my boot, and my ring (which is the end of an old fork handle - don't ask) catches on the netting, and I am stuck. The only way I can move is to take off my boot and my ring.

So, I get inside, knock the plant off the wall (why I keep hanging that plant on the wall is beyond me) put the tree in the stand, and start looking for my ring. I find the ring, make a cup of tea, put on my Elvis Presley CD, and start to cut off the netting around the tree.

When I tell you that I have never seen so many pine needles in my house, I am not kidding; I could actually hear them falling to the floor, there were so many. In case you're curious, it sounded as if someone was slowly crinkling a plastic supermarket bag. But, I wasn't worried. I grabbed the tree lights, and started to check them. We've all been there, and you know what happened; out of about a thousand (!) lights, I had maybe 27 that worked. So I sat for a couple of hours wiggling them, and trying to figure out which were broken, until I eventually gave up, and decided to just put the 27 lights on the tree. I put them up, and sat back to admire my very minimal Christmas Tree; telling myself that I was lucky to have one, it was about my intention, and spending time with friends and family that mattered, not how big and beautiful my tree was. I could make it work, no problem.

As I stared at it, 13 of the light's went off.

The next morning (sorry, I meant to keep this brief, as I know you probably have somewhere to go, or someone to visit) the container was still filled with water, and my tree was already drooping. In my pajamas, in full view of everyone driving by my house, I pulled the tree out of the stand (not very kindly, and without unplugging the remaining 14 light's) and proceeded to saw off another three inches of the tree. It sounds easy, but even a less than perfect tree isn't easy to plonk on it's side and cut with a rusty old pruning saw.

I can tell you that it took me over an hour, that at one point I lost my glasses, that I now have jaggedy cuts on my hand, that my 14 remaining lights never flickered, and that my tree is now too short, but I can also tell you that it made no difference at all.

It is still sitting in a gallon of water, and the needles are falling and turning over as I write. It is now crooked, and appears to be leaning, and even though we decorated it last night (with Elvis Presley again) it was precarious, and we could not put anything heavier than a half-eaten gingerbread man on it.

In my deluded Christmas tree state, I actually thought about spraying it with adhesive to make the needles stay on, but then realized that it would become flammable, and heaven forbid my 14 lights caught on fire.

Last night, the dog ate the one armed gingerbread man off the tree, but I am still feeling lucky, because this morning I found an extra string of lights hidden in an old Christmas stocking...

Photograph from www.countrysoldier.org, and originally drawn by John Clemmer

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Want it Painted Black

Once upon a time, a teenager wanted her bedroom painted black. Her parents said no, and she asked why not. Because we said so, was their reply. Not black. Anything but black. Well, except for dark purple, navy or red. No, definitely not red either.

So, she sulked, and she pleaded, but they still said no. In their mind, a black room meant that there was something wrong with her; that she was going to be sitting engulfed in darkness, whittling away at evil contraptions, and thinking of dark tasks to fill up her complicated teenage life.

But all she wanted was a black bedroom.

Painting black on the walls has this effect on a lot of people; never mind that it is technically the absence of color, just the suggestion of it often provokes an instant, unhappy response in the world of decorating. But, I think a touch of black is magical, and adds so much depth to a room, that I could never imagine living without it.

So, in defense of the teenager (and my favorite non-color) here are some options for the (sometimes) worried parents.....




 
Photographs borrowed from www.decorpad.com, www.sfgirlbybay.com, www.couldbemetoday.blogspot.com, www.ghoofie.com, and www.belmav.com.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Keeping (and Changing) Traditions


This week is Thanksgiving, and it is a holiday that everyone can celebrate.

It isn't about religion, and it isn't exclusive to family; it's about spending time with people because we want to, and being grateful for how much we have. Yes, that part often gets lost in the shuffle, but whether we announce it at the dinner table, or whisper it to someone after a glass of wine, we all know that we are lucky to have people to care for, and who care about us.  

Our family spends Thanksgiving with dear friends, and that has become a new tradition; they are our other family - our new normal. It is warm, welcoming and comfortable; I could wear my pajamas at the dinner table, paint my toes (not at the dinner table), and they wouldn't mind in the least. I like that.

Lives change, and as much as we want our traditions to stay the same, they can't. We are allowed to feel sad when we can't do them anymore, but we can always make room for new ones, which is kind of exciting when you think about it.

It gives us an opportunity to try something else, to find out all over again what we do (and don't) like. And, they don't even have to be big, gigantic, extravagant traditions, they can be small, dollar-store ones, that are imperfect, and not quite thought out until we decide they should be. There is no limit to how many we are allowed to have, and we can change our mind whenever we want.

I remember trying to uphold the tradition of going to a Christmas Tree Farm every year. It was fun driving through the countryside (well, sort of, I think it was New Jersey), sipping hot apple cider with our frozen, mittened fingers, and trying to find the most perfect tree in the forest. But, as time went on, it felt more like something we had to do, instead of a nice day out; we would rush out of the house early, the drive seemed to take forever, they would run out of cider, and someone always complained about lying on the ground trying to cut down the too-big tree with the world's smallest saw.

Then, one year I realized we didn't have to do that anymore; our new tradition became a trip to the local hardware store, a tree tied onto the roof of my car by a very nice person, and a cup of hot chocolate at the local cafĂ©. It isn't a picture storybook afternoon, but it is a tradition, it makes us happy, and it is a far more peaceful way to start off our December.

Why not spend some time thinking up new traditions? One's that suit you, your friends and family now. Have them at random times during the year, not just around the Holidays. Ask everyone what they would like to do, or what they wish you did more of together. You might be surprised, and it might be simpler than you thought......

                      Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Photograph borrowed from www.decoradventures.com

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Coloring Your Winter


A friend is coming over to my house to gather some pine branches from the trees in the yard; an easy decoration to share when your garden thrives on random acts of pruning, and the occasional dose of neglect. We will probably have a cup of tea, I will bake something yummy, and, if it stays this cold, I will definitely warm the house up with the wood stove.

When I read this back, it sounds very idyllic, when really, neither of our lives are, but we are easily pleased, and we like spending time outside. She said, it's more fun doing it together, and she is right; even if it is below freezing, and the pine trees are much less than perfect, it will be a happy few hours. 

I never understood seasonal decorating until I came to New Jersey, and I realize now, that aside from it being a way to celebrate the holidays, it is a way of cheering us up when the days get really gray. Nothing grows, and by January, the color green feels like a distant memory that may, or may not have ever been true.

So, we decorate the outside, and we smile at the sparkly lights and the giant candy canes. We wait for the inflatable snowmen to pop up, and we find ourselves watching for the next burst of color down the street; perhaps judging just a little, but being secretly grateful for the distraction.
I am always amazed at how much work goes on to getting it just right; seemingly ordinary people spending weeks creating the most extravagant of displays, and coordinating lights in a way that would prevent me from ever flipping the on-switch. (I suspect there may be some math and technical skill involved, which could be why the whole process eludes me).

I love to see these homes, but my favorites are the more subdued displays; porches filled with red plaid, a wreath on the door, and oversized presents piled into an old sleigh. It feels like home to me (not that we ever had a sleigh on our front porch) but it looks comforting and warm, and when the day is so cold and gray, it makes you feel that you would always be welcome to stop in.

Decorating in the Winter isn't about whether you choose to have a dancing Santa Claus on your roof, knit a scarf for your tree, or hang a wreath on your front door, it's about adding a bit of color to the outside world, and putting smiles on the people driving by.

The gorgeous Knitted Tree photograph is from: www.superforest.org

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Creating Your Own Vision

 
One day, I saw a picture in a magazine of an old movie being shown on the side of a building. I wanted to believe that the photographer had captured a sentimental moment; that the family often decided to spend their nights outside on the hill, drinking hot chocolate, and keeping warm under the most scrumptious of plaid, wool blankets. That the grass was never damp, and that there was always a heroine swooning over her latest leading man.

So, I pinned the picture to my office wall, and I looked at it every day, because I found it truly beautiful (and, I hope one day to watch a movie outside, on a hill, with hot chocolate and a blanket).

Turns out, it is actually a photograph by Tim Walker, an Englishman who is known for his extravagant staging and quirky, romantic sense of style; the children don't even live in the house, and I bet they weren't drinking hot chocolate. The entire scene was manufactured for British Vogue in 2007.

Yes I was disappointed, and for a few moments I wanted to take the magazine page off my wall, but it is still a beautifully composed photograph, and without it I would never have found a new artist to admire.

Finding things that make you smile, imagine, or dream, may seem silly or unproductive to some, but it really does help many of us move forward. When we are stuck, we are often advised to make Vision Boards; the theory being that if we can see it, we will strive for it, and it will appear. But sometimes I think that there are too many rules, and we start searching for the exact right way to do it; letting perfection get in the way of what should be fun and inspiring, and turning it into just another project, determined to show off our lofty goals and exceptional paper cutting skills. What if you don't do it properly, and you fail at Vision Board making? How depressing would that be?

I prefer to take a much broader, portable, more simple approach. I have wish-lists and pictures taped to my office wall, folded into a small box, and squirreled away in my handbag. This chaotic collection is my adaptation of a Vision Board. It includes crumpled articles about all sorts of heroes, pictures of places that interest me, words jotted down for a book that I want to write, random wishes, photographs of friends and family, a pile of candy hearts with my favorite words, a list of things to do tomorrow, a childrens book by John Lithgow, a scribbled question about buttons, and a post-it remembering the color of a new lipstick that I want to try.

My vision is simple; by imagining absolutely everything, I am bound to accomplish something.....

The photograph is a piece of the wall in my office (the image by Tim Walker is to the left of the middle, and what looks like the moon is actually a white thumb tack).

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Decorating Poem

 
She wants to move the furniture,
on a Sunday afternoon.
It's always fun to decorate,
but first she empties the room.

The room looks dull, so she gets some paint,
decides to tape off a square.
Big and gorgeous, chalkboard black,
perhaps she'll paint a pair?

The paint is drying, furniture is out,
the rug she brings back in.
It's old, it's small, but has to do,
now for the fun to begin.

She pushes the sofa across the room,
moves the rug at an angle.
Amused, she decides to vacuum the floor,
after finding a fork and a bangle.

Thought she was careful, but not enough,
looks down at the scratched wooden floor.
No need to fix it, just cover it up,
by moving the rug some more.

The sofa sits on the rug, looking big,
she sits on a chair next to it.
The chair is old, the fabric worn,
and now, she's gone straight through it!

She picks it up, and throws it out,
with a strength she never knew.
Another chair is quickly found,
lucky she has quite a few.

Another chair, another side,
the sofa is moved again.
She stops, and moves it back some more,
some more, then more again!

Decides to have a cup of tea,
to think of lots of things.
Looks at the mess, and dreams of poems,
of Cabbages and Kings.

Up she gets, and washes her cup,
determined to finish the room.
She checks the paint, and sees that it's dry,
sweeps the floor with a broom.

Brings in a bookshelf, some lamps and a painting.
pillows, photographs, china and tables.
Arranges flowers and washes the floor,
straightens the curtains, and opens the door.

The afternoon over, she smiles at the end.
Her home is now different, but not a penny did she spend.....

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fancy Hanging Lights


I don't know if there is a fear of electricians out there right now, but there seems to be an increase in overhead lights that can be plugged in, instead of hard-wired to the ceiling. Of course, it is easier than wiring what you already have (and less expensive) and some homes don't even have ceiling lights to begin with (which I am still not used to, and I don't quite understand why they build them that way).
But, as much as I am all for quick and easy decorating, I wish these had been designed by real people, and not manufacturer's grabbing onto a trend, throwing it into a factory, and spitting it out at the public. 

Lighting a home isn't just about being able to see; if it was, then we would all just have cheap lightbulbs hanging everywhere, or a constant supply of flashlights in our pocket. We want it to look good, and, from a design point it should somehow enhance the room, instead of looking like some temporary solution on our to-do list. 

I love the idea of making decorating easy, but it is the execution and design of these lights that is wrong. They should come with instructions, and a lot more care, so that they really will look like the picture on the front of the box.
Let's be honest, every single one I have seen lately is hanging from a wiggly cord, looped across the ceiling, and dangling awkwardly down the wall, like a really bad Andy Warhol exhibit. 

So, in my effort to save you from the awful, fancy hanging lights, I have a few suggestions....

- Open the box before you buy it. If the cord is white, wrapped tight, and looks bent, don't bother.
- If you know an electrician who can add a chain to it, and/or a thinner/clear cord, then go for it.
- Please don't wrap the cord in fabric, but you can paint it if that makes you feel better.
- Consider where you are going to hang it, and how you will drape/hang/celebrate/disguise the cord. 
- If the photograph shows just a chain, and no cord, they are fibbing. It still needs electricity.
- Most of them do look better draped (in a designery kind of way) instead of pulled taut (like a bad facelift). 

p.s. If you have a fancy hanging light that you really do love, please send me a picture of it, and I will share it on my business Facebook page. 

Photograph was from Amazon but now it has been replaced with another chandelier.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Things in Jars

 
One of the oddest things that I love, and I don't quite understand why, is a jar (preferably with a lid). Yes, I'm inspired by art, nature, and everything else, but a jar to me is like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia; it is so ordinary, but its possibilities are infinite (and unknown). 
 
I will often buy something at the grocery store just because I covet where it lives (we don't really need the imported peaches, but the upturned sides on the small, round jar is hard to resist when the days are short and I need to grow a daffodil). 

Crazy as it sounds, jars trigger my imagination, and I don't even know why anyone would want to throw them away. Maybe if I ate a lot of jarred things I would feel differently, but for now it is a very manageable obsession, and I am always happy when I scrape out the last bit of whatever is stuck to the bottom of the glass.

To me, they are the perfect starting point to giving someone a present; the packaging is there without any effort, and all I have to do is fill them up with lots of goodies. On a practical note, it is also nice because I can put in smaller things that may get lost in a larger, more decorative bag. Somehow, a jar makes everything seem more important, and it is fun to look through the glass and see if there is anything that we didn't notice the first time.

Because I don't eat pickles (which come in really big, useful jars) I often buy new ones (jars, not pickles) at the store. Although they are meant for storing flour and dog treats, it shows that you really do like someone if you are giving them a present that is new, and not an old one that smells like something you ate with yesterday's lunch.

By the way, when I was looking for a photograph, I Googled 'things in jars", which I wouldn't recommend; my jar-filling ideas are definitely less macabre....

  • Winter Spa Jar - Lip-balm, Shea butter lotion, a bar of chocolate, and a body scrub.
  • Get Well Jar - Vitamin C drink sachet's, fuzzy socks,  tissues and a mug.
  • Happy Birthday Jar - Some of their favorite things, plus a balloon and some candles.
  • Housewarming Jar - Things from your pantry, layered like colored sand, to wish them good luck in their new home e.g. Flour - so they may never go hungry, Sugar - so life is always sweet etc. Write a label on the outside to explain what they mean. 
  • Firefly Catching Jar - A great last minute gift for a child (or grown-up) on a Summer's night.
  • Teenage Girl Jar - Fancy spa things, popcorn, diary, sleep socks and nail polish.     
  • Teenage Boy Jar - Lots and lots of snacks. 
  • New Baby Jar - Cute outfit, chocolate for the parents, and a rattle or soft toy. 
  • Gardener's Jar - Flower seeds, trowel, gloves, and plant markers.
  • Just Because Jar - Anything you think someone would like that will fit inside the jar.
p.s. Photograph of Firefly catcher, and instructions on how to make it, are from Southern Living.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A new use for old books ....

 
 
This week I reorganized two home offices; a client's, and my own. He was a businessman who had recently stopped commuting, and I was catapulted into the 21st century with the gift of a new computer and monitor (so fast that it makes me feel like Laura Ingalls being asked to choose what type of coffee she wants at Starbucks. Some days I feel like it is typing the words before I have even thought of what I wanted to say).

Although we are in this world of portable media, some of us still need a place to sit and work in order to stay focused. I am one of those people, and, apparently, so was my client; I can't travel from sofa to sunroom with a laptop, and actually get any work done. It took me years to understand the concept (discipline?) of working from home, and I know it could very easily be undone if I wandered around the house in my fuzzy pajamas, looking for the sunniest, softest, most comfortable place to type.

My client felt the same way; he wanted his job to stay in once place, and not share office time with his family unless it was absolutely necessary. But, he felt disorganized, and although his office had plenty of space, he felt the room was working against him instead of for him. So, this is what I discovered during this last week ....
  • If you have the luxury of working from home, then for goodness sake enjoy it, and make your space as efficient and practical as you can. 
  • Your chair and desk should be comfortable, and your back, neck and head should not ache at the end of the day. This sounds obvious, but if something hurts, you need to figure out why. If you have a bad back, then a new, ergonomic chair may be better than the traditional squishy one, elevate your feet on a stool if you need to, and adjust the size and glare of the text on your monitor if it makes you squint all day. 
  • Have what you need all the time within arms reach, and be flexible until it feels right. Jot down notes about what does and doesn't work for you. (eg. If you have to get up every time you use the printer, and you use it often, then maybe it should be nearer). 
  • Store away as much as possible, and consider the less obvious place for things; can you put your scanner and filing cabinet in the closet, or stack letterhead paper in a drawer?
  • Remove things you don't need, or use very rarely, and keep personal items to a minimum. I know this seems contradictory to what I usually say, but if it is a dedicated office space, then it isn't a place for excessive daydreaming. The idea is to keep it separate from your personal life. 
  • Do have motivating things in your office. Whatever your field of work, surround yourself with things or words that inspire you about your career, or remind you of your goals.
One of my own changes this week was to put my monitor on two books, because the new one that was gifted to me (thank you, you know who you are) was too low for my old desk. The irony of the solution wasn't lost on me; the books are from 1905, gorgeous, heavy and gold bound, but although I thumb through them every now and again, they usually sit with my favorite dishes in a glass cabinet.
Moved to my office for a practical reason, I now get to look at these beautiful pieces of art every single day.

So, whether you are catapulted into a new world, or doing the happy dance because you don't have to commute any more, make the most of it (and don't wear fuzzy pajamas while you type - well, maybe just now and again........)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Like Peas and Carrots

 
As soon as I earned my first paycheck, I started to buy clothes in green and purple. In hindsight, I think it was a reaction to wearing a school uniform that consisted of brown, cream, mustard and red; it literally took me about 20 years before I would wear any of my school colors again.
So, green and purple became my automatic favorites; in fact, I think I spent most of the late 80's wearing purple and green sweater's over leggings (well, that, and an over-sized graphic t-shirt inspired by Frankie Goes to Hollywood).

Now, I've forgiven my school, and I love it when I see unusual color pairings that just work (even though we sometimes think they shouldn't). The color trend is more about showing your personality, instead of following design rules, because really, rules are like words in the Dictionary; they are a wonderful base of knowledge, but they still need to be updated every now and again.

Like peas and carrots, these color combinations may not be your first choice, but they will always  have a certain unexpected charm....


 
 
Thank you to:
 A Sweet Pea Chef (Carrots), The Smithsonian (Peas), Chictopia (Dress) Acute Designs(Flowers) Pixi Wishes  Forehead Kisses (Cake), Pinterest (Door and Sea Glass)
 House Beautiful (Living Room).

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Easy Organizing


Did you know that my birthday is almost the same day as Martha Stewart's? Hmmm....maybe that is why I label everything in my freezer, and have a cracked flowerpot in my fridge to hold the garlic.

To me, being organized sounds like a lot of work, and it gives off an expectation of being perfect, so, I prefer to call it something else. Not sure what, but I will let you know when I think of it. Anyway, the more I can do ahead of time, the better I feel, and the more time I have to spend doing the most important (and fun) things that I actually want to do.

If you come to my house unexpectedly, it is never super clean, but it is tidy. Perhaps that is a bit backwards, but it just has to please me and my daughter, not the dust and vacuum inspector. And, I always have fresh flowers, and a geranium or herb growing in the front window, which hopefully will distract you from the dog hair twirling in the corners, and the sofa that the cat has scratched.

But, late at night, or early in the morning, I will multitask like a crazy woman; doing things in my pajamas that will ease the monotony of every day chores. Maybe this is where the Martha in me comes out; I will label things, sort them into categories, and find all sorts of containers for all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Not because I want to impress someone who opens my cupboard, but because I want to be able to bake a cake at 6am, or write a letter without searching through a pile of debris on my kitchen table.    

Everyone seems very busy right now, and work is overwhelming for so many, that I think we shouldn't be afraid to use the shortcuts that make life easier. Here are just a few of mine....

- Run as many hot-water things together as you can. I will often take a shower while I run the washing machine and the dishwasher. (This saves so much time and money).
- If you see something that needs doing, and you have a few moments, do it without perfection. (A five minute vacuum is better than waiting for the stars to align, and the "right" time to present itself).
- Transfer pantry food (rice, pasta, flour etc) to see-through container's when you can. (It makes it easy to see how much you have left, and the contents will keep much longer).  
-  Clean as you go. (Whether it's Thanksgiving Dinner dishes, or a pile of Take Out containers, they don't get better with age; no matter how tired you are, get it done, and you'll be so grateful in the morning).
-  Ask your children to help you with something, and set the timer for a ridiculously short amount of time (eg. ten minutes). Do this often, and they might still complain, but they will get used to helping out.
-  Take food for the entire week out of the freezer on Sunday - it will take a day or so to defrost, and will be fine in the fridge for several days.

Well, I still can't think of a better word for organized, but I do know that whatever it is, it is worth doing...

Photograph from www.whydidyouwearthat.com

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Spider Webs and Fading Sunlight

I was wiping the spider web off the front door again today, when I thought about how much that first impression counts. I'm not talking about grand gestures of statues and manicured lawns, but those few minutes when you're standing, waiting for the door to open. The moments where you notice the cobweb, and the pink geranium that needs some water.

Those are the parts of a home that I find most interesting. The tiniest of details that go unnoticed, but are seen by people every single day. No-one knows that I wipe off the spider web every morning, and that my geranium doesn't like a lot of water, all they see is what is there.

Don't worry, I am going somewhere with this. I promise. What I mean is, that taking a few minutes to stand at your front door may be a good idea now and again. It says a lot about who we are, and even in the worst of times, it should feel cared for.

Like I said, it isn't about fancy, or even decorating, but it is a little about making an effort. Even if your paint is chipped (me), and the walkway has seen better days (also me), you can still put a cheery plant on the step, or a welcome sign out front.

This time of year, I always think the front door needs a little extra help; the flowers are on their last legs, and with daylight fading early, nothing seems to look as bright as it did last month. Sometimes, I start to panic a bit, worrying more about the upcoming snow than what is happening right in front of me.
When this happens, I take an hour or so to hurry around and keep up appearances. I'll prune the plants, wipe off the cobweb (again), grab a pile of empty terracotta flower pots (one of my favorite things in the entire world) and hang an old chandelier or birdcage from my trusty cup hook.

It doesn't take much, and it won't win any design competitions, but it will look cared for, and my friends will always feel welcome...

Photograph from: www.wyevalleyholidaycottages.co.uk.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Egg Cup



I never had Egg Cups in my house until I had my daughter. To me, soft boiled eggs were a memory from childhood, and definitely not part of my grown up life. Trying to coax the perfect egg yolk from a pan of scalding water was far too complicated for my decaffeinated, morning brain; I considered breakfast a success if the coffee was hot, and I could catch my toast before it jumped onto the less-than-clean kitchen floor. But, when my daughter came along, food became more important, and I knew it was time to tackle the nostalgic, runny egg.

Growing up in England, soft boiled eggs with toast soldiers were often on the table; lots of butter, a knife to crack it open yourself, and the smallest of spoons to fit inside. Sometimes, as we got older, we were allowed a sprinkling of salt.
I think it was the ritual that we loved, and perhaps the excitement of opening it up. Not sure why, because we always knew what would be inside, but cracking an egg felt like the beginning of an adventure (just the other day, I got a double yolk when I was baking, and I was so excited that I didn't want to squish them with the whisk. So, I admired them for a while, made a wish, then made my cake).

Anyway, determined to be the perfect Mom, I decided to get a couple of Egg Cups and make the perfect soft boiled eggs. Unfortunately, like most things, the experience wasn't the same as I had remembered; I would make them too hard, or too runny, and what seemed like hours of preparation would end up being thrown into the woods, eaten by some lucky squirrel who didn't care who had made it, or how it had arrived in his home. 

Disappointed, I put the Egg Cups on a shelf, and frowned at them for several months. Eventually, my stubbornness gave way to logic, and I realized it wasn't their fault; they were really just miniature containers, and they didn't care if they ever held an egg again or not.
Now, I use them for all sorts of things; from serving small amounts of ketchup and dip, to mixing a few highlights for my hair (not the same one, of course).
And, lately they have been holding tea lights, which reminds me of a midnight vigil from a Tim Burton movie...

(p.s. I still can't cook the perfect soft-boiled egg).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Want a Tree House


Doesn't everybody want a Tree House at some point in their lives? I'm not talking about one of those fancy, I'm-in-a-tree-but-I-really-am-a-house type, I mean a platform that I have to navigate up to from a wiggly ladder.

It would be very high up, but not too high that I would get scared (or mistaken for a bird).
It would be a place to hide (but you could find me if you really wanted to), and it would have a small roof to stop spiders and snakes from dropping on my head.

I would never mind if it rained, and when it snowed, it would be the best place ever.
I might read, but mainly I would just sit in my tree, and watch everything go on around me. (I would feel like the only object standing still in a frantically shaken snow globe). I would feel very small.

I would like the platform to be big enough that I could lie down on my back and look at the sky. Which means I might need a pillow. The squishiest, biggest, brightest, flowery one I can find (in outdoor, vintage fabric, of course. Just because it's practical, doesn't mean it can't be pretty).
And a blanket. In case it gets cold.

Oh, and a pencil and a notepad would be nice. So that I can jot down things when I think of them, make a list of what to do next, and explain to myself why I haven't done anything but sit in a tree all day.....

Tree house photograph from Gozetta Decor.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How Warm is your Television?


If you ask any decorator what they find difficult to work around, most of them will say it is the television (and La-Z-Boy recliners, but that's another story). For many homes, it is the focal point of the family room; we watch it often, so it is placed in the spot where we can all see it. Unfortunately, they are also more than twice the size that they used to be, so they can't be squished into a corner, or moved around on wheels when company comes over (did we ever do that, or did I just make that up?).

Anyway, a while ago, new home contractors got creative and came up with the idea of putting televisions above the fireplace. A hole was cut out, and wires left dangling for installation. It made sense from their perspective; the room now had a clear focal point, it saved space, and the flat screens were supposed to mimic the look of art.
I don't know what the repercussions are from having your television above a roaring fire, but I do know that many of them were too high up to be watched in comfort. Good for chiropractors, but not fun when you want to lie on the floor and watch cartoons on a Saturday morning.

That trend is now leaving, and people don't want to see a television above the fireplace. So, we're back to hiding them. The concept is, that we cover the ugly television with something decorative when we're not watching it. But, we end up drawing more attention to it, which kind of defeats the purpose.....Whether it's a piece of art, a map, or a small barn door levitating above the mantle, it looks awkward. We know your television is hiding behind there, and now you have just added more stuff, and some weird railings either side of it all.

I am also not sure of the practicality of it all. I wonder if it deter's people from watching? Especially children; if they can't open the decorative thingamajig will they be forced to kick their SpongeBob habit (which doesn't seem quite fair when their life revolves around playtime, what's for lunch, and the adventures of a happy, yellow sponge). And, will the taller people entertain themselves by opening and closing the contraption just because they can? I know I would (just a few times, at least until the novelty wore off). What if one side doesn't slide back as far as the other, what if it doesn't quite stop at the end, falls off, or goes crooked in the middle? What if it hits the television, or it gets stuck halfway? What if someone falls into the fire, or accidentally trips while reaching for it?
That's a lot of questions before you can enjoy a cartoon....

Photograph from: www.centsationalgirl.com

Friday, August 15, 2014

The End of the Bed


Do you sit down quietly to get dressed, or do you rush around the room, trying to wiggle into whatever looks clean, before you pound down the stairs to grab a coffee and head out the door?

I think, that furniture at the end of the bed creates an illusion for many of us. It lets us imagine slow mornings of deciding what to wear, while anticipating a happy end to the day, neatly folded pajamas, and a closing of some very grand curtains.
We often put a comfy chair in our bedroom for the same reason; it makes us think of curling up with a book, and long, cozy nights by a warm fire. Whether or not we sit in it is irrelevant, it's the knowing we always can that makes it so welcome in our small corner of the world.

A vintage wooden trunk, while great for extra storage, is really beloved because of the connection to the past that it gives us; who doesn't want to be reminded of travelling to exotic places, looking for secret treasure, and planning all sorts of childhood adventures before your mom calls you in for dinner?

It might seem frivolous, but some things should be there just because of the way they make us feel. So what, if our mornings are littered with early phone calls, yelling across the hall, and kicking our toe on the sofa at the end of the bed, we should always make room for things that cheer up our day, and give us sweet dreams at night .....

p.s. Photograph borrowed from Liz Marie Blog

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Teenage Bedroom


One of my favorite rooms to redo, is one for a teen. I love finding out what they want, and what is really important to them.

Their initial response is often "I don't know", which is quickly followed by a flurry of ideas from the parent, and a lot of arm nudging and eye rolling from the teen. After a few moments, it all slows down, and the talking becomes easier. A few questions gets them interested, and they realize that this could almost be fun (and, let's face it, they would rather talk to me than the person who is constantly telling them to brush their teeth and find their pet python).

Teens are all different, yet they are all the same; I won't go on about what they need, and how misunderstood they feel, but I can tell you that their room usually means more to them than they realize. No, it should not become a health and safety hazard, and wearing underwear is always non-negotiable (how clean it is, is their issue) but, after that, it should be a room that is somewhat practical, and comfortable enough for them to want to spend time in.

So, when it no longer serves its purpose, and you are both at your wit's end, here are a few thoughts that might help you navigate through the teenage bedroom....
  • Have a conversation when you are both in a good mood (and you have enough time to talk).  
  • Be nice, and try not to roll your eyes.
  • Ask them what they don't want in their room, and offer to remove it (donate, sell or store somewhere else) as soon as possible. Decide on a day to do it, and write it on your calendar. 
  • Check out the basics that they already have, and talk about anything else that you both think they may need (or want). eg. a desk, a bigger bed, floor seating, space to hang things on the wall, a reading area, more or less storage, better lighting, a docking station etc.
  • Encourage them to be creative, and shop your house before you hit the stores (eg. a table can double as a desk, and a newly painted dresser or filing cabinet, can easily store books, tech gadgets and homework).
  • When buying new things, have a budget in mind before you begin. Let them go shopping with you, or, at the very least, go on-line and give them some options to choose from before you head out.
  • Be as open and lenient as you can be, and follow through with what you promise.  
  • If you have to say no to something, try to offer a compromise (or, tell them the honest reason why you are saying no).   
And, if it doesn't go according to plan, take a deep breath, wade through the debris, ignore the python, quietly close the door .... and still love them.

p.s. The VW Camper in the photograph is from the VW Camper Blog (of course!).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Finding your Style



We sometimes wonder if we don't have any, or where we can get it, but really, your style is who you are. It's that person sitting in front of the computer, the assortment of things on your kitchen table, and all those weird thoughts bouncing around in your head.

After watching far too many decorating shows, we are told that we should fall into one of four or five design style categories; we want to identify who we are, quickly attach a label to it, and claim it as our own. But, narrowing down a style from a choice of four is about as easy as choosing a shade of white paint for your wall. (I truly believe that there are more shades of white in the color-sphere, than there are blades of grass in my garden).
Despite what they tell us, it isn't that easy, but, it is a lot more fun than you might think...

There is a show on television where the designer asks a series of questions, then comes up with a personal name for the style of the homeowners. Honestly, she has great ideas, but the wacky names alone make it worth watching; it is always something weird and interesting, like Urban Industrial Pancake, or Bohemian Rustic Amphibian (which means that you are a little bit of a hippie, who likes being outside, and your favorite color is green).

As funny as it is, she is giving them parameter's to work with, so that instead of floundering in a sea of generic adjectives, they now know that their style is, Urban Industrial Pancake (which means that they like things to be graphic and bold, with a few squidgy, flat surfaces).

Maybe we should all take this approach, and instead of having to choose between Traditional, Classic, and whatever else is thrown out there, we can make up our own label. No two people are alike, which means that our decorating style will always be a little different. Why don't we just string a description together for ourselves, instead of having to decide on just one? I think we should all have at least three words for our style. I think mine, at this moment, would be Eclectic Organized Purple Teacake. What's yours?

p.s. The photograph above is from B&B Italia, and could be called Modern Castle Chic.
p.p.s. The television show is called  Secrets from a Stylist with Emily Henderson. I think she is very talented, and I adore her style, but Urban Industrial Pancake and Bohemian Rustic Amphibian are made up, and were never actually featured on her show. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Unexpected Storage


If I had lovely feet, I would display my even more lovely shoes in a glass cabinet! Actually, even with my average feet, I would be very happy to display my average shoes in this gorgeous vintage cabinet.

To me, it is far more sensible to store them this way than cramming my size 11's into those hanging shoe pockets, or balancing my coveted Doc Martin's onto a wobbly wire shelf that is only a few inches deep. And, it is so unexpected, that it would always be a joy to put them away. It would be my own version of art; not quite Alexander McQueen status, but easy art in a tiny house.

Shoe pockets are absolutely great for everything - except shoes. I used them for toys when my daughter was younger, for craft supplies later on, and now, for jewelry, things that smell good, and accessories. Somehow, they never quite worked out for my shoes.

When I need extra storage, I always start with what I need, before going to the store. I wonder about whether or not I want to show the world what I have, or tidy it away somewhere. Do I need it to be perfectly organized, or can I settle for good enough?

Then, I shop my house to find out what I am bored with, and what do I want to see more of. It's like a game to me; last year, my fancy china (never used, and didn't really like) got stored away, and replaced with my crazy doesn't-match-in-any-way dishes. At first glance, it may not be as pretty, but it is definitely more practical. And, more importantly, pulling open a keyed glass door, to get a 25 cent flea market plate, makes me smile every single time.

Using (and enjoying) what we have should be a priority, so why not display your shoes in a glass cabinet, or keep your favorite perfume in a shoe pocket?

Photograph borrowed from I Love Design UK 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Plain and Fancy


When I was little, all the cookies and cakes were divided into two categories - plain and fancy. The plain were for the everyday kind of eating, and the fancy (usually with chocolate, or a vanilla cream inside) were just for special occasions (when we had guests over, or it was someone's birthday). Packets at the supermarket were often labeled "Plain and Fancy", just in case our parents couldn't make up their mind.

Now that I am older, I find that I am a mixture of plain and fancy. I love to dress up, but I am also a homebody, who wants to lie on the floor and watch old movies in my favorite t-shirt.

Homes are a bit like that as well; we have to have the plain, in order to function, but we need a bit of fancy, just for fun. To have one or the other gets a little mundane, so pairing the two is as comforting as having a cup of tea and a warm slice of cake.
With that in mind, here are some more of my favorite plain and fancy combinations:
  • Leather furniture sitting next to an over-sized, slightly worn, vintage rug.
  • Fresh herbs and flowers floating in a pitcher of store bought iced tea. (Looks ridiculously fancy, and a lot of effort, but it isn't).
  • A simple, bold lampshade almost overwhelming a formal dining room table.
  • Garden's decorated with old mirrors, windows and chandeliers.
  • Using the best china and silver for every meal (especially takeout).
  • Filling a modern kitchen with a big, squishy sofa.
  • Sleeping outside; pretending you are camping, when really you are in a beautiful, breezy, outdoor bed (without the creepy crawlies). 

p.s. The photograph is of a small Summer cottage in the Catskills, originally featured in the NY Times

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Joy of Moving!


I know lots of people who are moving house at the moment. Whether they are moving for work, or changing towns to be nearer to family, it can be overwhelming trying to remember everything.
With the amount of stuff in my home, I know, that if it was me, I would probably fall into either denial (or panic) mode. Neither of which is good, but, I do have a few ideas that would also make it a whole lot easier on myself: 

  • Look at it as the perfect opportunity to get rid of as much as I can. If I don't love it, or have to live with it, I will donate, sell or throw it away. 
  • Have fun with my (slightly) obsessive tendencies, and write as much information as possible on those cardboard packing boxes. (It's about priorities; I know I will be so grateful when I can find my favorite spoon for the mocha chocolate chip ice cream at 2am).
  • Make a list of what I have to do when I first move in (contact utility companies, buy ice cream etc) along with a list of any important phone numbers.
  • Charge all electronics the day before, just in case. 
  • Check my calendar for the next week or two, and keep it nearby (it's easy to be distracted, and forget to pay a bill or keep an appointment).
  • Be nice to the moving men, and ask for as much help as possible. Write down ahead of time where the big and heavy items need to go, and post it for everyone to see (in case I'm not there when they try to park my baby grand piano in the middle of the worlds tiniest kitchen).  
  • Have a first and second day plan. Know where I will sleep, what I will eat (we know that already), where the shampoo and toothpaste is, and where my clothes are.  
  • Embrace my inner teenager, and accept that I might be living in chaos for longer than I would like. 
  • Play with the placement of my old furniture before I rush out and buy something new. (It will look different in a new house, and we both need time to adjust).
  • Try to have at least one room that feels almost "done" to me. A room where I can take a break, sit with my ice cream, and remember what I forgot to do....
                                         
p.s. The photograph of Audrey Hepburn is a publicity shot from the movie, Sabrina, taken in her home by Mark Shaw in 1953.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Classes


Sometimes, it's good to go back to the basics...

I find, that when I organize the everyday things, it makes the rest of my life so much easier. So, I decided to do a few classes on saving time, getting organized, and how to tackle those chores that we may not like, but still have to deal with.  
             
Join me at home, for a couple of hours, some iced tea, and lots of great ideas.
                                                                                                       
p.s. I will be adding more dates, and some afternoon times through August.
For any questions, and to register, please email me at: wendy@thebluegiraffe.com

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Porcelain, Plastic and Picnics


Years ago, we had a St Patrick's Day party. Up until then, our parties had always been built around plastic; it was easy to buy, disposable, and who didn't love writing their name and drawing funny faces on a Red Solo Cup?

But, this time, I wanted to serve Irish Stew, and it was March. So, I decided to forgo the picnic attire, and buy large soup bowls from a real, proper kitchen shop. I spent a fortune; I bought 20 of them, as well as beer glasses (I didn't even know you could get beer glasses) and an assortment of bright green decorations. I dreaded having to wash all the dishes, but I knew it was better than having our friends stabbing at their polystyrene, trying to eat meat and potatoes with a plastic fork.

That day, I became a convert, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the environment; it was just easier. Already a collector of dishes and silverware, I realized afterwards that I actually had enough of everything to use for almost any occasion.
From then on, I decided to let go of my party "must-have's", and really see what I had in my home. I began to mix the plain with the fancy, and just added a steady supply of white napkins. Strangely enough, it was less expensive, and less stressful; the dishwasher did more work than me, and I avoided those last minute runs to buy a packet of something that was only sold in sets of eight.

With picnics on the calendar, and 4th of July almost here, I think we should make our days as easy as possible. Whether you entertain a lot, or a little, why not try shopping around your home before you buy...

p.s. I still love writing on a plastic cup with a sharpie (and thank you to Toby Keith for making us smile with the song - Red Solo Cup). 
Vintage picnic photograph borrowed from www.4thofjulyimages.com

Friday, June 27, 2014

Not Just For Books


Growing up, we all had bookshelves...with books on them. That was what they were for; a practical way to keep books from sitting in a higgledy-piggledy pile on the table. Books were part of our everyday life; to look up information, learn how to spell a word, and to imagine adventures before we went to sleep.
Now, we have the Internet, and books don't take up quite as much household space as they used to.

But, we still have the shelves. And, while some people throw them out with their television stands, I want to roam the world, and rescue every single one of them. All I see are magical opportunities; the perfect solution to almost every design problem.

Sometimes, we get hung up on the name. For example, thinking that a dining room table can only go in the dining room. Umm, no, it can go anywhere you want; an alarm won't sound, and the dining room police won't tell you off for moving it. Just because something can't be used for exactly what it was made for, doesn't mean it becomes useless.

A bookshelf is one of those "something's". For many, it could seem to be a boring (and almost extinct) piece of furniture, but for me, it is one of the best things to have in your home.

If you're considering throwing yours away, why not try to look at it a little differently; forget about the books for a moment, and think of it as extra storage. Contrary to what you may think, it doesn't have to be filled with pretty objects to look good; all you need is what you already have..... 
  • Be creative; maybe you don't need that bookshelf in your family room anymore. Could you use it in your foyer for shoes, your kitchen as a pantry, your garage for tools?
  • Check to see if you can adjust the shelf heights, or remove one; it looks more interesting, and you can often fit more things onto it. 
  • Whatever you are storing on it, place the nicest, neatest (or your favorite) things onto the most noticeable (eye level) shelf first. 
  • Put the most utilitarian (and heavy) pieces on the bottom.
  • Fill in the rest of the spaces with groups of whatever else you have.
  • Use boxes and bowls to organize odd bits and pieces.
Have fun, and enjoy your weekend!  

p.s. What about this idea of using an old book shelf as a headboard? Isn't it clever? The lovely photograph is fromCanadian House and Home, and the paint color is Farrow and Ball's Setting Plaster No. 231.                 
p.p.s. Do I need to mention safety? Check your bookshelf is safe before loading it up, and attach it to the wall if you need too.         

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

cake in a cup = Creative Perfeckshun


Most of the creative people I know think they are perfectionists, but are actually not perfect at all; attention to detail is there, and they don't like to leave a task until it is done to their liking, but they are always open and creative in their approach. Put ten of them in a room, and you will not be able to hear yourself think, as they loudly give you more than ten different solutions to the same problem.

Some people say you are born to be creative, but I wonder if it is also a bit like a muscle; the more you use it, the more it works. Of course, we all have different strengths, and while being artistic might be in someones DNA, creativity might be something we can all learn to embrace, nurture, and have fun with.

Which brings me back to perfection. The other day, I read a really great theory; that creativity begins with letting go of having to do everything perfectly, and the willingness to discover other options.
What they suggested was so simple, that I wanted to share it with you....

Practice making a recipe without having all the ingredients. Whether it is a meal or a cake, go ahead and turn the oven on, knowing full well that you are not prepared.
Don't dismiss Chicken Tarragon because you have no tarragon. (I don't like tarragon anyway). Substitute thyme, or whatever is in your cupboard or your garden. If you don't have any herbs, make it anyway, add whatever you feel like, and see what happens.
The same with a cake. Yes, they say it is a science, but I often use a lot less sugar, and I play with the proportions and flavor, until the raw batter looks (and tastes) good to me. What is the worst that can happen? It's still cake.                   

The joy of this is, playing with a recipe forces you to stretch that creative muscle, and to see that there are always other options around.
After doing this a few times, you will start to look at everything else a little differently; there will automatically be more solutions to your problems, tarragon will disappear from your shopping list, and you will start to see the world in a far more interesting (creative) way....
                                                                   

p.s. Here is the yummy Cake in a Cup recipe.  
p.p.s. Yes, we all have issues; it was not easy for me to press "send" with a deliberate spelling mistake in the title.