Tuesday, March 13, 2012

True Colors

I couldn't believe my eyes last week when I saw little white fuzzy things flying through the air. Could it actually SNOW in the winter of 2012?

One little squall, sure, but enough to be pretty – if only for a few moments. The ground was too warm for anything to stick around.

But it happened right when I had just started thinking about sunny days and sandals! What's going on with the weather this year? Mother Nature seems to be a bit schizophrenic this season.

In my warped mind, I'm already thinking spring all the way: spring fashion, spring cleaning, spring fever. And today, the thermometer on my car read 73 degrees. Go figure.

Hot today, cold tomorrow...My daughter has worn flip flops this season, but I'm well aware that we may still get a big storm in March.

What to wear? That's the question now. Dress for winter? Dress for spring?

Today, I'm wearing the four-season staple: yoga pants with black t-shirt. But that's another story.

Following on the heels of New York Fashion Week this past fall, Pantone [the definitive global authority on color] released its Fashion Color Report for 2012 – and, true to form – it foreshadowed what is blooming in the fashion world this spring: a wide array of brights and jewel tones, with a couple of neutrals thrown in for good measure.

I was happy to see the neutrals – always love them! – but I was also excited to see some of the colors that I recently chose when repainting rooms in my house this winter. My new kitchen, for example, is now dangerously close to Pantone's Solar Power, coupled with a refreshing hint of Tangerine Tango, Pantone's Color of the Year. And didn't those JCrew sandals from my last blog post lean toward Tangerine Tango? Remember?

Pantone’s color guru Leatrice Eiseman has said that Tangerine Tango is a symbol of what people are needing, based on what is happening in the world around them.

"Splashes of tangerine are a much needed jolt of visual Vitamin C. This color is not a downer, but an upper," she said.

How fun! This DIY art fronm Pinterest can definitely be found on the official Color Report. And it's an upper to boot. I guess we could all use an upper these days.

You gotta love the names Pantone chooses. After all, life is a Cabaret, old chum.

Doesn't this look like Sodalite Blue? [When I first looked at the name of the color, my middle-aged eyes saw Socialite Blue.] Whatever.

I just love this sweater for spring; I would wear it.

Sodalite Blue is getting a lot of attention this season, as are most of the other Pantone colors from the Color Report.

These Betsy and Millie ponchos are totally on color trend – and perfect for layering when the temperature swings 20 or 30 degrees in 24 hours. Hey, it happens.

Perhaps nothing blooms brighter than the peonies that Cricket Hill Garden is featuring in its catalog this spring. Omgosh...I think I could be happy forever if I had these colorful beauties in my garden.

Besides, they coordinate with the official Color Report.

I have dozens of peony plants in my garden, but these are tree peonies and my peonies are herbaceous peonies. While my plants are lovely, Cricket Hill's tree peonies are simply m-a-g-n-i-f-i-c-e-n-t.

Peonies, native to Eastern China, have been around for thousands of years – way longer than Pantone. And these COLORS! Talk about color uppers.

Which makes me think: Who's REALLY in charge?

I certainly hope we enjoy all of Pantone's spring jewel tones, brights, and neutrals - whether in our wardrobes or in our homes – but I have a feeling that the true "global authority on color" may have thought of all of them first.

Know what I mean?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Here Comes the Sun

Just a quick bit of visual inspiration for the day...who could ever imagine 67-degree weather in February? In West Virginia? I went outside and cleaned my French doors this afternoon – just to feel the sun on my face for a little while. Although I'm more than aware that we could get slammed with a big snowstorm in March, my thoughts have officially turned to spring – and sandals.

I can't help it! Are these not the cutest? JCrew, of course. How could one put these on and NOT be in a good mood? They make my toes wiggle.

Sun, sun, sun - here it comes.

Did you notice the sun today? As Shakespeare [and Sting] have said, there's nothing like it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Too Many THINGS, but Never Too Much LOVE

Lots to cluck about lately, but I've been so very busy that I haven't had even a spare second to think about blogging. As if our "typical" lives around here weren't hectic enough, I began the gargantuan job of de-cluttering, purging, organizing, recycling, pre-spring cleaning, redecorating, undecorating, and yes, painting the house – and I've been throwing away and giving away and re-purposing lots of STUFF.

What, your house doesn't look like this? Mine either. But shouldn't everyone have a goal?

My husband has adamantly declared NO YARD SALE – so I've held a few mini treasure sales [via Facebook] and they've been unexpectedly well-received. The attic is getting more empty by the day!

But this question remains. Where has all this STUFF come from? Granted it's all STUFF that I loved at one time or another, but geez...

I guess 25 years of marriage + two artistic, energetic children + dogs + rabbits + other weird animals like sea monkeys, butterflies, triops (look it up!), anole lizards + auctions + antiques and "finds" + social studies projects + dance recital costumes + musical instruments + clothes and shoes + sports equipment + a big house to store everything in = TOO MUCH STUFF.

Did I mention books? I've never seen so many books in my life.

I tend to be sentimental, so I have a difficult time getting rid of some objects because there are too many memories attached. And since my younger child is leaving for school next fall, I'm starting to sing the empty nest blues. But I'm also finding this purging of wretched excess to be strangely wonderful. I am absolutely loving being free of so many THINGS.

L-O-V-I-N-G it.

And with Valentine's Day swiftly approaching, what better time to ponder love?

What do you love? Do you love to de-clutter and cleanse, or are you more of a pack rat? Are there THINGS that you can't make yourself part with? Granted, I've gotten rid of a lot – but I still have a lot of THINGS, too. Unfortunately, I also still see more THINGS that I love. Every single day.

I promise you, it isn't mere materialism. Sometimes, for example, I just admire the shape of an object. It doesn't have to cost a thing. Other times, an object takes me back to a specific event or person. And at times, I am pleased and struck by the simple value of color in something.

I digress, but color evokes so much emotion. One can't mention Valentine's Day and love without thinking of what color? Red. Although red is NOT my favorite color, its impact and desire cannot be denied.

Look at this chinoiserie mirror. I can't help it. I just love it. Truly, madly, deeply. cluck! cluck! cluck!

However, my husband and I have decided that we're going to make a concerted effort to stay uncluttered. We're vowing to simplify. When one THING comes in, another THING must go out. That's our new mantra. So, no beautiful mirror – unless another beautiful object goes.

I have too many THINGS because sometimes, you know, I knew I just HAD to have it! Hey, it was the '80s! Sometimes, it was love at first sight.

Sort of like this. I could really go for this reddish-painted chest of drawers if I saw it in a shop somewhere. It would store lots of old valentines. Maybe I'm a hoarder at heart. Isn't the color divine? But where in the world would I put it? It can't come in, unless something goes out.

One of the rooms we've just painted is our kitchen; the walls are now a stimulating cross between tangerine and apricot and sunshine. No red here. And I do love the new color!

But let's stick with red and the Valentine's Day theme. Could you love these red cabinets in your kitchen, or would they be too much, day in and day out? I can't decide.

When I taught high school, my students used to lament about my red pen, telling me that I'd bled all over their papers. Red is great for correcting essays, but I realize now that it can be a little intimidating. If I taught again, I'd consider using another color. Red is still great for copy editing, though.

Look at how Paul Cézanne uses red here. Wow. Bells'll ring, Ting-a-ling-a-ling. That's amore. I would definitely bring this beautiful piece of art into my newly uncluttered home – that is, if I had the means. How about you?

To be sure, art is one THING that I haven't ever been able to live without. Since my son is an artist, I now love it even more. I have been unable to part with much of my children's artwork through the years.

I totally agree! Okay, here we have red again, so perhaps I like red more than I know. It's still not my favorite color, but it does have an appeal that no one can deny. Want to attract attention? Use red.

Want to make students sigh and groan? Use red. Make lovers swoon? Use red. Love, love, love these red peonies! My favorite flower ever.

I am passionate about many THINGS, but I do realize, of course, that they're just THINGS. As Michael Franti and Spearhead say, "The best things in life aren't THINGS..."

When purging my jewelry box this past week, I ran across one intriguing little THING. Something that I'll never, ever be able to part with. It doesn't sparkle or even have any red in it, but it sure did catch my eye.

Isn't that just the sweetest thing you ever saw? About a decade ago, I had given my daughter some costume jewelry to wear and/or play with, and she lost or damaged [I don't even remember what happened to it!] an earring. What I do remember is how upset she was about it. She even wrote me this little note and put it in my jewelry box.

I treasure her lovely note to this day.

I remember that I used the incident to tell her about her importance. How she was so much more important to me than THINGS. More important than any silver or gold or diamond earring or any THING I had ever owned. After all, the best things in life aren't THINGS...they're living and breathing...

In these dark times in our world and in our lives, might it not be better for us to place our focus on the simple things? Not THINGS? That's where the joy is. And that's where the real love is.

I'm getting rid of my clutter, my STUFF, but I'm keeping the simple things close – holding onto my love. This little note is a keeper, for sure.

What about you? What do you love? Happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mercury Falling?

Any design-savvy ski bunnies out there? Not me – when it comes to skiing, I'm strictly a novice – but my husband and son are expert skiers. And avid ones. They so LOVE to ski! Much to their chagrin, though, the ski season thus far [here in the east anyway] has been pretty sad. It's just been too warm!

Still, we took last Friday off to hit the slopes, and while conditions were far from ideal, we had an awesome time getting out on the mountain. We actually got a little "real" snow on Friday night.

My husband even got up early the next morning and skied again – but not me, my ankles were too sore...

Mother Nature has definitely been keeping the cold to herself most of the time this winter, but the arrival of a mere dusting of snow made our local resorts push to open for the season anyway. After all, they have to make livings, too! It just seems a little weird to ski when only the slopes are white – on our left and right, we could see lots of GREEN – and it makes it rather obvious that the majority of the snow is man made.

We had hoped we might get to ski again this weekend, but with the arrival of rain on Thursday and a forecast for warmer temperatures for the weekend, it's looking unlikely.

Although we've actually had plenty of precipitation this season, the mercury just hasn't fallen often enough to help produce the white stuff or keep any of it around. It's been nice walking weather, though!

So I've tried to take advantage of the relatively balmy temps and get some winter "outdoor" time. When walking around our property, I've been excited to notice that we have quite the variety of mosses growing this year. Lots of GREEN. Especially for January! Must be the damp weather – or maybe the ground is usually covered with snow this time of year – but we seem to have more moss than usual.

Moss has always made me happy. cluck! cluck! cluck!

For those of you who don't know, we live in an old stone and brick house, so I always welcome the growth of moss on our outdoor areas. Moss brings a sense of age and permanence to the surfaces on which it grows, so it really suits our historic home.

When my son (who's now 20!) was a little boy, we used to go on "moss hunts" to see how many different types of moss we could find. Sometimes we'd move a little piece here, another piece there. Today, I can readily see where some of our past adventures have taken us. Meanwhile, he's on new adventures of his own – in college. But that's another story...

Moss is remarkably easy to transplant. It uses rhyzoids, not roots, to anchor itself to the soil (or rock, brick or paver — mosses obtain all their nutrients from the air). You can use any handy garden tool or kitchen implement (or your hands, like I do!) to peel up a patch or strip of moss, then transport it to its new location.

You can plant moss between stones or pavers, let it grow on patio surfaces, or use it to decorate walls, stones, planters, and more.

Most varieties of moss prefer shade, and all require moisture to maintain a pleasing texture and appearance. A lack of moisture will cause moss to lose its color and resilience, but the moss usually will make a dramatic recovery once moisture is reintroduced.

If you want to plant moss between pavers on your patio or walk, just hand-pull any weeds that have sprouted between them. And if you have sand between your pavers, you'll want to pack in a little soil. When transplanting your own moss, you can slice a chunk of dirt out of the ground and leave a bit of the existing soil attached to the moss.

Water the surface of the growing area and the base of the moss. Press the moss firmly between the pavers – you can step directly on it or cover it with a board to more evenly distribute your weight. Don't worry – you won't hurt the moss. It may look a little flat for a bit, but it will recover quickly. It's important that the moss makes good contact with the surface below.

Water your newly-planted moss thoroughly, and continue to water daily for the first three weeks. Watering probably isn't even very necessary in the winter season if the conditions are damp like they've been this year! You can definitely reduce the frequency of watering once your moss is established, and it doesn't take long. If it starts to lose color or look dry, a good misting should make it perk it right up.

Beyond that, your moss will be virtually maintenance-free. And it's so fun to decorate with moss! Look at all these ways to use it in your home.

I have an antique planter like this one – and isn't this beautiful?

Here, Irish moss is used in a centerpiece. This makes me want spring to get here RIGHT NOW...

    From one of my very favorite shops, And George, Christy Ford and her mother, Jan Roden, use moss to decorate in a number of ways – even in the winter season. These are Christy's beautiful pictures. So inspiring!

    If you can't find any moss in your yard, you can always feather your nest with piles of chintz, like the famous decorating doyenne, Charlotte Moss. Or hire her, if you have the means.

    Actually, you can buy moss from your florist or even at craft stores such as Michael's.

    Anyway, as for my poor husband and son, I don't see a ski venture in their immediate future. We only have this much snow on the ground...

    Here's hoping [for their sakes] we'll see the mercury start to dip soon. For this weekend, for me at least, looks like it's gonna be moss all the way.

    Martha Stewart has some great directions for making a moss wreath. This one looks pretty nice.

    Maybe next weekend, we'll hit the slopes.

      Monday, January 23, 2012

      Belgian Design in Tintin Easy Steps

      Wow, I was taken back to my childhood this week when I saw the trailer for The Adventures of Tintin, Steven Spielberg's new movie.

      Having grown up in rural, southern West Virginia, my primary access to the big world outside came through reading. I couldn't wait to receive my Children's Digest every month! Anyone else remember The Children's Digest? My father made sure that I received it, along with Highlights and Weekly Reader and all the other resources that little geeks like me [I] loved. Because of him, a voracious reader was born. But that's another story...

      Isn't Tintin the cutest? The Children's Digest not only introduced me to The Adventures of Tintin, but also Rudyard Kipling, A. A. Milne, and other great authors and fun stories. 

      In case you aren't familiar with it, The Adventures of Tintin [first published in French: Les Aventures de Tintin] is a series of comic books created by Belgian artist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name of Hergé. The series is one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century.

      Tintin has long been admired for its clean, expressive drawings in Hergé's signature ligne claire style. [Watch him draw HERE.] Ligne claire [in English, “clear line”] describes comic art that gives equal weight and consideration to every line on the page. Because each line has the same thickness and importance and because the artist does not use hatching or shadowing, he creates a depth of field on the page that brings equal amounts of focus to the background and foreground. Many artists followed who adapted Hergé's style.

      Hmmm...I think that Hergé's ligne claire style might be easily compared to the uber-trendy Belgian design that has taken the interior design world by storm.

      I can't even say Belgian design without thinking of Axel Vervoordt, regarded as one of the best in our time. Vervoordt combines his profound knowledge of art history and applied arts with a high regard for architecture – plus an artist’s eye for balance, scale and proportion. His aesthetic is studied and followed by the most accomplished architects and interior designers in the world. It's easy to see why.

      One of my favorite bloggers, Joni, of COTE DE TEXAS, wrote all about the super popular Belgian design trend way back when. And Belgian design hit the mainstream in the U.S. in a big way when Restoration Hardware added items from BoBo Intriguing Objects, founded by Mark Sage and Rudi Nijssen, of Belgium. I love everything from RH has produced lately – and the Belgian influence throughout their new stuff is unmistakable. Have you seen the massive catalog?

      All this talk about great art and design has made me add Belgium to my travel wish list – once this darn recession is over! Can't decide between Antwerp and Brussels. Suggestions, anyone?

      Anyway, let's hear it for gorgeous Belgian design! Since most of us don't have our degrees in art history and/or architecture like Mr. Vervoordt, I think I need a more simplified introduction to the style.

      How about Ten [or is it Tintin?] Easy Steps to Belgian Design?

      1. Exercise ruthless editing, sacrificing everything except items which perform a function. This is Vervoordt again.

      2.  Make it about the mix – use smooth with rough, high and low, the posh with the earthy. Take a look at Ina Garten's bathtub.

      3.  Favor solid fabrics over patterns. Decorator Kay Douglass did it well here.

      [image from House Beautiful]

      5. Use mainly light woods.

      6.  Choose oversized accessories.

       7.  Keep the color palette simple and create an atmosphere of calm.

      8.  Ask objects to blend, rather than fight. [Remember Hergé' and equal weight and consideration?]

      9.  Speak a little Swedish and French: with the antiques and/or furniture, that is.

      [image from Coté Sud]

      10. Exercise careful and sensitive juxtaposition of art, objects and antiques, paying special attention to scale, form and balance.  [Okay, this is the hardest part to master. How does Mr. V do it?]

      Well, this brings us full circle to The Adventures of Tintin. In the series, set during a fairly realistic 20th century, young Belgian reporter Tintin is aided in his adventures by his faithful dog, Snowy, a fox terrier.

      In the old stories, the plots fearured elements of fantasy, politics, mystery and science fiction. The movie should be great – it's Spielberg, after all.

      Tintin in Tibet was my very favorite. [I wasn't aware until recently that the Dalai Lama had praised Tintin in Tibet and given the author a Light of Truth award. That's so cool.]

      If it's good enough for the Dalai Lama, I guess it's good enough for me. I might not get to Belgium right away, but I will definitely put on my Belgian pearls and go see the Tintin movie. And I can always make waffles.