Friday, 24 December 2010

How blonde is this wedding?

Super blonde.  Blonde couple, blonde wood, blonde food... hilariously, the only elements that weren't blonde in this Martha Stewart Weddings feature "Twists on Traditions" were the guests.  I can really only laugh so much because I'm really inspired by this.  The blend of modern and traditional-looking Scandinavian elements is really lovely.  The natural-blonde palette also ties it all together in an interesting and delicious-looking way that's perfect for winter.  I also shouldn't laugh because we are pretty super blonde ourselves.  Lyle is even blonde.  Jack and I meanwhile, are those strange blonde children that recessive genes say have a one in four chance of cropping up every generation.  Living in Spain made us extra-aware of our blonde-ness and taught us to embrace it.  In a setting like the above, however, we might be in our natural habitat. If nothing else, this would be perfect camouflage inspiration.  

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Hickoree's Hard Goods

How had I missed this? I stumbled across this website and was promptly entranced .  I wish I had found it earlier.  It reminds me a lot of my new favorite place to find "heritage hipster "-esque goods, Kaufman Mercantile , but with a little more inventory and a little less seriousness (see the space icecream?).  Some of these things are definitely finding their way to Rancho Brightspot this year.  In fact I want nearly all of it.  I would say I want it for Jack, which would be very true.  If I'm honest, however, the tomboy in me wants these things for myself just as much, if not more.  The strategy of licking these items comes to mind, not in a weird way, but a look-I-just-licked-it-so-it's-mine way. Real mature.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Wednesday Groove: More improptu Folk Music

Take Away Show #105 _ MUMFORD & SONS (with Johnny Flynn) from Vincent Moon / petites planetes on Vimeo.

The excitement of the show just gets so much more personal when the music is taken out of context.  The bus driver video that made me happy-cry, for example.  This one, meanwhile, delivers folk music to the streets of France, which seems very appropriate for where I am.  I didn't notice Johnny Flynn here at all the first time I saw it, but he's there (and that makes a nice connection/contrast to this performance for you).

Monday, 20 December 2010

Re-create the Look: Living Etc. Bathroom

A fresh/vintage bathroom: I am no longer in denial.  Winter is here and it is time to give some serious thought to upcoming baths. There is reading material to select and bubble bath products to consider.  There are also bath spaces, like this one from LivingEtc., to stare at.  This space has an ideal blend of romantic touches and an apothecary-shop sensibility.  A dark-toned floor contrasts with airy white, grey, cream and chrome.  Modern, urban flair, like the frosted glass cabinet faces, make this room current.  The heart of this bath, however, belongs to a Victorian spa which is exactly where I would like to spend Sunday afternoons from January to March. 

To re-create the details of this bathroom:
1) Bathroom Chandelier:  This is a winsome, if slightly ridiculous, piece. The bathroom just wouldn't be the same without it.  $99 at Ballard Designs.

3) Beveled Mirror: For that shiny, bold look.  Frameless, 24" $169 here.

4) Apothocary Jars: Ranging from $6.99-$9.99 here.
5) Bubble Bath! See those black-topped jars?  I say, pomegranate bubble bath? Oh man.  $25 for the cheers! set here.

*By the way, I plan on making a reading list this week.  Just in case I find myself in a place like this with a bottle of pomegranate bubble bath.*

Sunday, 19 December 2010

A Sunday Kind of Love 5

I would like to draw attention to boots, and their storage.

Links: 1 , 2, 3, 4

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Lyle Awesomepaws

Imagine that you are a small white dog with long nails and a problem with authority.  Now imagine your owner's mother has a leather sofa.  This sofa is susceptible to scratching.  You are largely unaffected by the ongoing scramble to protect the sofa from your toenails... at least for a while.   Then one day, as you nap on the sofa, plans are being set in motion that will change the course of your life, at least for the remaining ten days in France.  You sleep in ignorant bliss through some snipping, sewing, and hot gluing.

As you have probably guessed, this is a story about Lyle.  Today I had the "creative" idea of making him socks from my too-big-socks.   I don't really like dog clothes that look too much like human clothes (i.e. sweaters, etc.), but this was arguably necessary.  It was surprisingly easy, but I'm really only a perfectionist sometimes, and I willed myself to relax about something like dog socks (in fact I made one inside out, oops).  Some mild swearing was involved in the process, on my part.  If Lyle could speak, I shudder to think what he might have said about the whole thing.  After we put them on, he spent about ten minutes trembling on the sofa, staring at where his paws used to be.  Then we put him on the ground.  The hot-glue sticky spots worked surprisingly well for traction, but it was a little bit heartbreaking watching him move around, like he had to re-learn how to walk after being in a coma.  I put away the socks for the rest of the day.  We'll begin the process again tomorrow.
(P.S. Lyle's pet passport is stamped by a vet and he's ready to fly.  He sends you all season's greetings!)

Thursday, 16 December 2010

A Sunday Kind of Love 4 (on Thursday)

Left: Cannelle et Vanille Tarts

Right: Foraging for holiday decorations with Studio Choo in Sunset.

Left: Photo Director Jessica Thomas (I've seen her work before... but found this week thanks to Desire to Inspire)

I often fantasize about what it would be like if Jack and I had known each other as kids, despite growing up on different continents.  In my imagination we dress in style like these youngsters and hold hands.

Now interiors... in less than a month (fingers crossed) we might be living somewhere for more than a few months. This possibility makes me very happy and fuels hours of looking at other peoples homes, like these.
Left:  I really like everything about this bathroom.

Above Right: Something I have been bookmarking a lot for a "someday home."  See those windows that stretch up along the ceiling and bring in the sky?

Above: Self-explanatory.   

Below left:  I like this whole house tour from Country Living.  An earthy palette, interesting specimens...

Below right: Q: Where is the pantry?  A: In the chalkboard wall, behind the salvaged track door, under little Mt. Rushmore.


 I hope you enjoy these things as much as I do.  To conclude:  A traveling salesman peddling chew toys/fine leather goods.

P.S. Easy, lovely light tutorial from Aunt Peaches (Making Sunshine on a Shoestring) here.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Ten things I learned while living in Spain, in no particular order (Part II):

    1)   How to live locally (or give myself permission to be ridiculous).  This one is basically, “When in Rome…”  Some parts of life in Spain seemed over the top in the beginning.  For example, I thought having a cafĂ© solo (shot of expresso) for breakfast, a slice of toast at eleven, and a three-course meal at two o’clock (and so on) seemed like sheer madness.  The same went for staying out past four o’clock in the morning.  At first I kept to my old routines.  It was no fun, however, being the girl with the growling stomach or the only youngster up and about on Sunday morning.   The things I got to do everyday in Spain that were most different to my life at home are the experiences I cherish now.
     2)   To have an opinion, especially about what is going on at home.  I was asked so many times what my opinion was about [blank] in the United States.  Some of the questions were misinformed or based on stereotypes.  Others were about current events I should have been up on.  In any case, being uninformed or apathetic was not impressive.  Thinking through where I stood on important issues concerning the United States allowed me to connect to the people around me and to Spanish perspectives.  
     3)   Clothes are important.  Before I left for Spain, my mother told me that Spanish people generally dressed better and took more care with their appearance.  I upgraded my packing accordingly.  This is often said, but it took a few painful lessons and poignant examples for it to sink in.  I once caught one of  my students, a burly young man with satanic tattoos and a mullet, picking infinitesimal specks of dust off his motorcycle boots.  He nodded and went back to work.    
     4)    A long, slow walk (paseo) is good for the soul.  The evening, when the shops are closed and the shadows are long, is a perfect time to be out and about.  The point of this is not exercise.  In fact, the slower you walk the better.  It’s a time to share your day, gossip, window shop and marvel at where you are.  Maybe you will even see somebody you know.
     5)   How to see the world as a giant classroom.  Interest in your surroundings is contagious.  Learning about the history, ecology and culture of where you are is the courtship phase of loving a place.  It may take going very far away to begin the process, but it’s a way of seeing the world you take with you wherever you go. (Photo by Jack, please use only with his permission)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Ten things I learned while living in Spain, in no particular order (Part I):

(Part II to follow)

     1)    Shop at local businesses and markets, as much as possible. In the beginning, we went to the supermarket a lot.  It was ok, but life really improved when I started going to the local market.  When I was trying to speak Spanish, this was also the greatest source of empowerment.  I could fail spectacularly to communicate in every other way, then go to the market.  As long as I could ask for a quarter-kilo of peanuts, I knew I could say something right.  Shopkeepers were also great sources of information about local events and customs. (Sometimes they were even mildly flirtatious... a compliment AND peanuts).
     2)    Home is whom you are with, not where you are. This was by far the hardest for me.  (I hinted at this here.)  I had days where I felt so far from home, only to realize that home was right there with me.   Jack and a certain little white dog were home.  As long as we were happy together, we were home in a way that no other place would be.  [I have so much respect for my friends who traveled alone and made a home solely through their new relationships, but for me home was a case of realizing what I had all along.]
    3)    Don’t be timid.  At first, I got pushed past and ignored a lot.  I got huffy and more assertive, eventually.  The results were amazing.  Outside the United States, and our culture of customer service, meaningful doe-eyes don’t get you very far.  I had to communicate my wants and needs out loud.  I always tried to be polite, but there was no need to be apologetic about it.  The same went for speaking the language.  I learned to hold my head up and try to get my point across, sometimes more than once.  I found people didn’t hate me for it.  They gave me respect and honest answers instead.
    4)    Set aside time to be a tourist, wherever you are. Living in Spain, I had this incredible opportunity to reach a level of comfort with the place. The flip side of this was that I stopped exploring.  Then I decided I could always explore, without feeling self-conscious.  Tourists should never be getting more enjoyment out of where I was than me.  Actually going to the tower/museum/street performance around the corner changed my whole perspective on the place I lived.
     5)    Attitude colors every experience, think accordingly.  When you live somewhere new, it’s easy to blame everything on the region/city/county.  You will have good and bad days wherever you are, but always striving to be positive makes the biggest difference. From experience, self-pity and bitterness will only leave you shivering IN a broken futon and bemoaning your life choices.  If things aren’t meeting your expectations, change your expectations, put on rosy lenses and kick yourself in the butt. Hard.   

Monday, 13 December 2010

Re-create the Look: Serena and Lily Nursery

While this nursery might be a styled image for the Dylan line of Serena and Lily crib bedding, I think it's something special in its own right. The natural textures and floating elements give the space interest and a global edge.  The shapes and color palette, meanwhile, feel serene and slightly arctic.  This space is perfect for a winter nursery.  The bedding itself is playful, elegant and not at all saccharine.  Like the name Dylan, this space could belong to an adventurous girl or boy.  In fact, the polar bear motif reminds me of this wonderful trilogy.  Here are the pieces to re-create the look:

First, and foremost: the Serena and Lily bedding.  There is a dreamy, folk-like quality to the pattern and muted palette.  Elephants, owls and crescent moons mirror each other in a scrolling design.  (See warnings about bumpers, of course).  The set (including bumper, skirt and fitted sheet) is $395, which is steep, but this is a pattern with style that would last through generations, and it is also the anchor for this particular nursery.

At left is Rufus, the polar bear rocker.  He (surely a he with a name like Rufus) is designed by David Netto for Macleran ($295 here).

 The three airy, wind-sock-esque shapes in the original proved too elusive. However, The Frazier & Wing mobile, at left is a more-than-worthy substitute.  I love how this mobile looks both substantial and and delicate.  $75 here.

At right is a basket available from Jeanne Beatrice (see their French market style baskets, and "doll basket" as well) for $29 .  I think it would be perfect for toy storage.  It could even be suspended from the ceiling as in the inspiration image.

Finally, we have the chevron pattern rug.  This would be a great DIY project like the one detailed here, using a natural fiber rug.  I would also dilute the paint to get the subtle, washed out look of the original.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A Sunday Kind of Love 3

This is what I fell in love with this week:
1. Low-key holiday greenery via JL Designs (pictured above).  They made little Christmas trees out of succulents! I know!
2. This amazing rural British location and the magic captured there.
3.  I've really enjoyed reading the blog Sunday Evening , and Caroline's gift guides have been my absolute favorite.  Among them, the guide for young children was really special.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

I Made You a Holiday Mix!

Inspired by Angela Hardison's easy-on-the-ears mix and The Flashdance's first dance selections (some of which are old/new favorites that appear here), and general festive spirit, I put this together:

A Good Walk

The sun is out and seems to have rewound the calendar about a month.  I'm so grateful for this "indian autumn" (such a time must exist, right?) because I took fall for granted.  Now I get to go back and revel in warm sunshine, the smell of leaves on the ground and things like ferns and moss on logs.  Those things were hidden under snow only a week ago.  Lyle is gradually becoming a country dog as well, but I can tell it is hard for him to let go of his city ways.  He looks around, a little morose, likely feeling the absence of pigeons and careless little children with food.

Friday, 10 December 2010

How fantastic is this wedding?

Very fantastic.  I would dress this way to be married.  Wholly lovely, found via .

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Holiday Decorating: Blue Christmas

With snow, frost and ice winter transforms the natural world into something spectacular.  Snowflakes, icicles and frost make the familiar shine and sparkle. Drawing decorating inspiration from the outdoors in winter is so different from the other seasons because of this.  Suddenly, there are metallics and whites, intricate geometries and the soft cushioning of snow.  The palette is bright: silver and white against the blue sky.  Decorations highligh the delicate beauty of natural shapes and patterns.

(Image Sources: #1, #3 , #5 , #8 , #9  Martha Stewart (click on the numbers for individual links, the majority of these are crafts, so they can be replicated!), #2 Lili Diallo ,  #4 Sweet Paul , #6 Toast , #7 Country Living )

Free Holiday Music?!

I just spent hours trying to finagle the internet into letting me buy only a few songs off the Elf Soundtrack.  It's pretty ridiculous in hindsight.  I'm not proud, but I gave up.  Then I stumbled upon something which perked me back up. Did you know that Target had a free holiday songs to download?  Yeah, and some of them are not too shabby.  I particularly liked the sound of someone called Jenny O., and Guster will always bring me back a little.  All in all, I had fun listening. I mean, it's no Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas (1960), which is like instant holiday spirit to the ears, but it helped me fill the void of Elf.  Ella's is the kind of jazzy classic that will power through tree decoration and cocktails to smooching under the lights.

(This might be general knowledge... with a big brand like Target I imagine it would be, but we don't get to know these things in France. Photo from here .)

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The "Heritage-Brand Hipster" Movement

Finding a gift guide dedicated to the above on Remodelista was a huge A-HA moment.  It's the first time I had encountered the phrase "heritage-brand," let alone in conjunction with hipster, and it resonated.  Admittedly this must be an itsy-bitsy demographic, and somewhat slippery, especially in that it includes the word hipster.  I don't think anybody self-identifies as a hipster, at least without irony.  In this case, though, I think this is less about being hipster and more about reviving interest in quality products.  I like the way that hipster wasn't used pejoratively in the Remodelista post, more as a stand-in for discerningly current.  These brands, their production techniques and their artisan flair are important.  They are like the heirloom seeds of American manufacturing (forgive me the clumsy simile, but I'm still trying to wrap my head around all this).

This is the time of year that people buy a lot of stuff, myself included.  Pledges to buy handmade for the holidays have been going around for a couple years; see Anna's (of Door Sixteen) and its origin here.  While I've been inspired by them and have recently started shopping handmade, I struggle with handmade being the only limiting factor for where and how you shop.

I wholly support the democratization of the internet marketplace on sites like Etsy.  At the same time, within that movement, there is a definite trend that begs the question that Jenna from Cold Antler Farm identified after a viewing of the film Handmade Nation: that of it being predominantly "urban hipster types, making hand-blown glass, letterpressed posters, designer embroidery, and apartment decorations" in other words "'just making the knick knacks they would usually buy? Why weren't they making things of use?'" Without a doubt, crafters and artisans need (and deserve!) every bit of the support, but there must be another missing piece of the puzzle.  

After all, as our communities are structured now, there's a big blank space between crafts and container gardens wherein lie products that are too specialized or require production that is too intensive for one person (or community) to make and consume alone.  Then there's the issue of money.  I believe that being frugal isn't being a cheapskate, but spending thoughtfully.  That being said, it's almost impossible (and prohibitively expensive) to live in a way that meets all the criteria.  Some compromising (or hypocrisy) is inevitable, but in this case, there are ways to minimize it.   Perhaps this is the niche for the heritage brand, as identified by Remodelista.  As I understand it, heritage brands tick a lot of my important boxes: production within the country, use of local materials, traditional techniques, and quality that will last generations (or multiple hands).  These are brands that have been around for long enough to become iconic.  Then there's the aesthetic appeal, which is undeniable (see also this Wall Street Journal article on the impact of this movement on fashion ). 

I believe in supporting the output of traditional techniques (here I'm thinking of beloved Edwardian Farm), even when they involve machinery or aren't crafted by one person. For the holidays, I think supporting the production of useful, effective, beautiful and durable objects is a worthy cause. The more locally made, and purchased, the better.  Then there's the recording of independent musicians and publishing of independent voices. Those books may not have been anywhere near a letter press, but I still think buying those works is also a noble act.  In other words, there are many ways to give thoughtful presents to yourself and others at this time of the year, and there will be trade-offs.  Handmade is certainly one great option, but, in my opinion, not the only way to go. There are always alternatives to going to a big-box store, and local service-providers and stores provide something special that we have almost lost, but perhaps still have a chance to keep around for generations.  As for myself, heritage brands (and new brands that share the same ethos) are something I find especially interesting and I'm certainly inspired by the guide that sparked this post.

I'm by no means an expert on any of this, just trying to work out where I stand in relation to this newly-discovered demographic and how to be a person who supports good causes through my everyday living. What do you consider to be a heritage brand? (Photo credits: Pendleton Woolen Mills Silver Bark Blanket, Woven Ash Foraging Basket, Makr Goods Rucksack )

Nowhere Boy

Here I admit that John Lennon is my favorite Beatle (my mom's is George Harrison and my sister's is, or was, Ringo).  Don't even pretend you don't have a favorite. My mom remembers Lennon as being 'the cool one' in the age of Beatlemania and I admire the combination of bad boy and peace activist.   I'm really intrigued by this movie...  if you've seen it, was it good?  I hope it will fulfill my craving for mid-century suburban Britain that An Education started.

How fantastic is this?

Pretty fantastic. Cisco Pet (the Nantucket Bike Basket Co.) makes this pet basket for your bicycle (there are other sizes as well, including back baskets). Found here, where there are many other wonderful things I would like to give Lyle (including a mustache ball).

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Vintage Postcards

Today we went back to the thrift market up the street.  It's one of the only places we can walk to from the house, and I wouldn't have anything else in its place.  Until today, I had yet to spend over three euros fifty there in one shopping trip, and I have bought whole lot of neat things so far.  Then everything changed today when I bought these vintage postcards.  In total, I now have ten of them.  They are stamped, postmarked, addressed and, in some cases, even written out.  All of them are from 1903 to 1908.

I was just about to walk home when my new best friend, the man who works in the book department, told me that they had just gotten some postcards in.  He thought I might like them.  He said I would appreciate them and see the difference between them and some reproductions of cards from around the same period, which he also showed me.  Or at least, that's what I inferred.  In actuality I have no idea what he said, but that's irrelevant.  He knows me, even perhaps better than I know myself.  I personally had no idea how thrilling leafing through antique postcards might be. This is despite the fact that I've only been to a handful of the places pictured and I still don't really know what they say.  
In the end, it was hard to only bring home ten out of the two-hundred or so cards.  They all had something, whether it was a hand-tinted facade or a particularly striking figure.  They're mostly from around France, a mix of Paris, resorts and rural areas.  While the people are too small to really make out their features, you can see their clothing and general attitudes.  There are shopkeepers posing on the street and bathers sitting on the sand.  There are men with bicycles and impressive mustaches. There are streets and skylines.  Then there are the notes written on the back in impeccable penmanship and fading ink. They are casual, but also speak of a time of more formal manners. Overall, the notes appear lighthearted and inquisitive, punctuated with jaunty flourishes.  I can only imagine the excitement of writing them to friends and lovers and the stories that lie behind them.  Who collected them and why did those people value them?  Being the guardians of these words, written by and for people who are long gone, is an indescribable feeling.  Walking away with them in my purse gave me shivers and made my heart pound.  Now, what to do with them?

Monday, 6 December 2010

About the Christmas markets...

If I am not very much mistaken they took it up a notch this week:
Sorry about the image quality, but I was a little bit intimidated by the wise man... also the camel, but strangely not as much.

Re-create the Look: S. Russell Groves Bedroom

This bedroom is a favorite.  Like the tape-back rocking chairs, I bet it's surprisingly comfortable in addition to being simple and beautiful.  This is austere in a way that is both modern and traditional.  Soaring, exposed beams that reflect the rural barn structure are stunning.  It's the restraint and beauty of what's in the room, however, that make it so special.  The furnishings define the space.  The bed and shelves reach upwards while breaking up the room. Finally high-contrast black and white make both spindly lines and bold shapes.  I love the shaker influence and the un-fussy collection displayed against the backdrop of the shelves.

I think that the contents of this room would work really well in another space and the look would be surprisingly easy to steal:

Below is the Ikea Expedit Bookshelf ($129).  We lived in an apartment that came furnished with a similar unit and it was really useful and holding up great, paint the wall behind it black to make a white collection stand out.
At left is the Ballard Designs Berkeley Swing Arm Floor Lamp  ($219)-- a good, simple option.

At right is Pottery Barn's Heathered Chenille Jute Rug (on sale for $449 for the 8'x10').

Below left, Shaker Workshops No. 7 Tape Back Rocker ($305 for the kit, choose black paint, black and natural tape).

Below right, the solid wood Edland bed from Ikea ($299 for the queen size and paint it black!)

Ikea also has a lot of affordable baskets for concealed but accessible storage, my pick for this room is the Nastum from Ikea (14.99), which I think would play off the tape's checkerboard pattern: