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Plain and Fancy

cottage3

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).

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

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

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….
Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

p.s. The photograph of Audrey Hepburn is a publicity shot from the movie, Sabrina, taken in her home by Mark Shaw in 1953.

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

Wendy E. Wrzos  http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

 

The Association of Design Education Conference

A not to miss event! Held October 16th & 17th in Lowell, MA. Speakers will educate you on how to get noticed, how to get published, and how to keep it all together. Representatives and speakers from Sherwin-Williams, ABC Carpet, Zeigeist Gallery and more. Come and learn, explore, and be inspired. Hurry! The early bird special ends June 16th! http://www.associationofdesigneducation.com/Conference2014.html

 

Pierre the Squirrel

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First of all, I want to apologize for following up the previous, pretty post, with a long story about a very scraggy (often unpopular) subject.

You see, there are some things that I never imagined would happen in my life, and one of them was that I would share our home with a one-eyed, one-ear, hat wearing, taxidermy squirrel named Pierre.

Always in sympathy for animal rights, the mere thought of a dead one being stuffed, and used as decoration, really turned my stomach. But, as I got older, I realized that, like people, they all have different stories, and not all arrived through improper means.

Years ago, we weren’t so concerned with protecting the lives of animals, and they truly were used for sport and food. I won’t get into the politics of it, because we all know, but thankfully we have become wiser to the impact that our hunting pleasure had on the world, and there are rules about what can and can not become a trophy or an over-sized ash-tray.

What once seemed like a very macabre hobby to me, is now an art, and has become a powerful way to remember the past, and examine animals that may soon (or already are) almost extinct. However, my experience with taxidermy is less than exotic, and definitely doesn’t involve a loved and protected species.

Several years ago, my daughter and I used to watch Oddities, a show about a small shop in New York City called Obscura. Each week, they would introduce a few customers, and take the viewers on a tour of their bizarre collectibles; everything from a shrunken head to a medical device that made you wince just to hear the name. It was an education into the (often) less desirable side of history; a place filled with curiosities and questions.

So, for her birthday one year, I decided to take my daughter to the store, as a surprise. She was thrilled, and, thankfully, the store was exactly how it appeared on television (even the misshapen, wooden mannequin was propped up crookedly outside, sweetly enabling the Obscura sign).

With all her money in her hand, I told her she could buy anything she wanted (while keeping my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t be anything too horrible)……To find out what happened next, click here.

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

(Photograph of Pierre in the garden).

Kristen Jackson of The Hunter Interior created a cozy, colorful breakfast nook…and you can too. Featured in Domino Magazine, I’m going to show you how to get this room for less.

  • Of course you’ll need benches to create the nook. Having them built is divine, but if it’s not in your budget, here are a few plans for you to choose from here and here. Use the Billy bookcase (placed on its side) and voila, a bench with storage!
  • The Docksta table from Ikea costs a lot less than the one featured.
  • Ghost acrylic chairs can be found here.
  • Inexpensive art and candle sconces are just waiting for you at your local tag sales. Clean them up, rub in some antique glaze to a frame, or spray-paint a sconce back to life and you’re good to go. Here’s a sconce featured on Etsy you might like.
  • To make fabric panels, simple stretch fabric around inexpensive cork boards are artists canvas and staple into place. You can then add a frame (or not) over the stretched canvas and attach with screws. (Here’s a simple tutorial for another method.)
  • Grab some ribbon to embellish store-bought pillows. All you need is some ribbon and a hot glue gun.

Check out the details of the makeover here.

 

Kim Merritt – http://beautifullivingstyle.blogspot.com/

 

rodney smith

I don’t understand why we have ugly lampshades in this world. Does it really cost more to make a nice one?

Considering many homes don’t have ceiling lights, table and floor lamps are often a necessity, not just a pretty thing that helps you read the newspaper, or see what you’re having for dinner.

Funny thing is, when you buy a new lamp, there are thousands of perfectly lovely shades just sitting and waiting to be bought; almost touching your elbow, and taunting you for just $39.95 plus tax. And, you can’t swap them out (I have tried) because they now have little plastic tabs attached, making sure that you don’t accidentally lose the ugly shade that is sadly clinging to your new lamp.

It’s a shame, because lampshades are an easy way to change up a room, and it is a complete waste of money to buy another one before the plastic has even been taken off the first (you do remove the plastic, don’t you?). And, let’s be honest, as busy as most people are, shade shopping is not usually high on the “To Do” list.

So, if I was Queen, I would decree that all lamp stands and shades must be sold separately. That way, we could choose whatever we wanted, it would save us a lot of time (and money) and our rooms would be very grateful.

Until then, try to have fun with your shade; find ones that you really like, play with different shapes, consider decorating the boring ones, and splurge on an extra one when you can.

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

(p.s. The absolutely delightful photograph above, is by Rodney Smith, and I loved it so much I just thought it deserved to be bigger than my post).

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