Monday, February 20, 2017

Transitional Mantel

Happy Day, Friends. I'm enjoying the President's Day holiday by sitting at Barnes & Noble, surrounded by some of my favorite things - lots of books and good coffee. I'm trying not to feel too guilty about all of the things I could and should be doing on my day off from work, and giving myself a few hours of stress-free space and luxury. I find that even when we ladies purposely take some time to recharge our batteries, many of us feel anxious about it. I supppose the coffee (not decaf) doesn't help to ease the anxiety, does it? Haha.

Ok, I did accomplish a little something this weekend and am sharing it here. Our mantelpiece had been neglected after the Christmas decor was put away, left with just a couple of non-holiday remnants and looking bare and unfinished. It was calling out for attention. But one of my weird quirks is that I like to decorate for the season and not jump ahead or lag behind. Ugh, or maybe I just like to overthink every design decision for no good reason!  At any rate, despite some really warm weather we are having here for a couple of weeks, winter is nowhere near its end. This is Nebraska, after all. We often get snow dumped on us in March, and even sometimes in April.

I certainly don't want to decorate with pinecones, pine branches, and snowflakes now that we are heading into March, but I'm not quite ready to add full-on spring decor either. So, I thought I'd try a natural green scheme with just a hint of white, which can transition easily through the next couple of months.

These 2 faux-thyme topiaries, which I bought a few years back at a tag sale and are a staple in our decor, were the jumping-off point. I just love their airiness and texture, and I got them for a true steal! Originally, they came in matte black pots, which looked fine. But a while back, one was knocked over by wind coming in through a window, and it broke. I kept that a design secret for a long time as I displayed them with the missing broken chunk turned toward the back side. But because I still love them as much as I did the day I bought them, I knew that they needed new pots. My favorite store came through for me, once again, and I picked these up at Anthropologie over the weekend. I had to break the old black pots with a hammer to dislodge them, haha. My husband thought I'd lost my mind a little bit!
Don't they look pretty in these new vessels?  It's hard to see in these photos, but the finish is a soft metallic champagne-gold with heavy distressing.

The other faux boxwood double ball topiary in the white pot is from Ballard Designs. I love the look of a collection of topiaries, but there is no way that I would be able to have live ones with my history of plant abuse! So finding the most realistic-looking fake ones is my mission. Same holds true for flowers a lot of the time, although I do incorporate fresh flowers into our decor when I really want to spruce things up.

This large vintage green glass vase has been a staple in my decor for awhile. I often fill it with long branches to fill space and add motion to my vignettes. The branches in here are all faux. They look pretty real, don't they? Thankfully, retailers are getting much better at offering good-looking faux florals now. The pussy willows are always a sign of hope for spring. And I decided to add some flowering branches in white for extra fill, texture, and color (I do consider white a color in this grouping because it's not green, wink.)  The grapevine and moss decorative ball adds just a touch more green and echoes the shape of the double ball topiary.

These windows have been hanging above our fireplace for a number of years now.  I like them because they add a backdrop without distracting from what is on the mantel, and they tie in with the oak finish on the mantel's shelf.  Lately, though, I've considered painting, maybe?  What do you think?  I'm not really a stained-wood type of gal, so I've slowly been painting over some of the trim work in our house.  I'm not sure if the black would be too visually heavy, so I'm still kicking the idea around in my head.

So, here's my simple and transitional mantel for spring.  I was going to say "early spring" but I know myself well enough to be sure that it will stay this way until summer.  At that point, I'll probably have to at least switch those spring branches to something different, and maybe run a feather duster over the rest, haha.  

I hope you're enjoying some mild weather where you are.  I know that some of my blogging friends are already working out in their yards and dusting off patio furniture.  Ugh, I'm so envious!  Here in the Midwest, all we can do right now is "hunker down" and get ready for March Madness :)


Sharing with: Inspire Me Tuesday, Inspire Me Monday, The Scoop

Monday, February 13, 2017

More Vintage Jewelry Art

Julie is my name, embellishing is my game :)

If you happened to read my posts, A Mixed-Media Art Piece and Her Sisters, Vintage Jewelry Projects, and Vintage Jewelry Art - A Happy Accident, you have seen that I really love dressing up home decor pieces with vintage jewelry (is it overkill? Haha.)

This hobby of mine all started because I had amassed a collection of sparkly brooches and earrings from tag sales, flea markets, and estate sales.  Once in a while I will wear a piece or two, but I'm not a very good fashion accessorizer.  Honestly, my style runs pretty simple with an occasional necklace or a few bracelets.  I don't even know 2 ways to tie a scarf - someone help me, please!

There is SO much beautiful antique jewelry "out there" that is homeless and really inexpensive.  Since no one can wear that much of it, I have taken it upon myself to find different ways to use and appreciate it :)  I have covered small Christmas trees with jewelry, embellished picture frames, decorative boxes, and made my daughter's bridal bouquet with it.

Lately, my favorite way to use those beauties is to add them to floral still life art.  Here is the most recent project that I completed.

This one is really special because of the butterfly.  I stumbled upon this Fraternal Order of Eagles pin while out thrifting recently.  Did any of you have parents who were, or are, members of FOE?  I did, although I didn't know much about it back then.  In fact, as a child, I thought it was some mystic secret society.  Now I realize that it was no more mysterious than any other fraternal organization, much like the sorority I belonged to in college.  But this pin is definitely a unique piece, and I was thrilled to have found it!

The art really spoke to me, probably because of the colors (green, black, gold...some of my favorites for decorating.)  Also, I think it looks like one of the Old Masters and would blend so well in a collage or would really compliment many styles of decor - modern, traditional, transitional, boho...

The jewelry pieces add sparkle, dimension, and a lot of interest without distracting and overwhelming the art.  To give it a little more oomph and to up the fun factor, I also added a kiwi green paint wash over the standard antiqued gold frame.  The finished product is now available in my Etsy shop.

And for all of the people (like myself) who just can't pass up a sweet little piece of ballet art, here is a small plaque I picked up at the same estate sale where I found the still life.  (It was either a good thrifting day, or I lost my head a bit, haha.)  In its original state, it was painted plain gold and was slightly dated-looking, I thought.  I opted to paint it rose gold to give a slight nod to ballet pink without going too saccharine.

Then, I added this gorgeous piece of multi-colored jewelry in shades of pink, ivory, and coral at her waist, and a single pink Swarovski crystal at her neckline.  I resisted the temptation to embellish the stage curtains and/or the plaque's edge and decided that less is more here.  Sometimes, exercising restraint produces the best results, don't you agree?

And, finally, another of my favorite projects has been the Animal Magnetism series.  I mean, how can anyone resist all of the cute animal pins that women used to wear on their jacket lapels, coats, and hats? Well, I hit the jackpot recently and scored more fun pins, so I put together more magnets (also in the shop.  Sorry this post is so full of self-promoting links! But, I do have lots of fun jewelry projects to share, wink, wink.)

And these - goat, kangaroo with baby, rooster, and greyhound, which aren't for sale because I made them specifically for my daughter for her birthday.  Each one has a special little story or private joke connected to it.  I definitely put extra effort into the hunt for these pins, because I wanted to find just the right ones for her.  But half of the fun in creating is the thrill of the hunt, am I right Thrifting Friends?

I'm sure there are still scads of brooches out there just waiting for me to be at the right place at the right time.  I will hunt them down and give them a good home ;)


Sharing with:  Between Naps on the Porch, Amaze Me Monday, A Stroll Thru Life, Inspire Me Monday, The Scoop, Vintage Charm, French Country Cottage

Thursday, February 2, 2017

February Meditations

Not all of us can do great things.  But we
can do small things with great love.
Mother Teresa

Hatred does not cease through hatred at any time.
Hatred ceases through love.  This is an unalterable law.

Where there is great love, there are always miracles.
Willa Cather

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile,
a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or
the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential
to turn a life around.
Leo Buscaglia 

What is done in love is done well.
Vincent Van Gogh

And if I asked you to name all the things that you love,
how long would it take for you to name yourself?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Impressions of Cuba


That, along with "gracias" and "cafe con leche" is about all of the Spanish I know, haha. Thank goodness we have the perfect translator/tour guide in our family. As some of you may know, our son-in-law was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. Which is what prompted our recent trip to visit his homeland and his family, now that relations between the U.S. and Cuba have improved and commercial flights are available. Our visit was relatively short, only 4 full days there, but it was a great introduction and we will definitely be returning!

I'm going to warn you that this post is photo-heavy, so I'll try to keep my ramblings to a minimum. But I do hope you enjoy the beautiful sights of Havana and Varadero Cuba. OK, let's go...

Our first view of the city was here, along the Paseo del Prado, leading to this photo of the Parque Central. It is easy to see the charm of island vegetation intermingled with centuries-old baroque and neoclassic architecture. And, of course, the famed antique cars of Cuba are abundant. It really is very much like the romantic photos you see on travel websites. And as a bonus, the weather was absolutely perfect while we were there! There was not a cloud in the sky, and the temps were in the upper 70's and lower 80's during the days. What a welcomed break from our Nebraska winters!

On our first night in Havana, my favorite daughter surprised me with tickets to see Ballet Nacional de Cuba performing The Nutcracker in the incredibly beautiful Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso. I can't tell you how happy this made me :) My daughter and I love to attend dance performances often (she is a professional dancer, herself, as is our son-in-law) and this was SO special! As a matter of fact, The Nutcracker is what brought our two dancers together, as that is where they first met :)

Now, I will say that we had to giggle a little bit about the fact that we were seeing The Nutcracker in January in a tropical climate. We have seen many versions of this ballet, and she has performed in countless Nutcrackers; and this was the first time we went wearing summer attire.

You can see the opulence of this theatre. In Cuba, unlike in the United States, the arts are highly revered and supported.

I would never have known it, but Jordan pointed out that Alicia Alonso, herself, was in the audience. Her story is very interesting. I encourage you to look her up on the web. She is a Cuban prima ballerina whose vision was impaired from the age of 19. She married early and the couple moved to New York, where she studied with the School of American Ballet. She eventually became a principal dancer for the company, and she and her partners learned to compensate for her vision impairment. In 1948, she returned to Cuba to found a ballet company, and she also started a dance school. During these years, Alonso continued to dance as well. When Castro took power in 1959, he offered cultural funding for her company. To this day, she is considered one of the "greatest ballerinas of her time", and as a director has produced many world-renowned dancers. This is but a brief little summary of Alonso's story, but there is much more to it if you care to do some exploring.

You can see here that the sets were not as extravagant as some American productions. But the dancing was stunning! We didn't mind the minimal props, and it was fun to see a new interpretation of the scenes and costumes.

And here is a dazzling look at the theatre at night. Have you ever?

The next day, we walked through Old Havana and visited a brewery. I have to say that I was not very enthusiastic about this prospect, because I had better things! But the brewery turned out to be surprisingly fun! We had lunch, a cocktail, and listened to some live music - Cuban style :)

We all laughed a little over the menu. It was this giant board that the servers carried from table to table. During our trip, we enjoyed many mojitos. We were also fond of the Cristal, which is a light beer...and it's inexpensive, too! I'm not much of a drinker, but we were on vacation after all ;)

After leaving the brewery, we walked over to the "fair" for a little shopping. It was very much like other tourist spots that I've visited on cruise excursions in the past...lots of souvenirs and inexpensive kitschy items being sold in rows of booths. But we all left with a few treasures, like coasters, art, and jewelry.

When our stomachs and shopping ambitions were thoroughly sated, we headed to our son-in-law's family home for a wonderful, authentic Cuban dinner and priceless time blending our two families together.

There was a bit of a communication barrier, but we did lots of laughing and hugging in the universal language. Because Cubans are not permitted to leave their country, they were not able to attend the kids' wedding. This was the first time we had all been together, and we created some extraordinarily special memories.

The following day, we headed 2 hours from Havana to spend time on one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. White sand, turquoise waters, a gentle breeze...ahhhhhh!

I hadn't prepared for a beach day when I packed, so here I am in my shorts. Obviously, though, that little faux-pas didn't dampen the day's fun! Here at Varadero, Matanzas, there are many hotels and resorts. My husband was chomping at the bit to play can bet that next time we go, I'll pack a bathing suit, and he'll pack his clubs!

A few daiquiris later..........

Day 4 included a visit to Floridita, a historic fish restaurant and cocktail bar in the older part of Havana, Cuba. The establishment is famous for its daiquiris and for having been one of the favorite hangouts of Ernest Hemingway in Havana. (source: Wikipedia.)

The designer in me was compelled to take a picture of the chair (please forgive the glare.) It's cool, huh? The decor was really interesting, and those famous daiquiris were quite tasty. We had some Cubano sandwiches and, once again, enjoyed live local musicians.

My hubby decided to have a little chat with Mr. Hemingway, and my daughter took a sip from the giant daiquiri display. Pretty typical hijinks for this family, haha.

Our final evening in Havana found us in Plaza Vieja for a fun dinner at La Vitrola, a 50's-themed restaurant. We really enjoyed the area, which boasted more gorgeous architecture and a delightful atmosphere.

This city is rich with beautiful buildings, carved wood and stone, and old-world elegance. My fascination with the architecture had me taking lots of pictures, as you can see.

I hope you've enjoyed this little travelogue. If you ever get the chance to visit Cuba, you won't be disappointed. I can hardly wait to return!