THE ART OF SIMPLICITY

Lifestyle August 31, 2022

I had a life defining moment at the age of twenty eight. Through this exceptional experience I came to understand how life giving the character and atmosphere of my personal space was.  I have since discovered this can be achieved through DIY projects, hand stamping, hand glazing, upcycling, recycling, thrifting, Facebook Marketplace and curbside finds. Creating an appealing décor is affordable for everyone.

Let me tell you about my landmark encounter. My husband and I had just joined a nonprofit trying to do good around the world. We visited a couple who had made similar choices to ours. I was enamored with their commitment and sense of purpose. They were warm, kind people.  As we enjoyed an evening of conversation and home cooking I took in my surroundings. I realized their style sense was vastly different from mine.

This stand alone moment sent me on a journey of discovery. It seemed the aesthetics of simplistic living was open to individual interpretation. I realized I needed color, style, and flair and these attributes didn’t preclude my desire to live in light of the great needs of the world. When I realized as a young woman that I could have both it set me on a lifetime trajectory to live a beautiful life while leaning into voluntary simplicity.  Being satisfied with what I have rather than what I want has been a lifetime struggle but well worth the effort I believe.

Our season of service provided a platform for my developing philosophy: that I live my life engaged in global concerns while celebrating my own unique choice of ambiance that nurtured life. It was also the perfect forum to gather color combos and other creative designs that has contributed to my eclectic taste.

Personal space that reflected my creativity was crucial to my identify. As far as I could remember I did things with a certain special touch. Copper Jelly molds did not exist in my childhood home but the gift of hospitality had been modeled for me by my parents. So when I was as teenager I intuitively set about making jelly molds from soup tins. My lack of accoutrements or sophisticated recipes didn’t stop me from serving a jellied salad with panache. I was onto to something, it wasn’t resources or a worldview that limited style it was creativity and an adventurous spirit. The beginnings of the art of simplicity was born.

THE SOUNDBITE

As a young woman I read an impactful soundbite, FRUGALITIY WITHOUT CREATIVITY IS DEPRAVITY. It is from the author of THE TIGHWAD GAZETTE, a book that promoted thrift as a viable alternative lifestyle. I adopted this phrase as my own as it best reflected my nuanced lifestyle.  A welcoming appealing aesthetic created mostly on a budget, by hand and with thrift store finds has been a lifetime pursuit.

We need not let limited resources or space deter a creative spirit. The walls that surround us have nothing but potential. How we paint them, decorate them, group pictures all contribute to the character of a room. The cost for beige paint is identical to sunflower yellow and barnyard red. I started by experimenting with color palettes. I loved the patina of the French Country I had seen in magazines and my travels. I wanted to recreate that old world character in my understated bungalow in Central Florida.

Most of my ideas are not original but garnered from images procured from dozens of sources. Women of my generation looked to Martha Stewart for ideas. Most of us did not have her unlimited resources or entourage but nonetheless were inspired by her creativity. I never thought her magnificent creations could be duplicated but only that they stimulated creative thought. The younger generation is now inundated with ideas from the internet. Pinterest and You Tube provide countless DIY projects. It’s important to let these images not intimidate you but use them as a springboard to create your own unique oasis.

STENCILS & GLAZE & CHALK PAINT

I also discovered stenciling. I created faux ceramic tiles and wooden floors by hand painting and stencils. When I wanted a back splash behind my stove I painted it. A border along the perimeter of my kitchen wall was designed and hand stamped with sponge shapes.  A faux armoire in the Master Bedroom came alive by taking advantage of the design of the closet and accenting it with a contrast color and stencils.

My orange and blue patinas in the living and dining room were created with lots and lots of hand rubbing with glazes and cheesecloth. I also adore the worn aged look created with chalk paint made famous by Annie Sloan. Chalk paint gives surfaces a shabby-chic style. Sanding the surface intermittently can easily produce a distressed look which adds character and vintage charm to your home.

CURTAIN CALL

Prior to Digital Pinterest Boards, we had glossy magazines filled with decorating ideas.  In my younger years I amassed hundreds of pictures from magazines and placed them in an over sized scrap book. I remember seeing just one photo of curtains hanging willy-nilly throughout a house and it captured my imagination.

So I have set about over the years to use curtains of all sorts and colors to grace my home in addition to being used as simply as window coverings. The revelation that materials of all sorts could be used as decoration, trimming, room dividers, doorway coverings and a special touch of realism to a faux window was liberating.

Fabric also drapes my ceiling as I attempted to create a Middle Eastern theme for a Ramadan event I hosted in my home. I stapled a huge piece of natural muslin to opposite corners of the room and it has stayed there ever since. I have also learned that both a tablecloth and a saree can make fine window dressings.

CURBSIDE FINDS

Ten years ago I visited dear friends in their Pennsylvania summer home, a respite from NYC living. I fell in love with their white sideboard covered in potted plants. I knew I just had to have something similar in my home. The idea got tucked away and percolated for a decade until a discarded wrought iron kitchen unit caught my eye curbside. I knew I had found a piece that would best mimic the image I had been carrying since that summer visit.

I walked that piece of furniture across my cul-de-sac, painted it white, filled it with potted plants and placed it on my back porch. As we dine al fresco we can also feast our eyes on this splendid floral display. I think the joy of waiting for the right piece also contributes to the adventure of creating a home with character.

FIND CREATIVITY EVERYWHERE

The sources and the depth and breadth of inspiration vary but gems for living are waiting to be uncovered. Look and listen you will be surprised. Endless inspiration can be found everywhere!

Browsing through stores, visiting someone’s home, internet searches, garage sales, magazines and travel are all sources of genius. We collect ideas from varied sources all influencing our personal taste and style. Home is where the heart is. May you beautifully decorate your domain that best reflects you and your taste.

Ultimately what matters is the relationships that exist between those inside the walls. The address, whether an avenue or a street, a courtyard or cul-de-sac, makes no difference because the doublewide and the two-story alike, serve the exact same purpose. A roof over our head, no matter how stately or humble, is home. But it’s the relationships that transform a house from brick and mortar into a place where life is nurtured.  Home is more than a space, it is a place where real life happens.

1 Samuel 25:6
“…Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.”

The Lipstick That Made History

What I Love April 6, 2022

A milestone birthday prompted me to update my appearance.  A certain color of lipstick was soon to become my signature look. The surprise is in the narrative that accompanies this bright hue.

LIFE LESSONS FROM THE GARDEN

My Thoughts November 19, 2019

GARDENING for me began with scarlet red geraniums. I adore the images of these red headed beauties spilling out of deep blue pottery dotted across the countryside in rural France.  Eventually I started planting milkweed and nectar plants for my monarch butterflies. But no matter the plant the most satisfying aspect of gardening is definitely the inspiring motifs that I can glean on my hands and knees.

WEEDS A Perpetual Source Of Inspiration

A weed is described as a plant growing profusely where it is not wanted. Removing it poses many challenges. Herbicides are the preferred method of choice because of the ease of simply spraying the weeds. Products like Roundup unfortunately contains the chemical glyphosate which has a well documented link to cancer.

The alternative method to killing weeds is using Organic products that are low in toxicity.  But the most safest and least expensive way is to remove them is by hand one weed at a time. This is absolutely essential when in my Butterfly garden because all herbicides are toxic to caterpillars and butterflies. It is this act of hand-pulling that is the very source of endless inspiration and allegories.

When I’m immersed in the tedious and time consuming effort to extricate the roots one by one it makes me wonder what short cuts that I might be taking in my life because I am unwilling to do the hard work. Like herbicides, could the quicker, easier method ultimately end up being toxic? This metaphor of taking the longer course of action helps me to understand that time and effort is needed to grow and overcome obstacles on my own personal journey.

Interestingly WEEDING works best just after a rain shower brought on by a summer storm. The water makes the soil pliable which makes the weeds pull out so much easier. Perhaps the storms of life loosens up deep seeded issues. Troubles can help mold and shape us. I should welcome some of the harder times to achieve more wholeness and develop character. I am reminded of a bible verse in the Book of James that tells us whenever we face trials of many kinds,  that the testing of our faith produces perseverance.  We need to let perseverance finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Weeds also choke out all other plants. It reminds us that unresolved issues in our life can creep up and take over if we don’t stay alert. We need to be ever watchful that our thoughts don’t evolve into unhealthy behavior. We must be persistent in considering what we allow our minds to dwell on as wrong thinking can eventually dominate our lives and influence our actions.

Sometimes we need hand tools to get to the full length of the root. Likewise, we shouldn’t forgo needing help in getting at some of the root issues in our life. Every weed I pull is an allegory to destructive thinking and behavior I may be harboring. We must daily and consistently work on pulling unhealthy thinking patterns out of our life just like we to have to daily continue to pull weeds so they don’t take over. The correlation between the undesirable in my garden and my mind is undeniable.

NUTRIENTS

Fertilizing is an essential part of gardening. It is also something that I can draw great insight from. I chose an organic fertilizer over a chemical fertilizer because it sustains the soil and prevents a toxic buildup.

Seeking the right tools and influences in my life to grow is like choosing the right fertilizer. Although something at first glance may appear to promote growth, a closer look proves some less than desirable elements.

THE THREE Ps

PHOTOSYNTHESIS

The role foliage plays is summed up in the word Photosynthesis! Green leaves absorb sunrays which nature through an amazing process then uses to create fuel to make the whole plant thrive. The “sunlight” in my life that helps me flourish are Bible passages, a combination of vowels and consonants inspired by God that speaks life into me.

The precepts and proverbs, the lessons of David, Abraham, Matthew and John, and the parables and miracles all recorded in the Bible are used to teach me and set my path straight so that I MAY FLOURISH as a sojourner in this life.

POLLINATORS

The bumblebee is a super pollinator.  As this delightful insect visits blossoms it spreads pollen from one part of the plant to another, so they will bear fruit. Their feat is majestic, their product sweet.

They go about doing what they do best, what they were created for.  The allegory is simple –What am I created for?  What harvest am I reaping with my activities?  

PRUNING

The act of trimming and shaping foliage is a source of deep inspiration. The gardener must prune the branches to produce fruit. Every season I carefully prune shrubs and cut back plants. The unruly growth and lack of fruit can only be rectified by pruning.

Pruning promotes proper growth and direction of branches. The same is true in our own lives. In what direction am I growing? As indicated in the Book of John, God removes each branch in us that does not bear fruit in order for us to bear more fruit. Certain things in my life need to be cut off in order for me to flourish. 

INSPIRED TO THRIVE

I hope the next time you dig into your garden you will be inspired to see the process in a new light. There are so many life lessons to be gleaned from the simple acts of weeding, pruning and fertilizing.  May the process of photosynthesis and the busy bumblebee provide you thoughtful reflection. A green thumb is practical source of inspiration to help us thrive in our daily living.

A summer’s day in my back garden.

John 15:2
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”  

THE ART OF SIMPLICITY

Lifestyle August 31, 2022

I had a life defining moment at the age of twenty eight. Through this exceptional experience I came to understand how life giving the character and atmosphere of my personal space was.  I have since discovered this can be achieved through DIY projects, hand stamping, hand glazing, upcycling, recycling, thrifting, Facebook Marketplace and curbside finds. Creating an appealing décor is affordable for everyone.

Let me tell you about my landmark encounter. My husband and I had just joined a nonprofit trying to do good around the world. We visited a couple who had made similar choices to ours. I was enamored with their commitment and sense of purpose. They were warm, kind people.  As we enjoyed an evening of conversation and home cooking I took in my surroundings. I realized their style sense was vastly different from mine.

This stand alone moment sent me on a journey of discovery. It seemed the aesthetics of simplistic living was open to individual interpretation. I realized I needed color, style, and flair and these attributes didn’t preclude my desire to live in light of the great needs of the world. When I realized as a young woman that I could have both it set me on a lifetime trajectory to live a beautiful life while leaning into voluntary simplicity.  Being satisfied with what I have rather than what I want has been a lifetime struggle but well worth the effort I believe.

Our season of service provided a platform for my developing philosophy: that I live my life engaged in global concerns while celebrating my own unique choice of ambiance that nurtured life. It was also the perfect forum to gather color combos and other creative designs that has contributed to my eclectic taste.

Personal space that reflected my creativity was crucial to my identify. As far as I could remember I did things with a certain special touch. Copper Jelly molds did not exist in my childhood home but the gift of hospitality had been modeled for me by my parents. So when I was as teenager I intuitively set about making jelly molds from soup tins. My lack of accoutrements or sophisticated recipes didn’t stop me from serving a jellied salad with panache. I was onto to something, it wasn’t resources or a worldview that limited style it was creativity and an adventurous spirit. The beginnings of the art of simplicity was born.

THE SOUNDBITE

As a young woman I read an impactful soundbite, FRUGALITIY WITHOUT CREATIVITY IS DEPRAVITY. It is from the author of THE TIGHWAD GAZETTE, a book that promoted thrift as a viable alternative lifestyle. I adopted this phrase as my own as it best reflected my nuanced lifestyle.  A welcoming appealing aesthetic created mostly on a budget, by hand and with thrift store finds has been a lifetime pursuit.

We need not let limited resources or space deter a creative spirit. The walls that surround us have nothing but potential. How we paint them, decorate them, group pictures all contribute to the character of a room. The cost for beige paint is identical to sunflower yellow and barnyard red. I started by experimenting with color palettes. I loved the patina of the French Country I had seen in magazines and my travels. I wanted to recreate that old world character in my understated bungalow in Central Florida.

Most of my ideas are not original but garnered from images procured from dozens of sources. Women of my generation looked to Martha Stewart for ideas. Most of us did not have her unlimited resources or entourage but nonetheless were inspired by her creativity. I never thought her magnificent creations could be duplicated but only that they stimulated creative thought. The younger generation is now inundated with ideas from the internet. Pinterest and You Tube provide countless DIY projects. It’s important to let these images not intimidate you but use them as a springboard to create your own unique oasis.

STENCILS & GLAZE & CHALK PAINT

I also discovered stenciling. I created faux ceramic tiles and wooden floors by hand painting and stencils. When I wanted a back splash behind my stove I painted it. A border along the perimeter of my kitchen wall was designed and hand stamped with sponge shapes.  A faux armoire in the Master Bedroom came alive by taking advantage of the design of the closet and accenting it with a contrast color and stencils.

My orange and blue patinas in the living and dining room were created with lots and lots of hand rubbing with glazes and cheesecloth. I also adore the worn aged look created with chalk paint made famous by Annie Sloan. Chalk paint gives surfaces a shabby-chic style. Sanding the surface intermittently can easily produce a distressed look which adds character and vintage charm to your home.

CURTAIN CALL

Prior to Digital Pinterest Boards, we had glossy magazines filled with decorating ideas.  In my younger years I amassed hundreds of pictures from magazines and placed them in an over sized scrap book. I remember seeing just one photo of curtains hanging willy-nilly throughout a house and it captured my imagination.

So I have set about over the years to use curtains of all sorts and colors to grace my home in addition to being used as simply as window coverings. The revelation that materials of all sorts could be used as decoration, trimming, room dividers, doorway coverings and a special touch of realism to a faux window was liberating.

Fabric also drapes my ceiling as I attempted to create a Middle Eastern theme for a Ramadan event I hosted in my home. I stapled a huge piece of natural muslin to opposite corners of the room and it has stayed there ever since. I have also learned that both a tablecloth and a saree can make fine window dressings.

CURBSIDE FINDS

Ten years ago I visited dear friends in their Pennsylvania summer home, a respite from NYC living. I fell in love with their white sideboard covered in potted plants. I knew I just had to have something similar in my home. The idea got tucked away and percolated for a decade until a discarded wrought iron kitchen unit caught my eye curbside. I knew I had found a piece that would best mimic the image I had been carrying since that summer visit.

I walked that piece of furniture across my cul-de-sac, painted it white, filled it with potted plants and placed it on my back porch. As we dine al fresco we can also feast our eyes on this splendid floral display. I think the joy of waiting for the right piece also contributes to the adventure of creating a home with character.

FIND CREATIVITY EVERYWHERE

The sources and the depth and breadth of inspiration vary but gems for living are waiting to be uncovered. Look and listen you will be surprised. Endless inspiration can be found everywhere!

Browsing through stores, visiting someone’s home, internet searches, garage sales, magazines and travel are all sources of genius. We collect ideas from varied sources all influencing our personal taste and style. Home is where the heart is. May you beautifully decorate your domain that best reflects you and your taste.

Ultimately what matters is the relationships that exist between those inside the walls. The address, whether an avenue or a street, a courtyard or cul-de-sac, makes no difference because the doublewide and the two-story alike, serve the exact same purpose. A roof over our head, no matter how stately or humble, is home. But it’s the relationships that transform a house from brick and mortar into a place where life is nurtured.  Home is more than a space, it is a place where real life happens.

1 Samuel 25:6
“…Peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.”

HOME SWEET HOME

Great Ideas November 9, 2020

My love affair with France started over 20 years ago when I picked up my first Peter Mayle novel, Toujours Provence. I instantly was enamored with his stories of this enchanting region.