THE ART OF SIMPLICITY

Lifestyle December 19, 2020

I had a life defining moment at twenty eight years of age. 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, homemade, upcycle, recycle, thrift store, 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 were visiting Northern Canada and met with a retired couple who had made choices similar 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. What struck me was how they had chose to decorate their home. Its simplicity I admired but it very much lacked color and character. My heart sank. I equated their decorating sense to be a reflection of the life we were about to embark upon.

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 adult 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 worth the effort I believe.

Our season of service with a nonprofit provided a platform for my developing philosophy, that creativity and simplicity could co-exist.  My deep need for ambience could be reconciled with my deeper desire to help others. Personal space that reflected my creativity was crucial to my identify. As far as I could remember I did things with flair. Copper Jelly molds did not exist in my home as a child but the gift of hospitality had been modeled for me by my parents. When I was as teenager I set about making jelly molds from soup tins. My lack of accoutrements didn’t stop me from serving a jellied salad with panache. I was onto to something, it wasn’t resources 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 and space deter a creative spirit. The walls that surround us have nothing but potential. How we paint it, decorate it, group pictures on it 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. Woman 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 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 on 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 age 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.  I have cut out hundreds of images from magazines in my younger years amassing them in a over sized scrap book. I remember seeing just one photo of curtains hanging willy-nilly throughout a house and not as window coverings. It captured my imagination.

Materials of all sorts could be used as decoration, trimming, room dividers, doorway coverings and a special touch of realism to a faux window.

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 their original purpose, although tablecloths it seems also make a fine window dressing.

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 Muslin to opposite corners of the room and it has stayed there ever since.

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 the 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 ideas can be found everywhere!

Walking through stores, visiting someone’s home, internet searches, antique sales, magazines and travel are all sources of genius. We collect ideas and inspiration 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 though is the relationships that exist between those who dwell under one roof. 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. Every family and every person has a dwelling no matter how stately or humble. They call it home. It’s the relationships that transform a house from brick and mortar into a place where life is nurtured.  Home is not merely a space, but a place in which real living is found.

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

AFTERNOON TEA

What I Love May 12, 2020

I have always savored the three-tiered layered tray with delicate crust-cut sandwiches, warmed scones with clotted cream and petit fours that make up the classic Afternoon Tea. It was utterly delightful to have just discovered the origin of this wonderful culinary offering.

Sheep, Chickens and Bees. Oh My!

Great Ideas November 30, 2015

It was at least ten years ago that my father said we were no longer exchanging Christmas gifts. He was not being a Grinch. He was saying we have too much already. My Dad wanted us to give gifts to those who were truly in need. Giving to others became our family tradition. Gifting with Purpose has been central to Christmas ever since.

Entwined With Vines

What I Love February 14, 2020

When I was in my twenties I traipsed around the world. My younger self embraced the opportunity to travel and document the work of a non profit. It was on these jaunts that I started to observe and absorb the nuances of culture in the regions we traversed.

LIFE LESSONS FROM THE GARDEN

My Thoughts November 19, 2019

I love to garden.  It started in my mid-forties and I prefer not to tell you how long ago that was. 😊  It began with scarlet red geraniums like the ones you see spilling out of deep blue pottery in pictures of rural France.  Then I started adding milkweed and nectar plants for my monarch butterflies. The greatest mistake I’ve made gardening is planting trees too close to the perimeter. I am always fighting their roots systems when I add new plants. I have found the most satisfying aspect of gardening is the inspiring motifs that I can glean. 

WEEDS A Perpetual Source Of Inspiration

A weed is described as a plant growing profusely where it is not wanted. Removing it from where it’s unwanted poses many challenges. Herbicides are most people’s preferred method of choice to kill weeds because of the ease of simply spraying them. However, almost every herbicide, including Roundup, contains the chemical glyphosate. Glyphosate has a potential link to cancer.

The alternative method of  killing weeds is to use Organic products that are low in toxicity.  But the most safest way to remove them is done on your hands and knees one weed at a time, a must in the Butterfly garden as all herbicides are toxic to caterpillars and butterflies. The all natural way of pulling weeds is a constant source of inspiration.

Nature teaches me the most, through the process of weeding.   Hand pulling weeds is time consuming compared to fast acting chemical herbicides but manual removal has zero toxicity. It makes me wonder what short cuts that I might be taking in my life because I am unwilling to do the hard work. Could a quicker, easier method ultimately end up being destructive? This metaphor of taking the longer path helps ease some of my own personal journey.

Weeding works best when it has just rained. A storm makes the soil pliable and the weeds pull out easily. Perhaps the storms of life help us wrestle with deep seeded issues. Could troubles make me more open to change, to be molded and shaped differently? Should I welcome some of the harder times to achieve more wholeness?

Over grown weeds will choke out all other plants. Weeding remind us that things in our life can creep up and take over if we don’t stay on guard. Be ever watchful that thoughts don’t become unseemly actions. We must be ever vigilant in what we allow our minds to dwell on as unhealthy thoughts can eventually dominate our lives. Sometimes we need hand tools to get to the root of weed just like we made need professional assistance to deal with some issues in our life. Every weed I pull is an allegory to destructive thinking and behavior. 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 another act of gardening that I can draw insight from. Chemical fertilizers works very well but do nothing to sustain soil and may result in a toxic buildup. So I chose an organic fertilizer over a chemical one.

I am reminded that I too must truly seek the right factors in my own life to grow stronger. Although something at first glance may appear to promote growth, a closer look proves there are some corruptible elements like in the synthetic fertilizer.

THE THREE Ps

Photosynthesis

Do you have any idea what leaves do…Photosynthesis! Those green leaves that grace every stem take sunrays and do a dance to create fuel to make the whole plant thrive. The “sunlight” that feeds me are bible passages, a combination of vowels and consonants inspired by God that speaks life into me.

Wisdom from on high, the precepts and proverbs, the lessons of David, Abraham, Matthew and John, parables and miracles all of it is used to teach me, set me straight so that I MAY PROSPER. I prosper in my soul, not necessarily in my pocket book, my soul, my relationships, my engaged life, my time as a sojourner in this life

Pollinators

The role of the bumblebee is to pollinate.  He visits blossoms and spreads the pollen from one part of the plant to another, so they will make fruit. Their feat is majestic, their product sweet.

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

Pruning

Pruning gives 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 determines where branching will occur rather than controlling size or shape. The same is true in our own lives.   In what direction am I growing? I must remove certain things in my life in order 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. You too can receive life lessons from the simple acts of weeding, pruning and fertilizing.  May the process of photosynthesis and the beautiful bumblebee provide you insight. A green thumb will inspire you to thrive.

Mark 4:8
“Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” 
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.”  

PERFECT HARDBOILED EGG

Dinner Table, Great Ideas October 5, 2018

I have finally learned the culinary secret to a hardboiled egg that peels perfect every time. This has been an adult pursuit of mine and I have only just mastered it. In my determination to find the best cooking method for easy peeling I have had to wrestle through the decision of what egg to buy. The types of eggs now available boggles the mind: caged, free-range, free-run, cage-free and now PASTURE RAISED.  You can even  purchase a bottle of  Mayo made with Cage Free Eggs. I have studied the nuances and can help you make an informed decision regarding the type of egg to purchase. The secret in defining  types of eggs has everything to do with the housing of the hen. It is the heart of the matter.