Wednesday, June 29, 2011

NetFLEX

Netflix - Better than chocolate??

Two situations have arisen concurrently: 1) I have been searching for workouts that turn me on by serving a higher purpose than simply consisting of plain ol' exercises, and 2) I became addicted to Netflix the moment my sister hooked it up to my parents’ Wii (umm, hello, Veronica Mars). Who would have thought Netflix, which seems to promote an extensive amount of couch-sitting (and could quite possibly, just maybe, explain my lack of blog posts this week), would be the answer to my fitness goal prayers? Now, in addition to rollerskating, hula hooping (okay, okay, I’ve gotta BUY one of those before I can actually enjoy it regularly), taking walks, doing yoga, and avoiding the dreaded, but effective, P90X, it occurred to me that I can search for exercise videos, in addition to long-canceled sitcoms, on Netflix. This gives me the opportunity to sample new moves and hopefully find workouts that really appeal to me. When exercising entertains, rather than pains, I am much more likely to make the effort follow through.


Check out Massive Tassel, Kansas City's own fusion bellydance troupe. 
These former schoolmates of mine are seriously talented and majorly inspiring.

Yesterday, I found a bellydancing video on Netflix. I had never tried bellydancing before, but I will tell you what, 40 minutes of bellydancing gets the sweat glands to leaking, the heart a’thumpin’ and the libido to kicking. Afterward, I spent another 40 minutes calming down with a rather good yoga video also found on Netflix. Plus, ever since I learned the basics of bellydancing, I have been shimmying around the house instead of walking. That’s gotta do a body good, right!?

I guess my emerging exercise philosophy is “Have fun to lose a ton.” What’s yours? Oh, and what are you watching on Netflix? Any good recommendations? I promise to either make art or practice my body wave while watching!
 
Alison :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Jars of Glass

I am a magazine junkie. I am specifically addicted to magazines featuring lots of home decorating and organizational ideas. I can’t get enough of them, and I have a hard time getting rid of the magazines, too (organizational fail). I wonder at the amazing spaces, and wish I had thought of the great ideas. When I see something that really catches my attention, I try to figure out how I could reinterpret it to work in my life. I might be quietly flipping magazine pages, but my mind is anything but quiet.

The internet offers very quick access to imagery. Sometimes while I am on the computer, I type random terms into Etsy’s search engine just to see what exciting finds might pop up. And, no, I am not above admitting I have searched the terms “penis” and “vagina” on multiple occasions, in addition to ho hum terms such as “feather” and “pitcher.” It’s akin to looking up dirty words in the dictionary. You can’t help but giggle a bit when you do it. Okay, anyway... Usually, I look up images which could prove helpful to me and my creative process. I may wish to know if what I am making has been done before (and I always hope it hasn’t!), or I might just need a little visual inspiration. I always appreciate the cool handmade objects made by independent artists on Etsy and elsewhere on the Web. Yesterday, I mentioned I want to throw a special craft party for my girlfriends. I have been thinking about party favors for some time, and I have an idea involving glass jars. I know exactly what I am going to do with them, but, for now, it’s top secret! In the meantime, I thought it might be entertaining to take a look at how other people have revamped cast-off glass jars.
 
Jars as Lighting

   
Mason Jar Lights Chandelier - Fantastic! I love when glassware is recreated into unique lighting options. 


Handmade Solar Lights - I enjoy the rainbow striping employed here. These would be really fun at a party! Gluing tissue paper to found jars would be a fun afternoon craft activity for kids, too.

  
Tea Light Jars Candle Holders - I knew I shouldn’t have passed up that HUGE BAG of old baby food jars at the thrift store last year. I’ve been regretting my bad decision since then, and this brings it all back. Can you imagine pasting inspiring words from your favorite book on a jar? Or how about pictures from vintage illustrated books? Personally, I would like to use a bunch of wire-handled baby food jars with tea lights as outdoor lighting.


Customizable Jars


Chalkboard Front Glass Jars Centerpiece - So cute! I love that these jars do double duty as signage and water pitchers.
 

Chalkboard Glass Jars - This is such a great way to store foods bought in bulk. If you replaced the large jars with those tall skinny green olive jars, you would have a cool set of spice and herb jars! 
 

Etched Label Glass Catchall Jars - The “labels” are simple and lovely. I could see myself using these jars to store art supplies.


Filled Jars
 

Heart in a Jar Anatomical Curio Specimen Jar - Science and Fiber Art move me, so Fiber Art + Science = The best of both worlds! I am also attracted to the idea of carefully curating objects to “preserve” in glass jars.
 

First Snow - Terrarium in a jar. Terrariums appeal to me, whether the fillings are real or fake. Flipping the jar upside down makes me imagine totally new possibilities for the humble jar.


Decorated Jars
 

Colorful Party Favor Jars - I so love these! They are bright and colorful and just plain fun. The addition of buttons makes these jars feel really special. These are kind of like, but not at all the same as, the party favors I am going to make. Tee hee!
 

Lace Knit Glass Jar Wedding Centerpieces - Ooh, this makes me want to give crochet another chance! You can decorate ANYTHING with these stitches. I’ll bet this vase casts gorgeous shadows when used as a candle holder. 


Up-cycled Haberdashery Jars and Cups - Simply divine! This combines some of my favorite vintage materials. It reminds me of those country-style jars with pincushions, but it’s totally updated and definitely my style.


Flower Jars
Shabby Chic Wall Vases - I have had a thing for wall pockets of any variety ever since I worked at an antique store during high school. I know these are referred to as “shabby chic,” but the clamps make it look industrial fabulous.

  
Two Hanging Mason Jars With Flower Frog Lids - What I said about wall pockets? The same thing applies to flower frogs. I think they rock whether they are corralling flowers or being re-purposed. Here they look simple and chic.


The Notions Jars - It’s amazing to me how two items I associate with life on a farm can look so incredibly minimalistic and cool. Actually, when I think about it, a lot of things about country living strike me as incredibly minimalistic and cool - and industrial, too!

What objects and images put your brain in motion? What blogs or magazines do you go to for eye candy and advice? What projects have you seen and then customized to fit your lifestyle or just your style? Have you ever gotten yourself lost in Etsy? Do any of you have Pinterest or any other image-hoarding accounts?

Happy Saturday!

Alison :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Group Project: 8 Weeks to a Better Me (Week 8: Awakening Your Creative Side)


 I had a difficult time getting on the internet earlier this week. I apologize for the delay...

I cannot believe this is the eighth and final week of Danielle’s group project 8 Weeks to a Better Me! During the past two months, I have made small gains and put into place a plan for further self-improvement in each area. I have learned new things about myself and discovered some bad habits are hard to kick. If you are at all interested in making lasting changes in your life, be sure to visit Sometimes Sweet for positive inspiration. Next week I will share where I have been successful and where I have been, um, less than successful. ;)

Before I bemoan the end of 8 Weeks to a Better Me (boo hoo!), let me just say how excited I am about this last topic - Awakening Your Creative Side. I have a Master of Fine Arts in Fiber, and I love to make things. Even so, I sometimes feel too busy, burnt out, lazy or stressed to enjoy making art. I am most creative when I am healthy and my life is in balance. Hunting for a new position has made me a little out-of-sorts, a little down, and it’s completely knocked out my schedule. Sometimes it is hard to feel motivated under these conditions. However, I do have more time to dedicate to thinking about, looking at and making art. The materials I am most drawn to are cut paper (especially from magazines), fabric, language, office supplies, cast off junk, ephemera, photographs, etc. The themes I focus on most are repetition, tools and tool use, manipulation of the human body, and, more recently, sweet little home-related narratives. Sometimes my work is dark, and sometimes it is light. Sometimes it is serious, while other times it is simply intended to inspire happiness in others. Whatever kind of work I am making, I never feel as accomplished as I do when I have finished making something with my own two hands. It does not matter if it is a story, a cut-paper collage, a repeat pattern or even a blog entry. Creating is that beautiful experience of delivering something into the world that was not there before.

Danielle asked Leigh-Ann from Freckled Nest to contribute her advice this week. Leigh-Ann is one multi-talented lady, and she is so generous with her advice, you can tell she is committed to living the creative life. All her ideas are thought-provoking, fun and worth trying. However, I most related to her concept of “inspiration hoarding,” where you have tons of ideas but fear, lack of time, the wrong mood, or the tendency to procrastinate, etc., stop you before you begin. Oops. I am working on reforming, now that what I do has a name!!

1. Be inspired by great art. - I visited Kansas City’s amazing FREE art museum, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, recently, and I wish I had brought a camera to document details from some old favorite artworks that inspire me. I am going back, camera in hand.
 
2. Finish a project. - I am really good at buying supplies for projects, and even starting them, but I am not always good at finishing them. This week, at least one project will be finished. I’ll post a photo on my blog as proof.

3. Use what I have. - Mmm, I'm going back to that whole idea of “inspiration hoarding.” I have a lot of good stuff. This week I am going to plan a project using supplies I already have stashed away.
 
A longer-term goal of mine is to put together a really special crafting party for my girlfriends. I have some ideas in mind, and I want to bring this party to fruition. I love impromptu craft nights, but I have some really fun treats in mind.

What inspires you to make? What are your favorite materials? What prevents you from being as creative as you would like to be?

Alison

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Daddy's Day Care

I want to give a huge shout out to the guy who taught me what a good man looks like.

A good man...


...offers a lady the first bite

...bucks trends (for 40 years)

 ...studies up on a subject

 ...upholds any oath he takes

 ...can rock a beard

 ...works hard for his family

 ...helps out around the house

 ...shows his feminine side

 ...sleeps in with someone he loves

I love you so much, Dad! Thank you for everything you do for us!!

Love,

Alison :)


Hot & Bothered

On those hot summer nights when you can’t be with your someone special, sit back, relax and let some sweet music turn you on, instead.  Here is a sampling of my favorite songs of desire. What are yours? 


 





Okay, I think I need a cold shower now.

Alison :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Group Project: 8 Weeks to a Better Me (Week 7: Personal Style)



Elsie of A Beautiful Mess is such an inspiration to me. When is she not doing something creative and inventive, not only with her wardrobe, but in the way she lives her life? I was so happy to see her as the featured blogger on Sometimes Sweet, talking about personal style in the seventh installment of Danielle’s group project, 8 Weeks to a Better Me. Elsie advises readers to know their bodies and only wear clothes that look really great. Go against the current and skip trends that do nothing for you.

I am not particularly trendy, and I pair thrift and vintage finds with off-the-rack options. I like to perk things up with handmade accessories and vintage jewelry. My relationship with my clothes is somewhat related to my relationship with my body. When I feel confident, I dress more confidently, too. I may wear a trend I would have otherwise skipped. In this case, the risk is its own reward. When I feel so-so or not-so-good about my bod, I tend to wear more staples, such as scoop neck t-shirts in solid colors and my best-fitting pair of jeans. No risk. No failure. While a larger goal would be to always feel good, no matter how I look, I am looking forward to taking simple steps to ensure I look good, no matter how I feel.

 
1. Dress in the moment. - What I am looking for in my wardrobe now is much different from what I looked for ten years. ago. Ten years ago, I was an art school student, and my goal was to dress to express. I wore wacky combinations, such as a blue sequined grandma dress with hot pink fishnets and tennis shoes. I still enjoy expressing my personality, but now the goal is to do it in a more timeless, 9-to-5 appropriate manner. I want a wardrobe that glides effortlessly from work week to weekend. I also want clothes that fit and flatter my body now, not the body I had five or ten years ago. I am going to purge my closet and pass along the clothing that is not working for me, so I can work it every day of the week.

2. Adorn myself! - I own quite a bit of jewelry, much of it vintage. However, I tend to gravitate toward the same few pieces and wear them for weeks on end. My goal is to rev up my style by wearing a broader range of the jewelry I love so much!

3. Stir things up. - I have a lot of clothes. I often wear the same clothing combinations over and over again. I could come up with some “new” looks without a swipe of my credit card by simply swapping one cardigan or pair of shoes for another. Instant. Wardrobe. Update.

How do you define your personal style? What are you wearing this summer? Do you have any shopping or closet clean-out advice? If you are following along with 8 Weeks to a Better Me, let me know. I would love to check out your blogs.  

Alison

Monday, June 13, 2011

Li'l Cuties



Appropriately, I found these early 1980s wedding reception napkins with darling little couples printed on them in June (today, in fact), the month most associated with weddings. These li’l cuties had languished in a box storing cards and letters my grandma received over the years. I thought they deserved a little recognition after having been tucked away for so long. I just adore the wide-eyed and big-headed style of illustration that was so popular at the time. Aren’t these couples the cutest!? I don’t think I could bear to wipe my mug with either napkin. And isn’t it a relief to know some people really do save wedding napkins for posterity!?

What are your favorite wedding favors?

Alison

Friday, June 10, 2011

Simple Little Salad

Tomatoes + Mozzarella = The Perfect Couple

Say you receive a phone call from friends who are in the neighborhood. You have nothing in the fridge to offer them but some cherry tomatoes, mozzarella string cheese and Italian dressing. No problem! You have all the ingredients you need to whip up a really simple, yet impressive, version of Insalata Caprese. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half into a bowl and add string cheese slices at a 1:1 ratio. Stir in salad dressing to taste. Voila! You have a yummy little appetizer or side dish for your pals! Try mixing things up by adding herbs, such as basil, or substituting the Italian dressing for Balsamic vinaigrette or even olive oil, salt and pepper.

This little dish is really great for the dieters among you, too, because you can easily make a single serving salad with one stick of string cheese and a serving of cherry tomatoes. Leave off the dressing and just add salt and pepper to taste, if you wish. It’s low calorie, filling and delicious!

What are your favorite “uh oh, guests are coming, and I have nothing in my fridge” snacks? Chances are, I have nothing in my fridge, and I’m gonna need your suggestions!

Alison :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Strawberry Festival at the Vaile Mansion

Vendors set up outside the Vaile Mansion during the annual Strawberry 
Festival. You can see the Missouri River from the mansion's top deck.

I am endlessly admiring architecture and building facades. If you ride in the car with me, you’re bound to hear me say as we drive along, “Oh, those windows are so cool... I like that door... Wow! Take a look at the relief on that building... That house is beautiful!.” It’s no wonder I am thrilled to be teaching the class “Sneak Peeks” this summer for the educational program I work for geared toward adults with developmental disabilities. The goal of the class is to explore, compare and contrast living spaces in the Kansas City area that are quite different from each other. 

Last Saturday, two assistants and I accompanied a group of students on a tour through the Vaile Mansion in Independence, MO. The Vaile Mansion is a 31-room Victorian era private home-cum-museum, built from red brick with stone detailing. We could not have chosen a better day to visit this splendid local treasure. Although it was hot and humid (even at 9:40 am), the day of our tour fell on the same day as the museum’s annual Strawberry Festival. It was entirely a delight to see the elegant living areas and decor, as well as to have the opportunity to watch performers, eat strawberry shortcake and purchase homemade and vintage wares from the local vendors who were set up on the lawn. While my students definitely did not enjoy waiting for their peers outside in the heat before touring the house, they were impressed by the scale of the house, the painted ceilings, the lavish decor and the copper bathtub!

 Vaile Mansion decor - I've been enamored with hair wreaths since
  I discovered one in the antique store where I worked as a teenager.

Sweet embroidery found at a booth in a shady spot.
I unexpectedly ran into my pal Sonya at the Vaile Mansion. She was there to give tours, because her grandma is on the Museum’s Board of Directors. It was so nice to see Sonya, and she did a great job on her leg of the home tour. As did her grandma. During the tour, I learned the Vaile Mansion holds an annual themed tea party, which sounds simply charming. This year’s theme was “The Wizard of Oz.” Groups may also schedule private tea parties. I also learned most of the furnishings and accessories we saw were not original to the house. Upon the original owner’s death, the majority of the household goods were auctioned off. Over the years, the furnishings have been replaced, and the mansion has been kept up, through the hard work of the Vaile Victorian Society.

While art, history and houses intrigue me, I had never heard of the Vaile Mansion before I was scheduled to tour it. Now that the Vaile Mansion and I are acquainted, I recommend visiting, whether you are a Kansas City native or a visitor to the area. Apparently, the Museum has a gorgeous Victorian Christmas display, so I just might be back next winter. Care to join me?

What private home-cum-museums do you love? What other historical homes should I visit in the Kansas City area? Where should I go if I am visiting your hometown?
Alison

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Garden of Summer Delights

Poppies blooming in my mom's flower garden.



The petals resemble cupcake liners!!




Poppies bloom with the summer. They don’t last long, and neither does the season.

I always enjoy the simple pleasures summer has to offer - flagging down the ice cream man for banana bomb pops, lightning bugs lighting the night sky, balmy breezes tempering the humid air, seemingly endless days, evenings spent at The Platte County Fair (which always seems to fall on the hottest week of summer), practicing yoga in the sun, playing in the warm rain showers that arrive out of nowhere, the fresh tangy fragrance of freshly cut grass, wearing flip-flops or no shoes at all, reading in the grass, eating homemade ice cream, seashells, sandy beaches and swimming (although I do not consider wearing a swimsuit a pleasure), counting stars, the sound of children playing outside, Kansas City Royals baseball games, relishing ripe watermelon with juice dribbling down my chin and seeds piling at my feet, sweet tea, rock hopping at the creek, riding rides at Worlds of Fun, walking barefoot through warm grass washed in cool morning dew, climbing big ol’ maples, splashing through puddles, fireworks randomly discharging in the weeks preceding the 4th of July, catching a couple flicks at The Twin Drive-In, the cacophonous explosions emitted from insects inhabiting the trees, backyard barbecues, outdoor festivals, coconut-scented lotion, construction workers with no shirts and nice tans, the vroom of motorcycles, hotdogs with mustard and relish, building sand castles, meteor showers, roasting marshmallows, cool baths, ghost stories shared around a campfire, sheets drying on clotheslines, strawberry shortcake, bars with outdoor seating, absolutely freezing movie theaters, having root beer floats, going to the library wrapped in a big towel after swimming at the pool (brr, chilly!), and more, more, more!!!!!!!!!!

What are your summer musts and your favorite seasonal delights?

Alison

Monday, June 6, 2011

Group Project: 8 Weeks to a Better Me (Week 6: Home Sweet Home)



I have to admit it: I absolutely love my place! My nearly 100-year-old apartment has a balcony with white pillars, built-in bookshelves and drawers, hardwood floors, tons of natural light, and a clawfoot bathtub. Basically, it has great bones, which makes the job of decorating that much easier. I gravitate toward quirky, vintage decor and found objects, and I really enjoy my space as is. Luckily, though, Mandi from Here’s Looking at Me, Kid is the guest blogger for the 6th installment of 8 Weeks to a Better Me, the self-improvement project originated by Danielle over at Sometimes Sweet. Mandi reminds us that no matter how finished you think your place may be (and hers is gorgeous!), there is always room for a little home improvement.

I may or may not be moving this summer, so I am trying not to initiate any large-scale projects at this time. For now, I am also holding off on adding special belongings I recently inherited from my Grandma to the mix. However, I want to live as comfortably as possible until I know for sure what I will be doing. The main thing is for me to treat my apartment as if I still live there, and I must continue to put effort into keeping the messes at bay. 

 
1. Reduce the clutter. - Not only am I an artist and collector of old stuff, but I am also a hoarder (not too strong of a word, methinks) of ephemera. Some of it is acceptable and useful  inspiration, such as the ‘50s and ‘60s era Valentines I have found over the years. Other papers are unacceptable. I gotta make friends with the shredder and find a sleek way of organizing what I cannot bear to get rid of. And sleek does NOT mean loading papers of personal historical importance into cardboard boxes and shoving them under the bed or piling magazine articles in stacks on the floor.

2. Take care of unfinished business. - Remember the pile of junk I found the other day? I think those pieces will be really exciting when revamped, but, um, I need to actually work on those projects. I also began painting some shelves to hang above my computer desk about a year ago. They are still laying on my back porch, half finished. I
f I took the time to finish them, they would go from a pile of junk to essential organizational tools.

3. Curate. - I have a lot of stuff. I could start my own vintage boutique. No joke. I am in the habit of putting new finds out and then adding to to each layer as I find more great stuff. My place would look more vibrant if I rotated my accessories a little more intentionally.

Also, I really need to hang up my clothes. I have been using my bedroom floor as a closet. Annnnnnnnndddddddd, I have some plans for reorganizing my jewelry. I definitely think jewelry counts as home decor. Don't you? ;)

What are you doing to make your home special? Do you have any “spring” cleaning tips or home upgrade goals?

Alison

Friday, June 3, 2011

Incredibly Full

Filled with sunlight while sitting in the shade today.

Full as in fulfilled, and not from eating too much, I swear.

Have you ever had one of those days where the stars aligned and the meaning of life was completely and utterly known to you? Yeah, me neither. But today I did resolve a dilemma which has been plaguing me recently. Actually, I shouldn’t put it that way. It was more like understanding sprung out of my unconsciousness and whacked me over the head; that’s how clear the insight was. I felt like I had crawled out of my brain and into someone else’s, making a true connection. While I don’t really wish to get into details right now, I will say that today was an inspiring and life-affirming day. And, really, it was more about me changing my perspective than anything else.

In addition to that mood-lifting and attitude-shifting moment, I also spent the day brainstorming ideas for blog posts, art endeavors and home decor projects, making arrangements for an awesome field trip for my students, sitting in the shade, and watering and feeding my friend Erica’s flora and fauna while she was out of town. While I was at Erica’s, I couldn’t help but try out her weighted hula hoop (sorry, Erica!). I am going to have to invest in one. I think hula hooping might just be the most fun physical activity since rollerskating!

I am feeling alive and ready to take on me!

In what ways have changes in your perspective influenced your mood and the choices you made subsequently?

Alison :)