I've always loved school. Back-to-school was my favorite time of year when I was a kid and I always approached the first day of school with excitement. As I prepare (physically, with school supplies, and emotionally, with tissues handy) to send my first-born to kindergarten in less than three weeks (omg), I've obviously got school on the brain.
For all the families getting ready to go back to school or go for the first time, or maybe if you're homeschooling and need gear: Overstock has partnered with the fabulous PBS KIDS (which is on quite a bit at my house) to create the Overstock Kid Zone.
There are several categories within the shop that include products for school (supplies, desks, and watches to keep older kids on schedule), artistic expression (easels, paint supplies, and craft kits), learning through play (tablets, science activities, play kitchens, dress up clothes), and kids' rooms (beds, storage, and decor).
The Kid Zone page also links directly to PBS KIDS videos and activities families can do together. Best of all, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of products purchased from the Kid Zone goes to support PBS KIDS and its mission of educating children. I know as long as my daughter has access to Peg+Cat and Plum Landing for a long time to come, she'll be happy. And since some students, like my godchildren, have already started back to school: I wish learners of all ages a happy and enriching year!
images via overstock
Earth, Fire, Wind, Water, Heart! Sorry, I was thinking of the power of the elements and had a Captain Planet moment. Actually, I saw a video [see below] on Facebook this morning that really interested me. Water can be really calm and serene or it can be angry and scary and strong. And it can kind of be both at the same time.
Hawaiian photographer Clark Little jumps into gigantic waves with his camera and shoots these incredible shore breaks. Some of the breaks are so big, I want to scold him for not wearing a life jacket (such a mom). He captures these amazing shots while he is completely enveloped and surrounded by the powerful water and the images are truly beautiful. Check out the video in which Little talks about his process and you can see more of his work.
images via © clark little photography
This time of year makes me think a lot about my grandparents: April marks the birth dates and death dates of three of the four—though all of them have been gone a long time—and Mother's and Father's Days will be here soon. I lost my maternal grandmother, Helen, when I was just 4, my paternal grandfather, Marvin, when I was 8, and my other grandmother, Sylvia, and grandfather, Bill, within three days of each other when I was 19.
Because we lived a few hours from both sets of grandparents, and because I was so young, I didn't really know grandma Helen at all. My mom's parents lived in Rochester. I distinctly remember hiding in the space between grandma's fridge and the wall, listening as she came down the hall. I would pop out and "surprise" her and she would call me a rascal. That's really the only memory I have of her. Long after she died, we were at my grandfather's house and found a copy of Playgirl that I guess she got from her friends. I really liked thinking of her making jokes with her friends about something like that. She was my only grandparent that wasn't one of five siblings. My grandfather Bill would go to places like AC and bring us back t-shirts with little animals and rainbows on them, super 80s stuff. He would call us Petunia McGillicuddy, which my sister and I loved. His father died of Spanish Influenza when he was around 6 so he had to drop out of school after eighth grade and start working to help take care of his mother, brother, and three sisters. He also was a boxer and apparently there's something about him in the Boxing Hall of Fame, but I haven't seen it yet. He also earned a Purple Heart in WWII. I don't have anything of theirs, though my mom has some things.
When I was 8, we moved to Syracuse which is where my dad's parents lived. I recall the time I asked about a little mark or scar near the corner of my grandfather Marvin's mouth. He told me it was from eating red onions on his bagels and lox. I was scared of eating onions for a little while after that. We would celebrate the Jewish holidays at their house. A few years ago, we uncovered a video where they came to visit us when we were young and he's saying something about cherishing the time we have together because they [my grandparents] won't be around forever. It's on VHS but I want to put it on DVD so I can watch it sometimes. My grandmother Sylvia is the one I knew best. She loved swimming and always wore a swim cap. She would just do laps and laps while we splashed nearby. She was funny. After my grandfather died, she would perform in skits at the JCC and have everyone in stitches. She would come over for dinners often and we'd talk on the phone a lot since she and my dad spoke every night. She had clothes left over from the 70s and I wore one specific technicolored shirt and a pair of bellbottoms through out high school and college. When I started driving, I got her car because she was unable to do anything after her stroke. I like that she met my husband (then-boyfriend) at least once before that. The stroke wasn't the end of her life, but I don't think she would call the subsequent years living.
Right now my husband and kids and I live in my grandparents house. Four generations have now lived in this house. We're wrestling with whether we should buy the house and try to update it or buy something different. I'm not sure what we'll do, but I like that I had a chance to live here.
I wish I had asked more questions of all of them. I wish I had more knowledge of what they were like as young people. I wish I had more pictures and tangible pieces of them. I would share some of the things I have, but I'd have to dig to find them. I decided to write this post on a whim after seeing the wonderful and charming video above, created by animator and illustrator Gemma Green-Hope about her grandmother, Gan-Gan. I love the Roger & Gallet soap and the photos and bits of her life.
I wish we could all have something so beautiful to remember each of our loved ones.
video via colossal/vimeo staff picks, family photo my own
As I spend time looking at local neighborhoods and perusing online real estate listings, I'm thinking a lot about exterior paint color combinations. In the majority of neighborhoods in the US (at least all the ones I've ever been in), houses are generally painted in variations of brown, gray, white, green, yellow, blue, and red. But the colors are always pretty muted: the reds are more brick reds, the yellows like butter, and the greens olive or forest. (But it seems like there's always one blue house that is a weirdly electric color and stands out like a sore thumb.)
Wouldn't it be amazing if our neighborhoods were as vibrant as these blocks in Cape Town, as photographed by Gray Malin? Those blue houses would be right at home among the lavenders and oranges and limes and other saturated colors.
I can't imagine how fun it would be to live in a technicolor neighborhood and see where everyone took their house color-wise. I think I would be insanely happy every time I walked on my street.
Of the standard colors, I've always gravitated toward gray houses, and my last house was light gray, but lately I've seen a few houses around town that are purple. Subtle though—the purples have gray or brown undertones and they look really nice. Something like this color, left (Cabernet, 2116-30 Benjamin Moore). So maybe I should go in that direction for something a little less typical?
If you could paint your house any color--neighborhood associations and judgmental neighbors be damned--what color would you choose? Or for more inspiration, check out my exteriors board.
Hope everyone is staying warm and lifting with their knees when they shovel, it's crazy out there lately. I drove down to New York last Friday to attend NYNOW, formerly NYIGF, the gift show at the Javits Center. In two and a half days—and 2700+ pictures later—I walked every single aisle of the show and saw some great products.
Mostly, I was really excited to be back in New York and to see a lot of the vendors I haven't seen in a while, since I missed the last three shows (not sure how that time flew so quickly). It was great to catch up with people and this was my first time experiencing the show since they changed the format and rebranded. I think it worked out well to have all the home companies under one roof, though as I walked the show, I realized there were several brands that I didn't see. I'm hoping they'll be there in August.
At any rate, I'm looking forward to sharing the things that I saw over the next weeks and months. In addition to new and interesting products, the booths themselves are often styled creatively. Here are just a few fun things I noticed:
These grand room scenes are not renderings, drawings, or embossments. They are made from sheets of paper folded and creased carefully, over and over, by German artist Simon Schubert. Using a technique he developed, he creates these architectural images with great depth and impressive detail. I love the perspective of these pieces and the play of light and shadow. Apparently it takes around a week for him to complete each work; he must have so much patience and I can't imagine how many times I would have to start over to achieve this level of precision. You can see many more examples at his website.
images via simon schubert
My very creative friend Chris (she's pursuing a career in puppeteering, so cool!) shared a link to this post about the work of Korean artist Lee JeeYoung. I found Lee's work fascinating, not only because there is no Photoshop or photo manipulation involved, but because her work is a study in self-expression and a quest to delve into different parts of her identity.
She constructs elaborate installations in her studio and then inserts herself into the scene (never facing forward) as part of an attempt to create a tangible expression of thoughts, feelings, and desires. The studio is only about 10 feet by 20 feet in size. Lee spends weeks, sometimes months, transforming this space over and over again into fantastical settings inspired by her surroundings and experiences, as well as cultural influences and fables. It's a cathartic way of working out inner conflict and I love the way each iteration speaks to a different part of who she is.
I so admire people who are this creative and can turn an imaginative fantasy into something visual and whimsical. In a way it reminds me of something that has stuck with me since childhood and I think of often: In the Beverly Cleary book Ramona and Beezus, Beezus feels like she doesn't have any imagination and she's struggling for inspiration in her art class. After kicking Ramona out of the art class and trying to reclaim it as her own, she decides to paint Ramona's invisible lizard, and it evolves into a dragon with cotton-candy flames, lollipop scales, and a lemon drop eye.
Sometimes when I'm feeling less than inspired, I think of the dragon painting and try to remember there's always another way of seeing things.
Here are some of my favorite photographs from Lee's series.
images via opiom gallery
Over the last three weeks I've had conversations with a handful of artists and curators and it's been fascinating to talk to them about art and see the similarities and differences in the way they approach it. Art is an important layer in a home and it's also very highly personal.
Whether you're buying for yourself or for someone else, or merely browsing, it's a good time to visit UGallery's pre-holiday sale, which is on now and ends Tuesday, November 19th. A variety of media and price points are available. Not everything on the site is discounted, but over 400 select pieces of original art are 30-60% off.
It's also foolproof because UGallery has a designated team of experts who can help you select a piece. They also offer a week-long test run, so if you get something home (or gift it) and it's not right, you can exchange or return it easily. Another cool feature of the site: You can interact with the artists directly on the works' pages.
Above, Glam Legs, 2013 by Casey Rodgers is sadly not part of the sale, but I love it too much to not share it. I also really like these four works below, which are actually included in the sale.
I'm drawn to these pieces for various reasons, but it also occurred to me that each one is looking at the subject from a different perspective—from behind, above, below—but never head on. I wonder what that says about me right now? What would you bring home?
As soon as I saw this set of watercolor paints (above), I knew I had to feature it. The powdered paints, in gorgeous saturated colors, are derived entirely from natural flowers. The powders have a slightly sandy texture and seem to shimmer in the sunlight. Each set of 20 paints is unique and comes packaged in a handmade thin recycled-metal case, which is small enough to travel with. Put a bit of powdered paint and water in the lid of the desired canister, mix, and create!
A similarly intriguing set is made of crushed natural stone and sand (below). Gypsya, the retail site of artist Rose James, specializes in handmade products crafted from organic and recycled materials.
I love the idea of giving someone a gift they can create something beautiful with--especially if they share their work, it sort of perpetuates the gift giving.
Please note, these items are not recommended for children; the listings at gypsya's Etsy page has a bit more information on usage. The supply of flower paints is currently limited, but Rose is working on making more.
Flower or Stone watercolor paints, $42 each for set of 20, gypsya.com
images via gypsya
When piles of projects come home from school, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out what to do with them. Save? Toss? Display? Aerin Lauder, of Estée Lauder and Aerin, has a beautiful and simple solution to display the art and really enjoy it every day. This shot from an old Elle Decor story shows how Lauder wonderfully incorporated her children and their creative masterpieces in this cozy kitchen nook at her East Hampton house. I'm kind of dying to jump into this picture to have juice and a parfait at that banquette.
I like that the art and her children's super adorable portraits, offset by pale blue walls above the shelf, are mixed with a Jeff Koons vase. Even though the vase is high end, its shaggy puppy shape is fun and feels right in this room. Don't be afraid to have adult and kid things in the same space. As someone currently living in a house where four generations of my family have now lived, I'm a fan of how Lauder carried on (but updated) the house's blue-and-white palette—honoring her grandmother Estée, whose house and favorite color combo these were.
Speaking of this house and kids, our double-header birthday parties for the girls are tomorrow so we're off to pick up supplies, treats, clean the house, and decorate. It should be a lot of fun and we're looking forward to it.
Hope everyone has a great weekend!
image via elle decor
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