Thursday, October 19, 2017

Soul Keeping Lessons from a DIY Renovator (Hello Lovely)

Well friends, today is the day!

I've got my welcome mat out, my Dutch door is wide open and my special guest has arrived!!

If you don't already know Michele Ranard from Hello Lovely you are in for such a treat. Besides being an accomplished DIY renovator (two houses in two years) she is a prolific writer and artist who somehow finds time to maintain a gorgeous design blog.

And yet, what makes Michele stand out from the crowd --in my mind--is when she weaves her unique wisdom and serenity into her topics the way she did in this post.  

If you've ever been part of a long-awaited home renovation or a simple, blood-and-sweat DIY project you'll want to read Michele's reflections on her own experience.

Reading Michele's post made me stop and realize how our home projects--with all the sacrifices and stress and delays along with way---can be 'gifts' that help us grow into a better person. 

I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did! 


Peaceful neutral decor with Belgian linen in kitchen by Hello Lovely Studio
My Kitchen - Hello Lovely Studio

What a treat to be a guest of Gwen Moss today!

I'm Michele of Hello Lovely, and like you,
I admire Leslie's design style and
lovely heart which has been inspiring
mine for years now.

Home for me is in Northern Illinois, and
while I have always been a summer girl.
in the second half of life, I have
fallen in love with the unfolding 
beauty of autumn.

Fall brings:
fresh apples from the orchard,
crisps and cobblers bubbling over in the oven,
shopping for vintage at fleamarkets,
and hiking outdoors where the
changing colors delight.

This is the first fall in our home
where we're not swamped with
DIY whole house renovation,
and it's a great time to reflect
on how downsizing and renovating
has deepened us in profound ways.

Let difficulty transform you Pema Chodon quote - Hello Lovely Studio
Hello Lovely Studio

The kitchen needed to be completely
gutted, and the reno process brought
disappointments...for example,
learning we wouldn't be able
to lose a wall to create a more
spacious hub for our family to gather.

The gift that emerged instead?
Cozy intimacy.

 Rubbing shoulders with
people you love is not the worst
compromise one must make.

Modern farmhouse white kitchen with farm sink and Shaker cabinets by Hello Lovely Studio
My Kitchen - Hello Lovely Studio

Belgian style farmhouse decor in living room with white oak by Hello Lovely Studio
My  Living Room - Hello Lovely Studio

I was not a huge fan of the fan windows
we inherited with this fixer upper,
yet when a blog reader called them
"church-like," I changed my tune.

Slight shifts in perception
can pack a huge punch. 

Church-like is perfect for someone
who longs for her place to feel prayerful.

French inspired pea gravel courtyard by Hello Lovely Studio
My Courtyard - Hello Lovely Studio

Weeds and dead shrubbery had overtaken
the front entry area, and the remedy?
Subtraction and creativity.

With a limited budget, we simply erased
all but one plant, and brought
in boxwood and pea gravel for an
airy French-inspired courtyard.

Letting go is also good for the soul.

Exterior of our home on a hill - Hello Lovely Studio
My Home - Hello Lovely Studio

Every act of love is a work of peace - sign by Hello Lovely Studio
My Courtyard - Hello Lovely Studio

Galvanized buckets and pinecones in fall by Hello Lovely Studio
My Courtyard - Hello Lovely Studio

A few more peeks inside...

Vintage chair and white decor by Hello Lovely Studio
My Studio - Hello Lovely Studio

White painted pumpkins and vintage bag by Hello Lovely Studio
My Studio - Hello Lovely Studio

What's inspiring you this fall?

Vintage rusty white bicycle in peagravel and fallen leaves by Hello Lovely Studio
My Courtyard - Hello Lovely Studio

Thanks so much for having me, and
I hope you'll come visit Hello Lovely,
where Leslie is my guest!

Peace to you right where you are.


Thank you again Michele... for sharing your beautiful home and your inspiring perspective with us!


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Sunday, October 15, 2017

How a monster face became a classic garden sculpture: my latest (crazy) DIY project

Image result for house beautiful french farmhouse garden statues

If you clicked on to this post title you are:

A. a gardener with a strange fixation for anything-Halloween
B. a person who often loses control of her wildly creative impulses
C. someone who thought, "what the hell is this post about?"
D. all of the above

Well, whatever your answer I'm glad you're here.

And I promise, you will leave here knowing how I transformed a monster face to go perfectly with my Fall front door.

(Sigh, doesn't that last sentence sound so wonderfully weird  Halloweenish?)

Well friends, it's not every day that I decide to try to make one of those classic, concrete garden statues but
if you read my last post, you know that I'm guest-posting over at Hello Lovely Studio this coming week, and since Michele and her readers love the style of classic European homes, I had to think of a post they would like.

Since my own front door was without a single Fall decoration, and since I really wanted to impress Michele with a warm, welcoming entry, I came up with this idea for a guest post:

 "3 ways to add French charm to your Fall front door."

Sound good?

For my guest post --I'll be showing you my front door with:  

  1. my DIY vintage French sign
  2. my gilded Old World pumpkins
  3. a DIY classic garden statue

Meanwhile, welcome to 'classic garden statue' day.

Here we the big question I always have after I get one of my 'great' ideas is, "Can it be done?"

Which seems sort of important. (dark humor)

Can I really make one of those aged, moss-tinged beauties that I envision when I think of the gardens of old European homes?

Well friends.

Today I'm sharing the results of my DIY garden sculpture ... and yes, it worked.

(minus the "moss-tinged" part)

I actually tested out and confirmed that you can indeed put fast-drying mortar mix on to Styrofoam and get it to stick.
Translation: you can do this too!

But first things first.

To get my confidence going, I had to Google (what did we do before Google?)  until I found someone who did a variation of what I wanted to do and saw the word "mud pies" to describe the consistency of the concrete, and I was off running to Home Depot to buy the product I was already familiar with.

Next I had to find a Styrofoam 'sculpture' that I wanted for my two matching urns, and since it's so close to Halloween I decided to add a fun touch to my front door by using a head. Yes, I imagined a Old World head coming out of my pretty flower-filled urn.

How's that for a perfect little nod to Halloween?

But here's the problem I faced. All the Styrofoam heads that are commonly sold in stores actually tilt to one side. I know. These are actually details I spend time thinking about, but back to my dilemma: a tilting head would not look right as a garden sculpture. 

So I got on Google again, found the perfect male Styrofoam heads, calculated how much money it would cost to expedite shipping, and decided THAT option was dead.

Unfortunately I was back to square one. With the tilted heads.

So I headed back to my original store and walked up and down the aisles looking totally perplexed
(if you're a DIYer you know this look)
and BAM! I had apparently roamed down the Halloween aisle and found myself staring at the most beautiful monster Styrofoam head ever and's the crucial part:

  1. It was NOT tilted.
  2. It was MALE and
  3. It was DIRT-CHEAP! 

I bought this additional Styrofoam block for the head to complete my "classic head form" and used a thin dowel to connect both.

Ahhh... so perfect.

Ok, if you're going to do this make sure you wear gloves. I also kept the mortar-water mixture on the runny side while blending, then I could squeeze out the excess water if needed.

Basically you work in layers. Keep squinting with the water bottle until the consistency blends with the previous layer.

But I'll be honest, at his point I had the worst-sinking feeling when I took this picture. 

I was actually thinking, "OMG... is this going to work?!"

And about now I'm thinking, "Michele's readers are gonna think I am SO nuts!"  

(My readers already know that ha)

But heck, once I got started I was actually curious to see how it would turn out. I got a light coat on the first one before I started slathering the second head with the mortar mix. The second head ended up being slightly more defined. 

I realized that first coat needs to be a really light one --almost transparent--before you add more layers.

I used that water bottle to keep squinting it--it helps it cure a little more slowly although it was cool and damp outside and I wasn't too worried about it cracking. Here it is still wet.

The next morning. Ta daaaa!

Since I finished my heads I have stumbled on some ways to "age" new garden statues so they look even more authentic. If I had time I would try it.

Meanwhile, here's a peek at these garden head statues in my urns. 

And here's a glimpse with my version of 'Old World' pumpkins too.

Don't forget to check back with Hello Lovely Studio to see my entire front door reveal including the vintage French sign, I'm so happy with how it turned out.

thank you so much for your visit, 
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

DIY: how to make beautiful Old World pumpkins out of plain orange ones

What do you do when company is coming?

But wait--not just any company, what if it's a beautiful, blonde woman with Parisian connections, who travels in the design world with ease, and who has renovated not just one--but two homes in the last few years? 

Yep, one of those talented, smart, efficient gals who would be intimidating if she wasn't so darn humble and sweet.

But she's still company. And she's coming!


Well maybe not exactly in person, but Michele Ranard of Hello Lovely Studio is coming to my blog next week and of course, that means I need to get ready for her. Figure out what she and her sophisticated friends would enjoy from this hostess, because oh-did I tell you? I'll be meeting them too, over at her place. 

If you're already a fan of Michele's you know her love of all things French.... elegant, simple and rustic. When I think of Michele's style it runs the gamut of
French-Farmhouse. European Countryside. Parisian Sophistication. And Scandinavian simplicity.   

And so with this in mind, I've decided to welcome Michele with some subtle European touches at my front door and, since it's so close to Halloween...well I can't resist adding a special Gothic surprise for a little fun.  

But first, let's talk pumpkin transformation for this special visitor!

I decided to begin by transforming these basic orange pumpkins into something more elegant and Old World. 

I decided to apply a soft metallic palette using shades of greens and blues.

 I began by adding layers using a large stencil brush I already owned....

I applied metallic gold paint to the stems and added this gold to the pumpkins by dabbing it lightly into the layers.

You can see the color scheme on my paper plate. 
What do you think?
Are you feeling an old European vibe here?

I can't wait to show you the simple details I'm working on that will blend with these pretty pumpkins.

Hint: when you think of European style and the outdoors, don't you automatically think of classic urns and aged concrete garden sculptures?

Well how about a DIYer garden sculpture--am I that crazy?

The answer is YES!

Stay tuned for more French-styling at my front door. 


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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Fall tablescape: Simple. Rustic. Beauty.

Today I'm sharing a pretty Fall tablescape with you that has actually turned out to be one of my personal favorites. The best part is, I put it together using simple and inexpensive items mostly collected from my home.

You can do this too.

The funny thing is this entire table was inspired by an old wood pallet we had left over from our landscaping project.

You know how stuff just piles up on the side of your house?

Well, one minute I'm staring at this dried-out pallet with its rusty nails poking out everywhere, that I know Jim plans on tossing. And the next minute I'm grabbing my crowbar and hammer and yanking out those nails.

I won't sugar-coat it.

Those old nails were a pain to get out, but somewhere between all the sweaty banging and pulling, I decided I really wanted to use this wood to make a food photography prop.

But once it was in a pile, I realized I had enough wood to make something rustic for my table too.

I decided to make an long elevated wood centerpiece that would go down the length of my table. A place to put my flowers and pumpkins.

Since the pallet wood slats weren't long enough, I simply put 2 pieces together, and used my nail gun to shoot nails into a top piece that melds them together. (You could use a hammer but I'm terrible at hitting nails.)

Then I used my palm sander (lightly) over the whole thing, followed by AS clear wax, then nailed a 3 pieces underneath to raise it and voila!

I found that extending it down my entire table really added some surprising drama to it, especially when paired with a plain, white tablecloth. 

If you follow me on Instagram you know I recently came home with a bunch of fresh olive branches. That's because I've been wanting to do a Fall table with these for awhile now, it's such a classic look.  

I stuck some into my chandelier. No wire needed.

And I laid them down the center of the table, then positioned my wood centerpiece right on top.
Once I placed the pumpkins on top, adding any flowers just seemed excessive. I actually tried  with some roses I had on hand, but I kept coming back to the simplicity of the pumpkins with the fresh green leaves.
And I decided, sometimes less is more.

I used velvet gold ribbon around white napkins.

White plates from Crate and Barrel and matte gold silverware, courtesy of Target.

And of course, white candles.

And one last shot with the white Christmas lights I now keep permanently in my dining room ..

...because I've decided that gatherings always seem a touch more magical in the glow of twinkly white lights.

Have you noticed this too?

(I hope you enjoyed seeing my simple Fall table today).
Thank you so much for visiting me.

Friday, September 29, 2017

on having dreams and being your own damn hero

I believe in magical moments.
Those quiet interactions we have with enlightenment that happen during an ordinary day. Because you have them, and so do I, more regularly then we realize.

And only later, when you look back you’ll see how a string of little circumstances aligned, like stars in the sky, to bring you in contact with someone who might not be a regular in your daily life. A passing brush with an acquaintance that lasts only long enough for something vital to be passed along to you, and it will feel like an answer to a personal question you had not yet formed in your mind.

But you sense it, this wisp of truth or wisdom left dangling behind, ready for your taking.
"Wow," you’ll say later. "That person or place came along at such a perfect time."

Linda was one of these.

And someday I hope you’re like me. I hope you're lucky enough to find yourself standing in a cramped kitchen while a tiny white dog sniffs at your shoes and a yellow-tailed cockatoo screeches from its corner cage and sends creamy colored feathers fluttering in your direction.

I hope that you’ll have your own version of a platinum blonde woman sitting across from you at a messy table stacked with yellow-lined note pads, monthly bills and rows of medications, who will surprise you with engrossing stories of historical US battles and obscure facts about Navy Frogmen in World War 2.
“Hmm… do you know what kind of suit the Navy divers wore back in the 40s?” this woman asks me as I stand in her kitchen.

Earlier she had told me she was writing a book about her courageous uncle—an original Navy Seal--and in the middle of talking about one of his life-and-death missions she realizes she needs more research on the fabric used for the early frogmen suits. Before I can answer she makes a quick note on her yellow pad and keeps talking.

In the next room Linda’s mother is dying.
This is how we met.  I talk to Linda each week when I read to her mother from her favorite book, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Ironic, considering how long I had avoided reading this best-seller, mostly because of the graphic POW details I find so troubling, but here I am each week, catapulted into a world of unfathomable courage, harrowing battles, and a fight for survival.

Linda’s mother is my co-voyager during these literary time-travels and on good days she stays awake most of the time, on bad days she sleeps throughout. Some days I admit that the parallels between the stark life-and-death tone of this WW2 book and the atmosphere of this house leaves me with a vague sense of the surreal. One minute I am reading about a fragile Louis Zamperini clinging to life by a thread, and the next moment I am looking at a woman who is laying in front of me clinging to life by a thread.
For me, the lives of Linda’s mother and Louis Zamperini have become intricately connected.

On my way out, I always check in with Linda, since she has become her mother’s voice and energy and her devoted nurse. On this afternoon, she is telling me about the books she is currently writing.

And of course, as a wanna-be-author, I am intrigued and a tad jealous. Oh how I would love to be writing a book. From her seat in the kitchen Linda is beaming while she talks.
“My grandmother was a blood-sucking alien. That’s the title of my other book I’m working on,” she laughs, “I just love science-fiction, don’t you? My husband keeps kidding me about finishing the book so we can sell the movie rights and he can retire.”

And I chuckle too, not only because I’m madly love with the boldness of this title, but because it’s becoming clear to me after she mentions the screenplay, that Linda is unabashed about dreaming big.

And god I admire people with bold, ballsy dreams. People who walk around with enough sparkling Hope spilling from their orbit that it effects those standing in their presence.
In fact, listening to Linda describe her love of painting and her current writing projects suddenly makes me feel like the melting version of the cackling green witch in The Wizard of Oz, a weak, diluted form of this solid, resilient woman.

You see.

Linda has liver cancer.
She also has severe arthritis in her knees which makes it difficult to walk and physically tend to her mother, who happens to be dying of leukemia. Because Linda is the only daughter and her closest child—and dealing with her own personal battle with cancer-- I can only imagine how emotionally tough these days must be for her.
Once on a sunny afternoon, I asked her if she had been able to get outside to her garden and she answered by telling me the life lessons she was teaching her teenage nephews who came to do her weeding.

“I’m showing them how to plant from cuttings, she said, “making something from nothing, it’s wonderful.”  Those were her words.

I never finished reading Unbroken to Linda’s mother. She died before we got to the end of Zamperini’s riveting story and for some reason, I haven’t been able to finish it without her.
But if you asked me to sum up my experience in this house I would say it’s the exact opposite of sadness.

Instead, Linda--her surviving daughter --left me with a profound impression. She reminded me by her own resiliency to have the courage and chutzpah to keep dreaming. That no matter what’s happening in our life, our dreams are powerful intentions that keep us moving forward physically and spiritually. They infuse our life with exhilarating hope and, life-affirming possibilities that might not otherwise be there. And no matter what our age, we should never be afraid to use the word “dream” when we talk about our future.
Everyone deserves to have dreams. Period. But especially those nurturers out there, those women who find it much easier to dream and hope on the behalf of others, and who might not take enough time to examine their deepest desires.

 Maybe as  you're reading this, you’re not quite sure what dreams you have anymore.
And that's ok.

As my platinum blonde friend might say, pick a dream that helps you answer this question:

“What would my life look like if it were organized around my deepest values?”
This is how you begin.

This is the direction to your joy.


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