Monday, September 30, 2013

DIY Hanging Bird Mirror

For awhile now I've been eyeing this lovely hanging bird mirror. I love the vintage, industrial look of those chains, and the bird on top lends it the perfect touch of whimsy. I had no intention of ever buying it but last week I got to thinking that I could simply make my own, and for a fraction of the price! And I must say, in all of the DIY-ing I've done, this is one of the projects I'm most proud of.

I started out in the thrift shops in our little town and found this bird for the top. It was the perfect shape and I knew the details in it would come out when I spray painted it. It cost me next to nothing--I bought it and a silver-plated tray for five dollars total--and I was thrilled I'd had such luck in the first place I went. (My husband gave me the weirdest look when he saw it sitting on the table at home--I think he thought I had turned into an old lady overnight. I told him that he just had to trust my vision!)

As for the round mirror, I had zero luck finding one. So I re-worked my idea and decided that a long, thin rectangular frame would look really lovely, would be a cinch to find, and would probably give me less issues when it came time to attach the bird to the top. I found this frame for five dollars at a different thrift shop in town. It was exactly the shape I wanted and I didn't feel at all bad about throwing away that dog artwork--yikes!

This project was filled with a lot of trial and error, and my husband really helped me figure out the engineering details and the wall-hanging part. It wasn't the most stream-lined process, but here are the basics of what I did. 

I scrubbed and sanded the frame and thoroughly washed the porcelain bird. Then I glued the bird to the top of the frame and let it dry. I cleaned the glass in the frame and spray-painted the back of it with this fantastic Looking Glass Spray Paint (about 6-7 thin coats). This spray paint gives glass a faux-mirror finish, and it was ideal for this project because it created a clouded, antique-y looking mirror. There were also a few spots where the paint rubbed off a touch, and these imperfections really make it look old. I love that!

I then spray-painted the frame/bird, along with this brass chain I got at Lowe's, in Oil-Rubbed Bronze. I wanted the chain to look a little bit distressed and for the brass to come through in places, and my husband had the brilliant idea of rubbing it with some sand from the backyard to give it a naturally aged look. I think it looks perfectly worn.

My husband also helped me come up with the best way to hang the mirror from the chain. I was initially skeptical of his idea to put picture hangers (upside down) on the sides of the frame, but the idea really grew on me. I think the exposed hardware gives it an industrial look. I found these attractive, curvy ones at Lowe's, spray-painted them to match, and then we hammered them into the sides.

The final piece of engineering was to add the keychain to the top. Now, it not only more closely matches the original mirror I was mimicking but my husband assured me it would prevent the chain from snapping in a few weeks or months from the weight of the mirror. I just grabbed an extra ring from my set of keys and spray-painted it to match.

And here's one straight-on shot--obviously, I couldn't get this photo without including myself in it! It's no easy feat photographing a mirror, let me tell you.

I really loved working on this project all weekend and I'm thrilled with the results. These photos aren't the greatest but I must say that in person, it looks rather expensive and authentic!

What do you think? If any of you want to take on this project, let me know and I can offer you some more details and tips!

Friday, September 27, 2013

In His Name

Photo by Fay Godwin / Image Source

I like to do something I call "prayer walking." I got the idea from a book I once read on godly living,
and I love it because it combines the revitalizing nature of exercise with the nourishment that comes from talking to God. Plus, I always think it's most inspiring to pray outside in the world He gave us. After my prayer walks, my heart always feels energized and restored on more than one level.

The other day I was doing a loop around our neighborhood and thinking about how we often end prayers by saying, "In Your name I pray, Amen." Saying this feels so natural that I hardly think about what it means, but once I did start to reflect on it, it began to feel so incredibly powerful. In Your name. It's about the intention behind our words. To me, it means that we shouldn't be selfishly placing ourselves at the center of our thoughts and requests, but that instead, in every word we bring to God in prayer, we should be concentrating on Jesus Christ. Our prayers should be in God's honor, dedicated to Him, done for His glory and to forge a better relationship with Him. In keeping these three words at the forefront of our prayers, I thought, I bet there would be a better balance between the requesting kinds of prayers (the kind I find myself doing most of the time) and the thanksgiving kinds of prayers (the kind I should be doing more often).

My reflections on this also got me thinking about our obligations as Christians, not just in prayer but in the rest of our lives. Shouldn't we be doing all that we do in His name? Wouldn't everything have more meaning, wouldn't our lives be richer, if everything we did was done for God?

In Your name, I write. In Your name, I make dinner for my husband. In Your name, I teach this piano lesson. In Your name, I educate my mind. In Your name, I let go.

I think that keeping this mindset would make us less narcissistic, less dependent on what others think. It would encourage us to do each little job or task with grace and humility. It would give us the chance to serve God more fully.

In His name.

I know I will always fall short of where I should be. But I have hope that these three words might help me go about my days with God a little bit more closely aligned to center.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Perfect Fall Accessory

I think it was in college that I first started to really love scarves. It was around then that they transitioned from being a purely functional piece of clothing that I wore while skiing into an accessory I couldn't be without as soon as the air turned chilly. There's something about wearing scarves in the cooler months that makes me feel feminine, pulled-together, chic, and of course cozy. I adore them.

I have quite a collection (my newest one is the navy and white scarf, a gift from my aunt, who works at an adorable shop in Newport that carries these) and it's always nice to learn fun new ways to tie them, to keep things fresh. So I was thrilled to discover this cute and quirky video called "25 Ways to Wear a Scarf." There are some really creative styles in here! My favorites are "The Celebrity," "The Waterfall,""The Key Tie," and "The Hidden Knot."

If you're like me and wear a fall uniform of boots, skinny jeans, and scarves, then you'll appreciate this video. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Conflict Of The Soul

I read a fantastic article yesterday in First Things, a magazine I love for its serious thought mixed with compassion. The piece is called "No Happy Harmony: Career and Motherhood Will Always Tragically Conflict," and it struck me as the first essay I've read on this "Having It All" debate that was truly wise, appropriately thoughtful, and fully honest.

You see, in this piece, Elizabeth Corey kept the heart at its center.

The article is long and complex, full of interesting things and very much worth reading, but I want to focus on one main point she makes. And this is it: the conflict that modern women face, the conflict between work and children, is not an external conflict. It's not a conflict that can be fixed by our society, a conflict whose solution rests in electing our first female president or making sure 50% of our nation's CEOs are women. Hope for fixing the problem doesn't reside in more flexible offices or in more understanding bosses or in new social policies.

The work and motherhood balance cannot be solved externally because it is an internal conflict. As Corey puts it, it is a "conflict in the soul." She writes, "We cannot come to terms with the difficulties women face in the present day until we consider the way in which we feel the competing inclinations in our own souls."

In all of the pieces and opinions I've read on this same topic, the struggle has never been framed in this way. "There is a solution for everything, they imply; we just haven't found it yet." This is how Sheryl Sandberg writes about work and motherhood, how Anne-Marie Slaughter writes about it, how we mostly read about it. I admire these women for their optimism in believing there is a real cure, a total fix, a tidy answer for women who want both families and careers (even if we haven't found it yet).

But perhaps Corey's realistic but heartfelt approach is the better one. What if we really believed, as Corey does, that "this conflict in the soul does not go away," that society can't fix it for us, and what if we adopted this honest perspective in an effort to make the best decisions we can possibly make in a world that, admittedly, isn't fair?

"Modern women are right to think that both the pursuit of excellence and the desire to care for others are part of a fully flourishing life. Excellence in a particular field requires persistence, self-confidence, drive, courage, and initiative. These are eminently admirable qualities. On the other hand, serving or loving another requires the even more admirable qualities of attention, focus, care, patience, and self-sacrifice. The accent we place on them, and the way we put them into practice, is a matter for all of us to figure out for ourselves."

Facing our hearts to find our answers is the most brave thing we can do. It's so much easier and simpler to decide that our struggle over work and family is a result of the mixed-up society we live in and leave it at that. It's much harder, and takes more strength, to see this struggle as something that exists within us, that it is tied up in the very fabric of our beings, and that only a glimpse into our own souls will guide us to the path that is most right.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wintry Cravings

I've been thinking lately about seasons, the changes that come with each one, the way the outside world has a way of seeping in, making us feel something.

I've always thrived on the change of seasons. I loved growing up in Upstate New York because the seasons were so dramatically different from one another. The chill that came over the air in late September, the first snowfall, the airy breath of spring come April. They were each so beautiful and the changes felt so good and wholesome and vital, necessary for time to keep going on.

We've been living for over a year in a place with minor seasonal changes, and while I know many people would appreciate the temperate falls and winters here, I find myself craving and missing the stark contrasts that I grew up with. We've been making our Christmas plans and we will be spending time with both of our families in a place even further south of here, and while it will be delightful and we're looking forward to it, I do find myself feeling a tiny bit sad to spend another Christmas without snow. (Last year, we were in California for Christmas.)

I often feel like I have to defend my love for cold, crisp, snowy winters. I have to explain why they bring me much happiness and peace, and a feeling of coziness. There's the thrill of watching a blizzard rage outside as you sit by the warm fire. The majesty and quiet beauty in waking up to a world covered in white. We got married on December 30 and when, on December 28, big, beautiful flakes of snow began to gently fall, blanketing our quiet village in the freshest of white, welcoming our guests into a fairyland, I felt that the Heavens had given me a precious wedding gift.

I wonder if this is genetic. My Dad definitely understands the things I'm describing. He taught me to love the winter and to enjoy it (we went skiing, sledding, ice skating), to wear layers and bundle up, to breathe in the cold energizing air and notice the loveliness of the sleeping winter landscape. Now, I have such a connection to this under-appreciated season that photos like the one above make me homesick. This wintry entryway kindles such a visceral reaction in me. I can almost feel the chilliness, and my wool sweater around my neck. I can smell the pine trees, and I can sense that Christmas or perhaps Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I crave hot chocolate and I want to fill my lungs with the natural world and then sink into the warmth inside.

Some people might see this image and shiver a little, but I think it's so inviting, peaceful, serene. Something in me responds to it and craves the things it promises.

I may have to wait another year until I get my winter. But perhaps the anticipation will only make it sweeter.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fall Booties

I'm really in the writing mood this morning, and had started to write a new post when I realized that today is the day I need to renew my military ID. If any of you have had to do this, you know about the fun I'm in for. I'm getting a late enough start as it is, so I'm saving my original post for later and keeping today's short and sweet. I truly am thankful for the privileges my military ID affords me, but I wish it didn't take hours to get a new one!

Anyway, the air has gotten slightly cooler here, especially in the mornings, and I can't wait for the true drop in temperatures that will come around mid-October. October really is a beautiful month in Alabama. I got so excited for fall the other day that I took out some of my favorite booties and tried them on with a pair of jeans and a sweater. Yes, the air conditioning is still running in our house, but it was fun to pretend.

(Blue wedges from Nine West last year; Oxfords from Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth two years ago)

Here are a few other pairs of gorgeous booties that I'm dying to add to my collection. They're both way out of my price range, and I really don't need any more boots, but these are so lovely just to look at. To me, booties mean fall, crunching leaves, jeans, scarves, and wool sweaters. Daydream with me?

Perhaps I'll break out a pair of booties tomorrow in honor of the first official day of fall, even if it doesn't exactly feel like the fall I'm used to. Happy change of seasons to you! Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vacation In Snapshots

We had the best vacation last week. We flew into Boston and spent two days there, and then headed to Newport, Rhode Island for the next two days to see family and witness my cousin's marriage to her high school sweetheart. It was incredible how much we packed into about 3.5 full days--we got to see two old friends, I made a new friend, we saw almost everyone from my mom's side of the family, we spent time with my parents and one of my brothers, and of course, I got to be with my husband 24/7, which was a treat. We ate great food, laughed a ton, soaked up the fresh, cool, energizing ocean air, and talked until our voices were hoarse. We had the best time.

Here's a little peek into our trip through some iPhone snapshots.

Waiting in Atlanta airport with the wedding gift.

We drove into Boston as soon as we landed to meet a friend for dinner, and came across this little fountain (meant for walking in, don't worry!). It felt so great on my hot and tired feet.

We're big seafood eaters and to us, New England means lobster. We found a perfect hole-in-the-wall place, and this lobster roll was even better than it looks.

My husband is a seafood purist--he always goes for the full lobster.

A lovely dinner in Portsmouth, NH with an old friend and his mother (a new friend!).

One of my best college friends who drove two hours from Maine to meet us in Cambridge.

All three of us together. Such a lovely time we had!

My grandparents' gorgeous Newport cottage. 

A shot of their great room and the fireplace.

My husband chatting with my grandpa. 

Look at the light streaming in! I love this house and this room.

My little brother found a gigantic chess set.

One of my uncles is a boater and he took us around Newport Harbor before the wedding.

We were all amazed by this beauty.

My brother and me after the ceremony.

It was the perfect temperature on the wedding evening and the light was lovely. 

 Time to dance!

Having a blast dancing with my brother and my mom.

Sharing a strawberry rhubarb pastry with my husband on the way to the airport. We were exhausted by then but full of joy!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

DIY Patterned Stationery

Instead of buying traditional stationery, I tend to look for simple, blank note cards and envelopes. Part of the reason is because most stationery is so expensive while plain card stock is really affordable (Michaels has great deals—sometimes you can buy a set of 20 cards for a dollar or less!). But I also love blank stationery because it is customizable.

I always have a bunch of note cards laying around and when I saw this DIY on Design Sponge, I grabbed my supplies and began working. To create the patterns, all you have to do is cut triangles in painter's tape with an exacto knife and then use the strips of tape to make interesting designs on the paper. (For the pink card, you can see that I did a different, more streamlined pattern.) The DIY I followed recommends using an ink pad for the color, which I did for my red card, but for the rest I used a thin layer of spray paint. The ink pad definitely gave me the most control, and I plan to buy more of them in some fun colors, but the spray paint worked pretty well too.

The only small issue I had was that the tape stuck a little too well to the edges of my cards and there was a little bit of tearing as I took the painter's tape off. The cards I used have a very dry, natural sort of texture, so I think using a slightly more glossy paper might eliminate this problem.

I imagine that the more of these I make, the better they'll be. Perhaps I'll post a round two when I get around to buying more stamp pads and some glossier cards! What do you think? Will you give this a try?

(Come to think of it, you could apply this same technique to Kraft paper and make your own fun gift wrap.)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Kindred Spirits

I don't think I could have found a more perfect quote for this post today, and from one of my favorite childhood books, too. It's not profound, but it sure does resonate. It couldn't be more true for me.

I think some people find their kindred spirits easily. They have a knack for seeking out people they click with, people who share their values and sensibilities. I've known people like this, and I've always been in awe of their ability to pick friends who truly "get" them, friends who share their most treasured dreams and wishes and hopes.

It's always been harder for me. Of course, I dearly love my friends who are very different than me (which is most of them). There are wonderful things to be learned from people who were raised differently, who have different beliefs, who have different life plans. But we need kindred spirits in our lives. We need to feel that we are not alone in our deepest wishes, in our closely-held ideas on how to live and how to be. We need to feel that we are not alone in our insecurities and fears and in those things that we are afraid to hope for, lest they ever move out of our reach. We need to feel that we are not alone in our sense of right and wrong. We need to feel that there are others like us.

This little blog of mine has opened me up to a world of kindred spirits. I have found other pianists and teachers. I've found people who express themselves best in words. I've found mothers and mothers-to-be who view raising children as the greatest gift and the most important job they'll ever do. I've found the most dedicated wives, and women who sacrifice for their families. I've found Christians who inspire me and challenge me to live my faith.

I had the joy last week of meeting one of my favorite bloggers and loyal readers. She happens to also be the mother of some of our best college friends, but I've mostly gotten to know her through her writing. Her blog, String of Pearls, is just lovely, and she also published a beautiful novel last year called Finding Grace. I had a suspicion, after reading her blog for a year, that Mrs. Pearl and I were kindred spirits, and now I'm sure we are. We had the most delightful time chatting about life, blogging, the similarities in our personalities (we're introverts, we love to write, we adore our families), books, and everything in between. It was so much fun to turn a blogger-friendship into a real-life one!

Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world. 

It is splendid indeed. Thank you, Mrs. Pearl, for such a lovely evening. And thank you to all of my blog friends and kindred spirits--I hope to meet you all in person one day.

It's interesting the way life works. I have had to expand my world and open myself up to vulnerability through my writing in order to really begin to find my kindred spirits. And while this doesn't at all change how I feel about the beautiful friendships I made before I began blogging, it certainly has made my life richer. And I'm so very thankful.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Powerful Reminiscence

Photo by Noah Zinsmeister / Pillars of light in honor of the Twin Towers

We're in beautiful Newport, Rhode Island for a family wedding, so I don't have much time to write this morning. But I wanted to share a powerful post that my brother just published on his new blog, Columbia Revived. He and some friends visited Ground Zero on Wednesday evening for the 12th anniversary of 9/11, and my brother captured the spirit of the solemn night both in his words and his spectacular photos.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Unlacquered Brass

I hinted a few days ago that I would be posting about a new decorating look that I've discovered and now want all over our future house. I never really imagined I'd say this, but I've become totally enamored with brass--specifically unlacquered brass.

Most of the brass that I've encountered has been the lacquered kind, meaning that it has been polished up to a high, yellowish, glossy sheen. We have these kinds of polished knobs in our current kitchen and I really dislike them. They're dated and way too bright and shiny.

But unlacquered brass is a completely different story. It's warm and soft, rustic yet elegant. It's unusual and unexpected-- stainless steel or brushed nickel or oil-rubbed bronze are much more common--and I think it looks so sophisticated. I also appreciate that it can be either masculine and feminine (or both at once) depending on how it's used.

Unlacquered brass develops a patina over time, which might just be my favorite part. I love metals that change and age and grow old but retain their charm (sort of like silver, which I typically prefer tarnished as opposed to polished). And finally, unlacquered brass looks fantastic against white and ivory. Need I say more?

Here are some images I've collected that really inspire me. I can't wait for the day when I can incorporate this gorgeous metal into our home!

What do you think? Are you obsessed with this look as I am? I'd love to hear!

Designed by Jackie's Design Studio