This weekend, Memorial Day marks the end of spring and the entry to summer. Earlier in the year, I pledged that 2023 would be the year of consistency and, after being inspired by a certain 90’s sitcom, I dared to have more fun getting dressed every day. I managed to pull that off, dressing in a fun, exciting way Monday-Friday (and if I left the house on the weekends, then too) through both winter and spring, and most days I even remembered to snap a photo so I could track my progress! All clothes purchased this year are thrifted from my local goodwill. Here’s a montage my phone quickly whipped up from my “outfits” album I started this year, starting from today and going backwards to early January.Continue reading “Fashion Fun Update!”
Weir Farm Artist Collective
Last week I headed over to Weir Farm National Historic Park for the inaugural Weir Farm Artist Collective meeting.
Weir Farm is really special to me. It’s the only National Park in Connecticut aside from a teensy-tiny portion of the Appalachian Trail. I love National Parks, and was even married in one, so when I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Weir Farm is where I took my first “artist date” in 2017.
Weir Farm National Historic Park: The National Park for Art
The park was once home and studio workplace to J. Alden Weir, an American impressionist painter. When he bought the farm, he was inspired by the acres upon acres of natural beauty it offered. While he lived there, he developed its captivating qualities by digging a large scale pond and additions such as a painting studio and a “palace car”—which a younger me is pictured with above. Weir loved to paint en plein air (outdoors) and didn’t want harsh Connecticut winters getting in between him and his muse, his property, so he had this little shed on wheels that he’d take over to his inspiration point and step inside for shelter while he painted.
After J. Alden Weir died, the farm was home to several other artists, including his daughter, Dorothy, and her husband, Mahonri Young, grandson of Brigham Young. (Ya know, the Mormon guy? The one the college in Utah is named after?) It continued to be a private property owned by artists Doris and Sperry Andrews until it was designated a National Historic Site in 1990. It was only in 2021 that Weir Farm was officially designated a National Historic Park, which indicated that it has greater physical extent and complexity than the previous title, and allowed for more funding—I haven’t even gotten the chance yet to see all of the new exhibits!
Because the farm is not only a place of beauty but historically significant for its contribution to the arts, it’s been deemed “The National Park for Art.” There’s an artist-in-residence program, which isn’t abnormal for a National Parks and their push for their Arts in the Park initiative. What is different, however, is that it is only at Weir Farm that they supply art supplies to visitors of all ages so that they, too, can be inspired to create by their surroundings. Beginner and professional painters alike can be seen throughout the park, many set up with their own plein air painting gear and umbrellas for shade.
Over my several visits, I’ve made watercolor works with their provided supplies and several sketches. I even threw together a painting and submitted it to their Art in the Park Contest in 2021 that I’m now too embarrassed to post. Such is the artist life, always improving and not wanting to look back!
Weir’s continued significance for me
In 2021, Weir Farm was getting designated as a National Historic Park while I was in a really rough spot. I was over a year into that yucky ol’ pandemic thing and I had good reason to believe my marriage was coming to an end with all my sense of security headed down the drain with it. It was a time that was challenging but suddenly invigorating. I was getting a lot of help through therapy via zoom, a CBT app, and a weight loss app. I was learning to reparent myself to move on from my childhood trauma so I could muster the strength to weather storms that became unbearable. So when my birthday came around, I treated my inner child as I would care for my own children: I bought myself balloons, gifts and wrapping paper, then told the kids to wrap the gifts. I planned an all-day outing with my boys, first to Weir Farm for us to make art, lunch, and onto to The Aldrich to view art.
When my friends caught wind of the buying-balloons-for-myself thing via group text the night before, they made reservations for us to have a nice dinner—my first kid-free restaurant outing since that whole pandemic thing.
It was over dinner with those friends when I declared: “You know what? If he wants to leave me, fine. I’ll stop worrying about him. I’m gonna do me—me and the kids. I’ve lost this weight, I look good, I’m gonna feel good. I’m having a hot girl summer. He can be along for the ride, he can—not.”
Turns out, that was precisely what our marriage needed: for me to get well. For him to get well. Though we thankfully, surprisingly, (with all the knock on wood required) never became ill with Covid-19, we were sick emotionally and dragging each other down. We were drowning in chaos of a globally-shared trauma, but instead of slowing the breath and relaxing the body to float, we were flailing, creating more waves to splash into the others’ eyes, pressing down upon one another’s shoulders in attempts to grasp a desperate breath.
All that to say, Weir Farm has twice played a role in turning points in my life. The Artist’s Way, including the artist’s dates that Weir was the first of, tore down the barriers that disallowed artistic vulnerability and ultimately changed my life. That 2021 birthday at Weir was a turning point in caring for myself and loving myself the way that a parent should have, furthering my ability and freedom to express myself.
…and Weir does it again.
How interesting is it, then, that Weir is apart of a third pivotal moment? Years ago, with success building from my local gift economy group, a friend suggested we make a local group for creative people. She started a Facebook group for it, but neither of us clearly wanted to put forth the effort required to build it out initially, then our friendship came to a close. The yearning for a group of creative-minded individuals to get together for conversations unrelated to our children, husbands, and obligations didn’t cease. In January 2022, I updated my vision board for the first time in 7 years, and I see it every time I’m at my desk, front and center: Artist Community.
Here it is—Weir it is!
Though I imagined that I’d start an artist’s group in my town, I like that I’ll be meeting with this group at a destination that’s a not-too-far (29 minutes) destination—I’m far enough away where I’ll be committed to creating once I’ve gotten there. I love that it’s brand new, so I’ll be apart of the process as it unfolds. It’s low-key, and I’ve already received very helpful insights from members.
En plein air oil painting is a long-term goal of mine, but even sketching on location that day ended up with me so nervous and uncomfortable that I didn’t come home with anything I’m proud of. Later, at home, I sketched this of one of the other painters in the group.
With the next meeting next month, I feel encouraged to create a Weir inspired painting for the next time we meet!
Mend it Monday
Before I was fully immersed in dressing like Fran Drescher’s Character, Fran Fine, from the 90’s sitcom The Nanny, I remembered the character and did an internet deep dive to recall what it was about her attire that crossed my mind two decades later.
My internet free fall that ultimately culminated with me purchasing The Nanny’s Emmy-award-winning costume designer’s fashion guidebook first led me to an interview article with said costume designer.
In the article, Cooper reminisced over how much altering the team would do to an off-the-rack article of clothing. They would go so far as to tailor in bathrobes at the waist and insert shoulder pads, so even when she was undone, Fran was never frumpy. This was a real a-ha moment for me. The reason why Fran made whacky dressing so sexy is because each garment was tailored to form-fit her [svelte] body. In other words, the difference between Miss Frizzle and Fran Fine was as simple as tailoring tight around the torso and bringing the hemline high above the knee. Got it.
Before I could even get next-day shipping for Brenda Cooper’s dressing guide, I found myself at Goodwill face to face with a real treasure.
I’ve only sewn Halloween costumes in the last fifteen years and I had completely forgotten that there was a time when I was my oldest son’s age and I would use tutorials from a “T-Shirt Surgery” message board to create different styles of shirts or skirts from things I had thrifted.
The sweater was already hideously tacky, so I had nothing to lose in my attempt to make it suit me.
And I did it!
I LOVE it, and I felt like I had been bitten, I couldn’t wait to do some more. When my friend at the grocery store told me I looked like I was dressed like Dolly Parton, I KNEW I was on the right track.
This weekend I did a simpler mend: I made a thrifted Banana Republic skirt (with pockets!) into a mini skirt:
More Mending to Come!
Like I said, I’ve been bitten. I’ve hemmed a couple pairs of pants, too, but that’s not so fun or post-worthy. The plan is, with Consistency over Intensity as the focus this year, I’ll share more of my clothes alterations on upcoming Mondays. I’ve got a whole pile of clothes looking forward to more form fitting futures!
The Flashy Girl from Fairfield: Fran Fine is Spirit Animal
I’m takin’ a breather from lessons I’ve been learning to a more lighthearted topic: fashion.
Sometimes fashion feels like the *other* F word. We relate fashion to consumerism, we relate it to vanity, and many people attribute a focus on external appearance as an act that is opposite of acquiring wisdom. The beautiful yet foolish character is one of the most overused tropes in media, so why wouldn’t we assume that those characteristics often go hand in hand?
In Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old science of healthy living, activating physical beauty isn’t considered vanity. It’s considered “treating your underlying spiritual being like royalty.”
In my experience, I’ve noticed that it takes effort and a level of wisdom to achieve attractiveness. Though some young people may come by beauty effortlessly and do whatever is trendy in the moment, for most it takes learning about caring for skin, learning about shapes, colors, products, and then applying that learning (applied learning is wisdom) to your specific face, body type, coloring, and preferences to be attractive.
Now that that’s out of the way
Back in December, I was getting dressed up in a silly Christmas sweater with some Christmas light novelty earrings in anticipation of our town’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. I threw on a red lipstick, which is out of the ordinary for me, and as I took one last look at myself before heading out the door, I thought: “This outfit makes me look like Fran Drescher from the Nanny, hah!”
I hadn’t thought about Fran Drescher or The Nanny in decades but once the thought struck me, I wondered: why? What did she dress like? All I could remember was her nasally voice and her laugh that could make you wince. So I searched the web, and the results:
As the kids say, her ‘fits were FIRE.
My interest piqued, I dug further. Costume designer Brenda Cooper won the show its only Emmy. Amongst the several articles I read about her, she mentioned that Fran’s costumes elevated the humor.
I want my humor elevated.
I want my clothes to be as loud as my personality.Continue reading “The Flashy Girl from Fairfield: Fran Fine is Spirit Animal”
a painting is never finished
The other day, I was working on my latest impressionist landscape of Fairfield, Enjoy the Beach, when I looked over at the recently completed painting While the Kids are at School hanging on the wall. Suddenly, a few spots that bothered me a bit when I declared the painting “finished” were bothering me a lot.
With paintbrush in hand and a close-enough colored daub of paint already resting on my palette, I made a few simple adjustments that completely changed how I felt about the painting.
I’ve heard the saying before, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci (though I’m doubtful he was the source) but this was the first time I’ve had the nerve to potentially “mess up” a “completed work.”
I didn’t mess it up, though. The issues I’d had with the work couldn’t be solved alla prima, so I declared the work “good enough,” called it done, let it dry, posted a photo and explanation of the work online, and even hung it on the wall of my studio. Signed, sealed, delivered.
Good enough is the grace I give myself in my paintings. In my weavings, in my DIY projects, halloween costumes, I let “better than before” be my guide. During my magical mornings, I do the same thing every day because I know that who I want to become will be built through the identity that these practices foster. I do yoga not just to flex the impressive hand-balancing pretzel poses I’ve trained my body to do, but also to relax into foundational poses in preparation for putting myself in positions I have not mastered. When I do HIIT training at my local gym, I push myself to lift heavy but I know that if I’m straining or my form is suffering, I will go down to a lighter weight.
Through therapy and self care, I’ve learned “good enough” is a gift of softness to myself. However, this softness, this grace does not extend to my writing.
My biggest aspiration for the longest time has been to be a published author. Yet, I don’t publish a thing–not even on this platform, where I have the freedom to share whatever and whenever I please.
Therein lies the problem.
too much creative freedom is stifling.
This may sound counterintuitive, but I firmly believe that creativity is best expressed within boundaries. I’ve got a great example for this: Robocop.Continue reading “a painting is never finished”
New York Comic-Con 2021: Adam Savage Panel + Covid Differences
On Friday I hopped on the train with my teen and headed into the city with him for the first time since covid began for New York Comic-Con 2021. This wasn’t our first time to the convention—we attended NYCC 2019 and had tickets booked already for 2020’s event that was later cancelled.
We initially had tickets for the whole family, but as the event neared we decided that we didn’t feel comfortable taking our younger son, who’s not yet of age for a vaccine, and ended up taking a couple of my teen’s friends. Though his friends were coming, he still wanted to do a duo costume with me. After some deliberation, we both had the idea at the exact same time(!) that the iconic duo we should dress up as had to be Jay and Silent Bob.
I was away on a girls trip for the week (more about that later!) leading up to the event, so my teen decided with his dad what panels he and I were attending, and didn’t realize we were seeing the world premiere of the new Chucky TV show (which was amazing!!) and Adam Savage, nor did I realize the sort of royalty that the former MythBusters host is in the Comic-Con circuit. Unlike my husband and son, I’m not invested in any of the specific fandoms represented at the Cons, I’m more of a nerd for Art, Creators, and Costuming.Continue reading “New York Comic-Con 2021: Adam Savage Panel + Covid Differences”
A Story About Our Colorful Mid Century Modern Inspired Woodland Nursery
Around this time last year, I shared my pregnancy announcement. I showed y’all my babymoon in Paris portrait session, but aside from that, it was radio silence over here about anything baby. But yes, we welcomed a beautiful baby boy in the summer.
As you know, we moved to our new house recently. What you may NOT know is that we moved in exactly three weeks before I gave birth.
My pregnancy was less than ideal, and at one point I was put on bed rest. So when we moved in, I wasn’t able (nor did I have enough energy) to get started on my projects! It was looking like the baby would come into the world without a space to call his own.
Continue reading “A Story About Our Colorful Mid Century Modern Inspired Woodland Nursery”
Painting Class in Fairfield County with David Dunlop
One of the hardest things about returning to blogging is that I have SO many pictures, reference notes, and experiences to share that I don’t know what to pick!
I decided to install a random picker app, put a few ideas on there, and let it help. I use Tiny Decisions.
There’s no affiliation, but the name did help me decide which app to download 😉
Today I’m going to talk about one of the painting classes I took last winter.
Continue reading “Painting Class in Fairfield County with David Dunlop”
Living Small with a Maximalist Mid Mod Eclectic Living Room
Prior to yesterday, the last time I wrote was when I had only a few days left before we moved into our new house. I shared with you a home tour of our first Connecticut house, though it was staged in those photographs for selling. As promised, here are some pictures of what our communal space looked like as we lived in it.
Maximalist Mid Century Modern Decor in a Small Space
Upon entering our previous home, there was a mud room just big enough for a small closet. On the other side of that door, you were first greeted by these stairs.
I wallpapered the stair risers with this gorgeous metallic wallpaper from Jonathan Adler. The paper was a real splurge, but I still have enough to do a decent size project again and it was, in my opinion, the biggest “wow” feature I could have in a small space.
They’ve since discontinued this wallpaper from Jonathan Adler, as well as most of the others that were produced by his brand.
On the wall going up the stairs was my collection of photographs from our travels and some of the more exciting experiences we’ve had that were on or off the bucket list. I called this wall my “gallery of adventures.” With it being up the stairs, it was very hard to shoot, but here’s a glance.
Almost all of the frames were thrifted, and if they weren’t already a shade of bronze or gold, I sprayed them with Rustoleum Metallic.
The pink French door led to the mudroom. I painted it myself. It was white, along with everything else, when we moved in. Check out New House Project Plans to see the beginnings of this space. It was a real blank canvas.
Those footstools were from Homegoods. I thought they were totally unnecessary when I bought them, but I couldn’t resist the fact that they were the perfect colors to go with the rug.
I ended up putting them near the entrance so that we could sit and remove our winter boots somewhere other than the stairs. We did this, but far more frequently we’d move them over to the coffee table as additional seating for board and card games.
Both of the wingback chairs were thrifted for $25 each, but a few years apart. One day I’ll at least reupholster that mauve-y one. The black and white striped pillows were a couple of my first sewing machine projects. The fabric is from Ikea.
When we moved in to this home, one of the first things I did was remove the bamboo blinds and add sheer curtains. It allowed for just enough privacy but made for a lot of natural light that ultimately helped the small space feel larger.
Here’s a wider shot of the living room. In it you can see the weaving that I created with a hula hoop. Going through these pictures is making me so nostalgic!
For every meal (or any other activity), I sat on the right, facing the water. I really loved the view of the pond and that we could see it from so many angles of the little house.
We added these shelves out of necessity–there wasn’t much cabinet space in that kitchen at all! They were simple shelves from IKEA with traditional white brackets from the hardware store for support, painted gold.
There originally wasn’t a light fixture above the dining table at all, so when I had this one from West Elm installed with stained glass lightbulbs, it made a big impact.
And in the center of it all was our not-once-used fireplace and the definitely used TV that came with the house. We hadn’t had a TV for a few years prior and we left it when we sold…but I admit, we bought another TV 🙃
And that’s all she wrote! This space, and the projects that I created within it seem like ancient history now, but there may be times I want to reference it or I may decide to finally share half-written step-by-step tutorials for some of these projects.
Jungalow Style Bathroom
Last One Room Challenge from Calling it Home post this week! If you’d like to see how things progressed week by week, check out the first week, the third week, the fourth week and last week‘s posts. But really, who needs all that? This is the good part, when things are finished.
Remember what it looked like when I started?
And the plan I drew up?
Well, here’s what we’re looking at now: Continue reading “Jungalow Style Bathroom”