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The Artist

(via New York Times)

Last night I took a trip back to the 1930s. I sat in the River Oaks Theatre (built in 1939), which as the photo shows, still operates with an old grand marquee. Our movie started, and there was silence. And then some more silence. And then music, but still no audible words but just captions on screen. Nor was there color, but just black and white moving images. It was The Artist, the French film getting a lot of Oscar buzz for doing something so old-fashioned and unimaginable: being a silent film. And it was lovely.

It was so interesting that even as the opening credits played (silently) there was almost a discomfort among us in the audience, this group of strangers sitting in a silent dark theater. We’re conditioned to think, “Are the speakers not on?” The opening scene of the film is so smart-we’re not only watching a silent film, but we’re watching people in the film watch a silent film in a 1930s theatre. And by doing that it makes us feel like we’re part of them and they’re part of us. We’re no longer removed from this bygone era; we’re in it.

The film tells the story of George Valentin, a suave and prideful star, whose the end-all be-all in the silent film industry, until the unthinkable happens. Silent films are on the brink of extinction with the invention of talkies, and he’s yesterday’s news. Enter young, aspiring actress Peppy Miller who concurs the world of talkies, while remaining adorable and lovable. George is horrified of the changing film industry, declaring that he’s not a puppet but an artist. His distaste and fear of the talkies is telling: his own tragic flaw is that he barely speaks in his real life, which is emphasized by numerous instances of people yelling at him out of frustration, “SPEAK!” (yelling in the silent film tradition of captions coming on screen seconds after the actors lip the words). Perhaps the biggest scene-stealer of the entire film, though, is George’s Jack Russell Terrier, the smartest dog I’ve ever seen and the most loyal companion.

The entire movie is nostalgically lovely and a much-needed reminder to sit still and enjoy a work of art (whether a film, a painting or a wonderful book) for its simplicity and genuineness.

1. A 1920s Continental typewriter makes a cameo in the film, instantly making me love it more. 2. The Corn Poppy, by Kees van Dongen, c. 1919 at the MFAH, could practically be a portrait of Peppy Miller. 3. Jack Russell Terriers, which have starred in The Mask, "Frasier" and My Dog Skip, are utter geniuses.

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These are a few of my favorite things

Who doesn’t love raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens? Here are a few of my favorite things this holiday season.

 

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Brown paper packages tied up with strings.

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Sweater dresses, tights and boots.

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Chocolate-almond bark with sea salt (via Bon Appetit)

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Whiskers on kittens? How about Christmas bandanas on Tipton.

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Art-See: Food

The holidays mean different things to different people, but I think we can all agree that this time of year is nothing without the food that comes along with it. I’m passionate about food year-round, really. I love the freshness of fruits and veggies in the spring and summer months, the hearty root vegetables and soups that come out in the fall and winter, but this time of year, I love what food symbolizes. It’s tradition, togetherness, creativity and a little piece of ourselves. What I love about Thanksgiving is that unlike Christmas it brings no pressure of buying amazing gifts and living up to expectations; it’s just sharing good food with the people you love. People who might not lift a finger in the kitchen all year come out of the wood work to try their hardest to make that turkey not so dry this year or the pies not so runny (or they buy everything from a store and pretend they made it themselves! Hey, no judgment here). Here’s to making food mean something special the 364 other days of the year. And to whet your appetite for Turkey Day, feast your eyes on some of my favorite food artwork.

This week’s New Yorker Food Issue cover reminded me of one of my favorite artists: Wayne Thiebaud. 

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Thiebaud is no stranger to New Yorker covers; he has created almost every Food Issue cover for the magazine since 2002 (for a slideshow of his other covers, visit the New Yorker).

His paintings always seem so alive to me because of how vibrant his brushstrokes appear. The way he outlines his objects in unusual colors, like yellows and greens, gives each work a certain energy. 

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What’s Thanksgiving (or any meal) without dessert? Take your pick in Thiebaud’s “Pies, Pies, Pies.”

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Or for something a little more tangible, take a look at any of Claes Oldenburg’s often larger-than-life food sculptures. Here, he designed an entire “store” of food sculptures.

And after all the food has been eaten and we settle into our food comas (thank you, tryptophan), the dinner tables might look a little something like this.

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“Banquet Piece with Ham” by Willem Claesz Heda is a classic still life depiction. The abrupt break in whatever meal was happening here was meant to symbolize that life’s enjoyments can be interrupted at any moment. Or maybe it was someone who said, “The dishes can wait. I’m taking a nap.”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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New Beginnings

These days…
I can eat lunch next to this guy

Cullen Sculpture Garden (via)

I make sure everyone knows about this guy

King Tut (via)

And I’m planning a wedding (and the rest of my life) with this guy

Yes Yes Yes

All in all, fall is starting off with a bang.

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STORY: Fair trade home design on CultureMap

A few weeks ago I wrote a story on fair trade home design for the Houston online magazine CultureMap (and gave you a photo preview here). I first learned about and became passionate about fair trade when I volunteered at a fair trade retail store for two years during college (Mustard Seed in Columbia, Mo.). I wanted to show people in Houston (and elsewhere, hopefully) how fair trade can be, and is, stylish. Better than that, it’s inspirational and serving a greater good. Some people might have a misconception that everything fair trade is tribal or ethnic, which right now is actually really trendy so that shouldn’t scare people away, but you still can be true to your own style. If you’re not lucky enough to live near a fair trade store, check out products online at Ten Thousand VillagesSERRV and Sseko (go here now to here a lovely happy birthday being sung by the amazing women who make these sandals).

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DIY} Stacked Book Frame

Ever since we moved, I’ve been itching to tackle a DIY project. (I’ve also literally been itching for the past two days because of a lovely bunch of fire ant bites on my foot. How I loathe thee, fire ants!) Anyway, because I also don’t know how long I’ll be living in my room, I’ve had to put the breaks on getting carried away with any additional room decor or crafty plans. Instead, I revisit my most lofty project to date. I saw this framed stack of books in a restaurant in Kansas City three years ago.

My ambitious self thought, “Oh, I could make this. Easy.” And really it wasn’t that bad, but looking back I’m impressed with myself for thinking I could tackle this. Lesson: Don’t be intimidated by a project; it’ll turn out OK!

Warning: This will require using up a lot of books. E-readers, rejoice. But really, I love books just as much as the next person, and this project gives a second purpose to all those books that probably won’t ever be read again (if they ever were) in the $1 section at Goodwill.

You will need:

  • 10 or more hardback books (the more interesting their spines, the better)
  • 1 frame (I found a set of three window shutters at a thrift store; finding those key pieces is probably what encouraged me to start the project in the first place)
  • 1 sheet of plywood (the size depends on the frame you find because the plywood will be used to cover the back of the frame)
  • 1 tub of Plaster of Paris
  • miter saw
  • tacks or small nails
  • Gorilla glue
  • nails and brackets to hang the frame(s)
  • Mod Podge or paint (optional; for decorating frame)

Deep breath. Go:

1. By far the hardest part of this project is this step (yep, it’s the first step, sorry for the intimidating factor). Using the miter saw (or letting a strong man in your life use the saw, as was my case) cut off the pages and covers of the books, leaving about 1″ to 1.5″ of the spine and pages intact.

2. I kept some of the pages from the books (especially the ones with neat illustrations) to Mod Podge on the frame later.

3. Nail the plywood to the back of the frame so there is a solid backing supporting the space where the books and plaster will be.

4. (Do this outside, it’ll probably be messy) Mix the Plaster of Paris per instructions. Have a friend help you with this part because you need to work quickly: while you spread the plaster of paris in the whole of the frame, have your friend place the books in a stacked formation, being sure to press down so the books are well set. Again, work quickly because the plaster will harden faster than you think.

5. Let the frame dry. Use Gorilla glue to fill in any gaps between the books and the plaster and add reinforcement (Gorilla glue expands and dries a white color, so it will blend in best with the plaster).

6. Paint or Mod Podge book pages onto the frame.

7. Nail at least two brackets into the back of the frame and hang.

Different designs could be created depending on the room. I think this one with illustrated pages would be great in a kid’s room because it would stay relevant as he or she grows up. A dark cherry frame with darker, muted colored books would be great in a study or office.

Check out this great paper wreath my friend Leigh Anne made recently as a way of using up all those cut book pages.

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To Curate a Life

I think I’m only beginning to truly understand what even I intended when I named this blog The Curated Life. I was primarily referring to the act of a museum curator who pieces together objects and artworks to thread together a larger picture and a story with greater meaning. It was a metaphor of what I wanted this space to be used for: piecing together meaningful stories, moments, objects and inspiration in order to develop a bigger picture. Before we moved last month, some neighbors of ours invited us to their home for dinner, and I left with a greater idea of what curating a life really looks like.

My parents and I had dinner with the Crows, a couple that lived a few houses down the street from us who we came to meet under less than desirable circumstances. Mrs. Crow is a nurse at the same hospital where my dad worked as an oncologist. My mom had raved about their house for some time now. The house itself is not very visible from the street as it is kind of burrowed behind an ever growing front garden. That’s one of its major perks because once inside the house, you have the luxury of having enormous windows without any fussy window treatments or drapes. The outdoors and indoors kind of melt and intertwine together in this wonderfully curated home and garden.

Levi napping in the study.

First I was greeted by their adorable English setters, Hannah with reddish spots and Levi with blackish blue spots. With a doggy bed in almost every room, it didn’t take long to realize this house was designed with the dogs in mind just as much as their owners. The first room that took my breath away was the so-called sleeping porch. With it’s wide-planked walls and wood-shuttered windows and low-hanging ceiling fan overhead, the room instantly transported you to an island oasis. Cozy cream linen and cotton sheets and pillows didn’t have to try hard to invite you to curl up on a pillow or chair – or, in Hannah and Levi’s case, a doggy bed. Don’t let the photo fool you because it doesn’t do the room justice one bit.

The sleeping porch. As soon as you step into this room, you feel more relaxed.

We sipped homemade lemon grass iced tea and could see where the lemon grass had been picked fresh from Mrs. Crow’s garden just steps away. “Moon River” played overhead as we strolled onto the back patio, through gardens and canopies, and back inside. Around every corner there was another beautiful bench, pillow, door frame – all making up the curated work of art that is the Crows’ home.

My favorite work of art in the Crows' home, painted by Marc Chapaud.

In Italian there is the phrase ben curato,which simply translates to well-kept. But it kept coming to my mind when I toured around this home. Yes, the gardens were well kept, as were the rooms and furniture, but what really felt most well kept were the individuals living in the space. Everything in their home – their lives, really – played off the other. Not to mention the dinner we enjoyed: delicious roasted pork, baked squash, cucumbers and tomatoes picked fresh from the vegetable garden and a blackberry cobbler, perfectly tart and sweet all at the same time.

One of the outside porches, perfect for afternoon naps and cozy reading.

Outside, every corner of the garden has its own charm: a hidden hammock, a refreshing pool and a handsome behind adds a bit of whimsy to the design.

Here is to aspiring to live a truly curated life – where the food we eat, the company we keep and the home we design is simply ben curato.

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Murano Glass Jewelry

My pieces of jewelry are some of the most beloved things that I own. Most of them have a story behind them or a fond memory attached to a certain person and that’s really what makes each ring or necklace precious in my eyes. Within my collection of jewelry I have another collection growing: Murano glass. Some people might know it as Venetian glass, but to me the collection is made up of murinne (the Italian name).

Murano glassmaking might go back as far as the 9th century, and it’s been a steady craft on the Venetian island of Murano for centuries. The millefiori (literally “thousand flowers”) mulitcolored glass is what is used to make many Murano pendants, rings and earrings.

My grandmother gave me the gold pendant with the V initial. The blue ring was given to me by my mom. One Christmas we were in Italy and I got really sick and feverish out of nowhere, prompting my mom to give me an early Christmas gift: the blue ring, which has stars and a moon on it (and is unfortunately hard to photograph well). The coral and green pendant and earrings were bought with Jonathan when I was showing him around Rome.

Although you can find Murano glass pretty easily throughout the U.S., you’ll probably never see me buying a piece here (no offense, really). Each murinna is a little piece of Italy for me, so there’s something special to me about associating each jewel with an Italian memory.

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Artful home decor

If it's green or a bike, I'll probably like it.

A little touch of whimsy and color.

Because botanical prints aren't just ferns and butterflies.

File these under: I want to recreate this.

Fashion meets art meets newsprint.

And in honor of my predictability (and this video):

(all images via Ballard Designs)

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Happy Birthday Mr. Audobon

Today’s Google doodle honors naturalist and painter John James Audobon, who created countless drawings of birds from his field observations and studies in Pennsylvania.

I feel a little closer to Mr. Audobon because of my own bird-watching from the past few days. This past Friday, which was fittingly Earth Day, I discovered a nest in a tree right in front of our kitchen. As I got closer to it I could make out tiny beaks peeking out from inside. I was instantly enthralled by them. My dad got out a step ladder and took some close-up shots of the baby robins and they were so incredibly precious!

Squished means comfort I guess.

Everyday we’ve checked on them and noted their progress. Everyday they stick their bodies up a little further and seem to just be ready to take flight any minute.

I like to think he's yelling for his mom.

We’re careful not to linger too long because Mama Robin is never too far and doesn’t seem to appreciate our company. Today I went to check on them because we had a crazy windy thunderstorm last night and the nest was empty. After looking around the other trees I noticed one of the little guys on the higher branches of the same tree. He was trying to get the hang of flying! There was a lot of hopping and slight feather flapping, but it was a precious sight to see. Birds are some of the most mesmerizing animals to me. The fact that they can build such sturdy nests for their eggs by just using their beaks and little grasses that they find is amazing.

My mom and I were joking that the Mama Robin really chose some prime real estate by picking such a shady tree (we’ve got real estate on the brain with trying to sell our house and all). So if you know any birds looking to move into the area, a lovely nest for three just opened up.

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