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This summer has been so

Robert Cottingham's "Hot," on view at the Wichita Art Museum

One of my favorite ways to escape the sweltering heat these days is to step into a nice air-conditioned museum. Even better when the art ends up being themed around summer. On a recent visit to Kansas, I visited the exhibit Been in the Dark at the Wichita Art Museum, which showcased around 45 artworks that had been kept hidden in the Museum’s vaults for a number of years. It claimed to not be centralized on any specific theme but I loved finding a common thread among the works: whimsy, fresh fruit, melting ice cream, playful beach moments and countless other summer images. I hope to have a review of the exhibit on Review sometime in the coming weeks, but until then I leave you with some of my favorite works from the exhibit and invite you to take a break from the scorching sun and feast your eyes on some art in your area.

Adrian van Suchtelen's "Cherries"

Mmm, cherries. One of my favorite summer fruits. Also a reminder that I still need to make this.

Steve Berman's "60 Million Gumballs With 10 Winners"

Don’t you just want to jump into this painting? It’s so colorful and bright.

Leon Kelly's "Silvia in Garden"

This is one of the most interesting paintings I have seen in a long time. I love that her body is depicted almost like a preying mantis while she tends her garden. I could just examine this picture for hours.

Robert Lazzarini's "Teacup"

This teacup looks like it’s melting from the heat! I feel your pain, teacup. I also want this sitting on my bookshelf. It’s so very whimsical.

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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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Recipes to try before summer* ends

Tomato and Cheddar Pie

Via Bon Appetit

The abundance of delicious and beautiful heirloom tomatoes this time of year basically beg to be combined with flaky, buttery crust and cheese.

Peach, Basil, Mozzarella and Balsamic Pizza 

Via Two Peas & Their Pod

I can’t go a day without fruit in the summertime. Peaches are especially juicy and delicious right now. Trying them on pizza just seems like a no-brainer.

Fresh Cherry Margaritas 

Via Annie's Eats

It’s a like a grown-up cherry limeade.

*Find seasonal cherries, peaches and tomatoes at a farmers market and reap the benefits of fresh, local fruit.

 

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Alexander Calder, the King of Whimsy

In honor of Mr. Calder’s 113th birthday the creative folks at Google created this interactive mobile doodle.

Courtesy of Google & the Calder Foundation

Calder is one of my favorite artists, maybe because I like to think of him as a kid that never grew up, always tinkering with metal and objects and seeing how they balanced in mid air to create whimsical arrangements.

I wrote this pseudo news story about him on my tumblr page earlier this year. It’s how I like to imagine his creative process came together:

October 22, 1931/The baby won’t sleep. The moment I put her down she starts wailing. I thought babies were supposed to nap? I want to nap, why doesn’t she want to nap? I’m having a hard time getting much work done in the studio with constantly having to go in and out to check on her. Maybe I’ll just bring the crib in here. I know, I know babies and sharp metal sticking out everywhere don’t exactly go hand in hand. But I’m desperate here, OK? Sometimes I wonder if I should have stayed in Paris and joined the circus. People lovedCirque Calder; I could have been just as good in the real thing.

October 23, 1931/What do you know, the baby stopped crying. Turns out she loves my studio. I was working on my latest wire portrait when I decided maybe dangling a few up and down in front of her might calm her down a bit. I think I’ve discovered a new art form: the mobile. I know Duchamp messed with mobiles back in his day, but he made them all complicated with cranks and motors. Babies don’t need cranks and motors. They just need simple forms in front of their faces, mesmerizing them. And maybe if it can mesmerize her, it can mesmerize the public as well.

Snow Flurry, via the Calder Foundation

Finny Fish, via the Calder Foundation

Performing Seal, via the Calder Foundation

Goldfish Bowl, via the Calder Foundation

Go add a little childish whimsy to your day.

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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 A, With Love

“I knew I shouldn’t have done it, but I made a pilgrimage. I braved the train, the crowds, the drizzly weather. I entered your doors and I stood directly in front of your Cooled Lava Dress (Oh, how very cool it was). I visited your Bay-of-Smoke Jacket. (You knew I always wanted to go to the Bay of Smoke!). Standing on your faux-sanded wooden farmhouse floors, amongst your clusters of light bulbs turned avant-garde chandeliers, I realized I’ve done it all wrong—the liberal arts degree, the MFA, the low-paying publishing jobs, the erratic freelancing and adjunct teaching. If only I could go back. Go back and study Anthropologie (quirky spelling and all!).” (excerpt from McSweeney’s Open Letter to Anthropologie, by Anna Mantzaris)

I recently saw this via someone’s Facebook (I’m looking at you, Christina) and about died laughing/agreeing with the whole thing. It’s no secret that I refer to Anthropologie as “my happy place.” I have no shame admitting that I often visit the store with absolutely no intention of making a purchase (or, I mean, “I’m just browsing!”) just to wander around, soaking up the one-of-a-kind patterns and textures and colors. I fall for it. Every. Single. Time. The absurdly cute dish towels (that I would never, ever use to actually dry my dishes). The chairs upholstered in amazing fabrics. The dresses, ohhh, the dresses. But it’s ok. All I need is to visit, on occasion make a purchase from the sale rack – or the very rare, unmeditated, I-can’t-go-home-without-this-dress decision. I read a quote once about friendship that went something like, “I feel better just knowing that someone like you exists in the world.” Yeah. That’s how I feel about you, A.

Now go read this Open Letter to Anthropologie on McSweeney’s.

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PHOTOS: Ten Thousand Villages

A preview of photos included in my fair trade home and design story for CultureMap.

The sacred sari throw (center) is one of my favorite items they have in the store. Women who have left the red light district in Bangladesh use recycled saris to patch the quilts. West Elm has similar blankets right now, too. But in all fairness: those at TTV are cheaper and fair trade.

(Bottom) Most unexpected fair trade item: recycled glass bottle trays.

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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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SHOW ME Art for Good

By Hilary Clements and Rachel Hamblin/Courtesy of Moosylvania

If you’re looking for a way to add some original screen print artwork to your walls AND want to do some good in the process, consider Moosylvania‘s limited edition screen prints benefitting relief work in Joplin, Mo. All proceeds from the $25 posters go to help the United Way Small Business Fund for Joplin, a program to help rebuild the economy in this tornado-struck Missouri town. Each poster has a certain rustic quality to it and a piece of Missouri heart, such as Joplin-born poet Langston Hughes’ verses (like in the poster above) and images of the dogwood tree and bluebird. For more information on Moosylvania, the posters and how you can get one (or more) on your walls, visit here. The sale closes on June 20.

By Jacob Etter/Courtesy of Moosylvania

By Skylar Salisbury/Courtesy of Moosylvania

By Christian Lindsey/Courtesy of Moosylvania

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OUT WEST, Pt. 1: Mesa Verde

Downtown in Durango, CO.

Downtown in Durango, CO

Waiting to tour Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde.

Cliff Palace

Photo by Jonathan Klamm

Touring Balcony House involved crawling through 12-inch-wide tunnels, and getting lovely shots of my backside. Photo by Jonathan Klamm

The light at the end of the tunnel!

Navajo eye dazzler rug that I'm completely obsessed with.

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