Does the Fountain of Youth have an expiration date?

This season known as autumn makes me nostalgic. It happens every year and I have no idea why because it specifically makes me nostalgic for my home state of Florida. Despite what many would believe, the sunshine state does have seasonal changes, but they are subtle. I can remember being in my grandparent’s front yard – they lived not far away from us in Orlando – and drooling over the piles of pine needles and oak leaves. Since their trees were most likely present when Ponce De Leon came charging into Florida, they were massive and dropped unkind amounts of burnt sienna colored plant matter. That meant large piles that could swallow me up with one gulp.

But Florida is also a place where nature and people battle over every inch of space and you’re reminded of it often. My grandmother would call out to me just as I was gearing up for a backward flop, “Don’t jump in the pile. Copperheads! Coral snakes! I just saw one two days ago.”

She wasn’t wrong. Though Copperheads shouldn’t live in Florida, I’ve seen enough in their yard to know there is a certain branch of the snake family that decided the sunshine state was a grand place to resettle. The last time I visited, I was greeted on her backyard’s sidewalk by a coral snake. You don’t find that type of thrill in Ohio.

I will alleviate your probably non-existent suspense and tell you that I did jump in the piles once in awhile. It was only when the piles had been raked thoroughly to ensure all matter of vermin or reptilians were no longer seeking a respite from the heat in the giant stacks. Once when I was in late elementary school, I took the plunge into a crumpled, spiny mound that my grandfather had prepared. With a smirk on his face, he informed me “It’s not always the snakes you have to worry about. Watch out for the spiders that like to hide in the leaves.”

I could have won a 100 meter track race with how fast I jumped from that pile and ran towards the garage. All the while I was performing some unheard of dance with my hands flailing in hopes of riding my body of the imaginary spiders. Every pine needle or leaf fragment felt like an 8-armed enemy.

I hope he enjoyed the sight because that was the day my leaf pile innocence died. If only my grandmother had known my kryptonite, she might have saved herself years of extra leaf raking. Snakes? I’ll take my chances. A tiny spider? Oh, no. I can’t handle that.

As I stop to think about my run ins with nature while growing up, I scratch my head amazed at my childhood bravery. There was the autumn swamp walk in elementary school and, just as the name implies, our class went hiking through a nature center’s swamp. This was a real, live Florida swamp complete with water moccasins, cottonmouths and alligators. We only lost three classmates that day.

Oh, I kid. It was really just one. The crawfish hunt did her in.

No, I kid again. We were all safe, but I did receive a mighty big pinch from a crawfish. That branch of the crustacean line is dead to me. I feel no remorse when I eat them in my soup.

Let’s veer back to my point. What Ohio offers is a beautiful backdrop in the autumn season. It also offers the ability to jump in leaf piles without taking your life into your hands – unless you live in southern Ohio in which case, rattlers. You would think I would choose the colorful scenery to the instantly brown trees of Florida, but I don’t know. I’m torn. I’ll probably always love the wild mystery that is Florida, which is a good thing since I drank from the fountain of youth on a different school field trip.The water smelled and tasted full of minerals so I’m not quick to question it’s abilities.

With everlasting youthfulness on my side, I suppose I don’t need to decide between the two states. I have plenty of time to figure it out or at least until Florida is covered over by water in a few thousand years. So, like I said, plenty of time.

Or maybe I took the day off because I ate too much pie?

I’m getting a later start on the blog this week for no good reasons other than I had used up my words and needed to spend a little quiet time in reflection yesterday. I did and feel better for it.

The weekend went by in blur. I had to work later on Saturday, which meant we went right to dinner with my parents at the very sophisticated Red Lobster. They are still running the endless shrimp dinner and let me tell you, I am their favorite customer. I never eat my money’s worth. At some point I’ll realize I should just order something else, but the options – coconut, grilled, hand breaded, scampi – are my weakness. Why limit myself to one style when I can taste all the delights? Alas, my eyes are always bigger than my stomach, so ordering extra shrimp after my initial round is a tall tale (pun intended – I couldn’t resist). It didn’t help that I consumed a salad, a few biscuits and a vegetable side before my shrimp. Those three alone are enough for my meal. So this I say to the executives/marketing geniuses of the Darden restaurant chains, “Well played, sirs and madams, well played. But I will win the next round. I can only be fooled three years in a row, not four!”

The Buckeye vs. Penn State game was a late one so we settled in on the sofa with our pajamas, or maybe that was just me, and partook in the event. Poor, Penn State. The refs were not kind to you during that game. I have a feeling the referee association will be reviewing the game to solidify what not to do during future games. Regardless, the hours scrolled by. We reached double overtime, which always tests my patience, but especially so when the clock is ticking close to 12:30a. I am no longer in college and my eyelids have limits. I must have effectively and telepathically communicated this to the defense because the Buckeyes won. We promptly turned off the TV and passed out, I mean, went to bed. No, I mean passed out.

The true highlight of the weekend was the making of the Skillet Apple Pie from Southern Living. I have blogged about this before and it has become an annual tradition for us. My husband’s favorite dessert is pie, primarily apple, but he can be swayed by a coconut cream pie every now and again. After tweaking the recipe over the past few years, we arrived at this year’s edition in victory. He declared it his all-time favorite dessert.

Here is the recipe with the adaptations we’ve made. I used only Granny Smith apples, increased the amount of cinnamon for the filling, swapped the egg for heavy whipping cream and vanilla ice cream instead of butter pecan. If Trader Joe’s has premade pie crust available, I’ll use that, otherwise we find it best to make our own. We used this recipe from Pioneer Woman: Sylvia’s Pie Crust. We try to avoid trans fats when possible, so we use Spectrum Essentials All Natural Shortening. It is the best and your heart will thank you.

Skillet Apple Pie from Southern Living

Southern Living, Skillet Apple Pie, Photo by Luca Trovato

Ingredients

4 pounds Granny Smith apples
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Vanilla ice cream

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Peel apples, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Toss apples with cinnamon and 3/4 cup granulated sugar.

2. Melt butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat; add brown sugar, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and place 1 piecrust in skillet over brown sugar mixture. Spoon apple mixture over piecrust, and top with remaining piecrust. Brush top of piecrust with heavy whipping cream; sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar. Cut 4 or 5 slits in top for steam to escape.

3. Bake at 350º for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly, shielding with aluminum foil during last 10 minutes to prevent excessive browning, if necessary. Cool on a wire rack 30 minutes before serving. Serve with ice cream.

Adapted from Southern Living’s recipe from:
Mrs. James Wright, Chattanooga, Tennessee, September 2011

 

Don’t wait to try this pie! It is a simple, delicious classic food that will make you smile. Unless you don’t care for apples, in which case it will probably make you frown.

In other non-food related news, I made the dangerous decision to pick up Outlander by Diana Gabaldon based on a suggestion from a friend and am hooked. Historical fiction, when done well, is my Achilles heel. I’ll be trying not to indulge in too much reading so I finish up my online book. I’m working on the next chapter now, so we’ll see when it will debut. I’m also working on a kitchen design that involves a quartz counter top I fell in love with a few weeks ago. Oh, it was beautiful. It’s also the one I’m recommending for my parent’s kitchen remodel.

I hope you had a great weekend and a great Monday and are having a great start to Tuesday! Cheers to you!

Decor Friday: “We think you have the best home for Thanksgiving!” exclaim your in-laws.

Before I begin, I must say the bags under my eyes feel as though they could hold an entire week of groceries. I went to bed late thanks to my over-active brain and I woke up earlier thanks to an alarm clock. The buzz couldn’t be ignored because I needed to work out at the awful hour of 6am. Have I ever mentioned I’m not a morning person?

I’ve had two doses of caffeine, but my eyes are drooping, so I’ll see what I can put together in the theme of ‘Casual Thanksgiving Dinner’ before I fall face first into this keyboard. If I start talking gibberish halfway through the post, you know why. But really, it’s Friday and I have to imagine you’re this tired too. How many cups of coffee have you had? Five? Six? That’s not so bad, my friend. I’m here pulling for you.

And now for a few festive items to adorn the Thanksgiving dining room.

Threshold Fox Salt Shaker in Cream, $2.99 at Target

http://scene7.targetimg1.com/is/image/Target/15370697?wid=410&hei=410

I’ve been getting many clicks on the fox salt and pepper shakers I featured last year on my blog. I’m not certain the links still work, but I know I’ve seen these table accessories at my local Target store. I figured it would be helpful to include an updated link. They also come in a nice shiny bronze, which I couldn’t find online, but is my far and away favorite variety.

 

Threshold™ Stoneware Fox Cookie Jar – Teal, $19.99 at Target

fox

If you’re very into foxes, Target also has this ‘teal’ fox cookie jar. I feel the need to mention that this color isn’t teal, but rather a nice hunter green. In my local store, they have it positioned beside a french bull dog jar. Interesting bed (shelf?) fellows.

 

Allure Hand Knotted Rug $129.00 – $1499.00 at BallardDesigns.com

rug

Dining rooms aren’t a great place to install crisp, white carpet. If you find yourself in the precarious position of having light carpet in your dining room, no need to fear. Just purchase a great area rug and all of the food that will be spilled won’t make you sweat. Opt for a rug with varied pattern and multiple colors. The stains will be nicely disguised. I fell in love with the rug pictured above. Those colors speak to my heart. If you serve a lot of red wine and tomato sauce, go wisely in the direction of a red palette. Your stress levels will thank you.

 

Bunny Williams Leaf Candy Dish, $35.00 at BallardDesigns.com

CandyDish
For the fall dining table, you might want to place nuts, figs, mints, or whathaveyou as little appetizers before the big meal. Then the question becomes, “What should you use?” These fig leaf silver dishes are a sophisticated fall choice that serve two purposes on the table: 1. seasonal decor and 2. food dish. Let’s be honest, there’s no room on the table for items that aren’t holding food.

 

Cafe Mug, $3.95 at Crate and Barrel

Café Mug

After a large meal, people at my home request hot beverages and mainly the type brewed from coffee beans. I have two of these mugs and love the way they feel in my hand. Their shape is great for sipping. Plus I love the look of a hot beverage in a glass mug. So pretty!

 

Blanket Stitch Napkin Set Sale, $11.99-20 at West Elm.com, can be personalized, also available in Hazy Blue/ Flax (I’m torn between both color options)

Detailed View

The holidays can get so stuffy with the silverware, the silver dishes, the crystal goblets. Oh, you don’t drink from crystal goblets? Neither do I. I don’t believe in a family get together being too uptight, but I do think there should be a certain level of specialness to the meal. This cloth napkin will add to the elegance of your dinner, but the casual look of the blanket stitch will ensure the uppity factor doesn’t go through the roof.

 

Farmhouse Pottery Gravy Pitcher $29 at West Elm.com, matching salt cellar available

Farmhouse Pottery Gravy Pitcher

I began my art career as a ceramicist and I’m drawn to pottery pieces that have nice texture and lines. This pitcher would be great near the Thanksgiving table especially if it is filled with a bubbly concoction or even the classic iced tea. I could see using this as a pancake batter pourer if it isn’t too heavy.

 

Williams-Sonoma Edge-Grain Carving Board, $99.95-229.95, at Williams and Sonoma, available in medium and large, walnut and maple (walnut shown)

Williams-Sonoma Edge-Grain Carving Board

Serving trays in solid wood are an excellent option for placing bread, cheese, veggies or fruit. This one is expensive, but I have a difficult time passing on something made with dense, hard wood. I think the walnut stain is just divine. The dark color will contrast nicely with food.

 

Harvest Turkey Statue, $59 at Wisteria.com

If you need a centerpiece or buffet table decorative accent, look no further than this turkey sculpture. My parents have a similar looking turkey that is far smaller and painted. When I was a child, that turkey sculpture graced the highly decorated table and represented the commencement of the holiday festivities. Yes, a turkey is a bit obvious, but it’s the holiday season so why not bring some whimsy?

 

Silver Woodgrain Lacquer Chargers, Set of 4, $11.96 at WorldMarket.com, also available in gold and driftwood

I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine that’s not a secret to anyone I’m close with: I don’t like decorated plates. This directly has to do with my need to keep visual over-stimulation to a minimum. Classic white plates are the best dishes to serve food on – hands down, there is no need for a jury. But, I do like charger plates that act as a background frame to the white plate especially when they’re resting on a simple tablecloth. Here is a delightful silver charger in an intriguing wood grain finish. They also have a driftwood charger if you’re looking for a more laid back dinner.

I hope you enjoy these pieces, I hope to goodness the links work and now I’m off to go nap. Ciao.

After Graduation: The journey of an artist after art school – Part IV

This is Part IV of my online story: After Graduation: The journey of an artist after art school. If you would like to start from the beginning, here is the link: Part I


Because there was so much to be completed with the gallery and Mel needed every moment she had available, she pushed back the art lessons with James until after the gallery opened. The two weeks had passed, with this past Monday being the successful grand opening day, and the gallery looked sophisticated and full of breathtaking art. But this wasn’t the highlight of her week and in fact, when the opening day came, Mel was more excited about who would be at her side rather than the number of customers to grace their way through the door. After their first meeting, James had stopped by almost daily to help out with the arrangement. Though it was unprecedented for an artist to spend that much time assisting a gallery manager, Mel never refused because she needed the help and his well-earned expertise. The only problem was her difficulty with focusing on anything when he was nearby.

Each evening as she waited to fall asleep, she let the memories wash over her. The way he had spoken to her while in the gallery, flirtatious and flattering. There were the meetings when James, Tilly and Mel discussed the gallery, James reached over and touched Mel’s arm more times than she could remember. His touches had a way of clearing out her thoughts and melting her into a moldable piece of clay in his hands. When considering the artwork on the walls, he would stand within inches of her. His scent always surrounded her like a warm friend. Each time he asked a question, she looked over at him, reading his eyes, his features with more interest than she had done with anyone before. There was the time late one night when evaluating the souvenirs, they were hunched over the marble countertop assessing the items laid out in a neat line and his arm was lying against hers. That same night, he bought two large coffees from the next door shop and, cozying up on a sofa in the darkened bookstore, told of his past romances, his future plans, her past romances and her future plans until early the next morning. The newness of everything with James left her feeling wired without ever consuming an ounce of caffeine. She found herself not needing to eat or sleep. She hated leaving his side when it was time to go home. She especially despised the past two days because he needed the time to work in his studio.

She had known him for days, yes, but it had felt like so much more. Not surprisingly, her dreams last night had been filled with his presence. Most of her dreams were foggy, wrought with confusion and odd circumstances or creatures. This one, however, was very clear.

James asked to take her on a hike in the nearby woods. The trees were what every photographer hopes to find in autumn. Gold leaves shimmered more than any cathedral interior, crimson-red maple leaves had fallen on the path and created a thick carpet, still-green leaves were deep and earthy. The breeze was a cooling hymn through the leaves. James guided her through the forest, birds whispered their secrets. It was a path she had ventured before many times, but never with such wonder. She knew where they were heading; there was a lookout of the deep valley further ahead. The path was easily followed. Once they reached the edge, he offered his hand and pointed her beyond the protective fence that kept tourists restrained. Leading first, he kept her hand braced against his lower back. They descended into a thicket of plum-colored brush, carefully placing their feet on the stony mountain steps. They walked single file, his hand embracing hers with steady assurance. As they hiked, she stared at his masculine form in the simple long sleeved shirt. The fabric was thin and she could feel the muscles of his back shifting with every step. Trees arched overhead and when she was brave, she looked upward to see the tunnel of colors shift between yellow, orange and green. Squirrels chattered unhappily, sad to see their private paradise invaded.

Further and further south they negotiated on the barely visible trail. James glided through the forest with unnatural ease. Over his shoulder, he glanced back and smiled; a loving smile that sent ribbons through her body. Then the narrow path opened up. The sun was at their back and flooding parts of the valley with its beautiful glory. He pulled her arm around to his side so that now she was embracing him. James curled his arm around her waist to hold her even closer. His body felt so warm, so solid, more solid than she remembered. She moved further into his side and he looked down, his face moving closer to her. All of the sounds left the forest except the sound of his breath and, in her ears, her pounding heart. Just as their lips were about to meet, the birds scattered over head. It was a piercing noise that wouldn’t end. Confused and unsure, they looked for the cause of the startling. A drumming rose above the alarmed birds’ shrieks. The leaves started to fade. The beautiful scene was dimming as she stirred into consciousness. Slowly, her mind became aware of her reality and heard the steady vibration of her phone. She blinked twice before reaching over to silence the noise. She rolled back to her warm spot in the bed. She wanted to bring the dream back. Tightly closing her eyes, she tried to remember the images of James, of the overlook, of the flock of birds. After five frustrated minutes of trying, she pulled the covers off and began the task of getting ready. In only a few hours she would get to see him in real life and that was far better than the illusion she had just indulged.

She spent extra time getting the details of her person correct in anticipation of the day. Wanting to ensure James hadn’t cancelled their lesson, she opened her email and, seeing one unread message, quickly became jolted. She stood staring at the laptop, considering what she was reading in the open email.

Hey Mel,

Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I accepted a user experience job here at Interspace Media and have been getting settled in ever since. I work with some great people. There’s a coffee shop below our office and my apartment’s only two blocks away. It’s pretty nice. The Paris pictures were awesome. They convinced me to go before I forget all about art history.

I thought I’d mention this too: I’m sure you’ve found something great for a job, but if not, Interspace is looking for another person to hire. Brad would prefer a Whiting grad; I mentioned you and I hope that was okay. It would be mainly a graphic design role, but some work with CMS. I told him you were the best in our class at graphics. Let me know soon if you’re interested. We’re growing by the month, which is a good thing, but it means some of us are working around the clock. It would be good to have a familiar face around the office.

Let me know,
Henry

She didn’t have time to think about this with the gallery and, simply stated, James. But there was a familiar flutter in her stomach. She repeated what she had told Granny Ann weeks ago; Henry was her past and she wasn’t moving that direction. She closed the laptop, grabbed her keys, and launched out the door to meet James for the art lesson.

James’ studio was in the neighboring town, which, on a warm, sleepy Sunday in summer, was only a fifteen minute drive. She had allowed twenty minutes to traverse the unfamiliar roads to the easterly town, but it had only taken ten before she saw the traditional brick downtown buildings. The quaint lamp posts matched the colonial period architecture that decorated the city’s numerous blocks of two story buildings. Never before had she ventured into this town because she had little interest in antiques. The city was known in all the guidebooks to be the superior collection of high-quality antiques in the area. Sundays were a popular day, she quickly ascertained, as she bumped along the downtown brick road. The street was divided by a well-manicured median, complete with shrubs and flowers. While stopped at a light, she couldn’t help but stare at the shoppers strolling past with paper coffee mugs in hand. Sophisticated bags hung off their arms like well-planned accessories. Some people were seated on outdoor patios, sipping coffee, chatting lightly with friends or reading through the Sunday paper. A piece of her soul connected the scene with memories of Paris. Though not as chic, it was a decent stand in. The light turned green and as she traveled further, she reached the other end of the downtown. She wasn’t entirely sure where the studio was located though she imagined in such a small stretch of buildings, it shouldn’t be hard to find.

There was a cluster of open parking on her left, just as the boulevard condensed into a street. She looked at her notes again, compared the street numbers with the one she was given, and headed back into downtown, passing the outdoor tables and smelling the indulgent coffee.

Her nose alerted her to a breakfast shop up ahead that smelled how her imagination said a grandmother’s house should smell – if the grandmother wasn’t Granny Ann. Cinnamon and vanilla was mingled with buttery pastry; it greeted her nose with a wafting temptation. She forged on until she arrived at the last door on the block. The door was plain and the address, 801 E. Main Street, was correct. Turning the knob, the door loosened and opened directly to a narrow flight of wooden stairs.

His studio was one of the most impressive studios she could have imagined. The entire upper story of the building’s block was an open atrium. She caught a firm whiff of mineral spirits, paint and something else that reminded her of the college’s printmaking room. Windows, tall and multi-panelled, welcomed in the late morning light. She had just started taking in the almost-blinding brightness of the space when James’ voice called out.

“Hey, Mel, welcome to the studio.” He rose from a generous chair; one of three grouped in a tight cluster. With the golden light at his back, he looked like a silhouette moving against a heavenly backdrop. He tossed his sketch pad on the nearby console table. The pencil rolled off the thick tablet and pinged on the wooden floor. The sound echoed softly across the room.

“This is incredible, James. I had no idea you would have this much studio space. It’s bigger than some of my college’s studios.”

“It was a good find thanks to some friends who work in commercial real estate.” He walked over and kissed her on each cheek. “You didn’t have trouble finding it, did you? Google thinks my studio is in the gazebo across the street, which, I agree, is a pleasant spot, but not good in the winter.”

She laughed. “No, I found it easily.”

“Good.” He put his arm around her waist and guided her towards the room’s belly. “I’ll give you the quick tour and then I figured we’d get started.”

Though the space was ample, it was easily walked through within minutes. He showed the most important aspects such as the kitchen, a deep sink for cleaning brushes, the restroom, the day bed – that looked to have been used the night prior – and an assortment of still life objects. Sitting on deep shelves in the far back corner, Mel spent the most time taking in the nature-inspired assemblage. Her meandering eyes caressed over the collection of feathers, vases and odd finds neatly grouped together. With certain objects James would tell the story of how it came to be in his possession, specifically with the intertwined deer antlers and enormous quartz geode. Upon reaching the end of the sights, she was stopped in her path by an irregular, short peninsula jutting out from the middle of the wall. There were two rows of white, gessoed canvases in a variety of sizes. Having to assemble her own canvases in school – a time-consuming task she dreaded – she saw the quantity as something from a nightmare.

“There have to be about sixty canvases here. You didn’t make all of these, did you?”

“Of course!” His response was too quick and she immediately laughed at his joke. “There’s only so much time you can spend gessoing canvases before you decide to pay someone else to do it. In grad school, one of my professors recommended I use a company in Winston-Salem because they are the only ones who fold the corners correctly. I’ve been ordering them ever since. They’re not cheap because they do it right, but it’s worth it.” He patted the nearest canvas with a reassuring hand. “While we’re over here, we should pick the canvases we’ll use today. What size do you want?”

She leaned back on her heels and tapped her finger against her chin. “I’ll take the largest one you have.”

James shook his head and nudged her side with his elbow. “I think the 18″x18″ would be a manageable canvas. Here.” He leaned half the pile against his leg and shuffled two medium sized canvases away from the others. With a firm shove, he moved the remaining canvases back together. Her hand was about to grasp the two rectangles, but James batted her hand away and tucked the two canvases securely under his arm. She felt the warmth of his other hand between her shoulder blades, which encouraged her forward.

He was directing her to the two easels in the middle of the room, but she stopped mid-stride to stare at the row of half complete paintings, which leaned against a long wall of windows. She counted twelve in all. Most of the paintings were wearing only a base coat with color washes in green, blue and gray. The quick brush strokes were wide and sweeping. Early in her college career, Mel remembered the slight embarrassment of letting someone see the beginning of her canvases. There were so many details missing and the perspective was rarely correct on the first try. James’ pieces however, stood in stark contrast and could have been sold just as they were; full of ragged, imperfect beauty.

He moved in line beside her as she analyzed the new stock. “I was able to get more done on these three.” His fingers grazed the top of canvases that showed a rough image of a foggy mountain morning. “I’m hoping to get them to you by the end of next week to replace the three that sold. Maybe sooner if I can find the time.”

“They’re incredible. I just haven’t seen…” Words escaped her in the moment.

He leaned over and whispered closely to her ear. “People will say the same thing to you, but not if we don’t get this lesson started.” He began the short journey over towards two easels. She followed reluctantly, wanting instead to appreciate his art for a few minutes longer.

The two easels faced a large table draped in a heather gray sheet. A white plaster bust of Michelangelo’s David sat lonely on the cloth surface. James handed her the canvas and she repositioned her chair to ensure the best view of her subject.

“Ready for a study in the value scale?” She nodded and focused her mind on absorbing his wisdom for the next two hours.

 


© 2014 Cortney North. All Rights Reserved.

 

When we go back, I’ll likely skip the ferris wheel

After a day of being busy and working, when my head hit the pillow late last night, my mind turned reflective. To be honest, this isn’t much different from most days when my mind is whirling with all sorts of questions and contemplations, but I needed to start this post off with something and that’s where I’m beginning.

While reminiscing, I realized autumn has been the season when the most changes have occurred for my husband and me. We’ve had job changes, job loss, moving, and school happen during this cool season. One of the most important changes in our lives was when we both ‘met’ each other in Chicago. I place the word met in quotations because my husband, S, and I have known each other since our Freshman year in college. We were in the same grade, class, whatever you wish to call it and we also happened to be art majors. This meant, for our first two years of school, we shared 4 out of 6 classes together. We also ate breakfast and walked to classes together. No spark, just friendship.

Our romance didn’t begin until our Junior year when we took a required art trip to Chicago. My eyes were opened to this man who had shared countless meals and laughs with me. While we were walking around to various galleries and restaurants, I had to keep my hands in my pockets to resist reaching out and grasping his hand. He knocked me over with his charm and I’ve been captivated ever since.

SAndCin Chicago

Our first photograph together though we weren’t dating at the time. Just friends. I was also scared out of my mind in this photo. Then S decided to shake the carriage to terrify me further. Isn’t he so romantic? It’s been nine years and my hands still get clammy thinking about it. It’s been nine years and he still laughs loudly about it.

But there was also something we experienced while in Chicago that we haven’t been able to get out of our memories: the food. Oh my goodness I still crave the food we enjoyed while on that art trip. One of the first restaurants was a Turkish eatery where I shared a scallop with my future husband and he shared a piece of lamb with me. Ever since trying that grilled bite of meat, I’ve been lamb-free. It was the thought that counts. He liked the scallop, which made me love him more.

On an early morning out, the large art group went to a breakfast place that has not left my mind. We went to Ann Sather and dined on large cinnamon rolls along with lingonberries, which are the tartest breakfast jam I’ve had in my life. I didn’t take the photo below because I know I didn’t order eggs or bacon at the diner and I don’t make that much of a mess with my coffee cup. College kids, sheesh, they are animals. I’m posting this photo because those cinnamon rolls need to be shared. Delicious.

CinnamonRollsAtAnnSather

Also, what’s with the silverware being thrown around and sitting underneath the plate? Someone needed more sleep…

The whole point of the Chicago trip was for us to check out the galleries and latest artwork. Here’s what I was drawn to:

Crystal
Sadly I know not the artist, title or any pertinent information about this beautiful, glittering cube. What I do know is that it was beautiful on so many levels and I still enjoy it to this day.

We want to go back and spend time taking in Chicago at our own pace. We didn’t get to the natural history museum or the planetarium, both of which I know we want to visit. Since I have a love of zoos, we’d like to visit the Lincoln Park zoo. So much to do! Plus it only feels right to go visit the spots where our love began to bloom. Or maybe it was a love of the edible delights on my plate and his face was the first I saw when I looked up from my food euphoria? Maybe, but he is just as charming even after all these years. I doubt I could say the same for a nine year old plate of cinnamon rolls. I think I picked the winner between the two, though it was a close race.

The day when Harry Potter taught me about ribbed vaults

Sunday night before watching Godzilla, my husband and I were watching Harry Potter as we ate our delicious, eclectic dinner. I believe the word you are looking for is ‘nerds’ as a way to describe us.

Yes, we are a bit of that. There’s no sense in denying the truth.

While noshing away at our edible delights, I was intrigued by the architecture shown in the Harry Potter movie. I asked my husband about the vaults I saw behind Harry. “Are those called ribbed vaults? Can you remember?”

He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. He knows about human anatomy, microbiology and genetics; I’m the requisite art history buff now. Plus I earned the top grade in my art history classes, which should equate to retaining all that valuable historical information except for the fact that life occurred and now I remember not as much as I should.

I was correct, however, that we were looking at ribbed vaulting in Harry Potter’s cherished school. Because I wanted a freshening up about the subject, I gave myself the assignment to re-learn what makes up a ribbed vault. I found some intriguing information.

Durham Cathedral, Image source: Wikipedia

The vaults to which I refer are not secured under banks, but rather are the archways found in cathedrals. In the photo above, you are seeing a series of ribbed vaults on the ceiling. The ribs are the curved X’s that appear to slope down towards the ground. The vault is the archway, which is pointed in the above photo, and are situated on both sides of the ‘X’-shaped ribs. Even though we may immediately think the look is purely decorative and a good way to break up what could be a boring piece of ceiling, the ribs identify an architectural feature. When you see a ribbed vault, what you are actually looking at is an intersection of two pathways (or a pathway and two windows) within a cathedral.

Let’s say you have two pathways running perpendicular to one another in your cathedral and they end up crossing paths. What do you do at this intersection? How do you make the two rounded ceilings overlap nicely and have the added bonus of good support so they don’t collapse down on your visitors? The photo below shows what architects came up with when a pathway intersected with tall windows.

To join the pathways and provide a sturdy ceiling, the architects blended the curved arches into one another. At earlier points in architectural history, there were more simple pathways that had a rounded ceiling that ran the entire length of the passageway – there were no ribs, just a rounded, barrel-like shape to the ceiling. As you can imagine, a rounded tunnel was the resulting appearance. This meant the architects could not place large, soaring windows on the sides of the tunnel walls. As time went on, what patrons wanted were large, soaring windows down the length of their walkways. People wanted cathedrals to be taller, lighter and brighter. They wanted a building that would be closer to heaven. Thus, the architects needed a way to get lift and get taller windows. The ribbed vault became a welcomed friend to the Gothic era of cathedrals.

I believe the illustration below does a good job of showing the combining of the pathways. They maintain their arched shape and create a beautiful design in the interior. The arched shape also allowed for weight to be better distributed downward (compared to the rounded arches) and allowed for more windows to be added with less bulky support. This is also exampled below – lots of room for windows and light.

There are stylistic differences when looking at vaults and you may have noticed a difference between the photos above. The top-most photo of the Durham Cathedral shows vaults that come to a decorative point at the top (the illustration above also shows this style of vault). These are called arched vaults. In the photo of the Gloucester Cathedral ambulatory (also known as a walkway), the vault is rounded. These are called barrel vaults and were an earlier style associated with a time period before the Gothic period, which was the Romanesque period.

Bath Abbey, Bath, England. Made from local Bath stone, this is a Victorian restoration (in the 1860s) of the original roof of 1608.

Notice the arched vaults because they come to a point at the top. You may also notice the ribs are a tad bit more ornate here. You’re actually saying, “How could I not notice those ribs!” This is an example of fan vaulting where the ribs are clustered into a fan shape that projects out from the vault.

The above photo is an example of a lierne vault, which derives it’s name from the star shape created by the ribs that branch off from the main ribs.

There are many, many photos that you could check out from various cathedrals as examples of ribbed vaults. The Durham Cathedral and Cathedral of Gloucester were used in the filming of Harry Potter if you wanted to learn more about them. If you search under Gothic cathedral ribbed vaulting, you’ll be graced with a plethora of viewing options.

This is by no means a comprehensive look at ribbed vaults. As with all of history, ribbed vaults have a far more complex tale than what I illustrate here, but since I’m not writing a dissertation on ribbed vaults, I wanted to keep it simple. My hope is that if you look at a column that has thick lines running towards the ceiling, now you’ll look to see if those are ribs, which are accompanied by arches known as vaults. And maybe you’ll be able to identify if it’s a barrel vault versus an arched vault. If you do, A+ for you.

My subconscious has an eclectic palate

Well it’s Monday, my husband and I both worked on Saturday and he’s already back at work as I type. We did have enough time this morning to eat breakfast together, which is always a plus. We even made eggs.

Have I mentioned that I’ve always been on again, off again with eggs? At rare points in life I have enjoyed eating eggs. Today wasn’t one of those days, so he went to work with lots of protein in his belly. For years, milk and I had a similar, tenuous relationship, but now we’re sworn enemies. Yogurt? I believe it was made by the devil. Ice cream? Sometimes we can be friends. Cheese? Well, c’mon, I’ll always love you because you’re cheese. No one can hate you.

“Did you have a point for your blog post today?” I hear you asking. No, no I didn’t, so I’ll continue with my morning nonsense.

Today while cooking the eggs, I looked at the pumpkin pie, which was situated south of the bananas. While reaching to break off two bananas from the bunch, I asked my husband if he wanted some pie with his breakfast. He looked at me confused and said, “Did you mean to say ‘a banana?'”

My question was asked before coffee was ingested. But really, now that I think about it, would pumpkin pie – a pie filled with healthful squash – be so bad for breakfast? I think not. It has vitamin A and enough sugar to keep you going until 8p. What could be better? This is also coming from the person who, this past Saturday, reached for ground cinnamon and instead picked up chili powder because they are stored in identical containers. Oh yes, I sprinkled it liberally on my oatmeal. Then, because in the morning I have the nose of a stuffed up allergy sufferer, I stopped just in time to realize I had administered a full teaspoon into my morning grub. Surprisingly it was a good way to wake up the senses and rev up my metabolism. Maybe my unconscious brain is attempting to vary the breakfast offerings? Chili powder, not just for stews! Pumpkin pie, superior to any strudel! I think not.

This said, I might have reached the age where caffeine is required before the food.

On a completely unrelated note, my husband and I saw two interesting sights while hiking around our favorite, no-bikes-allowed park yesterday. As we crossed over a rim, a tree caught my eye because it was hot pink. Due to an odd quirk created in our brains while in college, my husband and I enjoy looking for colors in nature that we originally guessed were human made. One such color is hot pink. Can you think of a place where you’d find hot pink in nature other than a flower? Exactly, it’s uncommon. But we found another place where it exists! Look at these seed pods from the European Spindle tree:

Image from ObserveYourPreserve.org

It was an incredible sight. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, this tree only seems appropriate. I didn’t take this photo, but this is a great representation of the pods. In fact, the pods we saw may have even been a touch brighter.

The other interesting sight was seeing a Horned Grebe diving under the water.

Horned Grebe Photo

Image from AllAboutBirds.org

The above photo is the Grebe during summer, which it is not here in Ohio. Our little bird was less ornate in preparation for winter. They are a migratory bird for Ohio so we were thrilled to get to see a species that ordinarily would have passed by without our notice. It was amusing to watch it dive under the water. It’s little head would flick around while watching the fish underneath the surface. When it was the right time, it would get its little body ready and leap face first into the dark water. It was quite animated. There are some good examples on YouTube if you’re interested in watching. Just as we were turning to leave the little bird, it began calling out a twirly little tune. Then it dove back under the calm surface looking for some fishy breakfast. Yum, not. But, I eat chili powder for breakfast so who am I to judge?

We rounded out our day by watching Godzilla. Let me tell you, it was some science fiction. If you’re yearning for a movie that includes ancient creatures battling in a major metropolitan city, well, look no further, dear reader. My husband grew up watching Godzilla, I did not, but I love a great science fiction movie; I was game. I had to look past some holes in the plot, and holes in the dialog, but otherwise, I was entertained. There were explosions and liberties taken with science facts. I mean really, animals (I’m using that term generously) that ingest radiation and want to lay more eggs beside a live nuclear missile? What’s not to love there?

Clearly we are living the high life. Horned Grebe’s and Godzilla all in one day? There’s only so much excitement one girl can take. No wonder I was murmuring about pies this morning – I had an elation hangover.

 

 

Decor Friday: Green with delight

Green is one of my favorite colors, but I realize it is high up on most people’s ‘don’t like it’ list. Next to yellow, it might be the color that gets the most nose scrunches when I mention using it. I blame the 70’s and the avocado green that adorned many appliances, counter tops and people. Oh, thank the heavens we have moved away from that color grouping of avocado, gold and orange. Can I get an amen?

Growing up, I never considered liking any shade of green because my mother despised it. In fact, her feelings haven’t changed; she is a proud member of the ‘I hate green’ club. If you’d like to join, give her a call, she’s the President. I know if I were to mention adding a green item into her red rooms, I’d be met with a door in my face. I don’t blame her; her memories of the avocado green and gold have created a permanent scar.

It is fair for everyone to have color preferences. There are some colors you like and some you don’t. But, if you’re like me and were swayed into hating green because someone told you it was ugly, perhaps the rooms below can give you a different frame of reference. I even think – if my mother dared to read the post after seeing the word green in the title – she might be intrigued by a few of the designs. She won’t because that’s not permitted under her Presidential contract, but a color enthusiast can dream.

I will give this disclaimer about using green: It is a trickier option than other colors. Painting ample sections of color samples will be your best option for a successful relationship between you and your green. Lighting can reveal hidden hues that come out only under the pressure of bright daylight or oddly-colored incandescent bulbs. You may have thought you were painting viridian green, but what you got was a shade similar to that stagnant pond down the road. Then you might question, “Well, maybe I like this? It was a lot of work to get it up there. Maybe it could work?” No, no. Stagnant pond isn’t a popular color for a reason. Use samples first.

Second disclaimer: I had a difficult time finding well-designed rooms that incorporated green. In order to get this posted before Christmas, some rooms will have a great design, while others will have one great feature.

Green and red are complimentary colors so they’ll look excellent paired together. The touch of green on the walls is muted and blends seamlessly with the beauty seen outdoors. If white was used on the window wall, it would have detracted from the view. The right color choice here helps bring the outdoors inside. And conversely, leads your eye outdoors.

Deep brown and dark hunter green; is there a more classic pairing? I like that it is used somewhere other than a male’s office too. This designer set the combination off with the bright white trim and ceiling, which makes it something spectacular. Green gets to be the moody star of this room. I’d love to see it at night.

This is a lot of saturation and commitment, I know, but I truly love the color. I would never be this bold, but the color is a great natural green that warms my soul.

This is similar to the soft, sage green of the first picture. Again, it is balanced out by the white ceiling. I like the softness of the color, though the room as a whole is a nod to the ‘Grandma’s Decor style.’

The wall color is a beige-green, which gets mellowed out by the vibrant green accents. This is a sophisticated way to add green to your room – just make sure you really love green before ordering that headboard. For myself, I would go more neutral there. I can’t tell, but are those camo pillows? I’m intrigued.

If I’m honest, this is how I would incorporate green into a room. I love ferns and palms because they’re the plants of my homeland (Florida). Don’t discount using real plants as a way to add green to your color scheme. They can bring a big impact. Just make sure you water them and avoid fake plants, they’re dust collectors.

I’ve included this room to show how a little punch of green can be effective, such as the green alcove for the TV. What a pleasant way to add a bit of color without placing it all over the room. Otherwise, I’m not sure about this design.

I wanted to include a room that used lime green. This is lovely on so many levels if you’re a lover of lime. It’s also a good lesson for what to do in a behemoth of a room. Soften the faux stone with drapes and use larger, plush furniture pieces. Bringing in the correct sized lighting feature and lowering it to a normal ceiling height helps lessen the cave-like feeling. This room makes me groove.

Minty green and lime green being used together makes me a happy person. If you don’t love the lime accents, you can always switch those out for beige or tan.

This is girly, I know, but quaint and nice. It makes me want to go to a tea house and eat those little cakes and sandwiches. These two colors are close to aqua and turquoise, but what a great pairing. I love that green bench.

I saved the best for last. I know it doesn’t involve green paint, but this is the reason I love green. It represents outdoors and life and all that seems good. And ultimately, I believe it is the reason so many people want to use green in their homes – to surround ourselves with the colors of the outdoors.

And that’s my roundup. Hopefully it convinced you even a little bit to embrace hope in the color green. It can be used with great success!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. For us, it will be a sad one with news of the sudden passing of a friend. Make sure you hug and love on the ones dear to you. Take care!

Scientifically speaking, I wasn’t being lazy

I’m getting a later start here on the blog because I woke up two hours later than my normal time. I’m not going to lie, it felt wonderful and I feel no guilt. And you might think, Oh, you went to bed later.

No, no I didn’t. I went to bed one hour earlier than normal. Clearly all of the very difficult sitting I did yesterday with writing and being at work was strenuous. There’s only so much time you can spend in a computer chair before you start saying, “I’m beat. I just can’t hold my body up any longer.” In truth, it was probably the 37 minutes of Smart Barre I did yesterday morning. My muscles are staging a coup as I type. Oh, the abdominal exercises. And the Smart Barre shelf? Oh, I can feel it firming up. Yes, 37 minutes of Smart Barre is enough to make my body comatose for 10 full hours.

On a more serious/intellectually stimulating note, my husband told me about a TED talk he watched about sleeping. Here’s the link if you’re interested: Jeff Iliff: One more reason to get a good night’s sleep. I haven’t watched it yet, though my husband filled me in on the details. It’s probably the reason I don’t feel one bit of guilt about those indulgent extra hours. My husband also watched this TED talk about the future of early detection of cancer using our smartphones: Jorge Soto: The future of early cancer detection?. Fascinating, though again, he described the talk to me instead of me watching. I realize with this paragraph, it makes my husband appear far more intellectual than me and though I know that isn’t true, my behaviors today can’t prove otherwise. I’ll just say I’m glad I have him in my life to keep me up to date on all of the world’s happenings and advancements while I’m very busy – and healthily – catching Zzz’s.

And while I’m on the subject of my husband, and since I’ve mentioned it a few times before, I wanted to give a quick update about his medical school progress: he was asked to attend an interview at the end of this month. I am so excited for him! I not-so-secretly hope there are more interviews to come.

I hope you enjoy the talks and I’ll be back tomorrow with some great design pieces I’ve found on the great internet. Sending my best to you!

Having smurf-colored ears could be the next fashion statement

Back when I was a preschool teacher, I had stories. Oh, let me tell you how I had stories. Most were funny because I worked primarily with 3 to 5 year olds and those little people have an interesting perspective on the world. At the time I figured I would never forget the golden nuggets of hilarity that came out of their mouths. I should have known better. I should have written them down. Now all I have are a few jumbles of funny one-liners and a lot of broken phrases. I was reminiscing yesterday and some of the stories popped into my mind. Because of what happened before, I decided I better write them down or risk forgetting I was a preschool teacher altogether.

One of the classic stories was during our busy summer season. We had just attempted to exhaust the children’s energy by taking a long walk. It always worked in the way that you can exhaust the energizer bunny. Once we were back in the classroom, we explained the art project, which involved coloring paper elephant ears with markers. We instructed these children to “color in their ears.” Brevity and clarity is a must with 3 year olds. Well, much to our amazement, one child took this quite literally and, using a bright blue marker, plunged the thick writing utensil into his outer ear and went to town. In the seconds it took for us to say “Stop!”, he had done a thorough job of turning his ear, and surrounding neck, blue. We were a bit embarrassed to admit this to his mother, but she laughed it off. From then on, we were very careful to say, “Color in your elephant ears.”

Some of the things I’ve uttered while at that job will forever be burned in my brain. The children were supposed to be fully potty trained and not wearing pull ups. Some, I think, were potty trained the day before school began and the parents were playing fast and loose with the term. When a child is scared of the potty, they probably aren’t potty trained. Just an assumption. Some of the things I have seen, I can’t un-see. I’ll spare you descriptions because really, I don’t even want to remember the ghastly sights. There are things I’ve cleaned up that I thought were reserved only for parents to clean up from their own child. Oh, the tragedy. As a young woman in my early twenties, I got an eyeful. Rushing into motherhood? Um, not for me.

I feel certain that there will be parts of motherhood that surprise me, but there will be others that I say, “Oh, this brings back memories.” I’m hopeful I’ll be less offended when it’s my own children. But really, if the worst I get is a kid who scribbles in his ears, that seems like a win. Maybe that’s why the mom laughed. In perspective, having a child with a smurf-colored ear is the lesser of all evils.

If any other nuggets decide to cross my memories, I’ll put them up here. We’ll see if my memory bank will spring to life and help me out. If not, well, perhaps I forgot for a reason. Happy Wednesday to you!