Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Secret Bench, Lost Paradise

I lumber up the steps to the grand stone home of books & records dozens of times each year, past the Bench. One day, I had technology at my fingertips and snapped a moment in time, a moment of art imitating life & life imitating art. I love that.

Photo of Lea Vivot's Secret Bench, Lost Paradise, Ottawa, 2011.

 Have you witnessed life imitating art anywhere? Share it with me in the comments!

♥  leel

ps. be sure to check out yesterday's Design Sponge at Home Book Review & Giveaway! Don't miss out!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Design Sponge at Home -> a book review & giveaway!

Are you feeling it? That involuntary whole body yawn? Your compass pointing you in any direction that holds warmth and comfort and retreat? The need to come indoors and settle your weary ass down with a good book? Something with pictures to absorb and skim while drinking a warm beverage under a heavy blanket? Well I'm feeling it. Around here I refer to as November. If you are also crawling under the collective blanket of November, I might just have the perfect thing for you! 

You might remember a small little announcement of epic proportion I made in April regarding a certain project of mine being included in the Before & After section of Grace Bonney's bookchild, Design Sponge at Home. Well, guess what?! Yes, it's out! Yes, I have a copy in my hands! And no, I have not stopped flipping through, flagging projects to try, searching the reference section for suppliers and just oogling and absorbing all the amazing design finds. I carry it with me around the house. Not even kidding. 
Page 351!

 Where to even start?  If you have been to Grace's brainchild website, Design*Sponge online, you will have an idea of what to expect: a book full of creative finds, spaces and projects. (If not, well let me be the one to send you over. Go ahead. Check it out. Back? Ok.) First of all, the book itself serves as an accessory for any room. The perfect pop of colour for any side table or shelf. As you flip through it's easy to see that one thing is for certain, a designer clearly designed this book! The layout from cover to cover is so well thought out and enhanced with great side-tips in the margins (i love that!) as well as amazing photos and illustrations. It's timeless and organized and easy to navigate. It has a great flow from the photo driven Sneak Peeks at the beginning, where the inspiration lies, through to the meat of DIY Projects, Basics, Flower Workshop and Before & Afters and then onto my personal fave, the amazing Resource Guide section at the back.

Inspiration leaps off of virtually EVERY page. It's great to see how artists and designers have personalized their own spaces in meaningful ways that don't cost an arm and a leg. It's refreshing to see how others style their books, paint out trim, add a few pictures in an entrance way and make their spaces look unique and feel like a home. Not imaginary showrooms. Real homes real people live in. The book then provides project ideas and methods on how to actually personalize your own space. It never ends, people! Regardless of what design idea or project you are looking to take on, you can find inspiration and simple instruction for it in this book, which I really see as my new manual.

I'm pretty sure anyone would love this book. Guess what?! It just so happens the lovely people at Thomas Allen & Son, a Canadian Distributor and Publishing company, contacted me offering a free copy of the book as well as two more copies for my lucky Canadian readers! How fun is this? A great way to hibernate this winter and get your inspiration engines fired up? Yes and Yes.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by midnight (EST) Friday November 11! I will use a random number generator to pick winners, I'll e-mail the winners for shipping addresses and your book will be on the way. 

One comment per person please. Also, please make sure I can easily find an e-mail address to contact you!

Best of luck!

ps. If you missed Grace on The Nate Berkus show, check it out here!


Nov. 16th Update: Random.org generated #2 & #5. Both winners have been contacted and their books are on the way!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

an update.

i've thought over dozens of posts in the months since i last posted. sporadic moments i envisioned in word form. none of those blips led me to actually writing anything down. it seems i've taken on the attitiude that my memory will serve me well, and that those moments will be there when i'm ready to sit down and write.  living them out and having time to reflect on the full picture - summer -  was my priority this year. just be-ing.
now, we're well into the end of summer. i'm slowing down. i'm wanting to write. that's weird for me. so, here we go. let's start with a general outline of my life this summer.
  • Work: I had the opportunity to work a few different jobs this summer. It has suited my lifestyle and love of being involved in the arts, being outside and being creative perfectly. I have continued working with a national film organization that programs and hosts film festivals throughout the year. I have been working with them since 2008 and continue to work part-time during the film festivals. It's a joy to work with this bunch. Arts and culture are my home. Yay!  In addition to the festivals, which primarily run during the evenings, I have been working with a gardener again this spring, summer and fall. I have loved learning and executing amazing results with the team I was with. Having my hands in the dirt all day works for me, as it turns out. The satisfaction and creative fulfillment I took with me from each job well done and clients' reactions fueled me daily. So that's what I've been up to work-wise this summer and fall. 
  • Fun: I've taken on a project this summer organizing some art and collectibles from around the globe spanning over 90 years. These collectables are things a friend's family are ready to part with. This family originated in England, came to Canada and the dad/grandfather traveled globally with a major shoe company as the main shop designer and creative merchandiser. You can only imagine what I have seen, held, photographed, catalogued and googled. Amazing pieces of history, culture. It's a dream project that I am actually very behind on. I'm currently in the research phase; 175 objects is a lot of googling. My next step is to find out some additional info from the family on origin, the stories behind the objects. (Look at me using my university degree! Yahoo!) I'll be visiting some local dealers all Storage Wars style to authenticate and market to buyers.Very fun indeed. I'll be sure to share some of the objects and their stories as I get further into the research.
  • Vacation: We went to Portugal in August for 20 days. It was amazing, in so many ways. Being in Europe in the summer is fantastic. Getting to know my husband's family, and in turn my husband, was nothing but fulfilling and full of love. The days along the coast are long, hot and cool at night. The food fresh and prepared with love.The breezes off the water cool the tiled and shuttered cities down. No rain for 20 days. Days at the beach? 10 or 12? Days in the mountains, 3. Amazing, all of it. I have 900 pictures to go through. Once I have an edited version I will for sure be posting a slideshow here. So many stories. Stay tuned.
  • Pets: we have a new one. I know. The Bub went to the pet store for pet food (on my birthday) and came home with a girl kitten. That brings the grand total to 2 (old) dogs and 3 (young) cats, pushing us very close to 'Those People" status. The new kidden is already going outside and killing anything cute within a 1 house radius. Her total so far? This week? 1 mouse, 2 birds, a chipmunk and a this morning? a HUMMINGBIRD. The embodiment of beauty and wonderment in nature, left on my doorstep, chest open wide, eyes pinched shut, pointy beak bent back. I have dubbed May the devil kitten and she's not allowed out until the snow flies. I can't handle it. I don't even kill spiders. There we go. Pets. 
  • Creativity: my focus has been outside, on my gardens. I've been learning to prune and loving every second of it. Working on expanding and cleaning out my own gardens is a huge chore but I find the reward of seeing the final product so worth it.  I recently took a client's overgrown evergreen shrub that was going to be pulled out due to its overpowering state on the patio and made it a focal point by removing the overgrowth and pruning it back into a bonsai shape. It was like sculpting. I'm addicted. That being said, all the furniture fun, painting fun, DIY upcycle goodtime fun has been literally thrown to the side. My studio has become the storage room for a few months and OMG it's making me twitch. I'm looking forward to getting at reorganizing and purging a lot in there once the snow flies. For now, I might aim to get a few pieces I've promised people done and hopefully that will get me back on track creativity wise. I'm such an ebb and flow person. All or nothing. 
So that's a small glimpse into what i have been up to. I feel like I can now start to share some of the individual images and stories from my summer as I go forward into fall. That might be fun.

hope you are well,

Monday, April 18, 2011

monday morning madness.

well, hello there! happy monday!
things are weird; i thought i'd share.

it was sort of mid to late morningish. i should have been up and functional like the rest of the world. i was not.

the dogs were in their beds on the floor in our room, i was slightly conscious. off goes our god awful sound of a doorbell. the hounds take off like bats out of hell, tripping over each other, yipping and yapping like lunatics, sliding down the hardwood stairs only to bark and jump at the window beside the door like the complete assholes they can be.

i'm up! my crazy ponytail's askew and my bedhead is out of control. i'm wearing a blue v-neck t-shirt and pj pants have roosters on them. no bra. omg.

the door bell goes again! off i go, not caring any longer what i'm wearing since i think i know what's going on; it's probably a kid from the school yard behind our house. i can hear it's recess. it must just be a ball in our back yard they need retrieved. this happens at least once a week in the spring and fall. i just need the dogs to stop! barking! already!

i crack open the inside door with the 2 maniacs trying to nudge open the outer glass door with their pointy little faces and see a man standing with 2 kids behind him. ok, teacher on recess duty and kids who lost ball. standard, here we go. i say through the glass, motioning to the backyard, "is there a ball in the yard?" and he says "no". oh geeze. i'm going to have to open the door and converse with this man. AND not let the dogs get out AND not him get a whiff of me AND keep my arm across my chest. awesome.
i manage to slide the dogs out of my path with one leg while cracking open the door with the other. i say hello, distracted by dogs. and so the conversation begins.

mumble mumble... i was trying to get into your neighbours house, he died and i can't get in.

my neighbour died? which neighbour? (struggling to comprehend, thinking of young father living beside us)

yah, two or three weeks ago, he lived 3 down, Mr.HP. i drove down to see about buying his land he had that i used to hunt on, he and his wife were up there last year. i guess he got prostate cancer. i'm trying to find someone who knows about it and i can't get in. do you know anything about it?

Mr.HP died? I didn't know that he had cancer.

yah, it was two or three weeks ago, you didn't know? he has a wife in one of the nursing homes over there (points). he lived here for like 35 years - how long have you lived here? um, 8 years? yah, well he lived here for 35 years.

(in my mind i'm thinking eaaaasy big feller, you can't even remember how long ago it was he died, don't know where his wife resides, and want to buy his land? BACK OFF.)
yes. i knew him, well, actually my ex did. he used to go flying with him. that was a long time ago, i haven't spoken to Mr.HP for years. i saw him out rarely but would see him drive by with his wife when he would take her out for a drive from the nursing home.

yah, well he died two or three weeks ago and i don't know who to contact about his land and can't get into his house.

(pause. i look to two kids standing behind him on my walkway. ???)\

have you talked to any other neighbours? the one who lived closer, they might know something more.

nobody else is home. (except me, the lazy kid, i think)

i'm sorry to hear he died.

thanks, well, i guess i'll try the neighbours on the other side then.

that's probably your best bet. they knew him, i think.

well, thanks.

no problem. thanks for letting me know.

off he goes, leather bomber jacket done up tight to combat the chill of this day. i think about Mr. PH and how i'm sad i didn't know for 3 weeks that he had died. he and his wife have no children, no relatives. we was from germany, she austria. they met at the university in the 60's when he was a recent immigrant doing construction and she a music teacher. he was quiet about his past, owned airplanes, could fix anything and his wife was in a home suffering from dementia.

that's about all i know.

i knew him briefly when my ex and i bought this place. he came down the street with questions about permits as we took on renovating our house. what started off as confrontation soon became friendship for us, more for my ex since the man did piss me off more than i like to admit. soon after my ex and i broke up we stopped speaking. he was still friends with my ex and remained in contact with Mr.PH as of the last time i ran into him, a few months ago at his workplace. (awkward)

look up to 2 kids faces: hi there!? is there a ball in my yard you need?

yah, a blue one. have you seen it?

let me get some clothes and shoes on. i'll check.

close door.

and so my day began. it was weird. there was a line-up at my door. 

so now i'm going to clean my house. my mom is on a school break and she is on her way over to help! and she's bringing coffee. *dance* have a great one, lovelies.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

an announcement of the amazing kind

*clears throat and twists rings nervously*

thank you for stopping by today! it's an exciting day for me, and i'm glad you stopped by to peek in on the official announcement i have to make.

let's go back a bit first: while i've known this little secret for a while, i was ever leary about uttering the words out loud until i knew FOR SURE that this was really happening. i mean, who wants to be the kid who says "hey guys, i made the team" only to find they were cut the day before the jerseys were even handed out? NOT THIS KID. also, i have lived and worked enough in life to know that nothing is done until it's actually DONE done. you know this. you get it.

so what's my news? well, to me it's kinda a big deal. i'm going to be in a book! well, not ME, but one of my creations and designs is! it's a style and home design book. it's coming out in the fall. it's authored by none other than her royal style majesty Grace Bonney, creater of the one and only Design*Sponge website, it's the Design Sponge at Home book!

can you stand it?!

so, there was a call a long time ago for projects, i replied with a couple of photos and a link to a blog post and now, one of MY Vintage Suitcase Tables (I won't tell you which one) is going to be in the Design Sponge at Home book. i am so flattered and excited and still convinced it's not really happening that it feels weird to even be typing this out. ANYWAY. the book comes out in September, Grace is heading out on a huge booktour very soon and can already be pre-ordered online.

here's some info from the publisher:

Grace Bonney created her daily Web site Design*Sponge as an antidote to the fussy (and expensive) shelter magazines of her mother’s generation. The New York Times has dubbed the site, with its 60,000 daily readers, “Martha Stewart Living for millennials.”

DESIGN*SPONGE at Home is Bonney’s definitive guide to home décor for her fellow design sponges—those house-proud young homeowners and renters who adore soaking up design ideas and using them as inspiration to decorate and personalize their own homes. This design compendium contains peeks of 75 real-life interiors, where the décor was culled from flea markets and the owners’ imaginations, as well as more than 100 projects (with detailed instructions) from a table made out of abandoned chair legs to a butterfly dome.

Packed with hundreds color photographs and illustrations, this beautiful book includes a decorating basics section with tutorials on everything from stripping and painting furniture to hanging wallpaper and doing your own upholstery. Along the way, Bonney—whose enthusiasm and joy in her subject is infectious—teaches the reader the principles of decorating and collecting, empowering them to create beautiful homes of their own.

Grace Bonney is the creator of Design*Sponge, a daily Web site dedicated to home and product design. A native of Virginia Beach, Grace has worked as a contributing editor at publications like House & Garden, Domino, and Craft Magazine. In 2006 Grace founded the Design*Sponge Biz Ladies series, a traveling event designed to connect women running their own design-based businesses with free legal, financial, and marketing advice.

so a big thank you to Grace, for including me in the book and teaching me my ideas are worth looking at, for answering every e-mail and tweet i sent asking if i had been edited out yet with a swift positive response, and for not editing me out in the end. thank you Grace. you have no idea what this means to me.

also, to my interweb tribe: the comments and feedback and e-mails on any thing i post here is what fuels me. i appreciate any glance at the site, your comments are gold. thank you. thank you. thank you.


not any nan.

when i say 'nan' i get quiet for a second. i usually smile. i don't quite know how to put my maternal grandmother into words. she was, as we all are, a true one of a kind. in my very biased opinion she was unique, she was of the top level of the best kind. you would have loved her. most did. she would have loved you too. she was like that.

when i think of my nan i think of laughing and smiling. and nice nails and chunky eclectic jewelery. her hands, she had lovely small hands. and elegant smoking. and eating. and books. and her sweet perfumey smell. and her hugs. fierce hugs. she would grab at me as i walked by the dining room table just to steal a hug and tell me how much she loved me. she was also independent. she separated from my grandfather in the late 60's. he was a musician and a binge drinker, but they remained best friends until the day his liver gave out in the 80's. that woman knew how to love properly, if there is such a thing. i learned how to love through her.

i don't know very much about her family, just random fuzzy names and waxy memories of stories she told about growing up in newfoundland back when she did. i don't even know when or why she left her home and made her way to new brunswick, my mom's home, our home for a long time. she went back for a period after retirement and renovated the house she was born in. she always was a proud newfoundlander and people soon learned to keep those oh-so-hilarious newf jokes to themselves. she had no time for that bullshit and would tell you. she was feisty.

it's rather odd to think of my grandmother in this way, her resounding influence on who i am. i mean, considering we never once lived in the same city. it's not like i grew up with her down the street, yet that never seemed to matter. for the first 10 years we all lived in the maritimes, we were always 3-7 hours away from each other. we saw her on holidays and any weekend she was nearby. her travelling job brought her into town often. once we moved to the middle (ottawa) it changed that frequency, but she was still on the phone with us and visiting us here for a few months in the winter or my uncle in toronto, so it wasn't like there was a huge lack of nan.

i always used the think the connection we had was normal, the way all grandchildren and grandparents interacted together. i soon learned what we had was special, not just from our own time together but the story of my grandmother and i as a unit. it was just another story among stories, yet it was ours and ours alone.

as an adoptee i've always had a bit of a different story of how i came into the world. i was told of being wanted, and waited for. 11 months my parents wait for me. in 1973 that was about the standard amount of time for a childless couple to wait for a healthy baby. my mom would tell me how the sun came out and sunshowers filled the bright air on the day she was told of my existence. how the day they brought me home was the day god's gift arrived, a baby made especially for them. i would hear of how they drove straight home and stripping me naked and just staring at my 7 week old toes and fingers, in utter fascination and awe. i was told of the next door neighbour coming over and pushing my mom out of the way to bathe me in the sink since she was so afraid i would slip and she'd drop me. i was, and still am, adored.

my nan's story, i would learn later. i remember my grandmother being a traveller and woman on the go. she loved the beach (hello shediac!) and mexico. she was always fun to be with. that was the nan i knew. what my grandmother would share with me as i got older was her own take on my arrival. i can remember at some point being upset about something or feeling unloved or some bs you feel when you're mad at your parents and my grandmother taking me in her arms and telling me her side of my arrival story. she would stroke my hands or my hair and tell me of feeling lost and lonely in the world. her kids were gone, she travelled a lot, was stressed about family and her job. she found herself in the darkest point of her life, sitting in a hotel room in sidney, nova scotia. she would often tear up at this point, and smile at me. i never pressed for details. she told me of the phone ringing. of the clarity of that day, etched in her mind forever. of hearing from my mom that I was coming, of putting down the phone, packing up the car and heading to me - driving 12 straight hours - and how that day i saved her life. she spoke of her love for this brand new chapter, this new life, a rejuvenation and new found purpose for her. she was a grandmother. her love knew no bounds. she wasn't shy with her emotions and telling us how important we were to her. how important the life of a child is to an entire family.

my nan really did show me the meaning of love. her motto always was, you can never have too many people in the world that love you. i do my best to remind myself of that. when she died we all mourned losing her presence with us, but i really try and remember the amazing lessons my nan taught me while she and i were together. i'm lucky in that i get to see her love in action these days. if you saw my brother's boys with my mom, you would see what i mean. my nephew L., was born 1 month to the day after my father left my mother for another woman. my nephew's birth saved her life in that same way my grandmother's was with my arrival. that i know. she is now modelling her relationship with her own grandchildren on the one we had with our nan, with her mother. it's beautiful to see. history is so funny. the future is so possible.

so, today i am thinking of you nan, wherever you are. i'll look for the butterfly you sometimes appear as, the one that dives at the cat, or that bird i know you were that day. and i am thinking of love. amazing, unconditional love and possibilities.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

a preview: ♥ pinkie ♥

here is a little tidbit of a preview for your eyes: pinkie. i've been experimenting on a vintage suitcase table with a new type of paint application that doesn't require ventilation. i still have mixed feelings, but hey, i usually hit the point where i hate whatever i'm working on right about now, so no big deal. i know i'll be happy with the result once i finally make all the last few decisions on colours etc. so yes, fun! i have a pile of suitcases to work on, so let me ask. Any colour combo's you think might be superfun? what about another solid coloured one, like Bambi?


nothing ventured, nothing lost

i figured that since tomorrow would be the 4 month mark of not blogging that enough is enough, time to post. my absence doesn't stem from lack to tell, it stems from laziness and fear and all the bs that i find myself convinced is real. i'm in a strange head space. one i've never been in before. it's focus is failure, it's fuel fear. for the first time since i graduated from university and took a full-time job i have no idea what to do with my career. truly. i have 62 slivers of possibility, but nothing glaringly clear. it's all murk and fog and, as someone recently described, feels a lot like running in water.

my anxiety is humming at a high pitch, naturally. we all know i don't do change well. i resist and fight and fortune tell ridiculous outcomes and then laugh at myself later when i finally accept something new. i know this about myself. but still, i feel like i have slid back a few holes on the ole panic belt. i had a panic attack the morning of my departure for hawaii, calling my husband* and telling him i didn't think i could get on the plane. the thought of having to endure 3 flights alone, suddenly sent me into a tizzy. not pretty. yes, i got on the plane, thank you ativan, yes, i was fine, and yes, it was worth it. but it still happened and then yet again a few more times in hawaii. some more since we've returned. i don't think experiencing a tsunami evacuation helped much. so there's that.

in addition to or as a result of, i'm not sure, my confidence has taken a beating. i need to fix that. like, stat. i need a plan, stan. i used to be fearless when it came to jobs, taking on new challenges, being confident in my abilities, confident in my ability to write, lead a meeting, in my ability to talk to anybody. i feel very small and quiet right now. i guess i just imagined my career somehow more cemented by now, 15 years after graduating. not back at the beginning, disconnected from pretty much everyone, somewhere messed up in the middle. middle age is weird. or seems so right now, anyway.

but, it's spring. and i hold faith in spring, it's abilities to renew my depleted energy, turn my frown upside-down. i've started uncovering the gardens and looking at the returning growth, raking up all the deadness of last year and throwing it out of site. making it all new and fresh and full of new possibilities for the coming spring days and summer nights.

i'm officially exploring this whole career thing in an official way. getting some help defining my next steps. so that feels good. and yet, because i AM that girl, it seems scary and paralyzing and exhilarating all in one big fat hold-it-in-as-long-as-you-can breath. next comes writing out a plan, editing my resume and cleaning out the studio FOR REAL. I need to make some space for the magic to happen. it's coming. i can feel it.

but enough about me how are you?


*the bub was stuck in L.A. on his way to Hawaii. his initial response after hello: "what? i can't hear you? hey, wait a sec... hey, that's JERRY SEINFELD looking at an old porsche. JERRY SEINFELD bub!!! He's wearing a blazer and jeans and white running shoes and a baseball hat and sunglasses and looking at a porsche right outside the window from me!!! Holy shit!! (I had to yell at that point.) The end.


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