Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!  
Happy Holidays! 
& Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mercury Glass

For some unknown reason I am always drawn to things with a vintage feel and mercury glass is certainly no exception.  I love the way you can almost see through it if you hold it up to the light.  Apparently true vintage mercury glass had double walls with silver nitrate sealed between the walls to give the silver appearance.  Although mine are not double-walled, they have now become one of my favorite Christmas decorations.  I usually line them up on our marble mantle and I decorate the whole fireplace with silver ornaments.  Hopefully Santa won't knock them over when he comes down the chimney this year!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Elephant Wrapping Paper

The other night I asked George if he could wrap my sister's birthday present.  He asked me what paper he should use.  I sometimes have a hard time using paper that I love, love, love.  You know the kind that is almost too beautiful to use that you don't want to even take it out of the package?  (Yes I know you are thinking I am a crazy hoarder).  But when I saw this roll in the closet I thought it was perfect occasion to finally use it.  When George finished wrapping and came over to show me my jaw dropped and I thought, "this could quite possible be the cutest wrapping paper in the world!" 

So as the author of this blog I try and anticipate my readers' questions so I know you are just dying to know two things.  1) Where did I get this awesome paper? and 2) What is inside?  I won't hold you in suspense because I am terrible at that.  The answers are that I bought this paper at World Market in Columbus (boo hoo we don't have one here in Cincinnati anymore).  And the gift is a most wonderful book I just read entitled, "Love Walked In" by Marisa de los Santos.  I highly recommend it if you want an enjoyable read this holiday.

And last but not least I would like say "Happy Birthday Girlda! Lots of hugs and love!"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Flowers

Yesterday the doorbell rang and as I ran downstairs I was surprised to find this beautiful flower arrangement on the porch.  At first I thought maybe they were for my neighbor, but then I read the card and they were from my friend Erika and they were for me!  It is such a lovely thing to receive unexpected flowers.

Of course I immediately started fussing over where I would put them.  I usually have candles in the center of this berry wreath, but I have done that for years.  When I took the candles out and put the flowers in, it took my breath away.  I think I actually let out a little squeal of delight.  It was so perfect there and it totally made my day.  Thanks again Erika!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vintage Metal Bird Trays

This year when I opened up the big chest where I keep my Christmas decorations these two vintage bird trays were on top.  I remember when I bought these at the flea market I was so pleased with the stylized bird design.  I'm no art historian, but they are so 60's to me while at the same time having a Scandinavian (top one) and Asian (bottom one) flair.  They remind me of the birds from one of my favorite books of all time Designs of Chinese Indigo Batik (this book is a must-have if you like this style!). Regardless, they couldn't be more me and they are a wonderful addition to my vintage metal tray collection.  And if you come visit me this month it is very likely I will even serve you tea and scones on one of them!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Osage Orange #2

OK. I hardly ever do this.  In fact I've never let myself do it before.  But I just had to post my second favorite osage orange photo (as compared to the one posted below).  I am a firm believer in choosing the absolute best photo and going with it.  But this time I just couldn't choose so I decided this is my own dang blog and I can do whatever I want!  So there!  If you have a preference either leave a comment, email or facebook me your choice.  I'll post the results so check back soon!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Osage Orange

O' sage orange
Your wrinkled green orb
Stores the wisdom of summer days
Of moving wind
Soaking sun and rain
Swelling to great heights

Fall arrives
Your tiny umbilical cord 
Bears great weight
Textured, bulging cerebrum

A strong wind
You're off
Gravity pulls
For three brief seconds, a lifetime
You fly

Now ants stroll down your twisting, verdant pathways
Spreading your stories and seeds

-Vanessa Sorensen

Friday, November 11, 2011

November Berries

The colors have been so beautiful this year that I couldn't resist popping outside for a little photo shoot.  These berries are from the burning bushes that line our driveway and they are in full flame right now!  I also want to wish everyone a happy 11-11-11! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Everyday Joy

The other day someone asked me what the theme of my blog was and it made me really pause and think.  After grappling with 10,000 things that came to mind, it became clear to me that this blog is about finding beauty and joy in the everyday things that surround us all the time.  It's about stopping to take note and soaking it all in. 

So that's why today I took a picture of something that I look at everyday that gives me joy.  I have this Highland Florals plate sitting on the table where I dry my hair.  I found this plate at a thrift store in Dayton and I am totally gaga over this pattern (so much so that I have been obsessed with finding more of it on ebay, but that's another story).  I also love how the earrings perfectly go with this plate and that every time I see them I think of my friend Libby who made them for me.  (BTW, Libby just started a wonderful blog you should check out here).  Oh, and I forgot to mention that I really like the pattern on the hand towel you see here... I think I got it at World Market a few years back.  Hope you enjoy this little scene as much as I do...and if you ever see this Highland Blue pattern around at a thrift store let me know!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Capturing Nature Logo

I was recently asked to give a talk and create the logo for the "Capturing Nature through Art and Photography Festival" at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge that takes place May 12-15.  The festival opens on International Migratory Bird Day and will offer photography workshops, field sketching classes, travel lectures, etc.  It sounds like it will be a great event.  If anyone is interested let me know and I can send you more info.

But back to the point of this post.  I worked on the logo this week and have narrowed it down to three concepts.  I struggled a lot with this logo because it had to incorporate three different ideas - nature, photography, and art.  No small feat I tell you!  You can see what I came up with below.  There are several options within each concept.  Right now I haven't worked on the font at all and they all need a little further tweaking, but I didn't want to go any further without deciding on the direction.  So let me know your favorite.  Any comments would be greatly appreciated!

Concept 1 - 3D Circles

Concept 2 - Shutter Palette

Concept 3 - Tripod Easel

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Late Summer Tomatoes

I guess that pumpkin stack got into my brain and is now affecting me (reminds me of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and potato mounds...OK that's showing my age).  Anyway, we got these tomatoes a couple weeks ago and I thought their shape and color was so nice I had to take their picture.   Someone told me the orange tomatoes are less acidic than the red.  All I know it that they were quite tasty sliced up and salted with a little Tony Chachere's with hummus on George's homemade bread.  Mmmmm...delicious!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


At the beginning of summer George surprised me by hanging a clothesline under out new screen porch.  At first I was less than thrilled and made a snarky comment about looking like the Beverly Hillbillies.  But I have to say I am now totally hooked!

We have now gone through a whole summer not using the dryer.  Well, we do use it, but just on air fluff to take away the stiffness (or as I like to call it the crustiness). 

But besides the energy savings there is something wonderfully magical about it.  The other day I was outside hanging these sheets.  The sun was out and there was a slight breeze and it just felt good on so many levels.  It's green, it gets me outside on a beautiful day, the laundry smells fresh and clean, and it forces me to slow down.  Normally I dread doing the laundry and I try and do as many loads as I can in one day.  But with this method you can only do one load a day.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but it made me crazy happy to be out there at that moment.  So if you have the space I highly recommend it.  Bring it on Granny Moses!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pumpkin Stack

I just love October!  I couldn't wait for this month so I could post a photo of the pumpkins I bought this year at the Springfield Antique Show.  This is the second time I bought my pumpkins from the same vendor there.  They always have these wonderfully shaped pumpkins with such wonderful colors.  Last time I went with pale, dreamy pumpkins, but this year I was drawn to the intense orange ones.  They were selling them by the stack and so I bought the whole thing.  I don't believe I have ever bought this many at one time, but how could I resist? 

Today we also cleaned the shed, re-potted plants, swept the porch, and hung the skeleton lights.  All-in-all a perfect fall day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Apple Centerpiece

The other day I finally thew away the wilted sunflowers on the dining room table and I was trying to think of something to put there when I saw these apples in the kitchen.  I then opened up my overflowing cabinet of table linens and this red, white and blue beauty was right on top.  On our recent trip to Michigan we stopped at a crazy, wonderful store called Punzels where I bought this runner.  (If you have any interest in Scandinavian linens, this is the store for you!  It was huge and amazing and awesome.)  But back to the apples... I ended up loving the combination of the green apples on the red and blue runner.  It's so nice when you can find things you already have in the house that when combined make something novel and beautiful (kind of like when you make a great outfit you love out of the old clothes in your closet you've been staring at all season). So open up the cupboards and dig around because you never know what will inspire you...the possibilities are endless!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pyrex Joy

This past weekend I went to the Springfield Antique Extravaganza with my mom and we had a great time.  My first purchase of the day was the beautiful blue Pyrex bowl above.  I was immediately drawn to the happy blue color and I really like the low, squat shape.  When I got it home and put it next to my other Pyrex bowls I just couldn't stop looking at the way the colors work together!  Pure Pyrex joy!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bird Fabric

This week Spoonflower's fabric design contest theme is birds!  The rules were you had to use black, white, "spoonflower blue" and one other color of your choice.  As you can see I chose red.

If you would like to vote for my fabric (and you have the patience to wade through 22 pages of designs) then click here.  Even if you don't want to vote for my fabric you should still take a peak at all the entries.  It is always so much fun to see what people come up with.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Homemade Duvet Covers

I have been working on this yellow room project now for over six months and I am finally glad to finish it!  This room is fairly small but has just enough room for two twin beds.  For the past eight years it has had two mismatched quilts on it that, although cute, were not my vision for the room.  I really wanted the room's color scheme to be yellow, red and white.

So one day when I was at Calico Corner's I found two fabrics that I loved - one with yellow stripes and one with red.  I just couldn't decide.  The red-striped fabric is part of Calico's French Stripes Collection and has a wonderful texture and as they describe it a "French laundry look." And the yellow fabric has a beautiful, textural stripe and was on clearance for only $8/yard!  So in typical Nessy fashion I decided in that moment to make four duvet covers!  (I knew it was insane at the time, but I just couldn't let either fabric go!)  So six months (and many, many curse words) later I have four new duvet covers - two for summer and two for winter!

Originally I thought, "How hard can it be?"  All you have to do is sew two rectangles together that are the same size as your duvet."  So I headed over to IKEA's website and designed the whole duvet cover around their 64'' wide by 86'' long duvet.  Theoretically all you have to do is add 2 inches to the width and 5 inches to the length which gives you a 1 inch seam allowance and enough fabric for a roll over button hole area.  But it did become a bit more complicated because I had to piece together three pieces for each duvet.  If anyone is really interested, send me an email and I will send you the exact dimensions I used.   

Looking back, I probably bit off a bit more than I could chew, but that is just my nature.  I did learn a ton from this project.  I now know how to sew button holes like a champ and I learned how to sew buttons on with the sewing machine.  (If you have never done this it is totally amazing! I will never sew another button by hand.)  I also learned that one really should change out the needle in one's sewing machine fairly often.  I also had to pace myself on this project which I hate to do.  But in the end it was worth it.  Now all I need are some guests who are willing to sleep on twin beds!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hand-stamped Headboard

The headboard project is finally done!  This past Saturday I spent the entire day stamping this project out.  It took me longer than I expected to figure out all the spacing and it was a little nerve wracking to actually stamp on the headboard, but in the end it all worked out.

As you can see below I started with blank headboards I bought at Ballard Designs.  At first my plan was to buy the headboard slipcovers that they sell just in case I messed it up.  But in usual Nessy fashion I impetuously decided to stamp directly on the headboard itself.  I did however, mock up several design options in Photoshop just to help me get the spacing and design just how I wanted it.  If you don't have Photoshop I would recommend stamping a sample out on to craft paper first.

The other issue I had was that the stamp turned out much lighter than my test fabric.  I was OK with the faded look because it gave it a vintage appearance.  If you don't want that look I would recommend giving the area you are going to stamp a gentle cleaning with a damp cloth.  (I had a small spot where my dirty fingers smudged the fabric so I spot cleaned it with Spray-N-wash and a damp towel and the ink appeared to take better in that spot.)

Another thing I learned is that stamping is not a project for perfectionists.  Inevitably your dots won't line up perfectly or your stamp might be a little crooked.  (Another tip - because of the irregular shape of the bunta blocks it is helpful to put a piece of tape on the back to help you line up North and South)  But these little imperfections truly give it that hand-stamped appearance and from far away no one will even notice! 

Overall I am very happy with the final result and now I can't stop thinking of the possibilities;  I see hand stamped roman shades and curtains in my future!  So get out there everyone and leave your stamp on this world!  (OK, OK, I know but I couldn't resist.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Custom Rubber Stamp

As I mentioned in the last post, I bought the bunta blocks for a project. I have been wanting to make headboards for the two twin beds in our yellow guest room for a while. Originally I wanted to cover them in a Les Indiennes fabric, but they only sell to the trade (and are a bit above my price range).  So when I saw the bunta blocks I thought, "I can make my own hand stamped fabric!"

When I sat down to mock up the design in Photoshop I realized I needed a larger stamp like one I had seen at Jackalope but didn't buy.  So being the crazy perfectionist that I am, I called Jackalope to see if somehow they might be able to find the one block I had seen in the two giant bowls they had filled with blocks.  Amazingly, a very nice person named Ray answered the phone who actually agreed to send me some photos of the blocks in hopes of finding the one I had in my head.  I couldn't believe that anyone would take the time to try and look through all those blocks -  incredible customer service!  Unfortunately none of the photos Ray sent me were the right one.  (Thanks again Ray!)

So that got me started thinking about making my own stamp and finally to the subject of this blog!  I wanted to try and match the small flower stamp I bought at Jackalope so I could use both for my headboard project.  As you can see below I started with a rough pencil sketch that pulled elements from the bunta block.
I then traced and perfected the design in Illustrator.
I then uploaded the design to Simon's Stamps. I couldn't believe how easy it was and the stamp arrived three days after I uploaded the file!  I also designed and ordered a matching dot line stamp.
Below you can see my first stamp test.
I was very excited by how it turned out but I felt it was too perfect to match the bunta block print.  So I ended up taking an exacto knife to the brand new rubber stamp!  I was scared to ruin it, but it turned out I had to work pretty hard to rough it up.  If I had to do it over again I would have roughed it up in Illustrator first- lesson learned!
As you can see above it now has a more "aged" look that matches my bunta block. 

In my next entry I will post photos of the headboards so check back soon!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Indian Block Print Stamps - Bunta

Every time I go to Santa Fe there is one store that I just can't wait to visit.  The whole time I am there I feel unsettled until we visit Jackalope.  They have all sorts of goodies from inexpensive chotchkies to extremely expensive antique furniture from all over the world.

During this past trip I came across two giant bowls of Indian block printing stamps.  From what I can gather they are called Bunta and are traditionally used to hand stamp patterns on fabric.  As soon as I saw them I was drawn to their beautiful worn wood.  I would love them just to have around the house, but the idea that I could actually use them was extra exciting to me.  The sales woman must have thought I was crazy because I had to look at each and every block.  She even offered me a pair of gloves, but by that time my hands were stained black from handling all of them.

After much internal debate I came home with the three stamps you see above.  I often buy items such as this and they sit in my craft room for years collecting dust or shoved away in a closet or trunk. I also had my doubts as to whether these things would even work.  But I finally made my way over to Michael's a couple weeks ago and bought a large stamp pad.  I then procrastinated a couple more weeks because it's always hard to start a brand new project that has a high likelihood of failure.  But one day last week I spread out some newspaper, found some fabric scraps and opened my new stamp pad and lo and behold look what happened!

I was super surprised by how easy it was and how great it turned out!  Nothing is ever that easy!  As usual my euphoria lasted about 10 minutes until I realized that I needed a larger stamp for the project I had in mind for these.  I can't wait to blog about it, but it's not quite ready yet.  So check back soon because I have become a BuntaBlockaholic!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sunflower Bud

Today I was sitting on the porch and noticed how striking the colors looked in the flowers we get each week from our CSA.  In addition to vegetables we get a small bouquet of flowers each week. 

Today, the zinnias and sunflower were starting to wilt, but I noticed this amazing bud.  If you look at it close up (click the image to enlarge) you can see all the little hairs on the sepals surrounding the center.  And just look at how each petal appears to be bending over to tend to the precious seed cargo inside!  Pure joy!  I am constantly amazed at the marvelous things we can see all around us if we only take the time to look.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Man of La Mancha Logos

My in-laws are members of the Mclean Players and they asked me to work on a logo for Man of La Mancha.  These are a few of my first round ideas for the logo.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Last week I stayed with my Dad and there is a vacant lot next to his house that is chock full of chicory so I wandered over to take a few photos.  Whenever I see this flower I think "cornflower blue"  - is it purple or is it blue?  Either way I love seeing this beauty on the roadside in the summer. 

According to Wikipedia it is toxic to internal parasites and is often used as a coffee substitute.  I remember my advisor in graduate school used to drink chicory coffee and it tasted bitter and awful!  No doubt his worm burden was extremely low.  I think I much prefer admiring its beauty externally!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Guitar Bandanas

I recently decided to make bandanas for my two favorite guitar-loving boys.  I wanted to make them something for their birthdays and then I received the July issue of Martha Stewart and was inspired by their bandana article (you can see some of it here.) 

I designed the bandanas to fit two across on Spoonflower's quilting weight cotton which is 42'' wide.

I got a lot of practice using my rolled hem foot.  Again, they weren't perfect, but I have learned to let that go.

I couldn't resist printing these labels for their bags.  I can't wait to give them their gifts.  Happy Birthday to my Guitar Boys!