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Sunday, August 20, 2017

How Nature Always Gives Me Something To Look Forward To

Having just been on our summer vacation, it got me thinking a lot about why I love living in a four season climate. Every summer, as much as I don't want it to end because it seems so fleeting once August hits, I always welcome the transition into fall. I love summer and everything that goes with it, but I don't think I could happily live in an all season warm weather climate, as appealing as it can sometimes sound (especially at the end of March). And I don't really have a good answer as to why, except to say, I love experiencing the good and bad with every changing season. 

Because I look forward to at least one aspect of each season, it's even hard for me to rank my favorite. Well ... kind of. I love fall. If I had to pick a favorite season, fall would probably be it. Although, summer is a very close second. If I didn't have to constantly smear sunscreen all over every inch of exposed skin in the summer, it would probably be tied with fall for first place.

So, if I love summer so much, almost as much as the autumn season, why do I love living in the Northeast where winters can be brutal and spring seems to take forever to come? Because those seasons make me appreciate and savor every second of beautiful weather we have. 

That's also not to say I don't actually enjoy winter. I do, actually, and I've touched on it here and there in past posts. I love the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but always welcome its end because the world seems quiet and still, and I feel like I can hear myself think. The trees are bare and still, lacking leaves to sway with the wind, and everything is just peaceful. I love to stay inside, build fires, watch movies, cuddle with throw blankets, layer up in my favorite comfy sweatshirts and eat pasta and drink pinot noir. Winters are just made for stuff like that - both Josh and I relish in those cold winter nights while we watch our favorite Hitchcock movies and know this is our time to recharge. I even love talking walks in the snow and smelling the cold air. Watching a snowfall is mesmerizing and you wonder how nature can be so beautiful sometimes. There's so much to be said for the winter season and I love how it allows me to slow down, listen to my own thoughts and just ... hibernate. Yes, I'm definitely a hibernator and look forward to it every year. The winter demands it of me, like it knows it's exactly what I need.

A snowfall on our tree farm this past winter. I mean, how is this not amazing?

It gets harder and harder as winter goes on, though, and usually by mid-March, I'm over it and I'm ready to go outside with lighter layers and feel the world come back to life.

Spring is always so amazing, and I think many people love it for the same reasons. Everything comes back to life. Plants start to pop up from the ground, and the landscape goes from gray to green. You can start to hear woodland creatures move around a bit more, and the birds start to sing a little more loudly. You can feel your own body start to come back to life after a season of hibernation, and it feels good to get back in touch with the outdoors.

And then there's summer. I love everything about it (except the aforementioned sunscreen). I love how the world is alive. Everyone is outdoors, relishing in the sunlight and the longer days and running around with watermelon dripping down their arms. We're cutting our grass, and we all love it when we do this because we can smell it from a mile away, and the gentle hum of a working lawn mower in the distance is somehow comforting. We have picnics with pasta and potato salad (because what's the point of a picnic without these?). Our noses and shoulders are pink from the sun. We're all branded with farmer's tans or swimsuit lines, the logos of summer, and we almost wear them proudly because we know that soon the longer days will fade as quickly as these new lines on our skin. We're making late night car rides to the local ice cream shack for cones and sundaes. We find our hands full of paper plates of fried seafood or hot dogs and hamburgers (or, at our house, veggie burgers). The warm air feels so good against our skin after having it covered for so many months, and we feel completely in touch with the world. We spend so much time outside because we know summer doesn't last long, and it's the perfect excuse to just enjoy it.

Toward the end of Summer, once Labor Day has come and gone, I love Indian Summers (if we're lucky to have them). Having a warm September allows me to savor every last second of the season, while still starting to slow down a bit and gear up for a beautiful autumn. We grill corn, now in season, and start to drink hard ciders and fall-infused beers, watching the days get shorter, but the warmth of sun still hitting our skin.

Then autumn comes. I love that you never really know when it will arrive, but randomly on one evening, your bedroom windows will be open because it's cool enough to not have the air conditioning on, and you're just a bit too cold, and have to reach for extra blankets. And you know it's here.

Our first fall season in our house. I came down our stairs to this window on our landing
 and seeing this made me the happiest person on earth that day.

Betty's first fall season in our house.
You step outside in the morning and the air is crisp and you have to throw on an extra layer. The world starts to slow down a bit because we're all preparing for the colder months ahead, but we're still able to enjoy the perfectly chilled, sunlit days we have. We collect apples and pumpkins and the smells of the season remind us of our childhood memories. Kids start to plan their Halloween costumes, and get mad when they have to put their jackets on over their costumes, while adults gets excited for an excuse to eat fun-sized candy bars and make caramel apples. We bake apple crisps and heartier meals inside after being outdoors all day playing in the leaves. And we venture to our favorite apple stand to buy the always-coveted apple cider donuts. Everything is perfect.

Then the holidays are here. And even though your summer tan line is pretty much gone, the world is alive with a different kind of excitement, and we try to balance commercialism with being present in the moment, and appreciation for everything we have. We help the less fortunate while trying to find the perfect gift for our family members. We decorate the tree with ornaments that remind us of a lifetimes of memories. We bake Christmas cookies to bring to the office or to your neighbor, or just to eat on the couch while watching our favorite Christmas movie that we've seen hundreds of times. There are parties and too many calories consumed, and we don't even care because all the food is so good, and we only have it this one time of the year. There's Christmas Eve, where all the anticipation of the season builds, and then Christmas morning, where the world seems peaceful, even if only for a short moment. We see family we haven't seen in a while. We laugh, share stories, get annoyed by Uncle so-and-so who's testing everyone's last nerve but we love him anyway and wouldn't have the day any other way. You go to bed kind of tired from being social, but feeling so lucky you have all these people in your life regardless. And if we're that lucky, we get a snowfall on Christmas, and the world seems magical, even if for just a short moment.

And then it starts all over again, and I love it as much as I did the year before. If not more.

I can't imagine my life without this continuous cycle that's predictable, but also keeps me on my toes, and reminds me there's always - always - something to look forward to.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Rustic Vase DIY: My Favorite Distressing Methods


I've had this old distressed tin vase for a long time - since my Chicago days. I've been keeping it on my vanity with some faux flowers in it for a little pop of cheer in the mornings. But, the rusted turquoise colors just rub me the wrong way on the white desktop against the light gray/blue walls. I've been wanting to change the color to something lighter and airy for a while, and this week I finally mustered up the time and energy to take on the easiest DIY of all time.


I've had fun distressing a few things for our house since moving in, and I've used a couple of different techniques that I really like. Both techniques start with layering paint colors, and then I variate how I want to go about making whatever I'm working on look old. My first favorite uses vaseline to get a really chippy, shabby chic affect. The second is using sandpaper or some other tool to more evenly shave off layers of color.

Okay, so moving on to this vase. I still wanted some of the rusty tones from the vase to come through, so I started by applying vaseline to the edges before applying my first coat of paint. The vaseline creates an oily surface that the paint won't stick to. I usually like to start with the edges of whatever I'm working on because edges are what start to distress first, so it makes the project more authentic-looking.



Once I had everything covered in vaseline that I didn't want painted, I used a bronze spray paint all over the vase as my next layer of color. I normally use a matte-finish chalk paint for distressing projects, but because this is such a small piece that only sits on my vanity, and I didn't want to spend too much time on it, I decided a spray paint for this project would do the trick. Spray paint is also cheaper, so yay! I did a light application of the paint because I wanted the original texture to come through just a little. Once it was dry, I wiped away all the areas that were covered in vaseline. The two colors aren't much different, but having that subtle bit of varying colors come through makes the vase look a little more antiquey.



After I wiped away all that vaseline areas, I actually totally forgot to apply larger sections of vaseline to the vase before applying my last layer of paint - a creamy white. My original plan was to dab some vaseline along the bottom of the vase all the way around, and then chip off the white paint so that a good chunk of the bottom was bronze. Buuuuuut, I had a total brain fart and forgot to do this. I remembered right as I put the white spray paint down, so it was too late. Instead, I used my other favorite distressing technique - going at things with sandpaper and tools.



I scraped around the edges where I had originally applied the vaseline, and exposed both the bronze spray paint and some of the original vase, too. The only sandpaper I had was red, and the red was rubbing off onto the white paint, so I couldn't use that for this project, but have used it to sand down paint in other projects and it works really well. I found an old tool in our junk drawer that allowed me to chip paint away, but not large chunks like I had originally planned. So, I mainly distressed the edges and decided to be happy with that.

This is what I ended up with, and I'm pretty happy with it:




If I had used vaseline between the bronze and white paints, I would have gotten an effect that looked more like this:


Excuse the bad picture. I tried taking photos of it without the glare of our patio door that's facing it.

You can see that larger pieces of paint were chipped off, which is what the vaseline allows you to do.


 
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