Call Off the Search Party

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I was thinking about my design head the other day…wondering where my love of lines, color, shadows – in all forms of artistry (architecture, painting, sculpture, photography…) comes from.  My mother was a tortured artist.  For most of her life, her psyche locked up the frustrated landscape painter, nestled in her soul.  In her last few years, the painter escaped (with greater or lesser results…some landscapes were cringeworthy, most portraits were worse) but she found a way to express herself and for a while, it helped her tame her demons.  Not the most ferocious in the bunch, but some of the lesser adversaries.

When I started my blog anew last summer, I was intentional about including a ‘design’ element in periodic posts. It’s a part of my identity.  I think I started off fairly strong, highlighting my love of interior and fashion design – a blend of vintage this-and-that, antiques and squeaky-clean newness – all from the standpoint of Vicki being Vicki – whether in my choice of home environment or wardrobe.  I’ve noticed recently that I’ve let some of that go and I think I know why:

  1. We have a massive home improvement project in motion.  Most of the downstairs of our home is ground zero and while the mess is maddening, I’m holding up fairly well. Thanks for asking! 😉Why is this the case, for tightly wound “Moi” to feel so light and breezy amidst the mess? I think it’s this: I adore having the plans and drawings taped up here and there, reminding me that the hubster and I spent 18 months laboriously and painstakingly choosing – you name it – cabinets, knobs, intricate tin ceiling tiles, the best mesh for cabinet inserts, tile that required nine days of pattern-laying and matching to satisfy the hubs and our designer friend. Thanks to them I could be more laid back about the tile – I trusted their double-teamed wisdom.
  2. My most recent project with Wynne Leon, “The Heart of the Matter” provided an opportunity for me to flex my neglected design head.  I’m not a graphic designer and never will be, but the fun I’ve had tinkering with posts for Instagram – allowing myself to read my fellow bloggers’ work and pause to consider the colors and designs that might showcase their beautiful work in the best possible social media light.  Such fun! However, our DD (dear daughter) heaved a heavy ‘oh no’ when she heard I slid into this duty. I’m the least likely player, for sure, from a skills perspective – and yet the opportunity to play with color and images?  I was willing to learn. Willing to take a risk.  Have I made some mistakes? Good Lord, yes.  So many – but with each ‘oops’ I Iearned. Not so much that I might not repeat the same silly boo-boos, but enough for tightly wound Vicki to sigh, “It’s okay.  No one asked for perfect.”

Those two things – home design fun and a dive into graphic arts – are feeding my visual appetite.  For now.  I suspect Brian’s recent post on HoTM describing the powerful reaction he had to Thomas Cole’s “The Voyage of Life” will send me back into the saddle of writing about artists, artistry, soon enough – but for now, I’m relieved.  I didn’t lose a part of myself – I just tweaked and pivoted.  That’s a pretty great reminder – that I can find new facets of myself. Old me in new forms. 😉

For fun? Here’s a peek at one of the designs in motion for our laundry room…don’t tell my designer friend Jen that I shared – she’d be mad! 😎 And…from the first month of the brand-new Heart of the Matter blog, I’m sharing a mosaic which reflects the fun I’ve had highlighting the work of my blogging buds:

Here’s to finding the parts of ourselves that might be AWOL from time to time. It feels good to reconnect!

Vicki 💓

You Win…My Admiration AND a Cupcake!


I’d like the thank the smart and sassy person who provided this morning’s chuckle…but I have no idea of the source.  If you do, let me know.  I saved it as a scrap. (Yes, I’m still working out my organizational issues…it’s akin to the mess I make when I clean a closet…everything needs to come out, but wowzers – I hate the motivational buzz kill when you create a cyclone scene before the cleaning commences.  Don’t you agree?)

Back to the scrap, my barely discernible, sun-faded and raggedy scrawl.  I understand from my friend Michelle that this precious tidbit is a popular pin on Pinterest.  She’s right – I found it there – betwixt and between other ‘motivational’ bon mots.  Maybe the scrappy version I found was a remnant saved by one of my relatives? Maybe it’s a voice from the past – from my mom, who was a painter and a creative, tortured soul in her own way?  I dunno, but I LIKE it. 

Such a build-up.  I can hear you thinking – just share it already!  Here you go:

Stages in the Creative Process

  1. This is Awesome
  2. This is Tricky
  3. This is Crap
  4. I AM Crap
  5. This Might be Okay
  6. This is Awesome

Think about your last creative foray…did you run the gamut, from #1 all the way back to #6 – basking in your awesomeness?  That’s a fun, full-circle experience, I say.  Me? I often get stuck after I pat myself on the back (#1) and find myself lingering at #5 – but only after I schmooze myself out of the quagmire that is #4:  I create crap; therefore, I am CRAP. 

Most of all, these silly ‘stages’ make me laugh. Even when our creations don’t meet the wacky, often arbitrary standards we set for ourselves, we’re still making something…from nearly nothin’ – whether it’s artistry in words, painting, photography, music. For that, I say everyone deserves praise and admiration and a resounding standing ovation…I declare you…AWESOME.

As a reward, I’d love to send you a cupcake…all pretty with extra sprinkles.  Since that’s impractical, just imagine…and enjoy.

Vicki 😊

Granny Squares & Love


Somewhere…in a mound of disorganized photos sits a pic of me, wearing the same “Granny squares” scarf, vest and beanie as worn in this sweet pic of our “DD” (dear daughter) when she was six years old. One day…I’m gonna organize family photos into some digital order.  But still, I remember the day DD and I found these pieces and she couldn’t wait to try them on.  Camera hog or model? 😉 I’m not sure, but it was fun to see how excited she was to try on mom’s ‘old stuff’.

The ensemble DD has on is a very vintage knit set, gifted to me by my talented “Grammarie” in 1972, I think.  Her name was actually Grandma Marie but as a kid it was too much of a mouthful, so sister Lisa I shortened things up to the run-on “Grammarie”. She didn’t mind.

I’ve learned thatgranny squares’ made a comeback as fun, nostalgic fashion fare.  Fabulous, I say! I hadn’t thought about the design for years until I found the pieces in a bin of family treasures, long forgotten. In addition to the set you see in the photo, Grammarie was famous for her doilies.  They were everywhere in her house. If she wasn’t crocheting dramatically intricate, white, lacey doilies, she was knitting sweaters, mittens, hats…or making granny square items.  Her hands were always busy. 

I’ve written before about my incapacity for crafting and lack of coordination with sewing, knitting – textile arts of all sorts.  Maybe I should try harder, just as a tribute to Grammarie?  As much as I love and miss her, I don’t think I have the patience.  But I have the memories – evoked by finding these sweet granny square pieces.  Marie was a treasure…even without considering her crochet talents.  I’ll explain.

When my parents fell in love, they were both married to other people.  It was a horrible, awful, terrible scandal in a small town.  The only thing the warring factions of families agreed upon? Ostracizing my folks.

Sister Lisa was born as a preemie during this challenging time and while the magnitude of her disabilities wasn’t apparent at first, there were concerns. I often wondered if more knowledge about Lisa’s frailty might’ve tempered the venom my parents endured from friends and family.  If not for Marie, mom, dad, and Lisa would’ve been homeless…as my dad recalled years later, “without so much as a pot to piss in”.

Marie wasn’t an actual grandparentShe became one, by choice, because she “adopted” my mom and dad.  Lisa, too. When they had nowhere to go, she gave dad at job tending bar at the small-town watering hole she and her husband owned.  Marie also offered mom and dad an attic apartment, to live in rent free above the bar.

If not for Marie’s generosity, I’m not sure my parents would’ve made it.  The financial and medical hurdles related to Lisa’s care were overwhelming and the strength it took to summon the courage to deal with the loss of their support systems?  I can’t imagine it.  It takes hearty stock to navigate those waters.  But they did it and despite other hurdles in their future, I suspect those early days of riding out storms served as relationship cement – bonding my parents together. Forever. 

When I think about the scant keepsakes I have from Grammarie, I realize how precious the lovingly handcrafted granny square items are.  Symbolic, tangible artifacts of one woman’s kindness to a little family in need.  Mom and dad always thought of Marie as family and for thirty years while Lisa and I grew up, we never questioned her role in our lives.  She was family in every way that mattered.

Someday our DD will decide who these precious, handcrafted items belong to. Grammarie’s kindness and love lives on in them and the fact that granny squares have made a comeback? How awesome is that? I think she’d love it…and I can almost hear her say, “Glory be…I never knew they went OUT of style!”

Vicki ❤

Favorite Artist: Toulouse-Lautrec

I have a special affection for tortured souls, the misfits, the geniuses who feel a sense of ‘otherness’ – the opposite of belonging.  Toulouse-Lautrec was one of those…and his artwork affects me on a soulful level, and I know, in part, it’s not just his creative work – it’s his backstory. 

I’m sure you know all of this…about Henri’s tortured life? Endlessly chronicled in books and famous, artsy movies.  Still, I remind myself that a healthy portion of my affection for Toulouse-Lautrec…his artistry and his life…is about his origin story.  His childhood was traumatic, born into an aristocratic French family where in-breeding was common.  Biographers made that point clear – little Henri’s parents were first cousins which likely resulted in his genetic challenges, impacting growth in his legs.  As an adult, he stood just 4’ 6” and despite his mother’s devotion to his care, as he matured, his torso grew but his legs were stunted.  One can only wonder what life was like for a little boy who was different, bordering on deformed, yet had magic in his fingers, in his soul.

He died when he was just thirty-six years old, in 1901.  His excesses – brothels and absinthe and his addiction to alcohol are the splashy, tabloid-like and tawdry tales about his life, but what fascinates me the most was his attraction to the underground – bohemian life in Montmartre where he found a sense of belonging.  Amongst the wannabe artists and vagrants, prostitutes, and thieves.  We see you, Henri, in ways your family and the social elite cannot.  That’s a storyline that resonated for me when I traveled to France and spent as much time as possible in Montmartre, in Paris.  Soaking up every bit of atmosphere…the remnants of history nestled in a tiny enclave that lovingly accepted and celebrated Toulouse-Lautrec.

His artistry championed the unthinkable, at the time – commercial art – in the form of posters and I believe (because I must) that he did so in order to pay respect, and in tribute to fellow artists, musicians…and even the ‘working women’.  Not just to make a buck…or a franc 😊. They were his people.  I think it’s that story, combined with his disabled condition and attempts at self-medication that carved a place in my heart.  Not just his art.  But oh…his art holds a tender place.

Broken and brilliant?  Those characteristics draw me in, with gravitational-like pull.  I got myself into a heap of trouble for ditching class and wandering Montmartre as a sixteen-year-old truant.  I talked to artists, admired their works, ate too many baguettes, and longed to bring part of the feeling home with me.  Bottle it, you know? 

Given the impossibility of that, I chose to plant memories in my heart and they’re still there. When I pass by the posters, the ones I struggled to bring home, I can time-travel and transport myself if I pause – just for a beat or two.  My teachers thought I was nuts – buying prints in France that I’d need to lug home…trains, planes, and automobiles.  But it was worth it, then and now.  Decades later, I treasure them more…because they came ‘from the source’. 

Happy Friday…with big hugs,

-Vicki ❤

Creature Comforts

puppy in chair

There’s a quote attributed to Virgina Woolf that I adore, especially when my introverted self needs time to recharge, which occurs fairly frequently:

“In solitude we give passionate attention to our lives, to our memories, to the details around us.”

The older I become, the more I realize I need punctuated periods of silence – the elusive ‘passionate attention’ Virginia romanticizes. I need a regular dose of such an elixir – nearly as much as other life-giving necessities like food and water.  That sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?  But I’m not taking it back.

I am privileged and I know it.  I’m less a part of the ‘sandwich generation’ than ever before with a daughter who’s now an adult and parents – on both sides – who’ve all passed.  Those years when life was a blur with the double dose of child rearing coupled with elder care? Intense.  I don’t think we’re supposed to recall the compounding, the compression.  We just move through it.

So maybe the signs were there, all along, even without Virginia’s nudge. The reminders to slow down, to embrace life in progress?  I’m self-aware enough to do a status check and my “signs” include headaches and a colossal, cranky, run-for-your-lives short fuse.  I also know the antidotes, but the overused ‘self-care’ messages grow tiresome…perpetually present as they run headlong into metaphysical impossibilities.  Brick walls known as time and energy constraints. 

Still, I’m in the solitude and renewal fan club because I DO value the opportunity to attend to ‘the details around us’.  But quietness in and of itself won’t do the trick for me. I must put a weensy amount of prep in, to clear the runway, otherwise I will fixate on any needling unfinished bits in view or top of mind.  I cannot UN-see or UN-think them.

I need my quiet time surroundings to be picturesque, if possible, and free from triggers that distract, like dirty dishes, unfolded laundry, stacks of paperwork.  Compulsive?  Yeah.  My solitude needs a side order of ambiance and I think that’s where my design conundrums come from. 

I’m quirky, but I have company.  A dear design-oriented friend shares my quirks – our mutual love of nesting, home décor and the need to re-boot ourselves, but with conditions.  We bond over our refueling needs, those moments of sought-after solitude but only if we’ve set the stage first, with creature comforts, calming climate inducers.  They’re necessities – the warmth and softness that come from intentional lighting, a flame – whether candle or fireplace. Designers says it’s about evoking a mood and I’m okay with that but for me it’s a need for an inanimate hug.  Yep.  From a room.

The conclusion? You’ve read this far, no doubt thinking “Geez, I hope she has a point here…”  Honestly, I’m not sure.  I suppose I’m in mulling mode because I want to embrace the opportunities solitude can provide, but I also need to come to terms with my self-imposed conditions.  That, and it’s nesting season – pumpkin spice this-and-that, fall foliage and all. Inside we go – at least some of us – as autumn turns to winter in the Midwest.

The best reminder is right in front of me, the pic of Sweet Sadie nestled with her precious bunny.  The best lessons come from pets and children, like this one: I need soothing elements, too, to prompt restoration. A warm beverage as the days cool down, my favorite slippers, something to read – but only if I want to.  I might just sit in silence, allowing the whole of me to soak up whatever percolates through my head and heart.  That’s good enough and maybe that’s where I reload my ‘passionate attention’ to the things and people who matter most to me. 

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Boot Scootin’ Fun

black and white drawing of cowboy boots

Yep. Don’t mind me. I’m just boot scootin’ through life, having fun wherever I can. My definition of a good time? History nuggets – I love them. Evidence? A recent rainy Saturday when my online surfing and scrolling session about the origin of cowboy boots became a crusade.  Sheesh.  What started as a few minutes of mindless digging became a mini obsession.  Where are the empirical studies and deep dive research articles about the origin of cowboy boots and why they’re beloved? Priorities, people!  😉

Reflecting on my footwear fascination, I realized how little I knew – other than my cursory knowledge of cave dwellers and the emergence of “shoes” made from animal hides – millennia ago.  I knew that but my only other tidbit of trivia was the historical and shoe-y phrase ‘well heeled’ equating heel height and wealth…and hey there, stature (wink!) for both men and women.  I love a good etymology nugget, don’t you? 

I was disappointed and mystified but kept noodling as I searched for facts.  Most of what I found? Fluffy fashion articles about the latest super model or twenty-something DISCOVERING western boots.  Young ins, amIright? Not wanting to trudge through endless starlet stories and tik-tok-y photo shoots, I struggled to keep spelunking.  Trying to avoid yet another pic of Kendall Jenner.  Just sayin’.

Why the motivation?  I’m so glad you asked! I’ve had my own wardrobe of western boots for years, going all the way back to my first pair, gifted to me by my papa and worn to death.  A memory so compelling and sweet.  BUT – I made a whopper of a mistake when I tried to wear them, right out of the box, for two months when I was a young, dimwitted traveler. Those were the first, those sweet, cowboy-wannabe-Frye-boots, but they were soon followed by Justin boots, then my favorite Tony Lamas.  A well-fitting pair of boots will nestle into your soul.  They just do. But I’m digressing…

Still frustrated by the paltry results as I searched, I decided to click into one resource that looked like it MIGHT be promising.  My patience was poofing…I wasn’t searching to BUY boots.  Everything I ran across was a convoluted ‘story’ masked as a promo pitch to buy, buy, buy. 

Giving it a one or two click try, I checked out a country music lifestyle site that promised some nifty facts.  Dubious, I thought, but let’s see.  I was pleasantly surprised!  In a short article by Karen Corday, I picked up the trail…about the history of cowboy boots. Woo and hoo!

Here’s the scoop:  Influenced by both European immigrants and Mexican vaqueros (cowboys), one popular origin story is traced to a Mr. Charles Hyer who hit pay dirt in 1880, founding his namesake company due to the popularity of a one-off boot order.  Yep.  Seems an ingenious cowboy, focusing on form and function, approached Mr. Hyer about crafting a boot with a more pointed toe…all the better to slip into stirrups. Oh – “And give me (I imagine him saying) a bit of a heel – slanted-like for more security in those stirrups”.  Add a more generous, higher vamp and there you have it – the boots that became a cowboy sensation.  I wonder how trends ‘went viral’ in the old west?  Pony express and stagecoach gossip?  Saloon envy while bellied up to the bar? 😉

Hard to say, but here’s what I think. The style has endured because of the design, coupled with the realization that the boot shaft = blank canvas.  No closures needed other than a couple of pull tabs, so the cobblers like Mr. Hyer could go to town with fancy stitching and cool details. All the better to customize to your liking, friend. Cowboy boots became a form of creative self-expression. 

Still, I recognize that well-crafted boots were essential gear.  Even so, I believe a dash of individuality and fashion were mixed in.   Lucky cowpokes had one good pair of boots – not multiples – thus a man’s boots became a signature item – reflecting the taste and style of the wearer. Individuality, personality, creativity – in footwear form!

THIS is an origin story I can get behind.  Whether my findings are historically accurate or not, I don’t much care.  Poking around fed my need to know and summoned a bit of old west romanticism and fun. 

Here’s to you, whether you’re boot scootin’ with me or not.

-Vicki 😉

Hat Head

man with a hat one
The Hubster…in a Hat

Do you have a face for a hat? 😉 I don’t think I do, but as it gets colder here in the Midwest, I think I need to put a little effort into chapeau-seeking. The last time I comfortably wore a hat it was a bucket style (hello, 90’s!) worn while walking a picket line with faculty colleagues.  Hats were not optional gear…it was cold and blustery! Beyond my complaining, though, I developed mad respect for protesters and picketers everywhere who face unpredictable weather in order to stand up, to be seen – in solidarity – for their chosen cause.

Me? I know I’m a cream puff and the combo of cold AND wet whilst protesting? Bring me a hat.  I didn’t give a rat’s patootie whether I looked good or not.  Survival, people!  (Okay – I know I’m being dramatic, but I don’t have an iota of outdoorsy in me.  Don’t get me started about rustic life and camping.  Gawd.)

But this pic? It’s the DH (dear hubster) nonchalantly rocking a little knit beanie like his head was made for it.  When hubby and I were dating…precisely one million years ago…he and my dad rustled through the coat closet, right around October if memory serves. Why? They were intent on golfing ‘one last time’ before the greens and fairways were snow-covered…and they needed more than golf gloves for the adventure.

Hubster retrieved this particular knit hat from the mound of woe begotten and mismatched mittens and gloves.  The little beanie was mine, but I could never figure out how to wear it.  Over the bangs or bangs tucked in?  Ears partially covered or fully concealed? Long hair down – or pulled on top in my signature Pebbles Flintstone poof? (Don’t judge.)

That blasted hat stressed me out. It looked so good on the DH, but I hated it on my head.  It matched a suede jacket PERFECTLY and would’ve been a great accessory and that’s where I made my mistake.  For me, hats need a purpose, like my 90’s bucket baby.  Maybe I need to rustle through the coat closet, just like my dad and hubs did decades ago.  Maybe I’ll find a beloved beret for a look-see and a tryout?  Maybe.  No promises. If nothing else, maybe my bucket baby is still around for a ‘take two’.

What’s your HATtitude? Please share and thank you for allowing me to whine.

Xo,

Vicki 😉

She Was a Pretty House…

I don’t know if my love of Queen Anne architecture is a nod to nostalgia or something else.  Like many things in my life, design-wise, I don’t question it.  It just IS.

Back a few generations, this stately home was built by my husband’s family, right around the turn of the century…I mean the last century…1900:

queen anne style home

My mother-in-law grew up there and on occasion, she would share sweet stories about secret rooms, hidden stairwells.  Not in a spooky way, more of an old houses have history and reflect their owners/builders way.

She’s still standing, this queenly residence, and is often featured, especially this time of year, in seasonal newspaper and magazine stories about autumn.  She was a pretty house. 

Yet I never knew she was technically a ‘tower’ Queen Anne style.  Interesting.  Learning about that helps to bring the memory of my mom-in-law close.  Little nuggets do that for me. 😊

Now?   She’s been subdivided into apartments.  We’re not sure what that’s like but we’re not altogether angry about it.  The house fell out of family hands in the 60’s so it hasn’t been “ours” for a very long time.  Still, we wonder if the developer kept as much of the interior as possible and wonder, if the secret staircases and tucked-away attic rooms, upon discovery, were kept or swept away.  I imagine the latter, for practicality’s sake.

Could we knock on the door and say, Oh hey there…may we come in…this place was special once, to the family who built it and we’re what’s left’.  Sure.  But we haven’t…and probably won’t.  Hubby and I both agree that monkeying with good memories might be a mistake. 

So, we’ll admire her from afar…once in a great while driving by but not lingering.  The family pics and memorabilia hold the sweet stuff now – including old photos like this one of the family that lived there first – mom-in-law, her siblings and parents, circa 1926:

black and white vintage family photo, 1920's
Mom-in-law Maxine is the littlest one…peeking out from behind her big sis…posing in front of their house.

All of this reminds me of an anonymous quote that I adore:

“Be the things you loved most about the people who are gone.”

Yes, and yes. Generational love for a house…a way of staying connected.

Cheers to you — and thanks for reading.

xo,

Vicki ❤

Favorite Artist: Robert Kipniss

Robert Kipniss
Artist – Robert Kipniss

When hubby and I were first married, we bought a ramshackle condo in need of – everything.  It had ‘good bones’ (which is what we kept repeating to ourselves, to avoid the other pervasive thought – holy crap – we’ve made a HUGE mistake). 

We did the newlywed nest-building and except for vacations where we’d tag along with my folks, or follow his family to the great Northwoods, we spent our time, funds, and energy on our home.  We learned heaps and heaps of lessons about DIY do’s and don’ts and mostly, looking back, those were good times because we were compatible about our goals.

HOWEVER – it was stressful at times as we were mindful of the magnitude of owning real estate.  Mistakes can be costly, and we made a few.  (Note to readers:  Do not attempt to install parquet hardwood flooring if you’re a beginner.  It was nearly a marriage buster. That and wallpapering the smallest bathroom in the world.  Just don’t do it.)

Given all of that, our families thought we were nuts when we’d save and scrimp in order to buy art for our condo.  We adored our art-loving friends who’d tip us off when something REALLY cool was available.  Learning about artists and their process was exciting and it felt very ‘adult’ to the two youngsters that we were.

Our friend Anne introduced us to Robert Kipniss and his lithographs, and we fell in love.  Four decades ago, these seemed like foolish purchases, but we needed to bring these two prints home:

They’ve been fixtures in every house since the condo and for random reasons recently, I wondered if the artist was still alive.  In Googling him, I found his website and learned he’s 91 years-old and still doing his thing.  I love that.  I also learned he started his creative life as a poet.  Why am I not surprised?  His loving landscapes ARE poetic. 

Cheers to Robert Kipniss for the joy he’s brought this married couple for many years.

-Vicki ❤

One Precious Painting

city scape black and white painting
It’s “the Jud”

In the late 60’s my sister-in-law Patty worked in downtown Chicago as a journalist.  Fresh from her graduation at Marquette, she became a REAL city girl, with a big-time job at a news station nestled in one of the skyscrapers. 

Patty described it as a bustling, creative time for writers and artists of all sorts and she made a friend in Jud, who, despite his day job in graphic design, longed to JUST be an artist, a painter.  And he was! Photo evidence above. 

I believe this is the only piece he ever let go of.  Admonishing his own skill, faulting his technique, he scoffed at Patty’s praise. Still, she wrestled it from him, insisting on preserving and framing this bold, black and white depiction of the Chicago financial district, circa 1968. 

Since then, it’s logged more miles than some humans 😉.  It’s a shared treasure. Residing first in Patty’s closet-sized apartment in Chicago, then migrating to the suburbs, eventually to Alaska and then back to the Midwest. 

It’s a beloved piece, in part because of Jud’s humility.  There’s been fake-family-fighting for years about who takes possession and for how long.  We just referred to it as ‘the Jud’.

Today when I passed “the Jud”, nestled nicely in a picture-perfect spot in our entry way, I smiled.  Patty jokingly said, maybe two years ago, “It’s time – I want MY Jud back” and we did the fake fighting and verbal tussling about it, telling her if she wanted it, she’d need to fly in from Alaska to fetch it.  All in good fun.

I wrote about the importance of family mementos a few weeks ago, right after Patty passed away unexpectedly.  Take a look at that post if you have a moment. The loss of her still stings; seems unreal.

My point?  Remember those who’ve passed – however you can.  Even if it’s just a city scene, painted by a dear man who will forever be an artist. Thanks to Patty.

-Vicki ❤

Beautiful Books

antique books on a fireplace mantel
In their spot!

I love it when home décor is simple and books – especially lovely (albeit musty) old volumes – come to my rescue. 

Here’s a snap of a fireplace mantel in our house.  It was an empty space that drove me batty because it’s narrow and nothing I envisioned worked.  I left it barren for a long time because I was annoyed.  How could such a teensy space be so difficult to address?  And so, for a few months I gave that ledge my side-eye, considering possibilities. 

Eventually I relented – trusting that whatever was supposed to rest there would rise up and declare its intentionsHey Vicki – over here – see us?  We’re the antique books imprisoned in the storage tomb…err…tub…with the silverfish!  Get us out of here…we’d like to get into the light and we know just the spot. 

Oddly, that happened.  Except for the part about the books actually speaking to me, of course. 😉 In another of my periodic forays into forgotten family bins and boxes, these little guys appeared.  And I knew where they belonged. 

Such a satisfying moment – dusting them off and placing them on the mantel.  I suspect one or two might be first editions, but their value is in the sweet visual they created, not their market value.  Home, finally.  In their spot.

When I help others with home décor conundrums, I encourage patience.  The need to do a rapid-fire retail spree – buying everything at once – might be tempting. I get it; I am a ‘task completion’ kind of girl. But when it comes to your precious safe space, your home, your haven, I prefer slow over speed. 

And don’t get me started about shopping in your own house.  Often all you need is a little reset – not the acquisition of anything shiny or new. 

Here’s to repurposing with love!

-Vicki ❤

Repeating Patterns

I’m predictable.  It’s my affinity for black and white art and symmetrical architectural design – the more monotone and classic, the better.  Over the years, I’ve filled my head, heart and home with imagery reflecting that aesthetic.  Destined? Unavoidable?  Genetic? 

I’ll explain with a photo tour.

Top Left:  A cryptic, archival rendering of a 16th century home.  See the architectural details?  Peaked pediment, symmetry in the placement of windows?  Last year I was wowed to learn of distant ancestry in France.   The trail goes back 10 generations to a grandfather who painstakingly built this home.  News to me!  My father’s patched together family history was like many immigrant stories:   He’d say ‘We’re a mix of this and that’ anytime I asked about heritage and homelands. Family roots in France?  Unexpected. When I tripped over this nugget of family history I began to wonder if my love of antiques, Renaissance design and black and white images are snippets of my genetic code.  Why else would I – unknowingly and on repeat for decades – make choices that mimic and align with this tidbit of family history?

Top Right: As a teenager, I bought this pen and ink drawing from an artist named Bruno in Montmartre.  I was captivated by the whimsy of the street scenes, the cozy homes and cafés and the fact that Bruno sketched himself into every nook and cranny.  In a long story I’ll tell another time, I was nearly stranded in Paris when I ditched my travel group so I could circle back to Bruno to negotiate a price low enough to take this piece home.  It was an altogether epic adventure involving an angry chaperone, a lost passport and a sprint through the airport to board the flight, but I did it.  I got it.  And it came home with me.  

Bottom Left:  At a flea market, maybe 20 years ago, I nearly tackled a lady who was perusing a stack of mis-matched plates and crockery.  Why? Scanning the teetering piles, I spied ONE lone black and white piece that I needed to examine more closely.  The plate had a hand-painted image of a house.  A house that looked familiar and I gravitated to it.  Not pricey at all and because it was woefully out of place with all the floral and pastel plates, I figured I did the vendor a favor by buying the oddball item.  For years, it’s migrated around the house as a favorite object.  It’s been used as a landing pad for remote controls, a serving dish for small bites and occasionally a candle rests upon it.  I love it. 

Bottom Right:  Mind you, as I give you this chronological overview, I’m building to something.  What’s this last pic?  It’s the fixer upper house my husband and I bought several years ago.  Notice anything – despite the snow that’s in the mix?  The style of the house – design, placement of the windows – the symmetry.  We bought it – and that’s a story, too – because the house waited for us, languishing on the market until we were ready for the challenge.  We’ll be the weary couple remodeling for years to come, but we don’t mind.  Cue the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young music: “Our house, is a very, very, very fine house….”  Or it will be one day.  Between now and then, it’s still HOME.

Patterns repeating.  I wonder if the things I love are a mix of “me” plus ancestral roots still pulsing across the generations?  Hard to say but worth pondering. 

-Vicki ❤

I Confess…A Vitamin Story

white porcelain covered bowl
Just a bowl?

I confess…I am a shallow girl who loves a good decorative bowl.  Would I diagnose this as a malady?  Preferring form over function?  Style over substance?  Maybe.  I know I walk that line.

If I’ve learned anything about myself, I’ve come to terms with some inevitabilities.  I’m that person who hates clutter and it’s not a just a neat-nick kind of thing.  It’s about visuals and overstimulation.  Of all my senses, sight is the most acute and I’m plagued with a need to tidy and straighten and I hate things out of place.  A little compulsive, sure, but I’m okay with it. 

I was the child who couldn’t do homework until my room was organized and I’m the grown up who will sweep into every space to remove errant bits of this-and-that before I tackle any sizeable project.  Oh yes.  Self-imposed detours. 

Am I easy to live with?  Let’s not address that here (wink!).  I’ll probably need a family member/guest blogger to volunteer if we really want to ‘go there’.  😊

For years I despised the tray of vitamins that sat on the kitchen counter.  It drove me nuts.  Altogether, the humans in the house TRY to take eleven different supplements – every day.  The doggo?  Hers are easy – just a once a month chewy that smells like liver.  Easy to stash in a cabinet. 

I looked at every incarnation of pill organizers and hated them all.  The easy fix was to plop everything in a cabinet, but when we tried that, the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ aspect resulted in day upon day of skipped vitamins.  Not good. 

My solution?  A covered jar that I think was intended for sugar?  I don’t know for sure, but it’s domed enough that we can sort a week’s worth of colorful supplements into it if we nest a smaller bowl inside – double decker style.  It works!  Vitamins in plain sight but disguised just enough that I’m not visually disturbed.  How’s that for disclosure you didn’t need?

bowl with vitamins inside
Ta-dah!

But there’s more:  The ceremonially clattering of ceramic-meeting-ceramic when the lid goes back on?  So satisfying!  The clanking sound proclaims, ‘well done and good for you!’  It’s a wellness signal for me – paving the way for more good decisions, all day long.  And it matters.  A day or two without my regular regimen results in noticeable changes in how I feel, move, sleep.  Add the additional, emotional layer of generational issues with eating, described in this post “Angry Eaters”?  I am a motivated woman on a mission to make good choices. 

Here’s to you! Thanks for reading.

-Vicki ❤

Well Worn and Loved

women's brown vintage sandals
Vicki’s vintage sandals

These shoes.  Oh…these shoes.  They saved me one summer when I was ‘studying’ abroad in France (and I should probably confess that the “studying” part is open to interpretation).

Packing light – backpack only – I foolishly wore my favorite Frye boots and took no other footwear.  None at all.  Now – know this.  I come from a long line of boot-wearing, Texas-loving, cowboy-wannabee lineage.  Boots are (and were) the shoe of choice in my family.  Especially the first pair gifted to me from my dad – right before my first trip to France. 

I don’t think actual cowboys believe Frye boots count as ‘western wear’ but I wore those babies proudly for two months.  Were they hot when my travels sent me to the coast – to Nice and Marseilles that summer?  Indeed. 

Which is where this pretty pair of ultra-soft leather sandals surfaced.  I needed relief. I spent my last bit of fun money on these wedges which meant I ate baguettes and not much else as my travels winded down.  At first touch I loved these shoes; handmade AND they truly DID feel like ‘buttah’.  As much as I adored my boots, I switched over and marveled at how happy my feet were.  Is this what custom footwear feels like, I wondered?

That trip was decades ago, so I figure I can share that my well worn and loved ‘south of France’ sandals are a treasured keepsake.  Yep – I’m old enough to have my very own ‘vintage’ and antique apparel!

In my closet, shoes come and go but these will forever hold a place of privilege because of the memories they hold – no matter how bedraggled they look. 

The boots?  They were resoled several times but my sweet papa kept buying new ‘shit kickers’ for me anytime I asked.  I wish I’d never let that first pair go.  They were discarded in a frenzied closet clean-up. Silly girl.  Why did I do that? Consolation?  Yep.  These shoes.  😊

-Vicki

Comfy Wins!

black and white photo of blonde woman wearing black turtleneck

I confess.  The pandemic pushed me to admit I’m not wired for buttoned-up fashion.  Time spent working from the comfort of my favorite pajama pants propelled me toward cush. 

Cushy fabrics, forgiving waistlines and silhouettes.  But wait – there’s more! 😊 I love all black outfits.  I know what you might be thinking.  Whatever it is, I’ve heard it.  You’re such a happy, positive person – why all the black?  Oh – black again, Vicki?  Shocker!  Do you own ANY color?  Maybe a print or two? 

I admit.  My choices may not be popular but you must admit there are benefits.  Everything matches (wink!) and my occasional accessories – a belt or a scarf or a fun pair of shoes – stand out so much more. 

There are down sides.  My closet is…well…pretty dark.  Thank goodness for good lighting (all the better to root out which of my nine favorite black turtlenecks I might fancy on any given day). 

Do I care?  Not so much.  The joy of settling into my own skin and my love of black clothing is liberating.  I’m not foregoing comfort for the stress of what-goes-with-what any longer. 

Call me Steve Jobs if you must.  I’m okay with that.  Ah, the love of a good black turtleneck.

Let’s celebrate, not condemn the choice, if for no other reason than the fashion world’s loss of Issey Miyake last week.  Miyake famously outfitted Jobs in an endless wardrobe of black t-necks and made Jobs the most recognizable and (I’m guessing here) the most comfortable CEO.  Ever.

Cheers to what works for you.  I’m off to buy more Woolite dark laundry detergent. Need to stock up!

-Vicki 😉

Visual Vignettes

Antique dresser and decorative objects

I love creating little vignettes and I know what I like.  Hard wired, I swear. 

I was the tiresome teenager constantly rearranging furniture – not just in my room but in the whole house if I had the chance (which wasn’t often – my mother had a penchant for baby blue shag and moving her objects d’art was off limits – no matter how offensive her style).

  • The opportunity to reflect my love of black and white with nuggets of neutral is captured in this pic – near the entry way in our home. 
  • Some items are found objects.  Some are keepsakes handed down (the print of the weathered old sailor and the dresser – vintage pieces from grandparents). 
  • I love the punchy black and white floral vase.  I think it cost $2 nearly twenty years ago – salvaged from a clearance pile at Hobby Lobby – but I LOVE it.  The graphic, large scale lotus-like flowers look perfect, to my eye, nestled in this setting. 

Why does this matter?  It makes me happy and I as I pass by this tiny space (dozens of times, every day) I smile.  I know I’m in Vicki’s space.  I’m home, I’m safe and I’m grateful.

Wishing you the same,

-Vicki

Inspiration Nooks

This is going to be a little bit of a ‘Where’s Waldo’ experience – and I know it.

workshop and tools, family mementos

With permission, I’m sharing a snap of husband Paul’s workbench. It’s his homebase and the launching pad for projects and his ‘thinking space’. Let me give you a tour – you just need to zoom in and I’ll walk you through the memento map of Paul’s hangout. Possibly his favorite roosting spot in the house.

Top left – Family Mementos:

  • The clock his dad made from scratch. Chimes and all. A treasured keepsake and memory of his father who could fix ANYTHING.
  • Delaney puzzle. A sweet reminder that our very grown-up daughter was once a tot who loved nothing more than ‘tool time’ with her dad.
  • Flashback Ale Sign:  Fun times touring breweries in Boulder during Delaney’s college years. 

Just underneath the “Delaney” puzzle – mementos that keep his parents nearby in spirit. A favorite from his dad’s workshop – words he lived by – with a wink and a smile:

  • ‘When in charge, ponder; When in trouble, delegate; When in doubt, mumble.

Next to it? His mom’s favorite little sign – reflecting her love of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan:

  • I’d rather be UP NORTH’ Yep. Declaring her truth. Hung over the sink in her kitchen for at least thirty years.

In the Middle – Wanna-Be Cleaning Tools:

Two varieties of small, yet mighty, DeWalt power tools for clean-up and vacuuming and an old school dustpan and hand broom. Accompanied by spray bottles and gloves. Note how spic-and-span these tools are. Good cleaning intentions but (I say) not used much! Thankfully the fire extinguisher hasn’t been used either.

Paul and Vicki – the Early Years. Standing proudly in front of shelves he made, a framed pic of us circa 1985. Yep – we’ve been married a LONG time and I love that this pic earned a place on Paul’s pegboard wall.

Remembering My Dad: Paul was close to my father and the salvaged license plate with his nickname on it, “Solatio” reflects it. I love that Paul’s kept it as a reminder of my papa who’s been gone for years. This keeps him close, I think.

The Workbench Itself:

  • You don’t need to zoom in much to see the interesting mélange of small tools, notes, wires, and cables. There’s a little room to work and the combo of the I-pad and camo Bluetooth speaker help to keep Paul’s “thinking time” upbeat.
  • What you can’t see in the pic is a substantial whiteboard to the right where he doodles and designs. You also don’t see his comfy shop stool. A little cushiony, too. You know, none of us are getting any younger.

Why does any of this matter?

I think places speak to us – reflected in how we create our nooks and alcoves. Me? I have a compelling need for neat and Paul’s workbench and pegboard, while quintessentially HIM would never work for me. I like tidy piles and feel drawers were made to be used, but hey, that’s just me.

Our spaces should reflect who we are and it’s where my love of design comes from.

Your nooks should be yours. Take the time to clear the clutter but do a little curating. Mull over and sort through meaningful mementos and be sure some are nearby. Especially in our thinking spaces. Inspiration is near – sometimes in everyday objects and keepsakes.

Not sure where to start? It’s easier than you think. Trending at Atkinson Group is this very need – rethinking spaces to create nooks and inspiration alcoves. It’s the latest wellness revelation – craving and creating comfort in a corner of the world we can call our very own. If you don’t have it now, make it so. And…most importantly…

Be well!

-Vicki