Archive for August, 2011

SF1One of the cool things about decorating for Christmas is pulling out the boxes of decorations and rediscovering the things that make the season special year after year.  It occurred to me that the innate ritualistic aspect of taking out the decorations for a festive season is really why it is so great and could be adapted throughout the year.

In addition to special “things” – I have tried to add little rituals into my every day life. These things range from insignificant things that make me feel good to more extravagant gifts to myself. Small things: when I used to work in Quincy, MA and walked by a statue of favorite son John Adams frequently, I always said “Good afternoon Mr. President” or some related greeting.  Big things to treat myself: traveling to London once a year, for example

But it is the items that we surround ourselves in our home, like the Christmas decorations, which can bring rituals into our lives in an easy and inexpensive way. 

When I moved into this old house, I brought everything I owned and also had go through the stuff that was already here.  I wanted to resist the urge of finding a place for everything, yet at the same time follow a rule of “use what I have” – meaning not purchase anything new for the place.  There are many examples of this practice which I will blog about over time.

However, the idea of rotating things in and out with the season, and/or just for fun, is top of my list. So that is what I have been doing.  I have mixed things of my own with things that I found in the house.  I have also rediscovered some of my own things that I had not see for a while and brought them out for a new life.

With summer quickly waning here in New England (it was 41 degrees when I woke up this morning) I was thinking of some of the things around the house that are symbols of the season that will be put away and taken out next year when summer arrives again, and the first thing I saw were these summer candles that make me smile every time I see them.

Several years ago, a friend of mine gave me a couple of these candles as a joke.  He had found them in the clearance bin at a local discount chain.  What he did not expect was how much I actually loved them.  This led to a tour of the chain’s several stores seeking every last one of them.  I ended up with a couple of dozen, which I brought as host/hostess gifts everywhere I was invited that summer and they were a huge hit.

I ended up keeping six of them for myself.  Over the years as I brought them out every year, I found that paint was chipping and pieces were falling off here and there.  In time three were lost to the transfer station.  However, these three survive, and I have them on a window sill on the back screen porch where they keep an eye on things.

I will admit that I never treated these summer candles especially well in the off season.  I think they actually spent more than one winter outside with the container garden stuff.  Now, as I realize how special they are to me – bringing back memories and good cheer – I will be putting them away with great care – but not until the first frost.  Sadly, I think that day is way too near.

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Brim.4.2011.2I have written much about visiting antique shows and flea markets over the past few months.  I go to look, buy and occasionally sell, but no matter what my purpose I enjoy the experience.

I love looking at what people are selling, and what people are buying. I also love the visuals some of the items for sale provide.  Often the merchandise laid out for sale compels me to take a picture.

I am getting ready to head out to the mother of all antique shows in New England, the Brimfield Show, coming up in September.  Brimfield is a collection of shows that runs just three times a year – a week each in May, July and September – and it is heaven for anyone that enjoys vintage items and collects things.  People come from all over the country to be part of the Brimfield experience and it is always great fun.

Anyway, while going through some pictures recently, I found some that I took back in a visit to Brimfield in May.  In addition to being great images, it occurred to me that the pictures demonstrate that one could very easily go to a show like Brimfield and start a collection of almost anything and by the end of the day be an old pro.

Here are a few of the “instant collections” I documented…

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Learn more about the Brimfield Show here.

SH1I have written in the past about my love for container gardens.  For years I have kept one and have had so-so luck with growing things.  But I love trying every year.  This was to be the year of the big garden – with living in farm country and more time to nurse the plants.  I will write more about it later – but let’s just say that the first night the seedlings I spent weeks nursing inside from seed were planted… something (or someone) chomped 90% of them to the root.  I think it was the plump groundhog I have spotted around the barn.

Anyway, I rescued what I could and moved them all to a rather large container garden on the back porch. I also enhanced the garden with some fun growing “kits” like the kind available from Sprout Home

I have purchased many of the Gardens in a bag, and have had great success with them, especially basil.  Sprout offers something I have never seen before, but must say I am eager to try – The Gardener-Plantable Comic Book.

About Sprout Home’s garden shop:  “Sprout garden items include unique and contemporary plants such as passion flower, bamboo, rare ornamental trees and grasses, organic herbs & vegetables, and much more. Sprout also offers design services, specializing in contemporary garden design and rooftop/deck container gardening.”

The perfect retailer for the type of product we love – things designed to help us look like we know what we are doing in the garden.

Sprout Home has two retail locations, in Chicago and Brooklyn, and has a great website with many cool products for the home and garden.

Check out Sprout Home here.

MCAfter my series of posts about summer cottage decorating, I have been flooded with suggestions and ideas for similar places to visit.  Case in point, a few people have mentioned Maine Cottage, a designer, manufacturer and seller of home furnishings that compliment coastal living.

About Maine Cottage: “Maine Cottage is the original home to spirited, colorful furniture perfect for coastal living. You will delight in our thoughtfully selected styles and colors: they all work together. This makes filling a room or whole home easy – no fuss or muss – we’ve already done the hard parts for you. We give you permission to feel good about indulging in Maine Cottage. Our furniture is “real” and built to last a lifetime. Our tasteful style is enduring. Simple, timeless furniture forms combined with beautiful colors and fabrics.”

Oddly, Maine Cottage is based in Maryland where they have a retail outlet.  However, they do sell online and offer a nice selection of furnishings in multiple patterns.  I love the wicker Fiona Rocker – just what I need to sit in on the back porch listening to the symphony of crickets into the wee hours.

Visit Maine Cottage here.

CHOC.3A friend of mine recently admired a picture I took of Mt. Chocorua, a lovely spot in the foothills of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.  I agreed with my friend that the mountain was beautiful and added “and that’s in my back yard.“ 

I of course did not mean literally in my back yard, but figuratively, as the rocky summit of Mt. Chocorua can be spotted all over town, and I feel in some ways it is the beacon that watches over me.  It is like when I am in New York and always looking for the steeple of the Chrysler Building to orient myself and feel a special sense of place.

Anyway, I realized that were you to flatten the acres of protected forest that actually does abut my sabbatical retreat’s back yard, I would have a lovely view of the mountain.

I love Mt. Chocorua and I am not alone.  Even though at 3,490 feet it is clearly modest by mountain standards, Chocorua is very picturesque with it’s bald peak and proximity to the lake that bears the same name.

Urban legend has it that Chocorua is “the most photographed mountain in the world.”  How one quantifies that, I don’t know.  But sitting right off a major route to the White Mountains well traveled by tourists, skiers and nature lovers, one can see how people are compelled to pull off the road to take a photo of this lovely site.

Unlike the New Yorker who has never visited the Statue of Liberty, even with Chocorua “in my back yard” I visit often and takes pictures.  Since I have been living up here in NH, I have made a practice of making sure I have a camera in the car with me all the time as I often stumble upon something that needs to be documented.  I have been chronicling the every changing view of Mt. Chocorua and am always amazed at its beauty.

So this is one of these self-indulgent posts I warned you about…

Here are three pictures I tool of Mt. Chocorua in the past few months. From left to right and/or top to bottom depending on your screen dimensions: Chocorua in Mid-May with the greenery making its way up the southern slopes; Chocorua at twilight in late June; and mid-day on a bright July day.

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greatfOne of the great things about having a blog like Lost Cowboy is finding kindred spirits who share the same sensibilities or have similar interests and experiences.  It is fun reading other blogs and participating in an ongoing conversation about the things we love.

A dear friend of mine maintains a wonderful blog called Grateful Evermore.  Grateful Evermore is a perfect fit for us, as we share some of the same experiences and you may find things you see here from a slightly different angle.

About Grateful Evermore“I love all things about being at home and making a house a home. I adore my family- my friends and my little life- most of the time. This blog is a way for me to communicate with others and a way for me to keep track of where I have been and where I want to go.”

Every Grateful Evermore post begins with an interesting quote and ends with an appreciation of something special – the perfect bookends for the inspired and heartfelt posts you will find there.

Next week I will be a guest blogger on Grateful Evermore, and I am really looking forward to it.  I am not sure exactly what I am going to write about – but in thinking about it, I realize that I am fortunate to have so many things in my life for which to be grateful.

I promise to cross-post whatever I write about here. In the meantime, I recommend checking out Grateful Evermore.

AR1I can’t tell you how cool I think today’s Find is: A+R (aplusrstore.com).

As I have mentioned many times before, I love finding cool products that are well-designed and add to our everyday lives.  There is no shortage of these products, but finding them is not always so easy. Enter A+R, retailers committed to curating the world of cool design and putting order to it.  In fact, their tagline is “Global Design. Edited.”  I love it.

The A+R store is also presented in a way that helps you find products based on need with categories like cooking, gifting, living, and traveling.  Then all the products are sorted by material, like wood, glass, rubber and stone.  So perfect.

There are way too many cool products here, so I recommend checking out the site, I am confident you will find something there for you or as a gift.  Some of things that caught my eye include:

the very cool Magno Wood Radio;

the FoodPod we didn’t know existed but now covet;

the Carrie Bicycle Basket that instantly makes any bike cool;

and the fully waterproof Crumpled City Maps.

About A + R: “A+R is British ex-pat Andy Griffith, a former film editor and self-avowed design junkie, and Rose Apodaca, a pop culture and style journalist. In late 2005, we opened our tiny shop in the heart of the Los Angeles creative enclave known as Silver Lake, keen on sharing our excitement for great new design with anyone who would listen. We followed up a year later with our online store.”

Visit the A+R store here.

F2I mentioned before that I have been haunting farmers’ markets and tag sales this summer, but I have also been seeking out art fairs to see what type of artists are out and about these days and make notes for my own future career as a professional artist.

A couple of weeks ago I was very pleased to have stopped by the annual summer art show sponsored by ACT! (the Arts Council of Tamworth) in the quaint New Hampshire community of Chocorua Village.

The show featured a wonderful collection of local artist working in all manner of media.  I was particularly attracted to the work of young artist Jessica L. Fligg, who was showing her paintings, prints and photography showcasing the natural beauty of the New Hampshire mountains.

In talking with Ms. Fligg, I was very impressed with her approach.  She is not only a talented artist, she is somewhat of a visual historian.  She collects old books and vintage images of the various natural sites around the area and then tries to locate the spot where the original artist or photographer worked from and paint it in its current state.  This method results in some wonderful pieces which come complete with a back story.

I purchased a print of an oil painting titled “Crawford Notch in Times Past.”  The scene comes from a photograph from the late 1800’s that Ms. Fligg found.  She located the spot from where the photo was taken and created her painting as a mash-up of the original view and what it looks like today.  I purchased the print because I liked it, but also because of the passion with which the artists works and shared with me in our conversation.

I look forward to watching this artist grow in the future.  If her current work is any guide, she is sure to become a cherished New Hampshire artist for years to come.
Check out the print I purchased as well as other paintings by New Hampshire artist Jessica L. Fligg here.

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GR1One look at Genesee River’s home page let us know we had stumbled upon a site that fit perfectly with our sensibility.  The main graphic on the page is a vintage lakeside print, complete with canoes and a gentleman smoking a pipe. Awesome!

This first impression was reinforced with a tour of the site, where Genesee River helps “people get a little bit closer to nature” with their well-curated collection of old and new products for decorating your home.

About Genesee River: “Since 1985, we have dealt in rustic, both new pieces of our design as well as select vintage items. A chance encounter with an Amish builder of bent hickory furniture set the wheels in motion. When combined with antique finishes we built the foundation of what is today known as ‘Genesee Style‘”.

There are some cool things offered by Genesee, but of course we were drawn to the fine vintage collection.

See the Genesee River collection for yourself here.

Go straight the the Genesee River vintage collection here.

STThis is the first August in ten years that I have not spent at least a long weekend visiting the great city of Chicago.  I love Chicago, and it is such a great place to visit in the summer with so much going on from street festivals, to concerts and theater, and everything thing else that makes it a dynamic city.  I have always looked forward to my trips and am a little sad that I was not able to make it work this year. 

Even though I am missing Chicago now, I will definitely make a trip back there soon.  To hold me over, I am going to order the Lego Sears Tower kit from Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.

About the Lego kit: “Introducing LEGO Architecture, composed of 69 pieces (including a base with specially printed LEGO element identifying the structure), this First Edition set of Chicago’s Sears Tower is a collectable that is fun to build and interesting to display. Includes a full color inspirational booklet with architectural data, building instructions and historic photographs.”

This iconic building is now the Willis Tower – but it will always be the Sears Tower to me.  In addition to being fun, this Lego kit will help preserve the legacy of the tower’s origins.

I am a big fan of keeping things around the house that remind me of my favorite places – a Lego version of a Chicago landmark is just the ticket to help me remember trips past and dream of future visits.  As an added benefit, I get to relive the hundreds of hours I spent playing with Lego blocks when I was kid.

Visit Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry here.