May 28, 2014

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint: Louie Blue Bar Stools

You may remember that in April, Kern and I bought some new bar stools for our kitchen island area.  
Then France, Atlanta the Shore and life they stayed plain and boring, just waiting for their moment in the sun.

My objective was to use a color that I already had in my "paint box."  I was determined to incorporate the Aubusson Blue color that the folks at Perfectly Imperfect sent me after they featured some of my projects in their newsletter.

I have a serious love for neutrals and all shades of blue and gray.  I decided to go a little more colorful and bright and use Louie Blue as my base coat.

Each stool got 2 coats.

I decided to make the stool seats a slightly different shade of blue for a little extra flare.

I mixed Louie Blue with Aubusson Blue until I got a shade that I loved--not too dark and not too light (I sound like Goldilocks here).

I didn't use a formula, I just poured, stirred and added until I achieved the right mixture.

I don't always distress my pieces, but as I thought about the overall look for these bar stools, I realized that they are going to be "high action pieces"--meaning they will get lots of wear and tear.  Pulling in and out from under the island, feet propped up on the get the idea.  

So I just helped the aging process along a little by lightly sanding the areas that I knew would get worn easily.  Now I don't have to be careful when I (or my guests) make themselves comfortable on the stools.

One of my favorite aspects of Chalk Paint is that it is meant to look aged, worn and loved. I like to pretend that I found these stools at an antique shop in Provence...instead of the reality that they were ordered from {ugh} Amazon.

After the color was set, it was time to wax!

I chose to use dark wax for the same reason I chose to distress: I knew it would hide shoe marks and bumps better. Dark wax is the best medium to use if you liked an aged look.

If you have specific questions about waxing, check out the Ask for Roses YouTube Channel for video tutorials or visit the Ask for Roses CREATE page for inspiration.

The Aubusson Blue really toned the brightness of Louie down for the stool seat.

The final product: two zippy bar stools that are begging for friends to come over and use!

May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Remembrance

Kern and I rode our bikes to Arlington and spent time walking the cemetery and taking in the sacred ground of such a special place.

We overheard parents teaching their children about the sacrifices that have been made so that we can feel safe and free in our country.

We saw a gravesite overflowing with flowers and attached to them was a single "Happy Birthday!" balloon waving in the breeze.

We saw volunteers placing single red roses on each of the uniform headstones.

We saw a young woman sitting on the ground in front of a grave in the newer section of the cemetery.  I don't know if she was a wife or a sister.

To all the men and women who have served and are serving: thank you.

Thank you for putting others first.
Thank you for setting an unselfish example of service.
Thank you for loving our country.

May 19, 2014

Penn Haven

After the brutal winter, I am still amazed that the trees have green leaves and the grass is growing.  I am still gazing in wonder at wild flowers and gardens beginning to sprout.  Perhaps I should always feel this way, but I am particularly grateful for the coming of spring and warmer temperatures.

After several crazy weeks of travel and house guests, Kern and I decided a trip to Penn Haven was just what the doctor ordered.  It's the perfect place to relax and unplug.

We convinced Carolyn and Jordan to come with us and the four of us had a great time together.

We had a nice bike ride, took the boat out, read on the porch and just enjoyed being on the water.

No trip to the Shore is complete without a stop at Emily's Produce!

We made friends with the goats and chickens!


On Saturday night we had a marshmallow roast and made heavenly s'mores.  This may be the beginning of a new Penn Haven tradition!

When we left on Sunday, I felt like I was finally able to press "reset" and start my week with a clear head and calm spirit.

Do you have a place you can go to pause, reflect, unplug and reset?  
If so, I would love to hear about it!

May 16, 2014

Currently: May

Currently, I am...

Listening...The Wolves and the Ravens by Rogue Valley

Planning...for the Penns and the Hoffs to visit DC this summer!

Eating...Rosemary and Olive Oil triscuits (they are amazing even without cheese!)

Dreaming...of easy access to a swimming pool and snow cone stand

Thankful...that it is light outside when I wake up! create margin in all areas of my life

Reading...A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle

Watching...I finally saw Frozen!  I loved it.

Pinning...Kitchen redecorating inspiration for my Mama!  Any suggestions for her?

What about you?

May 15, 2014

Gran Fran's 90th Birthday

It's not a secret that my grandmother (known to all as Gran Fran) and I have a special relationship.  Her presence is in many of my earliest memories and she has had a profound influence on my life.  In April, this special lady turned 90 years young.  She is truly an example to so many people and it was fun to celebrate her birthday surrounded by her loved ones.

My mother and aunt dreamed up an incredible carnival themed party that made the day truly special for all involved. Gran Fran was the "ticket holder" and in order to play games and get snacks, each person was required to get tickets from her.  This small act kept the children excited and engaged and it was fun to watch them asking timidly for more tickets.

My extremely talented mother hand painted and created these photo back drops in theme with the circus.

The Strong Man, the Shark, the Mermaid, the Pirate, the Trapeze Lady and the Robot.

The backyard was decorated with tables, chairs and balloons.

My Uncle John really dressed up for the occasion!

We missed Lee!

The beanie baby toss was a big hit!

The mermaid was my favorite!  Can you see the message in a bottle?
Hint: it's on the top right!

I can't tell if Josh is the lion or is getting eaten by the lion...

It was a honor to celebrate Gran Fran with this party!  
I can't wait to see what the 91st birthday party will be like!

May 14, 2014

Paris: My Top Five

There are so many wonderful aspects of Paris--the scrumptious food, the intricate architecture, the fascinating culture and the historic sites.  It is hard to narrow all the experiences that Kern and I absorbed during our travels down to just five, but I wanted to share our favorite memories--especially if you happen to be planning a trip yourself!

Number Five

Relaxing in the green chairs in Luxembourg or Tuileries Gardens

By mid-afternoon most days, we were ready for a break but did not want to go back to our hotel.  We found the perfect medium--relaxing in the gardens!  There are several great ones in the city--and it's a treat to put your feet up and people watch.

Number Four

Dinner and Walking in the Neighborhood of Montmarte

Montmarte is one of the districts on the outskirt of the city, but we made our way there three different times during the week because we loved the feel so much.  It's local, a little artsy and just plain cozy.  The view from the top of the cathedral is wonderful (it's the second highest spot after the Eiffel Tower).

Number Three

Climb the Arc de Triomphe at sunset

It was very easy to get to the Arc and although we did have to climb a steep spiral staircase, we were rewarded with spectacular views and enough space to actually take it all in and enjoy.

Number Two

Tea at Hotel Le Meurice

This tea date was a gift and it was one of my favorite afternoons.  I would recommend going early afternoon for a late lunch--with the knowledge that you can eat a very light dinner.  Each bite of food was incredible and we had a great time just taking in our surroundings and savoring the experience.

Number One

Fat Tire Bike Tour of Versailles

Kern and I both love to bike ride, but a combination of the perfect weather and great tour guide with the background of the majestic Versailles palace made this excursion our favorite day.  Even if you're not a big bike rider, the relaxed pace makes it easy to keep up.  We would have been much tireder if we had tried to walk even half the distance that we biked!

So there you have it!  Of the hundreds of experiences, these five were our favorites.  Have you ever done any of these?  Which one could you see yourself trying?

May 13, 2014

Paris: Everyday Moments

I have read about France for years--books involving the history, blogs discussing the style and cookbooks sharing secrets of high quality meals.  Before Kern and I left for our trip, I wondered if the Paris I would see with my own two eyes would look anything like the visions of Paris in my mind.

I was pleased to see that many places and lots of the people looked just as I had imagined.

There were women dressed very fashionably walking everywhere in heels.  Men and women were wearing berets.  Everyone (and I mean everyone) smoked.  Most of the cars were tiny (compared to American standards) and motorcycles, mopeds and bikes were very popular. Kern and I did not see one pick-up truck!

Paris is bursting with WOW moments--from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre to the majestic gardens.  There are also plenty of quiet moments if you have the eyes to notice: a mother with her child, an elderly couple walking hand in hand, children playing rambunctiously with one another.

I made a point to notice these occurrences--on the metro, while walking down the street and during meals at outdoor cafes.  I know that I will remember just as many "everyday" moments as much as I will recall the stunning views from the Eiffel Tower.

I had read about the importance of the baguette in the everyday lives of Parisians and I was so pleased to see that they truly do value their bread.  Everywhere we went, we saw locals with one (or two!) baguettes tucked away carefully into a bag or held underneath their arms.

Paris is truly a special city and I enjoyed being able to observe some of her quieter moments.

May 12, 2014

Paris, Day Cinq: Bikes, a picnic and our Last Supper

On our final full day in France, we took a Fat Tire Bike Tour to Versailles.  Kern and I are both professed bike lovers, so it only made sense to incorporate that into our trip.

We met at the Fat Tire offices in Paris, boarded the RER train as a group and picked up our bikes in the town of Versailles.  Once we were fitted with the best bike, we rode to the town market and had about 30 minutes to select bread, wine and cheese for our picnic lunch.

The grounds of Versailles are vast--there is no way to see it all on foot.

We stopped periodically and our guide shared fascinating historical facts with the group.

It was hard to wait for lunch with a perfect baguette beckoning us from the basket of Kern's bike, so we filmed a little video entitled, "Who nibbled le baguette?"

Heavenly lunch: chewy baguette, salami, cheese, fresh strawberries and a dark chocolate tart

Kern picked me a bouquet of wildflowers

After about four hours on the bike, it was time to actually enter the Palace.

The gilding you see in this photo is actual gold--they got about a fourth of the way through re-gilding it in 2008 but stopped when that whole "financial crisis thing" started.  A wise idea considering the original gilding was all taken down/stolen/sold by angry peasants a few hundred years ago in that whole French Revolution debacle...

The inside was astoundingly gorgeous...but also packed with tourists and hot.  

We were so glad we had been able to spend most of the day outdoors.

We left Versailles and raced back to Paris to do something kind of crazy...visit the Louvre.  You probably don't know many people who have done Versailles and the Louvre in the same day.  There is a reason for that...suffice it to say, the Louvre is closed on Tuesday so we couldn't go the day before and wanted to at least catch the high points before we left.

The Louvre was insanely crowded...especially surrounding the Mona Lisa.  We checked her off the "must-see" list first and moved on to explore other areas.

The ceilings were my favorite part--works of art just waiting to be discovered above your head.

We saw Venus de Milo, Hammurabi's code and a statue of Ramses.

We left feeling tired, but accomplished.  Fortunately, we had a late dinner reservation at Le Grande Colbert, a restaurant made famous by the movie Something's Gotta Give with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton.

It was a special evening full of tasty food with a quintessential French atmosphere--the perfect last supper for our fabulous week in Paris.

Thank you for reading along and reliving our experience in Paris.  I still have some fun tips, thoughts and videos to check back this week for more Parisian posts!
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