Monday, January 31, 2011

Collections: Isabel Blooms

I love my parents house. It's one of my favorite places in the world - definitely in the top five. It big, beautiful, comfortable, smells like cookies, clean-but-not-too-clean, and warm. The walls are painted calming neutral colors. Lovely high quality furniture sits in every room, but it is not a museum. You know the kind of house I'm talking about? Where you can't put your feet up? They make me uncomfortable. If you look closely around the house you will notice a few - how should I say? - collections. But they are not from my parents collecting tendencies. They are from my grandparents. Both sides of grandparents, actually. My parents are not collectors, unless you count my dad's running shoes and my mom's non-running shoes.

These collections are unique, too. They range from giant stuffed animals, to Christmas houses, to Iowa Hawkeye hats. I think the collections would start when my grandparents found a Christmas gift that we liked, and then they would just stick with it - forever. One of these collections are funny little creatures called Isabel Blooms. They took over my parent's house a long time ago. And now they are slowly taking over my house too. But that's because I smuggle them out of the country.

Isabel Bloom is an artist from The Quad Cities, my dad's home town in Iowa. She started her career working with clay and painting but after spending the summer at an art commune she began putting all her energy into sculpting.

For years she experimented with and looked for a unique material to work with that was inexpensive and readily available. Finally, after much work in her basement studio she developed a concrete combination that suited her purposes. She learned to give the creatures color by mixing her famous green tint concrete and brushing it on as the final layer. The final polish produces the white around the details.

Her art's popularity spread around town and soon she was commissioning one of a kind pieces for museums, fundraisers, and schools. To keep up with the high demand she opened a small studio in town where she could put some pieces on display and reproduce popular pieces at a higher rate.

Isabel was known for her love of animals and children - it is where she found most of her inspiration. There are stories of her selling pieces to the local children for the price of the change in their pocket for mother's day presents. I'm pretty sure my dad was one of those kids. He vividly remembers driving down  to her store every year and finding my Grandmother's Christmas and birthday presents.  My Aunt Lowell did the same. Isabel Bloom sculptures were always a winner for my Grandmother's gifts.

And now, as payback, my Grandmother has loaded my family up with creatures.

They are literally in every room. (This is Violet, my favorite of them all.)

On the floor, in the corners, next to the refrigerator.

Under tables.

On the ledge of the bathtub.

Next to the grandfather clock. You know, the usual places.

Note: The stones are river rocks from the Mississippi River. Well, at least they used to be.

And on kitchen countertops. 

Originally, the bottoms were all signed by Isabel herself. Now, since Isabel's death and new ownership of the company, the finishing artist signs Isabel's name and also adds their own initials. 

Don't let these artists near your checkbook. They're great forgers. 

So, go ahead, find an Isabel Bloom that speaks to you. Embrace your own piece of polished concrete. They come in all different sizes - I'm sure there is something that suites your fancy. Support the midwest. Find a corner, or a countertop, or a ledge that needs a little bit of whimsy. Trust me, you'll enjoy it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Big Day.

Today is a big day. Today is the day the doctors cure my mom's breast cancer with a mastectomy. Today also happens to be my father's birthday (Happy Birthday Dad!) and my parent's 33rd wedding anniversary (Happy Anniversary!).

I told you, it's a big day.

I planned on being there for this momentous day, but alas, it was not to be. The blizzard canceled all my flights yesterday and the airline insisted I wouldn't be able to get on a flight until tomorrow. 

Well, I showed them! I showed up at the airport at 4:30 this morning ready to do whatever it was going to take and talk/cry/plead my way onto a flight. 

It worked, too. My new hero, Air Canada Man, booked me through to Atlanta by taking the longest milk run route of all time. I started with a 20 minute flight to Halifax, Nova Scotia in a little puddle jumper of a plane. 

I'm not kidding. The pilot was maybe ten feet from me. I got to watch him press the buttons and make the plane go vvvvroom vroom.

While the sunrise was beautiful and everything, I could not help but think about how close the propellor was to my face. And about how fast it was spinning. You can't even see it, it's so fast!

I probably should not have watched the KLM vs. Pan Am Crash of the Century documentary yesterday. You know, the greatest disaster in aviation history? Killed 600 people? Rescue services took 20 minutes to arrive? 1977? You weren't born yet? Neither was I. That's why they invented documentaries. For us youngins.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Aftermath.

I was supposed to fly to Atlanta today. But then my flight was canceled last night due to the storm in New York. I re-booked for a later flight, but it was canceled too because of the blizzard that hit us today. After I re-booked for the third time we headed to the airport with the hopes that this flight might take off. It was going to be a milk run flight, but I was willing to try anything. Needless to say, the snow was still coming hard and my flight was again canceled. By the time we got back from the airport, where we were the only people, there was a foot of the snow on the ground. Not bad for six hours of Mother Nature's work.

As we pulled up to our driveway I immediately declared that I wanted out of the truck. Immediately. There was no way I was having any part of crashing into the snowbank that had accumulated. 

(Note: Please ignore the ugly two-toned house next door. They're weird.)

Any other person in any other car would park on the street and go find their shovel. 

But not my Land-Rover-Driving-Canadian. 

Nope. No way. No how.

"So," he said, "You still hate my truck? Your car couldn't do this."

"Yes, honey," I replied, with a long eye roll, "There are occasions that I'm grateful for your truck."

In all fairness it was an impressive snowbank, just as high as the hood. And he did make it through, in two wheel drive, he'll have you know. And it saved me from shoveling for the time being. So, I am thankful for his truck today.

I wasn't, however, completely spared from shoveling. It was after the sun went down that the snow finally slowed down enough for us to start clearing the driveway. The Canadian and I headed out; him to the snow blower, and I to the stairs with the shovel. I was finishing up the stairs and he was half way done with the driveway when the unthinkable happened -- the snowblower died. As far as I'm concerned, this is a disaster of catastrophic proportions - not because of the manual labor shoveling involves, but because there is simply no where to put the snow. We are flat out of room.

This neighbor has to blast his snow twenty feet up just to get it to spread evenly over the banks.

Our other neighbor was smart enough to hire a plow/tractor. I'm telling you, its hard to work to throw snow up to your window with a shovel. I know. I survived an hour of shoveling before I quit tonight. I couldn't help it. It was causing me to have bad thoughts about my house, this country and my life. I decided to save my sanity and go find a shower and a glass of wine.

It seemed like the best decision for everyone's sake.

You are all welcome, by the way.

Sweet Bedroom Suite.

Dun, dun, duuuunnn...It's here!

Hobie's excited. Calm down, Hobes. Jeez.

Drum roll....


I am officially in love with the gorgeous roping detail on every piece.

It looks like pillars. Hmm, I have a similar photo of the Lincoln Memorial. 

And it has fun feet. On second thought, I'm going to have to vacuum under there. Maybe they're not so fun.

The foot board is a beautiful scroll. Makes me want to write an epic poem.

The headboard is perfect. Just the right height.

It is exactly how I envisioned my bed. Comfy, calming,  cloud-like, perfect. 

Hello, nightstand. I've missed you. So has my phone. And my flashlight. The floor is going to be jealous.

 There are some tall, colorful lamps just begging to sit on this.

Oh, big beautiful dresser - you are all for me. 

It didn't make it into the bedroom. It's going to live in the other bedroom - aka my closet. Yes, I'm serious. I told you it's an old house and old houses = small closets.

Just imagine the jewelry this can hold. Diamonds, pearls, maybe some sapphires...I can dream, right?


The Canadian gets a velvet drawer too. Ya know, for all his diamond cuff links. Because he's a P.I.M.P. (Quick, name the song!)

He even gets to lock his diamond cuff links with a real skeleton key. I want a skeleton key! Why didn't I get a skeleton key?

Dovetails for everyone! Or cocktails. Maybe both. On the house. Drinks all around, bartender!

Man, oh, man the drawers slide like a dream.

I love it when there are numbers on my drawers. Makes me feel authentic.

But this. This needs to go away. Hello? Chandelier? Are you out there? Can you hear me?

Hello, 1980's radio clock. I know you've been The Canadian's clock forever, but it's time for you to buy a one way ticket to the basement. Your cracks just aren't workin' for me. I'm sure you understand.

So, to recap today's events:

1. The wall color is perfect! I couldn't be happier. The contrast with the furniture is just right.

2. Hobie got excited when the delivery men walked in and peed on their feet. It's like she reverted to puppyhood. It's was embarrassing.

3. The delivery men had to shovel the stairs. Apparently my shoveling skills aren't up to par.

4. If anyone wants to help me decorate, feel free to come on up and give a girl a hand. By all means.

5. I love my new bedroom - it makes me feel grown up.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How To Paint an Ugly Room

I had one mission today - paint an ugly room. Back in December, The Canadian and I ordered a new bedroom suite. I'm talking beautiful solid Maple bed, dressers, night stands, the whole lot. It's to be the furniture we keep our whole life. It's being delivered tomorrow and it's going to be gorgeous - in the newly painted room.

Are you ready to see the before photo? Brace yourself. Cover your eyes. It's bad.

This is what five years of bachelorhood will do to a room. No furniture, no wall decorations, no nothing. Just a vast sea of burnt orange.

Our house is ooooold. Like, I think it was built during the jurassic age. But, old houses have great features. Like these base boards. They needed a fresh coat of paint so that's where I started.

Then I (meaning The Canadian) needed to make some plaster repairs. While the glass door knob is awesome, it has also created a nice hole in the wall.

After the white paint was set I began the tedious process of taping.

And taping some more. I worked around all the old wires and had to even out the uneven lines. I don't really like taping - there is something weird about the friction between my skin and the tape, I can't explain it.

Now comes the fun part. Opening the paint can!

Glorious. It's going to be a lovely light olive which will look great behind the darkly stained wood. Or so I hope...

I'm really classy so I use an old ice cream tub to hold the paint while I edge the walls.

I love edging. As long as I've only had one cup of coffee. Two cups makes the paint squiggle.

It makes me feel talented that I can paint in the lines - most of the time. But hey, nobody's perfect.

Once the fun part is over, comes the rolling. 

I don't mind rolling, it just gives me blisters on my thumbs. Yes, thumbs. Plural. I'm an ambidextrous painter.'s looking a little lemon-lime-ish. I know it needs a second coat. But still, fingers crossed that it's going to dry darker....

Ha! You thought you were going to get to see whether or not it dried darker...or if the second coat're just going to have to wait until tomorrow....

Patience is a virtue, my friend.


One last piece of advice. When you put the lid back on the can, might I suggest covering it with a towel first.

It helps avoid this.

Just a thought.