Circus Tent Yellow. A Tale of a Painted Home.

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I’m sure the title drew you in.  Wondering what fool would paint their home circus tent yellow.  I can assure you that it was not on purpose.  It was just one of those “happy accidents”.

I am a huge fan of paint.  When it comes to home decorating, paint can cover a multitude of sins, create drama, and in the case of those happy accidents, lead you down a path you might not have travelled.  Paint comes in many guises (interior, outdoor, craft, metallic, etc.) and is fairly inexpensive, but its a huge part of your decorating arsenal.  You can crackle paint, gloss it, sponge it, spray it, and more.

But let us get back to the story at hand.  I knew I wanted yellow for my living room walls because I was aiming for that New Orleans/French style of decorating.  I had everything prepped, the furniture covered, a few days off from work, and thinking I could combine a trip to the eye doctor with picking up the paint, I headed out.

Never.  Ever.  Pick out your paint after you have had your eyes dilated for an eye exam.  Trust me.

I picked out my yellow, had it mixed, carted it home, and proceeded to paint.  Went to bed excited to get the room put together the next morning. Well, you can imagine how it went down.  I was horrified.  It looked soft, buttery, and warm with a hint of lemon in the store.  What I had on my walls could only be described as circus tent yellow.  This was NOT the color I had picked out.  I took the paint chip out in the sun to see it again.  Big sigh.  Yes.  I HAD picked this color.  But because my eyes were dilated, the color did not transmit well from my eyes to my brain when I was picking out the color in the store.    So, what to do to fix it?  I had white paint and clear glaze medium on hand, so I mixed the two and sponged and ragged it onto the wall.   Lucky for me that did the trick and I got the perfect soft French yellow that I was aiming for.

Oh, that “stain” in the corner of the picture?  That’s some copper glazing sponged on to create a faint water stain.  More of that New Orleans/French effect.  Its very obvious in the picture but it does not stand out as vividly in the room itself.  Apparently very realistic too.  I’ve gotten a few comments from plumbers over the years.

Throughout this post I have included pictures of other painted walls and items that I thought would be of interest.  For a roughly plastered wall, I used painters tape to mask off the squares and then sponged on different jewel toned, glitter, and metallic acrylic craft paints until I reached an effect that pleased me.

The chandelier was inexpensive and had a plain brushed silver tone.  I used metal paints to create the Old World French effect.  The decorative ceiling medallion is the frame of an old Homco clock, painted and gilded using plastic paints and a 24kt gold paint marker, and then mounted above the chandelier.

Would you believe the picture frame is plastic?  Its been reworked with a combination of plastic and metallic paints, and the details are picked out in silver and gold paint pens.

The crackle doors are part of a set of bookcases that I simply coated with crackle medium and then rolled on white trim paint.  The handles are painted with gold metallic paint.  What was a set of cheap bookcases that had seen better days is now a fun, primitive and old-world looking set of bookcases that I use to display special book collections and knick knacks.

Why not try something new with paint in your own home?  Paint is not that expensive, and you can simply start again if you don’t like how it turned out!

Clicking on any of the pictures in this post will take you directly to my online store where you can find alternative fine art prints and more to adorn you and your home.

The Lore of the Mistletoe

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It may be fresh, dried, or artificial,  but chances are you hang mistletoe in your home during the holidays.  And you have kissed someone under the mistletoe hanging over your head.  But do you know anything about this custom or anything about the plant itself?

Drive along any road going south from Virginia during winter, you can see masses of this evergreen plant on tree after tree.  But, plant is a misnomer for mistletoe.  It is actually a parasite that lives in trees and feeds itself from nutrients contained in the host plant.  It is spread by birds eating the berries and the seeds of the berries then passing through in waste and landing on a tree branch.  But for the sake of simplicity in this post, I will continue to refer to mistletoe as a plant.

When I was younger, mistletoe was easily found where I lived.  People went into the woods with rifles and arrows and literally shot the plant down out of the trees.  Then they went around door to door, or to winter craft fests, and sold the plants in small bundles tied with pretty ribbons.  People hung them in doorways, or other high places that would allow for people to stand underneath the mistletoe so they could kiss their partner.  Some would take the mistletoe and create “kissing balls”, which might also contain other evergreen plants and herbs.

The known custom of hanging the mistletoe dates as far back as the 14th century, but it is the Victorian era interpretation that we are most familiar with today.  During the Victorian era, when it was difficult for young lovers to speak to each other alone, a romantic and highly symbolic language was developed using plants and flowers to send messages back and forth to loved ones.  Mistletoe was given the meaning of “kiss me” and scores of unmarried young women would line up to stand under the mistletoe during the Christmas festivities to receive a kiss from an unattached young man.  Such bold and brazen behavior!

Some of you, like me, keep mistletoe in your home year-round for the good luck it brings.  It can repel evil, while allowing the doors to the in-between to remain open for the beneficial visitations from the other side.  I never throw away any mistletoe until I have a fresh sprig or bunch to replace it.  Doing so would “throw my luck away”.  As you can see from my pictures I have had mine for some years now.  Where I live, it is hard to find these days due to over-harvest and the lack of the right kind of birds to consume the berries.  However, with the internet, I find I can order some and may well do so this season.  What is the proper procedure for disposal?  You should always burn the old after you have brought in the new.  Burning is a sacred disposal and shows respect.  Why is that you ask?  Well, that’s a long discussion and probably best saved for another post!

WARNING:  Mistletoe is a highly poisonous plant (the berries are especially poisonous and should be removed) and must be kept away from children and animals. 

Excuse me. Sorry. Did Not Mean to Step on You.

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I am a Taphophile.  I have Taphophilia.   It is not a horrific, strange disease, and as scary as the word looks, it is not communicable (but I will do my best to pass it on to you).

The root of the word Taphophilia is Greek.  Taphos for grave and phileo for love.  The actual meaning of the word as used today is a passion for and an enjoyment of cemeteries.  Photography, genealogy, study of architecture, inconography are all subjects that fall under Taphophilia.  A Taphophile is an individual who engages in one or more of these interests.

I have, from a very young age, harbored a fascination for cemeteries and graveyards.  There is a difference between the two.  Cemetery means burial grounds that are taken care of, whether by family members or hirelings, and can be open or closed to new interments (burials).  Graveyard means burial grounds that have been neglected, perhaps forgotten, and no longer have interments.

As a child, graveyards were the best.  Spooky.  Creepy.  Home to vampires, zombies, and ghosts.  I loved the little frisson of fear that passed over me whenever we passed by a graveyard or when I saw them in movies or in pictures.  The older they were the better.

I don’t recall when my love for graveyards changed to encompass cemeteries, but somewhere along the line I discovered that there was a whole lot more to the eye in both places, and a whole lot of learning to be had in them too.  And again, the older they are the better they are.  I have no real attachment or love for modern burial places.  Too sterile.  Nothing but sameness as far as the eye can see.  Its the older cemeteries and graveyards that hold my love.

Walk into a cemetery created prior to the early 1900s, and you will immediately be surrounded by art, poetry, and prose.  Hand carved statues.  Angels, figures, flowers, symbols, and inscriptions.  Created by artisans in a variety of mediums such as marble and granite. For the most part, one of a kind.  The inscriptions can be moving, short bursts of emotion regarding a loved one.  A bible verse, or personal lament.  A bit of humor here and there.

The symbolism  used tells a story about the person buried.  It may reflect a personal belief or a belief of the family members.  An anchor means eternal life or eternal hope and are found on sailors’ and masonic graves.  Calla lillies represent beauty, clasped hands mean farewell to earthly existence or unity.  Lambs are most usually found on a child’s grave.  Dogs represent loyalty.  Most of these are Western meanings and many are Victorian.  There are some wonderful books out there on the subject of cemetery symbolism, and much can be found for free on the internet.

Crypts are another interesting feature in the older cemeteries.  These structures are very reminiscent of houses, churches, castles, etc.  and for the most part, if you were buried in a crypt you either came from a well off family or you amassed the funds over a lifetime to spend on a crypt of your choosing.  Some of these crypts will have room for multiple family members.  Some will hold only one.  Some are grandiose edifices, some are simple in their nature though no less poignant.

Although you will find many crypts, burial mounds and sarcophagi (another form of crypt, more reminiscent of a coffin or casket or a human form) scattered throughout the country, most burials are in-ground.  An exception to that rule would be the cemeteries in and around New Orleans.  Because the City of New Orleans is below sea level and the water table in the soil is so high, in ground burials, until very recent times, were not the norm.  In these cemeteries, the dead are buried in crypts, barrows, and wall ovens, and are reused by generations of family members in those cemeteries that are still accepting interments.

The loveliest cemeteries that I have seen in the U.S. are the garden cemeteries, designed by the Victorians as a park and a place of public entertainment.  These cemeteries were modeled on the Paris Pere Lachaise Cemetery and the London Highgate Cemetery.  The Victorians enjoyed walking in their cemeteries and even hosted picnics by the loved one’s grave!  I have been to two such cemeteries, namely the Metarie Cemetery in New Orleans, and the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond Virginia.  Both are on the national historic registry and both have spectacular art, stonework, and landscaping.

When visiting, plan to wear sturdy walking shoes and dress according to the weather.  Wear sunscreen and insect repellent.  Always, always be aware of your surroundings.  Get information regarding the safety of the area, and when in doubt, always leave immediately.  Generally it is better not to visit these places alone.  Vampires and ghosts are not the only thing to fear in these places.

Remember too that when you are walking around the older cemeteries and graveyards, you are more than likely stepping on someone’s grave.  Headstones disappear, are destroyed, stolen, or crumble to dust over time.  You never know if the land beneath your feet is hallowed ground.  I find myself sincerely and repeatedly saying “Sorry  that I stepped on you” whenever I am wandering through.  And hoping in my heart that they both hear and forgive me.

Enjoy cemeteries?  Clicking any of the pictures featured in this blog will bring you to my shop where you will find beautiful fine art prints of cemeteries (and more!).