Monday, November 26, 2012

12 Things I Learned in Amsterdam

I've never been much of a history buff, or a dates and facts and knowledge buff for that matter, so when I started planning my trip to Amsterdam, I began racking my brain for all the things I thought I knew about the Dutch. They wear wooden shoes, I thought. And make cheese! And there may be something about windmills, but I read Don Quixote in Spanish class and am fairly certain Dutch people don't speak Spanish. That last one really threw me for a loop, but as I reflected on these Dutch ideals, I realized I didn't know too much about our friends in Holland.

While most of my predisposed notions of the Netherlands proved to be true, or sort of true, depending on how you define "wear," I learned so much more! Here are 12 things I learned (and/or confirmed), in no particular order of importance or even in order of what would logically make sense, told inevitably through some of my favorite photographs from the trip.

1. There are wooden shoes everywhere! Take this shoe, for example, just laying on the ground of a farm. A private farm, which begs the question, why was I [allegedly] trespassing on a private farm? But the real point here is that there are wooden shoes. Wooden shoes! Could you believe that? And they are everywhere! Everywhere save for the feet of the Dutch (in my experience, at least).

2. When you consider how young the United States is, it's not too incredibly difficult to then deduce that everything in Europe must be really old. When you tend to keep the US's birth certificate out of the way in your back pocket, which is buttoned so you don't lose things and therefore not easily accessible, you tend to forget and are subsequently surprised time and time again, over and over at every corner you turn where you see a building that has been standing longer than your country has had its freedom.

3. Perhaps in relation to my second learning, as a result of being really old, some buildings are quite crooked and skewed, as evident here.

4. Dutch is not unlike English were you to take the letters in an English word, multiply them by two then add, say, 3-5 additional letters - or words for that matter - preferably some F's, A's, the word "plein," "huis," or "hof," but totally up to your discretion.

5. Now, I'm about to tell you something crazy. It's something I felt early on in the trip and still struggle to come to terms with even now, days after returning home. Anne Frank lived here, people. This should come as no surprise to those of you who diligently studied your history materials and have a memory that holds up over time, but even in knowing prior to my trip that the secret annex was located in Amsterdam, I still can't seem to grasp my mind around it at all.

In all seriousness, though, the Anne Frank Huis was an incredible experience, inspiration and true testament to a beautiful person who suffered so greatly at the cruel hands of hatred.

"Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart." Anne Frank

"Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!" Anne Frank

6. It's a beautiful idea, really, that a city could exist and function primarily without the use of cars, but the harsh reality is that biking is dangerous and scary. And biking without a helmet poses a serious threat to even the most experienced of bikers, like myself of course. Don't get me wrong, I loved biking everywhere, but as the causer of nearly six accidents with cars and other bikes alike, I think I speak for all of Amsterdam when I say this: biking is hard, y'all.

7. I'm not completely sure how, but flowers seem to have a higher tolerance to cold in Amsterdam. Take these flowers, for instance. It was a windy, chilly, foggy day (classic Amsterdam!), yet they're just hanging outside this building looking all pretty.

8. There's some pretty bizarre fruit in Amsterdam, which is ironic considering I didn't eat any fruit while I was there save for some pears (presumably, or definitely, canned) that were on my pancake. With ice cream. And chocolate sauce. And whipped cream. And powdered sugar.

9. For what it's worth, which is probably only a few euros, I have some advice to those of you looking to bring flowers back to the United States. You see, there are flowers to be found everywhere in Amsterdam, even in the blistery pre-winter months - real flowers, wooden flowers, seed packets, bulbs. As a citizen and resident on likely the most stringent country on earth when it comes to customs and immigration and blah blah blah, the tulip bulbs I so thoughtfully purchased, packaged and carried all the way to the United States for my mom and sisters were confiscated immediately upon my arrival. Here's a note to anyone who tries to do the same: make sure you have the certification paper when you buy. Or just get the wooden ones and call it a day. It's as simple as that. Is this common knowledge?

10. There's something about colorful leaves that just gets me every time. Amsterdam seemed to have a lot of variations of yellow, but not much red, which I'm ok with because red isn't really my thing if I'm being perfectly honest. But, of course, go Dawgs!

11. Windmills serve a purpose of which I am slightly unsure. Something about moving water or bridges, maybe. The oddest part I learned was that there's a man (or woman or family) who lives inside and operates the windmill. Isn't that fascinating?

12. The last of my musings on Amsterdam should come as no surprise: everything is beautiful. And so I leave you with a few more photos.

Friday, November 16, 2012

DIY Glitter Feather Shadow Box

My flight to Amsterdam has been pushed to Saturday (oh, the joys of a buddy pass!), but I'm totally all right with it because between work and needing to pack, there was almost no way I was going to be ready on Friday morning unless I forwent sleep. If you've met me when I'm tired or hangry, you'll know this isn't a viable option for those around me.

So. Of course it made sense for me to finish this DIY project last night instead of getting a head start on packing or, you know, sleeping since I went into work at 7AM yesterday thinking I wouldn't be there most of Friday.

Anyway, I don't know if I've mentioned on here how I sort of hate Pinterest, but inspiration for these glitter feathers - I'm ashamed to say - came from my roommate's Pinterest. It's not that I don't recognize that there are great ideas and creativity flowing across the millions of boards out there, but I just feel like it almost kills (my) creativity to a degree. It's almost like it's too easy to come up with ideas. Granted, I'm probably contradicting myself here since I have vocalized on many occasions that many of my ideas are "borrowed" from one place or another, but bottom line is I just strongly dislike Pinterest and as of a few months ago am no longer a member.

This was a really easy project after I messed up the first version and subsequently learned that dipping > brushing when it comes to feathers. I had the paint, glitter and fabric (naturally), so really I just had to buy the shadow box frame and feathers. While I normally look to my sister for all my custom framing needs, she's currently in the throes of the holiday season and I didn't want to get in line to have these framed. I purchased the frame at Michael's where it was 40% off already and then used another 25% off coupon. With two packages of feathers (2 per package), my total was around $18. Not too shabby.

Second round of feathers after I messed up the first batch (I repeat: dip, don't brush) - these ones had black dip-dyed tips but the gold paint covered over it nicely

This paint and I have been through a lot together, as evident herehere and here to name a few

Dip! Dip I tell you! And then smooth with your fingers so it's even, being careful not to spread the feathers apart (see a few photos below to get an idea of what not to do)

Glitter blast immediately

Like, a lot of glitter - you can never have too much glitter, in my ever so humble opinion

I decided the felt, velcro-ready mat that came with the frame wasn't going to work for me, so I pulled out some fabric scraps from the pillows I made, ironed it and covered the back of the frame the shottiest way possible. Look, I'm not proud of how this looks on the back end. As someone whose sister owns a frame shop and who herself worked in said frame shop for several years in high school, I really know better. But hey, whatever works, right? The backing was too thin to use the staple gun, as I noticed a little too late when a staple sort of (ok, definitely) went through and lightly punctured the table underneath. The tape may not look pretty on the back, but it worked.

Feather #3 pictured here is what happens when you brush, not dip. I don't hate it and actually considered this layout for the final product, but it would have been a tight squeeze and I generally prefer odd numbers. 

Finished piece hanging on the wall - this is part of a larger gallery wall project that I'll be sharing in bits and pieces here on Flowers are Lovely until it's finished.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's November?

 Especially pretty leaves all over Atlanta this fall

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but it seems I blinked and opened my eyes to the ides of November. I leave Friday for my trip to Amsterdam to visit my dear friends Marc and Lara and could not be more excited! We have plans for a day trip to Belgium and a few days in Germany, but mostly I'm excited to see them and their new home for the next two years. Funny how a day trip from Atlanta gets me to Alabama and back, but in the Netherlands I get a Belgian waffle and a mouthful of beer.

I am about one percent ready for my trip, and only because I finally located my passport earlier this week, but I fully intend to post some pictures and trip details once I return. In the meantime, here are some things I'm loving.

Excited to use these feathers along with some goods I thrifted this week (not pictured) to make various general apartment decor and festive Christmas displays

 Scavenger hunt in downtown Atlanta on one of the most beautiful days we've had made for some pretty photos

I mean....right?! This little guy is the new black. 

My Buckhead Church community group, aka second family, who so graciously obliged me and embraced sharing in a "Fakesgiving" celebration with me after I return since I'm missing real Turkey Day with my family...y'all are the best!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The many faces of a baby (among other things).

I'll be the first to admit I have somewhat of an obsession with my niece. But I mean, can you really look at these pictures and tell me you don't understand? You can't empathize? You just don't get it? She's darling and I love her and I will accept nothing or no one telling me otherwise. Even that bottom left photo where she is so blatantly living out her terrible two's, I just can't even stand it.

I was babysitting the week my new nephew arrived and couldn't help but notice the beautiful pre-dusk lighting. For those of us who know very little about the mechanics of a camera and blah blah blah, we rely heavily on good lighting. Seizing the opportunity, I dressed the baby in the ruffliest (ok, cleanest) shirt I could find, tricked her into wearing one of my hairbows, grabbed my camera and headed outdoors with the little nut.

These are the chickens she loves dearly and affectionately mimics "doooooo!" 

Sneaky baby