Jun 28, 2006

New Nostalgia Nursery

The "newness" of an infant, the innocence and purity, usually conjures images of crisp white sterile-looking furnishings in the nursery. But there is something about bringing home the next generation of a family that naturally compels us to reflect on our heritage-our ancestors. Because of this, I find comfort in surrounding not only the infant, but also the new mother (and dad) with mementos of yesteryear. Vintage photos, antiques, and family keepsakes becalm the spirit with the promise of continuity and the soothing balm of familiarity.

I am finding a shift in nursery design is taking place: This is in part because many women are waiting longer to have children. These older, more established moms-to-be want the nursery to be sophisticated and flow seamlessly with the style of the rest of the home. Also, chances are good that today's new mom is employed outside of the home. She wants to feel relaxed and at peace in her surroundings when caring for her infant. In these very tiring first few months, the nursery is as much for the mother as it is for the baby, if not more.

This all changes in due time of course. But it's a good six months before the child begins to crawl. Once the baby is crawling, the nursery can be adjusted to keep curious fingers out of harm's way. Once the toddler begins walking, the nursery is again adjusted. A successful nursery evolves, grows and adapts according to the baby's development and changing needs. But in those first few exciting months, the nursery should bring comfort to the new parents as well as to the new baby.

This particular nursery I designed for a show house and was later bought by a wonderful client and friend who has, in my opinion, wonderful taste! This nursery appeared in the national publication, Country Almanac's 2005 Winter's issue. I designed the bedding using humble ticking, and simple cottons. The vintage rocker, dresser and buffet are painted in a distressed black and the walls painted in a puddy gray. The alphabet, painted in faded black paint adorns the door ways and windows. Sound drab? Not the least! Very sophisticated and very sweet. Vintage wire baskets hanging on the wall near the changing dresser, holds essentials such as diapers, powder and lotions. The iron crib converts into a daybed and certainly becomes a family heirloom. As baby grows and commands a more playful room filled with fairies, super heros or unicorns, the rocker is easily transferred to another room along with the dresser and buffet. The furniture is not traditional "baby" furniture, thus, may be used anywhere in the home....and not to be stored in the attic only to be sold at the fraction of its cost in a future garage sale.

I enjoy designing nurseries simply because the challenge is to step outside the traditional box and create a room that soothes a tired mom (or dad) while they soothe our future generation....and that is what it is all about isn't it? Developing a future full of promise, hope, and most of all...peace.

from my house to your house,

Girlfriends are God's gift to women

I Thank God for girlfriends....really I do. We so need each other. If we are very blessed, we have an abundance of them...but if we even have one special girlfriend, then we are ahead of the game. Girlfriends are there for you through it all....they cry with you, laugh with you, and are ready to turn their life upside down in order to help out. But to have wonderful girlfriends in your life, you have to be one.

I know I could be a better girlfriend...I am always working and many times have to "take a raincheck" due to my schedule. But for some reason, my girlfriends don't give up on me. They love me - and I love them. I never take them for granted.

During my very painful divorce, I will never forget the time that my friend, Christie, had me over for cocktails and we just cried, laughed, cursed and drank away my woes. She basically initated me into the single world - a world of which I had no part for 26 years.

My sister, Louisa, is a great girlfriend...she didn't let a single day for 365 days straight go by without calling me during my divorce - she loved me no matter how much I vented, cried, swore, or repeated my woes. Since that dark time in my life, my sis and I have gotten tiny tattoos on our lower back (okay, I strong-armed her into getting one). They are Mandrin Chinese symbols and mine is "courage" and her's is "victorious." I also have talked her into piercing her upper ear with me - she and my boyfriend are not liking this "trend" they say. I say I like to keep life interesting.

Sharon, my very good friend and employee has seen and heard it all. She could write a book on the "adventures of Elizabeth." Without her, I would be much less of a person. She "completes me" as the saying goes!

I am so blessed to have so many wonderful friends in my life - but my girlfriends, well, they have a very special place in my heart that no others could replace. If you have a special girlfriend in your life - call or email her today and tell her how special she is - then send her this blog and have her read it. I am sure my thoughts about girlfriends are universal.

from my house to your house,

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Flea-marketing 101

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What a thrill to open the current issue of St. Louis at Home magazine and see a photo of me grinning with my latest find at a local flea-market. In this July issue of the magazine I give the readers some of my tips on shopping a flea-market and how I use my finds in my apartment of the store. The feature also shows several photos of my apartment which houses my one-of-kind finds. (By the way, the apartment photos were taken by me.) If you get a chance, pick up a copy for the full article…or go to my website www.elizabethhouse.us to view it….I will be uploading it in the near future.

Flea-markets are really more about the thrill of the hunt really – at least for me. I think that back in the caveman days, I wouldn’t have stayed behind in the cave to “gather” and prepare food with the cavewomen – I would have been with the cavemen (much to their disdain, I’m sure) “hunting” for the best “kill.”

But if you approach flea-marketing with a good sense of humor and fun, the experience will be great. Now, I do this for a living, so I would not be a great companion at a flea-market….I am very fast, I talk very little (I am constantly calculating my costs and resale value in my head), and I move – really move through the booths in what has been described by some as a “crazy” way to shop. But believe me, there is a method to my madness. Really – there is a method…okay maybe more madness than method….

But below are “normal” tips for the novice and the seasoned alike:

Wear a purse – do not carry one! Keep your hands free.

Go early – REALLY early to avoid crowds and to get the best pickins.

Do not suggest a reduced price to the dealer – that is rude.

Instead, ask what is the best price he/she can do?

If you buy several items from one dealer, ask for a group discount if he/she is able to
Bring handy wipes – your hands will get dirty!

Bring durable shopping bags – not all dealers provide them.

Load blankets and towels in your car to protect breakables and

avoid scratches when loading them all up to take home.

Bring a tape measure – and your measurements if you have specific needs.

Be willing to pay more than you wanted to – if you really, really love something.

You will be sorry that you didn’t spend that extra $5 for something you really loved.

Bring a buddy that isn’t looking for the same items/style as you –

you will be competing all day long with each other - which can test even the best of friendships!

I have shopped at flea-markets all over Europe, the East Coast, well basically all over the U.S. And they all have one thing in common: every dealer wants to sell and every shopper wants to buy. That is a good formula for success if you ask me.

Happy hunting and the next time you are at a flea-market and you see a little whirlwind of dust being kicked up… there is a good chance that I am there doing some serious shopping!

From my house to your house,

Jun 22, 2006

Texan moves to Midwest

A question I am asked all the time is why in the world did I move
from San Antonio to St. Louis? Well, for a lot of reasons that I am
going to explain. First, let me give a little background. I have lived in many places to include Europe, East Coast, South Dakota, Texas and stints in Alabama
and Florida. I am originally from Austin, Texas where my extended family currently resides. My ex and I moved to San Antonio in 1996 due to military orders. Yes, I was an Air Force Officer once upon a time....a story that I will save for later. Having not lived in Texas for almost 14 years, it took some getting use to the horrible heat, bugs and driving distances. And did I mention bugs? I hate bugs.

After I got out of the military (my last assignment was writing and producing training and education videos), I got a job working as an entertainment producer for Sea World San Antonio. I have a background in theater and television as well as writing. I wrote and produced shows, did some set design, wrote children's' summer programs, and yes, I even wrote the opening act for the Sea Lion Show - Sea Lions have such big egos...

Once the "glamour" of writing for Sea Lions wore off and my job became much more managerial and corporate and the creative side of my job became less and less it was time for me to move on. I got a job with an interior design firm where I worked as a designer who did a lot of shopping, buying and installing furniture and accessories for clients. At that time, I started a few small antique booths in local antique malls to fulfill my passion for antiques, painting furniture and designing bedding. My booths began to have a life of their own and my creative work became more in demand.

In 2001, I finally got pregnant - something my ex and I "worked" on for over a year. I was pregnant with twins and so very happy. I decided to leave the design firm and go out on my own and thus, created, my company, Elizabeth House. I didn't have a store in San Antonio, but my booths and private clients kept me busy. Then the September from hell approached. I quit the design firm the last week of August 2001 and a week later I lost my twins and had a D & C on September 5, 2001. I was 12 weeks along. Then of course, the following week was the horrible 9/11. Then a week later our beloved English Bulldog, Winston of 11 years died in his sleep. And the final week of September we had to be out of our home, which sold before we could buy one, so we had to move into a rental while we continued to house hunt. It was a tough, tough month. Then two months later, my ex gets laid off along with the rest of America due to the aftermath of 9/11.

So there we were with no jobs, no home, no babies and not even our dog. We were sick of Texas and just too heart broken to think straight. One day, while painting furniture in my living room for a client (my garage was filled with wet furniture) I was listening to Oprah Winfrey. At that time, she still had Dr. Phil on as a regular. I don't even remember the topic but Dr. Phil said: "If you keep on doing what you are doing, you will just keep on getting what you are getting." In other words, to get drastic change, calls for drastic action. So that evening when my ex came home from yet another inteview, I told him what Dr. Phil had said and right then and there we decided to leave Texas.

That very evening we opened up the United States atlas and looked for our new home. We lived on the East coast - been there and done that. The West coast was too expensive and we lived South - so what about the Midwest?? Saint Louis looked good on the map. It was central, had four seasons, and we liked the name - yup, that was our highly researched-educated-well-thought-out reasoning. It had been a tough year and we were just too pooped to really think it all out. But we did some research on the internet and got in our car a few days later and drove here to St. Louis to check it out. That was May 2002. We liked what we saw and decided that this would be our new home. My ex tried to drum up interviews and we made one more trip to St. Louis to try to figure out what to do. We knew no one and had no idea about the city. All I knew was....I fell in love with Forest Park and wanted to be one of those joggers that I saw running along the path....I knew I could be some day. (And I am.)

Then in July 2002, still no job offer in St. Louis, and still trying to find a way to make our move happen, my brother called and said he had to get rid of some flying miles or he would lose them. I talked him into taking me to Europe and I would act as his tour guide if he paid for it all. I really needed a break - my stress was out of control. While in Europe, my ex called and said he got a job in St. Louis, but had to leave right away. Then he called a few days later to tell me that he arrived in St. Louis safely and that he rented me a store! Now, we had talked about having a store some day, but it was only a dream, just talking really. But he went and leased a store that I never even been inside of. I was panic-stricken and excited at the same time. I never even worked in a store before and I had no idea where to start.

I packed up the house items and my inventory from my booths and drove the largest truck one can drive without a commercial license and pulled a trailer behind it. I drove from San Antonio to St. Louis all by myself and arrived in St. Louis on September 5, 2002. Exactly one year to the day that I lost my twins. So much had happened in only 12 short months. We unpacked our items and I turned around, drove the truck back to Texas and packed it again and did it all over again. I arrived in St. Louis on October 2, 2002. This was our third move in less than 12 months. I took four weeks to get the store up and going all by myself. I never even unpacked our household goods - no time -as I was working 20-hour days as it was. One evening, I was painting in the store, so very, very exhausted and so very worried about everything that I just broke down and cried and cried. What in the hell was I doing? I cried on the floor and my ex was putting something together and I told him "I don't even know how to run a credit card machine...I don't even own a credit card machine! What am I doing?" He just calmly told me that God doesn't set people up to fail...that if we do what He has planned for us, then failure is not an option....and then he told me that I was meant to do this. A weight was lifted, I stopped crying, and continued to paint and pray.

And on November 4, 2002, Elizabeth House was in business.

It was only two months later that the apartment above the store came available, so we rented that and moved yet a 4th time in less than 14 months. And at that time, the editors of Mary Englebriet's Home Companion Magazine became interested in photographing my apartment for their magazine. But that will be another story for another time. Now you know how I got to St. Louis. And I also want you to know how much I love this city, how great the people are and how I feel so at home in my community. I am truly blessed in so many ways.

from my house to your house,

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Through my lense

As many of you may know, I have a passion for photography. I took one
course in my last year of college and just fell in love with the art. I have
often wondered if I should have taken that path. I always loved it and

did it only as a hobby until very recently. As a store owner, it really comes
in handy to have knowledge and skill in photography - as I need shots of
my store, product shots for print ads, my website and more.

Since my divorce, I moved out of my master bedroom in my apartment
above my store and turned that room into my photo studio. I only use
natural light. I now do professional photography as a side business. I
truly enjoy the work and the challenge. The business happened by
accident. Customers would see photos of my niece in my store and ask
who took the photo and then they began to ask me to take photos of their
children or grandchildren. So now, I take appointments to photograph
babies and expectant mothers. I also do commercial work and shoot
products and items for websites as well as lifestyle shots.

You may view a sampling of my work on my website
www.elizabethhouse.us . I do not shoot traditional photography... I have a very different look and most of my photographs are not the "portrait" type of photos. They all have a little edge to them, a different angle, different coloring, or severly cropped. It is just the way I see things through my lense....and now you get to see them too.

I am blessed that my work has appeared in national and local magazines such as Mary Englebreit's Home Companion Magazine, Romantic Homes, St. Louis at Home, Alive Magazine, and
St. Louis Magazine.

I am always up for a challenge and hope to continue to learn more about this art and discover more ways to express myself creatively. That is what it is all about, isn't it?

It is a way to express what is going on inside this noggin of mine.

from my noggin to your noggin,

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Jun 21, 2006

Big Leaps for Little Boutique

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Just a note to let you know that my store, Elizabeth House, www.elizabethhouse.us, was selected as one of the top 50 retail stores nation-wide by the retail trade journal, Home Accents Today. My store was selected out of 23 stores in the category with sales less than a million dollars. The award reads as follows:"Try to define a Star of any kind is tough, as true in retail as any place. The star store has its own distinct personality, usually a strong entrepreneurial owner who puts his or her stamp firmly on the product mix, the merchandising and the store's role in the community. This year, the Home Accents Today's 50 Stars share all of the these characteristics, but also are fiercely independent in their approaches to retailing. We congratulate the 2006 Stars."

How exciting and what an honor to be selected. Also, congrats to my dear friend, Debbie Dusenberry for having her store, Curious Sofa, selected as well. Visit her store in Kansas City and give yourself a real treat! She is one very talented lady. Her website is www.curioussofa.com .

I feel truly inspired by so many of you and continue to challenge myself as a business owner. I thought after being open for almost four years now, things would be easier - but they aren't. New challenges, issues, and problems to solve face me every day. But living a creative life and trying to make a living from it has its worries and its rewards. I choose to focus on the rewards.It is my dream that one day I will be a true inspiration for other women searching for their creative side and living their passion. I have been inspired by many women who shared their wisdom and encouraged me when I felt defeated.

I hope someday that one of you will write me or (or call into my national design show!) to tell me how much I inspired you to live your dreams as well. Someday, I hope to be in a position of not only inspiring others, but to actually be able to help make those aspirations a reality. Who knows? Maybe that will really happen.For now, we creative women need to support and give to one another as we continue our journey.

Basically, we all have same need: we just want to be accepted for who we are. The challenge? To discover who that person is. I am up for a challenge, are you?

from my house to your house,

Jun 15, 2006

My First Marathon - The finish line is only the beginning

As most of you have learned by now, I am recently divorced after 22 years of marriage, with a total of 26 years with my ex. While the last 13 months have been challenging as I try to piece my life back together after it has been altered against my will, I am discovering many things about myself that I will share with you, over time, through this diary of mine.

To combat depression and sort out of my thoughts, fears and worries, I took up running again in May 2005. Throughout the summer and into Fall, I just ran - sort of like Forrest Gump. But it was Forest Park and I that spent many hours together. Many, many times I ran with tears in my eyes as I contemplated my future and second-guessed my past decisions in life. All this running eventually resulted in my decision to run a marathon.

I felt I needed to prove something to myself. My life was so out of my control and I needed to take back the reins. So...I donned a pair of running shoes and just made my decision. Period.

Now, I have "run" a half-marathon before and even done several mini-triathlons, but never a full marathon - that is 26.2 miles for those of you who have sense enough to stay in bed and sleep instead of getting up early to run like a fool.

I chose the More Magazine marathon in NYC that took place at the end of March 2006. This magazine is marketed toward women 40 and older and the run is for women 40 and older only. I really wanted - no, needed- the support of others just like me. I quickly discovered that I was not alone when it came to running a "post-divorce" marathon. All of the women had personal stories and events that brought us all together for this run. There were over 4000 runners and less than 300 doing the full marathon. My only goal was to finish. I have friends in NYC, but they could not attend the race - so I was really alone that day.

It was a very cold morning, windy and drizzly. I knew that this was a special day and I didn't care how long it would take - I was going to finish. I was bib number 261. As I ran the marathon in 5 hours and 13 minutes, I had a lot of time to think and reflect about the last 11 months of my life. All the pain, the tears, the confusion, the fear, the sadness, and anger. I also had time to reflect on my strength, my will, my ability to overcome, to move on, to find happiness, to open my heart again to love, and to just keep going no matter what. During my run I admired Central Park, the other runners, the comradery, the whole event. What was also surprising was how I felt sort of like a celebrity. You see, out of 4000 runners, less than 300 of us were doing the full marathon - and we marathoners had blue bibs. The rest of the runners wore orange bibs. At one point on the route, the full marathoners split from the others and ran a mile on a different path and then later, merged up a hill and met up with the rest of the runners and continued the route. As I came up the hill, in view of the other runners, they all clapped and cheered for the "blue bib!" As I ran past cheering crowds, children would exclaim, "here comes a blue bib, mom!" People wanted to slap my hand as I passed by them and yelled out "go blue bib!!" It was absolutely so moving on so many levels. While they may have only seen me as a blue bib running alone on the path - I felt surrounded with my personal thoughts.

My pace was actually pretty good up until mile 21. At that time, my left knee gave out and started to quiver...I never had a knee problem before nor any problems while training. At mile 21 it started to lightly sleet and got colder. I had to walk and stretch out my knee for the next two miles. I was so frustrated but I decided I wasn't about to walk across the finish line - I was going to run across it, dammit! I reflected on how ironic that I would come so far only to have my knee give out when I least expected it, never having had a knee problem before - sort of like my marriage - I was married 22 years, just running along, doing my thing, and out of no where, my marriage gives out. Sort of like my knee in the race. And like the race, I didn't want to quit life either.

As I saw mile marker 26, my heart began to race - I was almost done and I was all alone. Most runners had finished way before me. But I wasn't last either. I knew in my heart that I could do anything. Tears welled up as I closed in on the finish line - my knee was in a lot of pain, I was wet, cold, and tired. I was so damn happy. My friend, Carl, made it back in time to snap a photo or two. As I crossed the finish line in NYC, I realized that for me, it wasn't a finish line at all - it was only the beginning. The beginning of what exactly? I don't know about the future, but I am remaining open to all possibilities. And my store, my photography, my writing, my design work, and my physical health are all gifts that I will continue to grow and share with those who appreciate it. I hope my talents inspire others to discover theirs. That will be the best gift of all.

May you always cherish your gifts.

P.S. I am registered to run the Chicago Marathon in October 2006! I will keep you posted.

Jun 13, 2006

"Dwell in possibility." - Emily Dickinson

“Dwell in possibility.” - Emily Dickinson

Greetings! I am thrilled to share my news, thoughts and greetings with all of you who continue to care for and support me and my business. You can never truly understand how much you mean to me.
As a person in a creative field, I meet many women who want to embark on their own journey to pursue their creative passion. Some have just discovered theirs—others are still searching for it. They are talented, committed, and yes, passionate about what they do or want to do. But no matter how impassioned we may be, there is a key ingredient necessary to move beyond the ‘dream’ stage to the ‘do’ stage: We all need courage. Courage is like the oven that bakes the cake. Flour, sugar and eggs, along with the passion and talent for creating a cake do not result in a cake until it is finally baked in the oven. Only then do you have cake. Without courage, your dream remains just that—only a dream.
Having a dream gives us all hope, something to look forward to. Whether we dream of becoming parents, opening a business, buying a home, going back to school, or finding the love of our lives, it takes courage to really see it through. And sometimes, when our dreams are taken from us, or altered against our will, it takes courage to dream a new dream. And then it takes even more courage to ‘bake our cake’ and turn our dream into reality.
Courage is something to which we all have access. No one possesses it, we don’t own it, no one can give it to us…but it is there for us to use when we need it. The key is to know when we need it and then go borrow it. More than passion, more than talent, more than dreaming, courage is the key that enables us to discover who we really are, not just who we wish to be.
Never underestimate the power of courage...courage makes the possibility a reality.
from my house to your house,

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