Category Archives: Art & Design

See Sister Travel: Greece (Part 2)

As promised, here’s the second part of my Greek Adventure: Ancient Sites and Ruins Edition. Let me tell you, people, we saw a lot of ruins. You might already know, but Greece is just full of ’em. So herewith, a run down of all the ancient places we visited.

The Acropolis

Obviously, when in Athens, this is the DON’T MISS thing. And it is definitely worth contending with the thousands of other tourists to get a glimpse.

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As many of you will know, acropolis means high point of the city (that may not be the strictly literal translation, but that’s what it boils down to). So the Acropolis in Athens is not the buildings on the top of the hill, but the hill itself. There are a load of buildings up there, including the small temple to Nike Athena and the Propylaia (entrance), of which I don’t have decent pictures.

Up on the top of the hill, there’s the Erechtheion, which is actually three temples in one, dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. It’s the one with the famous female figures as columns (aka caryatids) on the side.

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We had a tour of the Acropolis, in which I learned all sorts of interesting things, including the story that Athena and Poseidon competed to be the patron god/goddess of the city. Poseidon struck a rock and brought forth water, but it was salty seawater. Athena provided an olive tree, so the residents of the city chose her as the patron goddess. There’s still an olive tree next to the Erechtheion (visible in the above photo), but don’t be fooled: it’s not the original! Because Athena was the patron goddess of the city, the BIG temple on the Acropolis was dedicated to her. And that’s the Parthenon, duh.

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It was pretty impressive. And it was very interesting to see how they are going about restoring it.

We went to the new Acropolis Museum another day. It was opened in 2009 to house all sorts of goodies form the Acropolis, most importantly: the Parthenon marbles. The majority of these are in the British Museum and the battle to have them returned to Greece is ongoing. They’ve done a really nice job of presenting the marbles they do have, alongside plaster casts of the missing ones to give a feel for the scale of the Parthenon in its heyday.

 

Other Things in Athens

There are obviously loads of other ruins dotted around Athens, including the Agora (marketplace), throughout which there are all sorts of ancient bits and pieces, including the remarkably intact Temple of Hephaestus.

Photographed from the Areopagus.

Photographed from the Areopagus.

We also saw Hadrian’s Arch…

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…and the remains of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which was completed by Emperor Hadrian. Although there are only about 15 or so columns still standing, it was originally made up of 104 (!!!) columns. For context, the Parthenon (which is pretty darn large) had 69.

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Temple of Poseidon We took an afternoon bus trip out of Athens to visit the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. This the southern most point on the Attica peninsula. It was cold, rainy and windy that day (our only bad weather day), so our pictures are not great as we were just eager to get back down the hill for a warm drink.

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You can’t walk into the middle of the temple to see it, but apparently Lord Byron carved his name into one of the columns when he was visiting Greece back in the day. Fun story: This is also supposedly where Theseus’s father Aegeus threw himself off the cliff and plunged to his death when he saw Theseus’s ship returning from Crete (where he’d gone to fight the Minotaur) with black sails, which was meant to be the signal that Theseus was d-e-a-d, dead. But oops! Theseus was just a little spacey and had forgotten to change the sails. He was totes still alive! Anyways, Aegeus’s precipitous leap into the sea is why it’s known at the Aegean Sea today.

 

Delphi

I thought this was the coolest of the ancient sites we visited, and therefore I have the most pictures of it and the most to say about it. Delphi is a three hour-ish drive north of Athens. The site was built on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Back in the ancient times, this place was busy busy busy, its big draw being the Temple of Apollo and the oracle who hung out there dishing out prophecies on the regular.

The oracle was always an older woman, typically an empty-nester who more-or-less abandoned her husband after her kids were all grown and went to live at the Temple, where she spent her days sitting in a giant three-legged pot (a tripod), chewing on laurel leaves and breathing in vapors from the hot springs. Basically, it seems, she was high all day long – from the laurel leaves or from the fumes or both. People of all types would travel great distances to come and consult the oracle over big decisions – “Should I get married?” “Should we go to war?” etc. She would spout a high-as-a-kite, most likely nonsensical answer and her priests would then “interpret” her words into a more coherent response. Bada bing, bada boom.

There’s not a whole lot left of the actual temple. The outline of the base is still roughly visible, and a few partial columns remain.

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The columns to the left behind Rocket and Melanie are the remains of the Temple.

What was more interesting to see and learn about were all the ruins and partial buildings surrounding the temple. Given that the oracle was such a huge draw, a town of sorts sprang up around the temple. Pilgrims entered the temple complex along the Sacred Way. This switchback path led up towards the temple courtyard and altar. Lining the way were market shops, statues and buildings known as treasuries. These treasuries were usually dedicated by a town or city. Offerings or presents were stored here by the citizens of those towns/cities as thank yous for the oracle and Apollo. The many statues that lined the way served the same purpose. Apparently, back in the day, the place was chockablock with thousands of statues.

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Remains of shops and polygonal wall

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Reconstructed Treasury of the Athenians

Beyond the temple, further up the mountain slope were additional structures, including an impressive amphitheatre. This view down over the theatre gives you a better idea of the scale of the place. You can see the rough remains/size of the temple and imagine what it would have looked like with all its columns and a roof. To the right, you can see the reconstructed Treasury of the Athenians (pictured above).

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To the left beyond the temple columns, you can see another open, non-shrubby/grassy area. Although you can’t make it out in the picture above, those are the ruins of the gymnasium or training grounds for the athletes who competed in the Pythian Games, which were similar to the ancient Olympic Games (but obviously not held at Olympia and therefore not the same).

Continuing up the switchback path, higher up beyond the theatre, you come to the stadium, which is where the athletes actually competed. It was a bit of a hike, but really interesting once we got up there, as it’s very well preserved.

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Rather than a circular or oval track as we have today, the track was a straight line that they ran back and forth on for the requisite length. You could still make out the stone starting lines with holes into which the athletes would fit their wooden starting blocks. And in the middle of the spectator seats, a special row of judges chairs is still perfectly clear (you can just make them out in the picture above).

There’s so much more I could say about Delphi. I haven’t told you anything about the museum that is just next to the site and houses many of the statues and treasures the archaeologists uncovered, some of which are extremely well-preserved. And I haven’t mentioned anything about the actual excavation, which involved moving an entire modern town that had been built on top of the ancient ruins, even using some of the old stones. I could go on and on, but there’s not enough space. So I’ll just say: you should go check it out for yourself.

 

Delos

Delos is an entire island that sits just to the east of Mykonos. On our second day on Mykonos, we took a ferry over to check it out. The island is completely uninhabited and is only an archaeological tourist site now. According to myth, it was a floating island upon which Leto gave birth to twins Artemis and Apollo. [There’s this whole thing about how Hera made it impossible for Leto to rest on any land because jealousy. Anyways, because Delos was not fixed to the ocean floor, it was cool for Leto to stop there…? And then Zeus had Poseidon fix it to one spot or something…? I don’t know. It’s hard to keep all these myths and legends straight.]

The island had a very long history involving various different iterations. Sometimes it was inhabited; sometimes it was forbidden for anyone to live there; at one point the sacredness of the island was paramount; at another point, it was a political gathering place; for a time it was a major trading port. Anyways, all those changes mean that there are all sorts of different ruins/buildings on the island – houses, temples, cisterns, theatres, statues, mosaics – but very few of them are as well preserved as anything at Delphi, for example.

The most famous ruins from the site are the Naxos Lions, a row of crouching lion statues dedicated to Apollo by the people of Naxos. Originally, there were nine to twelve lions; now only seven remain. They’re pretty weather-beaten these days, and in fact, the originals have been moved indoors to protect them from further erosion, but there are replicas in their place.

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I don’t have any other helpful/useful pictures from Delos, because the ruins are – for the most part – more ruined than intact. The pictures I took from the highest point on the island don’t really look like much of anything other than a jumble of stones. It was interesting to think of the island as a once buzzing hive of activity – be it commerce, religious rituals, political meetings – but unlike Delphi it was harder to really picture it.

 

Akrotiri

Our final ancient site was on our short visit to Santorini. Unlike all the previous spots, this was actually a prehistoric site, so like really really really really old. This bronze age site was destroyed in the 17th century BC volcanic eruption that resulted in the island’s current geographical configuration. The settlement was buried in volcanic ash, much like Pompeii. Unlike Pompeii, no human remains have been found, so it seems the residents had warning of the impending eruption (probably an earthquake) and therefore had time to evacuate. Of course, it’s entirely possible that they were then subsequently drowned in the ensuing tsunami, but let’s imagine they all made it to safety somewhere!

Aaaaaaaaanyways, the city being buried in volcanic ash means that it is amazingly well preserved. Although original excavations were done as early as the 1860’s, the modern excavations were begun in 1969 by a Greek archaeologist named Spyridon Marinatos. Although he later tragically died while working in the site, his careful excavations and dedication to the project led to the most significant discoveries and it’s current state.

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The pots in this building indicate that it was probably a shop of some sort.

Turns out this civilization was remarkably advanced. Archaeologists have uncovered beautiful wall paintings and mosaics, three story structures, civic and religious buildings, residences, shops, and – most impressively – an intricate plumbing system. The site is covered by a special bio roof that regulates the temperature and protects the ruins. The excavations have actually been halted over funding issues, and only a minimal estimated percentage of the site has been uncovered. If the work ever gets started up again, they could find all sorts of amazing things!

 

And that’s it folks! Those are all the ancient places we visited. Quite impressive to see all these structures and think about all the people who lived there thousands of years ago. If you’re into history, go to Greece! There’s so much to see and learn!

See Sister’s Brand New Lamp

Guys! Guys! Guess what, guess what, guess what??

That lamp I was searching for? I finally bought one! HURRAH! Victory in our time!

So which one did I go for? Drumroll, please…

John Lewis Penelope

John Lewis Penelope

I went for the greenish yellow pop of color in the John Lewis Penelope lamp. It took forever for me to get to the shops to actually look at some of these lamps in person to check the colors and sizes. When I decided to go with this one, they didn’t have this color in stock, so I had to go order it online. I finally got it into my flat and on my bedside table this past Monday.

Thus far, I’m loving it. Here it is in situ:

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I have to tilt it upwards a little more than I would like to get full advantage of the light (it is really designed as a desk lamp, after all), but that’s a very minor quibble. The color is slightly more muted than it appears in that picture above from John Lewis’s website, but I don’t mind that either. Overall, I just love the look of it, and I love having a light by my bed!

I didn’t mention it in my lamp-searching post, but my ceiling light has been pretty sad up to this point. It was just a solitary light bulb hanging from the ceiling. So while searching for a lamp, I was also seeking a shade for that sad light bulb. The height of both my wardrobe and my bedroom door in relation to the placement of the ceiling light meant that my options were limited in terms of size and shape. Therefore, I was looking for something simple and not too large. Joy of all joys, at John Lewis I also found the Gemma Shade:

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It comes in graduated sizes and various colors? Can you guess which color I picked?

That’s right, I went for the same greenish yellow in my beloved lamp:

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Sorry that there’s nothing else in the picture above to give a sense of size/scale. It proved quite difficult to get something else in the shot that didn’t just look messy and kind of confusing. Trust me, all you really need to know is that it’s so much better than it was.

Most importantly, these two pops of color (lamp + ceiling light) now provide my room with some much needed visual interest. Next up? Some more stuff on the walls and maybe some throw pillows for my bed. Now that I’ve taken the first decisive steps with interior decoration, who knows what could follow!?

See Sister’s Plant

I was going to title this post “See Sister Love a Plant”, but that felt like a lie. Fact: I have a plant now. I am invested in it’s survival. Do I love it? Hmmmmm, it’s more of a love-hate-kind-of-creeped-out relationship.

I’m not a plant person. The idea of watering and caring for a potted plant or a garden just does not appeal to me in the slightest. I don’t even like cut flowers. I don’t like receiving them; I rarely like the smell; I hate the way the water inevitably starts to stink to high heaven, even if you’ve been good about changing it; I don’t like that they just die and then are gross and dry and shrivelled in stinky water. Ugh.

Anyways, when I hosted Thanksgiving last November, I told the guests that they didn’t need to bring anything. I had the food sorted and Louise had recently gotten a discounted box of wine for changing energy providers or something, so we didn’t need any drinks. But obviously, as my guests were a group of lovely people, they all brought something anyways. We ended up with a bottle of champagne, LOADS of chocolate, and a plant.

The plant – an Amaryllis – came in bulb form with a nice painted pot and soil pellet/disc things. Because I am not big on plants, I left it for a couple of weeks, but then before I went home for Christmas, I decided I should really do something with it. So Louise and I mixed up the soil (it was an add water kind of thing), plonked the bulb and soil in the pot and left it to do it’s thing. When I left for home a day or two later, nothing at all had happened with it.

When I came back in January, it was cautiously poking up from the top of the bulb. Then on the morning of my surprise birthday brunch, as I was waiting for Hayley to come collect me, I looked at the plant and saw this:

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Serious growth, people. From there, it basically just started to rocket skyward. It seemed to grow at least an inch per day. I didn’t do a great job of documenting it’s growth during this time, but once it reached a height of about 18 inches, the bud at the top started to open up, and I started to photograph the progress.

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I should pause here to say that throughout this growth process, I have been both fascinated and completely weirded out. There is something decidedly disturbing about having this living non-sentient thing in your flat that moves and grows significantly from one day to the next. Not only would it grow upwards dramatically in a given day, it would also bend, lean, and shift direction. CREEPY.

Even so, and even with my general plant aversion, I found myself strangely invested in the fate of this organism. I am sure that if I had to give it more actual care and attention, I would have gotten bored and annoyed long ago. But this thing basically grows like wildfire without much help from me. I give it some water every once in awhile, but otherwise, it pretty much cares for itself (which is creepy).

Anyways, once the bulb started to open up, it was like “Right, so it’s flowering time! I’m doing this.” These pictures are literally only one day apart each:

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And this is when I started to be less creeped out and cautiously excited. Flowers! And pretty cool looking ones at that. Sure, I knew they were going to die eventually, but it’s not the same as a vase full of cut flowers, so I was fairly onboard with this whole thing. I should have known better.

This past Saturday, TRAGEDY STRUCK.

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The plant decided to take a suicide leap off the table. The worst part of this tragedy is that I had noticed that it was leaning dramatically that morning, and I thought, “Oh I should prop that up in a better place,” but then didn’t do anything about it. I was coming out of the kitchen with a cup of coffee; I saw The Plunge of Death out of the corner of my eye, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I picked it up (trying hard not to look at or touch the disturbing, twisted, dirty Pan’s Labyrinth-mandrake-baby-style roots and bulb), and tried to collect as much of the scattered soil as possible. But the broken neck was beyond salvation.

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I briefly tried to figure out if I could prop up the neck with scotch tape and wooden food skewer things, but the nature of the break made it clear that it was beyond repair. I had to cut off the head and put it out of it’s misery.

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I put the flowers in a small glass with plenty of water. And they’ve been doing remarkably well in that water, which I am changing regularly in an effort to avoid the disgusting stench that is sure to come.

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Even that middle bud that hadn’t bloomed when tragedy struck has blossomed in water.

And more importantly, the shorter stem/bud that had been coming up, has now started it’s own skyrocketing growth. This is the progress since just Sunday (and you can see where it was on Saturday in the picture above):

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If you look closely, you can see the pen marks Louise and I made on the beheaded stem to mark it’s growth every 24 hours. We’re now well past the top of that stem.

I did some reading on what to do with a beheaded amaryllis and the general consensus seems to be: cut it back to just above the bulb and let it do it’s thing (I haven’t done this yet as we were obviously using that stem as a measuring tool). It may be dormant for awhile, but it’ll probably bloom again. It’s like a starfish or one of those lizards who can grow back it’s tail after it’s been cut off. In other words, biologically amazing but still vaguely unsettling.

In my reading, I also came across the terrifying mention of a “mother bulb” which can then spawn other bulbs. The idea of that absolutely makes me shudder. If mine does that, it’s definitely getting tossed out. I can’t be having a spawning, alien plant in my flat.

I’ll keep it for now, though, and wait to see if it grows back following such significant trauma. My fascination and repulsion continue apace.

What about you? Are you a plant person? Do you have an amaryllis? Have you ever had a plant grow back after a similar suicide leap?

See Sister Search for a Lamp

The title of this post should really be “HELP Sister Search for a Lamp”. Specifically, a bedside lamp.

As Rachel mentioned in her post about my birthday art, my room is rather sad. The walls are bare (minus my new art), my bedding is plain, the colors are neutral. This has been the case in every room I’ve had in London (this is room #4). In the first two, my reluctance to decorate/invest definitely had to do with the fact that I didn’t know how long I would be staying. I was a student for the majority of that time, and I thought I might only be in the country for a year. With that kind of time frame (and a student budget), I was not going to put any serious expense into making my bedroom more homey.

In my third room, I always had great ideas about what I would do to make the room more “my own”. I’d put up some wallpaper! I’d buy some throw pillows! I’d invest in some art!

None of these things every happened. My room remained a blank canvas for the (almost) two years I lived in it.

All that is to say, I am determined to actually make an effort with my current room. Of course, I say that after having lived in this flat for more than a year and basically making no effort whatsoever. Hmmmm. Problem.

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See! Boring bedding, plain walls (minus new art). Those pictures/drawings on the right of the bed are of/from my nieces and nephews, but when Louise bought new curtains for my room last year, they got half covered up, and I’ve never even been proactive enough to move them. I’m the worst.

The real focus of this post, though, and the point of that picture above is to talk about my need for a bedside lamp. Almost as soon as I moved in last year, I decided I wanted one. The light switch is on the opposite end of my bed, so if I ever want to read in bed, I have to then get up to turn off the light before going to sleep. That’s a nuisance. Plus sometimes it’s just nicer to have some softer light in your room.

So yes, I need a bedside lamp and I have gone out to look for one a few times over the past year, but I am always overwhelmed by choice. So many options! What do I want!? What do I need!?

That’s where you guys come in! I need help deciding what style of lamp is best in that space.

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Please ignore the horrible quality of this photo.

Things to keep in mind:

1) My bedside cupboard is rather small. No, I don’t need to have that power strip or that stack of books there all the time, but I do want enough room to keep at least one book on my nightstand, so the base/overall size of this light can’t be too big.

2) My headboard is grey; my curtains are shades of grey/white/blue; my bedding is currently white/offwhite (with a set of blue sheets that gets rotated in sometimes). So I have a neutral palate to work with, but I don’t want anything too crazy to clash with it.

3) I view this lamp as a gateway decorative item, the first step in creating an amazing, thoughtfully decorated room. I plan to buy some throw pillows; maybe some new bedding; and some other things to put on my walls. This lamp is an important purchase around which I will build this new paradise. No pressure.

Soooooo, here are some of the options I’ve come up with. Let me know what you think and suggest anything else (Please! Really, I need help!!).

1. John Lewis Penelope Task Lamp

John Lewis Penelope

It comes it a few colors, but I think I like the idea of a strong contrasting color like the one above.

2. Peeta (not to be confused the Hunger Games character)

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Again, I like the bold color as a contrast to the neutral tones.

3. Evie

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Comes in some different colors. Slightly different – but I’m not sure how I feel about the same-y-same base and shade. And I’m not really sure how I feel about the base, period.

4. Black Parquet Walnut Lamp

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This is from www.notonthehighstreet.com. It’s a cool website that sells things by small, independent companies/makers – things that you won’t find in a regular shop on the high street or at the mall. The maker of this lamp is Hunkydory Home. They have lots of different types of items and lots of fun patterns that I really like. I just worry that a busy pattern on the lamp could clash with the curtains.

Those are only a few of the options I’ve come across. And I am totally overwhelmed. Help me, dear readers, help me!!

See Sister Get Mickey’s Clothes Ready

Once again, Mickey is not the name we will be giving our 4th born child. It is his in-utero nickname. Just wanted to make that clear. Anyway, it dawned on me recently that Mickey just might want to wear some clothes when he comes out of the womb. And the closer his arrival gets, the more panicked I have become about having those clothes ready.

The good news is that I saved almost everything Rock, our firstborn, wore. The bad news is that Rock was born in September and he got SUPER chunky SUPER quickly. This baby is arriving almost 6 months later in the year so regardless of how big he does/ doesn’t get, it’s safe to say, not all of Rock’s clothes will work for Mickey. So I’ve felt extra pressure to get this done ahead of time and see if I need to purchase anything for the little guy.
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But I can calm down a bit now because today, I did it. I climbed up into the attic to find baby boy stuff! I had to work on it in spurts throughout the day but it only took ONE day to get it “done enough” for his debut.

To go about this I did first things first – deciding which boxes to drag down. I choose the four below.January 20140131 040January 20140131 041
If you can’t read them, I grabbed the “0-6 Months” and “6-12 Months” clothes boxes and the “Boy Burp Cloths and Receiving Blankets” and “Boy Accessories” boxes.
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I should pause here and say that when I realized we needed to have clothes ready for Mickey it simultaneously occurred to me that we might need to find a place to put said clothes. So we cleared some space in our new IKEA wardrobe(thank you Rocket and Juju!) for the little guy. Some on Fix’s side in the top two sliding drawers (pictured above with some stuff we’d already collected for Mickey and our clothes steamer)…
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And some on my side. The bottom drawer — which is filled with clothes for Mickey from his cousin Sumner — and the hanging space were designated just for him.
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As I worked on this today, I found myself wishing that I hadn’t picked the hanging rod since we don’t really need to hang any of his stuff yet and when we do, we can hang his items in the kids room. Instead, I wish that the other drawer I bought from IKEA had actually come with the hardware it needed so we’d have more drawer space. As you will see by the end of this post, we’ll be completely fine with this arrangement, but hopefully I can get my rear in gear and exchange this drawer before or soon after he arrives. That way we can spread out his things a little more.
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So why did we put his stuff in our room? Well, next to the wardrobe is our bedroom door and just outside our bedroom door is our changing table. Yep, it’s in the hallway at the top of the steps. It’s not pretty but it’s what you gotta do when you are cramming 5.5 people into a two story townhouse. The drawers below are currently filled with Gigi’s clothes (3 drawers) and lightbulbs and stuff. Yes, I realize that I should probably do some changing around/ organizing and put Mickey’s stuff out there. But this post isn’t about what I haven’t done, it’s about what I did!
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Whether in the hall dresser or in the wardrobe, I quickly realized there was not enough space for the 6-12 month clothes to remain downstairs before they were needed. So I didn’t even open that box — it went immediately back up into the attic.
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Then I sorted the clothes into piles for Newborn, 0-3 month, 3 month, and 3-6 month.
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I also made two piles (warm weather and cool weather) for the clothes that were clearly NOT going to work. Most of those were because they were the wrong size for the season. For example, there is no way he will be that little when it’s Halloween time. But a few of them were rejected because I just wasn’t really loving them anymore. It has been 6 years so people and styles change.

Surprisingly, I think a fair number of Rock’s items will work for Mickey. I might have to layer some things that didn’t need to be layered with Rock but overall, we’re in pretty good shape! And even more surprisingly, sorting all the clothes and the blankets/burp cloths only took me about 20 minutes tops.
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It might have taken even less time if I hadn’t stopped to ooh and ahh over my favorites. The flutter in my heart that I get when I look at these little shoes and think of Rock’s chubby feet inside them is well worth the Gap kids price I paid for them!
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I kept taking walks down memory lane thinking of the sweet things we did for our firstborn boy. Yep, I sewed that ribbon on those burp cloths (background) to personalize them and Fix and I made those ‘manly’ camouflage blankets (foreground) for Rock.
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Next, I opened the Boy Accessories box and started searching for shoes and socks. Then I realized that the smallest socks and shoes were already separated for me! Kudos to you Miss Organized Rachel who put those away so nicely 5.5 years ago!
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Rock’s head started small but like I said, it grew QUICKLY. In fact his body is still trying to catch up. Being so top heavy means he’s super smart, but it also meant he never really wore any of these baby hats. We’ll see if Mickey gets a chance.
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Before I put his things in drawers, I pulled out some stuff for the hospital. I put burp cloths and blankets and handgloves (so he doesn’t scratch his face off with newborn nails) and real gloves and various sizes of clothes (so I’m covered if he comes out bigger like Rock or littler like my girls) into a plastic bag with a navy blue fuzzy carseat cover, labeled it “FOR THE HOSPITAL BAG” and chucked it up in the attic right next to the entry so I can grab it and pack it up easily.
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Then it was time for stuff to go into drawers. On Fix’s side, it was steamer and burp cloths/blankets in the top and long-sleeved shirts/ pants/ long-sleeved sleepers and onesies in the bottom drawer. The shoes and socks (still in bags) and bibs and hats and short-sleeved onesies will be residing in my bottom drawer. All are currently labeled with lovely handmade painters tape tags because I’m not wasting my good labeler on what could easily change around completely before/after the baby is born. This works for today.

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Anyway, the boy boxes also got temporary tags reading “Consignment Ready” and they were sent back up to the attic to wait for me to decide if I’m gonna sell them/ donate them/ give them away to friends/ whatever. While up there I grabbed the girls 0-6 month boxes and brought them down to check for gender neutral stuff.
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Found a bunch of longsleeved white onesies (yay!) and a few gender neutral outfits.**
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I also found a motherload of pacifiers. Guess which pile is for Mickey? The bonus was that I pulled out the girls clothes that I wanted so save (only two or three outfits each from this size range) for heirlooms and now those baby girl clothes boxes are ready to donate/consign/give away too!
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So, now the boys clothes are at least ready enough that I’m not panicked about him coming. In fact, if you couldn’t tell from the excessive pictures of baby stuff, I’m quite thrilled about getting to use Rock’s old things. And Sumner’s old things (both those adorable shoes and the stack of bathing suits above are from him!). And the new sweet layette that Juju bought him for Christmas. The more baby prep I do, the more I long to meet our baby boy! I would say “Hurry up, Mickey!” but you saw my post on Wednesday. I’ve got a lot left to do.

But like I said, it’s late. And tonight, I’m reveling in today’s clothes-down-from-the-attic success!

**For the record, the clothes are much whiter/cleaner and the pacifiers are a lot less dirty than they look here. My flash is busted on my camera and these were taken after the sun set.

See Sister Make Art: “Don’t Give Up, Cheer Up” (35B35)

Have we mentioned that it was Susanna’s 30th birthday on Tuesday? And did we tell you that Bethany surprised her? Well, I always say that one day isn’t enough to celebrate my a birthday. And I think Susanna’s birthday at least deserves one more post.

One of the reasons I was so happy that Bethany was going to surprise her was because I wanted to send Susanna a gift that I hadn’t finished in time for Christmas. I was actually going to give it to her three years ago when I drew her name for Christmas. And I was gonna make it for her last year for her birthday. And I was gonna make it when she was waiting to hear if her visa was approved and she was worried about a lot of things. But uh… yeah… that didn’t happen.
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So when once again, it didn’t work out for Christmas this year, I was SO excited to have a second chance and I determined to get it done in time to ship it to Zuni. And what is this fabulous gift I wanted to make? Well, it starts with a blank canvas and an inside joke we’ve shared for a long time…

Once upon a time when we were say, 16 and 12 years old, Susanna and I were on a winter swim team that practiced at Fairland Aquatic Center. The team had a wide range of swimmers – from 4 year olds to 18 year olds – all with varying swimming skills. Susanna and I were on (obviously) the older end and (maybe not so obviously) on the faster end of the team. So we were put in a lane with the older faster kids.
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Now there were two brothers (their names completely escape me) who were approximately the same ages as us and thus we often shared a lane. The problem was when our coach, Chris, decided that their little sister, whose name I also can’t be sure of but I think it was Anna, was also invited to swim in our lane. Now I’m sure that Chris had a reason for putting her with us. Perhaps since her brothers were older and faster he lumped her into the older, faster lanes. Perhaps it was a simple matter of not having enough lanes for all the swimmers. Perhaps the people her age were considerably slower than her and he felt she could hang with us.

She couldn’t. Anna was probably 9 and while she may have been fast for her age, she couldn’t keep up. If Chris asked us to swim a 500 for warm up, she’d swim a 400 or a 450 and hope no one noticed. We did. She would swim slow when were supposed to be going fast so we’d have to swim around her. And perhaps most annoying of all, she would stop at the wall at least 5,000 times a practice and ‘adjust her goggles’ so we had do flip turns around her.
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Looking back I can see she was struggling and overwhelmed and probably not confident enough to tell the coach that our lane was too much for her. But at the time, we just found her to be incredibly annoying. And we decided that action must be taken. Before practice one afternoon, I told Susanna “Okay so we can’t be mean to her but this is getting ridiculous. Whenever she stops on the wall, we will also briefly pause on the wall, lift our heads out of the water and say loudly “Don’t give up, CHEER UP!”

Within two practices of carrying out said plan, either she or one of her brothers or most likely, one of her parents got up the nerve to as Chris if she could be moved out of our lane. Problem solved.

And ever since then “Don’t Give Up, Cheer up!” has been a phrase that incites (somewhat guilty) giggles from the both of us. And it’s not a bad life mantra if I do say so myself.
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No offense to Susanna, but whenever she gives me a tour of her living quarters on Skype, she has very bare walls. As Dawn Bonker (of Greek Chili fame) once told me, “You’re never fully moved in until you have something on the walls.” Or she said something along those lines as we moved into our house Junior year of college and she immediately hung her beautiful art prints on the walls in her room. Of course I followed her advice and put up my “SUPER FLY” movie poster. Classy.
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But I digress… I thought making Susanna some “Don’t give up, cheer up” art would be a great way she could fill the wall space in her apartment(s) in London. Also, as her protective, caring, older sister, I wanted her to have a visual representation of my love for her. That way, if she got overwhelmed or was feeling lonely and wanted to give up, she would cheer up instead.

So I did some research on Pinterest and found a few inspiring pictures like this one, this one, this one, and especially this one.

With time running out, I decided to go for the ease of the vinyl stickers option and then fun of the dots option and the black and goldness of the black and gold option. So I started by painting my canvas black.
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Then I bought vinyl letters in two sizes. Turns out the 3″ ones were way too big for this canvas. I’ll have to save them for another project.
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Then I did a lot of crazy math…
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Which I used to put the letters basically where I wanted them. But I also moved them around a few too many times to get them to feel “perfect.”
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Once all the letters were in place, I looked at my supplies to see how I could make golden dots to outline the letters. I had two good options – a spouncer (the spoungey thing on the left) and a paintbrush.
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But when I sampled them, Fix liked the spouncer and I liked the paintbrush. Or I guess I should say, we both liked the more uniform look of the spouncer, but I preferred the size of the paintbrush. So the next day I headed out to find a smaller spouncer.
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I had to buy this mammoth set to get the size that I wanted. It’s actually hidden behind the other spouncers and spounge brushes in this pack.
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But then I decided to try out a couple different sizes and see if I shouldn’t do a combo of 2 or 3 spouncers. Blah blah blah, this is getting boring I know. Let me cut to the chase and say I decided to go with the two smallest sized spouncers. Sorry original spouncer. Don’t look so blue – I’m sure you will be perfect for some project that I do in the future.
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Now on to this project. From here it was pretty simple. I took my two spouncers and started spouncing (Is that a verb? Whatever, I’m running with it!)…
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And spouncing…
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And spouncing some more until all the words were covered up.
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Then I added some more dots around the edges of the painting and let it dry for several hours. Or maybe it was overnight? I can’t remember. But after letting it dry for a considerable amount of time…
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I began the fun process of peeling off letters. This message is perhaps not so encouraging.
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This is better…
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This is the best. After staring at it for a bit, I decided to fill in a few of the gaps. See how there is a lot more black showing through near the “CH” than there is anywhere else? I couldn’t stand for that. Then after letting it dry overnight (this time I am sure of the time frame because I wanted it to be as dry as possible before packing up to mail but I didn’t have any longer than that to wait if I wanted to mail it to Bethany before she left) I sent it on it’s way to merry England!

All in all, it was totally fun to make and Zuni loves it (or at least claims to) as much as I do. In fact, she was actually thinking of making me something that said “Don’t give up, cheer up” for a future gift. I guess great minds of great sisters think alike.

So (if you’ve made it to the bottom of this post) let me know if you think we were too mean to Anna. And if you like the verb spouncing.

***Incidentally, I made this one of my 35B35 goals so I’d actually finish it for her birthday this year. That’s 2 down, 33 to go! WHOOP WHOOP!***

See Sister Learn a Bit of Historical Trivia

Scene: a hot summer’s day in London. Susanna sits on the upper level of a London bus, gently sweating through her dress. She is traveling from work to her church in the City. As the bus moves along Fleet Street at a glacial pace, Susanna reads. Her book of choice: Oliver Twist.

Now that you have the setting, allow me to share with you how I came to learn a super cool random historical fact last summer. I was reading Oliver Twist in an effort to support my local library, which sadly has a very limited selection. Twist was one of the few books they had that was actually on my “to read” list.

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The copy I had was one of those Penguin Classics editions where nearly every other sentence has a note referring you to the back of the book. I find those notes really irritating. Often they explain something rather obvious to the reader; or alternatively, they explain something that has absolutely no bearing on the story and so is totally useless. I usually ignore the notes and avoid flipping to the back of the book (That’s the other thing! The notes are all WAY in the back of the book, so you have to waste time flipping around trying to find the reference in the appendix in order to learn something that is actually totally superfluous to the story! Ugh!).

But as I was riding along on that summer’s day, I read something that did actually prompt me to flip to the back of the book. After [spoiler alert (although really, is that necessary? This book is approaching 200 years old, not to mention the classic musical adaptation that practically everyone has seen)] Oliver has been re-captured by Fagin and Co. whilst on an errand for Mr. Brownlow, he is kept locked away in a secret location, without hope of being discovered:

“…as the window of Oliver’s observatory was nailed down, and dimmed with the rain and smoke of years, it was as much as he could do to make out the forms of the different objects beyond, without making any attempt to be seen or heard, – which he had as much chance of being as if he had been inside the ball of St. Paul’s Cathedral.”

I flipped to the back of the book to read this note and figure out what Dickens meant by “ball of St. Paul’s.” Well! Boy, am I glad I did!

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Turns out, back in the day you could go up inside the ball at the base of the cross on the top of the dome. Yes, that ball that’s so small in the picture above that you can hardly make it out! You used to be able to walk around inside there. And apparently, there was enough room for like 10 people! Whaaaaaaaaaaat!?

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If you visit St. Paul’s today, you can still climb up to the top of the dome. You can walk around the Whispering Gallery inside the dome and then continue to two outside galleries (the Stone Gallery and the Golden Gallery), the higher of which you can just see in the image above – that little fenced bit at the bottom of the pic. It’s actually one of my favorite views in London and it’s super cool to climb up and up (if you don’t mind heights). Still, as I sat on a bus approaching St. Paul’s that day, I was incredulous. You could keep going!? Multiple people can actually fit in that ball up there!? No way!

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It was a surreal moment. I was reading a book written 175 years earlier, referencing a building still standing in front of me. I mean look how close I was!

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I’m the blue bus, St. Paul’s is St. Paul’s, and that line is my line of sight.

As my modern-day bus inched towards the Cathedral, I craned my neck to get a good look at the top of the dome. The closer I got, the more the scale came into focus. I could see the tiny people outside on the Golden Gallery. When I looked at them in relation to the ball, it didn’t seem so impossible that a handful of them could fit inside it. Still, mind blowing.

In the weeks that followed, I shared this fact with anyone who would listen. It was my favorite topic of conversation for pretty much the rest of the summer. And it’s probably one of my favorite facts about London now.

If anyone knows how I can get up there…seriously, let me know.

See Sister Make a Placemat Pillow

So my husband recently purchased a chair for his office. From Home Depot of all places! I love this chair for two reasons. 1) It was super cheap as far as leather chairs are concerned. 2) More importantly, it keeps him in his study.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my hubby and I love that he works from home so I can see him often. But back when he only had a desk chair, he would come downstairs anytime he had prolonged reading to get done and sit on our comfy couch. While I could (mostly) leave him be, our children had a much harder time understanding that Daddy was working. To them, Daddy + book = story time!

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I would then feel the need to keep them away from him – which isn’t very easy in our smallish house. So again, I am thrilled he finally has a non-desk-chair spot to sit and read his very boring long textbooks. And to make it even more comfy and stylish for him, I added a throw pillow.

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Actually, it doesn’t look that bad from here… but let’s zoom in on that pattern.

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For some reason he didn’t feel this pillow was masculine enough for his study! Seriously, I made this one (from a placemat at Pier One) for our bedroom and he stole it to give himself a little lumbar support.

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So I set out to find him a lumbar pillow but I had zero luck.  Nothing was quite right. Then I saw this placemat at Crate and Barrel. It is so my husband’s style. Black and white, masculine, perfect. So I used a coupon and got it for him. You might be wondering how to make a pillow from a placemat. Well, let me show you!

Actually, wait.  No. Before we move on check out the picture above again.  Notice how this placemat has a front (with squares) and a back (solid).  Before you attempt my placemat-to-pillow tutorial, make sure your placemat also has a back.  You will need an entirely different technique if you are gonna make a pillow from a placemat with no back.  I actually have another placemat with no back that I will inevitably turn into a pillow and I will bring you a new tutorial then.  For now…. LET ME SHOW YOU HOW TO MAKE A PILLOW FROM A PLACEMAT!  WHOOP! WHOOP!

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First grab your supplies.  This includes my usual cast of characters for every sewing project: pins, Gingher embroidery scissors, thread and a seam ripper.  Also, you’ll need a placemat (duh!), and some stuffing.  See that black peeking out below the placemat?  That’s an old black floor pillow that my husband brought to our marriage.  It had a weird shiny-ness to it that I never liked and since we had stopped using it long ago, Fix said I could use it’s stuffing for this project. RIP Shiny Black Pillow.  If you don’t have a Shiny Black Pillow of your own, then buy a bag of pillow stuffing from Joann’s or Michael’s or any other crafty place you like to shop.

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I always include the seam ripper in my list of supplies ’cause I assume I will make mistakes.  But in this case, it’s actually a necessity as you need it to do the first step.  After pulling apart the two sides of your placemat like the picture above…

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Rip a small hole in the seam.  I made this one about 4 inches wide. I think. I am horrible at estimating.  You can really make it as big as you want, but the smaller the hole, the easier it will be to sew it back up without it being a huge eyesore on the side of your pillow.

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Put a pin on each side of the hole you made.  This will keep the hole from getting bigger.  See the shiny-ness of that pillow underneath?  Blech.

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Open up the Shiny Black Pillow and start pulling out it’s innards. Then the next step is perhaps the most important one of all…

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Turn on something fun to watch. My current fave is Elementary.  Something about Jonny Lee Miller’s accent and Lucy Liu’s wardrobe and the awesome way they solve crimes that no one else can… I’m hooked.  Anyway, it’s fun to have something fun on while you stuff your placemat.

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Time for a confession: I am sorta hyper picky about my fluff.  See that clump? I do not tolerate clumps in my pillows. So it takes me far too much a long time to stuff a pillow.  I like to think the end result is better, but I don’t know if that’s the case. It’s just something neurotic in me.  So go ahead and be as picky or as non-picky about your fluff as you want but stuff that pillow super full.  Make sure you stick your finger in and push some stuff into the corners of the pillow.

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When it looks like this, you are ready to sew!

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You can sew the edge by hand if you’d like.  That’s what I normally do because I find sewing on the edge of a pillow to be tricky. But since I spent far too long stuffing my pillow this time, I didn’t want to spend any more time on this project.  So I pushed all the stuffing down into the pillow and pinned it about an inch (remember I can’t estimate — maybe this is half an inch? an inch and a half?  It doesn’t matter) from the edge.  Then I pinned right along the edge.

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Then you just need to sew it up! Be very careful to get rightupclosenexttotheveryedge but also be very careful to get the underside of the pillow in the stitch.  This is where I failed and wished I had hand sewed it.  But the silver lining is that I got to use my seam ripper again.

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Pull out your pins and TA-DA!  You have a new pillow!  And your husband’s study looks ever so much more masculine!  And everyone rejoices!  Okay so maybe it’s just me and my hubby who are rejoicing but whatever. That’s how you make a pillow from a placemat!

What about you?  Have you ever made a pillow from a placemat?  Did you do it like this or do you have another technique? Do you ALWAYS end up using your seam ripper to correct a problem or am I the only sewing dolt?

See Sister Form an Opinion

I work in an auction house that specializes in modern and contemporary art, which means that people always think that I am suuuuper knowledgeable and passionate about art. I tell someone I work at an auction house and their immediate response is, “That is so interesting! What a fun job!” They go on to ask me all sorts of questions about art – why does it cost so much, who buys the art, what is an auction like, what’s really hot in the art world at the moment, what I personally like, what I think about a certain artist, just what is the point of modern art – it’s so out there! etc. etc.

The truth is, working at an auction house is just like any other job – sometimes it is really interesting; sometimes it’s really boring; sometimes it drives me crazy; sometimes I absolutely love it. And working in the “art world” means I should be able to speak about the current trends and the latest big news and have opinions about art, and I should be able to answer all those questions people ask me. Truthfully, though, most of the time, I don’t really have a strong opinion about the art itself.

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I can talk around it; I can tell you how an auction works; I can usually remember the last big painting to set an amazing record at auction (see above); I might be able to tell you about the latest exhibition at that gallery down the street. But ask me my personal opinion and tastes and usually I don’t have much to say.

Given that my particular job doesn’t require me to know all the history and background of the artists on display, it’s not really an issue if I can’t speak at length about what an artist is trying to say with his or her work. But lately, I’ve found myself thinking more about how I personally respond to some of the works being put up and taken down on the walls around me.

I’ve particularly been thinking about Banksy, the pseudonymous British street artist. His works are dotted around London and his non-street art passes through the doors of my company on a semi-regular basis. But strangely, it was his recent “residency” in New York City – Better Out Than In – that made me stop and think about Banksy last month.

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One of Banksy’s works in London. It’s just a short walk from my flat.

I became interested in Banksy’s stint in New York not because I am well-informed about activity in the art world, but because I check New York Magazine‘s website pretty frequently. I like their pop culture blog Vulture, and I enjoy reading about the latest news in NYC even though I haven’t lived there in years.

NY Mag kept track of Banksy’s recent residency, posting about where his latest artworks popped up each day. Art critic Jerry Saltz wrote a few pieces about Banksy’s work.

And Jerry Saltz doesn’t really like Banksy. He calls Banksy’s work “anarchy-lite” and “sledgehammer-obvious…trite, generic and…boring“. Yikes.

Reading Saltz’s opinions and looking at the images of Banksy’s work in NY, I started to ask myself what I actually thought of Banksy. At work, when the art goes up on the walls, I am often so busy with my day-to-day tasks, I don’t take the time to really look at it and think about whether or not I like it. Experiencing Banksy’s New York residency from a distance, I was able to actually think about whether or not I liked it.

And I decided I do. Sure, I agree with Saltz that Banksy is not saying anything majorly profound or anything that hasn’t been said before. But I think his work is cheeky and amusing (the audio guide clips on the Better Out Than In website are particularly funny). I like his style. And I don’t have to have really in-depth, thought-out reasons for liking him. That’s the thing about art – you like what you like – be it based on pure visual pleasure or a deeper appeal to your inner thoughts or a perceived connection with the artist and his or her vision.

So that’s that: I like Banksy.

Jerry Saltz and other art world folks might not agree with me, but whatever. Art and taste are subjective. So I like what I like. And this might even be the start of something new: forming opinions about the artwork I see week in and week out. What a crazy idea!