Even though our guys are older, they still enjoy dying Easter eggs. We’re an arts and crafts kind of family so it’s an activity right up our alley. We had missed dying Easter eggs the past couple of years so I decided I wanted to make this happen this year. When the stars aligned this week and the grocery store wasn’t sold out of all the white eggs as I’ve experienced in years past, I was excited to return to Easter egg dying. Once I boiled the eggs, and we were set to go, I realized we didn’t have any dye. Ruh-roh! We don’t use dye so we don’t keep it on hand. Instead of journeying back out to the grocery store, I decided we’d make our own natural dyes with what we already have at home.
This is where the experimentation, creativity and fun began. We looked around our kitchen to see what we already had for making some natural dyes. My first thought was what typically stains my hands when I’m cooking. The guys helped me brain storm. The most obvious two ingredients we decided are beets and turmeric. If you’ve worked with these two roots before, you know they don’t typically wash off easily. They actually create pretty stubborn stains. Coffee and tea also came to mind as they leave stains on lighter colored surfaces (unfortunately, our teeth being one of those surfaces!). Looking for a blue and green to add, we decided to experiment with blueberries and a greens powder we usually put in our smoothies. In the interest of time, we decided to stop here, but I’m sure there are so many other options yet to be discovered. You really can get creative with natural dyes for your Easter eggs.
WHAT WE USED
Beet Juice (left over from a jar of picked beets) – PINK
Turmeric Powder (1 T. dissolved in 8 oz. boiling water) – YELLOW
Espresso (6-8 oz. brewed) – TAN
Passion Fruit Tea (1 bag steeped in 8 oz. boiling water) – GREEN (yes, we were also surprised it turned out green!)
*As mentioned above, we tried blueberries and a greens powder we had on hand, but did not have good luck with these two ingredients producing any color on the eggs. Next time, I think I’ll use more of the fruit and powder. Or perhaps I’ll try something different.
HOW TO MAKE
In smaller bowls, add 1 T. white vinegar to each of your liquid dye solutions.
Add a couple of eggs to each bowl and allow to process. With natural dyes, it takes longer for the eggs to take the color. If you want deeper, more vibrant colors, it will take hours (3-4 or for some perhaps even over night). We wanted softer, more muted colors so it took our eggs about an hour or so to process.
Once desired color depth is achieved, remove eggs from dye solution and allow to dry on paper towels.
I consider our little experiment in making our own natural dyes for Easter eggs a big success! We’ll definitely make our own dyes again. And when next year rolls around, we look forward to playing around with some different ingredients to concoct other colors to add to what worked well this go around. I’m definitely in search of a natural blue and orange, maybe a purple too. Let us know if you have any brilliant ideas! Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate!
I’M OUT… WOOHOO!!! YES… it finally happened… I got my disabled Instagram account reactivated and back live! I’m getting my favorite sequin dress back out… it’s celebration time!!! But, it’s been a while so please allow me a moment…
After almost 2 1/2 months, I got an email from my friends over at Meta (we’re BFFs now) stating my Instagram account had been disabled by mistake. That’s right, by MISTAKE! The email didn’t come out of the blue either, it came after nearly 2 1/2 months of trying EVERYTHING to get my account back. And, it seems to be nearly impossible to get customer support for a disabled account. I get it as I’m sure pandemic employee shortages impact the services provided. But really, there’s no Instagram number, and it is a crazy process. I am grateful someone finally helped me!
In terms of recovering my account, honestly I’m not sure what worked. I know the process I followed, and what DID eventually work for me (after the 5th or 6th time). Perhaps I’ll pen a separate post outlining the steps I took. Much of what I found online on the topic of disabled accounts was either outdated or didn’t work for me. I’m sure the process is constantly changes as the platform changes. I do believe I was eventually able to get assistance because it had been over 60 days. So unfortunately, time out (literally) may factor into getting customer service help. Nobody was willing to help prior to that point.. I do know it’s a SUPER frustrating process. In the end, I do think persistence, patience, time and luck played into my success.
PLEASE TAKE NOTE… Unfortunately, this is occurring more and more with Instagram accounts as I’ve learned from this experience. It happens to small, medium and large accounts so ANYONE is at risk. That means if you use the platform, you could also be impacted. Per the email I received, my account was incorrectly removed by their automation system. Remember, the bots do not discriminate and are wrong a lot.
I know, I know, why be so dramatic… it’s just Instagram. So so true. I’ve said it before too, even in a previous post…lol! It shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Perhaps you’re one of those people who would care less if your account got disabled, and good for you! I’m not that person. Maybe many of you aren’t either. If you’ve grown an account for a brand or business or maybe you just enjoy connecting with other people near and far, you most likely want your account active. I know I do. And did I mention when your account is disabled it completely disappears as if it never existed? All of your followers, all of your images, all of your content…A L L. O F. I T! It all belongs to the powers that be at Meta. I would take note of that too as it’s caused me to pause and reconsider the platform.
But, then there’s the reality of technology, marketing and branding in 2022. If you’re looking for a wider reach to connect, help and inspire others, you’re a creative wanting to share your gifts, creativity and products and/or you want to establish a brand and build any kind of business, it’s kind of necessary to use social media. I don’t always love this fact, but I do love the creativity, inspiration and community Instagram provides. I’ve really come to realize this even more during my jail time. Of course it’s not the only way, but social media is a powerful tool nonetheless. AND honestly, what I love most about Instagram is I’ve been able to connect with some really cool people out there I may not be able to connect with otherwise! The community is the best!
And speaking of community, thank you to everyone out there who tried to help me with my disabled account, sharing your experience or the experience of someone you know! I even got leads from friends and connected with other kind, helpful people. They were all willing to share and offer their assistance. I’m so grateful! Also, thank you to those friends out there who noticed I was MIA + reached out. You’re the BEST!
All of this to say – I’m happy to be back on the platform, connecting with so many of you! And yes, I’ve learned a thing or two as a result of having my account disabled. Me and Instagram may or may not have kind of a love/hate relationship now! I’ll probably use the platform a little differently going forward. And, it’s all good. I hope you’ll continue to follow and connect with me here and over on Instagram!
Yep, I’m officially in Instagram jail. Before January 17, I never knew there was even such a thing! But, here I am over two weeks later, my account is still disabled. And the more I talk to other people, the more I’m learning this happens more than you know, either disabled or hacked. Thanks Instagram!!! And if you’re sure it couldn’t happen to you, I wouldn’t be so sure.
You may be thinking, why don’t you just reach out to Instagram? Simple, right? Well, actually it isn’t that easy. I have tried, and when I write tried, I mean TRIED, for two weeks solid to no avail. Oh, and did I mention Instagram does not have a customer service number where you can call and talk to a person? You’re basically left trying to address issues through their platform. I’ve completed every possible form I can find available on Instagram. I’ve emailed customer service, at least two dozen times. I also looked to Facebook since they do own Instagram. I’ve had three live chats with their business concierge department. I have been told, multiple times, they cannot, or so they say, help me with my Instagram account. And since my Instagram account is linked to my Facebook account too, that just doesn’t make sense to me. But really, who am I to question their system?
So far, Instagram customer service has been completely unresponsive. I mean NOTHING, zero, zilch… radio silence. Facebook and Instagram are enormous platforms, driven and monitored by algorithms and bots. I was kind of aware of this before, but keenly aware of how all this works now. And you know what, the reality is they are giants that don’t need to respond to their one billion monthly users. Believe me, I know I’m small potatoes and have an itty bitty account in the grand Instagram scheme. I’m not feeding their machine with thousands of advertising dollars. If you have an Instagram account, and Facebook account for that matter, we’re completely at their mercy, regardless of the size of our accounts. I mean COMPLETELY! It is their platform, and they determine and drive the direction. They call ALL the shots, and we are all merely the sheep following along… bahhh, bahhh, bahhh. Fellow sheep, think about that for a minute. Instagram has the MOST followers!
I remember listening to a rather big influencer and business coach speak a couple of years ago. I distinctly recall her saying you should not put all your eggs in the social media basket. You have no say in the decisions and direction, you’re a passenger in the back seat at best. You also own none of it – not your profile, none of your content, none of the information about your followers, etc. It ALL belongs to the platform, and it can all disappear. She suggested focusing on constructing a quality website, an engaged community and an email list. In other words, put your energy into building something that is yours! In hindsight, this advice is certainly much more meaningful now.
Again, I know I’m a smaller account, but have nonetheless invested a lot of time, hard work and creative energy into sharing my passions, my point of view, growing organically and building an engaged community on Instagram. And believe it or not, even if I never get the account back, I’d do it all over again if for nothing else than the connections and the learning experience!
Ultimately, my goal on the platform has always been to share in hopes of inspiring others, even if it’s just one person. If I reached that one person, then I’m good. Instagram has also been a way to connect with and support people and other creatives, local and far away. I have met and built relationships with individuals I would’ve never found without the platform. Some people I’ve actually found on Instagram and then met in person. Losing my account and the connections, well, that’s actually the part I’m most bummed about.
Life does go on though. And, Instagram is in fact, NOT life, although I do believe social media is designed to make us all think it is. They do everything they can on their end to keep us engaged and on their platforms as long as they can. At the end of the day, it is a business, and a very lucrative one.
It may take me a minute, but I eventually look for the positives, the lessons and the bigger meaning in most things that happen to me. Big picture, I’m actually okay with my disabled account, and if it never comes back, well than so be it! Here is what I’ve actually learned so far –
1) I was spending way too much time on the platform. Duh… No big surprise or epiphany there! But when you actually cannot get into your account, you become much more aware of how often you’re checking your account. It’s kind of like a hard stop… you go there, but you can’t get in, and then realize you tried to check it 20 minutes ago. And, that happens over and over again. Before when I could get into my account, I was less mindful of the automatic checking and then the major time suck.
2) Less time spent on Instagram means more quality time and presence for my people, family and friends. There’s also more time to devote to the creative things I love, like writing on this blog, painting, cooking, growing my own food, feeding my thrift store addition, and really, the list goes on. There’s also more time for movement and for stillness. And at night, instead of jumping on the platform before I fall asleep, I’m back to reading books. All of this reclaimed time seems like a big win! Kind of a much needed reset if you will.
3) I will be putting more of my time and creative energy into this website where I own my content. It can’t be taken down without explanation by a bot and the powers that be.
5) If and when my Instagram account returns, I will be doing it much differently. If it doesn’t come back, I’ll build another account (I’ve already started @michel.m.vandevender) because I’m determined to not let this disabled account thing stop me from using Instagram the way I’d like to use it. To that end, I will be setting better boundaries around how much time I spent on the platform. I will definitely be spending less time on my content or developing some sort of back-up system so I don’t lose it. I will also keep some sort of log of my followers and would suggest any user do the same. Because guess what, if your account is disabled or hacked and taken down, none of that information is available. Try remembering who all of your followers are.
For now though, I remain in Instagram jail! Let me know if you have a Get Out of Jail Free card :), or know someone who works at Instagram… PLEASE! Also, if you have any experience with getting a disabled account back, I clearly need some help over here!
One last ask, if you have not signed up for our email list, please join! I promise I will not bombard your inbox, but do hope to start sharing more content on this platform with my followers. Thank you so much for being here and following our journey! Until next time…
It’s the three words I wasn’t expecting to hear (naively, ever) – You have cancer. Well, it is not exactly how my dermatologist delivered the news, but I immediately knew that’s what she was saying. What she said was, “You have malignant melanoma.”
I vividly remember the day, like it’s seared into my brain. It was Tuesday, November 16, when I received the call. Exactly one month before my 51st birthday. It was in the afternoon not long after I had arrived back home after having lunch with a friend. Much changed that afternoon on many levels, and I’m sure I’ll be processing the cancer diagnosis for a while.
But in the beginning, really all I could think was WTF! If you know me, you know I’m pretty focused on health and wellness and have been for years. I’ve lived a pretty healthy lifestyle, again, for years. I’ve always been a healthy eater and have exercised since my teens. I’m certainly not perfect, and there’s always room for improvement, but overall, I’m pretty darn healthy. I did tan during my teen years, but haven’t had any tan other than the one out of a bottle since my mid-20s. I only write this to say, you just never really know AND anyone can get a cancer diagnosis, regardless of what you are or are not doing. Oh, and by the way, you also don’t get to choose your genes!
The good news is my melanoma was at the very early stage, Stage 1A. It was caught early and found during my routine, annual body check I’ve been doing with a dermatologist since I was in my mid-twenties. I’m thrilled to report I’ve already had the melanoma surgery, and I am cancer free! The joy and gratitude I feel is truly from the depths of my soul.
I know this post is a departure from my normal blog posts about our home build, design, style, fashion and travel. That’s probably what most of you come here for after all. However, since receiving the diagnosis, I had no doubt I’d be sharing this at some point with my followers. If in doing so, there is one person out there who, as a result of reading this, makes an appointment (or pushes a loved one to) for a body check, a routine check, an annual Pap Smear or mammogram, etc., then I’ve accomplished my goal of raising awareness and helping someone else. Perhaps you’ve been putting off an appointment, you’re overdue. We all get busy and put our health on the back burner. I know I’ve been guilty of this before. Or, maybe there’s something you know you need to get checked, but you just haven’t made that appointment. PLEASE MAKE THE APPOINTMENT! We’re getting ready to begin a new year, set aside the time and make a commitment to yourself. At the end of the day, your health and staying on top of it is super important.
Also, it’s important to be aware of your body and any changes you may notice. Do your monthly breast examines! Do a body check! For me, I’ll be doing monthly skin checks at home, and eventually, seeing my dermatologist every six months for checks. For the next year, I have to go every three months. You better believe I won’t be missing any of these appointments! If you have any of the risk factors for skin cancer, as I do, awareness and routine checks are key. If you’re not sure or don’t know what to look for, check out the Skin Cancer Foundation for details and specifics. I have an excellent prognosis because my melanoma was caught early.
I plan to write more about melanoma at a later time, but for now, PLEASE stay on top of your body, your health and your preventative healthcare appointments. Again, be aware of your body and any changes. Do all the things you need to do to take good care of yourself. It could make all the difference! For now, love, well wishes and healthy vibes to each and every one of you!!! Happy last week of 2021!!!
LEATHER + VINYL BEGGING FOR CHANGE
Do you know the leather chair, sofa or pair of shoes you have, perhaps you’ve had them forever, that you want to toss because you’re no longer loving the color? Maybe you’ve just grown tired of it and want something different. Or it’s that second hand item you see at Goodwill or a vintage find at a local thrift store. It’s great, you love the shape and scale, but for whatever reason, you imagine it in a different color. Well friend, I’ve got some good news for you – You CAN paint leather, pleather and vinyl! And, with the right products and a little time, it’s super easy, inexpensive and looks fantastic.
MY WHY TO DIY
I so do not consider myself a big DIYer, although I do love doing things with my hands and some of the DIY kinds of projects. A creative process with a visually rewarding transformation is totally my jam. I also do love giving something old with a history and a story new life, a second, third or fourth act. Reusing what I have and saving money are added bonuses.
When we moved into our new house ten months ago, we moved many of the pieces of furniture from our old house we thought might work. We sold many other items we knew wouldn’t fit. With the pandemic and having everyone home, I really did not spend the time I would’ve liked designing and space planning for my own house so we ended up bringing over more than maybe we should have. And where that’s left me right now, is an entirely different story I could devote to another blog post. Big picture as I digress, it’s really all good. I’m sure I’ll be circling back around to revisit.
One of the pieces of furniture I thought might work, but not in the orange it was is this vintage Italian cane and vinyl settee. I purchased it many years ago at Classic Attic, a consignment shop in Charlotte. It had traveled to two other homes with us, a beloved anchor piece in several vignettes. I had loved it in all of our other houses, but wasn’t seeing the orange so much in our new house. It was definitely a case of different house, different vibe, moving on to something different. So I googled away in search of products for painting leather and vinyl. Black seemed like a good color :).
THE PRODUCTS + HOW TO
What I found and purchased on Amazon was three products by Angelus – Professional Leather Preparer and Deglazer, 2-Soft Fabric Medium and Acrylic Leather Paint. The products were roughly $27.00. It’s basically an easy two step process, three if you count sanding, that took a couple of hours total from start to finish.
Easy Steps I Followed –
1) Lightly sand leather or vinyl. This doesn’t have to be a long, heavy duty sanding as you’re just trying to rough up the finish enough so the paint will adhere well to the leather or vinyl surface.
2) With a soft cloth, apply Professional Leather Preparer and Deglazer to the leather or vinyl. I know it says leather, but it worked on my vinyl. Proceed at your own risk though as it may not work in the same way for you as it did for me. Maybe test a small sample before going all out, like I did. Per the bottle instructions, apply in a circular motion on entire leather or vinyl surface to remove the factory finish. Wipe excess with a clean cloth and allow to dry for several minutes.
3) Mix Angelus 2 – Soft Fabric Medium with Angelus Acrylic Leather Paint. The label says 1:1 ratio, but I actually did a little less than that. The Soft Fabric Medium keeps the paint from cracking. Even using less, I’ve had absolutely no cracking. However, our bench doesn’t get a lot of use so would highly recommend the 1:1 ration of this solution if you’ll be using the leather or vinyl furniture daily. Paint your entire surface with a brush, more than one coat may be needed. Once the painting is finished, allow to dry completely before using.
THE END RESULT
And Viola, I’m super happy with the new color and finish! I know the orange was great, especially in our previous house with the art and graphic painted wall, but it was for a different time, house and aesthetic. For me, the black seems richer and more sophisticated, elevating the piece. I have a friend who saw the settee and could not believe the vinyl had been painted so the finish looks original, not a brushstroke in sight. I’m not sure its permanent home will be under the stairs, although it’s sitting pretty there today.
Such an impactful and inexpensive transformation, giving this settee another run in another house, for now at least! What leather or vinyl piece can I paint next? What do you have that you may want to paint? I may try a pair of shoes or a handbag, but really, the possibilities are endless! Please reach out in the comments with any questions. And, go get your DIY on with this easy project!
Hi! It’s been a long minute since we’ve checked in. Outside of sharing several of our favorite recipes (yes, we’ve indulged in quite a bit of COVID baking at our house), we’ve been a little absent on the website. We’re still here and can hardly believe it’s September. What an insane and surreal year 2020 is shaping up to be! Since March, our lives have felt like they were carjacked, leaving us riding in a runaway, speeding car, with our entire family in tow. Anyone else?
When we launched Black House Blue Sky in January, we had high hopes of sharing creative and curated content on a weekly basis or at least on a regular basis, or so we thought. The plan also included documenting our new construction project. As is the case with so much of life, things just don’t always go as planned. However, in my wildest of dreams, I could’ve never imagined something unfolding straight from the scripts of a sci-fi movie in the way of a world-wide pandemic. The time we had set aside for developing our Black House Blue Sky vision was quickly redirected to juggling parenting 24/7 and homeschooling. If you have children, you know what I’m talking about… breakfast, lunch and dinner, breakfast, lunch and dinner … If you have an elementary aged child, you also know the hands-on demands of remote learning are no joke and all-consuming. As stay at home orders were put in place, life as we had known it and our comfortable, productive schedules had all but vanished, becoming a thing of the past in a matter of weeks. The Black House Blue Sky website and blogging took a necessary backseat to the needs of our family.
On top of the increased family demands, our new, modern build we broke ground on in January, pandemic construction as we’ve come to call it, was in full swing and ramping up. When we closed on our property and construction loan back in December of 2019, we were over-the-moon thrilled to have a new design project. However, as I’ve expressed before, I’m not sure we would’ve embarked on building another house and moving if we could’ve seen into the COVID-19 future. We are, of course, thrilled with our house, and what’s shaping up to be our favorite project to date, but it hasn’t been without its stressful moments. There are innumerable details and selections that come with the build process, and we live for these, but the pandemic with stay at home orders, restrictions and closed businesses reduced us to making many of the selections from our sofa at home. We ordered samples and products, mostly sight unseen, based on website pictures and descriptions. If you’ve ever done this, you know the challenges and limitations. Let’s just say there was a lot of trial and error, and there were many, many returns!
In anticipation of moving to a new home in late summer/early fall, we put our house on the market at the end of May. The month or so leading up to this, we were knee deep in repainting, repairs and overall fluffing, preparing our house for showings. We knew our new build wouldn’t be ready for move-in until September, but we were also nervous about the real estate market and how long it would take to sell in unprecedented, uncertain times. The day after we listed our home, some sort of flat wind tornado ravished our street, dropping 100 year old trees, weighing thousands of pounds. I will never forget the howling fury of the wind and the thunderous crashing sound of the trees falling. It took no more than thirty seconds of 70 mph wind to topple the trees onto roofs and into our neighbors’ homes. In our block alone and on the same side of the street, four homes were severely damaged, one a total loss. Thankfully, nobody was physically hurt; however, the trauma of a near death experience leaves a long lasting wound for some of these beloved neighbors.
Even with living on what looked like an apocalyptic, war-torn street, our house went under contract in eight days. We were both grateful and relieved to sell during a pandemic, and at the same time, dreading what was familiar and ahead of us – temporary housing. Thankfully, we were able to negotiate an end of July move, leaving a gap for the months of August and September. It all seems like a blur, and I’ll spare you all of the details, but June and July were spent packing and securing housing. Ultimately, we decided to store the contents of our house and go the Airbnb route. I’ll save our temp housing story for a different time and a separate post, but I will say it’s been an interesting “adventure” and the Charlotte Airbnb market is severely lacking, with much room for improvement.
There were the physical and logistical aspects of selling our house, but I’m not sure I was completely prepared for the emotional impact. I guess you don’t really know how you’re going to feel until it happens, and you’re in it. There was so much sadness while still feeling a great sense of excitement and joy for a our family’s new adventure and for the sweet family who was purchasing our home. It was truly bittersweet. The weekend after our house went under contract I think I cried off and on the ENTIRE weekend, even feeling weepy for a couple of weeks after that. I thrive on change, progress and forward movement, but am also deeply sentimental, almost to a fault. There were soooo many emotions around the history and memories we had created over the course of the past five years in this special space – the birthdays, the holidays, the gatherings, the developmental milestones celebrated, the laughter, the everyday living, all of it. There was also worry about how our boys would adjust to a move and a new neighborhood, leaving behind the only neighborhood they had every known.
In hindsight, part of the loss was also tied to the creative attachment I had to this house, intense and unlike anything I had felt before! Albeit, this is the first house we’ve designed and built, initially believed to be our “forever” home (although, looking back, I’m not sure why I thought it would be forever). The house had become part of my identity, and in some way, an extension and expression of who I am creatively, who we are as a family, how we live and how we love. There’s an emotional charge evoked by being and living in these spaces we create. It’s difficult to put into words, but is deeply felt and experienced. When you’re a designer, it is impossible to hand off the design and build to your architect and builder. Instead, with each of our personal projects, renovations and builds alike, we find ourselves pouring our creative hearts and souls into the manifestation of a vision, a dream, an aesthetic, loving the process. We were intimately involved in every aspect of the process and design of this house, from the architectural drawings and modifying those (so many times we lost count) to the build phase (when even more modifications to drawings happen in the field) to all of the decisions, including making the selections and choosing the finishes – lighting and plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, hardware, paint, stains, tile, countertops, exterior materials, etc., etc. Then there’s the interior design and landscape design that follow. You name it, we had a hand in it… EVERYTHING! The team and our collaboration, with its synergistic energy, resulted in the very best end product – the 5th Street house. Over time, acknowledging this attachment and allowing myself the time and space necessary to process all of the emotional contradictions has given me better perspective. Letting go never seems to be easy for me, but I know it is a necessary step in preparing for the next chapter and the new opportunities and adventures that lie ahead for our family.
So, that’s a synopsis of what we’ve been up to over here at Black House Blue Sky for the last six months. We’re currently in our second Airbnb and just a couple of weeks away from our much-anticipated move in day. All of this long recapping to say, if you’re still here, thank you, thank you, thank you! We’re hoping to start posting more regularly… some of the content will be a retrospective and a catch up, especially with regards to telling our modern house construction story. We’re still managing remote learning at our house for the unforeseeable future so we’ll see! Hope you’ll stick around though. We truly appreciate your patience as we continue to navigate what BHBS is, and what it will evolve to be, in the midst of living life with all of its twists, turns and curve balls.
My 10 Favorite Clean Beauty Products
2 Honest Beauty Invisible Blurring Loose Powder
3 W3ll PEOPLE Hypnotist Eye Pencil in Black
4 RMS Beauty Eye Polish in Lunar
5 Beauty Counter Luminous Powder Highlighter (BC replaced powder with cream.)
Over the past five years, it has become increasingly more difficult to ignore the information out there on toxins, including in skincare and beauty products. There is mounting research and evidence on the health implications of what goes in and on our bodies. It’s also concerning that many of the ingredients used in unregulated U.S. beauty products have been banned in other countries. Thankfully, there are a growing number of health and environmental advocates devoting their time and energies to shining a light on the issue and leading efforts for change. I’m definitely not a qualified expert, but I am a research junkie who is passionate about health and wellness. My goal is to make educated, informed decisions about my products as well as share what I’ve learned to help others.
What Can We Do?
Toxins are everywhere and in so much of what we consume, much of which we cannot control (or at least not without drastic, collaborative measures as a community, as a country and as a planet). Over time, I have reached the conclusion that there are certain personal choices and practices within my control, and this is where I choose to focus my attention. I do believe the cumulative impact of small changes can positively affect our health. For me, this includes taking steps to reduce the toxin load for myself and for my family. We have become more discerning and proactive, making different food (another post topic) and product (personal and household) choices, when possible. As consumers, we often forget we have a voice that is silently expressed in every purchase we make. It’s actually pretty powerful, especially if you consider how we collectively influence the products companies are making and selling. I love supporting companies who are striving to make healthier and cleaner alternatives available, especially more affordable options. It is my belief that toxin free products should be available to everyone.
Where To Begin
I know from personal experience that cleaning up products can be overwhelming and expensive. That is why I made, and recommend making, gradual changes until you can replace your existing products with better, less toxic versions. It does take time and research to find what you like and what works best for you. I try to shop around for the best products and prices. Two apps I frequently use are EWG Healthy Living and Think Dirty. They both make searching the plethora of options quick and easy. Each company rates products and assigns a score so you can make better purchasing decisions. Some items are not listed on either app and therefore have not been tested and reviewed by the companies. When this is the case, I may still use the product, but know I need to dig a little deeper, and do my own research before buying.
Overall, I do feel better about the products I’m using on my skin and in our home. We of course cannot live in a toxin-free bubble, but the more we shift our choices towards safer, cleaner products, the more positively we can impact our health and the environment. Do you have any clean beauty products that you love? Please share. Wishing you the very best in your health and wellness!
Black House Obsessed
Welcome to Black House Blue Sky! Hi, I’m Michel, and I’m so glad you’re here. I’ve always had a fascination with black. Whether it’s the little, wardrobe-staple black dress or the stars magically dancing in the pitch black sky, I love the depth, mystery, neutrality, versatility and grounding effect of black. For years, nordic design publications have featured black houses, painted out of function (and probably form for their beauty – imagine a black house contrasted against the white snow) to attract and absorb heat in a frigid climate. If you’re interested in venturing down a rabbit hole, you can find endless examples on Pinterest.
In recent years, more and more dark-hued exteriors have been popping up all over the U.S., many of which are black – soft black, dark black and every shade in between. My design love for the black exterior runs deep as I opted for black on my own house, never second guessing or looking back. Black also tends to work well on many different house styles as you’ll see in the images below. When contrasted with a clear blue sky and a lush green landscape, it’s my idea of design perfection. So, love them or hate them, I think they are a classic and are here to stay!
Why A Blog?
When I first had the thought of doing a blog, it was rooted in a desire to inspire others by sharing all of my creative loves and passions, in one place, documenting the unfolding journey. I really didn’t know how this would happen, or what exactly it would look like. What I did know from the onset is that it would be my sincere hope to inspire and help others, creatively or otherwise. I wanted the blog to be image driven, reflecting my lifestyle and my love for design and all things beautiful, juxtaposed with authentic copy, telling the story of my life – the good, the bad, the real and the untidy, emotionally frayed parts too.
I’m A Quirky, Hot Mess
If you ever look at my photographs and graphics and think she must have it all together, I do NOT! Please know that most all of my images are edited to reflect my aesthetic and are part of my artist expression. On a really good day when I don’t feel like I’m going crazy, I’m still a clumsy, quirky, hot mess. I’m an analytical over thinker. I sometimes have a difficult time focusing and completing whatever task is at hand. I’m introverted and have social anxiety. I’m also capable, positive, curious, resourceful and creative.
On occasion, I do some pretty amazing things! I’m a mom of three, mind-blowingly wonderful boys and a wife to the sweetest, most patient guy. I’m always a parent and wife in training, trying to navigate and learn as I go. I love my people fiercely and tirelessly. I may be an over sharer… guess we’ll see. Through it all, I’m literally just trying to figure out what and who I’m being called to be.
Putting Myself Out There
The almost year-long process of creating Black House Blue Sky has been challenging. There have been so many steps – missteps, sidesteps, steps forwards, steps backwards. There have been starts, stops, detours and struggles along the way. All those months ago when I naively and enthusiastically set out to construct and build this creative idea I had for the blog, I knew absolutely nothing about setting up a website, a blog and had not written anything consistently outside of an email in years…. hello ginormous, steep learning curve.
I’ve always prided myself in being up for a good challenge, but bringing this idea to life triggered a paralyzing fear of failure, judgment and the “I’m not good enough” feeling. The putting myself “out there” has been a road block to my forward movement and progress. I’ve felt like a solo act on an empty stage delivering a bad rendition of an unintelligible soliloquy, with a spotlight illuminating my scars and the parts of myself that have been hidden from sight. There have been too many days than I’d like to admit that I’ve been sidelined, wrestling with bouts of self doubt.
Admittedly, like many, I’m my own worst enemy and a skillful master of constructing a critical and irrational narrative in my head. And then, there’s that caught-off-guard moment when I realized that constructing the blog is not the hard part. Eureka moment! The hard part for me is getting to the place where I’m comfortable letting go and putting myself out there, exposed for others to see.
The Real Work
Through all of this, I’ve been working to intentionally counter the relentless shit- show conversation I’ve been having with a big dose of self love, compassion, positive reframing and prayer. This experience has pushed me to get curious and honest about my fear of judgment and failure… and my perfectionism, facing and embracing that dark, shadow side. There’s freedom in learning to love all of our parts.
Believe me, this isn’t my first rodeo, and I’ve been here before. Slipping back into old, toxic patterns and behaviors happens. That’s what makes us human. I mean, I’ve read all the books before (special thanks to Brene Brown) and done a lot of previous work.
Honestly, the letting go of perfectionism is not the easiest nor quickest work, but I know it’s worth the ongoing investment. I’m worth the investment. It is also an ongoing process that takes time and patience. I do know for sure that perfectionism has never served me well. It inhibits me from being who I am, from being seen and from living fully into the imperfect human God created me to be, beautiful wounds, scars, messiness and all.
I’m also working on having some freaking grace for myself. Grace to make mistakes, to not have all the answers and to zig and zag on this journey. Aren’t we all deserving of that? After all, each and every one of us is a work in progress – exploring, floundering and faltering, trying to figure out our place in the world as a beloved child of God.
A New Beginning
So in more ways than one, I begin anew… a new blog, new work, renewed thoughts and patterns. This blog has been almost a year in the making from conception to this date, finally clicking the WordPress “enabled” red button. I’m incredibly thankful for this day and for the many people who have supported and cheered me on during this process. They have all showed up and been there at the exact moment I needed the encouragement. I’m literally doing a little, happy, celebratory dance over here! Hope you’ll join me as I begin this great, new adventure, learning and growing as I go forth into the unknown!!!
Some of My Favorite Black Houses
Photography credits in order of appearance: Unknown via Small House Bliss; Felix Michaud via Uncrate; Kalle Sanner via @est_living; Unknown via Design Milk; Philip Fics via Lonny; Met Wotkjaer via Stylejuicer; Unknown via @surfcollectivenyc; Andrew Hamilton via 500px; Ben Hosking via @est_living; Unknown via Joli Joli Design; Ed Reeve via ArchDaily; Unknown via Bloglovin’
A New Year Begins, Again
In our house, January is a time to reflect on the past year, adjust the sails, dream big dreams and set intentions for the new year. Ahhh, I love the feeling of a fresh start and clean slate that comes with each January. Don’t you? I feel energized, inspired and motivated by all of the opportunities for love, for change, for learning and for growth.
The Intention, The Reality
Yes, this is me all feeling good, pie in the sky, pumped on January 1, proudly waving my well thought out, neatly printed “Intentions for 2020”, feeling so proud and accomplished. Oh, how I love myself at this time. My little voice inside says, “High five… damn girl, you got it tooogether, and you’re going to do great things this year.” But, what happens seven to ten days into the month, after the hyped energy fades? And let’s be honest, making the beautifully crafted list is the easy part, right? Believe me, I know this from last year and from the year before that. Will I unconsciously revert back to my old, comfortable routines and habits? Will I slow down long enough to have some self awareness rather than merely going through the motions and charging forward aimlessly? Research says YES to the first question and NO to the second, and apparently this happens to most of us, so I guess we’re all in good, mortal company. Hence, the the rush to the gym with the “eye of the tiger” enthusiasm on January 1, followed by a slow, steady decline in attendance as the month progresses.
Change Is Hard Sh@#!
I know because I’m the blond, middle-aged mom of three right there beside you on the treadmill at the gym (and in life), internally (and sometimes externally) kicking and screaming in resistance, and that’s when I’m at my best and capable of the good fight. Other times, I’m waving a white flag in defeat, either consciously or unconsciously. The struggle is real! With a basic understanding of human behavior and some level of self awareness, I know it’s not an easy or solo endeavor to change old patterns, habits and behaviors. Over time and through trial and error, what I have learned is without God, intention, a good plan, execution, accountability and other supportive people, well, nothing will happen or change. And even then, as a human, I’ll slip back here and there, beginning again and again, looking to the Divine for guidance and grace.
Breaking It Down
With all of that said and acknowledging the challenges, I’ve been brainstorming ideas and strategies for how I will stay on track and remain inspired for all of the months in 2020. Breaking down my intentions into measurable action steps helps me plan for reaching my goals. I’ve been looking at my list and identifying themes, actions, desired feelings and then attaching a word that will help me focus my energy and attention. I have friends who chose a word, a mantra, for the entire year, and I love that idea. Adapting this practice, I am pairing a word with each month that captures my mantra for that month… a different one for each month of this year. I see these words less as concrete goals, rather as tools for finding focus so I can achieve my goals.
So, here we go… my word for January is MOTIVATE! The get moving and keep moving kind of motivate, for the entire month of January and for the entire year. And also, motivation to inspire, create, love, connect and grow! May this be your best January and new year yet! May all of your hopes and dreams be realized! Sending you so much positive energy and love! Thank you for honoring me with your presence on this blog! If you feel so inspired, please drop a comment below.
Essential Oil Blend
As a complimentary practice and as a way to further enhance the monthly mantras, I will be creating an essential oil blend with the hopes of inspiring the desired, corresponding mood, emotion or feeling.