Monday, December 23, 2013

Let's Pretend Gift Guide: Part 3

 The final chapter of the Let's Pretend Gift Guide! Comin' attcha!

If we gave each other Christmas gifts, here is how it would go: 

Happy Holiday, Grace McNicholas

Now this hypothetical Christmas gift is neither as useful nor quite as affordable as the last two, but I haven't found anything that screams "Grace" more. This Turquoise Bar Ring from Sasa Jewelry is a bold statement piece that I think would add a great pop of color to any and all of the tres fashionable things you wear day to day.

Hope you like it! 

P.S. Dear Readers! On a slightly related note, we will all be taking a short break from the blog until the first of the year. (I just couldn't leave poor Grace without an imaginary gift to open.) Thank you for coming round to read what we write! We so appreciate your support. And we look forward bringing you more beautiful things in 2014 to brighten your days and inspire you!

See you in the New Year!

- Cathleen 

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Singalong

So, I'm off to my sister in law's wedding this morning and I thought I'd share the music that 
we'll most likely be listening to on the entire car ride to NJ.


I love Sufjan Stevens but somehow I missed that he'd released a Christmas album, like, EIGHT years ago. I finally bought it last year and our whole family loves it. Sufjan covers all of the major Christmas carols (some more than once) and also some of the less well-known but still beautiful Christmas hymns. They're all performed in his very distinct style 
alongside quirky, original songs as well.

So if you're in need of a fresh take on Christmas music, this is a great album to try. And if that doesn't work for you, you can always fall back on the greatest Christmas song of all time (I'm kind of joking but actually not really) -

I sing this song all year long

Either way, you're set for holiday cheer!

Happy Weekend and Merry Christmas, Friends!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

American Designer- Jon Contino

Stock and Barrel Logo
The first design I saw by Jon Contino was the logo above made for a company called Stock and Barrel.  I was immediately taken by the anvil, negative space and typeface.  I had to do a little digging after seeing this logo to find out who designed it but once I did, and found his site, I was blown away by his designs and artwork.  

Contino has blown up over the last year and been hired by some seriously big companies as well as notable names: Nike, Keebler, The Brooklyn Nets, Stephen King, Dockers, The Washingtonian, Ford and many others are all in his portfolio. 
He is a master typographer and hand draws all his typeface and logo designs.  Although everything is digitalized so it can be printed for advertisement it still feels as if it were personally hand drawn for each particular publication. Everything he creates feels nostalgically American as if he could have been designing revolutionary pamphlets for Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty.  This is not the only reason I love his work but it plays a big part.  Maybe it's the fact that I have blacksmith blood in me but the use of anvils in a lot of his work just makes me happy and I never get sick of them.
Here is a sampling of some of the designs I love but there are plenty more at his website


One of my favorites

Makes you want to keep the tag on the tie


Brooklyn Nets



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

ArtworkS of the Week: Silence/Shapes

Shape C/M by Filippo Minelli 
chemicals on landscape, 2013

It's been cold off and on here in North Carolina for the past month, and while I do enjoy a 60 degree December day, I have found myself missing the sight of snow on the ground and wondering if I will ever get used to the idea of probably never having a white Christmas down south. These photos remind me of my winters of yore, but instead of the gray sludge that would form almost immediately on the streets of NYC, they bring something more magical. 

Among many other things, Italian public artist Filippo Minelli creates these beautiful bursts of color within various stark, desolate landscapes. His ongoing series titled Silence/Shapes captures an unfurling cloud in one quiet moment before it disappears into the ether. It was tough for me to pick just one to share this week, but I particularly liked these against their snowy backdrops. 

Shape C/G 
chemicals on landscape, 2013

You can see more of the artist's work on his website:

- Cathleen 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Let's Pretend Gift Guide: Part 2

Once again, we bring you another installment of the Let's Pretend Gift Guide!
If we gave each other Christmas gifts, here is how it would go: 

Happy Christmas, Alissa Lively! 

Because of your appreciation of the great Josef Albers, I found this Orbit Wall Clock made by ObjectifyHomeware. I thought it would compliment your cozy home, help keep you on schedule during your busy days, and inspire your love of color all in one fell swoop. 

Hope you like it! 

- Cathleen 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Favorite Children's Books- Christmas Edition

Halfway through December every year, my children and I stock up on Christmas books at the library. We pick out every book that we love and try to find newcomers that we've never read before. This year we weren't able to find two of our favorites which means a trek down to our old library because we can't be ready for Christmas without them.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share them with you. The first is The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. 

It is a retelling of a Hans Christian Andersen story and Margaret Wise Brown's gentle, loving prose is perfect as usual. She sums up the love and miracle of Christmas in a way that feels personal as well as universal and all-encompassing. 

I was unfamiliar with the illustrator Barbara Cooney until I started reading books to my children but since then she has become a solid favorite of mine (and my babies, too). Her illustrations are simple and beautiful. Her work is not overly stylized but after a couple readings, it becomes as familiar as an old friend. (We just picked up a new-to-us Christmas book called The Story of Holly and Ivy illustrated by Ms. Cooney and it is beautiful and touching as well.)

Our other missing Christmas favorite is The Story of Christmas: A Picture Book retold and illustrated by Felix Hoffman.

Felix Hoffman was a Swiss graphic designer and also a stained-glass artist and his illustrations reflect both of these influences. His depictions of the Christmas story are some of the most original and beautiful I have ever seen. One illustration of Mary right after the baby Jesus' birth is so moving that every time I see it, I seriously consider keeping the book instead of returning it to the library. (That's true spirit of Christmas for you!) I'd share it with you but I couldn't find it online anywhere. But here are two others instead:

One of these days, I'm going to find this book so that I can have it permanently and look at the illustrations whenever I want. Until then, I'll be headed to the DC Library every December to pick it up and make my Christmas complete. I hope you can find these somewhere and experience how special they are for yourself.

Happy Weekend, Friends!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Before They Pass Away

I recently found this and was totally blown away:
It is one of the most beautiful photo series I have ever found. Before They Pass Away was shot by photographer, Jimmy Nelson, and documents cultures around the globe whose way of life could be on the verge of extinction.  I am not going to write about it all too much because these exquisite images will speak for themselves.  One thing that makes it quite unique is how it feels like you are staring at images from the past through a modern lens.  There are a lot of images on this post but many more at the beforethey site.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Let's Pretend Gift Guide: Part 1

I've been neck deep in a serious online Christmas gift search for the last week. I'm determined to get all of my shopping done as soon as possible so that I can enjoy the holiday season with nothing hanging over my head but mistletoe. During my internet explorations, I've come across a couple of things that made me think of my Swings and Arrows crew members. I thought I'd post a gift for each of them once a week leading up to Christmas. Maybe you guys will see something for a special someone in your life?

So Merry Christmas, Brian Searby!
If we bought each other gifts, here is what I would give you:

The EDC Magnesium Fire Starter Keychain
This fire starter from Kaufmann Mercantile can ignite tinder with its hot sparks and create an emergency signal that can be seen in the dark a mile away. The perfect tool for your many camping trips and mountainous hikes.

Hope you like it! 

- Cathleen 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Artwork of the Week: Six Rivers

Six Rivers by Morgane Frimane
62 x 24 cm

With the help of Google Translate, (I think) I know Morgane Frimane (not to be confused with Morgan Freeman) lives in Toulouse, France and makes these awesome weavings. She also has a blog,, where she writes about her family, interests, and work in progress. 
Anyway, I like her stuff and I thought you would too!

You can see more of her work at:

- Cathleen

Monday, December 9, 2013

Happy Birthday Cathleen!

Happy Birthday, Cathleen! Today is Cathleen's 33rd birthday. Hooray! Happy Birthday, best friend! We've been friends for 21 years and I don't think I could've ever found a better friend to get weird with. Thank you for always being there to take my side, listen, and share our life passions with. You are  truly a special person! 

Getting weird in 1995.

And because Catie would never admit it, she not only loves Miley Cyrus, but she introduced me to her music. Here's your favorite hit to listen to on repeat 20 + times. 

We can't stop this friendship!

XOXO Lots of love bestie!
- Grace

Friday, December 6, 2013

Art and Food Prep

Many years ago, I received one of my favorite presents ever- a beautiful mortar and pestle. I'd always wanted a mortar and pestle but I'd never sprung for one myself. It started a love affair with mortars and pestles everywhere. There's something so satisfying and therapeutic about physically grinding your own spices and experiencing the burst of smells that accompany it.

Recently, I came upon this beauty and I'm entranced:

Tom Dixon Spice Grinder

It's so gorgeous, I can't even handle it. I think that it would look really beautiful on the counter next to my original mortar and pestle. Maybe I could start a collection... 

So in case anyone is looking for any gift ideas (for me), here you go. You're welcome.

Happy Weekend, Friends!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Short Film of the Month

Since we took off last Thursday for Thanksgiving I wasn't able to post my "Short film of the Month".  We are now in December but this one is the belated November short.  You can still expect the December film on the last Thursday of the month.

’92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card

I thought this one would be the perfect movie for Thanksgiving and the Holidays in general.  A time when family gets back together, reminisces and enjoys each others company.....sometimes.  Relationships can be picture perfect at times or seriously strained but it is family and in the end that's all that really matters.  There is a line in the Avett Brothers song, Murder in the City, that says "Always remember, there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name".  That song reminds me of this short film and I thoroughly enjoy both.
It's a short comedy that follows two brothers with two very different life paths and personalities, who are brought back together because of the death of their father.  The film makers do a wonderful job of showing that these two men were once very close but just don't view life the same way or even how to mourn the death of a family member.  They both have their own ways of coping with the passing of their father but it's his death that helps them reconnect.
It's a funny movie that also has some very poignant scenes at times.  The overall meaning and content reminds of a Wes Anderson movie in a way.  If Wes Anderson's work is the rhythmic verse than this short is the pros. Take out the cool music, edgy camera work and quintessential slow mo scene and there is a similar feel to the Anderson relationships and raw way in which characters converse.
If you don't have the time or energy for a 12 minute video you should at least advance to the 6 minute mark for an outstandingly hilarious dinner scene when the two brothers have their climactic face off after a long period of tension.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Under This Moon

I know, I know. More moon stuff. But this! This beautiful necklace is just the thing! 

You provide the month, date, year and location where the auspicious occasion took place, and Lorena Martinez-Neustadt of Gemagenta will custom engrave the lunar phase from that day in sterling silver to celebrate your special event, with the date on the flip side. Not into necklaces? (What kind of monster are you?) It also comes in ring or charm bracelet form.

This would be an incredibly poignant and thoughtful gift to commemorate the night that you met each other, to mark the significance of becoming a new mother, or the moment that she set foot on this earth. (Hint hint.)

You can find this and more of Lorena's jewelry in her Etsy shop, Gemagenta

- Cathleen 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Design Always Repeats Itself: The Royal Portrait Edition

Danish Royal Family, Official Portrait

Las Meninas
Diego Velazquez
Bold Royal Portrait? It's been done.


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