Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.

Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.
CLICK ON THE RABBIT ( yes, those are cabinets) TO SEE MY PORTFOLIO, AND LEARN MORE ABOUT MY SERVICES...theartofthehome.com

Saturday, December 31, 2011


These days, I don't cook nearly as much as I used to, but holidays are all about traditions, and  one of my traditions is tamales at Christmas time.  I don't make them every year, and I wouldn't have made them this year, had it not been for my two amigas, Ann and Cat.  We make it a point to get together once a month, just the three of us, to do something fun.  We've perused unusual shops, had an evening at Orchestra Hall, eaten at interesting restaurants, and on occasion, just hung out here at Belle Ami.  This month, it was a day of tamales.  That's why I don't make them every year.  Even with three of us working on them, they take all day.  In fact, as I type this at nearly midnight, the last batch is finishing up in the steamer. 
Tamales de cerdo en salsa verde, served with field green salad and kidney beans.
If you aren't familiar with tamales, they are corn dough wrapped around a filling, usually meat, rolled in a corn husk or banana leaf, and steamed.  We made both chicken and pork-filled ones, and were most pleased with the pork, which was seasoned with garlic, onions and cumin, as one would expect, plus cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and raisins.  Typical for many Latin American cooks, but not exactly the tamales that come in a jar in the grocery store, which (don't tell my mom) I actually secretly sort of like.  Hey, Cat confessed to liking the annual can of Spaghetti-O's - cold.  Ann, who brought us a midday snack that included quince paste, bosq pears and the most incredible truffle cheese, the latter of which had us moaning in ecstasy (I'm not kidding, it was really that good), could not think of a single low-brow secret food love, but I bet she has a Little Debbie fetish, or some such thing, that we'll out one of these days..

The Three Amigas,  Ann Viveros, Dawn-Marie deLara, and Cat Isles, steaming up the kitchen.   
The holidays are coming to an end, but with a stash of these in the freezer to pull out for quick work-day lunches, the memories of today will linger on.  Great friends, great conversation (low-brow all the way, but great! ), great food, and great fun.  What better way to end a great year? 

I hope 2011 was a year of dreams and hopes fulfilled for you, and that 2012 turns out to be your best year ever.  Happy, happy new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's a start...

I have to say that 2011 is ending on a high note. I've never been so busy in December, and though most all my blog posts were about Holiday decorating, entertaining, and gift making, I have been working on "regular" stuff, too. Back at the end of November, Audrey Peterson, the minister at Unity of the Valley Spiritual Center, where I attend services and take classes, called to ask if I might have time to help her with something. She wanted to make the hallway containing the doors to the four children's classrooms much more cheerful and inviting. 

Before:  Why does this look like the clinic Christmas party?  Maybe because this used to be a clinic, with lovely purplish gray wallpaper throughout.  Several patterns, but all purplish gray, with "Bruised Plum" trim.  Mmmm.
 We met, we talked, visions expanded (as they have a way of doing in that place), and next thing I knew, I had a comission for a sixty foot long mural. Audrey wanted to perk up the grim starkness of the gray wallpaper and rigid lines, and could I do something to soften the shape of the doors, maybe with plywood? My ears pricked right up at that, and my brain went skipping off toward the brambles...Dimension? I get to stick things on?? Can I start yesterday???

It's a long wall...

...a really long wall.

Okay, still not so good with the red and green christmas decor, but here's the background color.  They asked for vibrant, and these are only the deep tones!
Not realizing how much time prepping for all those holiday home tours and open houses would take, I started the mural early in December, but have only managed to put in about five days of actual work. Luckily, there isn't a strict deadline, and one couldn't ask for a more understanding client than a Unity minister, especially Audrey. I would usually be working all hours to keep to the schedule promised, but Unity is very laid back, very much about being present, wherever you presently are, which means they were fine with me being where I needed to be, to fulfil obligations and promises to others. If I had to describe Unity in one word though, it would be "light", so that's what this mural will be about.
One of the over door patterns.  This was one of the main goals of the art work, creating something that would reshape the doorways, and make them more inviting.  A jungle cat may not have worked over the nursery or preschoolers door, but this room is for the ten-year-olds...hopefully I've struck cool.

These mid-ground trees show the general style of the art.  Keeping it simple is my biggest challenge!
The style of this painting is far more contemporary than my usual murals, but I'm enjoying the challenge.  Putting in background colors that are as bright as the foreground in most of my paintings was a stretch for me, but I started playing around with the white linear highlights today, and I'm liking how it's working.  I was inspired by a greeting card saved years ago for just such inspiration, but recently lost (of course).  As I remember, it was colorfully painted, using white to play up highlights, rather than black to denote shadows.  Thinking of that, I was also reminded of Byzantine icons, which are a very old tradition, but because of the white line work used to create dimension, can have a very modern, graphic aspect.  This mural isn't really in the style of either of these, but they are the inspiration in my head as I whisk in the light.
These rocks are my favorite part of the mural, so far, though I've a long way to go.
Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be working on this, and maybe posting progress, but it's not the only reason I started this post telling you that my year ended on a high note.  For the next two weeks, I'm also pushing to finish the living room mural here at home (the one I started back in September, with the Gwragged Anwynn sculpture stepping out of it), because the Minneapolis Star Tribune has asked to interview me and photo Belle Ami for a feature in mid-January!  And that's not all.  I've also been asked to illustrate a book, and yes, for those wondering, I am still working on mine...both of them.  2012 is going to be a very good year!  A very busy, very good year!  My biggest hope is that every person reading this is as absolutely content right now as I am.  Cheers!

I am booking up for the late winter and early spring, so if you are thinking of having me add some light and color to your home, check out my website for a portfolio of possibilities, and the info on how to hire me.  theartofthehome.com.

Questions or comments can be posted below, or feel free to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, December 26, 2011

In an Elegant Groove

 Mushrooms are the humblest of plants, and yet they hold their own on the menu next to oysters and caviar.  Gotta love the little brown earth dwellers.
 I'm on a mushroom kick this holiday season.  This is because they happened to be on sale this week, and because they always seem special, no matter what you do with them.  I made stuffed mushrooms to take to one potluck early last week, for which you can find recipes in lots of cookbooks (Though I love them stuffed with sausage, I made them vegetarian, from the recipe in Bon Appetit's The Christmas Season).  I was planning to make my dad's wild rice with mushroom and hazelnut pilaf, to take to my friend Carol's Christmas Eve gathering, but that would have involved a twenty mile backtrack for the hazelnuts I forgot to purchase on the weekly grocery run.  Unfortunately, hazelnuts are not a hot commodity at our small-town supermarket, though one can find eleven kinds of sugar-loaded peanut butter, so don't say they offer no selection. 

Served on toast rounds, the pate here is garnished with mushroom slices, fried until crisp, and celery leaves.
I considered repeating the stuffed shrooms, but those are tastiest served hot, and I knew the ovens at that family's Christmas Eve feast would be in full service for all things hot and white (Is there a traditional Norwegian food that isn't white or light beige???), so I went searching for a cold mushroom dish.  Mom used to do a marinated mushroom appetizer that used Italian dressing, but those need overnight to marinate, and I only had a few hours. 

My recipe search led me to The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, (that's a cookbook by Mollie Katzen, and not someplace one goes after eating the wrong kind of mushrooms), wherein I found a recipe for mushroom pate.  I changed it slightly, partly because I didn't happen to have a few tablespoons of dry white wine, and though the Sparetime Tavern across the street might be persuaded to sell me a beer poured into my crock pot, they can't sell wine on their 3.2 license. 

Here's what I came up with:

1.  Saute two finely chopped medium sized onions
     in about 4 Tbs. butter until golden and starting to brown.
2.  Set onions aside, and add a little more butter to the pan (this is party food, so we will not be mentioning any unfestive words that begin with the letter c.   If  these things concern you, go graze on the raw broccoli and cauliflower that no one else eats from the veggie tray, and skip the dip, right along with this recipe).  In this golden pool, saute a pound and a half of coarsely chopped mushrooms, slowly, until they are quite dark, though not crispy.
3.  Stir the onions back into the mushrooms, then season with:
   3/4 tsp salt, 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp crushed tarragon or dill (or both!), 6 tbs sherry (cooking sherry is just fine), a couple chugs of Worcestershire sauce,  and about 1/4 tsp black pepper.  Let simmer about five minutes.
4. Stir in 1/4 cup oat bran.  What?  Don't have oat bran in your cupboard?  How about wheat germ? No?  Get out the blender and whir a handful of oatmeal until it's not quite flour. 
5.  Cut up a brick of Neufchatel (low fat cream cheese. It's okay, it tastes the same as the full-on stuff in recipes), and stir it into the mushroom mixture.
6.  Process this mixture in a few batches in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Careful!  Hot stuff can blow the top off a blender, so hold the lid down, or hold it tilted, so there is an air vent on the side facing away from you.
7.  In a large bowl, stir a 15-16 oz container of ricotta into this puree.  Taste, and adjust seasonings. 
8. Bake the pate at 400 degrees f. for an hour and fifteen minutes.  If you bake it in loaf pans, line two with buttered parchment.  This will give you firm flat bricks to place on platters and slice.  You can bake it in six or eight buttered ramekins, giving you an easy way to refresh it over the course of an evening, or you can bake it in a buttered casserole dish, then serve it in scoops on a bed of greens, or pipe it through a pastry bag onto toast points or crackers.  Serve with very mild bread or crackers, as the flavor is pretty delicate. Enjoy the pate, and the compliments!

When I'm not groovin' with shrooms in the kitchen, I'm out slinging a psychedelic rainbow of paint on peoples' walls.  Okay, I'm not actually that wild, but some of my customers do come pretty close!  Check out my portfolio by clicking here:  theartofthehome.com

Questions or comments?  Just click on the word "comments" below, and leave me a message here, or feel free to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Friday, December 23, 2011

"So, ya ready for Christmas?"

'Tis the night before the night before Christmas,
And all through my house,
Not a present is ready,
And I'll feel like a louse,

If I arrive empty handed,
With nothing to share,
At a friend's family's Christmas,
Though I know they won't care.

So I'll leave you this message,
As I craft through the night,
Happy Christmas to All,
May your New Year be Bright!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Elf Duty 2011

Three days before Christmas, and on my art table I see:  14 Nativity figures, 6 wine or water goblets, 3 chicken domino games, 2 action figure castles, and one more rusty old milk can (on which to paint one more truck and tractor scene).  Yeah, this is my job. 

Did anyone ever tell you that you can't make a career out of something fun?  You just hand them my blog address, while you keep on doing whatever it is you are inspired to do.  A few years ago, my job title was "Goddess of Glitter" (art director for an event company that didn't give titles to anyone), and my work consisted of making party decorations for charity balls and fancy bar mitzvah celebrations.  These days, I don't use quite so much glitter, but especially this time of year, my job looks suspiciously like Friday afternoon in elementary school.  Remember Friday afternoon, when you got to make things with paint and clay and pipecleaners?  Looked kind of like the photo above, didn't it?  If Friday afternoon in sixth grade can be a job, anything can.  Follow your bliss!

When I'm not on elf duty, my job is still pretty fun.  You can view my portfolio at theartofthehome.com.

Making something yourself and have a question?  Feel free to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com, or leave it in the "comments" below.  If I have an answer, I'll be more than happy to share it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

From the Heart

Gifts of time have always been a big part of my Christmas tradition.  I remember in first or second grade, baking gingerbread men with my mama to take to the nursing home, when our Brownie Scouts troop went caroling there.  My brothers had befriended an old man who lived at St. Elizabeth's, a few blocks up the street, and our family made a second trip to take him a tiny Christmas tree.  We had made ornaments for it by glittering walnuts (my love of the sparkly stuff started young), and sticking pairs of foil star stickers together with loops of thread between them.  For garland, we did the traditional string of popcorn and cranberries.  It cost almost nothing, but us kids were giddy with excitement, as we carried it into his room. "Oh, that's fine.  Real fine." he said, his blue eyes watery.  I was pretty sure he was happy. (You are still remembered, Harold "Andy" Anderson, you old rascal.)
Helping a child paint her own room, or training my future paint assistant?  She's getting really good at taping.

 Our gifts to each other were usually handmade, as well. Puppets, stuffed animals, little carved and sculpted ornaments, and the ever-popular Love Coupons, which were certificates for gifts of time, and included everything from taking a sibling's turn at dish washing, to darning Dad's wool work socks. Remind me to ask Dad if he actually wore those lumpy things, hiking around the woods all day...ouch!

Every painter must experience the paint catapult first-hand, and it seems most kids do it on the first paint job.  Are we bad grown-ups if we were laughing and snapping photos to post here and on facebook, instead of helping the poor child clean it out of her shoes?
A friend of mine was on facebook a few days ago lamenting the lack of money to buy gifts for all her grand kids, and the overwhelming response was surprise that an artist such as herself would even consider buying something, when she could make something so unique and personal. I admitted that as kids, we were a little disappointed when we didn't get some of the same plastic toys our friends did, but we were so proud to show off the paintings, wooden toys, and polished stone bracelets our grandparents made us. I don't think any of my friends still have their Atari TV tennis game, or their Big Wheel, but I still have almost every hand made gift I ever received. Come to think of it, I probably have some uncashed coupons somewhere, too, and I doubt there's an expiration on Jesse's promise to wash my dishes. Oh, yeah, I'm lookin' for that one!

The Sugarplum did most all the detail jobs, like carefully painting the final edge on the top coat of the grass, and I followed behind with the roller.  She worked right with me all five hours, so she can claim it as her own.
I gave my Artgirl, Faithie, a gift of time this year. She has oodles of toys and plenty of art supplies, but on her Christmas wish list was a room of her own, which has been promised for several months, but wasn't happening quickly. Her parents were inspired to move out the last of her grown up brother's left-behind possessions, strip the wallpaper border, and pull up the worn out carpet. They weren't however, quite getting her vision of walls painted like grass and sky, part daytime with a sun, and part nighttime with a moon, but I knew how to do that, so I offered that as my gift. Spending a day with her was precious enough, but explaining this gift-that-doesn't-come-in-a-box to her little sister, who's eyes lit up at the idea, felt pretty special, too.

Background finished, complete with a day-to-night fade on the sky, which shows up less gradual on camera than it looks in person.  Next week we make the sun and moon, and apply some removable wall graphics.
It matters not a bit whether you take a few minutes to write a personal message in a Christmas card, or have the luxury of taking a day off to make a child's wish come true. As long as you have a heart, you have something to give. What's the rhythm? Arum-pa-pum-pum? Oh, that's fine. Real fine.  

Working on a project and need advice ona technique or product?  Feel free to ask by leaving a comment below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  Really.  I don't mind sharing what I know, if I know something that might be helpful.
There are lots of other kids' rooms on my website, theartofthehome.com.  Take a peek!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Wanted: window washer, garden weeder, bookkeeper...

Way back before Thanksgiving, I wrote a post about my tendency to start projects, but not finish them right away.  I had three projects that I wanted to finish that week, and asked for a "Huzzah!" if I accomplished them.  Oh dear, you weren't holding your breath were you?  I did finish attaching the staircase treads, and finished painting the dresser.  The third project, finishing the last bit of bathroom paint, was delayed by a need to do some mud work on one wall (now done, and to silky perfection, I might add), at about which time an unexpected order for a 60 foot long mural came in. 
Painting this dresser stalled several times, partly because I was doing it for myself, and for some reason decided painting in a quicker style to meet an arbitrary deadline was more important than painting something I really wanted to paint.  When I dropped the deadline, the composition finally pulled together.

So, the bathroom paint has had to wait, while I work on the mural, along with all the little custom Christmas orders that arrive this time of year.  I missed my very publicly announced deadline, but it's caused me to look closer at this habit of unfinished projects.  Mostly, I've noticed that if a project is interesting, I will do it right away, and not procrastinate at all.  Duh, I know, but what if that's all there is to it?
Remember Nancye Williams bottles from Wednesday?  I did not procrastinate on trying this project myself.  In fact, I stayed up late that night, then got up early Thursday morning to have time to finish details before starting my work day.  Did I have plenty of important work to do this week?  Yup, but unless one counts hosting five open house events in six days "time off", I hadn't actually had any down time in weeks.  All work (even fun work) and no (non-commissioned) play makes me a cranky girl.

I've spent more than forty years fighting this "deficiency", trying to fix what's wrong with me, namely what appears to be a childish insistence on doing only the fun bits.  This diagnosis is unfair, though.  I will do what truly needs doing, no matter how hard, as evidenced by the roof repair on the balcony, and the speed with which I can change a flat tire.  I'll sit patiently through the most tedious days of painting thousands of individual leaves, as evidenced by my kitchen paint job, to finish something I'm passionate about.  I'll work extra unpaid hours on a client's job, no matter what, to get the details right, when that's the right thing to do.  So I'm making an early New Year's resolution to quit scolding myself for unfinished projects, and instead find ways to avoid the pitfall altogether.
This decanter holds "Heart's Ease", according to its label.  Looks like white glitter, seashells and ephemera inside this collage of snippets and bits to me, but anything filled with faerie dust must be magical, no?

This means I will consider whether my heart is fully into a project before I begin.  I will try harder to find ways to hire others, through trade or re-prioritizing finances, to do the things I know I don't want to do, but truly want done (bookkeeping, window washing, weeding the garden...hey, not just talking theoretical here, wanna trade?!).  I will set realistic time frames on the not-fun things I can't avoid, rather than trying to force myself to stay up 'til all hours, just to finish checking things off of the infinite list of Things-Not-Yet-Completed.  I will give myself credit and approval for all the things I do get done in a week, instead of acting like a sadistic drill sergeant with an endless list of dreary marching orders, and then reacting like the conscientious objector who got drafted into the daily grind.
"Essence of Time"

As a hyper-creative soul, I will never have enough hours to finish everything that presents itself to be done in this lifetime, so I think rather than another forty-plus years of berating my "irresponsible imperfection", I'll try to be mindful to choose paths I truly wish to walk, so when the snow needs shoveled, or the stones re-set, I won't mind these occasional "absolutely must do" projects that sidetrack me from the more interesting parts of the journey.  I will honor the fact that it's actually my somewhat childlike view of the world that creates the art that pays my bills, and reward myself indulgently for tackling the must-dos that simply cannot be avoided.  On a week that's not so full of deadlines for clients, the last twenty square feet of bathroom paint will be the perfect project for an afternoon with an audio book, after which I will enjoy it's beauty, then schedule some playtime, to celebrate the completion. 
"Wildness of Joy" which I must admit is a phrase I saw once on another artist's work, but can't remember who to credit it to.

I've decided to discard the misleading label.  I'm not a procrastinator, after all, just a hyper-creative artist soul, with not one precious moment to waste on feeling like the mountain of unfinished shoulds is about to avalanche.  Even at it's longest, life is pretty darned short.  For the love of the Creator, (who, as far as I know, pronounced it "Very Good", not "Finished"...and then took a break) create a way to work happy!

Once I finish Christmas orders, the sixty foot mural, and one faux finished dining room, I expect to still have some working time available in January before my next big project starts.  If you are thinking of having me do something for you late in the month, now is the time to talk to me.  My portfolio and all the info on how to hire me is at theartofthehome.com.

Questions or comments?  Leave them below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com .  FYI:  on the bottles, all the paper bits are glued on with basic Elmer's, and all the shells and fabric trims were attached with hot glue.  The stopper for "Heart's Ease" is a chandelier drop style Christmas ornament, available on clearance right now at stores like TJMaxx, Marshalls, Michaels, and probably Target.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Inspiration: Nancye Williams

The Third Thursday Artgroup met here at my house yesterday.  Yes, we own calendars (and yes, we know today is Wednesday), but being creative souls, we are flexible when the need arises, as it did this month.  This was the fourth of five events I hosted in the last six days, here at Belle Ami, and I had such fun making gifts of honey-toffee (which tastes wonderful and will be perfectly edible if everyone just follows my directions to pound it with a hammer and sprinkle it on ice cream), baking quiche, and showing the house to members who hadn't been here before.  I had so much fun in fact, that I entirely forgot to take pictures. 

Ha!  But being one of those aforementioned creative souls, I am flexible when the need arises!  Also, I have photos of the gathering last month, and someone really precious I've been meaning to share with you.

This is Nancye.  Isn't she cute?  So's her house.  So's lots of her artwork, except the stuff that's not supposed to be cute.

I have hanging candles like these, scattered around my house, but I really like the way these look grouped together, hanging between Nancye's kitchen and living room, like a lighted divider.  I think it's time to put some new holes in my ceiling.

I wasn't surprised yesterday when Nancye liked the crazy quilted ceiling in my art room (haven't seen it? click here:  inspiration: Robin Brown Magnolia Pearl), since it's not much different than this chair.  We even used the same sneaky cheat:  Fabri-Tac fabric glue!  Really.  Nancy just glued the patches and trims right over the existing upholstery.  She says it's held up beautifully, and besides, if an edge lifts, she can just stick it down.  If you want instant results, or if you have projects that won't get done while waiting for the time to do them perfectly, loosen up and grab the glue!

After I ditz my piano bench like Nancye's chair, I'm gonna make some of these bottles.  I love collage and altered art, but I do so little of it.  Next play day, this is my project.  Hmm.  I'm done with work for the day as soon as I finish this post...wonder how fast I can type...

Now, Nancye does lots of different styles of art, so don't go wandering off to some other blog if the first few pictures below don't appeal to you.  Besides, Nancye sells her work, and you probably have friends for whom you need the perfect gift, whose taste is entirely different than yours, so you just stay right here and read the whole thing, and look at all the pictures.  All those other blogs will still be there when you're done, including Nancye's, which can be found at nancyesartandbeautifuljunk.blogspot.com  (and you thought my blog name was long!).

Nancye Williams has been doing a lot of stuffies, lately.  Some are in this grunge style, some are more vintage inspired.

She also does folk art style pieces, and offers a class so you can learn to make them, too!

This is the doll style that many associate most with Nancye Williams.

I really love the sweet innocence of this one!

If realism is more your thing when it comes to sweet innocence, Nancye Williams can do that, too!
Polymer clay in the hands of a master...
Enough cute?  Okay, now check out her collage and altered art and painting...

When I get done altering bottles and gluing bits of old tat on my piano bench, I'm gonna have to make some of these.  Better yet, I think Nancy said she wants to paint her walls, so maybe I can just trade my labor for some of her artwork!  That would be more fun for me to look at on my own wall, though I still might try making one of the collages.

Don't you just love the way Nancye Williams plays with color and texture? 

Nancye Williams, the art and the artist... nancyesartandbeautifuljunk.blogspot.com
There.  Done.  Blogged in record time (for a post that didn't just say posting postponed).  Now, while you go off to Nancye's blog and read that, then check out the link to her website, and get all inspired to make something, or to buy something beautifully made by Nancye, I'm going down to my art room to play with paper and glue and old glass bottles.  Something tells me I'll be up a little late tonight!

When I'm not hanging out with my fabulously creative friends, or hosting holiday home tours, I do actually work at creating beautiful and personal environments in other people's homes.  Wanna be next?  Check out my website, which showcases my portfolio, and all the info on how to hire me:  theartofthehome.com.

Questions or comments?  You can leave them here by clicking the word "comments" below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mischief Managed

Sunday's open house with photo ops went off without a hitch, though not without some amusing moments.  It started out well enough...well, except for a few last minute glitches.  Lisa, the photographer for the day, left her house without, of all things, her camera, so after circling back for that, she arrived just minutes before our first photo appointment.  I didn't have time to worry about where she was though, since at about 9:00, I realized I had forgotten to replace the piano bench's disintegrated particle board seat, and was frantically sawing and upholstering right up to opening time.  (Amazing what can be done utilizing hot glue and the selvage edge of some left-over fabric!)

Luckily, the decorating was mostly done Wednesday night.  Cindy, shown in the last post crafting me a lampshade, did this arrangement on top of the refrigerator.  I should have had Lisa take shots, as I can't capture the lush elegance of it, but perhaps you can imagine it.

The fake snow on the balcony was the only snow we had, as the temperatures spiked into the forties.  Cindy and Sherry created this arrangement from vintage skis, an old picnic cooler, dogwood twigs, silk flowers, and craft store birds.  Me?  Ummm.. I hung the curtains that frame the view.
We had seven families come for pictures, and lots of other folks who came just to tour the house.  Some were first-timers who have admired the house since long before I moved in, and have always wanted to peek inside; some had been here before, and were checking up on progress in paint and plaster projects; and others came to check out the holiday decorations, specifically.  We were also thrilled when a new-to-town violinist, who had spotted the event on facebook, came with her violin and played live music for about an hour.  Janet Roper is a delight, and I'll feature her on here in the near future, so you can meet her, too.  Who knows, maybe I'll even figure out the audio/visual capabilities of blogger?!
I couldn't see the reaction of the adorable teeny-tiny Wyatt who was at the piano, but the antics of Grandpa peeking over Mama's shoulder, who was peeking over Lisa's shoulder, amused me, in a Norman Rockwell sort of a way.  Honestly, nothing turns a grandad into a clowning fool like a camera shy tot.  (No offense, Grandpa!  I adore clowning fools.)

This scene was a favorite for many, though one toddler burst into tears when she thought she was being put down for a nap.  Hadn't figured on that one.  Hadn't figured on this one (above), either!  My paint clients,  Lorine and Dennis brought their grown daughter along for a family picture, and it was apparently decided that one never outgrows bedtime stories.  I'd be more surprised at this big tough contractor dude going along with this photo, but the first time I met him, he was dressed manlier than the Marlborough Man, and carrying a chihuahua dressed in a pink ruffled dress.  (I hope the next time I find a man in my bed, it's one with such a great sense of silly...oh, and no wife!)
If you missed the fun this year, don't worry.  I'm pretty sure we'll do some version of it again.  If nothing else, having events like these gives me deadlines for finishing decorating projects.  I"m up to "Huzz" on the "Huzzah!" list, for those of you keeping track.  The dining room dresser is finished, and the last bathroom wall is finally ready for it's top coat of paint (photos in an upcoming post).  For tonight, I need to sign off of here, and go see if the honey-toffee candy I invented for tomorrow morning's goodie exchange is edible, or if it would be better to try melting it down with some milk and giving it as ice cream topping.  Nothing like a little down-to-the-deadline improvisation to spark the creative juices!

Want your house photo-ready before Christmas 2012?  Let's get started now!  I'm booking mid-January, but will have a large part of late winter/early spring unavailable, while I work on a large job, so my next available dates may not be until March or April.  Check out my portfolio and information at theartofthehome.com.

Working on a fun project of your own?  If you have how-to questions, you can leave them by clicking "comments" below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com  If I have an answer, I'll be glad to share it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

What makes me shine? Brilliant friends!


10 p.m. Wednesday:  Sherry says, "Tell me again, what do you want me to do with this lamp?"
Warning, if you try this at home:  Apparently it is very difficult to put the balls in and get it back together without breaking a few.  I wasn't worried, as they all came from garage sales, but I'm not sure Sherry wants to try any more of my bright ideas.

Yes, literally glitter.  When my friend Carol sent her art supplies to live at my house, the two van loads included pounds and pounds of glitter.  Putting it in candy jars (some of them my own stacked glass creations), just makes me smile.

And you thought I couldn't do traditional!  Okay, truth told, I got Sherry to do it, while I hung curtains.

I knew if anyone could make this tatty lampshade into something funky cool, Cindy could! (You've seen her barn, right?  No?  Scroll up the page and click on the photo at the top of the right hand column)
Perfection!  Exactly the look I wanted, but am too fussy to ever get right.
Thanks to the help of these two, who stayed until crazy late Wednesday night, Belle Ami looked prettier than ever when the local chapter of Red Hats arrived here on Thursday morning, for a tour.  Behind every successful woman is...a whole bunch of other successful women lending their hands!  Thank you, Dearhearts, so very, very much.

Don't forget, open house here this Sunday from 11-3.  128 West Main Street, Belle Plaine, MN.

Questions?  email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Need decorative paint work in January?  Details on how to hire me are on the website, theartofthehome.com.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

You were expecting a Wednesday night post?

It's 1:30 on Thursday morning, and I'm still tweakin' the details for the 10:00 house tour.  Yes, 10:00 this morning.  Has anybody seen the other leg for the little Christmas tree stand?  It fell off, and I picked it up and set it someplace where I wouldn't lose it and...

The house is looking very sparkly, but I still have things I want to finish, so how about I tell you all about it in Friday night's blog post?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it's off to work I go...

Bright paper ornaments on a sparkly white tree.
I spent today getting ready for my series of open house events here at Belle Ami, which starts with a Red Hats tour on Thursday morning.  It was a tough day of work, I tell ya.  I had to make hot pink snowflakes, and lime green paper flowers, and decorate the guest bedroom.  Luckily, I had a ten-year-old to help me.  Faithie kindly agreed to stay after art class, and for the cost of lunch (two hot dogs and a bag of Doritos from Kwik Trip-her choice), she toiled at my side.  We cut, we glued, we worked our fingers to the bone...okay, more like we glued our fingers to the paper cutter, while goofing off, but we got the job done.
Faithie's blue flower is the perfect topper for our not-so-traditional tree.

Make these same flowers in elegantly patterned scrap booking papers, and you would have a completely different look.

I think I'll probably add a dash more color, but it's essentially done.
I really wish everyone could love Mondays at work as much as I do!  The rest of the week should be fun, too.  In the wee hours, I'm pushing to finish painting the flowers on the dining room dresser (nearly there), then working on a 60 foot long contemporary style children's mural most days, and spending evenings here, with various friends stopping in to help decorate more trees, tables and corners.  One might say the lines between work and play are clearly blurred this week.  Whatever you work at, work happy (or stay home and make some art)!

Friday, December 2, 2011


Isn't she sweet?
Got your Christmas card photos yet?  Been out to see my house lately?  No to one or both?  Then mark your calendar for Sunday, December 11th!  My friend Lisa Fahey, a talented amateur photographer, asked if I would open my house, Belle Ami,  for a photo shoot this holiday season.  Assuming my December would be dead as usual, I said "Yes."  Now of course, all kinds of things have come up since I agreed to this, and then also agreed, since the house would be decked to the hilt, to host three other functions and one Red Hat tour, but what the heck.  I'll sleep in January...or maybe February. 

Who says gilded butterflies and purple sunflowers aren't Christmasy?
The open house is from 11:00 a.m. until at least 3:00 p.m., but we'll extend later as photo appointments fill.  Lisa is charging just $20, which includes uploading all the images to a Snapfish or Shutterfly account, for you to print or email as you wish.  If you don't know how to use that type of online service, Lisa will give you all the info you need, and she assures me it's super easy.  It is a good idea to book in advance, by calling Lisa at (952)292-5188.  Several of our friends have known about this for a couple of weeks, so time slots are filling.

Whether you want photos, or just decorating ideas, (or just to stop in and say "hi") do plan to come!  There are three different Christmas trees, so far, and several other great spots to pose a kid or a whole family, including the porch swing, the gorgeous antique piano, and the staircase, and even a vignette entitled "the children were nestled all snug in their beds" (you might want to bring pajamas and bears!)  The settings range from traditional to contemporary, formal to fun, so there's something to please everyone.

Lisa is also a Tastefully Simple rep, so she will be providing refreshments, and since she'll be manning the camera, I will be happy to take your order, if you sample something you fall in love with.

Sunday, December 11, 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
128 West Main Street, Belle Plaine, MN
to book photos:  (952)292-5188
questions: dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

The other big news tonight is that the website for "Rubies & Rust, a Wedding Barn" is finally launched! 

Check it out now!  rubiesandrust.com
The perfectionistic artist in charge of creating the site (no, this perfectionist wasn't me, but as they say, "takes one to know one"), decided to paint and embellish the exterior of the barn in order to get a photo worthy of the website, thus creating a slight delay.  I so want to roll my eyes, but then I am reminded of a certain "I'll do the quick version" paint job inside this barn, and think I best not even raise an eyebrow.  All I can say is, Cindy sure has a knack for picking dedicated friends! 

Please check out the website, and if you are on facebook, be sure to "Like" it.  (rubiesandrust.com) Christmas and New Year's Eve are both big days for wedding proposals, and you never know which of your friends out there will be needing such a venue, come spring!


...and finally, what of the "Huzzah" list from just before Thanksgiving?  I'm on it.  A sixty foot long mural job came in the same day a few other plums landed in my lap, and priorities had to be shifted to meet unexpected deadlines.  I'm planning on staying home and finishing those projects, and a few others this weekend, so perhaps I'll earn the "zzah portion" of that by Monday night's blog post.  Have a great weekend!

As always, questions or comments can be left below by clicking on the word "comments", or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Need paint?  I'm booking January, so check out the website for decorating ideas, and the info on how to hire me.  theartofthehome.com.