Summer Home – Rustic Glam

Image Source: facebook.com/SamanthaPynn/photos

For my avid readers, you’ll know that I have a penchant for interior decorating programs. To fuel my addiction, Summer Home is the latest series I’ve added to my growing list of favourite home makeover shows. What makes this series unique is its focus on renovating summer homes – or holiday homes as we call them here in Australia. In each episode, host Samantha Pynn, aims to update rundown retreats trapped in a time warp, and transform them from boring to delightful getaways.

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 The program has a laid back vibe that’s reflected in Samantha’s signature style. I have an affinity for her refreshing approach to decorating; it’s what I define as casual chic. With Samantha, you won’t find ostentatious fixtures, opulent or ornate focal points and quirky decorating concepts. Instead, Samantha’s creations are bright, cosy and inviting. Her designs are based on restrained elegance, understated rustic glam. She combines country with a classic, timeless comfort, yet modern feel.

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Samantha provides practical solutions to breathing new life into a home. Where possible, she retains existing furniture to minimise costs but refreshes the pieces with new slip covers or re-upholstering. In addition to custom fixtures, Samantha also favours vintage accessories found in local thrift stores or antique shops to maintain a cottage charm.

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As the homes of her clients are often located along rivers, lakes or set amongst wooded areas, her designs are often nature inspired, so as not to divert from the character of the house. To keep the look fresh, she uses pops of colour with visual elements such as pillows, throw blankets, rugs and ornaments with soft colour pallets, floral prints mixed with muted geometric patterns and delicate textures.

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In some episodes, Samantha’s major challenge is maximising areas with limited space, creating a room that is both functional and flexible in terms of their layout, purpose and usage. She often achieves this with a splash of paint, new flooring, re-positioning furniture, adding fixtures with sleek minimalist features, dismantling walls or building cabinetry upwards instead of outwards – all to create the illusion of space.

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In summary, Samantha manages to combine both function and form, transforming rooms that once lacked any artistic direction, and injecting a dash of glam that is visually eye catching yet comfortable and casually stylish.

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Image Source: facebook.com/SamanthaPynn/photos

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Me, Public Speaking? I’d Rather Go Nude!

One of my greatest fears in life is public speaking. I’d rather jump out of a plane nude, or walk barefoot through a pit filled with hairy tarantulas!

Recently, my little sister asked me to make the customary ‘family member’ speech at her engagement party. I was deeply touched and honored that she considered me, but at the same time I wanted to wet my pants (and throttle her)! Deep down, I secretly thought this was payback for all the times I threatened to flush her down the toilet when we were younger. My stomach began to churn and twist in knots. I had two months to come up with a speech and the pressure was on!

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Some people are gifted speakers, me….not so much. As a student, at the end of each term, my report card read – “C is a conscientious student but needs to participate in class discussion”. It was a recurrent theme throughout primary school and high school, much to the disappointment of my parents! Despite the many lectures from both my teachers and the folks, it was a lesson never learned and haunts me to this day.

 I can’t recall the source or quote the exact statistic, but according to a survey conducted, a significant number of people would rather die than engage in public speaking. OK, it’s a tad extreme but I can more than empathize with the thought.

I’m painfully shy! I liken myself to an awkward, country church mouse with hermit tendencies. I was the wallflower in high school that never got asked out because I was socially inept with zero personality. Men weren’t exactly queuing up for a date during my footloose and fancy free twenties because I couldn’t chat any guy up (it didn’t  help that I tried to save myself for Brad Pitt)!

Image Source: publicrelationssydney.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Microphone-at-conference.jpg

I’d still be single, desperate and dateless today if the better half hadn’t have made the first move. He was brave enough to introduce himself when we first met. I think he felt sorry for the loner in the tight skirt and knee high boots leaning up against the bar with vodka in hand.

Some people love the sound of their own voice; you know the ones who could talk under water? I’m in awe of those who can dominate conversations over the dinner table or board room meetings. I envy people who are gifted speakers, the best of which can mesmerize and captivate an audience. It does help if you ooze a little charm, personality and charisma. Personally, I believe you’re born with it, it’s an innate talent.

By contrast, talking is my weakness, my Achilles heal. Place me in front of a group of people and this weakness is elevated ten fold and I’m overcome with paralyzing fear! I start to quiver, sweat uncontrollably and I turn into a jibbering idiot. My mind freezes up and turns blank; I struggle to articulate what’s in my head (which isn’t much). Don’t get me wrong, I love attention. I don’t mind walking into a room, wearing something glam with a touch of bling and turning heads. However, when I open my mouth, I struggle to come up with something sharp, witty or profound to say. It’s a challenge to convey a message in a succinct, articulate manner – instead, I fall flat on my face (I guess this explains why writing is my escape).

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My saving grace has always been my writing. Whenever I had to conduct presentations or meetings at work, I had notes prepared for my own sense of security. So, that’s where my mission began. I began to draft my speech until I realized I had no idea what to write! The avid blogger was suffering from writer’s block! I had to get down to the basics. Like with any good story, you need a captivating introduction, a memorable plot with a middle section that takes the audience on a joyride and a conclusion to tie up the yarn.  I channelled in my marketing experience and similar to a sales pitch, you need to have key objectives and an understanding of your target audience and what they’re after. Research is the key – a broad knowledge and understanding of what you’re talking about!

My ultimate goal was to create a light hearted message about my sister’s road to romantic bliss while hoping the audience didn’t suffer through sheer boredom, and the means to achieve this was to add some humor to the speech. I didn’t want to go down the path of the boring mushy lovey dovey clichés that you find in a Hallmark card – love is a journey not a destination, love is patient, love is kind – Blah! Blah! Blah! What a crock! That makes me gag. Instead, I wanted DIRT, that is, the crazy shenanigans that the youth of today get up to (ideal for my young audience). So I contacted close family and my sister’s friends to dig up some gossip which would form the bulk of my speech.

I certainly didn’t want to write a thesis. I wanted to keep the speech short and sweet – the less time I have to spend talking…the better! Once the speech was written up, the next stage was to practice, because practice makes perfect! I began to rehearse, I’d pace up and down the hallway rehearsing, varying my tone of voice and ensuring the delivery of each joke was perfect. On several occasions I even sat in front of Winston the Wonder Dog and read through my lines. After several rounds, eventually my own dog got bored! He’d look at me perplexed before dozing off. It got to a point where he’d walk the opposite direction as soon as he saw me approaching him. The paw thing, even my own dog got sick of the speech. That wasn’t a good sign!

As the date of the engagement party loomed, I couldn’t sleep. I began to get hives! Even as I slept, my mind raced through what I was going to say. On the day of the soiree, I needed a calming mechanism…..booze! Copious amounts of alcohol helps…it’s the best social lubricant….as they say, booze make men brave and women loose! After a few glasses of vodka, Bacardi and gin – I was rockin’!!!

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With paper in hand, I began the speech. I started off strongly, despite the fact my hands were trembling. If I could measure the amount of quivering, it would be off the Richter scale. I lost my spot once but quickly brushed the mistake off. Once the audience laughed at a few comical gags, I knew I was on fire. To my sister’s relief, I didn’t disgrace myself!

In summary, I survived! Woo hooo! Would I ever volunteer or yearn to be nominated for any future public speaking events? Well, like I said earlier, I’d rather jump out of a plane nude, or walk barefoot through a pit filled with hairy tarantulas!

The Tale of a Wonder Dog!

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You can’t argue with the saying that canines are “a man’s best friend” (and equally a woman’s). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the bond shared between people and their dogs is special. I can knowingly say this based on the unconditional love we’ve experienced with our four legged buddy – Winston the Wonder Dog!

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Winston is our nine year old Chihuahua x Pomeranian, who oozes personality, spunk and charisma. But Winston is more than just a pretty face. For a canine he exudes impeccable taste in quality TV programming. In fact, one of his favourite pastimes is cuddling up beside me on the couch to watch The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Keeping up With The Kardashians or The Bold & The Beautiful together. It’s fair to say that we’ve bonded over our love of talk shows, reality TV series and daytime soaps. Despite what my better half thinks, Winston would rather watch grass grow than sit through a season of football or cricket on TV!

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Winston’s other passion is to keep people company. He has the ability to put a smile on my face when I’m feeling a little ho hum. He’ll roll on his back with his paws up in the air for a tummy rub, or curl up at my feet and keep my tootsies toasty warm. If I’m struggling for inspiration, he’ll often nestle up against me while I’m working on the laptop and just his presence will perk me up. Eventually the cheekiness kicks in. He’ll interrupt my train of thought by nudging his head under my hand as a reminder to scratch under his chin. Alternatively, he’ll walk all over the keyboard just for a smidge of attention.

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Winston loves attention. I may be bias but I reckon he’s a star in the making. Deep down, I think my better half enjoys walking him for the simple reason that Winston is such a chick magnet. Let’s face it, Winston’s a people dog! People are naturally drawn to him and he always laps up the affection he receives from random strangers. He’d never make a great guard dog.  Guests at our humble abode are generally licked to death and if you dangle food in front of him, Win would be putty in your hands!

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In addition to his playfulness, Winston also has a protective nature, similar to the way a mother watches over her brood. He exhibits what I refer to as ‘grandmother tendencies’, where he waits for us by the front window until we come home from work, a night out, or even a short trip to the supermarket. Whenever I hear the pitter patter of his paws on the wooden floorboards, I know he’s following me like my shadow around the house. On one occasion, I organised for my parents to babysit him during a weekend escape. According to my folks, Winston waited in the hallway in vain, hoping that my partner and I would come home, demonstrating how loyal he is towards us. Winston won’t sleep until the two of us are in bed, at which time he finally clocks off for the evening.

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He greets me each morning by standing on his short hind legs and tapping his front paws onto my side of the bed until I pat him in response. If I choose to ignore him, he’ll start moaning with worry. In fact, Winston has an instinct for sensing when I’m in pain. A few months ago, I stubbed my toe on the coffee table and groaned in agony. Just recently, I had a serious coughing fit where I was in tears.  In both instances Winston rushed towards me with such an alarmed, concerned look on his face as if to say ‘Are you OK mum?’

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In retrospect, I was never a big animal lover. When I was young, like all kids I enjoyed the idea of owning a pet, while not fully understanding the responsibility involved in looking after them. However, since meeting the better half, I knew I had to broaden my mind. Basically, for the relationship to work, the choice was – him and me, or, – him, me and a dog. And the dog will always win hands down when it comes to my partner. So, I sucked it up….and I’m glad I did!

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Ultimately, the best moment is when Winston stretches his neck, looks upwards and stares longingly at us with his adoring eyes while his tail wags with enthusiasm.  Even when he smells of some strange pungent odour, you just want to cuddle him. Winston’s at his happiest snuggled between my better half and me.

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In the past two years I’ve learned how much joy a dog can bring into your life. It’s their unconditional love, unwavering loyalty and the strong bond that they share with us that melts my heart. In a nutshell it’s the simple pleasures that make adopting a dog (or any pet) oh so precious.

The Shenanigans of a Wonder Dog!

Winston the Wonder Dog was adopted from the RSPCA over two years ago. From the moment we spotted him, Winston charmed his way into our lives and we were putty in his paws! However, it didn’t take long to discover that Winston wasn’t the sharpest dog in the kennel; he’s more cute than smart, and we say that with love!

Winston wasn’t toilet trained when we brought him into our humble abode, much to my chagrin! Let’s just say there were puddles left behind and ‘bombing raids’ dumped throughout the house during the day and night, which made my obsessive compulsive cleaning tendencies rock into overdrive. I’m even more mortified with his habit of leaving a trail of No. 2s whenever we’re inside the vet’s clinic. You’d think he was laying cables! My partner and I would joke that Winston could churn out turd like a Mr. Whippy Ice Cream Van!

Well, after two years, and many treats later, Winston’s only just managed to learn to sit; even staying on the spot is a challenge. Forget dropping, rolling over or fetching. He may not know the basics of dog etiquette 101, but Winston certainly knows how to fly! Secretly, he must have a pair of magical wings stashed somewhere in the garden. My better half and I spent many weekends and hundreds of dollars fixing up the back picket fence that stops Winston from wandering into the garage and front yard. He’s surprised us on the odd occasion with his Houdini act, as we’ve found him waiting in the garage and poking his face from under the roller doors as we head up the driveway. He must pole vault his way over the fence because Win wouldn’t have the brains to dig under the barrier.

What he lacks in tricks he makes up for in appetite, for a dog so small he has a bottomless pit for a stomach! When I’m preparing dinner, he’ll hover around the kitchen like a vulture, and with his eagle eye, he’ll zone in on any crumbs that end up on the floor. He ploughs through food like a vacuum. I once found Winston inside our pantry scoffing down whatever he could reach given his short stumpy legs; even the threat of me shutting the cupboard door didn’t faze him at all.

Strangers used to mistake him for a corgi due to his podginess. I was shocked when our local pizza guy called my dog the ‘F’ word…..FAT!!!…F – A – T ….FAT!! I desperately tried to convince myself Winston was just big boned, full figured, a healthy plus size…it took a good six months of exercise and a controlled diet to shed some of his weight.

On a more embarrassing note, like all dogs, Winston gets a kick out of humping peoples’ legs and sniffing their butts, in no specific order. He’s not discriminatory in his choices either. Everyone’s fair game, from tradespeople, guests or even my own mother! What’s worse is the challenge of prying him off the person’s calf. Another one of Winston’s more comedic gestures is to grab a shoe (usually mine!) if my partner or I are on the phone. He’ll pick up the shoe with his mouth and carry it into the living room, even though all the shoes are almost as big as him! It’s Win’s way of saying, ‘Hey, get off the phone, look at me and show me some love!’

Yes, on the odd occasion, Win does show a little too much attitude. He once made a German shepherd cowl into the corner of the reception area at the vet’s clinic with his barking. Let’s face it, it’s the Chihuahua in him that brings out his feistiness and spunk. But deep down, Winston suffers from small dog’s syndrome. He thinks he’s tough, but he’s a pansy at heart. Winston wouldn’t want the other dogs in the neighbourhood to know, but he’s actually quite dainty…he hates to get his paws dirty and loathes getting his fur wet in the rain.

Despite his shenanigans, we wouldn’t want Winston any other way. He makes us laugh. These classic moments are what make him special. We love him, just the way he is.