Thursday, September 22, 2011

Castles, Cork, Land and Sea...and a CONTEST

One of my other staff members, Lori, has been away for two weeks on her annual vacation with her husband and two friends.  Each year they pick a country to visit and hit the road!  This year was Portugal and what follows are from her words and her experiences.  Enjoy the trip!

Traveling is one of our favorite things to do.  There's nothing like visiting a foreign place, so far removed from our everyday life and habits.  Going to a foreign land and experiencing life as a local is one of our greatest treasures.  It is what we love to do and delve into each culture for the two weeks that we're there with gusto!

We landed in Lisbon, Portugal and hit the ground running.  I knew from the first moment that we got to the airport and grabbed a cup of coffee (even better than Italy!!)  that we would fall in love.  Lisbon is a gorgeous and amazingly clean city and has so much to offer a tourist.  It was a veritable feast for the eyes.  Everything in Europe is so old and has great history associated with it.  The architecture in Portugal was just stunning and I found myself snapping hundreds of pictures each day.  Around every corner there was a treasure to behold.

This trip we traveled by foot 

We covered many miles on foot!

By funicular up some of the toughest hills!!

By train
By bus
By cable car throughout the city
And of course, by car.  This route was what we covered by car, over 1200 miles.  It does not take into account any of the other means of transportation!! 

One of the things that impressed us the most were the sidewalks throughout the city.

These sidewalks are made up of three inch cubes of cream colored limestone and dark grey basalt stones. The black represents the holy attire worn by the Lisbon's patron Saint Vincent, while the white represents the white outfits of the Christian Crusaders who vanquished the Moors. Each sidewalk throughout Lisbon (as well as other areas of Portugal) were works of art.  Some were done intricately, others were simple but just as elegant.  I took several pictures of my favorites.

Even if the sidewalks aren't a mosaic of black and white, they're still little squares of white
Robyn has me seeing McKenzie-Childs influence everywhere!!!

We found ourselves traversing the country in search of castles.  We were not disappointed.  We found MANY.  One of the most beautiful and picturesque was in a town called Sintra.  Sintra and its mystical hills dotted with fairtytale palaces and extravagant villas are a true sight to behold.  The Romans made it a place of cult moon worshiping and named it "Cynthia" after the goddess of the moon. They were followed by the Moors who also fell in love with the lush vegetation and built a hilltop castle, a palace, and several fountains around the town. Later it became the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family and attracted a number of wealthy aristocrats who built huge mansions and villas. 

We found a castle in Tomar, Portugal in the process of renovation.  It was originally built somewhere around 1160 - can you believe it still stands!  It was just amazing as the pictures will show you.  The original detail is still so evident, it's already a beauty.  It has been in the process of renovation for centuries already and it's still incredibly rustic.  We found many castles to investigate but these were our two favorite.

A hidden doorway underneath the castle
This castle, like most that we saw on our trip, housed a chapel.  It is here that I saw the most amazing faux finish on the wall.  Look at these pictures.  If you look closely enough you will see that one side is an actual pulpit that protrudes from the wall.  On the other side of the hallway about four hundred years ago they realized that they should have placed a matching pulpit on the other side but since they couldn't rebuild they painted a matching one!  Unbelievable! 
The real pulpit with real marble and green onyx
The faux pulpit - pretty amazing.

Shopping.  Oh how I wish my pocketbook was bottomless!  I could have spent a fortune on many of the countries unique products.  Portugal is the second largest producer of cork.  Yes, cork, like cork for wine bottles.  However, don't let that fool you.  The Portugese make hundreds of products with cork.  Purses, ties, books, jewelry, lamps, was limitless and beautiful.  

The Portugese are also very well respected for their pottery, everything from traditional to contemporary was displayed and just beautiful.  
Ceramic, Iron and Pottery were at every turn

A more contemporary flair of pottery

Traditional Portugese Pottery

We drank wine like it was water - another of Portugal's gems.  And I discovered Port.  Liquid gold that you savor a sip at a time.  Vineyards lined the roads and we felt compelled to take a peak and a taste.

That's $166 euro or $232 American!!

We just missed the crush, a few lonely grapes left hanging
This was a gorgeous fountain at one of the winery's we visited
An entrance to one of the winery's we visited

The coastline was yet another stop along our journey.  Here every morning you could watch local fisherman set their traps for all sea creatures and at night when we went out to eat, nothing but the freshest of seafood was ever offered.  Some of the largest fish, shrimp, crabs and lobster I've ever seen!
Fishing boats

Fishing gear on the coast

This crab was over 5 pounds!!!
Goodness, after reliving my vacation as I wrote this I'm thinking I need another vacation!!!  I guess I'm going to have to wait another year!!  However, now that I'm home I'm thrilled to hear about all the new and exciting things going on at Robyn Story Designs.

There's a FANTASTIC contest brewing.  Get your creative MoJo going for Christmas.  Anything goes, as long as it's an inspired decoration, it's unique and you tell us how you created it.  Two hundred and fifty dollar gift certificate is waiting for the most creative idea.  We will feature the entries on the blog and we'll have the rules posted next week. Good Luck.  Oh, if you're looking for some kind of inspiration, check out a fellow blogger's post for Halloween.  This was so creative and so adorable I had to share.

Cynthia Keenan nailed the idea for inspired design using simple pumpkins for her Halloween Decorations.  Think Christmas!  Thanks Cynthia for such great Annie Sloan Chalk Paint Pumpkins!!!  Hope this helps get those thoughts and ideas flowing!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


It's been a busy few weeks here at Robyn Story Designs.  Christmas is coming in a hurry and we have TONS to do.  One of our wonderful customers requested our designs again this Christmas.  So we spent an entire Sunday building their Christmas trees and installing all of their garlands and wreaths inside their home.  This is quite the house.  It's stunning and artful and owned by some incredibly special customer's and friends of the store.  (They aren't due back to their Florida residence until late November so we were able to get a jump start on the season!!) Here's just a little sneak peak into what 8 people spent 8 hours doing last Sunday.
This is only 1/10 of the boxes that housed all the decorations!!
Unwrapping and organizing the boxes of ornaments.  Two trees were dressed, a 15 foot and a 12 foot!!  Again, a small fraction of the amount of ornaments, ribbons and trim used!
I hope Santa is as lucky as I am.  I have the most amazing elves!!  Always a smile and such creative genius's!!

Three hours later it's FINISHED with beautiful trim, ribbons and ornaments!!!

A close up of the most beautiful gold ornaments, each one is over 1 foot tall
David working on the second story bannister garland overlooking the family room
Mr. Christmas!  Scott working on the ribbons and perfecting the tree
The Garland and wreath hanging down from the bannister
We even drafted Lori's husband to fluff the ribbons and garland-all hands on deck!!!
So, as you can see, there's never a dull moment.  Next time I want to share some of the gorgeous-ness at the store!! Garlands galore.  Trees that are just amazing.  I hope it inspires you.  I also need to define our contest.  I haven't forgotten.  None-the-less, I hope you're all channeling your inner artist!!!  I'm so excited to see your inspired decoration!


We did however, have a fabulous time today with a great group for a Chalk Paint Workshop!!  We had some terrific friends of the store, our NEW mini stockist and a couple decorative artists!  LOTS of great questions, wonderful stories and fun today!
Our TERRIFIC group of attendees today!!
Coddie has never painted before.  She took notes, listened intently and produced AMAZING results!

We were happy to have Michelle and Ken Hiley of Stiltskin Studios take our course as well!  They are fabulous artsists but refer SO many people to our workshops they figured they'd better take them as well!!

Ken and  Steve became fast friends and were sharing furniture finishing secrets
Sue, a decorative artist, was experimenting with colors at the end of the day

Time ran out before she could wax, however, she created a wonderful mosiac of color.
Steve (an amazingly talented decorative artist/artist) and me at the end of the day - fast friends!!
Every Chalk Paint Workshop is completely different.  We meet so many talented individuals.  A lot of you are already familiar with Michelle and Ken Hiley of Stiltskin Studios.  If not, take a minute to check out their website.

Also, I want to take a minute and talk about my friend, Steve (above) whose business is Creative Painting Specialists.  He is an incredibly talented artist and decorative painter.  We are thrilled to be sharing with you that Steve will be scheduling workshops here at Robyn Story Designs.  He will be teaching many different faux effects.  Take a peak below at just a few of his finishes.  Keep in mind that these are all done on wood planks.  Prepare to be amazed!!!

Are you blown away!!??  Seriously gorgeous finishes.  Steve is also a very talented artist and has been commissioned to do portraits, landscapes and art of all styles.  He will be here, in our studio, teaching YOU.  Keep an eye out for our announcement of dates....coming soon!!  I know I'm excited because I'm going to be sitting in that class with you, learning right along your side! 

Did you pick up on my little slip earlier??  We have an announcement that we are SOOOO proud to share with you.  Robyn Story Designs has a NEW mini stockist in VERO BEACH!!  


Jeff at the workshop, painting a relief with Old Violet and Paris Grey
Jeff is loving the dark wax!!
Lorna was busy shadowing us during the workshop and managed to escape the camera's lens.  She and Jeff own and operate a STUNNING antique store in Vero Beach called House of Charm Antiques.  Take a peak at their store and if you find yourself in their neighborhood, stop by and browse through their treasures!  They are both very excited to be ASCP mini stockist and will be hosting their own workshops in the very near future!  We'll announce those dates on our blog as well!

Didn't I tell you it's been crazy around here!!!  So many TERRIFIC things are in store for the future of Robyn Story Designs.  I am so thrilled to be able to share it with everyone.  Watch our website/blog for dates announcing the workshops with Steve from Creative Painting Specialists as well as a few other announcements AND the rules for our So you think you can Create contest!
and Robyn Story Designs "hearts" Stiltskin Studios!!  Thanks Michelle!!
 More very soon.....................