Art for Alex

As some of you may already know, my brother Alex lost his life in Afghanistan in November.  And I have to say that I’ve never been so grateful for this little blog as I was during that awful time.  This outlet of mine gave me a place to write about him and honor him in the only way I knew how.  And I’m convinced that this was the most therapeutic action I could’ve taken.  I wrote the majority of Alex’s Post the night we found out and I go back and read it periodically, along with the very sweet comments that people were kind enough to leave.  It helps somehow.  It makes me feel closer to him every time I read it.

I think I’ve been in some sort of avoidance/denial mode for the majority of the last few months (and probably still am to some extent). But, I’ve finally gotten to a point where I’ve been able to handle going through my stuff and the things given to me in his honor to figure out what to display.

I’m not sure if anybody has noticed, but I’ve never been one to cover our home in family photos. We have our living room photo collage, and a random wedding picture as part of our hallway collage, but that’s pretty much it. I’m one of those people who has a few select favorite personal photos that I cherish and then aside from that, I like to display things with meaning associated with them that may not be blatantly obvious to the general public. Things given to us or purchased at memorable events. Things handed down, or that remind us of someone special, etc.

I remember the first time Alex visited our house. His response was “Where’s me??”. I just laughed and told him to not take offense.  I pointed out that we barely have pictures of US displayed (meaning Joey and I). Most are of Lucas, of course. But we did have a Green Beret bear displayed for him in Lucas’s room.

The funny thing is, I would’ve loved to have displayed a shot of him somewhere.  I just never got around to getting one printed and framed (which in hindsight, is pretty sad).  I mean, it’s not like I had to grind the wood pulp to produce the photo paper or anything to make that happen.

Anyways, as I began to go through stuff over the past weeks to decide what to use, I also had to decide how I wanted to display them.  I immediately ruled out hanging everything in one place. I’m not sure I could handle that.  Emotional overload, if you ask me.  So, I decided to start with three items to display in a few subtle places.  So that we can see them often and think of him, but not have them be totally smack-you-in-your-face, tear-up-every-time-I-see-them out there.

The first item I chose, was this picture…


I took it in my parents garage in the summer of 2012. It’s my favorite picture of the two of them.  It’s the exact copy that I framed and gave to Alex for Christmas that year. It was returned to us after we lost him. I couldn’t bear to change the frame for this reason.  So, I took it as is and hung it on our hallway collage wall…


I also hung his dog tags next to his photo….


I thought about framing them as well, but simply hanging them on a nail seemed more him. More casual.  For the man who used Tupperware as furniture.  🙂

So, our frame wall looks like this now…



Lastly, I chose his rubiks cube.  It came back with him from Afghanistan. His teammate told us that Alex had found it in his barrack (is that the right term? I always get the language confused) when he first arrived in Kandahar and he played with it constantly after that. It’s the way he left it. I love it because it’s random. Just like Alex.

So, I decided to mount it in a display box of some sort.   I found this tray from a Melissa and Doug modeling clay set in Lucas’s room and decided that it was perfect…


I painted the back of the tray the same Jungle Thicket green that I painted behind Lucas’s Expedit shelves.   Then, I drilled four holes through the middle of the tray and threaded some floral wire through the rubiks cube and through the tray…


I didn’t want to glue it or do anything that might ruin the rubiks cube in case I ever wanted to change it.   I figured that Alex would be proud of the blue side that he’d completed, so I kept that side in front.  And I hung it in Lucas’s room…






For some reason, I felt like Lucas’s bedside was the best place for it. Like added protection for the little man or something. Plus, it represents Alex’s playful nature… And he sure loved playing with Lucas.


I think the rubiks cube art affects me more than even his picture does (hence the exorbitant number of pics).  I’m not sure why it has this effect.  It just reminds me of my brother so much. So anyways, I’m not promising that this will be the last art for Alex, but it’s definitely a good start.   And I hope that wherever he is, he can see it and approves.


Put a cork in it

…Or on it, really.  Well, maybe I was right the first time (That’s riiiiight.  Keeeeep reeeeeading. 😉 ).   This post is about some cheap, easy art that I’ve had for many, many moons… since way back in my apartment days.  Since 2007 and my Arlington apartment, actually.  I know.  Nobody really cares.  I might in 50 years, though, when my art is still kickin’ (and I’m an 82 year old karate teacher.  Cool, eh?) .   I’ll have this blog to look back at through my inch-thick glasses to remind myself of this all-important fact.   Arlington.  2007.  Nice.  And I’ll be able to sleep soundly that night.  Which is important to maintain a proper 82-year-old round-house kick.  I mean, naturally. (P.s. Iveneverdonekaratebefore.)

…Okay, sorry.  Totally rambling here…. onto the point….


So, I’m talking about the four little brown guys that surround the biggin.  Whenever someone new comes over to visit, I get comments and/or compliments on them, so I thought I’d toss it onto the ole’ bloggy blog.   This art is so easy that I actually feel guilty getting compliments.   Is that weird?  Not really.  Well, sorta.

In our last house, I hung them in a quadrant formation and they held down the fort all by themselves.   In our current house, they flank the larger painting in the front room…


This art seriously cost me around 12 buckaroos.  For all four pieces.

They’re simply dark brown, chunky cork panels, which I found a while back at Hobby Lobby.  They came in a pack of four for around 12 dollars (and no, they weren’t 50% off at the time… these were purchased during my Decorating Dark Ages, when I was ignorant of the inner sale workings of such establishments.  Shame, really.).

I thought they’d make neat backgrounds for simple photos, so I chose some pics from when I went to Italy back in 2000 and attached them to the cork with some oil-rubbed bronze upholstery tacks that I had on hand.   To hang my cheapo art, I literally hammered a nail straight through the cork into the wall above my photo.  I used a level to make sure they were straight and then hammered a second nail below my pic to maintain that levelness.  You can kind of see a nailheads here (see the silver dot above the photo?)…


But, if you wanted to camouflage them, all it would take is a dab with a brown marker.   I love the texture and simplicity of these pieces.   Kind of rustic, but with clean lines.   Totally my jam.  This art set is one of the few decor items that’s remained intact (without a makeover of any kind) as my taste has evolved over the years.  It’s a little unique but simple enough to fit in with many styles.  Sort of a different take on picture frames.

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Also, I’ve been ecstatic about how well they’ve held up over the years.  They’ve adorned the walls of two apartments, our last house and our current house and they don’t seem the worse for wear in the slightest.   Definitely worth the moolah.

Also, cork tiles are really versatile.  Just about any art would work on them.  More colorful, fun prints for a kids room.  You could even paint initials or emblems onto them or cut out some cool letters or shapes in cardstock or scrapbook paper and adhere them to the center of the tile.  In our last house, I purchased a second, more standard-looking set of cork tiles for our office and simply stuck a clear push-pin smack-dab into the center of each tile on which I hung our extra cds (shiny-side-out).  It was functional CD storage and art at the same time.   Storage in plain sight.    So, these cork tiles are gold, really.  So many cool things can be done with them.

Have any of ya’ll utilized cork tiles in a different way?  Any ideas to share?