December 23, 2017:


It's COLD here and getting colder by the day, brrrrr. By December 26th the high may be only 3 degrees above zero. Yuck! But it's nice and cozy inside, and filled with the scents and sights of Christmas and Yuletide!

Today I made a crock pot full of my easy-peasy Beef Burgundy, made with a soup can full of sweet red wine (to rinse out the soup can, of course), and four other ingredients: beef (this pot I used beef already sliced in the package for beef stroganoff, and then cut the long thin strips into bite sizes), a can of Golden Mushroom soup, an 8 ounce package of whole button mushrooms cut into halves and thirds (depending on cap size), and a packet plus a little extra of a second packet of dried onion soup/dip mix. I also added a generous helping of ground pepper, dried thyme and dried - and aged (a year and three months, yikes!) of whole basil leaves that I ground up in between my fingers. Then the pot cooked on the "low" heat setting for 4 hours, with only one stir half-way through. The scent permeated the house and even managed to waft out to the street - wowsers - guess I need to get some additional insulation in these 1956 walls! My mouth was watering by the time I made up my first dish (over on-purpose a bit dry mashed potatoes) and gobbled it down, then had half a second dish as well! Now I want a nap.

I have my dark chocolate covered Queen Anne brand cherries (a Christmas must!), Beringer White Zinfandel wine, plenty of new fuel for my gel fuel fireplace and a host of Christmas movies to watch. Best of all, Solstice is done and we had a bit of sunlight day, late this afternoon. Every day, although it is not noticeable right now, it will get lighter a few minutes earlier and the Sun will sink below the horizon a few minutes later each day until the Summer Solstice on June 21. The worst is over, except for the bitter cold of January and February. I think I will go visit my friend Isis in Las Vegas in March - that always perks me right up :)

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all, and may the Season's blessings shower you with good fortune for all of 2018.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

It's Cooking Time! Alfredo Chicken Mashed Potato Casserole


This is the time of year, when it's bitterly cold outside, the sidewalks are iced over and it's not safe for this woman who mainly travels on foot and by bus to be out and about much, to batten down the hatches and work inside my comfy and cozy retirement nest!  I experiment with cooking on days like this.

On Sunday I got an idea for a recipe because I wanted to use an older frozen package of mixed veggies in my freezer and I did not want to make my usual easy-peasy version of ground beef Shepherd's pie.  I outlined the recipe in my head and today I picked up the remaining ingredients to put the dish together.  It's sort of a take on a chicken pot pie - but in a large casserole, with mashed potatoes rather than a crust, and Alfredo sauce rather than a classic beef gravy or tomato-base that is used in traditional Shepherd's Pie or a smaller crusted version of a chicken pot pie.

Sorry for the photo of the already partially eaten casserole.  I didn't think about blogging this until after I'd already dug into the casserole for supper! 

The basics are easy:


-- One pound (more or less) of chicken tenders, cut into about 1 inch size
-- One standard size (I believe it is 8 ounce) jar of ready-made Alfredo sauce (I used Prego brand because it was on sale and I have used and liked other Prego ready-made sauces)
-- One 8-ounce package of frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans)
-- Eight "servings" (per package) of instant mashed potatoes, made per directions on package.  I went the lazy cook's way, you can also make yours from scratch!


-- I cooked the cut-up chicken in a large frying pan/skillet.  I added about 3/4 teaspoon of salt to the chicken in a few tablespoons of olive oil and cooked quickly on high/medium heat.
-- Meanwhile, frozen veggies were made in microwave in a 1.5 quart covered casserole dish per package directions.
-- The cooked veggies (drain if necessary) were added to the cooked chicken in the large frying pan.
-- Entire jar of Alfredo sauce was added to and mixed into cooked chicken and veggies in the frying pan.
-- A "crust" of mashed potatoes was spread across the bottom of the (now empty) casserole dish that I'd used to cook the frozen veggies. 
-- The chicken/veggies/ Alfred sauce mixture was then poured over the "crust" of mashed potatoes in the casserole dish and topped with the rest of the mashed potatoes.
-- Baked for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees F, uncovered, long enough for peaks on mashed potato top of casserole to brown on peaks and form a mild crust.  If you want crustier potatoes/more browned peaks, bake longer.  The sauce was bubbling up all around the sides of the casserole.

After cooling the casserole (still uncovered) for about 20 minutes inside the now opened oven (to let the heat into the house), I served myself up a dish and oh boy - it was GOOD! 

Easy to make, makes a LOT - I will have enough for at least six-seven more meals and will freeze most in individual servings.  This is a rich and hearty dish for a cold winter's day.  YUM!

NOTES:  I will make my mashed potatoes "drier" next time I make this dish, because even though I baked the casserole uncovered and also made sure there was no excess water in the cooked veggies, adding a full jar of Alfredo sauce made the casserole "wet."  The mashed potatoes did not turn to mush, but if you want them to have more body, add extra dry flakes to your instant mashed potatoes (if you use instant like I did) to make them stiffer.  If you make your mashed potatoes from scratch, use less milk and butter than you normally do to make a stiffer potato.  Increasing baking temperature (I use 350 degrees F as my default setting for most of the casseroles I make) and/or extending baking time may also help "dry" the casserole out a bit, too.  This will depend on your personal preferences.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

A Look for Less: Ballard Designs "Petite Indigo Botanical Art"

Hola everyone!

The weatherman has promised us temperatures rising into the 20s by tomorow and into the mid 30s by next week, fingers crossed.  Even a few days of relief from this bitter cold will be welcome.

House bound except for extremely necessary and brief as I can make them errands (like quick walks to the Family Dollar for bread, milk and peanuts for the squirrels and the liquor store in the same shopping strip for wine - not for the squirrels), I am already itching for spring and fluffing up Maison Newton.  When I'm in the "fluffing up" mood I look at a lot of decorating sites, shops, etc., but I usually don't buy.  LOL!  That being said, today I felt the urge to do a "look for less" post - I haven't done one in ages and I do enjoy viewing websites like "Copy Cat Chic" and the High/Low articles in HGTV's monthly design magazine.  I wish Sabrina Soho's "The High/Low Project" was still on, sigh. 

I headed over to Ballard Designs, a favorite site for inspiration and way out of any price I would ever pay for anything they sell - even on super-sale, and looked around.  There, I came across these lovely botanical prints on sale:

Petite Indigo Botanical Art.  Normally each print is $75, right now on sale for 25% off, a net price of $56.25 each.  The size is large (well, I consider it large):  15 x 18 1/4, wood frame 1" deep with silver finish and glass over artwork. I think they are gorgeous!

Buying all four prints even on sale would be outside of my budget: $225.00 at the sale price or $300.00 at the regular price, and that doesn't include shipping or possibly sales taxes.  Yikes! 

So, being the type of home decorator who wants it inexpensive, fast and easy, who frames pretty greeting cards that I fall in love with and prints things for free off the internet (or cuts up calendars) for framing, here's my let's cut this price way way down attempt at duplicating the Ballard Designs prints!

First stop, the Simply Made by Rebecca website, where she just happens to have cached free printable botanicals of the blue hue variety, yippee!  Standard print-out is on 8 1/2 x 11 paper, but she also provides a downloadable/uploadable option for 11 x 14 paper that you can upload to a commercial printer or do on your own printer if you have that size option available (I don't).  NOTHING MUCH BETTER THAN BEAUTIFUL AND FREE!  Here are the four I would choose:


Second stop, Ikea to look for inexpensive picture frames.  Rebecca recommended the Jallvik wood frame, but I could not find it at Ikea online, so I guess it's not available any more.  However, Ikea does have an assortment of different colored woodish frames, among which I thought the Silverhojden Frame might do the trick.  It is made from wood products (not solid wood) and has a faux "foil" finish (not painted finish), and has a polystyrene cover over the art rather than glass, so it depends if you like the look or the safety of polystyrene over glass if there should be an accident with the frame:

Silverhojden Frame by Ikea, $7.99
Finish: Silver color
12 x 16 without mat
7 1/2 x 9 1/2 with mat
Outer frame: 13 x 17

If you buy four of these frames, it would cost you approximately $32.00 plus shipping, and maybe sales tax depending upon your state.  Far cry from $225.00 or $300.00, before adding shipping and possible sales taxes if you purchased the framed prints from Ballard Designs. 

I would float an 8 1/2 x 11 (letter size) print-out on my home computer of each botanical over the mat inside the purchased frame or remove the mat altogether and add some white lining paper cut to size underneath, rather than cutting off some of the beautiful print by placing it underneath the mat, which would reveal only a 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 size!  The overall 13 x 17 Ikea frame size would be just a bit smaller than Ballard Design's outer frame size of 15 x 18 1/4, but I think the overall impact would be pretty much the same.

You may already have your favorite budget-family wood (or wood look) with glass frames that you buy from your favorite craft or art-supplies store/source (Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, etc.), and could paint up the frames to get a silvery look if they don't come in a silver-toned finish (or not, if you don't care for silver).  Or you could go with an 11 x 14 size, have the prints commercially printed at FedEx uploaded from your smart phone or tablet and fill the entire frame with the print - similar to the look of the Ballard Designs prints, which float across the entire width and length of the frames.  If you purchase a 1" width frame, the outer dimensions would finish at 12 x 15 (compared to 13 x 17 for the Ikea and my Family Dollar frame [see below] versus Ballard Design's outer frame measurement of 15 x 18 1/4). 

You could also get thither to thy favorite dollar store or thrift shop and look for an 11 x 14 or more custom-sized frame.  This one that I now have hosting a horse print (cut from my 2017 calendar), has glass over the artwork and a champagne colored inner edging on the frame, so I would leave it as is rather than trying to give it a silvery finish (not my favorite finish anyway).  Bonus: its dimensions are identical to the Ikea Silverhojden frame, but only costs $3.00:

Four of those on a wall would pack a big punch and cost $12 to $16 (if your store charges $3.99 instead of $3.00) plus sales tax.

Or, go cost free except for the cost of paint or silver-leaf (if you refinish), if you might have a stash of old frames, like I do.  I bought the $3 Family Dollar frame because I didn't like the supply of 11 x 14 and somewhat larger frames I already have in my stash for the space I wanted to fill and I did not want to have to bother with refinishing to black to match my existing decor. 

TA DA!  There you have it.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Deconstructing Christmas in the Kitchen - Decorating Kitchen for Winter to Spring

Hola!  It's that time of year again.  New Year's has come and gone and the Christmas decor, which has been up since early December, is being packed up and taken down to the shelves in the basement to rest for another year.

The big tree in the living room will remain up until Three Kings' Day on January 6th.  Yeah, I'm a sappy sentimental type of gal :)  The first Three Kings' Day I celebrated was with my Mr. Don in Madrid, Spain on January 6, 2012.  To see the large parade, we stood for hours to hold a place on the Paseo del Prado, a lovely large boulevard upon which the Prado Museum and many other revered museums and organizations are located. That trip had been scheduled to celebrate about 10 years since our first trip to Madrid in October 2002.  One of my all time favorite pictures of us as a couple is this one (taken during that 2002 Madrid trip, on a side-trip to see the ancient city of Toledo - this was taken before we walked over the St. Martin's Bridge seen behind us and a river far far below to get to the ancient city built on a high place).  It sits on my bookcase/storage unit in the kitchen, where I see it many times every day:

He was serenading me as an obliging lady from our tour bus snapped our photo, LOL!  Sadly, our January 2012 trip back to visit Madrid was the last trip we would share together, as Mr. Don passed away in October 2012, but I will always remember our two trips to Spain and the wonderful fun-and-adventure-filled years we spent together travelling, exploring shops, museums, restaurants, playing chess and writing our blogs.

Deprived of all it's Christmas dressing, the kitchen looks rather barren to me now, LOL.  Isn't that always the case when the Christmas decor comes down and things aren't bright, festive and shining with lights, ornaments and glitter everywhere, sigh.  Still, I can definitely notice now that it is staying light longer in the evening and getting light outside a little bit earlier than a week ago, so I won't complain too loudly.  This is how the kitchen looks now, mid-redo:

From the entrance into the dinette area from living room.

From one corner of the kitchen looking at the dinette and kitchen driveway entrance,
patio door, and my breakfast bar area.

These are dried out hydrangeas that I clipped from the side garden along the driveway.
Amazingly, they held up under 60 plus mph winds, pounding rain storms,
several freezes, snow, and more winds, winds, winds!  I wanted to put something
on the table as the lantern I had on it during the fall leading up to Christmas is
currently on the mantle in the living room.  The bouquet is wintry, and also reminds me
that spring will be here in 3 months - well, at least astronomical spring.

This is the bookcase/storage unit I bought and put together to cover the
side of the fridge and provide a convenient place to remove stuff from the
countertops and for my cookbooks, more storage behind the uneven doors.
I have tried several times to get those doors to hang evenly, and have failed
miserably.  I also have to open them rather gingerly, as they have a tendency
to fall off, LOL!  Good thing there is no one else living here, especially kids!  
You may remember the inspiration photos for adding this bookcase/storage unit to my own kitchen design:

Way fancier than mine, as it was framed in complete with crown
molding and there are cabinets above the fridge.  My goal was
similar though, covering up the side of the fridge open to the dinette
with something functional and attractive.

Same idea as first inspiration photo, different color (love the grey!)
I chose a white modern/clean look for my bookcase because the cabinets will eventually be painted white. I chose a unit with enclosed storage space to stash
the large supply of nuts I feed to all the city's squirrel population, or so it seems

I swapped out the cardinal Christmas greeting card collage for this
lovely horse print from my 2017 calendar.  Horse art doesn't have to be expensive :)
The colors work perfectly in the room and it will be there until covered up
next Christmas season by the cardinal card collage.  

Last photo: the kitchen entrance off the driveway.  I hung up a pair of curtains
that normally go on the patio door this time of year, to replace the single panel
with a different curtain (that I had used the year before in my Shezebo screening)
to better coordinate the colors.  I like how these look so much they'll be staying,
so after I took down the autumnal/Thanksgiving gold brocade curtains I put up
the spring/summer curtains.  They let maximum light into the room during the
day, which is important this time of year, and if it gets too bright I can tweak the
built-in blinds in the patio doors to regulate the light flow.  

Still to be done - an extensive list to finish the kitchen re-do:

New countertops.  I have to get myself to Home Depot and get something ordered, but first I have to come up with a drawing and measurements.  How come they make it look so easy on those home improvement shows?  This isn't easy at all!

Tear out old and install new backsplash.  My new backsplash has been in my possession for some time.  I ordered this gorgeous porcelain ceramic tile Carrera marble look subway tile that comes in 12 x 12 sheets, in a smaller size "brick", given the smallish proportions of the kitchen and the limited amount of backsplash that will be covered, I didn't want to go with a larger size.  Once the countertops are in, I can get my "guy" in to tear out the old tile (hopefully it doesn't destroy the drywall underneath!) and put up the new tile and grout.  Yes, I've seen this done many times on HGTV and DIY network shows online, but I guess I'm adverse to risk and hard labor these days.  Plus I don't have the necessary tools and don't want to spend the $$$ to buy it!  I mean, how often will I ever use a tile cutter again?  NEVER.  I could rent what I need (maybe), but how would I get it home?  I don't drive - I mean, literally, I have never been behind the wheel of a car in my life and I have no clue how to drive although I do know all the rules of the road that nobody obeys anyway these days so what difference does it make, heh?  LOL! 

All the rest of the jazz
Painting cabinets first, but will probably be last to be done. Originally I was going to do white uppers and black lowers, then maybe dark grey lowers, but then I decided to just stick with white for uppers and lowers.  Now I only have to decide upon a white out of about 10 million shades and make up my ever-changing mind to do it myself or hire someone to do it.  Geez Louise!

Painting trim, that will be black and include the window frames, door frames and baseboards.  I have no idea what color I'm going to paint (or maybe stain) the transition piece from the dinette into the carpeted living room. I want to remove the carpet in the living room, but with the massive furniture pieces that are permanently in place in the living room that I cannot and will not even attempt to move by myself, there is no way.  Period, end of story.  So it's one of those up-in-the-air thingies that drive me nuts.

New light fixtures.  The boob fixture above the sink makes me cringe every time I look at it.  I try not to, believe me!  Same for the boob light in the hallway to the bedrooms and bathroom and the side hall to the kitchen entrance/basement stairs.  I know they were bought at Menard's because Menard's constantly runs specials on three boob lights for like $13 - for all three.  LOL! 

The problem is design paralysis when it comes to making a decision about which direction to go with the lighting.  I like far too many things, but like many others dreaming of new kitchen and dinette spaces that are all magically beautifully coordinated, I have champagne taste on a cheap boxed pink wine budget.  Every time I think I've made a decision, I find myself hours later veering off in an entirely different direction.  So I guess I just don't want to spend anything, but I hate the lights/fixtures that are over the dining table, in the center of the kitchen and over the sink.  HATE HATE HATE, the Trifecta of Hate. 

I'm sure I've forgotten some stuff - but I got the new smaller sized table and chairs that better fit the smaller space of this Maison Newton dinette, a new area rug for the dinette, and the white bookcase/storage unit - key purchases.

I'm trying to do all of this on a miniscule budget of a few thousand dollars.  Yeah, rutsa ruck, heh?  The BIG thing that was done already was to open up the wall all the way between the living room and dinette so now it's all one big flowing space.  It meant losing a partial wall in the living room that I used to be able to put furniture against. But it also meant closing up the separate door into the kitchen off of the bedroom/bathroom hallway - which I hated, and enabled me to slide the fridge from the dinette side of the room of that damn door into the kitchen proper where that door used to be, hooray!  That was a huge improvement, the fridge was moved to where it rightfully belonged and I had a dinette not infringed upon by the fridge. Can you imagine designing a kitchen and not leaving room for your refrigerator?  I mean - WHO DOES THAT?  And you should have seen the monstrous black wonder fridge that was shown with the house when I viewed it the first time - I swear it looked like it would eat you as you were sitting at the bar table they had in place of a civilized dining table.  How on earth did they feed two small kids at a bar table, I ask you??? (I was not so rude as to ask them). 

Okay, enough ranting and raving like a mad woman with dirty hair because a new season of Project Runway Allstars is starting in a few minutes, hooray!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Revised Mantle


After three tries, I settled upon a Christmas arrangement for the mantle.  I'm still not as happy with it as I'd like to be, but I like it better than what came before.

You'll recall this is what I started with:

The balance was off; I felt that the clock didn't balance the "bulk" and height of the three candle holders on the other end of the mantle.

I added a second string of lights, and I added the third deer that had been hiding out admiring the Christmas Star from underneath the Norfolk pine on the coffee table.  I tried switching around the tall candle holders, then I added a lantern that I have on the built-in bookshelf.  It's a burnished bronze color.  The clock was removed.  While the lantern looked okay, I thought I still needed some more heft and height on that side of the mantle.

I came up with this as Option 3.  Option 2 didn't last long, and I didn't take any photos of it.  I put the tall candle holders back where they were originally and added a larger lantern on the other end of the mantle, along with the third deer.

So, decorating for 2017 is officially done.  Whew!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Christmas 2017 Tree and Mantle

It's finished!

Hola!  Finished at last (yesterday).  I need to shovel - we got 2 inches of fresh snow overnight:
Looking out from the front door.
Here's the mantle!  You can see the snow blowing outside the window and one of
two pine trees along the driveway.  I am going to add another string of LED lights, and maybe
some ribbon; it's just looking a little bare to me right now.  Maybe I'll remove the clock and
put something else there, too.  The balance is off.  The candles and votives are all lit at night.
The deer are looking up toward the Shining Star.  There's another one hiding underneath
the Norfolk pine on the coffee table, also looking up at the star (not shown).

This was taken the day before yesterday, before I decorated the mantle.
Here's the same shot angle taken this morning, the now decorated
mantle is in the background.  I also added a few extra gold pine cones
here and there and tweaked the French ribbon a bit although it doesn't look like it.
I kept it simple again this year (but not as simple as last year).  I used the French ribbon and decorations I haven't used in several years, along with a collection of hand-blown crystal ornaments purchased at the "Egyptian" store at Southridge Mall on Christmas Eve day in 2008.  Inexpensive gold pine cones, a dozen white frosted "tear drops" (from Oriental Trading Company online), and a dozen silver glitter snowflakes were also used to fill in some gaps (all purchased in past years). The topper is a concoction of five beaded picks, two ancient feather sprays at least forty years old, one each gold glittered "wheat" and "floral" picks and two gold painted pinecones on long picks, purchased in years past from Pick 'n Save supermarket's floral department.

I took my time decorating over two days and tweaked yesterday, enjoying the process while listening to jazzy Christmas classics on Radio Tunes online.

You can probably tell that my "theme" was gold and silver in the living room.  The kitchen and dinette, pictured in previous posts, were done in red, black, gold and green, to accompany my beloved two-foot tall countertop tree decorated with cardinals and my collected cardinal decor.

The rest of the photos are close-ups of the tree.  Warning: I'm not a good photographer and my 5 pixel camera is now 12 years old :)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Christmas 2017 Kitchen and Dining Area Pics

Still have not attempted to lug the tree up those 11 go on forever basement steps, but I have targeted tomorrow to do it, as soon as it's light enough outside.  I had to be out and about today, in balmy temperatures (I believe it got up to 60 degrees F) but also near gale-force winds, whew!  I was tuckered out by the time I got back home.  Lost my ambition to tackle the tree today :)

Here are the second set of pics that I was having trouble posting yesterday - I never figure out what I'm doing wrong, or if blogger just doesn't like me very much at times.  C'est la vie.

A close-up of my favorite cardinal plate, another TJ Maxx find from several years ago.

Cardinal greeting card collage on one side of the patio door.
There's a cardinal sitting on one corner of the back of the
bench in the bottom scene - see him - a little red smear.

A close-up of the cardinal tree.

That's the pretty pine-scented candle in its lovely plaid glass container at TJ Maxx.  Will
light it as it gets closer to Christmas.

One of two framed cardinal greeting cards on the other side of the patio door.
Another cardinal greeting card.  Can you tell I have a thing for cardinals?
Here's the back door (side door opens to driveway) decoration.  One
of my handy-dandy creations.  Yeah, the bottom ribbon sucks, but
I'm proud of my effort, har :)  The platter is metal purchased at
my neighborhood Pick 'n Save some years ago.  The pretty bow on top was added this
year, I found it stashed in one of the boxes from the basement loaded
with Christmas decorations, I have no idea where it came from.
This is the wreath that I used to hang on the back door here, but it got
squished every year and wasn't showing well.  So this year I removed a clock
and put it up overlooking the dining table.  I added the cardinals.
Another cardinal plate, also a TJ Maxx purchase before I retired in 2015.
You can also see my year-round cardinal perched up on the window sill.
This current Maison Newton was built in 1956 and has typical 1950's
features, including three rounded shelves at the end of the cabinet runs
on either side of the corner windows above the angled-in-the-corner
sink (which I hate, it's impossible to reach the windows to open them
unless I'm on a ladder).  My mini-collection of squirrels, including
the winter-dressed squirrel with acorn on the second shelf.  The top
shelf, not shown, has a furry critter with a red wool scarf around his neck.
I will post pics of the tree when it's done.  It always takes way longer to decorate it than to undress it!  But first I have to get it up those stairs and dragged into place and then upright.  I should have Popeye muscles by the time I'm finished.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Wait - Where Did Summer Go? Where Did Autumn Go? Holy Hathor!

Hola everyone!  I am in some kind of time-warp evidently, whew!  Here it is, December 3.  No - I didn't die, I'm still here, TA DA!

So far behind on everything - but I have been busy.  Still, somehow summer seemed to not want to end and then it got COLD all at once, hardly any autumn at all.  The trees were caught totally surprised - most of them here had not even begun to turn color yet.  I don't remember an autumn like this, it was truly strange and rather scary.  We got a series of hard freezes and even a nasty storm of sleet/snow one day with 40-50 mph winds:

That's my backyard.  Fortunately, I did catch a few breaks in the weather before this storm hit to get everything out back put away for the winter.  Wowsers.  This storm happened toward the beginning of November.

So, I turned my sights inward - specifically, toward Christmas decorating.  One of the ways I manage to survive the stretch of the march of ever-shortening days toward the Winter Solstice (December 21 this year) is to surround myself with candles galore and lots of fires in my gel-fuel fireplace.  That has been such a great investment.  It burns absolutely clean, no air pollution and no need to vent it outside.  When I use 3 cans of gel fuel to make a fire (I usually only use 1 or 2), it generates 4500 BTUs of heat.  I do that during the coldest days of the year, when even with the heat on and the furnace seeming to kick in every 20 minutes I still feel COLD inside the house.  And I do that as it gets closer to Christmas.

So, this year, instead of moving the sofa into the only spot that logically makes sense to put it (with its back toward the entry way into the dinette, looking toward the large picture window where the tree will be centered, I decided to try a different arrangement.  It took me a good week to decide it was okay enough to leave it.  A few shots of the new arrangement for Christmas season:

I'll have to scootch the wing chair over and angle it closer to the fireplace, which will be just fine with moi, to make enough room for the tree in front of the picture window.

This year, I also took down all my previous curtain arrangements and put up those 92" long sheers that are budget-saving Ikea.  They used to hang as backdrop curtains in my bedroom, where I have two long narrow "ranch" windows that meet in a corner of the room.  I replaced them earlier this year with inexpensive sheets from Ikea that I added a hem to to thread the curtain rod through.  Easy peasy with iron-on hemming tape.  They added a little more opaqueness behind the front layer of curtains, also from Ikea. 

Those sheers now in the living room let in a ton of light and it has made a tremendous different in the light level in the house.  I am loving it.  I only put one curtain on either side of the fireplace because the window is narrow and tall and people cannot see much of the room when passing by that side of the house other than the upper walls and ceiling.  I also like the poofy effect of the excess material on the floor (which you can't see in any of the photos, drat).

The picture window, however, is ginormous and for me, privacy is a problem and a must-have.  One can see the entire living room all the way back through the patio doors into the back yard from the front sidewalk.  I could probably add a few more panels for some extra privacy from the eyes of passers-by, but I don't light up the room at night with lamps, only candles and the occasional fire, and sometimes I have the TV on.  I've done the privacy test from the outside and you really can't see a whole lot.  It's not like I run around naked anyway, har :)  During Christmas season, once the tree is up and decorated the curtains will be drawn back but the tree blocks the view into the room, creating plenty of privacy. 

This new temporary furniture arrangement focuses on the fireplace:

It gives me plenty of cozying up in a wing chair with a good book when I have a fire going while still enjoying the tree, and the sofa to stretch out on (it is used only for my naps when I am not entertaining).  So, the living room is ready - to be decorated.  The sofa table normally sits in front of the picture window behind the sofa, which is centered on the picture window wall when it's not Christmas. 

What's that you say?  Oh yeah, no tree yet.  I am working up to dragging it up from the basement.  Eleven steep, narrow steps.  Eleven steps that seem to stretch from China to here.  Every year for the past 3 years, it seems to get a bit harder to get the heavy tree up those stairs.  Hmmmm, wonder why that is.  The tree hasn't grown any larger ...

That said, I DO have the kitchen and dinette done!  Last year I did pretty minimalist decorating and did not even put out my beloved cardinal tree.  This year, I decorated in the dinette and even the kitchen more than ever, and I didn't even pull up the rich red and black traditional wool rug and hang the teal and red floral curtains on the patio door this year!  I felt it looked great just as it was. 

Pics:  Lots of cardinals everywhere.


Looking toward the back hall.  I open that door up when the Sun is shining to let in the
light and lots of solar gain.  That's the beginnings of a Christmas card tree on the far wall.
You can see a wreath complemented with a few cardinals, and also a cardinal camping out
(year round) inside the built-in display case.  The wreath replaced a pendulum clock.

Cardinal tapestry runner - a steal from Family Dollar a few years ago.  The deer are
composite finished to look like burnished wood, purchased at Walgreens on clearance
a few years ago.  They came with janky wreaths around their necks which I cut off.
The candlesticks are at least 30 years old, brass, I don't remember where I got them from,
I suspect it may have been Home Interiors.  The candles are battery-operated.

Okay, Blogger is acting all sort of wonky on me right now, so I'll try to put the rest of the pics in another post and see how that works.