March 27, 2015: Hola darlings! A few weeks ago I would not have believed the more than foot of frozen snow in my back and front yards would now be gone. But it is! We had a week of way above-normal temperatures and day after day of clear blue skies and sunshine. It was wonderful. But now it's cold again -- the high today will be 29 F. Sigh. I am itching to get out and start cleaning up the yard -- there is a whole winter's worth of nut shells to be raked up for one thing :) The scenes in the header were taken while the thaw was in progress -- you can see the mess left behind of a season's worth of feeding the birds and squirrels. But I wouldn't change it for anything -- well, maybe a million dollars, but I don't think that is going to happen. Spring - come soon - PLEASE. Take care, everyone! Jan

Friday, April 10, 2015

The One Room Challenge (TM) Is Back!

Hola darlings!

Some time ago (I don't remember when), I stumbled across the Calling It Home website and a special feature put together by the creator, Linda, The One Room Challenge (TM).  I fell in enthrallment instantly!

The idea is great -- a group of twenty (yes, 20!) decorating bloggers are recruited to redo a room of their choice in six short weeks, and each of them posts the progress of their redo once a week!  Best of all, all bloggers can join in the fun and post their own "challenge" progress.

IT'S BACK!  The Spring 2015 One Room Challenge (TM) is on!  Here's the link listing the blogging designers who are participating:




as well as links to Progress Reports for Week 1 and Week 2!  I am so excited, I'm doing a jiggle happy dance in my chair as I'm typing this.

I should be doing my income taxes (Drat - am I a PRO crastinator or what?), but I'm going to spend the rest of the morning and afternoon checking out the "challenges" that each designer has chosen, as well as checking out as much as I can fit in before I fall over in exhaustion of the projects that other bloggers are linking up.  Honestly, after seeing last autumn's ORC results from the pros and the other talented bloggers who joined in, I am simply in awe of the amount of talent and inspiration made available for free!

I hope you will check it out -- it is just fabulous and great fun, too!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Look for Less: Manhattan Style Sitting Area by Horchow

Hola!

I am a big fan of Horchow furnishings since I first started oohing and aahing over their ads in high end decorating magazines more than 30 years ago.  I have long loved the classic and elegant looks that Horchow features.  This morning, I visited Horchow online and fell in love with this room:


Horchow furnishings (shipping charges are additional):

Helena tufted wing chair in pearl white, $1199.00 (x 2)
John-Richard Collection carousel table lamp in white, 30" tall, $995
Global Views black granite side table, 30" tall and 30" diameter, $1899.00
Aerin Clarkson floor lamp, $750.00
Glencrest sofa in grey/brown (82" long), feather down seats and pillows, special value $1199.00
Bernhardt Heath coffee table, walnut veneers and rubberwood in raven black finish, with nickel finish ferules, 18" high, 53 3/4" long, 24" deep, $699.00

Total:  $7940.00

The look for less:

I found several chairs of a similar style in a wide price range, starting around $300 and up; most of the chairs did not have a tufted back or if they did, they weren't available in a color comparable to the original.  So, I tried to find chairs that had a similar shape/profile, accented by nailhead trim, in a light cream or white upholstery.  Here are my picks:

(1) Moore wingback chair in ivory bonded leather (no tufted back) via Amazon.com, $549.00 (available in more colors at homedecorators.com; similar chair in different colors available at grandinroad.com):


(2) Paige Mandarin Wheat Upholstered Wingback Chair at Lamps Plus, $399.99:


I found the John-Richard Collection Carousel table lamp online for $110.00 less at The Classy Cottage.  I could not find a comparable size lamp of the same shape, so I shopped for size, color and shape:

(1)  At Kirklands.com, on sale for $29.98, regularly $49.99, this 27.5" tall Mid-Century glass table lamp in gold finish, love its classic yet sleek lines and the gold finish - a classic mid-century modern look with an updated shade:


(2) At Amazon, for $128.99, this 27" tall Safavieh Paris Ceramic Table Lamp in white, with gold finished metal neck and base and white cotton drum shade, classic and elegant:


(1) Greek Key Accent Table at Homedecorators.com, $179.00.  Although this end table is not black granite and brass, it has two different metallic finishes with a glass top, three legs (one could add a granite round at the bottom), looks sturdy and stable, and the size (height and diameter) is comparable to the Global Views side table:


(2) For an option with casters (the Global Views table has casters), I went in a totally different direction and found the Deco 79 Metal Marble Cart (top is black onyx), black iron and antiqued brass finish, 30" tall, 34" x 16" wide (an oval, not round), with four locking casters, $275.76 (unfortunately, out of stock at the time I'm writing this, and I could not find it anywhere else online):


Holtkoetter Brushed Brass Narrow White Shade Floor Lamp at Lamps Plus, solid brass, brushed brass finish, hand washable white satin shade, foot dimmer, adjustable height from 53" to 68.5", $398.00 (I chose this lamp for its superb lines and beautiful brass finish):


Camden linen sofa in grey (90" long), offered by TOV Furniture at Amazon, $750.49:

I found the Bernhardt coffee table on sale at mathisbrothers.com for $529.95 (compared to Horchow's price of $699.00, a savings of $130.00).  Note: at Mathis Brothers, it is called the Bernhardt Interiors Haven coffee table, but otherwise it is the identical table.  Here is my pick, chosen for its finish and modern but classic lines (and love the leather inserts on the top), the Magnussen Micah wood rectangular coffee table at Amazon, $279.77:


Look for less total cost Option 1 selections only:  $2207.00.
Look for less total cost Option 2 selections only:  $2234.00.
Look for less mix and match least expensive options:  $2058.00.
Look for less mix and match most expensive options:  $3389.00 (includes Carousel lamp and Bernhardt coffee table at the lower prices I found online).

Compared to $7940.00.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Things Mamma Didn't Teach Me

Oh for pete's sake - who knew!

Easy-Peasy Way to Put On a Duvet Cover

Remember when I had all the hassles getting the duvet covers on my quilt, LOL!  Well - I just came across this neat little article with video at Yahoo.  You know - duh - it never occurred to me to check online to see if there was actually an "easy" way to get a duvet inside a duvet cover.  So much for an advanced college education, ha!

Check out the "burrito" method of getting a cover on a duvet -- I wouldn't have believed it, but seeing is believing:  Definitive Way to Put On a Duvet Cover

Tools for Painting Without Taping and Brushing Out Corners

Here's another neat thing that I was reminded of yesterday, while perusing the posts at Wendy Hyde's The Shabby Nest Frugal Friday:  how to get into hard to reach areas with a pole and paint edgers.  Duh, Jan! Check these do-hickeys out at Little Bits of Home, How To Paint a Stairwell Without Hiring Help:  a ceiling edger and a corner edger.  I have seen edgers before, but I haven't painted in years so one forgets about such neat little tools to make the job so much easier.

Shur-Line Pro Paint Edger, under $5 at
Home Depot (online). Can be attached to pole.

I have to tell you, I was dreading, simply dreading, the idea of going up and down a ladder to tape the ceiling off in my den/library, a room that badly needs painting.  I've been dilly-dallying for months (since I moved in, in fact, last July).  But once I buy these little do-hickeys, I will have no excuse not to paint other than my own slothfulness!  I especially appreciate the frugal method for brushing out corners (hint: involves duck tape).

"Wrinkle-free" Duvet Cover

One would think that having been on the internet since 1999, I would know by now that one can find ANYTHING one wants to on the internet, including advice about how to get a "wrinkle-free" duvet cover. Now, did I do this when I bought my first duvet cover and struggled with the wrinkly look it gave me? Nope!  Never occurred to me.  Duh, Jan!  And I (used to) pride myself on my great researching skills. Ha, ha and HA!

Reminder and reminder of my great Ikea duvet adventures -- the first time I nearly strangled myself trying to get the sucker on my comforter!

This morning I decided to check online to see what I could find on dealing with wrinkly duvet covers.  Lo and behold!  There is a ginormous amount of information on people who have struggled with this, just as I have.  The wrinkly look - it kills me!  Yes, anal, I know.

Well, I found a ton of information at Apartment Therapy, Tips for a Wrinkle-Free Duvet.  Wish I would have thought of doing this BEFOREHAND.  Holy Hathor!

I answered my own question raised during my duvet struggles:  Yes, people DO iron their duvet covers -- right on their beds!

The most obvious answers, however:

(1) Get over it (or get rid of it);
(2) Buy a duvet cover that doesn't show wrinkles -- like the ruched or pin-tucked styles;
(3) Buy something that is SUPPOSED to look wrinkled, like the poster's duvet cover from Ikea.  Oh.  So, Ikea's duvet covers are made purposely to wrinkle so one gets a certain "casual ambiance?"  Okay, take me out and shoot me now -- I bought TWO OF THEM!

LOL!  Honestly, I cannot imagine whipping out my iron every morning (or a steamer, for that matter, and practically speaking, my steamer wouldn't work because I must hold it absolutely upright, otherwise the boiling hot water spills over the top) to swish away wrinkles.  One tip was using a spray mixture of water and fabric softener -- but what if you use too much and the cover doesn't dry before bed time -- I can see where this might be an issue during the summer when the air-conditioning is one.  Along a similar vein, there is evidently a product called  Downy Wrinkle Reducer that one sprays on, smooths, and then lets air-dry.

Do I really want to work that hard every morning?  Nah.

Actually, I am getting used to the slightly wrinkled look.  The current duvet cover I have on the bed has a dense floral vine pattern which helps camouflage the wrinkles, and the wrinkles that exist are not the really nasty deep ugly ones.  I'm okay with it.

Come autumn, I'll switch out to the Lyocel material Ikea duvet cover and try out some of these tricks I've learned (better late than never) -- but first I am going to stitch up the seams so it fits more snugly around my comforter.  That, I think, will help reduce the wrinkles more than anything else.  Just like with clothes, one does not want to dress in something too baggy and saggy :)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Pondering Front Porch Improvements

Hola everyone!

It's that time of year -- spring is here, well, at least astronomical spring is here in this neck of the woods -- today's high is only going to be 29 degrees F.  Two weeks ago it was 71!  Ah yes, the joys of spring in southeastern Wisconsin.  Blech!

While I continue to be housebound because I HATE the cold and refuse to work outside in such weather to continue "spring" clean-up, I have been contemplating various home improvement projects around this old single story rancher.

I have two pine trees along the south lot line that need to be removed.  CHA-CHING!  I have masonry (concrete) capstones that top the brickwork across the front of the house, one of which is cracked and two of which are definitely sloping the wrong way (water is running toward the siding, not away from it), that need to be repaired.  Caulking is not cutting it.  CHA-CHING!

So what am I doing?  Buying more flower pots.  LOL!


Above is the listing photo of this house that I bought last May and moved into in July, 2014.  Okay looking, but blah.

One of the first things I did after I moved in was paint the mailbox bright red to add some zip to the front facade. Then I hunted around for some planter boxes online and scored a good deal at amazon.com on some vinyl Chippendale-style planter boxes and two large planter-pots that fix perfectly inside.  I filled them with African daisies and asparagus ferns and placed them on either side of the front door:


Better.  It's a little hard to see but I also hung a glass and metal butterfly decoration from one of the prongs on the mailbox, too.  But the front facade is still missing - curb appeal.

Thus, about 10 days ago the purchase of two more Chippendale-style vinyl planters and pots to put inside; those will go at the bottom of the front steps this season, to try and dress things up a bit while I contemplate (and save up for) other improvements to make:


The Chippendale planters are made in Italy and they snap together (like a puzzle) -- no screws or glue needed.  They are vinyl and are easy to keep clean and bright.  The planter pots (two stacked inside each other on the left), are also vinyl.  They have two plugs in the bottom that can be removed for water drainage, and are made in the USA:


I have been thinking about adding:
  • white vinyl railings to the front stoop
  • narrow shutters on either side of the picture window
  • new porch light - size and color yet to be determined
  • planter boxes underneath the short windows - black? or white?
I wasn't sure if a railing would work on the stoop -- it is not a large space (about 3' x 6'), but I found some photos on line that look similar to my porch size, and I think it would work on my house:

Photo source.

If I get a railing installed this season, I would probably just flank the sidewalk in front of the bottom step with a pair of planters and remove the other pair to my back patio, I'd have to see how it looked but I'm thinking having planters on the porch with the railings in place would make it too crowded feeling.

Photo source.
The house above is down the block from mine and is its mirror image floorplan wise.  I almost bought this house, but they had done a lot of remodeling inside and were asking $10,000 more than other houses were going for in the neighborhood.  I put an offer on it but we couldn't agree on price.  Ain't she pretty?  Massive curb appeal!  The picture window is the same size as mine so I know there would be room for narrow shutters on either side of mine:

Tuxedo grey raised panel shutter,
Home Depot.
Black raised panel shutter,
Home Depot.
 I like the look of these raised panel shutters I found online at Home Depot.  I don't have room for shutters on my two short windows though, they are spaced wider apart than the windows on the house above and my end window is mere inches away from the corner of the house, leaving no room for a shutter.


.

That is why I'm thinking planter boxes to add some oomph to the short windows.  White?  Black?  Would white planter boxes look out of whack if I frame the picture window with black or charcoal grey shutters? I don't want to do everything in white.  It doesn't look like it in the photos of my house (top 2 photos above) but those short windows are each 75" long!  Vinyl window planter boxes would be pricey (about $184 each for closet non-custom size of 72"), but they would be really pretty:
Photo source.
 How about a red door to go with my red mailbox?

Photo source.
I love the color combination above -- the colors on my house would be nearly identical.  And I'm absolutely wild about that red door!

Photo source.
Above is another house with a color scheme of red, black, white and a taupe-y like siding color.  If I can get my house to look as cute as the two red-door houses above, I will be one happy camper!

Also on the agenda is expanding and curving the flower beds to cut down on lawn area, and doing some transplanting.  I'm going to have to get my digging mojo on!

Last year I thought a lot about adding  a pergola to "enclose" the front stoop, but for the price of a vinyl pergola I could get my shutters, window boxes and vinyl railings and still have money left over to buy some plants for expanded planting beds.

Oh - and here's a picture I just took of the front porch light:


From the top of the wall mount to the bottom of the light is not quite 13".  It can't go much longer than that because of the built-in address plaque below.

I don't find it obnoxious.  Maybe just paint it?  (How?)  The metal finish has faded to a dark grey and there is some corrosion, but no obvious rust.  The fixture matches the one at the side (kitchen) door on the driveway.

Lots to think about...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Two of My Squirrels

Hola everyone!

Will spring EVER come?  A week ago Monday I was basking in 70 degrees F; today it's threatening snow, and will be in the 30's all week.  Sigh.  After our brief week of warm weather (2 weeks ago), though, all of the snow and ice have melted from my yard, YAH!  And the sump pump, which had kicked in two weeks ago Sunday, finally stopped its non-stop running five days later.  It has cycled on only a few times since, so I know the ground has dried out after the foot and 1/2 of snow melted from the front lawn!

Now all the lawn services are going around door to door in the neighborhood trying to drum up business.  They do NOT understand the meaning of N-O!

As you know, I'm a squirrel nut.  I feed an entire tribe of them all year round.  About a month ago, on a very sunny but bitterly cold day, two small squirrels showed up in my backyard.  I could tell they were not regulars of the tribe because they were very thin and scrawny looking, and both of their tails were rather bedraggled.  My heart immediately went out to both of them.  I stood at my patio door and watched as they searched for food.  One could barely move and was either very sick or injured, although I could not see exactly where or what its injury may have been; I thought perhaps it had the "tipping" disease -- that's what I call it -- I think it is a brain disease that affects a squirrel's balance; the other squirrel passed right by hazelnuts and peanuts, as if it couldn't see them.  And then it dawned on me after watching for awhile, that little squirrel could NOT see.  It was blind!

I very carefully opened up the patio door and rolled more nuts out, trying to get them as close to the newcomers as possible.  The blind squirrel walked right over some of them, but once I hit in in the rump with a hazelnut he turned and was able to find the nut!  My other, healthy fat squirrels tolerated their presence; normally the healthy squirrels will chase each other away if it looks like one is getting too greedy with the nuts or is attempting to move into the territory.

I had not seen a blind squirrel before -- could not even imagine that such a thing was possible -- how could a blind squirrel possibly survive in the wild?  He actually got close enough to me, barely a foot away as I was kneeling down at the patio door attempting to roll nuts into its little paws, and I could see that its right eye was white-opaque -- maybe a cataract, maybe blind in that eye from birth?  No way for me know.  I named him Blinky, for it appeared that the right eyelid would droop over the blind eye as Blinky ate.

The other little squirrel that was either sick or injured (or both), did not come close enough for me to get a good look, but after about 10 days I was able to get some photos of him as he visited the yard and rummaged for peanuts (his preferred food over hazelnuts) and sunflower seeds:


The photo above was taken on March 12th, when the thaw was in progress (that's my back patio -- it was a mess).  You can see the little one's injured left shoulder, the matted fur, and the wizened left leg and paw, but he has become chubby thanks to my food supply!  I named him Intrepid, Treppy for short. It's just amazing to me that an animal could survive such a severe injury; how intrepid this little fellow must be. You are not able to see it in this photo but I could see where his skin has been torn open/pierced and the remains of dried blood -- along with the matted fur, I believe his shoulder/leg muscles were severely injured and he will be permanently crippled.

Over the next days Treppy and Blinky visited often.  They may have come every day, but I did not see them every day.  Slowly but surely, they got plumper, and Treppy is now moving around much more like a normal squirrel, and can climb trees and the fences.

Here is a photo of Treppy taken about March 17th:


He maneuvers on his hind legs and his right front leg; you can see in the photo above that he keeps his left leg in the air, but when he has to move in a hurry it goes down and he scrambles away as fast as any other squirrel!  The injured area looks much improved from its condition in the March 12th photo.

I have not seen Treppy since the photo above, and I'm worried.

Today Blinky paid a visit and I was so happy to see him again!  While Treppy is very leery of me and my camera, Blinky would come right into the house if I held the door open for him, LOL!  Blinky is looking healthy, except for his blind right eye.  I tried getting several photos of him, but my hands have the shakes today so most of the photos turned out too blurry to see much of anything.  In the photo below (which is on maximum zoom on my ancient camera), you can sort of see his white eye as he sits atop the fence near my garage, happily nibbling away on a hazelnut:


He (she?) is not quite as chubby as Treppy but is in much better condition now than the first time I saw him. It seems he doesn't like being around the other squirrels, so he comes during non-rush hours (rush hours are sunrise to 8:30 and between 3-6 in the evening).  He still has difficulty finding the nuts but he must have vision in his left eye, else I cannot imagine how he would be able to survive.  This morning I spotted him sitting on top of the garage and I was relieved, for I had not seen him in several days.

I opened the patio door, and Blinky stood up.  He didn't turn his head, though, he just kept his blind eye toward me -- could he possibly see something out of it?  I tossed some nuts out -- and I could tell he instantly heard them hit the concrete patio.  He came scrambling down the roof, jumped to the fence, and down to the patio and started searching; I rolled a few nuts to him -- it's like playing bocce ball with hazelnuts, LOL!  Up into his little paws -- how do they hold a nut and climb at the same time?  Up to the top of the fence, then he cracked open the hard hazelnut shell with his teeth.  He ate four nuts, then disappeared toward the southeast over the garage roof.

I hope I see Treppy and Blinky again.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bedroom Rug Bust

Oh crap.  I finally pulled the trigger on March 4th and ordered two area rugs for my Mistress Bedroom.

I thought the light grey color might work with the other tones in the room, even though the walls are much darker; I wanted (or thought I wanted) rugs that had some warmer (beige) tones, and also a little touch of black and red.  These rugs have all of those colors, and I liked the Oshak pattern.  I thought the warmer tones would work well with my dark dressers and the much lighter refinished oak hardwood floors.  For Feng Shui purposes, I wanted to have something with a bit of red to tie into the other bits of red I have scattered about the room (they are very subtle, you don't even realize they're there). I figured the black would go with anything, and tie into my black bedskirt and, when I remove the grey and cream duvet cover, my black and white toile comforter.

Rugs as ordered:

Safavieh Lyndhurt Oshak grey/beige rug, Overstock.com.  
I thought they would work, but began having second thoughts almost immediately.

Then I would go back and look at the photos of the rugs and be reassured that they would, indeed, work in the space.

They came today.

I unwrapped them.

I laid them down (to uncurl and unkink) on the wood floor in the Mistress Bedroom.



They don't go. (Please try to ignore than I threw one of the rugs on top of current area rug that came along from the old house; it doesn't really "go" either, but it's better than cold bare feet in the winter!)

Oh, they look fine against the floor, and go nicely with the dark dressers and the black bedskirt, but they don't go at all with the duvet cover. Scale of the patterns and colors are way off.

I like the duvet cover.  I do not like the rugs in the current scheme of things.

Damn damn damn damn damn.  Should have listened to my second thoughts and cancelled the order.

I'm not one for returning things unless defective, and I sure don't want to go through the hassle of getting these wrapped (how?  The plastic wrap they came in was destroyed by my eager scissors) and to the post office (would have to hike more than a mile on foot to get there, toting two rugs?  I don't think so!)  I'm thinking they'll work well in the guest room, where the colors and pattern will coordinate much better with the curtains, bedding and the wall color.

The guest room is on my "to do" list, but I won't tackle that room until my bedroom is "finished" -- needing only the rugs and completion of my gallery wall.  For now.

Back to the (rug) drawing board.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Cool Hacks: West Elm Reclaimed Wood Buffet and Hicks Pendant Light

Hola!

I'm not particularly fond of the term "hack" to describe modifying an object to turn it into another form of the same object (like the ubiquitous "Ikea hacks") -- to me hack signifies a person who smells like a bar the morning after (if you ever worked in a bar and cleaned up after hours you know exactly the smell I'm talking about) -- a rummy, if you will -- and is just going through the motions performing his or her craft or trade.  A perfect example of a hack was the role performed by Paul Newman in the excellent 1982 movie "The Verdict" in which he played a washed-up, burnt-out lawyer with a drinking problem.

Be that as it may, I do love the idea of making something "low" look like something "high" at a minimum cost, and to that end one of my favorite websites is Knock Off Decor.   I visit it often to see what you genius d-i-y-ers out there in blogland are doing with your creative selves!

This morning I saw two projects that just blew me away:

The first one is a "Reclaimed Wood Buffet Ikea Hack" that was done by Aniko at Place of My Taste.  Aniko fell in love with West Elm's "Reclaimed wood and lacquer buffet" that has a price tag of $1,199 plus $100 delivery surcharge.  Yikes!  It sure is a beauty, though, I do have to say so:

Photo:  West Elm website.