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

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.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Big Lazy and Pinterest Pins

Hola darlings!

Well, since retirement D-Day I've been doing a whole fat lot of n.o.t.h.i.n.g.  Binge-watching the Property Brothers and Rehab Addict on Netflix and hunkering down during our nasty February and - thus far - pretty nasty March.  But supposedly the weather is going to turn - at least for a few days - starting tomorrow, with the temperature getting up to 30 F, 34 on Saturday, 38 on Sunday and 40 on Monday, woo woo.  I have to say, the Sun IS feeling much stronger and warmer on my skin, even today, with below-zero windchills.  I had to go for a mammogram and since I had rescheduled from a month ago when the weather was even colder, I bundled up and stuffed Hot Hands into my down mittens and braved the cold.  Brrrrrr!!!  Fortunately, since I was travelling by city bus during the week the buses are scheduled much more frequently than on Saturdays and I had things timed pretty well so I didn't have too long of a wait to transfer buses to get to where I needed to go.

Well, that's done for six months and the only dreaded up-comings are a couple of dental appointments I've yet to schedule and ditto for a full physical with my primary care doctor.  She will scold me, I know, for letting it go so long.

After I got back home this morning and settled into lazy mode again, I saw a nudge in my email from Pinterest, so I thought why not, drop in and take a look.  Well, I found some cool stuff -- here are a few:

First up, this great idea for using an old lean-against (not step) ladder to create a canopy effect over one's bed.  Never would have thought of this in a million years.  I tracked down the original idea posted at Pinterest, found it at Chipping with Charm blog:


The only thing I would do is move the curtains to cover over those large brackets.  I love her color scheme, BTW.  The light blue, white and grey, lovely.

And then, there is this absolutely stunning living room -- and more!  There are also pics of the dining area and kitchen -- all open to each other and perfectly coordinated.  There is enough inspiration in the living room alone to last me a lifetime, let me tell you.  I WANT THAT SPACE!  The link is to the first photo in the series at Flickr which I believe were taken by (or are originally from) Lynda Q. Davids' Focal Point Styling; I just kept clicking on the right arrow and more photos of the space kept appearing so eventually you saw every part of the living room, and then the dinette, and then the kitchen.  I cannot say enough about the sophisticated color palette and the absolute design perfection of these spaces.  Here's one of the photos of the living room:


The ethereal curtains -- there are a couple photos of them -- were found at a Goodwill store and were tagged $5.99 a panel!  Check out the photo series, it's just absolutely stunning.  Whoever put this design together won whatever the equivalent of an Oscar is for designers in my book.  WOW!

I also followed a couple of links to websites that gave some good step-by-step instructions on how to paint one's kitchen cabinets.  Yes, I'm contemplating doing the job myself because I do not want to think about how much it would cost to get a pro in here to do it for me simply because I'm being so damn lazy!

I read about two different approaches:  one used a cabinet restoration kit by Rustoleum and one used home-made chalk paint and deck sealer.  I have to tell you, chalk paint and deck sealer sounds like my kind of d-i-y job.  If I do go this route, I will wait until it is warm enough to rig up some kind of plastic-drape enclosed space in my garage (I don't have a vehicle so there's plenty of room to use it for such projects) and figure out where I'm going to lean 21 cabinet doors to dry and "cure."  Holy Hathor!  This kitchen is not large, and I just counted 21 cabinet doors!

Now I'm having second thoughts.  Thus is design paralysis created, geesh.  I've either got to do it myself, or pay someone to do it for me.  Hmmm.  Should the choice really be this hard???

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Is This Just A Glorified Boob Light???

I've been looking around off and on for some different kind of lighting for my kitchen and dinette area.  They are wide open to each other and I want them to be coordinated through either style or color, if not matchy-matchy.  I still go for matchy-matchy, BTW.  There is a third light by the kitchen windows, above the sink.  It is pretty much a classic boob light, but it doesn't have a rounded nipple - it looks like it had a mammogram and got squished.  Replacing this light (if I do), will be problematical as the space is small and I haven't seen anything that looks like it "goes" with any of the other light fixtures I like:



Its rim is a sort of dark copper-y color though, not that almost blackish-dark brown that some manufacturers try to foist off on unsuspecting consumers as "rubbed bronze fnish."  

There is a matching fixture in my back hallway/entry/basement stair landing, and I don't care about that because nobody, absolutely nobody, is standing there looking up at the light fixture critizing it.  In contrast, there is  a true boob light in my narrow hallway to which the bedrooms and bath append:


You can definitely see that protruding nipple, LOL!

Thank goodness that most people, though, don't usually look up at a hallway ceiling fixture through which they're passing in a few seconds.

Anyway, I came across this fixture at Overstock and it has a matching chandelier that would, I think, look beautiful above my dinette table.  Here is the semi-flush mount ceiling fixture that would go in the center of the kitchen work area:

I think it's gorgeous.  I love the metal work and the more copper-y finish, along with the translucent glass shade.  I think that if I left the light in above the sink until I find the absolute perfect solution, they would all work together.  

But -- is this just a glorified boob light look????

I would be horrified to replace two light fixtures in such a visible part of the house with what amount to glorified boob lights -- wish I'd never come across the term.  Damn!  Here is the chandelier:


The price is good on the combo, too, with free shipping.  But - should I keep looking for something less "booby?"  Do I have a psychological fixation on boob light fixtures?  Do manufacturers have a psychological fixation on boob light fixtures -- or feed into this irrational fetish on a grand scale -- all around the globe???? Arrrgggghhhh - sometimes I hate this home improvement stuff.