May 2, 2018:


Four days ago I was bundled in my winter coat, gloves and wool beret, it was so cold here! Yesterday, it hit 81. Today it's even warmer and we had a doozy of a thunderstorm about 3 this morning, the thunder was so loud and so close it was shaking my bed and shook me awake!

Last week I still had my heat on, Geez Louise! Now I want to my AC on, but I'm fighting the urge. Too much, too quickly. Tomorrow it will feel like we're back in the Arctic when the temperature goes back to what should be around normal for this time of year (in the high 50s!)

The weather has been so uncooperative that I have only recently begun yard clean-up, and it's a mess! Last week I tossed six of those large size black trash bags that tie closed with yellow ties for pick-up, and I've barely begun to clean-up the mess that is my yard. I am slowly making progess, but there is a long way to go.

Because of the medications I'm on, I tend to sunburn easily and now if I get too much sun I get brown spots all over my face - and they're not cute freckles, either. UGH! So I wear a hat, sunscreen on my lips (can't use on my skin at all, terribly allergic). Wrap up in long sleeve tees and gloves, and I'm miserable when working outdoors! But it has to be done. Can't wait until the first cut - maybe tomorrow when it cools off, if it's not pouring rain. Rain is in the forecast. Oh well. A little at a time. It will mostly all get done. Maybe by July :)

Meanwhile, my perennials aren't waiting. They're popping up underneath half a foot of leaves that somehow managed to end up mysteriously in my flower beds with every wind storm we had over the winter and earlier in the "spring" (we haven't had much of one this year, let me tell you! UGH!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

O Christmas Tree!

Hola darlings!

Prepare yourselves for a long post.

As you may know, already by the end of last Christmas I was thinking about doing a white Christmas tree for 2013. Ideas, though, about what I was going to do did not crystalize until just a few days before I actually started decorating the tree, and I had no idea what I was going to do with the mantle/mantel after I stripped it bare and removed all the wall decorations -- a totally blank slate.

I had my Christmas tree out of the garage and assembled in the front room the day after Thanksgiving Day (office was closed that Friday), but it's taken me awhile to finish decorating it in bits and pieces.  Here is the finished product:

 That is not a new tree skirt, it's the beautiful pale gold velvet and satin skirt I purchased at TJMaxx in 2011, just flipped to the reverse side.  Doesn't it look lucious!  I love the lustre created by the light from the window shining upon it.

There's Mr. Don and I. Though he is with me only in spirit now, I honor his memory every day.
His McLean tartan pin (a souvenir his twin sister brought back for him when she visited Duart Castle in Scotland, the ancestral home of his McLean clan) is on the right; the Nefertiti icon, which Mr. Don found in the little dirt strip on his street next to the curb (true story!) he retrieved, cleaned up, and gifted to me one Christmas after we got engaged. I have loved it ever since. Mr. Don was fascinated with ancient Egypt (as am I) and spent the last 13 years of his life doing research on how ancient Egyptian religious practices and beliefs influenced the development of the game we know today as chess. Unfortunately, he died before he could get it into publishable format. The Clan McLean pin and the Nefertiti icon, which only come out at Christmas, are two of my most precious possessions. Notice the cut glass heart ornament hanging behind Nefertiti and McLean of Duart.

This is my "Mr. Don" corner of my desk in the front room.  The small photo on the right was taken on December 7, 2001, in downtown Montreal.  It was in the low 50's that day and we went on a buggy ride as the driver told us all about the wonderful old buildings we were driving past.  We got on the buggy outside Notre Dame Cathedral. That wonderful columned building with the rotunda across the way is, I believe, an old Chamber of Commerce building. The building doesn't date back to the 1600s but the initial group of businessmen and fur traders who established the Chamber of Commerce does.  The pine cone next to the photo I picked up on the grounds of St. Joseph's Basilica (I hope I remembered the name correctly) where we climbed a large hill to a wooded area on the grounds of the Basilica and a very friendly squirrel climbed up my long winter coat to beg for food when he saw me going into my purse for a treat.  I had some saltines from the plane ride and he was happy to take them.  What a very savvy squirrel he was.  He sized me up as a softy sucker instantly :)  Have you ever been face to face with a tamed squirrel?  Fortunately, I love the little critters, but I can well imagine someone else freaking out, LOL!  The larger photo, to the left, is Mr. Don in the summer of 1999.  One of his buddies snapped the photo of Don in front of a concrete block wall, the significance of which is the outline of a swan that is to the right of Mr. Don's head.  If you look carefully you can just make it out.  The swan's iconography is extremely significant, but it was not until after the photo was developed (it predates digital cameras) that he realized the swan was even there!  That's what Don looked like a few months after we became acquainted online.  A few months later, he visited me in Milwaukee, the first of many trips we took back and forth (Milwaukee-Montreal).  I keep a votive burning in - yes, that is a red glass heart votive holder - in front of this photo of Mr. Don.  And to the right, that's the One Armed Warrior.  He is another one of those items that Mr. Don found on the street near his apartment and brought to Milwaukee to me one Christmas.  I have a great affection for this piece.  He also only comes out at Christmas.  One "toy soldier" sans one arm.  There is a very ancient tradition surrounding the one-armed warrior, which I discovered through researching online after Mr. Don gifted this wonderful little icon to me.  One of my great-great-great (great?) uncles, Andrew 'Andre" Henry Nelson Forsyth (1844 - 1924) a son of Jerome Forsyth (my direct ancestor), lost an arm in the Civil War.  Back then, the field doctors often removed limbs that today's medicine would allow us to save, due to the fear of gangrene setting in, or lead poisoning from the bullets embedded deeply in the flesh.  And so, this line of the Newtons/Villeneuves have a one-armed warrior in the family. The little bird, I added yesterday, it is one of the Gump's birds.  Don loved birds and birds loved Don.  I think he would approve of the little fellow perching on his picture frame for the season.

Last year my tree and front room decor were silver and gold, and I thought I did "simple  but elegant" then.  Ahem.  This year it's silver and white and clear glass ornaments, 99% ornaments I already owned -- oh, and those little birds I bought on clearance last year after Christmas at Gump's.  Well, it's Gump's, darlings!  What's left to say?  They are gorgeous and I fell madly in love with them and had to have them.  I checked this season to see if Gump's carried them again and they didn't, as far as I can tell. I got 16 birds in all, I believe I paid about $1.20 per bird, and got free shipping.  I was very happy with my deal!

I did try to exercise restraint this year in decorating the tree, and mostly I think I did pretty well.  Well, except for the feather boas.  They are just totally decadent, nothing else to say about them.  But I didn't buy them.  Nope!  They were a gift from a friend, one of those wild rocking bus ladies it is my pleasure to know.  Now, as these boas were a gift from a friend, I felt compelled to show my gratitude by using all of them, including re-using the pure white feather boa she gifted to me last year.  Last year, that single boa hung around my fireplace mantle/mantel for awhile, and I loved it!  Subsequently, I believe I mentioned at least once or twice that I was thinking what a hoot it would be to decorate an entire tree with feather boas...

Mantle/mantel 2012.  OHMYGODDESS, I just fell in love with this look all over again :)

Okay, so here's a photo of my mantle/mantel this year:

Mantle/mantel 2013.  See? Much simpler.   Restrained, elegant, just like moi.  Yeah, right...
A separate post on the mantle/mantel will be done.

See!  Very plain.  Well, plain is a relative term...  I'll be posting about the mantle/mantel separately, and the photos I took today (Sunday December 8) turned out better - well, at least they are clearer.

More photos of my 2013 Christmas tree (notes at end):

Tree topper:  A classic pentagram (five-pointed) star.  I bought two cheap inexpensive plastic gold stars
at Walgreens a few years ago and jerry-rigged my own tree topper, as the price of tree toppers is outrageous!

For Christmas Tree 2013 I knew I wanted to add white and pearls, lots more pearls, to the tree. I may purchase
some pearl bead garland for the 2014 tree, I'll see what the budget is like at the end of this year. 
Vintage faux-pearls from an old necklace I restrung (I have two that I've put on the tree).
Two pearl wedding favors are hanging above, left and right.  The tiny pearl colored ornament is from a set of
56 red, white (pearl), green, silver, and gold ornaments that I picked up at TJMaxx downtown near
my office for $9.99.  I used many of these ornaments to decorate my cardinal Christmas tree.
Close-up looking toward the fireplace on the right (north) wall as one enters the house through the front door. 
The pearl and gold bead star-burst or snowflake was one of four purchased at Marshall Fields in
Chicago in 2007.  The investment club to which I belong went on a fun shopping trip, we took the
Hiawatha train there and back and had a blast, ate lunch at the fabulous Walnut Room, and shopped
until we had to leave to catch the 5:08 back to Milwaukee.  Marshall Fields had a HUGE area devoted
entirely to Christmas decor and decorations, and we spent at least 2-3 hours just in that one area!


Tree topper gold star is two gold glitter stars purchased at Walgreens a year or two ago and wired together with twist ties.  Bus buddy Thelma Christine would approve of the star.  Thelma, this star's for you!

Those pearl wedding favors, I purchased 24 of them online in January this year.  I don't remember from where - it had "craft" in the name; I don't remember the cost, either, unfortunately, but they were not terribly expensive and I LOVE how they look on the tree.

I bought the very long gold-topped "icles" on clearance online at Boston Store after Christmas last season.  They are like 9" long and totally awesome.  Again, I don't remember now what I paid for them but I bought two boxes (6 in each box) so they must have been a great deal, otherwise I wouldn't have bought them because I was totally broken at the end of 2012 due to all of my unforeseen medical expenses not covered by health insurance. 

I did buy some new ornaments and other Christmas items this year, in addition to the Gump's clip-on birds and the "Add-Heres" (more about that in the post on my mantle/mantel) decor for this year).

(1) Items purchased at the Family Dollar Store, about $20 (gift bags, gift wrapping, two Christmas-themed hand-soap dispensers, a floral spray, three 12-packs of votive candles)

(2) From Walgreens, several items:  Three "silver" reindeer ($4.99 each plus 5.65% sales tax); two LED clear acrylic Christmas trees (two for $5 on sale) that are now part of my coffee table decoration, six LED battery operated 15-light strings (four not yet used), 3 for $10, three packages of gold-tinted pine-cone ornaments at $3.99 each; a 16-pack of AA batteries, I don't remember the price; one roll of Red/Green/Black/Gold plaid French Ribbon, $2.50; one roll of white curling ribbon, $1.50; $12.99 for the cardinal snow globe.

(3)  From TJMaxx, the red, black and white Cardinal plate, $3.99 on display in the dinette; six mercury-glass votives used in the mantle/mantel display, $9.99; 56-pack of small ornaments, $9.99, used mostly to decorate my cardinal Christmas tree.  I used the rest of the white and silver ornaments to decorate the Christmas tree in the front room, and a few in the ornament and pine-cone filled vases.

(4) From Cost Plus World Market, a set of four place-mats "Retro Birds" for $20, less 10% off coupon, but including shipping and sales tax, so it came out to $20.30.  I specifically purchased these place-mats because of their red/black/white/aqua color palatte and, of course, the birds :)  I got the package a few days ago and opened them earlier this afternoon, they are perfect for my needs!

I need to purchase some more AA batteries, geez! It sure adds up, for a person who said she wasn't going to spend a dime this Christmas season on additional decor items...

On the other hand, was the delight of my friends of the investment club this morning (and two granddaughters of one of the members) who came here after we met for breakfast, for our Christmas gift exchange and 'meeting.'  The ooohs and the aaahs and the "how did you ever come up with such an idea..." were totally worth it!

And on the plus size, I now have another box of Christmas decorations to stash away - somewhere.  Oh my!

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