December 2019:


Winter has arrived. We had early snow Halloween weekend (3-4 inches) and about a week later we got another 3-4 inches on top of that, and cold weather. The snow melted (thank goodness!) but winter caught autumn unprepared - a surprise ambush!

The house is now decorated for Christmas season and I snuggle underneath a thick throw blanket on the sofa at night admiring the Christmas tree. It's cold enough now to fire up the fireplace, brrrrr!

I hope everyone has a wonderful and blessed holiday season. May we all be jolly and bright and happy.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Another Family Mystery: Murder by Strychnine!

Edited November 5, 2017:  Hola everyone.  Since reading the April 27, 2017 story by Rhonda Whetstone at the Stevens Point Journal this morning, "History: Man dies after eating mystery chocolates," (see her comment in the Comments Section to this pot at the bottom) I went back and checked my family tree just this morning and discovered I had made an error in my original 2012 comment, below.  Susan "Susie" Olbrantz was not a distant cousin of my mother's.  She was actually one of my mother's aunts - one of my Grandmother's sisters!  Obviously, that makes the story even more closely related to my family.  I am following-up with Rhonda Whetstone to see if she has learned anything further and if she will be writing a follow-up article.

My recollection at the time of going through this story with my mother in the summer of 2012 was that she had no recollection of it.  I do not recall if I referred to Susie Olbrantz then as Mom's cousin rather than her aunt.  My recollection from that time is that Mom acted as if she didn't even know who Susie Olbrantz was and had never heard of this bit of family history.  However, she had recently recovered from a very bad health scare and a months-long hospitalization, and we were going through her family tree binder I'd put together hastily for her.  I had felt a sense of urgency at the time, to get Mom's family tree together as much as I could.  Perhaps her memory was not the best then.  However, at the time of the events in question, Mom would only have been about 10 years old, so it is quite possible she was never told anything about this horrific event by Grandma or any other older family members who may have had knowledge of what happened.  Mom passed away in March of 2016 so I cannot ask her questions.

Since that time, a lot more information has appeared to be available on the Olbrantzs, but since our family is SO large, I have mostly restricted myself to concentrating on direct line ancestors, not ancillary ancestors like aunts and uncles and further back, or their descendants.  It was merely because I was - quite delinquently - going through my "Blog Posts/Spam" inbox this morning that I found a post to this story from Rhonda Whetstone and read about her 2017 article! 

When reading my initial post and my comments below, please amend any reference to my mom's cousin to my mom's aunt!  I decided to do it this way rather than mess with the original text of my post from 2012 (below the asterisk line).  Thank you.]


Wow!  Distant cousin Lucille unleashed a family bombshell on me early this morning - good thing I didn't read the email last night, I wouldn't have gotten any sleep!

It seems, darlings, that there was a MURDER in the family!  EEK!

Here is the article from The Milwaukee Journal in October, 1937.  Because it was a google records I was not able to "grab" it to save it, I had to cut it up into screen shots and save it that way, so it's in bits and pieces but readable -- try to ignore the red borders!

Joseph was the husband of a distant cousin on Mom's side of the family (the Makuskis).  Susan Catherine Olbrantz was a Makuski before her marriage in 1925 to Joseph Olbrantz.  Lucille sent me this photograph that must have been clipped from a different article than the one I found (posted above):

I guess I've watched too many "48 Hours Mysteries" and "Dateline" murder stories on television.  Poison is a very PERSONAL type of weapon and historically, a woman's weapon, because it is neat, clean, non-violent -- it can be administered from a distance. The perpetrator of the crime does not have to be confronted with the bloody reality of a dying or dead person at one's feet as a result of one's actions with gun, knife, or club.  In short, poison is the perfect weapon for someone seeking to kill not in the heat of anger or passion (like with a gun or knife or, heaven forbid, beating someone to death with fists or object), but for someone seeking to kill in a "bloodless" way after thinking about it for a long time.  REVENGE.  Cold.  Calculated.

In cases like this, the spouse is usually the first suspect.  But in this case, Susan herself had ingested a piece of the poisoned candy, as had one of her children (son Raymond, age 11).  If her target was her husband, would she have risked the lives of one or more of her children and herself, too?  If murder/suicide was the goal instead (wiping out the entire family) would she not have made sure that her other children also ingested some of the poisoned candy?  And where the heck would she have gotten her hands on strychnine?  Where would anyone get their hands on strychnine in 1937?

I thought about this quite a bit today.  The year 1937 -- the US is still recovering from the Great Depression.  World War II had not yet started and the economy was still in bad shape.  Joseph Olbrantz supported his family with a WPA (Works Progress Administration) job, like millions of other men around the country did -- there was not much other work available.  Money for such luxuries as boxed candy (chocolates? not identified in the article) would have been non-existent.  It might have seemed unusual for a new box of candy, a pair of cotton gloves and a pair of children's stockings to appear on the front seat of the Olbrantz vehicle, but in a small community where everyone knew everyone and pretty much knew how each others' families were doing, the Olbrantzes may have figured that it was a gift left behind by a friend, a family member, or a well-wisher. 

The gloves aren't identified as men's, women's, or children's.  The stockings were called "children's stockings" - I assume because their size made them easily identifiable as such.  So, whoever left the box of candy knew the Olbrantzes had children young enough to wear the stockings.  And the gloves?  Hmmm....  Cotton gloves.  Hmmmm..... perhaps women's gloves?  Meant as a gift for Susan?  Cotton gloves and a pair of children's stockings - doesn't sound like gifts a man would buy for a young family.

What is truly frightening about this crime is that the entire family could easily have ingested some of the candy and died.  At the time, Susan and Joseph had at least two other children: Joseph, born in about 1929 and Elizabeth, born in about 1935.  Perhaps the only thing that saved them from strychnine poisoning was that they were young and probably already abed when Daddy brought out that deadly box of candy.

I was not able to discover any further information on the crime or any further newspaper articles.  I will keep looking, of course!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I Think It's About Time... get rid of those cheapo inexpensive round tables covered with cloths once and for all. They're nearly 21 years old and it's time to get some normal furniture!

This baby has been in the living (front) room for years:

Yep, the house is still torn apart and not put back together since carpet and furniture cleaning on Saturday.  Yesterday and today home sick with achy throat and really sore ears!  Haven't felt much like putting the house back to rights.

This baby has been in the family room for years:

Both are rickety and, really, I'm just SICK of them (literally?)

In the living room, where the larger, shorter paisley-covered table used to hold a lamp between love seat and side chair, I solved the problem by flanking the loveseat with matching end tables that used to anchor other spots in the room.  More about that later.

In the family room, there is no end table at present.  Hmmmmm, that means....


Actually, I've been semi-shopping for some time.  I think it really is true what I read somewhere, that it takes the average person about 10 times looking at something online before they decide to buy it (or not).  Well, that's me.

I've looked around and decided that Target online had the best deal.  I don't want something uber expensive that I will feel I must keep for the next 21 years (like those rickety round tables) and I want free shipping.  So, I settled on these:

This is part of the Staten line by - okay, didn't write down the manufacturer, but it's Chinese.  Sigh.  After looking at dozens of end tables I decided I liked this one best (and it's price of about $90 with free shipping) because of the storage provided by the drawer, and the nice display shelf that can be used for magazines (I have tons around all the time) in addition to the table top.  I like it's clean lines that can blend in with a lot of different furniture styles, because my house is a real mish-mash of styles.  I like the "espresso" finish.  Honestly, it's difficult to tell from online images.  I have seen a lot of espresso, cappucino and dark espresso and dark cappucino, in addition to Ikea's brown-black, and what the heck is the difference? 

Anyway, this color is a compromise between brown and black.  Dinette set is brown (dinette is wide open to family room), my sofa table and entertainment center in the family room are black with brass trim (purchased in 1986) and despite my being tired of them, they're not going away any time soon, so I have to work with their black color and ignore the little bit of bright brass.

Staten also comes with this coffee table that was what first caught my eye:
I want that storage drawer (it's one large drawer, not two separate drawers) and underneath shelf that is high enough to reach comfortably. I looked at and considered other tables that also had drawers and shelves, but the shelves were underneath the drawers, way down low near the floor, not very practical in my opinion.  Staten coffee table is about $120 plus free shipping.

So, I've pretty much decided this is what I'm going to get for my family room, whose re-do is moldering away on the "I'll get to it" pile.  Eventually I'll reach critical mass -- will have enough new stuff bought to put into the redone family room that I'll just HAVE to get moving on getting those walls stripped down, repaired, etc.  Well, that's sort of the plan...

Monday, May 21, 2012

Help! Design Paralysis II!

Budget won't allow wholesale buying of all new stuff to put up on the mantle wall; and since right now I feel as if my tastes are in the process of metamorphosing once again, I don't want to make much of an investment, if any.

Feel as if I've got enough stuff somewhere in this house, too, that could be used.  Maybe in combination...

I've had these beautiful embroaidered Chinese silks for probably 35 years -- I bought them at the International Bazaar at the Wisconsin State Fair one summer -- haven't found anything like them since then.  I had them framed when I moved into this house in 1990 and at the time it cost me around $20 each, a total of $60 which I thought was outrageously expensive at the time!  I would have loved some bamboo look painted frames and double or even triple mats but, alas, didn't want to spend the $$.  The sort of orangey-red color of two of the mats don't exactly go with the more wine-colored hues in my living room, but they don't precisely clash either:

Yep, grey carpet, 21 years old this coming August.  Now I've got camel, green and wine sort of paisley-patterned Lawson style furniture in place of the sleek oriental-styled cream color sofa and slipper chair with ottoman I used to have.  Doesn't exactly go together anymore.  The part of the rug you see in this photo beneath the Chinese silks has the colors of the furniture and was selected by an interior designer at Steinhafel's where I bought the new (now not so new) sofa and love seat in 2002 (or 2003). Anyway, carpeting isn't going anywhere and new furniture and new rugs aren't in the budget.  There's that word again!  Sooooo, I had the two "orangey-red" silks hanging on the wall in the dinette and the dark greenish one hanging above the entertainment center in the family room.  Since I'm changing the colors in those areas anyway, they won't exactly "go" once I get around to painting (if I ever do), so maybe these would work above the mantle.

Other oldies but goodies I've had since the 1980's are these Bradford Exchange plates:

They used to be hanging on the wall above the desk.  There are actually four of them framed, and two more stashed away unframed.  They have been used throughout the house during the past 21 years. 

And of course there are the brass Chinese idiograms, etc. that I had hanging above the fireplace before I took it all down:

(This was taken in 2009 while I was decorating the Christmas tree).

Paralyzed. Don't know what to do. I did, however, move the clock from the left side of the big round-top window to the right side of the window on the stair landing.  It works there, although I think I may have hung it too high, and I can't get the pendulum to work!

Help! Design Paralysis!

Eek!  So Saturday all the carpets were cleaned and the sofa in the family room too and some stain guard and $$$ later out the door the dudes go, leaving me with a totally torn apart house (see a few photos from prior post).

So, says I to myself, now is the perfect time to rearrange the living room.  Been wanting to do that for awhile.  Start with a clean slate, everything comes off the walls!  And so last night, while I was watching the grand finale of Celebrity Apprentice, I stripped the living room walls.

Well, a few things remain.  The sconces on either side of the massive china cabinet I use as a bookcase/storage stayed. That anchors the big wall opposite the fireplace wall.  The mirror on the closet wall by the entry that I purchased eons ago from Bombay Company remains on the wall, but the table that used to be underneath it has been moved to act as a lamp table anchoring one side of the loveseat.  I loved having that table (with two roomy drawers) under that mirror, so I could put on my beret, tuck in my scarf perfectly, adjust collars underneath coat, put on lipstick, do a quick hair brush, etc. etc.  But it was also too convenient for depositing all kinds of junk and clutter that - since I don't have a formal foyer area separate from my living room (front door opens right into the living room), I didn't want!  Yeah, I know, me bad for putting the clutter there to begin with. 

For the time being, this clock:

also remains on its wall to the left of the big round top window before which the love seat is centered.  I look at that clock every morning when I'm going upstairs to get ready for work and come down to leave for the office, five days a week.  Not sure where else to put it. 

Everything else that was up on the walls, poof!  Gone!  Later I will take the ladder around and meticulously fill in the nail holes with spackle using a toothpick.  I've finally figured out how to do the job neatly without leaving gobs of spackle all over the wall.  Slow learner - I cringe when I see big white gobs of spackle where I had previously "filled in" nail holes. Geez!  Then I have to sand it down and it takes off the "sand" texture finish that was sprayed on 21 years ago when the house was built.  No way to put that sand texture back on -- I've tried, trust me.  Not a good thing.

There is a large curio cabinet to the left of the fireplace - that is staying where it is for three reasons (1) where else would I put it? (2) My collection of pink elephants, my Thistle and Rose chess pieces, and my miscellaneous this and thats are easy to see and enjoy in the curio's current location; and (3) it is a pain in the butt to remove everything from inside, including the glass shelves, in order to move the curio anywhere else!

Here is the fireplace with everything above and around it removed except for my small flat screen t.v. and a plant from my Dad's funeral (he passed away in 2002):

I tried to take this photo in such a way that you get an idea of the volume of wall with the sloped ceiling (goes all the way up, open to the second floor).

The plant is very happy where it is and I'm not planning on moving it.  I have no place else to put the t.v.  Having it hung on the wall is not an option because I don't have any outlets above the fireplace, and it's not in the budget to have one or two installed.  I would like to have that done in the future, because I would like to have the option of a lamp or two on top of the mantle without having a cord dangling down the side -- as you can see the fat nasty black cord from the t.v.  Rabbit ears also have to stay.  I am not wired for cable and have no intention of ever having that installed here.  So, it's through the air reception for my t.v.s.  I did, however, remove the rather prominent tin foil "hats" that used to adorn the very tips of the aerial as well as the wire coat hanger that Mr. Don hooked up to try and improve reception :)  Hey, we're both children of the 50's.  What can I say?

Another view of the fireplace/wall:

This is what it looked like during Christmas 2011:

The Chinese ideograms, the Chinese plaque, and the large metal "basket" sculpture were part of the design above the mantle for years.  I even decorated around them when I did my first ever "spring" mantle earlier this season:

Now, with the mantle (and other walls) practically bare naked, I find myself paralyzed -- don't know which way to go!

I HATE when that happens.  That happens sometimes when I'm playing chess, and I HATE that, too.  This helpless, lost feeling. Should I move this way - should I move that piece instead, and plan on this (but what if she moves there instead with that piece, then I'm screwed).  You're afraid to make the wrong move and so you don't move at all, meanwhile the time on your clock is ticking down down down...

Well, obviously I'm not in time pressure here in a tournament!  But the paralyzed feeling is still the same! 

I have been looking at tons of pictures online - at Houzz, at Pinterest, at my favorite decorating blogs, and lots of photos just from general google searches.  I've seen so many gorgeously decorated mantles - BUT none with my little flat screen t.v. and obvious cord ugly dangling over the side, none with an irreplaceable plant on the other end, and none with that huge stretch of slated bare wall above it!  I have not seen a single photo that has sparked any inspiration.  That is ridiculous, isn't it! 

Soooo - don't know what to do.  In the meantime, I am enjoying the bare look.  Seeing the clock on the left side of the window when there is nothing on the right side is bothering me to no end!  I am thinking of moving the clock off that wall up to the stair landing, on the right side of the window there.  That way I can still see it every morning when I'm getting ready for work going upstairs, and coming back down, but it won't be unbalancing the empty walls below.

Another post coming up...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Look for Less: Ballard Designs "Bar" 3

The inspiration image:

I wanted to add this sideboard/table that I found at Penney's and emailed myself back on May 4th, but I somehow overlooked it when I posted about "the look for less" tables and/or sideboards.  It's gorgeous but it's pricey too, at $700, and it's not the same look, per se.  For one thing, it is a brown-finish (not black) and for another, it's got a full "back" on it -- but I think you'll see why I selected it as a possibility for those with the budget:

This is the Kings Bay Buffet Server for $700.  The size is good (compared to the sideboard/table in the inspiration photo): 58 long x18 wide x42" high.  It is made out of rubberwood and poplar and has a mahogony finish (isn't it pretty!)  It has two drawers and two shelves in addition to the top.  The high detail on the turned legs and the proportions are beautiful.  This is a much more traditional look than the inspiration table - it reminds me of the English countryside or the antebellum South.

And now, on to the clock!  Here is the information on the clock in the inspiration photo:

L'Hotel du Vieux Quartier Clock, crackled dark chocolate face, 23" diameter, beaded brass see-through pendulum and pierced spear hands. Decoupage over wood composites. $129.

Hmmm, in looking over my various selections I wasn't very true to the brown/bronze colored face, but I did stick to 23" diameter.  There are tons of wall clocks available on the internet and you may be able to find a really great bargain for yourself in the perfect colored clock face that you love!  Here are my "the look for less" selections:

From, Wood Provence Wall Clock, for $69.00:

Slightly over 23" in diameter.  Personally, I think the black-and-cream clock goes much better with the black "bar."

I took a different turn with this clock (it's got a frame), but think it would look gorgeous on my (your) wall -- with or without the Ballard Designs inspiration bar look.  From, Floral Center Beige and Black wall clock, slightly over 23" in diameter, for $69.99:

Back to for a blatantly French look in the Casa Cortes Republique Francaise Metal Wall Clock, $65.99, with a dark brown metal frame, 23" diameter:

Spring Cleaning Mess!


Dinette loaded with stuff from other rooms, dining table overloaded!
Things have been conspiring against me getting anything productive done around this house!  There has been family tree work done and much more to do - a Makuski cousin has showered me with tons of information that needs to be incorporated in to the FT and I want to try and have it all ready for Mom's birthday on May 22nd.  EEK!

Then there is the yard work!  Our good weather and lots of rain has meant mowing and more mowing is a must every week!  I Love being outdoors when the weather is clement and I don't mind working up a good sweat and getting grungy and dirt under my nails.  Guess that's the "cultivateur" from Dad's side of the family and the "farmer" from Mom's side.  As they say, "blood will out."  With yard work and gardening, you see the fruits of your labor, and get to eat them too :)  How gratifying to see a mowed lawn with the scent of fresh-cut grass wafting into the house all afternoon as I stretch out on the sofa in the family room to nap for a few hours...

Today is warm and sunny, a small breeze. I am a fresh air person and this time of year is perfect for keeping windows open at night.  Starting about 4:30 a.m. this morning, I was slowly awakened by a symphony of birdsong greeting the new day as the Sun came up over Lake Michigan.  I love that time of early morning.  I roll over and look up at my canopy in the near-darkness, stretch out a body that suddenly feels like it is a foot taller, fluff my feather pillows, and then settle back, close my eyes again, and just let the beauty of Mother Earth's birdsong lull me back to sleep for another hour or so.  It's a little cool in the room so I tuck myself under the comforter (which usually ends up tossed half way to the floor during the night sweats...)  Ahhhh, life is good. 

Up by 6 a.m., my usual time.  A perfect day to have the carpeting throughout the house cleaned and all of the furniture in the family room, too.  I am soooo glad the weather forecast proved correct cuz I scheduled this last week.  I've been using the same carpet/furniture cleaners for the past 21 years.  Am I a creature of habit or what?  Geez Louise!  It cost a small fortune but I only have it done once a year.  Been tearing the house apart since Wednesday night, moving end and side tables, removing area rugs, lamps, other assorted this and that on tables and desks (why do I have three separate computer work stations in this house???)  Everything that I could squeeze into the kitchen and dinette is here, and the rest is stuffed into the upstairs bathroom and overflow is stashed in the garage.

Sofa bed in family room cleaned!  You can see where I'm still
removing wallpaper on the bottom half of the family room walls,
and some of the damage said removal has caused to drywall finish.
Still a lot of work to be done before I can paint and install chair rail.

Now I've got every window and door open that can be opened to try and get the carpeting and furniture dry by tonight and also get rid of that chemical smell, slight though it is, that makes me cough and cough.  Thank Goddess the guys arrived early - just before 8:30 and I was already outside sweating my butt off cutting the front lawn, half of it was already in blazing sunlight.  Whew!  What is it about sweat that makes one's hair curl???

Curtains tossed aside to let in fresh air.  Believe it or not (probably
not) I have started "cleaning" off some of the crap from the bookcase
you see in this photo.  LOL! 

 I have new sheers and new over-drapes for the window in the photo, above, once I finish stripping off the wallpaper, repairing walls, priming, painting, installing chair rail molding and textured-patterned wallpaper on the lower portion of the walls.  Seems like forever since I started this project, and I'm not even half-way finished stripping off the wallpaper!  Sigh.

And starting at 2 p.m. is the final exciting game of the U.S. Women's Chess Championship taking place (concurrently with the Open or "Men's" Championship) in St. Louis, Missouri, at the gorgeous Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.  So maybe the grass out back won't get cut today unless it's this evening before sundown.  Thank Goddess for these nice long days now! I've got to watch that final round because there is an intense rivalry going on between the two highest-rated chess queens in the USA -- Anna Zatonskih (current U.S. Women's champion) and Irina Krush (a former U.S. Women's champion).  Zatonskih and Krush have been trading the title back and forth for some years now, and it's damn exciting -- well, at least to some of us chess femmes :)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy 2012 Mother's Day!

To all moms everywhere, Happy Mother's Day!  You do the hardest work in the world, raising children and taking care of your families.  I salute you all. 

Mom and I had a lovely long chat yesterday afternoon.  We talked about lots of things - we always do!  I updated her on some family tree stuff, too, and she was fascinated.  Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find anything that pushes mom's family lines back further than about maybe 1820 or so in Poland.  However, new information and records are constantly appearing and I will keep looking.  For her birthday later this month I'll lug the laptop over to Mom's house and show her the FT now that I've got Family Tree Maker on this computer and have downloaded all of the information from 

Here was last week Saturday:

Here is today:

Oy!  You can see I seriously need to sweep up the nut shells that my squirrels left behind on the deck, and I'll get my work-out in today cutting the grass out back.  It's on a slope and takes extra muscle power :) 

Enjoy your Mother's Day, ladies!  Here's a bouquet just for YOU!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

To Mom

I'll turn 61 later this year and Mom will be celebrating her 85th birthday later this month.  She has slowed down some from the woman I used to know - hell, so have I!  She maintains her own house and lives by herself, and is fiercely, stubbornly independent.  I wonder where I got those traits from...

Family portrait, 1997.  Mom and Dad are on the right.  Mom was wearing some of her emeralds that day.
Over the years, we bought her a lot of emerald jewelry, it's her birthstone. 
From the left, front row, is me; next to me on the right is Debbie; next to Debbie is Darlene. 
Back row: Dennis on the far left, next to him is Yvonne; next to her and the tallest, is Jeff, the youngest child.

Like many parents of the baby-boomer generation, Mom was a Great Depression baby and that early experience of poverty and deprivation, and the shame her family felt (through no fault of their own) in having to receive basic necessities such as milk and eggs "on the dole", and hunting for coal along the railroad tracks and putting the precious chunks of fuel into a wagon to drag back home, influenced her outlook greatly during subsequent years when she and Dad were raising a family that was increasing every 13 months or so! 

Me, Mom and Dad, in 1951.
Mom took a little breather after the birth of sister #4 in 1956.  Then along came brother #1 in 1959, and brother #2 in 1962 -- surprise surprise!  Like many other post-WWII families at the time and in the days before the birth control pill, Mom and Dad had a "large" family by today's standards, but relatively small compared to the size of many families from their own generation.  Mom's dad, Joseph Michael Jablonski, came from a family of 18 children; Mom's mom, Martha Makuski, came from a relatively small family of eight children. 

July, 1964.  From right to left, back row: Debbie, Darlene, me.  In front of me wedged beside Darlene is
youngest sister Yvonne.  Front row:  youngest brother Jeffrey (with the basketball), brother Dennis, and a
volunteer, one of the Langer brothers, whose family lived downstairs from us. Mom loved to garden, and
she  passed that love along to us.  Our yard wasn't very wide, but along that fence line behind us was a
border of day lilies and peonies. 

From the time they were married and during the time she was pregnant with each of us, Mom worked full-time, as did Dad, to support our family.  If there was every any question about that, we didn't know of it.  Work was what one did when one was an adult. I don't know exactly how it happened, but from the earliest times I remember Mom worked at a dry cleaners. I remember visiting her a few times at a local dry cleaning shop where she worked at a huge steam press in the back room for eight hours a day, constantly on her feet, a room filled with chemicals and steam.  I believe her specialty at that particular dry cleaners was men's suits pants and starching and pressing men's white dress shirts.  She worked throughout each of her six pregnancies, up to the time she went to the hospital to deliver each of us.  And then she would go back to work five days later.  Back then, a woman was able to stay in hospital with baby for a full five days - you weren't kicked out after half a day like it is these days.  Back then, it was the only vacation some women, including Mom for many years, ever got.  And you had nurses taking care of you and meals served to you in bed.  Luxury!  What do we have now?  Pffft...

Debbie, me, Darlene, maybe 1957. Yvonne was so young she was still in the crib when this picture was taken.
Upon seeing this photo one of my nieces thought I was my younger brother, Jeff!  LOL!  Well, we do have a
strong family resemblance.  There I am, tough little Tom Boy in trousers and tee shirt.  Oh Goddess, my hair! 

We were poor but as kids we didn't know we were poor.  We always had clothes, although a lot of them were hand-me-downs from older cousins, and we got one new pair of shoes a year.  Often it was "ouch" time as feet grew, and the old "lining the shoe with cardboard" thing was done, too.  Millions of other families lived exactly the same as we did, and we were surrounded by families who lived the same as we did.  So, we didn't know we were supposed to think of ourselves as "badly off."  We always had food on the table, I do not recall ever going hungry although I grew to loathe "boiled dinner," and there were the occasional treats and special birthday and Christmas presents.  Our material possessions were few compared to today's standards, but we were loved and protected.  Gosh, what filthy little creatures we were.  We would play outside hard, all day long and into the evenings during the summers, and come home black with dirt! Always reluctantly.  I remember the neighborhood being filled with the loud calls of various mothers yelling from porches and doorways for their kids to come home.  We always did so, but usually slowly.  There wasn't a worry back in those days about child molesters or being snatched from the streets even when it was dark outside, although I'm sure those things did happen.  But it wasn't like today, where we live under a veil of fear.

If we were old enough, we washed ourselves but Mom always checked and would usually take the wash cloth to us for a once-over for good measure.  Otherwise, she would scrub us up in a flash - and I do mean scrubbed!  We were none the worse for it and would go to bed clean, fed, and TIRED!  Not one of us was suffering obesity like the kids of today's generation!

Back in the 50's and 60's when we were growing up, the network of extended family was much more intact than it is now.  Family helped family. Whatever was needed, the family would make sure it was provided.  I find it sad that we, as a culture, seem to have drifted so far away from that closeness and unity we once had.

Newton family reunion, 1988.  Back row: Uncle Phil, Aunt Mary, Uncle Verne,
Aunt Valerie, Dad.  Front row: Uncle Don, Aunt Faythe, Aunt Laurel (Lolly), Mom, Uncle Tom.
Mary, Valerie, Faythe and Laurel were Dad's sisters.  Like his own family, Dad
was from a family a four girls and two boys.  Dad's younger brother, Greg, was deceased
at the time of this photo. 

It was only later on, when Mom and Dad both got jobs with the county, that their pay improved and there were secure benefits like health and life insurance, actual days they could take off for PAID vacation, and paid sick days. Imagine being able to stay at home when sick, and be paid for it, and not have to worry about losing one's job.

Mom and Dad worked hard and saved, and in about 1966 or 1967, fifteen years after they'd married, they bought their very first house -- a big old duplex on the corner of an old south side neighborhood.  It had three bedrooms and one bath with an old-fashioned deep claw-foot tub.  It was a dream come true.  Fitting eight people into a three bedroom flat -- well, we did it, and we all shared that one bath, too.  On a schedule.  LOL! 

December, 1970.  From right to left: Dennis, Dad, Pepper (the dog I bought with my very first paycheck
earned at Brill Brothers when I was 14 pr 15), Mom, Jeff.  Geez, I really do look like my mother!  Mom and Dad
were younger in this photograph than I am now. 

A pap test in the early '70's revealed that mom might have cervical cancer and, back then, doctors didn't give women any options.  My Mom had a total hysterectomy, when she was about 45.  Her primary care physician never put Mom on hormones or calcium supplements afterward.  Today, that would be a malpractice suit.  Back then, we didn't know about such things.  That was before the internet and it was not easy to find out information -- not that we would have dreamed of doing so.  What the doctor said was like the Word of God.  You just obeyed and didn't ask questions.

One day, about eight years after her hysterectomy, Mom tripped when getting out of a car, fell, and ended up with a broken hip!  So tough she was, she just thought she'd bruised some muscles and that was why her hip hurt so much and it was so hard to walk.  It wasn't until two days later that one of my brothers-in-law refused to take NO for an answer, literally picked her up, carried her downstairs to his car (Mom and Dad lived in the upper flat of that big old duplex at the time), and drove her to an emergency room.  She was x-rayed.  Yep, broken hip.  Her bones had turned brittle and fragile long before she should have had to worry about any such thing happening.  That was due to lack of calcium supplements and the abrupt cut-off of female hormones long before it would have happened otherwise, due to her over-eager male doctor who didn't give a poop about what would happen to her as a woman after yanking out all of her female organs. 

Mom and Dad at Jeffrey and Heidi's wedding, July 14, 1984. 

In 1987, Mom and Dad sold the duplex and bought a cute and cozy brick home. It only had one bathroom, but there was a "half bath" in the basement and that bone-dry basement could have been turned into a nice rec room; but by that time all of us except for one brother had long been out of the nest.  So my brother had the "suite" upstairs (a large bedroom and separate roomy area around the stairwell that in a modern home would be a loft), Mom and Dad took the larger bedroom on the main floor for themselves, and my Dad created a man cave in the smaller bedroom. It is still Dad's room, although he passed away in 2002.

I think Mom will probably live to be at least 100.  She seems to shrink a little bit every year - now she's shorter than I am and I was never anywhere near her one time elegant height of 5'7"!  She is constantly on a diet and hates her figure -- like many of us in our post-menopausal years she has lost her waist line and that bothers her, and the cellulite -- the curse of many a woman!  She persists in having frizzy perms put in her hair.  In fact, I talked to her today and she had her hair cut and permed again, after having gone nearly a year growing her hair out.  Why, or why, Mom?   It sounds like she got something like a Mohawk style this time.  EEK!  Mom, what the hell are you doing, Girl?   But no one can tell Mom what to do.  Not even Dad, when he was alive. 

Over the year, Mom's eyesight had gotten progressively worse, and in some photographs she looks like she has owl eyes peering out through the intense magnification of her glasses.  One day, she just got sick of those damn glasses and went right out and scheduled lazer eye surgery.  Zap, zap, she had both eyes done and now sees MUCH better than I do.  She's a hell of a lot braver than me, that's for sure!

So, Mom, this is my tribute to you.  We owe you so much - everything, actually.  You gave us life, and so much more.  You taught all of us to be proud of working hard and to never be ashamed of who we are, where we come from, or what we do for a living.  You taught all of us to be self-sufficient and how to do things for ourselves from an early age. You taught us pride, but also how to accept "charity" and help from family when needed - and how to give it back, as well.  You made sure we all (including the boys) knew how to do basic cooking, how to do our own laundry, how to iron our own clothes, how to shop, how to clean house, and how to manage a budget - in short, how to take care of ourselves while living on our own, and do it well.  You taught us by by showing us, figuratively and literally.  And you didn't spare the rod, Mom, when it was needed. Gosh, we were awful children to raise!  Always getting into mischief, well, except for Debbie.  She was always the sweetest, the good child.  Yeah, compared to how kids are raised these days, you expected much from us - and put a lot on us, too - from an early age. You didn't spare the "rod" when needed, either.  and we needed it - a lot!  Today it would be called child abuse but you know what, we learned and learned well, and we needed to learn discipline.  That seems to be something sadly lacking in many youngsters these days. We all lived up to the challenges that were part of our family life, and we have thrived.  You didn't raise any sissies or wimps, Mom. 

We have all done well.  Your grandchildren have done well, too.  There are great-grandchildren who make you proud -- they are so bright and beautiful, they are like shining stars, and full of promise.  Even though it seems sometimes that the world is going to Hell, when I see our family's young ones, I feel hope for our future.  The world can't possibly go to Hell when it has such wonderful young people in it.  They are your legacy, Mom.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.  We love you.

The Look for Less: Ballard Designs "Bar" 2

Hola!  I can't believe it took me 1 1/2 hours to get the grass cut out front!  And I haven't begun the trimming yet!  I did rake up the mulch around the maple tree near the curb that was all messy and driving me crazy, and picked out dozens of stones along the fence line with the neighbor to the north -- they have this UGLY red lava rock/stone as a mulch in their year along the fence line, and it always seems to be migrating feet into my grass - like two to three feet into my grass from the fence line.  Now how does that happen, I ask you???  Do the stones have little feet that they hide when humans pick them up?

I'm taking a break right now and jumping right in with the "star" of this look for less:  the Bar table!  It is pretty.  I found several acceptable less expensive substitutes, depending upon your price point and budget.  Here we go.  Oh, and here's another look at the inspiration image:

Refresher:  The table is the Fairmount Console, 32 1-2" high x 65 1-4" long x 14" deep: $899. Hardwood, made in Italy. Worn black or distressed white over gray.

For $399 and free shipping through the duration of the sale (which ends this weekend, but you know, sales happen all the time, darlings!), you can get the Overton Buffet from Home Decorators:

The Overton Buffet measures 39" high x 52.5" long x 19"deep.  It is taller and deeper than the inspiration table and less length. The Fairmount Console (inspiration table) is 5' 5 1/4" inches long; the Overton comes in at a little less than 4 1/2' long.  Like the inspiration piece, it has nice curvy legs and two drawers, with a bottom shelf for additional storage.  Interestingly, it featured only one center leg. The Overton has what I think is a "Jacobean" look, or maybe late Victorian - those heavy turned legs, but the depth of the drawers and the underskirt balance them out nicely.  The finish is NOT black, it is "rich cherry."  A little hard to tell from the photos I've seen how light or dark a cherry finish this is.  I like the look of it, but short of spray-painting it black I'm sure there are many methods of getting a darker look adding black wax perhaps or - is there such a thing as black rub-n-buff?  I keep reading about rub-n-buff...  Anyway, the price differential is $500 plus that free shipping.

The Universal Great Rooms Charleston Sideboard in charcoal (Model 28778) offers an elegant but more expensive alternative:
Depending upon where you shop, you might score this at $716 plus free shipping at Gnarly Shopping.  It also is offered at much higher prices elsewhere, which we're not interested in!  The Charleston Sideboard is made from select veneers and hardwoods, charcoal finish, 66" long x 18" deep x 49" tall -- it looks like that back scroll work is about 12-14" high, so I'm guestimating the actual height of the table top at 38".  If you subtract the scrollwork back, the Charleston Sideboard looks much like the Fairmount Console with its delicately turned legs and also has the length (5' 6" long).  Also features two drawers and that bottom shelf. The price differential is $183 plus the free shipping.

The least expensive alternatives that follow all have considerably less length than the Fairmount Console (5' 5 1/4"), but if space is a consideration in your home, the price is very right for any of these possible substitutes:

Found at Wayfair, Oriental Furniture foyer table, for $268 and free shipping:

Measures 29.75" tall x 37.75" long  x 13.75" deep, black finish, made out of wood (type of wood, veneers, or whatever, not specified).  It features two drawers, bottom shelf and nicely turned legs, but lacks the length and the middle set of legs.  The price differential is a whopping $631 and free shipping, but you're giving up about 2 feet in length plus center leg or legs. 

Also found at Wayfair, the Safavieh Katie Console Table and I'm just loving the look of those curvy front legs!  Yeah, it's not straight turned legs like the inspiration photo, but look at her, isn't she gorgeous!  She costs $209 and has free shipping:

Katie's dimensions are 32" tall x 43" long x 15" deep.  She is made of birchwood and features a cherry finish top and distressed black finish elsewhere.  She has two drawers and a bottom shelf that has curves in the front, and her front legs feature turnings at the bottom.  The rear legs are straight as is the back of the bottom shelf.  At 43" long Katie is about half a foot longer than the  Oriental Furniture foyer table, above, and costs less plus has free shipping.  At the time of this posting, Wayfair said Katie was out of stock and would be restocked around May 15, 2012.  The price differential is $690 plus free shipping.  By the way, I did find Katie at for $186.05.  As you know, the prices at fluctuate, depending upon interest in a particular item/demand and supply.

Also at Wayfair, the Convenience Concepts French Country Console with Faux Marble Top, for $141 (but currently out of stock):

Dimensions:  30" tall x 48" long x 15" deep.  This offering comes in black with a faux marble finished top.  It has delicately turned legs and there is a center support foot under the bottom shelf.  Only one drawer, though.  At 4' long, this is about 1.5 feet shorter than the inspiration table, but for the price and where space is at a premium, it offers a reasonable alternative to the inspiration piece.  It is wood veneer and faux marble construction.  There is also a slightly less expensive alternative with a medium-oak finish top for $133.12, otherwise identical to this table in construction, look and size.  The price differential is $758 to $765 more or less. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Look for Less: Ballard Designs "Bar"

I was onlne paging through the March, 2012 Ballard Designs catalog and stopped at page 5! Gosh, I didn't even get into it!  Saw this buffet or library table that was being used as a bar and said to myself "Self, that is tres cool!" 

Here's the inspiration image (I'm not sure the link will work correctly).  Catalog link, then click to page 5. 

The elements I singled out are:

(1) The table:  Fairmount Console, 32 1-2" high  x 65 1-4" long x 14" deep: $899.  Hardwood, made in Italy.  Worn black or distressed white over gray.

(2) The "Garden Seatl": 18" tall x 10 1-2" width, available in lime, white, or yellow, $139. 

(3) The letters on the wall: Typesetter Plaques, I did not see what material the letters are made out of.  They come in several different finishes, including black, rubbed white, antique gold, antique bronze.  Small letters 12" tall $19 each, 3 for $45; large letters 18" tall $29 each, 3 for $75. 

(4) The lamp: Bordeaux Accent Lamp, 22 3-4" high, 14" diameter shade.  Clear recycled glass body.  $129.  With Empire shade. 

(5) The framed cork board: Madison Corkboard, Acanthus and scallop walnut carved frame, black or cream, both with brown undertones.  Sizes: 28" x 24", $109; 44" x 32", $199 plus $15 shipping; 40" x 60", $299 plus shipping $60. 

(6) The clock:  L'Hotel du Vieux Quartier Clock, crackled dark chocolate face, 23" diameter, beaded brass see-through pendulum and pierced spear hands.  Decoupage over wood composites.  $129.

Sooooo, darlings, while I putter my way to slowly, ever so slowly, removing the wallpaper around the bottom half of the family room and plan my strategy for getting both the front yard and back yard grass cut and trimmed tomorrow in-between rain bursts and possible thunderstorms, this is my latest "the look for less" challenge. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Found a New Tool Thanks to a Cool Blog!

Today I stumbled across a tool that allowed me to make a "header" for this blog out of photographs stored on my computer.  I am not a very techy person and while I don't consider myself decorating challenged, per se, as much as I just haven't paid attention to decorating since 1996 or so, I was skeptical that this tool would be as easy to use as the blogger said it was.  I know what I like - but creating it - another story! 

Here's a great wonderful THANK YOU AND SHOUT OUT to Joy at a Vintage Green for turning me on to iPiccy!

Well, it is fairly easy to use - sort of.  I believe I understand what are some of the basics okay, but there are a lot of bells and whistles that allow one to do all sorts of creative fancy things with photographs and putting them together in a "collage", one of which I used as my new header for this blog.

I'm still experimenting.  For instance, I don't understand how to get that header "centered" on my computer screen in this blog itself.  I looked around inside of my Blogger stuff but couldn't find anything that I thought applied.  So I experimented around some with the relative size of the "header" I created at iPiccy.  One looked too big and overwhelming, one was too small, and if it's not exactly the right size it looks like it's aligned with the left hand margin rather than being centered over the body of the blog.  Driving me crazy but I've got lots yet to do tonight so I'm settling on this look for now.

It is a wonderful tool, and I look forward to experimenting more with it to see what kinds of collages I can create.  I think it would be neat to do a series of season-themed headers/collages at iPiccy to use for this blog.  And, tee hee, now that I know about iPiccy, there's no reason I have to limit myself to this blog.  Nope -- I can finally do a chess and goddess-themed header/collage for Chess, Goddess and Everything.  Mr. Don will be soooo proud of me! 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Look for Less: Pearson Room in Traditional Home Update

Thought I was finished with this, but in this morning's Sunday Journal-Sentinel was an ad flyer for Lazyboy and lo and behold, I saw a sofa, and chair that reminded me very much of the same objects in the Pearson ad inspiration photo from May, 2012 Traditional Home that I blogged about earlier this month (see post from April 30, 2012).  Here is the inspiration photo, one more time:

My original sofa selection was a bench seat, which I like most of all on a sofa.  Two cushion sofas are uncomfortable for three people to sit on, and three cushion sofas make people feel as if they're encroaching on their fellow sittees if they "sprawl" a little too much.  Too much like sitting at Sunday tea when you were eight years old, with knees together, feet flat on the floor, balancing a cup and saucer with a vile cold brew.

In today's Lazyboy ad I saw the Metro Stationary Sofa on sale for $699 (originally $999):

It comes with a huge selection of different upholstery.  In the photo above, I selected "Mariner" in Ecru.  It's hard to tell in this image, but the texture/pattern reminds me of the sofa cover in the inspiration photo, even though the color isn't a spot-on match.  This upholstery choice is more expensive, but is also on sale at $999. 

The Metro Stationary Sofa on sale is a three seater (strike against).  There is also a two seater "apartment size" sofa that I like more but is not on sale and starts at $1,219.  Nope, I don't think so, but it sure is cute.  Metro is not a skirted sofa like the one in the inspiration photo, but the shape of the arms is similar and it looks like a modified tuxedo style sofa, both pluses in its favor.  Also comes with two accent cushions, like the inspiration sofa.

Also from the same Lazyboy ad, the Keagan chair, on sale starting at $879, depending upon upholstery selection (originally $1,199). It's got similar lines and a great wood detail on the arms - am loving this chair!

I thought it looked good in "Dimples" in Linen, which would cost $899 on sale:

A Spring Bouquet

It's been grey, overcast, foggy and cool here for the past four days.  Raining off and on, too.  Today, more rain - lots and lots of it!  It seems there is a cold front stalled over southeast Wisconsin fighting with warm moist air pushing up from the Gulf Coast.  It's 70 in Iowa and in the 40's-50's here, and wet wet wet! 

I should be happy, because that means I cannot be outside doing yard work and should be in this family room, instead, continuing the chore of stripping wallpaper bit by bit.  I actually did do some of that late Friday night.  Goddess!  Some of the walls underneath are in pretty sad shape.  Major repair work will have to take place before I can prime and re-paper, for sure.  Sigh. 

Yesterday blew by so quickly my head is still spinning, but I blogged (not at Maison Newton), caught up on my never-ending email correspondence, and got the grass in the front yard cut.  I pooped out around 7 p.m. and didn't do anything except veg out after that point, and was in bed by 10 p.m.

This morning has been productive.  Grocery shopping, laundry, grass trimming out front and sweep-up all done, and cleaned off the dinette table, too.  The reason I wanted to clear the table was to take some photos of a spring bouquet I cut yesterday. 

I don't remember where I read it, but it was within the last week or so, and it was from a blog that linked up at one of the blogs I visit regularly, for some party or other, but I don't remember which one or the name of the blog or anything.  Geez, Jan!  What I do remember is reading it and going hmmm, that's some good advice.  It was an informative post about how to build a bouquet using mostly "greenery."

That particular blog post stuck with me.  So, yesterday evening, I ran outside with a vase and a pair of scissors and started snipping away.  I wanted to see if I could follow the advice of that blog post and use mostly greens and then accent - highlight, really - with the few flowers I added.

Well, I think it worked. I stuffed the vase full with various greens and just a few flowers -- a few stems of pink bleeding-heart, a branch of white honeysuckle bush, a branch of pink honeysuckle bush, a few stalks of I have no idea what it is - it's a new volunteer that showed up this year in the "wild" area around the big tree below the retaining wall and has teeny little white flowers, and a few branches from a small tree that has take root underneath my kitchen window (really MUST move it before it gets too big) that has the prettiest white flowers on it that sort of remind me of lilacs but aren't lilacs, now mostly past their prime, and those flowers have an almost-overwhelmingly sweet scent.  It's a seedling from a parent tree in my next store neighbor's yard.

I was really struck with the variations in the different shades of green - ranging from reddish-green, to yellowish-green, to limey-green, and the delicacy of the structures of the various branches.  The flowers, few though they are, really stand out against this background of greens!

And so, whoever did that blog post, at whathever blog it was, a BIG SHOUT-OUT AND THANK YOU, because what you wrote really works!  I've got a huge bouquet that looks fabulous sitting in the middle of my dinette table, and the few flowers in it really stand out.

You gave me an entirely new way to look at "greenery."