April 6, 2019:


The income taxes are finished and were taken to the Post Office yesterday to send out via certified mail, which now costs nearly $16 for two 8 1/2 11 envelopes with return receipt. Yikes! But worth it because I have proof positive once I get the little green cards back that the returns were delivered and received. And just in case, there are tracking numbers that I can also tap the U.S. Post Office for to verify that delivery was made. In these times, it's better to be safe than sorry

I have been working in little bits and pieces outdoors whenever a window in our crappy weather has presented itself. Today, however, was the first day where I was able to spend an extended period of time outside. First, I cleaned up areas on the sidewalk and driveway along the edges where pine cones and branches tiny branches blown off during the seemingly wind storms we endured over fall and winter 2018-2019. After resting for a bit, and removing the winter hat, gloves and jacket, I moved to the back yard because I'm sick of feeling sick to my stomach every time I look at it through the patio doors in the dining room and window above the kitchen sink. This winter left it a true disaster zone. I worked steadily raking small areas and filled two trash can size black trash bags full of debris blown down from my arborvitaes and neighboring trees over the winter, in addition to about half a ton of nut shells. The nut shells are my fault because I feed all the neighborhood squirrels. They are so entertaining, and very smart! I also made a small dent in starting clean-up of the flower beds, where the "mild" (ahem) weather and thawed earth has encourages perennials to start popping through, whether I'm ready for them or not!

All in all, a somewhat decent start to making a larger dent in clean-up operations. I worked outdoors about 4 hours off and on. I didn't want to overdo it, and truth be told, I'm pooped! It's humbling to not be able to work as long or as hard as I used to. I can get it done, but I have to take lots of rest breaks so it takes quite a bit longer now. Good thing I'm retired


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Screen Porch/Screen House Envy

Hola darlings!

I have wanted a screened-in porch just about forever, it seems!  It was one of those things, though, that has always gotten put on the back burner because, being a family of one maintaining this household, money is always in demand and always in short supply for lots of other things.   Sigh.

I got by okay.  The last few summers have often been so uncomfortably hot and sticky that even with a screened-in porch I wouldn't have been outside any more than I had to anyway! 

But - and I'm suspect that many of you have experienced the same thing -- when I started looking at decorating blogs I started seeing all kinds of fantastic decks, porches, screened gazebos, screen houses and screened-in porches.  ENVY was born.  Alas.  Mea culpa and all that jazz.  I'm a sinner, I admit it.

I recently saw this really neat project at Slowly Faded Treasures that a wife, her handy hubby, some help from a few friends and some pitching in from parental units constructed a full-fledged screened-in patio!

There are lots of photographs of the construction of this project from beginning to this stage, where furniture has been set in place.  The photo above was from June 17th at the end of the blog entry.  I think it is just heavenly!  Oh, would I love a spot like this one for myself.

Alas, I do not have a handy hubby who can build something like this by going to the local home improvement center, buying the necessary wood, nails, joist hangers, screening, roofing panels, etc. etc. and just more or less whip it all together!  While he is willing, Mr. Don is not up to undertaking a project like this and he's 1000 miles away most of the year anyway.  I have some handy nephews but they are busy doing their own thing and -- actually, I have found that sometimes relying on family to commence and then actually finish a job is a somewhat "iffy" proposition, if you know what I mean...

Right now, of course, many blogs are chock full of beautiful photographs of revamped decks and updated screened-in porches, not to mention front porches, side porches, back porches, sun-rooms, and oh my!  Each is wonderful in its own way and all I can do is look and sigh.  Envy Envy Envy!

While I was inspired by Debbie Dabble's just oh so comfy looking front porch and back yard patio area (here's an example) to spruce up my deck by using what I already had at hand, and I am much happier with that space now than I was before, my head has been swimming with visions of painting a checkerboard design on the deck, painting the patio furniture, installing some kind of lighting other than the flood light, and getting screening installed some way, some how, to protect me from being eaten alive by the bugs! For, alas, I am an absolute bug magnet. 

None of this daydreaming has any relation to the realities of my pocketbook or my available time, let alone my level of energy these days (pretty much crappy), of course :)

Not having the wherewithal to actually construct my own screened-in space, I started casting my eyes at those portable gazebos I see in advertisements from Menards, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target, etc. etc. in every Sunday's newspaper.  Here is a very pretty one from K-Mart online -- on sale now because it's like the end of the summer season already, geez!

Garden Oasis Trellis Gazebo. Regular price $599,
on sale right now (June 27, 2012) for $420.
10' x 12', cloth roof, mosquito netting included, steel frames.

Price-wise, it would be doable. Unfortunately, I would not be able to put one up, let alone tear it down whenever a serious storm threatened, by myself.  Hiring someone to do the initial install would be possible, but doing quick roof removal in the event of threatening weather, or an even further tear-down when really severe weather threatens, which often can blow up very quickly around here, or what if it happens while I'm at the office?  I have seen many photos at many different blogs of lovely tent-like gazebos with metal supports at the four corners and zip down screens that look pretty darn sturdy.  I have read accounts of many different clever solutions to reinforcing those aluminum (or sometimes steel) support posts and such by various methods.  All of that is quite beyond my skill set.  In addition, the roofs and other sections of the outer skin of these structures are made out of various kinds of woven synthetic and/or natural materials and it seems these materials need replacement every few years, except in the mildest of climates and conditions, and that's not southeast Wisconsin!  That $$ would quickly add up.  No, it just wouldn't work. So, reluctantly, I scratched the idea of a portable gazebo.

As I continued looking around, I discovered that there are gazebos similar to the one pictured above (from K-Mart) except they have "hard" roofs made out of a tough plastic material, thus adding a degree of ruggedness in climates where snow occurs and eliminating the necessity to remove a cloth roof in stormy or snowy.  Hmmmmm, said I to myself, worth a look...

Here is a Penguin brand model found at K-Mart, 10x12 which would fit on my existing deck:

Gazebo Penguin 10'x12' Four Season Gazebo
Regularly $1799 on sale right now (June 27, 2012) for $1709
The photos above are representative of many of the gazebos with mosquito mesh that I found and not meant to be an endorsement of any particular store or brand.  I looked at MANY different kinds at all different sorts of on-line vendors.  Whew!

Once I came across the Penguin brand, I did further research on just that brand because I wanted to learn more about these hard-roofed stand-alone gazebos.  I found a couple of options of sturdier looking screened in structures -- one stand alone, and one that attaches to your house.  Again, this is not meant to be a product endorsement.  There may be other manufacturers who offer similar types of structures -- so I will need to do more research.  However, a structure similar to one of these shown below seems to provide some solutions to my situation of being a woman who can't put up something or take it down in any amount of time, let along quickly, and doesn't have ready access to strong (or weak) male help!

The image above is a 12' x 12' Penguin Four Season Solarium (from Wayfair).  When I saw it I went "Oooooohhhhhh!"  It's made of sturdier stuff than the more portable gazebos but would still need to be seriously anchored down to a deck or patio one way or another.  This one is more of a stand-alone screen house or screen room.  Love it!  This particular model was/is on sale at Wayfair for $2315, regularly priced at $2490. 

Last image for this blog post is a Penguin "Add a Room" Gazebo. This one doesn't have a hard top roof, but at 7.5' x 11' and attached to my house on the wall with the patio door opening, it's a cost-conscious alternative to the entirely enclosed four season solarium even though it doesn't have a hard-top roof.  (Maybe it could be tinkered with in such a way to add some stronger pvc or ??? "hard" panels and reinforced with some 2x4s to withstand the rigors of a Wisconsin winter and become a more or less permanent structure???)  I know in this photo it doesn't look very large, but I measured the space out on my deck and it would hold my round patio table and the four chairs that are presently set out without "squishing", and there would be about 4 feet of space at the wide end of the deck to pull out a chair comfortable if one wanted to be in an unscreened environment.  This Penguin model (from Wayfair) is $1454 on sale, regular price is $2192:

What I find particularly useful and attractive about the two Penguin items (Four Season Solarium and "Add a Room" Gazebo, both above) are the entirely framed-in screens, that offer the promise of something more sturdy as far as screening out insects in a wind.  Mosquito mesh is lovely, but in any kind of wind, unless it is really anchored down somehow or other, it is going to blow all over the place. 

As always, it pays to shop around online to find the best price and shipping deal.  Online reviews are also valuable resources, because they reveal purchasers' experiences with installing and subsequent use and ownership of the various products. 

Unless I purchase a home that already has a screened-in porch or a large enough porch structure that could possibly be screened in by a capable carpenter or talented amateur (not moi!) for a reasonable cost, my options are, realistically, limited to these "already built" or "almost built" options. 

In the meantime, I continue to Envy all of those blog-featured screened gazebos, screened-in porches, etc. etc.  Sigh.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What's Your Clutter?

Hola darlings!

Today I saw this article at Yahoo News, and found it very apropos my current situation, as I've been "woken up" to the fact of clutter in my own home.  Not so much decorative objects -- but my books!  Oh my!  And my stacks and stacks of paper research all over the house, stashed here and there to hide it when company comes and then I forget about it...  Under beds.  Inside drawers, on shelves (overflowing sometimes).  Not to mention the cyber-clutter on my two laptops and yes, I have an ancient desk top upstairs that is no longer hooked up to the internet but holds vitally important images, irreplaceable photographs, and research.

So, what's your clutter?  Personally, I like me some clutter, but not too much.  Like Pappa Bear's chair, Mama Bear's chair, and Baby Bear's chair, I like me something that's just right.  For each of us that will be different, and that is what is so wonderful about decorating.  We can follow our own personal drummers and as long as we passionately believe in our vision and what we're doing in our homes, it will work -- for us! 

Excerpted article:

Why clutter matters and decluttering is difficult

"I feel like if I could just get rid of all this clutter, I could go on to do great things," I say as I am pouring out my heart to Jennifer Hunter, a perfect stranger who happens to be a professional organizer.

"Maybe that's why you keep the clutter," she says, without any hesitation. ...

Hunter tells me about the time she was organizing a client's house and a contractor who was there to paint the ceiling asked her what it was she did exactly.

As she explained, the painter began nodding. "I see," he said. "So you're sort of a therapist." ...

Clutter matters, Hunter says. It matters because it takes up space — not just in your surroundings, but in your head.  Of the two, the psychological effect of clutter is the most important.

"When we clear the clutter out of a space, people breathe a sigh of relief." The mood changes instantly. People feel lighter, more serene, more focus. "The effect is profound," she adds, "even when people say they don't notice it."


The other effects of stuff-gone-wild are equally compelling, even for those whose clutter status does not rise to hoarder levels.

Clutter is expensive: It costs an average of $10 per square foot to store items in your house and almost 10% of American households rent storage units, spending more than $1,000 annually in rent. One quarter of people with two-car garages can't even get their cars in there because they are storing their junk instead. Twenty-three percent of us pay bills late and incur fees because we have lost the statements.

How's this for a reality check? The average American spends one year of his or her life looking for lost or misplaced items, according to the National Association of Professional Organizers. Get rid of the clutter and you will eliminate as much as 40% of the housework in an average home.


But clearing the clutter and becoming organized is no easy feat. That's because a lot of what we hold on to is weighed down by emotional baggage.

People have intimate relationships with their stuff. It carries memories and obligations, reminds them of things they can't do anymore, things that upset them at one time, things they are feeling guilty about. Some of Hunter's clients refuse to part with gifts they don't like, simply because it was a gift. "Even if they hate it!"

Others may have problems with inertia. Depression and attention deficit disorder can become big barriers to becoming and remaining organized. Hunter advises clients with those types of inclinations to become really strict about keeping down the number of their possessions. If possible, don't bring stuff into the house. "Since your ability to wrangle it will be diminished, do your best not to take it on to begin with," she cautions.




Clearing the clutter is doable. Becoming organized is doable. Like any other discipline, it depends on how motivated you are. Think of how a sudden ailment can drive you to change your diet and exercise habits, suggests Hunter. It may help to consider the morass, the fast-rising piles of junk, the quicksand of things that have no utility in your life in the same way.


If you want to be good at organizing, you have to know yourself.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Sad Tale of My Wall Sconce Woes - Part II

I saw these at Ruby Lane and tried to order them:

They're from the shop of Mercy, Maude! and cost a whole whopping $12.00.  It would have cost more to ship them!  Like I said, I tried to order them, but Pay Pal would not accept either credit card I offered, although I know there is nothing wrong with either credit card, because I used both the next night to order other items (not candle sconces) from two other online vendors (Kirklands and K-Mart) and had no issues at all.  And so it goes...

I was P.O.'d, let me tell you.  How DARE PayPal reject my credit cards!  But upon calmer reflection, it turns out I think that while these are gorgeous and a perfect match for THE MOOD I'm trying to create in my bath, they would have been just a bit too large for the space I have.

And so, I kept looking.  Found these and went Whoa!  I want these! 

Bettyrockit at Etsy via Kaboodle.  Vintage Syroco (molded injected plastic).
Size: 10" length by 6" wide by 4" sconce from wall (depth).Gorgeous and a great size
to fit in my somewhat tight space on either side of the mirror.
But, after having tried to purchase the first pair of sconces and then finding these, which I actually liked more and would be a better fit for the space, I decided to start exercising some caution instead of following my usual CHARGE AHEAD, PATTON (Patton is one of my nicknames, believe it or not; I wonder why...) modus operandi.  So, I kept looking, and that was when I found these!

They are at Ebay. They are injection molded plastic "Syroco style" wall sconces (like the top set and the second set) and look to be nearly identical to the pair I found via Kaboodle at Betyrockit at Etsy, except "shabbied" up with white paint (Annie Sloan or home-made?) and the added crystal prisms just made me practically faint.

The photo quality isn't that great but I knew these would look wonderful on my bathroom wall on either side of the mirror.  I figured that with taller (10") candles and with my black metal shades on brass candle-followers, I would get something of THE LOOK I want!  Minus electricity -- but, such is life.  A good size to fit in the narrow confines of  the space on either side of my mirror.  A little touch of frou-frou, but not too much.  Perfect!

Except, when I tried to order this pair online, via PayPal, my credit cards were once again rejected by said Pay Pal.

So, here I am, sconceless!

Well, you say, what about those sconces you'd ordered and wrote about in Part I?  Good question.  I finally unpacked them -- they've only been sitting in the bathroom inside a big cardboard box since January or so.  I pulled out one and unwrapped it, put in the batteries (six AA batteries!) and fired it up.  It works great.  But once I saw it outside of the box and held it up to one side of the mirror, I knew it wasn't going to work in the bathroom, let alone give me the kind of additional light I want. (Added later: I subsequently purchased brighter light bulbs, I will install them today, and see if that solves the problem of not enough light for  my failing eyesight.  I could also try getting some new eyes...).

So, I tried the test sconce out downstairs, hoping to find a place for the pair. 

This is my bookcase/hutch in my living room.  Current sconces are like the one on the left side - for candles.  The test sconce is on the right, fired up. 

Nope, just not the look I want.  Doesn't fit either the space or the ambiance of what I've got going on in the living room.

After so many months, I decided against being bitchy and trying to send the sconces back for a refund.  Sooooo, right now, this new sconce is holding court by itself in the upstairs hallway where I absolutely am loving it as a nightlight, believe it or not.  Well, after that horrid nightmare of a few nights ago, it's nice to be able to open up my bedroom door and see - LIGHT - without having to fumble around for the wall switch in a mad heart-pounding panic.  It's guaranteed to last for like 10,000 hours.  Best of all, no ugly cord, and no electricity needed! 

The companion sconce, still in its packaging, is resting under the guest room bed at present, so the duo are within talking distance of each other, as the door to the guest room is kitty-corner from the small piece of wall on the left side of the bathroom door where the unboxed sconce currently works.

Live and learn, Jan.  Live and learn.

Mantle Wipe-Out Postscript

Well, I put something together for the mantle and it will do.  This is to replace the disastrous wipe-out that happened the other day. 

I had bought a couple of new round mirrors (in a prior post I'd mentioned some new purchases, but didn't go into specifics then), intending to use them for a new look in the living room later this year once I could work out how it would look on paper so I wouldn't be up and down my rickety old ladder and making a million holes in the wall.  I felt that the basketweave sculpture was just sort of hanging out there in space and needed something to tie it down more to where mortals live.  Anyway, I ended up going a somewhat different route from the "framed picture (or map) leaning on mantle" that replaced my first ever attempt at a Spring Mantle, and I ended up using one of the new mirrors. 

I like the new mirror's size and frame, but the color, which had been advertised as an "antique gold" is grotesquely ugly!  I absolutely adore the other somewhat larger mirror I also purchased but it will not fit in the current configuration and I'm saving it to use later -- when I can get down on paper these wispy ideas that keep floating around my brain.  So, here is the latest incarnation of my mantle, post wipe-out:

The now empty frame that used to hold my map of medieval England is propped back up on the mantle (behind the stops that did not fail me!).  I added the set of three flameless candles that I'd been using in my bedroom (purchased for Christmas 2011), pulled out some old copper and brass roses that were purchased years ago at the Renaissance Faire in Bristol, Wisconsin, and added the old and smallish Home Interiors brass candlabra that had been sitting on the coffee table, the candles now burned down to mere shadows of their former 10 inch height.  Voila!  The new mirror is inside the "frame."  I'm sure I've seen this or similar ideas in magazines and online, but it's a first for moi.  Not sure I like it.  I may remove the candlabra, but for now, I'm suffering from decoratoritis and need a break! 

There is supposed to be an invisible "line" that can roughly be drawn through most of the decorating elements on the fireplace wall.  Yep, sacred geometry.  Still working on that...

It's hard to see the awful sickly "gold" color of the frame on the new mirror from this photo (honestly, it's sort of like throw-up color), and I also did some alteration to the color by attacking said frame with a touch-up marker in a medium brown in a mad frenzy this morning.  I didn't stop until the largest "middle" section of the mirror frame was totally browned out.  Streaky but - well, let's just say I'm fast developing a new-found appreciation for the term "shabby chic."  Since it's up on the wall and people can't get too close to the frame to inspect it carefully, my attempt to disguise the awful color will "do" for now.  This mirror is a very good candidate for the "rope mirror" project I've been researching.  I just have to get me some rope...

So, you see I've got this sort of circle thing going on.  Well, circles and rectangles, LOL!  And there's actually quite a large square on the wall too, if you can just fill in the dashed lines I see inside my head.  You know, the squared circle -- an ancient symbol of the universe.  Think Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man...

So, if you didn't know before, now you absolutely know for sure I'm totally nutsoid.

Yeah, that's the other mirror I purchased on the floor to the right of the fireplace; also, you can see part of an old lampshade I'd pulled out last week that's still sitting in the front room -- I was thinking about trying my hand at making a bookpage lampshade by decoupage.  You can also see the rabbit ears for the t.v. (I do not have cable or satellite t.v., I use good enough for cheap old me over-the-air commercial t.v. and need rabbit ears to pull in the digital signal) and the cords from the t.v. and the little lamp are dangling over the left side of the mantle.  And the unfinished paint job on the living room walls (going on 21 years now...)

Even if I knew how to touch up my photographs to make them light, bright, crisp and clear and erase all these glaring bits of "ugly" I wouldn't, because that's just not me and it's not real.  It's not the way I live.  This is what my front room actually looks like.  I love looking at all the pretty perfect rooms in blogland designed to make us all think everything is perfect but perhaps we're just, well, you know, falling a wee bit short.  Talk about insidious!  But that's not real life, not unless you have staff that can clean up constantly and you actually do have invisible cords or invisible outlets everywhere!  So, here I am here as living proof of everyday reality.  Bwwwaaahhhhaaaaaaa (she evilly laughed)!

P.S. I'm posting this (if I can figure out how to do it) at Kristen's Creations "Share Your Creations" Party #42

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day from Hell - Mantle Wipe-Out

It started out last week with weather in the mid-80's; and then the dew point slowly crept upward.  They tried to keep it hidden and did not even mention dew point in the weather reports on commercial t.v. until it crept up to 65.  The weather-people neglect to mention that many folks (like yours truly) begin to feel uncomfortable when the dew point rises past 50.  At 60, I am suffering; at 65, I do not even have to move, I break out in a sweat and keep sweating with no relief, except in air-conditioned spaces; and even then, if the air has too much moisture in it, I sweat in the cold!  It's pretty hard not to move for a week, but that's what I've been living through here.  Saturday the temperatures topped out near 90; last Sunday I don't know what the official reading was, which is measured -- get this -- at the airport which sits right on top of Lake Michigan -- but out here, seven miles to the west where I live, it was 94 or 95.  Monday Hell really started heating up -- in the mid to upper 90's with 65 to 70 dew points.

I couldn't sleep, even in my centrally air-conditioned home.  It was too warm and stuffy upstairs, and the sofas and my recliner downstairs aren't made for all-night sleeping although I did use the recliner Tuesday night.  Didn't get a good night's sleep.  Not to mention I toss and turn relentlessly and need my double bed to keep me from falling to the floor, which I've done sometimes when sleeping on one of my sofas! 

A jury would not convict me upon hearing (and seeing my current condition) if I committed mayhem and murder. 

Maybe I was delirious last night from heat prostration.  I woke up several times and had a hard time drifting back to sleep; then, about 3:15 this morning, I woke up and sat up in bed, and for some reason I looked toward the 9-drawer dresser on the south wall and thought I saw something - was that a man?  a monster? - underneath it.  Mind you, that dresser is all of perhaps 6 to 8 inches on its legs from the floor.  There is not enough room for a child to fit underneath, let alone a man or a monster.  And the slowly coming awake rational side of me knew perfectly well there was nothing at all lurking underneath my dresser, except perhaps some dust bunnies.  But the half-asleep me was terrified.  My heart was pounding!  I leapt from the bed with a screech leaving my throat (I don't know if it was loud at all - I meant to scream but usually in such circumstances all that comes out is a little croak because of partial sleep paralysis).  One of my legs got caught up in the sheet, I tumbled out of bed - really close to that dresser with the person or monster underneath it!

Talk about making some Olympian moves!  In a flash I was up, back over the bed, and into the hallway where I turned on the light and then into the bathroom and turned on that light too, and shut the door.  But I did not lock it.  Not that a lock would keep out a monster anyway.  It was some minutes later and I was still feeling groggy and just not with it, but now the after-effects of a full adrenalin rush were catching up with me and I started shaking.  For pete's sake! 

No broken bones - what a relief!  No sprains, either.  Whew. 

I girded my figurative loins, opened the bathroom door, and marched the few steps back to my bedroom.  I then turned on one of my flameless candles -- the biggest, brightest one.  And kept it on all night.  A baby light. Something to chase the boogey-man away.  Because I was scared crapless!  But I was even more tired than scared, so I crawled back into bed, being careful not to look anywhere near that shadowy space between the bottom of the 9-drawer dresser and the floor, pulled the sheet partially back over me, and went back to sleep.

Nice way to begin the day, heh?

I drag myself out of bed at 6.  Terry (the woman who does cleaning for me once a week) comes at 7 on Thursdays.  I had to be ready to greet her.  I go downstairs, feed the birds, feed the squirrels, make my coffee, head back upstairs to start getting myself together.  Get dressed, am in the bathroom getting ready to put on my make-up and attempt to do something with my hopeless hair when I hear a horrid crash bang boom!  OH NO!

Run to the stairs a few steps away.  Look down into the living room below.  The framed map I had resting on the mantle behind safe and secure stops, has somehow toppled over off the mantle, taking along with it a tall candle and even taller glass hurricane candle cover, my t.v., my little lamp, and worst of all, my gold mother elephant, who lost part of one ear in the process.

Shards of glass from the 24 x 36 glassed frame were EVERYWHERE.   TINY shards.  Obviously not safety glass.  I've owned that frame and glass since 1986.

I didn't know whether to scream, or cry, or both. 

Terry found me on my hand and knees with gloved hands picking up shards of glass from EVERYWHERE in the living room.

Let's just say that I went to work with no makeup on and even worse than usual looking hair (since a disastrous haircut that I will NOT talk about).  My blood pressure was sky high so my face and neck were beet red most of the morning.  And it was raining.  But only for 2 blocks, so I had to take the damn umbrella with me.  And I was sweaty, and sticky, and really really hacked off.  Oh, and tired, too.

This is what the mantle had looked like after I took down all the spring stuff and put more sedate elements together, except for one thing:

After the above photo was taken, Mr. Don suggested I move mother elephant to a spot between the t.v. and the map.  And so I did.  I wasn't sure I liked her there at first, but it grew on me after a couple of days and there she stayed after I tweaked her location a little bit and had her angled facing outward about 40-45 degrees from slightly behind the t.v. lapping over the left bottom corner of the map.

I liked it.  I thought it worked as a whole wall look (from the spheris on top of the curio cabinet to the brass plate behind the lamp on the side table).  There were a few bare spots I intended to fill in - and I was working on that.  I ordered a few things...and received them.  Unpacked them last night, as a matter of fact.

And then this happened:

Frame without glass or anything to frame.  The glass that broke was 24 x 30.

Map without a home, now camping out on the wing chair in the family room. 

Bag of glass shards enconsced in the garage.  While doing some touch-up work on the fireplace's latest scrapes and bruises I found some more glass shards tonight, despite careful sweeping and vacuuming by both Terry and I.  Thank Goddess there are no little ones or pets rambling around in the house!  I will just have to remember to wear shoes or my slippers every time I'm in the front room for the next several week,s until I'm sure that all glass has been removed.  Terry and I are still finding glitter from the Christmas ribbon, wonder how long we'll keep finding teeny tiny little shards of glass...

So now, like poor Frederick in Jane Austen's Persuasion, I will have to begin all over again. 

I'm getting a physical tomorrow.  That will seem like a cake-walk compared to today.

Fortunately, the plant I took home from Dad's funeral was safe and secure on its end of the mantle.  And, ironically enough, the short brass candle holder that the pillar candle underneath the glass hurricane cover was resting upon was also still serenely in its place on the mantle.  The framed map took out the hurricane cover and the pillar candle but not the candle holder.  Go figure. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Sad Tale of My Wall Sconce Woes - Part I

Hola darlings!  Settle into your reading nook with a cuppa (or a glass of) because this is going to be another long-winded, wordy, worthy of Spear-Shaker himself chronicle in the continuing saga of my decorating woes.  In short, this is a loooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggggggg story...

Part I (ahem):

I have been working on completing my bathroom redo since November, 2009.  No comments from the Peanut Gallery, please.

I thought I had it all planned out.  All I had left to do - finally - after putting together the towel holder (it sits on the floor sort of like a lamp in lieu of a rod being screwed into the wall -- when I tried that a couple of times all I ended up with was big holes in my wall that needed to be patched with lots of spackle and repainted and now I see each and every repair because the areas are smooth from sanding and the touch-up paint does not contain sand-texture, and it's driving me mad, I tell you, MAD!)

Where was I?  Oh, yeah - all I had left to do was put up the new shower curtain rod and install the wall sconces that I had purchased for either side of the mirror.  Oh, and change the orientation of the pictures above the toilet tank.  Not much at all.

Except, except...

I had bought a fancy-pants new mirror -- gone was the hulky old builder's grade plate glass monstrosity that spanned the entire width of the sink cabinet - at least five feet!  I'd looked into buying some framing for it from one of those places that advertise online, but it would have cost several hundred dollars.  D-I-Y was and remains way beyond my skill set.  I bought a mirror at Menard's for under $50, had my handyman remove the plate glass mirror (I have no idea how on earth he managed it by himself, but kudos to Kevin, he did!), and then he repainted the bathroom for me.  I hung up my new Menard's mirror, had a new light fixture installed and voila!  I thought my bathroom looked fabulous! 

But (those damn "buts!") I didn't feel as if the new light fixture was giving me enough light with the "darker" color paint on the walls -- it's a sort of wet sand or peanut butter color, several shades darker than the old "antique white" I had in there since I first painted in 1990!  I didn't think of it at the time, else I would have asked the electrician who put in the new bathroom light fixture what it might cost to have wires run down to allow electric light sconces to be installed on either side of the mirror.  Duh.  Well, this serious decorating stuff is all new to me, and I wasn't thinking about it in March 2010 when I had the electrician come in to install new light fixture.  I had not yet discovered the world of decorating blogs...

So, I purchased online from Lamp Lust (love the name) two "burlwood" finished battery-operated LED wall sconces to add some light and ambiance.  I do not know what possessed me.  They are lovely, in their own way, but they are not anything remotely like what I should have been looking at for the "MOOD" I want to create in that bathroom.  When he's here, Mr. Don uses the downstairs bathroom because he loves its shower; and since I'm otherwise here in this house by myself, I wanted a rather romantic-feeling (with a few tones of Paris and toile) in the upstairs bath.

No excuse for making such a mistake, but I was dazzled by the idea of battery-operated lights that one could actually use in one's decor (other than like, a flash light that I only ever use to scare kids with at Halloween or one of those cheapo "closet lights" you can buy at Walgreens)!  It was only late last year that I learned there were such things as battery-operated candles!  That's a whole 'nother story... 

I'm sure I would have realized eventually that the wall sconces I ordered just were not right for the bathroom.  But everything in my world sort of tilted when I started scooting around on the internet looking for "budget decorating ideas."  Oh Goddess! 

Now, it's like I can hardly make up my mind about anything, because every time I think I have decided on something, I see another picture of someone else's room and go OH, I WANT THAT!  I have enough decorating ideas in my head to do Buckingham Palace, which I do not own and cannot afford to rent, even if it were available.  But I definitely know now that the battery-operated tortoise shell LED wall sconces just aren't what my bathroom needs. 

Sooooo... I decided I needed something definitely romantic in a CANDLE SCONCE that I could stick a candle in and put a candle follower and shade on.  Never actually USING the candles, mind you, because the thought of burning candles that close to a wall scares me half to death, not to mention that the black metal shades that I actually own and want to use to complete "the look" would entirely defeat the purpose of any "candle light" but would look damn glamorous against my wet sand or peanut butter colored walls! 
OY!  Installing candle sconces totally defeats the original purpose, of course -- of getting more light.  Duh, Jan.

So here I am.  Stuck.  I can't afford this year or probably next year either, to hire an electrician to hard wire in light fixtures on either side of the mirror.  I don't want to spend too much money "finishing" off the bathroom.  But I am highly dissatisfied with it's present look because (of course), I want my bathroom to look like someone else's bathroom entirely.  It's all the fault of THIS WOMAN -- Erin!  Just Grand, June 1, 2012 Powder Room Peek.

I am so sorry -- I wanted to email you, Erin, to ask permission to use this particular photograph, but I don't have Outlook on this laptop or on my other newer laptop, either.  I only use Yahoo mail, and I could not get "at" your email address at Blogger to send you an email from my Yahoo email account.  I'm copying and hope you won't mind.  So - here is THE LOOK!

Photo from Just Grand blog showing Erin's DROP DEAD GORGEOUS powder room.

I emailed the link from Erin's blog to myself on Wednesday, June 13, 2012.  The Day The Earth Stood Still.  Well, I'm not going to get this room unless I totally go back to square 1.  First of all, I don't have toile wallpaper, jut plain ol' paint (the aforesaid wet sand or peanut butter color).  I have a toile shower curtain, "Antoinette" and I thought it was plenty pretty and did the trick, until I saw about 100 others at Wayfair and, of course, this wallpaper :)  Second of all, I don't have a black countertop; mine is 21 year old "decorator white" laminate.  Third of all, I could go on and on.  I won't even mention the shield-shaped mirror. I do have black hand towels, though!  Two-handled fixture?  Nope.  Undermount sink?  Nope.  Lovely accessories?  Nope.  Suffice to say - it's the antiqued brass light fixtures with those beautifully embellished shades that did me in. 


So - how do I get it???  I'm not going back to square 1. So....

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Researching How to Make a Rope Border Mirror

Well, wouldn't you know it.  A few days ago, while I was looking at this and that, I came across -- somewhere and for the life of me I don't remember where (Wayfair???) -- a photograph of a beautiful and very expensive rope-border mirror.  The one I saw was rectangular.  I thought to myself, Gee, self, I'm surprised someone hasn't come up with a DYI for this.

Ha ha ha, Jan!  Of course they have!  It was maybe all of 30 minutes later that I visited The Shabby Creek Cottage Blog and lo and behold!  There, right before my bedazzled eyes, was a complete pictorial tutorial (rhyme!) on how to make your own round rope mirror! She even cut her own dang mirror to the size she wanted from a Goodwill purchased mirror!  This woman is like Super Woman, let me tell you.  The resulting mirror sure is beautiful!  June 11, 2012 How to Make: Rope Mirror.  This mirror cost $21.50 for materials.

So, as my plans for trying to buy candle sconces for the upstairs bathroom have come to naught (that's a whole 'nother blog post, darlings!), tonight I went looking for that rectangular rope mirror and of course, couldn't find it! 

But I did find this big round beauty at Pottery Barn:

It's a big whopping 32" in diameter and $349.  Ahem, I would love it, but no way am I going to pay that kind of money for a mirror, unless it's signed by Marie Antoinette herself.

Here are some other DIY rope mirrors.  I do not think I will ever get over being absolutely amazed at how ingenious you all can be when it comes to doing things like this.  I'm just ga-ga over these mirrors, not just because they're so pretty -- I actually embarked on a totally separate and totally unrelated project recently to give a new look to my mantle area in the front room and it involved working with what I already have in the house -- some round brass trays and decorative brass plates, a smallish bullseye mirror, a sphereis (that's what I call it -- they're used a lot as garden decorations and I believe it's an old symbol for the now defunct Atomic Energy Agency, LOL!)  I'm sure I'll kick myself when I remember the proper name for this simple 3-dimensional hollow globe-y thing tomorrow at 3 a.m....  Now darlings, I'm telling you, a rope mirror -- well, a reasonable facsimile -- would look just great on that wall above the fireplace -- except I'd probably paint my rope gold -- I'm a sucker for some glitz and glimmer :)

Nate Berkus mirror
Check out this pictorial tutorial (har! - see rhyme above) at The Nate Berkus Show.  I have no idea who Nate Berkus is, and no idea what the date is on this project, but I've got to tell you, he (if it is a "he" -- well, the hands look like man hands, but darlings, everything can be faked these days...) makes the project look so easy -- even easier than The Shabby Creek Cottage project (see above) because you know, I don't mess with power saws!  Nope, no way.  This one uses a cut out of CARDBOARD and hey, I can do that with a good strong pair of scissors or an exacto knife.  Hmmm....  The Nate Berkus Show: How to Make a Rope Mirror (couldn't find a date).  Nate, I hope you won't mind my showing a photo of the final product -- ingeniously constructed with it's own rope hanger!  This mirror cost about $35 for materials. 

Rope border/rope hanger mirror project,
Martha Stewart
Well, this next link only goes to show you how hopelessly behind the times I am, because it's from 2011!  It shows Nate's mirror (above), and two others:  one using an IKEA round mirror as a "base" and a Martha Stewart project:  From Shelterness, 3 Cool DIY Rope Mirrors.  FYI, the IKEA round mirror project should more correctly be called "a rope-hung mirror" (with the rope attached to two sides of the mirror).  Link from the original instructions at Apartment Therapy.  The Martha Stewart project uses a 10" mirror as a base and no hot glue gun!  I don't own one of those and the thought of attempting to use one scares the crap out of me, truth be told.  Martha comes through for those of us glue-gun challenged chicks!  Her instructions are exquisitely simple to follow with some photos -- there are not so many steps and actually, after looking at Nate Berkus' rope mirror, I think combining Martha's instructions with Nate's technique to make a fully-incorporated rope hanger as part of the rope "frame" would make things even simpler.  Hmmm....  

Oy, just saw that the rectangular rope border mirror I came across a few days ago was from Ballard Designs.  Well of course it was.  Duh, Jan!  And, what's more, it's been around since 2011.  Oops -- just found a site that dates back to November 3, 2010 that's talking about the exact same Ballard Designs mirror and Nate Berkus' design take-off on same.  LOL!  Well, a good idea is just damn timeless, darlings.  That's all for tonight.

Seriously, I'm going to take a good hard look at ordering a round mirror from IKEA, and using a combination of Martha Stewart's and Nate Berkus' techniques to create a fabulous rope-bordered mirror to hang above my mantle.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Inspirations from Bloggers Everywhere...

There is no end to blogs devoted to decorating, gardening, and DIY, and I cannot visit them all.  That is not to say that every single blogger out there writing about the same stuff I am doesn't have something worthwhile to say, because I know they do!  And so, I do my best to visit as many as I can...  I visit linky parties and blogs that are on the sidebars of blogs that I visit, because I never know what I'll find and some of them have become favorites, too.  In fact, my favorites list on my two laptops here at home and the computer at the office are all different and ever-expanding!

Here are some things I made note of during the past week or so.  Sometimes it's because I've got a certain thing on my mind, sometimes it's just because I find a particular project or - whatever - interesting or intriguing...

Visiting Shabby Nest's "Frugal Friday", I have found lots of things that catch my attention, either because I've had them cooking around in the back of my mind for awhile or they're things I've been working on around the house and/or have planned to work on in the future (like when I retire in 5 1/2 years...)

For instance, Little Things Bring Smiles June 1, 2012 blog on "Corner Gallery I."  Unique and perfectly executed.  My aspirations for a "gallery wall" are much more modest.  In fact, I had a gallery wall from about 2007 until 2009 that I had painstakingly put together over the years with well loved photographs from our various travels, on the lower wall of the open staircase to the second floor.  I wasn't visiting decorating blogs then and didn't know what it was called, it just seemed like a neat thing to do.  Unfortunately, when I put the house on the market in November (a big mistake and a horrible experience) I took it all down because it was considered "clutter" and "too personal" and would interfere with "marketing the house."  I didn't put it back up when I pulled the house off the market and fired the real estate brokers.  I was so exhausted by the entire negative experience over the holidays with those brokers who KNEW I was going to have house guests through the end of January, and I was incredibly demoralized by the whole experience.  Photos didn't go back up on the wall.  House stayed in what I considered a bare-naked state because - why bother?  Now all of those photos tucked away still inside their totally mismatched frames are calling out to me from cardboard boxes in the spare closet upstairs...

The primary thing that was on my mind last week, though, was doing something to spiff up my deck area because I'd decided that the ladies of the investment of which I am a member would meet out there this past Sunday after we met at a local restaurant for breakfast.  We had a lot of business to attend to, and I wanted them to be comfortable but not distracted.  Usually we just sit around my round table in the small dinette area between kitchen and family room -- right where the patio door invites us to step outside.  There are five of us, but one of us couldn't make it last week Sunday, which was what actually triggered my sudden "brain storm" to have our meeting on the deck -- because I only have four chairs...

Ever since I started visiting Debbie Dabble's blog and saw her small but lovingly constructed and put-up-your-feet-comfortable back yard and porch area (front porch is comfy too, looking out over a postage-stamp size garden to one side and across a walkway, then a massive and steep slope down to an asphalt parking lot, waaaaay below...), I've been feeling the slow itch build to do something with my own deck area, which has never been more than basic and that was good enough.

Inspiration recently flowed from Debbie's June 5, 2012 "Patio and Plants 2012!"  More correctly, I should say that it was the final push I needed to try and do something a bit more with my own outside living space.

And It's Overflowing June 6, 2012 "Loving Tall Planters (the Look for Less)" -- yep, I can dig that look for less :)

And Cupcakes and Crinoline's June 5, 2012 "Front Yard Makeover - Before and After" -- you can just see how much hard work, blood, sweat and tears she put into bringing in an overgrown and neglected garden back to life -- gorgeous gorgeous life!  Can I buy your yard???  Can I hire you to come to my house and attack my overgrown, weed-infested flower beds???

By rights, I cannot say that Kristin's Creations patio (I have a serious crush on her house) inspired me to do my "spruce-up" on my deck this past Saturday because I didn't see it until today.  First, I have a deck, be it ever so humble -- gave up my pea gravel "patio" (har!) back when BIL Fred decided one day to grant me a wish and built a freestanding deck that has held up over the past 10 plus years.  Kristin' Creations has a patio, although she may have a deck or two tucked around that house, too.  Can't tell you that -- I haven't looked at all of her blog entries or pictures -- but I can tell you that I think her patio area is just perfect!  All it lacks is an umbrella to provide a bit of shade.  I'm a shady lady, what can I say?  Of course, she probably have plenty of other shady areas for sun-shy guests or when it's one of those just too intense days...  June 8, 2012 "Patio Flowers, Vacations, and a Mantle Revamp." 

Ach!  By comparison my deck "spruce up" doesn't compare to the gorgeousness of these garden-living spaces I've seen, but it was fun working on it all the same, and overall I am happy with it. Well, to be perfectly honest, Kristin's Creations made me want to run out and buy tons of flowers and try my hand at some free-standing gorgeous planters to anchor my space, but then I thought - nah.  Too much work!  Too much $$! 

More, later, but not tonight!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sprucing Up the Deck - Finished!

Hot hot hot here yesterday and today!  Today is windier but hotter than yesterday.  I turned the AC on about 1 p.m.  Yesterday I didn't have to do it until about 8 p.m. and was able to sleep with it off and my bedroom windows open last night.  This morning it was cool enough in the house to feel a definite difference when walking in from the outside, but that vanished as the sun got higher and higher in the sky.  Whew!  If it's like this now, what is it going to be like in July and August?

It's been dry, too.  We're way below normal precipitation wise.  Cha ching!  I can see my water bills now.  I cannot stand a browned out lawn, I must have green grass.  That's one of the reasons I get so hacked off about the sod web worm infestation.

Back to the deck!  We had our investment club meeting out there after we met at the restaurant for breakfast.  I am planning on painting the white chairs, but probably not until the end of the season because I gave them, the green chairs and the green table a coating of Armor-All yesterday after giving them a good scrubbing down with soap and bleach water.  I recently read online about spray paint formulated specially for plastic lawn furniture so I will give it a try!

As you can see, it's not large, but it works for me!  You can see the size of the "original" deck that BIL Fred built -- it's the center section that is lighter grey than the two end sections that he added the next day!  Excuse the hose - I'm watering particularly parched areas that didn't get enough water when I had the sprinkler going Friday evening after work.

Before I "spruced things up" the only "decoration was the yellow bird house on the shepherd's hook on the left.  That's the same bird house that earlier this season anchored my first-ever attempt at a decorated Spring Mantle this year. 

The rest of the "decorations" were already in the garage, I just hadn't pulled any of them out.  Nope, my deck was a very bare bones affair, with just the table, umbrella and two green chairs.  Hose reel on the left was there and former hose reel on the right that now serves as a sometimes table, sometimes footrest, were both out.  Floral decoration was the three in-the-nursery-ugly-green-pots that somehow survived the winter in my garage and started burgeoning forth earlier this season -- two of the three are now blooming! They were lined up over on the right side of the deck waiting patiently (again) for me to plant them, something I failed to do when I purchased them LAST MEMORIAL DAY -- that is -- Memorial Day 2011! 

Blue pots were pulled out of the garage, cleaned up, filled with cedar park and two of the green-potted survivor perennials were stashed in them.  The stand is part of a bird bath that is missing it's bath -- I didn't get it inside before a hard freeze last year and it cracked, so I need to get a new one.  I am fond of the large but shallower pasta bowls that I can get for cheap at TJ Maxx.  Just have to make the trip one of these days.  Meanwhile, I dug through a cabinet and found an old tray that fit the top and is sturdy enough to set something on.  It's a little hard to make out on this photo, but you can see some of the blue-purple blooms on the plant at the top.  The planter resting on the base of the stand was a gift years ago, and it was planted with lovely pansies.  It's been residing in the garage ever since.  I pulled out a really old stash of silk flowersw and thought, what the heck.  Cheesy, but effective :)  I selected colors that are in the mosaic tile of the planter (peaches and yellows).  They had a splash of color.  The peonies are already spent, I just did not get around to dead-heading them yesterday.

The old hose reel gets used as a side table.  I clipped some branches from one of my Newport plum trees and filled an old vase.  The bunny on the deck is an old garden ornament I've owned for years.  I forgot - he was also on the deck "before" the spruce up.  I had planned to get into that planting bed and clear out the volunteer trees but I ran out of juice about 2 p.m. yesterday in the heat, and it's just too darn hot today for me to be doing anything other than sitting with my feet up (or blogging inside air-conditioned comfort).

There's the yellow birdhouse on its shepherd hook, and just behind it is a bird-on-a-spring pulled out of the garage.  The shrub behind is a mini-hydrangea -- I don't get the big beautiful mop-head type blooms on it but it's very happy in this location.  You can see some old fashioned German Iris to the right; behind it is a seedling from one of the trees in my neighbor's yard; it gets white flowers on it and some kind of green things that look like olives but it isn't an olive tree; the flowers are overwhelmingly sweet smelling to the nearly "gag me" point.  I know I should remove it; right now I've got it clipped into more or less a shrub.  Other than some more Iris that you can't see in this picture and some old-fashioned Sedum with the light purple flower heads, everything else you see in the this photo just grows there all by itself; from year to year I never know what may appear (like the tree, for instance).  The grapevines were on the lot when I bought it in 1987, and despite being severely hacked back many times over the years, they just keep coming back and coming back :)

And the final corner.  The old ornamental bird house was bought years ago, and it gets more weather-beaten each year.  It's starting to fall apart a little bit now.  It's probably 10 years old.  The metal plant stand was a gift from one of my sisters in 2001.  She says it's a cat, but if it is, it sure is a funny looking cat.  I think it's a bunny.  The faux-verdigris finish has fallen off of the feet and they're just rust-colored now.  I stablized them with clear acrylic spray paint.  The rest of it has held up well over the years to the beating it takes on the deck, exposed to all the weather and sun before the Sun dips below the tree line. The planter holds the third miracle perennial that survived the winter still in its nursery pot in my garage.  Yeah, me bad!  The thingy behind it with the two butterflies, not sure what it is; it's never moved in the wind like I thought it would (you know, sort of like a mobile).  I bought it at Menard's probably in 2001.  It is made out of some kind of metal and has a little rust on it -- you know -- "patina."  LOL! 

So, that's it!  Nothing fancy, but it serves its purpose well.  And now, despite, the heat, the deck is calling my name...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Battling Sod Web Worm and Sprucing Up The Deck

Hola darlings!

It's going to be very warm and humid here today.  High in the mid to upper-80's and a big fat wet dew point that keeps you sweaty because the air is so saturated with moisture it doesn't evaporated! 

I arrived home last night from work with the intention of cutting the grass in the backyard, knowing how awful it is to do sustained work outside when the dew point gets above 55 for me.  I'm way too uncomfortable after that point.  But after a stop at the Pick 'n Save after getting off the bus and hiking the 3/4th of a mile to the house with two full bags of groceries plus my tote, I was just a little spent.  All of my good intentions went right out the window.  I ran upstairs and changed, then took a look at the grass out back and decided it was just too dry (ahem) to cut last night.  Instead, I set up the sprinkler and gave everything out back a good long drink while I sat with my feet up under the umbrella on the deck paging through a magazine and sipping a cold glass of cheap pink wine.

I called it a night at about 8:15 p.m. and came inside, but there was a lovely coolish breeze and the house felt great.  I kept the patio door and front door open to get a nice cross-breeze as I worked at the desk in the front room while snatching glimpses of some true crime stories on NBC.   I knew, though, that the heat/humidity was coming, because my knees have been aching for nearly 36 hours - that signals a significant weather change.  Poor knees!  Ouch!

I arose about quarter to six this morning, it was lovely cool in the house!  I shut down the south window in my bedroom which was still shaded in the early morning light, opened up the patio door and front door downstairs.  Set up the sprinkler in the front yard.  Watched the sun in the east slowly rise up and fill the front room with the most incredible light.  My poor lawn out front gets hammered MANY hours with full sun once it clears the trees and houses across the street and swings in a higher and higher arc to the southeast and then to the south.  Unfortunately, about three years ago, my ignorant neighbors to the south cut down not one but two trees that offered shade both to their house and to mine when the sun swung around to the southeast and south.  I hope they are now suffering from incredibly HIGH electric bills because they are constantly running their AC unit now.  The fricking idiots!  Just because they didn't want to rake up leaves in the fall.  Well, you can imagine what happened to the lawns that were used to nice shade in the afternoon. 

My new street tree - not the best photo of
it - sort of blends into the green of the trees
further down the road.  See how teeny it is!
I called around and offered various nurseries $1,000 to come and plant a large bore tree in my front yard to give me some small bit of shade out there.  That wasn't enough money, evidently.  So, last fall, out of desperation, I called the city Forestry Department and this spring they came out and planted a small - really small (sigh) maple tree in the city right-of-way near the curb area.  For $190, I got a "2 inch bore."  I wanted a maple with the purply-red leaves - I ordered a maple with the purply-red leaves. I have a street maple on the north side of the yard that has purply-red leaves.  The city put in the wrong color  on the south side of the yard - it's bright lime green!  All the other trees up and down the street are purply-red maples, although you really can't see that in this photo.  More fricking idiots!  But I was just so happy to see it finally go in (been expecting it since early March) that I didn't even call to complain that they had put in THE WRONG COLOR TREE.  The best part is that the city crew planted MY new tree smack dab in the middle of the lot line that I share with the idiots to the south.  Ha ha ha!  Ooooooh, I know it just ticks them off no end to have that CITY PLANTED TREE there, and watching me haul buckets of water out to it every night since it has been planted to make sure it's root system gets well established.  Poor tree was all wilted looking when I got home that first night a month or so ago and saw it planted there, all of a sudden.  The Forester was supposed to call me and let me know when they were coming out to plant so I could put a stake out where I wanted the tree planted.  No call.  They did not stake the tree either, but so far it's been good and steady, despite some blowing storms!  So there I am, hauling two to three buckets of water out each night when I get home from work and laving it all over the base of the young tree.  It perked up within 48 hours and appears to be thriving!  I was one wreck of nervous concern until I saw the very tips of the wilted leaves flush back out again.  As far as I can tell, I didn't lose a single leaf to wilt loss/transplant shock!   Yeah, guess I'm just a wee bit obsessive.  Trees are a mighty true wonder of the Goddess' fabulous creation.  Trees add such value to one's lot, I just cannot imagine deliberately chopping down two healthy shade-providing trees that are not a danger to me or anyone else!  Just cannot imagine it.  In the photo above you can see an area in the lawn to the southwest of my new tree where the stump of the healthy maple tree they'd removed used to be.  They have yet to reseed the area.  You can see by the size of the wound on the earth what size that tree used to be, and that's been filling in with slow creep growth and weeds for over three years now.  What a sin.

Love my tree - but look at the small amount
of shade it provides right now.  Sigh.  My
yard is to the right, tree-killer neighbors
are to the left.  See all those trees in my back
yard! They really help keep me cool in summer.

Area on north side of lawn next to driveway - you can see
what sod web worm damage looks like here - this
is a text-book example.  Although it looks like it,
this is not drought damage.
It is because of the actions of those idiots who live to the south of me - TREE DESTROYERS - that I've got infested with sod web worm worse than ever before.  My front lawn is now almost totally infested with sod web worm, which are larvae of  those tiny little bland colored moths that fly just above the tips of the grass blades. If you pull into your driveway at night with your low beams on, you can see them hovering in the air.  You can also see the very thin strands of web that their larvae leave behind. Right now thousands of larvae are busy killing my blue grass. They NEVER eat the crowns of the weedy grass, or the fescue.  Nope.  Just the blue grass.  The larvae gnaw it off right where the grass blade comes out of the ground. The lawn that a month ago was a lush, gorgeous uniform green growing like a sun of a gun now looks sickly and half dead or fully dead in spots, despite my putting down pesticide to try and eliminate those little buggers once and for all.  Well, guess it doesn't do me much good to try and keep them out of my lawn when none of the neighbors treat for them; I can kill them and kill them over and over again, and they just fly in from the neighboring lawns and lay their eggs all over mine.  It seems I have the perfect combination of heat, sun and dryness -- all three of which they favor for laying their eggs.  I don't know if you have them where you live - I hope you don't!

Enough of the rant on sod web worm.  I've been engaged in an escalating unending war against them and probably will be until the day I move to Las Vegas or die, whichever comes first.   

Looking from inside the house, the right side of the deck.
Fred added four boards to give extra width.
Back to the deck!  It's serviceable.  I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, as the old saying goes!  My brother-in-law Fred built the first part of it in one day and there it was one evening in 2001 when I got home from work.  I was totally amazed and very happy with it, because it replaced a stamped down pea gravel "patio" that had been added shortly after I first moved into this then newly built house in August 1990 -- and had hardly been touched since although it had always been meant to be "temporary."  So now you're getting a real idea of how I operate...

To say the deck was like a 100% improvement over what was there before would be a gross understatement.  My sister Darlene (Fred's wife) complained to him, though, that she thought it was too small.  Fred built it to the original length of the lumber he bought:  a little over 10' wide, and he took it out from the house a little more than 12 feet (the width of 21 boards). ( Somewhere I have old photos of what it looked like "pre-Fred-deck".  I will have to dig those out and scan a couple of them in!  It was pretty awful!)

Looking from inside the house, the left side of the deck.
Fred only added three board to this side -- probably because
he had not purchased enough lumber to do the build-out evenly.
Oh well.
And so, the next day Fred added some boards on each side -- running at 90 degrees to the original boards -- to widen out the existing deck.  He added several feet to the width, but he didn't do it evenly; looking out from the house, on the right side he added four boards (about 22-1/2"), on the left side he added three boards (about 17-1/2").  LOL!

But hey, I wasn't complaining!  I loved it!  And still do.  Whatever Fred did, it worked then and it's still working now.  It's now been over 11 years since Fred built my deck. It is not "permanently" attached to the house with lug bolted-on faceboard and joist hangers running from it -- it's totally free floating, built on it's own wood frame with "anchor" corners pounded into the dirt, not anchored in concrete.  Thus, the entire deck has been gradually drifing away from the house over the years, LOL!  This gradual drift away from the base of the house has given numerous voles and mice homes along the foundation...

The deck Fred built was never meant to be "permanet."  And here I am, still using it exactly as Fred built it all these years later.  Good job, Fred!  I haven't powered-washed it or cleaned it with deck stuff since it went in other than sweeping; haven't stained it or painted it.  Fred installed some of the boards cup side up instead of cup side down, and now they're popping up and I've got nail and even screw pops here and there.  But I still love it.  I just tell my guests to watch where they're walking, and they do. 

Because my back yard is a magical place. Sitting out here just totally transports you to another world. One of the original reasons I purchased this lot on land contract back in 1987 was because it had trees on it! When I first purchased the lot, many of the trees were just saplings, weed trees they are called (Chinese elms) and yeah, they're a pain in the neck because they toss off tons of twigs and branches and clog up my rain gutters.  But they also provide graceful light shade and the way the branches move in a breeze, it's just awesome to sit out here and stare up at the sky filtered through those branches.  Despite being able to see peeks of neighboring houses and hearing traffic noises from the nearby interstate and the even closer 84th Street which gets constant if not heavy traffic.  because even though it really is just a "deck" -- no railings, no overhead trellis or pergola, no fancy trimwork, and most of the knot-holes in the pressure-treated wood have long since popped out and numerous critters and creatures have made their home in the gravel base underneath -- it's plopped down in a yard anchored with numerous trees and native shrubs, plus all the plantings I've added over the past 20 plus years. 

Wildlife flock to my yard.  I have wild berry trees, wild grapes, and provide two bird baths that I have to fill twice a day (like now) during season because it's like a factory assembly line, with birds lined up to take baths.  I've put in transplanted perennials from homes and homes and homes that we used to live in over the years and always moved some of the plants with us when we left for new grounds -- old-fashioned German bearded Iris, run-of-the-mill Day Lilies, "Swedish" daisies, various colors of Hostas (which the bunnies have mostly eaten down to nubs this year, unfortuantely -- first year that's ever happened but we had a very mild winter and many survived that ordinarily would not otherwise have).  Oh, and lots of other perennials I've added here and there that I can't even remember the names of -- and lots of volunteers that have moved in or have always been here, just moved around year to year as they saw fit and conditions in the back yard have changed over the years as the trees have gotten bigger and bigger.  As long as they're pretty or the yellow and red finches love them (like the catnip and "stink weed"), I just let them be. 

When I put photos of my backyard on line, I may "brag" that I'm such a great yard designer and gardener but the truth is, the backyard has, over the years, pretty much slapped my efforts aside and designed itself :) 

Now - the deck!  EEK!  About once a month (less during summer and holiday season in winter) the ladies of the investment club to which I belong meet at my house once a month on morning after we breakfast at a local restaurant.   Tomorrow is our June meeting (we did not meet in May).  There are five of us, but tomorrow only four of us will can make it.

That gave me an idea -- knowing what the weather was going to be like, at least before noon, and knowing what my backyard is like during that part of the day, I suggested we meet out on my deck rather than around the round table in my dinette, and enjoy a little bit of nature's bounty on the deck in the shade and the breeze, under the umbrella.  The only reason I suggested this at all is because I only have four chair that are deck worthy -- two green stacking chairs and two white semi-folding adjustable chairs.  Well, I also have two other "deck" chairs but I won't write about them here.  Suffice to say they are not chairs that one can pull up to my small round plastic deck table that fits comfortably underneath my 7' umbrella.  And since only four of us will be present tomorrow...

So -- I've been piddling around out on the deck (and writing this blog) since about 8:30 a.m. and it's now past 12 noon.  EEK!  Where does the time go?  I wanted to spruce things up a bit.  The Chinese elms are not cooperating, however.  They are in "shedding leaves" mode, and there is also the occasional catepillar that falls down off the tree and tries frantically to find shelter before being attacked by ants (EEK!) -- I always side with the catepillar and try to fend off the ants...

Whatever. This is going on and on too long.  The table, as you see, is not very large.  I haven't yet pulled out the white lawn chairs from the garage, which need to be scrubbed and bleached down.  But after scooting all around the internet the past few days I gathered lots of inspiration to what I can do with what I have at hand (which ain't much, let me tell you!) , and I put in place (not showing in this photo) some of my efforts at sprucing the space up a bit.  I think the ladies of the investment club will enjoy their time out on my deck tomorrow morning, small and humble though it is. 

Don't you just love that the deck boards are the same color as the bark on that big old Chinese elm tree you can see in the background near center of the photo?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Content Thieves!

Unrelated to Maison Newton, I've been involved in a website of an entirely different type for 13 years now - Goddesschess.  During our time online, we've had things stolen from us without either suitable credit to or a link back to the original source.  It's very difficult to track thieves down, if you can, and it takes a lot of time -- and that was back in the "early" days of the internet when people weren't as "sophisticated" as they are now about copying your work and covering their trails.  Ultimately, there isn't much one can do, particularly with content thieves from another country.  You can email, you can write, you can complain to hosts.  And usually nothing is ever done.

So, now, whenever something of ours (original written content by us or our contributors, original artwork and graphics) is hijacked, if we find out about it (and we usually do, sooner or later), we publicize the theft.  Thieves usually don't like that very much.

Anyway, I am writing about this because of a post I came across at Addicted 2 Decorating blog -- it was at (I think) one of the recent parties I visited at one of the decorating blogs I visit regularly, but for the life of me now I cannot remember which one.  Ach, been trying to track down where I saw it but now I can't find it, only the link to the actual post itself that I emailed to myself because I intended to write about it here.  Doh, Jan.  Here's the link to the original post from Addicted 2 Decorating.  It's enough to make your eyeballs boil! 

The post has generated lots of comments and sympathy from around the web.  I hope that Pinterest acts quickly to take down the page (or whatever it is called) with the stolen images and Kristi Linauer's incredible idea to make a fantastic wreath (it is stunning - take a look at the original post for her actual copyrighted photos and instructions).  I don't have anything here worth stealing, thank Goddess! 

We all need to speak out against this sort of thing when it happens to us and to others when we find out about it.  And I hope holy hell is breaking lose on Pinterest right now against the THIEF OR THIEVES!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Help Design Paralysis: Update on Living Room II

Negative space!  I only recently learned about this concept at one of the decorating blogs I regularly check on -- and unfortunately it's not saved as a favorite on this particular computer and I don't remember it's name.  Ach! I will find it and add it, I promise.  [Added June 6th:  It's Christine Fife Interiors.  She is absolutely wonderful - love her website and her reaching out to help people who write to her with decorating dilemmas.]

I didn't know what it was called, but I and countless others of us know what it is, even if we don't have the exact terminology to put a name to it.  It's that sense where something is off, and needs an additional something to fill things up a bit.  You know, that feeling where you know something is off, or missing...

I can't define the exact principles but I did get the part that there will always be "negative" space in a room or wall arrangement -- it's just the absence of an object taking up visual area -- and the goal one wants to achieve for a well-balanced decorating scheme is to have irregularly-shaped "negative" space.

I had a negative space problem on the wall above the fireplace in the living room.  Here is where I left off last Saturday afternoon:

Overall, I was pretty happy with this arrangement -- and the area I treat as separate but related to the fireplace area, to the right of this picture, where there is a table and lamp and wall arrangement.  I'm leaving that out of the equation right now.

So, this looks pretty good, I'm thinking.  And it took a lot to get to this point.  When did decorating get so hard?  Geez!  But there was something missing.  I felt it just as surely as a toothache. Two somethings missing, actually.  There was a large rectangular blank area above the curio cabinet to the left of the metal basket sculpture, and there is a second wider but shorter rectangular area beneath the metal basket sculpture and above the t.v.  Can you see them?  I wish I knew how to doctor up these pics with little arrows and drawings!  Anyway, these negative spaces were crying out for something, and as it was, the basket sculpture was hanging up in the "sky" like the Moon, with no relation or connection to the objects on the mantle.  That is another decorating faux pas that can be but isn't always related to negative space

I thought about it and thought about it.  Mr. Don and I emailed back and forth, back and forth, kicking around possible solutions.  I was first concentrating on the space above the t.v. and below the basket sculpture.

I thought perhaps something related to Goddesschess (my avocation) or to chess (my love).  I thought about buying some letters to spell out "Goddesschess" in the space, stretching from the curio cabinet on the left horizontally to the framed map on the right.  I briefly thought about trying to make them myself out of cardboard, and instantly dismissed the idea, LOL!  I'm just not an arts and crafts type of gal.  But that would mean making a trip to Michael's or Joann Fabrics, which would mean waiting until the following Saturday, and spending $ too! 

Nope.  Wasn't going to go that way.  Thought some more.  Chessboard.  I have two chessboards that would fit the space!  One, unfortunately, is at the office because it's what I and my student use to play on.  It's hinged and holds the pieces inside, so it would fit perfectly ofter two small nails in the wall.  The other chessboard, the one I had at home.  Oh, what a beauty she is!  No, I didn't take a pic.  After hefting it around I decided it was just too heavy to try and put it on the wall, which would entail descrating it in one way or another to insert fasteners strong enough to hold it to equally big, strong fasteners up on the wall.  Was NOT going to happen!  Beautiful chessboard went back into the cabinet where I store my games.

I thought about re-hanging my plaster-of-paris square Chinese ideogram in the space, and/or somehow working in one or more of the brass Chinese ideograms -- you can see them both in this photo from Christmas 2009:

But without even trying to put one or more of them up on the wall (and having to make countless nail holes in the process) to try them out -- or go the "newspaper outline" route (which I have actually used successfully), I kept looking at that circular brass basket sculpture and thinking "circle." 

I wanted to put another circle in that space.

I had limited options at hand.  I dug out a long-stored decorative brass plate, and then a second much larger decorative brass plate, and all the while, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking about the small bulls-eye mirror holding court in the guest room upstairs...

I will not bore you with photographs of trying this, and then that, and then that....

In the end, the bulls-eye mirror won out, and I love how it is anchoring the formerly negative space!  I also love the reflection - it shows practically the whole room, including the big round-top window and bounces light around in such wonderful ways.  It's not a big mirror, it's about 11 inches overall, but it sure does pack a big wallop!  I bought it years ago at a Bombay Company store at Old Orchard Shopping Mall in northern Illinois. 

Coming in a close second was this plate:

This plate and the bulls-eye mirror are about the same diameter, but the mirror won out because of the reflection it shows!  It just added a whole new dimension to the space and the "view." 

About that negative space above the curio cabinet, oh my. 

I had lots of ideas about what to put up there.  My first choice was globe bookends anchoring either end of a run of impressive books.  Then I thought about a basket vignette and some really tall candlesticks (which I do not own), or perhaps the "star" brass plate (see pic above) on a nice stand, with some other accompaniments...

In the end, I opted for simplicity and as little dusting as possible. Thus, I raided the family room and brought in my simple "sphereis."  I may change things later on, but for now, I am satisfied with how it looks resting centered on top of the curio cabinet:

I'm much happier now than I was last week Friday evening, when intensive "experimenting" started.

As you can see, I did use the "star" brass plate.  It's now anchored behind the lamp on the table to the right of the fireplace.  Buddha is also there. 

Last night, I changed the locations of both, so the photo above is not the most current view.  I tried taking pics tonight when I rushed home from the office but they just didn't turn out right.  Blech.  I lowered Buddha by nearly a foot, so that now the top if his headpiece is equal with (on the same plane as) the top of the mantle, and I raised the location of the star brass plate so that it is  now pretty much centered with equal space between the bottom of the lamp shade and the top of the plate, and the bottom of the plate and the top of the horizontal table surface.
Before: Location of Buddha above mantle line; star brass plate
hung too low on wall behind lamp.

After: Buddha's headress now even with top of mantle;
brass plate centered within the "negative space" between
the bottom of the lamp shade and table top (although
in this photo it doesn't look like it!)

Yeah, putsy, heh?  From my crappy photos, you can't even really tell that I moved Buddha and the brass plate!  But you know, to my eye I think the new location of both items just work better on that area of wall.  I treat that portion of the wall as a separate unit when working to solve a problem, but it is absolutely related to the overall look and theme of what's going on with the entire wall and in the room as a whole. 

I'm not sure I'm finished yet.  I may be, but I want to wait to see what the mirrors and shelves look like on either side of the big round-top window, once they arrive from Target.  Maybe it will be, actually, too much.  Maybe those stretches of wall should remain bare.  Don't know yet.  I'll see. 

Got lots more photographs, but this is enough for tonight!  Whew - what torture to get to this point!  Unbelievable.  When I read other blogs about decorating, it just all seems so fricking effortless, you know?  Like, so what am I doing wrong?  Why am I constantly double, triple, and quadruple thinking my decisions about what looks good and what doesn't?  It's my house, so who would ever care besides me, and no guest of mine would ever dare criticize cuz I'd kick his or her butt out in a second if they ever did (kidding - sort of). 

Meanwhile, Mr. Don still hates the t.v. on top of the mantle. He thinks the idea of making slip-covers for the toss pillows on the sofa and love seat is a good one.  However, all of the materials I fell in love with are absolutely too expensive!  There was a perfect golden-camel material with little "buds" of green and burgundy...at like $37 a yard.  It would take 1 and 1/4 yards to cover 2 pillows.  Hmmm, I've got four pillows to cover.  I don't think so!

So, not sure what I'm going to do that way.  Maybe nothing, maybe just removing the pillows for the season.  Now I'm going to go light the bowed-out candles in the candleabra :)