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.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Overflowing Ornaments and Memories

Oy, where did all of these ornaments come from?  I think I've got enough to decorate three trees!  And I haven't even de-boxed my Paul Michael feather garlands yet!  Look -- boxes all over the place.  And that ornament wreath I made last year, I have probably removed half of its ornaments to fill in on the inside of the tree and I'm still not finished.

Partially emptied boxes, none of those ornaments will be going on the tree this year.  And look - my
gold bead garland hanger, LOL!  It's not full -- I removed some strands to decorate the wreath
above the fireplace and the center display of Christmas greens.

The coffee table has even more stuff on it than yesterday...see the remains of my ornament wreath (bottom right).
Most of these items will either go back into boxes or find places elsewhere in Maison Newton.

Yep, no fear of running out of gold bead garland for, hark!  More in the center box!  Egad, whatever possessed
me to buy so much gold bead garland???  Gold pointsettia picks in the box to the right, more Christmas-y
picks in the box to the left, and burgundy ornaments that won't be used this year.   

The white boxes across the back of the loveseat and the Zappo's box on the cushion contain large
"fancy" glass and/or acrylic ornaments, and my pearl and bead starbursts.  I've only got four of those, purchased
in 2005 at Marshall Fields/Macy's in Chicago on a shopping expedition with the ladies of the
investment club.  We had a blast that day -- took the train for an easy 90 minute ride there and back.
I wish I could find more like them.  I've looked for years and haven't found anything close to them. The burgundy
ornaments and several others won't be used these year.  I realize now I need to start packing these by color code!
These are gold-trimmed glass ornaments purchased over the years from the Egyptian Store at Southridge Mall. 
Mr. Don and I visited there every Christmas Eve for some years.  He loved Egypt and me, well, I just can't resist a
pretty glass ornament, especially one at 50% off :)  There are a few more stashed here and there.
One of my favorites is the little elephant, upper left in the box; you can't really make her out too well.  Her trunk
is curled up in the traditional Indian way for "good luck" and she has two tusks tipped with gold, gold-rimmed
ears and gold "striping" on her sides like a blanket.  She doesn't go on the tree.  Instead, she gets hung on the curio
cabinet where she holds congress with my collection of glass and china pink elephants.

I still remember when and where I purchased many of these ornaments, and some of them hold very precious memories of festive shopping trips, Christmas Eves spent with Mr. Don going to Southridge Mall and then to Olive Garden for a late lunch, and bargain hunting expeditions.  But, the treasures pictured below are priceless:

The Bust of Nefertiti, depicting one of the most beautiful women who ever walked the face of the Earth -- a truly timeless beauty, is still admired today more than 3000 years after her death.  The real deal, a fragile and incredibly well-preserved bust, is housed in a natural history museum in Berlin, Germany, and is the subject of ongoing controversy, as the Egyptian Government wants her back, and the German Government refuses to give her back, especially now with the Islamists in power.  You can be sure the Lady would end up in a private collection somewhere, sold for millions of dollars, with a bad plastic fake substituted for her in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  Sorry -- I digress.

Nefertiti was given to me by Mr. Don in 2005.  Even brand new it was not an expensive piece, and is the worse for wear -- she is a tarnished gold-colored metal charm meant to hang on a necklace. He found her in the "trinkets" case (holding new and not so new trinkets and such) at a Chinese "everything" store (similar to many established by recent immigrants to Montreal) near where he lived.  I added some gold glitter to her a few years ago in an attempt to jazz her up a bit, LOL.  I don't think she minded, and probably got a good laugh out of my silly efforts.  She is more valuable to me than the Hope Diamond.  On the left is another gift from Mr. Don in 2004, a kilt pin in the shape of a sword bearing the family McLean's symbol -- the castle keep at Duart, in Scotland.  His twin sister visted there and bought it back home to him.  It's not silverplate - maybe aluminum?  When I unwrapped it today I noticed that the finish (whatever it is) is wearing off a wee little bit on the left side near the bottom of the sword. 

This Dynamic Duo, representative of me and Mr. Don, go on the Christmas tree every year in just about the same spot, right next to each other, and are draped about by an old "pearl" necklace that has the most beautiful patina -- I believe they are nacred glass beads, like they used to make faux pearls almost as good as the real thing back in the old days.  The Dynamic Duo are specially situated so that one can easily see them from the love seat.

And, the most valuable iconic piece in the entire world, presented to me by Mr. Don at Christmas 2006, rests in a vault in safekeeping except for a few weeks each year when he is removed and transported (under armed guard) to Maison Newton for Christmas.  He is world-famous, darlings!  If you are interested, you can read all about his amazing discovery here.  Yes!  I speak of none other than this extremely rare surviving representation of the "Scarred Warrior" so revered by Kushan culture:

Isn't he just the most breathtakingly gorgeous hunk of malehood you've ever seen?  Oh, be still my heart, pitter-patter, thump thump (and with my a-fib, I ain't kidding).  Oh, those blue blue eyes!  Those red juicy lips and come-hither smile!  Those healthy glowing cheeks!  That manly puffed-out chest!  Oooohhh, I feel faint...

Requiescat in pace, Mr. Don, April 11, 1951 - October 12, 2012. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tackling the Tree...

Good morning everyone!  It's a beautiful sunny day here, and calm too, but cooooollllddddd!  Only 28 degrees F, brrrrr.  It is supposed to get up to 41 today, though, so I may go out back later on when it warms up and do some much-needed raking!

But first things first.  I wonder if I'm turning into one of those "old people" who don't need much sleep?  The past few nights, I've been waking up at very early hours; Friday night I stayed in bed until until 5 a.m.  This morning I got up at 4:15 a.m.  Is this a sign of things to come -- i.e., never getting a good night's sleep again?  What am I saying - I have hardly had a good night's sleep since menopause came and went.

Today is Tree Day!  After I finished up the 2012 Christmas mantle/mantel yesterday, the tree was pulled out and put up in front of the round top window that overlooks the front yard in the front room.  How's that for a lot of fronts!  I cleaned it up and hope that any spiders who took up residence during the summer while the tree rested in its box in the garage have now vacated the premises.  Fair warning:  any spiders caught inside these premises in my living space will get sucked up by my handivac!  Last night I fired up the lights on this baby and boom!  No, the house didn't blow up, thank Goddess!  The entire room was flooded with what seemed like amazingly bright light!  Every year I have the same reaction -- I forget how bright those white lights are.  Here is my holey tree this morning with the early sunlight streaming in:

I briefly toyed with the idea yesterday of putting the tree in front of the staircase, across the room from the window.  In the years I've had this tree (nearly 8) it's never been in that spot; only one year did I move it into the corner NEXT to the window and I didn't like it there very much.  Moving the tree to the staircase wall would entail moving the heavy sofa out of its customary spot and away from the best vantage point for the t.v. on the mantle/mantel.  Because of the short cord on the t.v. and the lack of anything else in the room to place the t.v. on, my options are rather limited as to where it might go.  Well, we'll see.  Maybe next year.  One advantage to having the t.v. on the mantle/mantel is that I don't need to use as many decorations because of the space the t.v. takes up!  It's actually a money saver, come to think of it...

As you can see, plenty of holes in this tree. After spending what seemed like countless hours last year trying to get the sucker shaped perfectly, only to discover wherever I thought I was closing up one hole I was only making another (I think the breed in the dark, too), this year I'm turning over a lazy leaf and after futzing with it for about 20 minutes I said GOOD ENOUGH.  So, after I took a break from reading the Sunday paper earlier this morning (while it was still dark outside!) I started deconstructing the D-I-Y ornament wreath I made last year (my first ever project and quite possibly my last) and using those medium size gold and silver ornaments to begin the tedious process of filling in the holes in my tree, starting from way inside around the "trunk" of the tree and working outward.  Some of those ornaments already placed show up in the photograph above.

Those colored ornaments on my coffee table used to be at the very "top" of my Christmas ornament wreath, because despite using two boxes of gold and one box of silver ornaments from the dollar store I still didn't have enough to quite finish the wreath!  Now I know why so many instructions I'd read on the internet said to use a hot glue gun to glue those ornaments together; as it was, with no hot glue gun in the house, those ornaments kept sliding down further and further on the metal hanger, creating this big puffy FAT wreath with hardly any empty circle space in the center, LOL!  But I was that proud of it anyway, I hung it up.  Here is a not very good photo of it from last year:

I tried to hide the red and green ornaments added to "flesh out" this overweight monstrosity at the top by adding my version of an "elaborate and elegant" bow made out of French ribbon.  Epic Fail!  Then for the heck of it I threw some gold bead garland around it in no discernable pattern.  Guess I've got a thing about gold bead garland and hot messes...

Well, back to work here.  After I use up the ornmanents on my wreath and give the hanger the proper recycling it deserves, I'm going to hike to the Pick 'n Save for groceries and AA batteries and then I'm going to haul down all the boxes of ornaments, decorations and the hanger filled with gold bead garland downstairs and spend hours doing the Decorating the Tree Dance.  About that garland -- it lives in one of the closets upstairs; hooking it on a metal hanger with ornament hangers wrapped around the end beads keeps it nice and neat, not at all like my necklaces in my jewelry box that are forever tangling up with each other!

Oh - a couple pics of the sunlight streaming in through the front window earlier -- I wish I could capture just how pretty it was:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Mantle/Mantel Is Finished!

Hi everyone!  I hope you are enjoying this weekend.  Are you out bustling around shopping for all those door-buster bargains?  Or are you kicking back like me and enjoying quiet time at home as you go through the process of decorating for the holidays?

Decorating for the holidays wasn't something I ever did much, living by myself.  I would have a Christmas tree (for years I had a little 3-footer on a table top).  I would hang my Christmas cards, I would put lights around the windows.  That was about it!

Last year was the first attempt I ever made at decorating my mantle/mantel other than taping Christmas cards to it, coinciding with my first attempt to use French ribbon on my Christmas tree.  Here is what the mantle/mantel looked like in 2011:

Here is what 2012 looks like:

This is what the mantle/mantel looked like last night, after I'd cleared off everything that was on the wall above and on top of the fireplace and started putting things together:

As you can see, I added quite a bit more since taking this photograph last night.  Here are some more photos of the finished mantle/mantel and wallscape (is that a word?):

I don't know if I'm going to try putting ribbon on the mantle/mantel.  Looking at last year's attempt, which I thought was sooo cool at the time, it's rather icky looking, isn't it?  LOL!

Earlier today I saw an article online about making paper cut-out snowflakes -- using a TEMPLATE.  What?  That made me laugh out loud, let me tell you!  Didn't any of these people ever make cut-out snowflakes as a kid in primary school?  Well, I don't suppose kids are allowed to use scissors anymore, are they, because they might be considered a DANGEROUS WEAPON.  Ha!  But I can tell you, we sure didn't use TEMPLATES to make our snowflakes.  Teacher showed us how to fold the paper and to snip away this and that and voila!  We would have wonderful creations!  A few basic rules was what we learned, and after that, it was all up to our own imaginations to come up with incredibly-designed snowflakes.  Even after all these years (I'm 61, darlings, grade school was a long time ago) I remember those lessons with smiling fondness :)

As you can see, I filled in a lot of blank spaces and that large expanse of negative space between the wreath and the tallest elements on the mantle/mantel.  This is what I did:

(1)  I reshaped and decorated the wreath.  I realized after I turned off the lights on it last night that it was rather cock-eyed looking -- some parts looked very wide and some parts looked sort of squished together. And I thought it needed jazzing up.  So I fluffed out the faux-greenery trying to get it more balanced-looking and added some gold bead garland and some gold and silver ornaments.  I am very happy with how it turned out!

(2)  I added a pair of my cardinal greeting cards (I have a "collection" of four, LOL!) framed in two frames I purchased last week at TJ Maxx -- I haven't posted about those frames yet. They are perfect on either side of the Christmas wreath and closed up that negative space gap that still remained even after I added my 12" tall aluminum candlesticks holding 12" tall tapers!  Sorry, no close-ups of the greeting cards -- I wasn't thinking about blogging when I was in a frenzy of creative endeavor!  Instead, I kept remembering that one mantle/mantel photograph I posted yesterday -- the one with the large rectangular gold-framed mirror in the center, flanked on either side by two gold-framed pictures/paintings, and the mantle/mantel all aglow with lit-up green garland, candles and gold decorations.  I wanted to try and capture something of that look...

The cardinal cards are a couple years old.  I used an older and simpler spray-painted-gold frame to hold the third card in my collection and it is now on the wall behind the lamp on the side table next to the fireplace.  The fourth greeting card I framed last year and it can be seen both in the 2011 picture (hanging on the wall to the right of the fireplace) and in the 2012 picture now sitting on the bracket - whatever it's called (having a senior moment here, darlings, can't remember what the heck it's name is) -- see photo 2 above.  (More about this "cardinal greeting card collection" to come). 

(3)  I added several different shapes and sizes of candles and candlesticks and candle holders to introduce height and shortnesss, slenderness and plumpness, and futzed around arranging them this way and that until I was happy with the result.  Except for the mercury glass candleholders that I bought from Kirkland's a few weeks ago, everything else on the mantle/mantel I already owned -- some of the things are positively ancient.  I mixed silver-plate with brass and my tall aluminum candlesticks but the candles I added are all cream or ivory colored, and a cut glass votive, too.  I really like how it all works together.

(4)  I added my pair of gold-leaf "nut" topiaries that were a gift from one of my godchildren (niece Kimberly) years ago, when Bombay Company still had actual stores around here.  I've loved and cherished them for years, and they were perfect to add a touch of glitz and glam, and fill in some bare spots on the mantle/mantel.  I don't know if they are actually made with real nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.) but they sure look real. It may also be just gold spray paint, but if it is spray paint it's held up remarkably well after all these years (probably 28 or 29 years), so that's why I call it "gold leaf;" that just sounds sexier and more exclusive, too.

(5)  I added a silverplate bell and candy dish.  I believe they were from Avon many many moons ago.  I don't remember buying them, I think Mom probably gave them to me at one point -- she used to buy lots of Avon stuff.  The bell, the candy dish, a bud vase, and a few other pieces, have sat in a kitchen cabinet for years, slowly turning black with tarnish.  I wanted to use the bell because it reminds me of Christmas and I wanted to anchor the left side of the t.v. with it.   To clean the tarnish, I tried a method I'd read about online that doesn't use harsh chemicals or stuff you buy at the store, and is gentle on the fragile silverplate. Using a Corningware casserole dish large enough to hold the object, I lined it with aluminum foil shiny side up, and added baking soda, salt, and boiling water.  Voila!  It worked! After I rinsed the objects in cool water and dried them with soft cloths, nearly all of the tarnish was either vanished completely or mostly gone.  You can see in some of the photos, above, how wonderful this old silverplate bell and candy dish now look (the candy dish holds three ornaments).  A note: Don't use a metal dish or bowl to clean the objects, don't do it in a stainless steel sink -- there is some sort of chemical reaction that happens that removes the silverplate.  That's what all of the websites I read about this cleaning technique at said and I take them at their word.

(6)  To the extent possible, I introduced symmetry into my design, since I seem to be so attracted to it (see yesterday's post with the inspiration photos, and you'll see what I'm talking about).  So, as nearly as possible because the proporations are thrown slightly off by having the t.v. on top of the mantle/mantel, I centered the evergreen floral arrangement, and centered the faux-greenery wreath above that on the wall.  They're not perfectly centered, but the design still works because they're not too far off center.  The human eye is amazingly forgiving sometimes :)  You're probably wondering why I just don't center the t.v. on top of the mantle/mantel.  It's because of the cord -- it's not long enough to reach the electrical outlet on the left side of the fireplace about a foot off the floor unless I add an extension cord.  I have read that one is not supposed to use a "regular" extension cord on televisions and and I don't want to add another bulky cord to my mix.  It's impossible to hide them with my present configuration of where the outlet is!  There are no outlets on top of the mantle/mantel -- that is something I would like to add in the future, if and when my budget ever allows.  That's why the t.v. is on the left side of the mantle/mantel, as close to the center as I can get the cord to stretch. 

I also added the framed cardinal greeting cards now flanking the wreath, the tall aluminum candlesticks with 12" ivory tapers on either side of the centerpiece, and the gold-leaf "nut" topiaries also on either side of the centerpiece.  Mainly, though, I was trying for an eye-pleasing balance and to fill in the blank spaces and connect the wreath to the arrangement on the mantle/mantel.  You don't want too much stuff on one side, and not enough on the other side. Oh my, how I danced the Decorator's Waltz, going back and forth, placing something, then stepping back to look at it; then placing something else, and stepping back again to look at it, over and over again.  You know -- that dance -- moving this way and that, this thing and that thing, until it's perfect for me (well, good enough is just fine, too). 

I'm not sure I'm finished with this year's version of Christmas mantle/mantel; I may add a few tweaks here and there.  But I want to get busy on the tree...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Goodbye to Autumn...Hello Christmas!

Hola everyone!

It is sooooo wonderful to have a four-day weekend -- no trip to the office today after Thanksgiving, and still Saturday and Sunday to get things done around here, woo woo! 

I decided a week or so ago that this year I want to try a gold/silver theme and forego the burgundy and wine-colored touches I have incorporated into the Christmas livng room decorations since 2001 or so when I bought my current living room set, which is upholstered in a camel/forest green/burgundy medallion pattern.  This decision was primarily because while shopping online at Kirkland's earlier this month I found a set of mercury-glass candle holders on sale for under $20 and fell in love.  They are silver-colored -- I posted about them on November 17, here is a picture after I de-boxed them and set them out on a side table in my living room to warm up to room temperature after sitting out on my porch all day while I was at work:

I wasn't sure if I would use them on my mantle/mantel or on my coffee table, but I knew they would be featured prominently because they are so pretty! 

I'm generally a gold and glitz kind of gal, although with my goddess-bent I also love the glow of moonlight and have snapped countless photos through my front window and on the front porch of the Moom rising above Lake Michigan in the east; but I usually associate the Moon with pearls, not the cool tones of silver.  Of course, pearls come in a rainbow of both warm and cool shades naturally, and can also be dyed...

Here is what my autumnal mantle/mantel looked like -- with some last minute tweaks that I did Wednesday night (I took the photograph on Thanksgiving Day):

Yes.  As you can see, I removed Dad's plant from the mantle/mantel to the kitchen counter, at least temporarily.  That was a VERY BIG DEAL for me. Removing Dad's plant opened up a large space on the right side of the mantle/mantel that I filled in by adding another candle holder in suitably autumnal colors and skootching the owls over.  Alas, I had this new arrangement only on Wednesday night and Thanksgiving Day.  Today, I dismantled it (har har!  A pun!)

After thinking about this for the past several days and sitting down earlier today to get some Christmas mantle/mantel inspiration:

Isn't this gorgeous?  From High Heels and Hammer, Christmas 2010, "Simple Christmas Mantel"
It starts with an absolutely fabulous mirror, and builds from there.  Geez Louise, my mantle/mantel could look like this!

All of the following images are from a 2008 post at Digs Digs blog, 33 Mantel Christmas Decoration Ideas.  I kept the images small because when I enlarged them they lost their clarity:


Well, I think you can see some common themes in all of these images.  I looked at lots of mantles/mantels and my eyes kept focusing on designs like those pictured above.  After examining these images for a while, I was able to pick out many things they shared in common:

  • A mirror (usually circular) right in the center of the wall above the mantle/mantel was featured in several arrangements 
  • Many of the arrangements featured a green wreath centered above the mantle/mantel
  • Many of the arrangements had greenery garlands draped across and over the mantles/mantels.  The garlands were often lighted and/or decorated with lots of bright ornaments and Christmas-y faux-flowers
  • There were lots of candles and candlelight everywhere, often massed in the fireboxes of the fireplace, but also massed on the mantles/mantels too
  • There was a lot of brass, gold, and silver that glittered and sparkled in the candlelight/firelight
  • Many of the mantles/mantels had stockings hung on them
  • Glorious bows/ribbons played a prominent role in some of the designs
  • Usually, there was symmetry of design
  • The designs I chose would generally be classed as "traditional"

I moved very much out of my comfort zone in removing Dad's plant, even if only temporarily, to the countertop on the kitchen peninsula.  I also decided it was time to totally rethink the design in the wallspace above and surrounding the mantle/mantel -- a space I had totally redone earlier this year.  So, earlier today I took EVERYTHING down. Yikes! 

See -- YOU have inspired me so much with all of your wonderful blogs and photographs!  Until this year, I NEVAH decorated the mantle/mantel for anything except for Christmas, when I sometimes put my Christmas cards on it and sometimes taped them along the edge and added a few candlesticks, LOL!  Look what you've done to me, People! 

Here is where I'm at now with the Christmas mantle/mantel 2012:

(1)  The TV is staying.  This is a working room in the winter because I blog here at my desk while the fireplace is going and the TV is on.  There is no other place to put it where I can see it from my desk, or indeed, where it can be so conveniently seen elsewhere from the sofa and loveseat.  So, I cannot have a symmetrical arrangement on my mantle/mantel like any of those I picked out (images above).

(2)  My original idea was to put up the gold and silver ornament wreath I made last year. I putzed and putzed with it, putting ornaments back on that had popped off their hookies, rearranging them, futzing with the bow(s), etc., and hung it up -- alas, it just was NOT working.  It was too small to hold the space, and because of its bulk, I couldn't get it to lay right against the wall from a nailed-in hook.  Last year, as you'll recall, I suspended the wreath on the staircase wall on a long ribbon that was tied to one of the bannisters above!  I suppose I could have tried that same approach above my mantle/mantel, but my rickety ladder only lets me go so high and I didn't have a proper hanger and - well, I'm not very good at making bows and glorious arrangements out of ribbons in any event.  I just wasn't up to the challenge, and neither was my ornament wreath.  Maybe next year, but not this year!

(3)  So, I nixed the idea of using my ornament wreath as a centerpiece above the mantle/mantel, and focused instead on the lighted (battery operated, woo woo!) artificial greenery wreath that I scored last year a week or so before Christmas last year at Boston Store, one of my favorite places to shop.  I think I paid $9.99 for it, on clearance.  Now, however, I do not have a wreath to hang on my front door.  So, I'll be on the lookout for another SCORE!  I like how it holds the space.  The silver glitter ornament is the same one I added to the wreath on the front door last year.  The only drawback is that I must stand on a chair to click the battery pack off at night.  Oh well.  Not sure if I should try and add ornamentation to it.  Although you can't really see it in this photograph, there are some artificial holly berries on the wreath.  I thought briefly about adding some of my gold bead garland.  I may try that tomorrow and see what it looks like.

(4)  Some weeks ago, I ordered a life greenery centerpiece from one of the local boyscouts, and it was delivered last Saturday.  Despite watering it regularly and keeping it away from any heating vents, the greenery is already shedding.  Idon't know that it will make it to Christmas, let alone a couple of weeks beyond!  But I moved it from the peninsula counter in the kitchen to the mantle/mantel.  I swapped out the red candle it came with for a gold one in my stash and added a flameless tea light votive in the hollow that was melted out last season when I briefly burned the candle.  It fits just about right.  I added some gold bead garland for a little sparkle.  Alas, I have a feeling I'm going to be recreating this centerpiece with faux greenery before long.  A trip to the dollar store may be in order...

(5)  I moved my venerable Norfolk pine from the kitchen peninsula to the mantle/mantel in exchange for Dad's plant.  Just like me, it has a rather quirky shape and a personality all its own :)  To protect the wood mantle/mantel, I placed the pot inside a gold-rimmed milk glass dish.  One cannot really see the gold-rim unless standing quite near the mantle, but it's the thought that counts :)  Milk glass was featured in Christmas mantle/mantel photo 7 (above).  I used the ribbons from last year's ornament wreath to decorate the pot.

(6)  The brass plate with the cut-out star border was moved from above the table just to the right of the mantle/mantel, you cannot see it in my photos.  That table will soon have an arrangement of framed cardinal greeting cards around it to go with a Christmas cardinal plate I bought last year at TJ Maxx.  I'm not sure it's going to stay where it is right now on the mantle/mantel, but I wanted something there to fill in some of the negative space.

(7)  Tall candle holder on the far left of the mantle/mantel, partially hidden by the t.v.  When seated on the sofa one can see it.  It holds a taller version of the same gold swirl candle that is in the mantle/mantel centerpiece. 

As photographed above, it's pretty bare bones.  I wanted to get some photographs while I still had some daylight outside, and all of this took me much longer than I ever thought it would.  And I'm not done!  But notice -- the mirrors and the brass "Indian" woven basket are all gone on the wall above the mantle/mantel!  It looks a lot different than what it did last night!

Overall, I think I'm on the right track.  After I snapped the photograph of the mantle/mantel in its then current state (above), I added my Kirland's mercury glass candle holders and put in flameless candles and/or tea lights.  So pretty!  I will work on the design more tomorrow.  I'm sure you've already noticed how much my design resembles so many of the elements from the inspiration photos -- except for the t.v. :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Shopping and Thinking About Prepping...

Hmmm...yes, it should probably be thinking first and then shopping.  Duh, Jan! 

But while I usually plan many things well in advance (such as travelling vacations), when it comes to shopping for things for my house, I have a tendency to jump in feet first and think about it later.  This leads to mistakes in purchases sometimes, but fortunately nothing too terribly expensive over the years.  Still, there is probably a better way to do this!  It's not like I have money to burn --

Oh well, I did go shopping.  Online and in person, woo woo! 

Every now and then I visit Kirkland's online because I love their style, I have found their prices to be very good and they sometimes have great sales and clearances.  This recent visit, I was looking for some chessly gifts for the Hales Corners Chess Challenge that will take place in April, 2013.  The gift bags I gave to each of the top female finishers (Open and Reserve sections) in the Hales Corners Chess Challenge held last month were a great hit, and I received lovely thank you emails from each of the recipients.  That was enough to stir me to even greater effort to create great gift bags for the future respective winners in the Open and Reserve sections next April.

So, I was looking for something in a "crown" -- you know, because of the Queen in chess, who is the most powerful piece on the chessboard.  And, sure enough, I found a PERFECT gift at Kirkland's!  I wish they would have had three, that's what I ordered but, unfortunately, there was only ONE left in stock, which I promptly ordered -- a metal and "crystal" candle holder in the shape of a Queen's crown at a great price.  Here is an online image:

I think it's soooo pretty!  I also found at Kirkland's a ceramic crown shaped candle holder at a very good price that I may order.  There is nothing wrong with it at all, it is very pretty but, well, frankly, it doesn't hold a candle (har!) to this metal and "crystal" candle holder!  Still, it has a great shape so I will probably buy it.

While I was looking for chessly items at Kirkland's, I came across a set of three votive holders that have nothing to do with chess, but I fell in love with them, they were on sale and I bought them.  My thinking at the time was that they will look wonderful either on the mantle or on the coffee table as part of my Christmas decor, which I have been busy imagining for the past 10 days or so.  I have Paul Michael feathers that I will be using on my tree, and I am going to restrict my colors this years to gold, clear glass and silver tones.  I have even thought about possibly flocking my tree...  I have a four day weekend over Thanksgiving, and the tree will go up along with my other Christmas decor. 

Oy, I should show you those votive holders -- they are "mercury" glass, but actually, I find it impossible to distinguish these from the "silver" finish:

The Kirkland's box was waiting for me on my front stoop Friday night when I got home from the office.  Woo woo!  I unpacked the freezing cold contents and set the votive lights out to slowly warm up to room temperature before tucking them away the next day.  This is a pic I took of them yesterday morning.  Aren't they pretty!

A closer view:

Yesterday afternoon I once again visited the TJ Maxx that is a mile's walk away from my house.  It was a beautiful day and I wanted to stretch my legs, and I was again on the hunt for chessly gifts.  I remembered from the week before, when I was on the hunt for a gift for Thelma's house-warming party, I'd seen one of those "book" boxes that had a crown on the outside of it.  I didn't know if it would still be there but, IT WAS!  So, I scored another chessly gift:

There was only one of this perfect size, that can be used as a trinket box, or a special treasures box, or even just as a faux book upon which to rest a queenly candle holder.  I would have bought one for myself if there'd been two. 

During this visit, I happened upon a SATIN full size bedding set with FOUR pillow cases in it for $16.99.  In a ruby red color.  Not orange-y red; not fire engine red, not wine red.  Ruby red.  Luscious!  A perfect score for my bedroom!  I'd been on the hunt for awhile for a reasonably priced red set of pillow shams or a sheet set -- without luck.  Until now.

I will add the red pillow cases to my bed in December before I switch over to the really heavy-duty down comforter that is red/white/black floral on one side and red/black/white plaid on the other side.  I haven't had satin bedding for years!  A touch of lux at a great price, and the extra two pillow cases included in the set will be used as "shams" on the two "dress" pillows on my bed.  The satin sheets will be put on the bed in February when I switch back to my lighter weight black and white toile comforter and shams, rather than my usual black and white gingham checked pillow cases. 

I also bought three picture frames - a long story -- will blog about that later.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pahties, Pahties...

Hola darlings!  This is a very busy time of year for many of us because of the upcoming holidays; at the place I work, we're in our end-of-the-year push, so in addition to doing all of the holiday prep outside of working hours, etc., work is a non-stop exhausting whirlwind of activity and stress.  What's a gal to do, though?  I need to work to keep a roof over my head.  The mortgage will be paid off in August 2018, but I'm retiring on January 1, 2018 anyway.  One thousand eight hundred seventy one days or so to go -- yes, I'm counting down.

Last Saturday found me shopping for Thelma's house-warming gift.  The party was a lot of fun -- here's a pic from it.  These are the ladies with whom I ride the bus home from work five nights a week, and a wild and wonderful bouquet they are!  I would not have believed it possible that we could form such a tight-knit and friendly, loving, supportive group, but during my various health and other issues during this hellacious 2012 year, these ladies have been an absolute Gift from the Goddess:

From left to right, front: Pepper Spray, Thelma, Jannibal (me).
Back row: Anni a/k/a Little One, Ginger Snap. 

Bob the Bird is looking on with approval.  He was very engaged during our pahty, happily chattering away with all of us :)   Why do I always look so damn fat in these photographs???  Honest, darlings, I've lost 25 pounds from my heaviest just a few years ago, and when I look in the mirror at myself, I do not see the same Jannibal who is in this photograph.  Of course, it may just be because I'm sure I'm going blind now...  I got the heart issues that occupied my entire summer and part of autumn more or less out of the way, so now I'm losing my eyesight! At 61?  I don't frigging think so, and if that patriarchal storm god up there in the sky thinks he's going to do this to me, he's got another thing coming. 

The day after Thelma's house-warming pahty, I tackled back yard clean-up.  What a mess it was.  I had the hulks of the stripped down limbs left from the last windstorm still to deal with, and since last Sunday was warmish although windy, I counted my blessings and tackled the chore at last because we won't be getting many more of those days -- although today, one week later, is also a winner!  I'll be headed out shortly to do some shopping but I want to get this post done first!  So, this is what the yard had looked like after the last big storm in SEPTEMBER:

You get the idea...  Yep, I'm never one to just rush out and start sawing up tree branches in freezing cold and/or cold rain!  I had spent a couple of weekend days here and there when the weather permitted stripping down those hulking branches/limbs to bare bones, so all that was eventually left was this:

Finally, last week Sunday, I prepared to do battle and saw those suckers into 4-foot long or shorter lengths, so in the spring the yard waste haulers will take them away.  Unfortunately, I missed the last yard waste pick-up this year, so now the sawn up wood will rest in a container inside the garage until the first pick-up in March:

My tools:  my shark hand-saw and my sturdy yard work gloves.  I don't own a gas-fired chain saw, which would
have made short work of those branches/limbs.  I got a good work-out instead, although in truth, if you use the
hand saw correctly, it does most of the work.  I didn't even break a sweat!

In the end, that's all that was left!  I worked off and on over 3-1/2 hours to get the job done.  So, today I can rake and mow, the final cut of the season.

But I had another party to go to this morning.  That's right, ladies, pahty pahty!  One of my neighbors has been hosting a get-together for the past few years where she assembles various crafters and sellers of various items, and she also makes the loveliest bead jewelry. Her daughter, Emily, sells Mary Kayt products. They serve mimosas and lots of good brunchy breakfast things.  What's not to love?  The mother/daughter duo also collect canned goods for a local food pantry during this party.  Lots of ladies in the 'hood visit and we all get a chance to chat each other up, people I normally only wave to as I pass walking to the bus stop in the morning, or home from the bus stop at night, or to/from shopping on the weekends, or out doing yardwork in the front.  Whew, I think that covers it.  Anyway, activities not usually given to much get-togetherness cuz I'm usually on a Mission and can't stop to chat.

So, this morning about 9:30 a.m. or so I went to Jan and Emily's pahty and spent about an hour munching and viewing the offerings.  This year I found out about Scentsy.  Maybe you all have heard of it, and even have it in your houses, but it was new to me.  I really like the concept.  It's scented wax that melts, but no flame is involved - specially designed little lightbulbs are used, instead, to provide heat to melt the wax, which releases the scent to fill a large space.  The wax never heats to above body temperature, so it's impossible to burn oneself even if there is an accident, and the risk of a fire from a burning candle is eliminated.  This is NOT a sales ad, and I was not paid or entered into a sponsorship to write about Scentsy.  I just think it's a pretty neat concept.  Read more about Scentsy

I purchased a mini-plug-in scent warmer (it plugs right into a power socket like a night light) and three different scents.  Here it is:

I'm a sucker for what I think of as "Christmas-y" scents during the holidays (although one is a more generic not-necessarily-holiday scent), and I have burned plenty of scented candles over the years.  Now, with Scentsy, I won't have to worry about forgetting to blow out a candle!  Best of all, since I'm a cheapskate and did not see the need to buy a second plug-in scent warmer, I can easily move the Scentsy plug-in from room to room; downstairs during the day; upstairs at bedtime.  I may buy a second one so I won't have to do the constant moving up-and-downstairs --

But, before I buy a second one, I'll try out the one I ordered and see if it works as advertised.  Not that the lovely young lady with the Scentsy display at Jan and Emily's pahty was in any way pushy, nope!  She answered my questions cheerfully without trying to sell me a single thing, and gave me some brochures and a catalog to look through. Ordering can be done in several different ways, and products are delivered via the mail, usually in 7 to 10 days.   

The scented wax-melts I ordered -- one smells like cinnamon apples; one smells like a walk through pine woods; one smells like everything good when you're sitting before your fireplace.  Can't wait to try them, woo woo!  I especially like the scent of pine during Christmas, because my artificial tree, while beautiful and convenient, lacks that distinctive fresh cut-tree scent that I remember so much from my childhood. 

I've been doing other shopping, too.  Will write about that later.  Now I've go to head out and go - shopping!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In Honor of Dad on Veterans' Day

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel archives, in honor of my dad, Frank Newton, a WWII veteran who died on November 3, 2002.

Francis John Newton (1922-2002)

As old soldiers fade away, so too does live taps

Most state veterans will have a boombox, not musician, at funerals

Correction: CORRECTION: from 14.11.2002:

An article Monday about the state's Military Honors Funeral Program and a shortage of buglers for veterans' funerals incorrectly stated how the program is funded. It is supported by the state Department of Veterans Affairs Primary Loan Program, which makes home loans to veterans, not with tax money.

DAN BENSON, Journal Sentinel

Published: November 11, 2002
In April, Jim Schiebenes got the call that a Vietnam veteran -- a Silver Star winner -- had been found stabbed to death in a Chicago alley a few days before and was to be buried at Graceland Cemetery in Racine in just two hours.

Could Schiebenes, a bugler, come play taps over the man's grave? There would no family or friends, just Schiebenes, a small rifle squad and the folks from the funeral home.

Three rifle volleys, the 24 familiar, somber notes of taps, and another veteran was laid to rest.

"We gave him send-off," Schiebenes said. "It would have been a shame for a Silver Star winner, a hero, to be buried alone."

In one sense, not all veterans, who are being honored today on Veterans Day, are so lucky. Of the 11,000 Wisconsin veterans who die each year, most do not have a Jim Schiebenes present to play those 24 notes as they are laid to rest.

Because of a shortage of buglers, most of their families listen to a recording played from a boom box or over a public address system.

Congress passed legislation in 2000 that every veteran has the right to at least two uniformed military people to be on hand to fold the U.S. flag, present it to the veteran's family and play taps on a CD player.  That allowance of recorded music doesn't sit too well with some veterans.

"Why not tape a rifle-shooting, too? Or do an electronic flyover, while you're at it," said Mike Furgal, adjutant and quartermaster for the Wisconsin Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Recognizing the shortage, the Pentagon last week began testing a new "push button" bugle that contains a small digital audio device in its bell. The "bugler" pushes a button and holds the bugle to his or her lips, giving the illusion that the instrument is being played manually.

"Recorded music is better than none," state Veterans Affairs Director Raymond G. Boland said.

Honor guard

Deborah Varble's father, Frank Newton, had wanted an honor guard at his burial Friday at the Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Union Grove.

Newton, an Army sergeant who fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, won three Bronze Stars. Having an honor guard is "important to us because it was something he wanted. It means a lot to us that we can do that for him," Varble said.

She assumed that meant having a bugler present.  But, in most cases, mourners at Union Grove hear taps played over "an outstanding" public address system, honors team Supervisor Gary Dierks said.

He leads one of three Military Honors Funeral Program teams, the other two based at the Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spooner, and at Fort McCoy near Sparta.  When no bugler can be found, members of the honors teams play "a very good quality CD recorded at Arlington Cemetery," provided by the Department of Defense, Boland said.

But officials made an exception for the Newtons when they were told a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photographer was going to attend to photograph a bugler playing taps over Newton's grave.

My family at Dad's burial ceremony, Veterans' Cemetery, Union Grove, Wisconsin.
If families such as the Newtons insist on having a bugler, "we jump through every hoop and loop we can to get one," Dierks said.

When the Wisconsin Military Honors Funeral Program was created in 2000, most veterans' funerals had no honor guard, "just a funeral director presenting a flag to the family," Boland said.

"We've come a long ways, although we still have a long ways to go," Boland said.

The program costs Wisconsin taxpayers $700,000 a year. [Incorrect -- see correction noted at the top of the page.  This program does not cost taxpayers any money, but even if it did, don't we own our veterans this?]

The three honors teams perform at more than 100 funerals a month between them. The Union Grove squad alone performed 62 burials in October, Dierks said.  Each unit consists of a supervisor and four team members who form a rifle detail, fold the U.S. flag, present it to the family and play taps.

Wisconsin was the second, after Missouri, to create a military honors program. Six states have followed suit. Team members are veterans or in a reserve or National Guard unit, Dierks said.

A number of factors are blamed for the shortage of buglers.  For one, few military units are based in Wisconsin, Boland said.  Another is the increasing mortality of veterans.

It's estimated that more than 1,200 World War II veterans die every day nationwide. Some estimates are as high as 1,500. That's up from about 1,000 just a few years ago. The annual number of Wisconsin veterans who die is expected to peak at about 12,500 in 2007 and then drop back to 11,000 for a few years afterward.

Coordination is key

A ready supply of buglers would seem to be available through the thousands of high schoolers who play in their school bands, as well as the many adults who play in civic bands.

But Dierks said coordination is the key issue.  "If I have a funeral tomorrow at 9:30 a.m., the kids can't get out of school," he said.

To encourage more high schoolers to get involved, state Rep. Terry Musser (R-Black River Falls), chairman of the Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs, introduced legislation last year that would award a $25 voucher toward college to high schoolers who play at a veteran's burial.  That died in committee, but Musser is expected to reintroduce it in the next session.

One high school student who wants to play is Tyler Young, 16, a Sussex resident and a junior at Wisconsin Lutheran High School. He signed up in June at the Web site for Bugles Across America, a Chicago-based clearinghouse for buglers willing to volunteer.

So far, no one has called. And if someone doesn't soon, he will contact local veterans groups himself, he said.

"I want to just honor the veterans who have served my country," he said.

Roger Butt, 70, began bugling for the Peter Wollner American Legion Post 288 in Cedarburg when he was in high school in 1948. In the early '50s, when he tried to enlist, Butt was declared unfit for duty because of a heart ailment, but he continued to play for the post until recently, when he moved to Missouri.

"I hope some young buglers will take up where I left off," he wrote in a letter to post officials.

Before he left, Butt found John Pike and Ken Braband, both Cedarburg residents and fellow Cedarburg Civic Band members, to take his place.

"We see it as an opportunity to give something back to the community," Pike said.

Braband's father, a veteran, died a few years ago. An honors group came to his burial.

"It wouldn't have been the same without someone playing taps. I want to keep that tradition going," he said.

Menomonee Falls police Capt. Terry Hansen, 51, began playing at veterans' funerals seven years ago. He does so to honor his father, a veteran, and the Scoutmasters of his youth, all of whom were veterans.

"It means a lot to these men. It means a lot to me," he said.

Schiebenes, an Air Force veteran who served from 1970 to 1974, uses a wheelchair due to a work-related injury and plays at about 10 funerals a month.

"I try to get myself positioned so people don't see me, so I kind of come out of nowhere when it's time to play," increasing the dramatic effect, he said.

Playing taps never gets old, he said.

"I hold my last note out and get very soft at the end, and the rifle squad listens for my cutoff. Then they go," firing three volleys into the air.

For more information on bugling and funeral honors, log onto or the state Dept. of Veterans Affairs site at funeralhonors.asp.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Birds of a Feather...

...flock together.  How true, how true.  I believe that is why the Ladies of the Bus a/k/a Rockin' Crazy Cougars, have bonded.  It's amazing how quickly you can find friends and cohorts on the bus ride to and from work.

Tonight is Thelma's house-warming.  Thelma is far too young to be a cougar -- she's only 32.  In June of this year she moved into her very first apartment away from home, away from the sheltered life she has always known.  It took awhile for her to get her place together, and thus the long delay in the house-warming, but tonight's the night.

So, for Thelma (not her real name -- most of us have nicknames.  I'm Jannibal {chomp chomp}, for instance) I wanted to get a house-warming gift that would be meaningful and useful as well, and beautiful too!  The problem was, I didn't have much time to shop, and I wasn't sure what the heck I would get.  At first, I was thinking "spa" -- but since I did not know her color scheme or what she had -- she's been very close-mouthed about it all, drat!  So I thought "I'll get her a gift basket in a nice neutral color of bubble bath, lotions and potions, etc."  And of course I couldn't find one that rang my chimes.  Double drat! 

So, this morning I headed to TJ Maxx on a mixed-bag weather day; one minutes it was cloudy, gloomy, damp and cold; the next moment it was sunny, breezy and I was far too warm in my winter jacket!  Sweated on the walk back home, whew!  And I had -- SUCCESS!  My eye was caught by several different things, including one of those cases that look like an antique book, some glass and chrome soap dispensers (after I had told myself I wasn't going to consider any such accessories, these were soooo pretty and the price was soooo right, I was very tempted), even some Christmas ornaments. I considered some of those mercury-glass tall votive holders, and some neutral-colored picture frames and then -- I saw it!  On an upper shelf -- a candle holder. 

Only, I didn't realize until I got it home and read the little tag on it that it's actually a jewelry holder!  I couldn't read the tag at TJ Maxx because I didn't have my tote with me and therefore, no reading glasses.  I'm blind as a bat when it comes to reading without my Walgreen's cheaters!  (When I go shopping I only carry my empty canvas totes and cash and cards are stuffed into pockets.) It's branches have little birds on them and the thing I thought was supposed to hold the candle (a nice size candle) in the shape of a bird's nest is probably supposed to hold watches and such!  LOL!  Of course I didn't think to take a picture of this find before I wraped it up, and I'm not going to unwrap it now!  So I thought, I'll just find a pic of it on the internet.

Could not, for the life of me, find an image of the birds on branches jewelry holder I actually purchased.  Geez, I had no idea!  There are a kajillion of them out there, and they're all different!  So, here are a couple of pics that are sorta kinda look like the one I scored at TJ Maxx:

This one (above) is supposedly an Anthropologie bird nest and branch jewelry holder, offered at ebay.  I've no idea.  I don't shop at Anthropologie.  It's in a silver color and available for $49.95 PLUS another $12.95 for shipping.  ARE THEY NUTS?  The reason I picked this image is because the nest, with it's woven textured look, is very like the "nest" on the jewelry holder I found.

The photo below is from Kirkland's, but it looks like it was taken originally in 2009:

Sorry, I didn't save a url where I snatched the image from.  This form has actually birds on it!

My TJ Maxx find is a creamy color, metal, with some gold brushed on it here and there.  There is one nest, down low on its own branch coming out of the side of the larger branch, which I took to be the candle holder; the five-inch tall scented pillar candle I bought at TJ Maxx fits perfectly in it!  There are three birds scattered about the branches and many of the branches have small holes pierced through them, I assume so that pierced earrings can be hung from them.  Funny, when I first saw what I thought was a candle holder, I thought to myself that those branches would look so pretty festooned with some dangling crystals!  It has "feet"/base similar to the Kirkland's model but the branching is more reminescent of the Anthropologie model. 

Best of all was the price, which I won't reveal just in case Thelma ever visits here.  It was a lot less than $49.95 plus $12.95 for shipping!  It was also less than the on-sale price of $14.95 that I remember from the Kirkland's image.  Note:  I just checked Kirkland's online site and could not find the birds on branches jewelry holder, so they no longer sell it online.

This was the ONLY candle holder (jewelry holder) of this type in the entire TJ Maxx store.  DRAT!  I really like it and wanted it for myself.  The sacrifices that friends make for friends...this would look fabulous in my bedroom...

I hope/think Thelma will like it because she loves birds and nature like I do; it's in a great neutral color, it's practical and useful and beautiful (can definitely be used both as a candle holder and a jewelry holder).  It's small enough to fit into a bathroom or on a dresser in a bedroom.  In addition, Thelma owns Bob the Bird (a parakeet), so I think she'll get a kick out of my choice. I also got Bob the Bird a gift -- not sure what they're called, those seed-covered thingies that go inside and hang on the side of the bird cage.  Well, it's Bob's home, too. 

I also bought a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream so we can all have a suitable toast this evening. Thelma is not experienced at throwing parties -- she only purchased one bottle of wine.  Now, that might work if I was the only guest coming because I can down a bottle of wine in nothing flat, unless it's a gallon, in which case it would take me a couple of hours.  Thelma is starting out a little later on the road to independence than I did; I got my first apartment at 17.  But she'll learn, just like we all did.  Fortunately, Thelma has the Ladies of the Bus to guide her :)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Feather Decorated Christmas Tree

Hi everyone!

It's far too early for me, yet, to be doing anything about Christmas decorating.  I'll start gearing up for that after Thanksgiving.

Last year, though, the very first time I ever attempted to decorate my tree using that twisty-wide French ribbon thanks to so many beautifully decorated trees I saw at many different blogs when I started looking for inspiration for a "gold and maroon christmas tree," I came across a particular tree that I absolutely fell in love with.  I blogged about the tree and my quest to get the feathers that were used to decorate it at my Goddesschess blog (about Chess, Goddess, and Everything).  I'm just copying those blog entries here rather than trying to recreate them:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Paul Michael Home

Whew - finally! I can write about the Paul Michael Company and how fab, fab, fabulous they were to me in arranging an order of - feathers! Yes, feathers!

But, darlings, not just any kind of feathers. Hell no. These are the most gorgeous feathery things I've ever seen, including on the costumes of those famous Las Vegas Show Girls, Bambi Darling and Kandi Kane, who used to write witty and informative articles related to chess and sex and, er, chess, which is a very very sexy game (you must, of course, give it a chance to develop...). In fact, these are the feathers - HERE!

Okay, just to remind you how absolutely incredibly beautiful Laura Orr's Christmas Tree was -- and the Goddess made sure I stumbled across it :)

I can't sing the praises of the Paul Michael Home Company enough, especially Samantha, who was so wonderful in emails and on the telephone when I finally was able to call her (after the Holiday) to place my small order. She was just wonderful through many emails and one missed phone connect.

In due course, the feathers arrived! In this big long, jerry-rigged box that was perfectly intact despite having traveled from Arkansas via UPS (not exactly the smoothest ride...)

I haven't open the box. I'm going to wait until - CHRISTMAS 2012!!!!

Many many wonderful thank-yous to Samantha and the Paul Michael Company for their great customer service. That's what I love -- real, actual people doing real, actual things for you and being glad to do it -- and I hope you will, too. Please check out their fab website and order some things! There's lots to choose from. You'll be glad you did, darlings!
True to my word, I have yet to open up the box in which the feathers arrived from Paul Michael Home Company.  The box is resting atop two bookcases in the den (spare bedroom) upstairs, and will stay there until next month, unopened!  But that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about them, darlings!  Ohhh, no no no!  I've been thinking about those feathers the past several days, and what they're going to look like and how I'm going to possibly use them on my Christmas tree...

Friday, December 23, 2011

An Ode to Inspired Christmas Decorating

Hola darlings!

I'm pooped! I had off today. Today is our office equivalent of "Christmas Eve." Back to work on Monday and the final push is on to December 31st at midnight, pant pant pant... In tax and estate planning, this is our busiest time of year, even busier, if that's possible, than income tax season, gasp!

Anyway, I slept in this morning. Ahhhhhh, the wonder of not having to rise out of bed in the cold and dark! I stayed in bed until 8 a.m. EEK! Had a leisurely coffee. Tuned into a smooth jazz station online and played it loud as I had my coffee and perused some decorating magazines I'd not gotten around to reading for over a year. Geez, Jan.

Later I decided that the furniture from the living room needs to go into the family room, and the family room furniture needs to go into the living room. But since there is only me here I did not attempt to start shoving and pushing furniture. First of all, the sofa in the family room is a queen size sleeper sofa and that sucker is HEAVY! Second of all, this furniture is WIDE. It would not make it through the passageway from the living room to the kitchen without being tilted. That means a minimum of two strong men. So, that means if I want to rearrange my furniture for REAL, I'll have to hire some movers.


Well, the thing of it is, I know they'd make short work of it. The family room stuff would go out the service door into the garage and around to the front door (both doors are wider than the passageway to the kitchen). The living room stuff would go out the front door into the garage through the service door into the family room. Voila! Room swap!

Well, we'll see. Right now I've got other things on my mind, such as FINISHING UP THE FURNITURE SHOVING AROUND I started in the family room just for the hell of it. Turned out I was sick of the sofa being where it was (in front of the double window overlooking the backyard) and wanted to move the recliner and the wing chair in front of the window instead. I thought the sofa might be angled and the sofa table (currently residing in my bedroom with a t.v., a laptop and a desktop computer on it) could fit behind with the upstairs laptop, the desktop could got back into the den where it would be except it got bounced off my home network more than a year ago and I never bothered to try and get it back on (major hassle, let me tell you...) --

Well, the sofa did not work on that angle I wanted, nor on any angle whatsoever.


It's now shoved nearly halfway away from "it's" wall into the room but there's plenty of room behind it now for the sofa table to rest and a chair behind that, and it's facing the window, which is important to me. It's a lovely view, especially in the summer. The recliner and the wing chair are in their 'new' old positions (I've had the room set up something like this before over the past 21 years) with a convenient table and lamp in-between. All I have to do is get that desktop computer back on the network but if I can't do it in 10 minutes tomorrow morning the sucker is still going back into the den on it's computer hutch that has been sitting in there useless all this time! I'll pull out the mile-long telephone cord and hook the sucker up that way if I have to, or chop a hole through the wall to shorten the distance to the telephone outlet and use my 30 foot telephone line instead of the 100 footer. Hey, I had this house built in 1990 - who knew THEN about internet and home entertainment systems and crap like that? Not me, that's for sure. There's one telephone hook-up in the kitchen downstairs, and one telephone hook-up upstairs, in my bedroom. That's it, baby.

No cable t.v. or internet service, no satellite, no U-verse. Just a landline and DSL. I did buy a cell phone a few months ago through work for a really cheapy price and pay only $8.99 a month for it and hope to never use it. I have got so far as to remove it from its packaging but I have not read the instructions yet and have no idea what do do with all the "stuff" that came with it. It is supposed to be for emergencies in case I fall on the ice, for instance, and can't get up. Hmmm....

Regardless, tomorrow morning the sofa table is coming back down where it belongs - behind the family room sofa! And my Acer laptop with it. The printer will be tucked behind the sofa out of sight and the footstool it presently rests upon will once again be put to good use as a footstool! I took the newly configured room on a test spin earlier this evening by watching the Patrick Stewart version of Scrooge on my now obsolete 27" wide tube t.v. I've got a converter box for it but who the hell knows how to hook the sucker up to the t.v. - even assuming I could pull it out of the entertainment center by myself (which I cannot, it's too big and too heavy) -- not me! But the t.v. IS hooked up to my VHS/DVD player and I put it to good use watching movies! The room works for me, even if it does look a little strange and I've got an antique t.v.

Geez - this is supposed to be an ode to inspired Christmas decorating. I have to show you this tree - it's just beautiful:

The tree is from Laura Orr's blog, Markham Street Design. Please check out her
other photos of this tree, including the close-ups! It's just drop-dead gorgeous.

Laura fell in love with the feathers she put on the tree, and so did I! I had to have them. I just had to! Egad, is this what pregnant women go through when they have a craving for something???

Now I don't know this for a fact, darlings, but I have been reading blogs for quite a while now and I don't think I've ever seen a comment just come right out and ask someone "where the hell did you buy that?" if the writer has not volunteered that information. I think it must be an unwritten rule or something, you know, like the Ten Commandments of Internet Blog Protocol. No matter how much I'm sure her readers wanted to know, just like I did, no one asked - where the hell did you get those? So I posted a comment at Laura Orr's Markham Street Design blog and asked her - where did you get the feathers from? I was very polite - honest.


Guess what? Laura Orr answered! And not only that, she also told me how much she PAID for the feathers!


So now I will be a faithful follower of Laura Orr's blog until I die or get senile, whichever happens first.

And I have to tell you about this fabulous place where Laura Orr and her gorgeous tree got those feathers from - PAUL MICHAEL COMPANY. But it's after 11 p.m. now and I'm breaking curfew. Plus I'm damn tired, so I'm going to bed.

I have MUCH I want to say about PAUL MICHAEL COMPANY. But for now, I highly recommend you check them out - fabulous, darlings, absolutely fabulous!
I do regularly visit and read Laura Orr's blog, Markham Street Design.   I've no idea whether my tree with the Paul Michael Home feathers will turn out looking anything like Laura's tree did last year, but I'll try my best to make it so!  Meanwhile, I'm going to start scoping out other trees decorated with feathers.  Wonder if there are many?  Any (other than Laura's...)?

The Look for Less: Ballard Design's Calais Bedroom 7

The race to the finish line, pant pant pant...  The final pieces are the mirror and the demilune table.  Here we go --

Shopping for a mirror.  The inspiration is a beauty - it's the Bellesol Mirror at a large 31.5" diameter and a small price of $169.00.  It's roundish with an antique gold colored rim and an interesting cut/beveled feature around the outer "layer."  Not sure how else to describe it.  The inspiration photo shows two of them, one on either side of the bed:

I was not able to find anything near the size or the price of the inspiration mirror despite hunting online off and on for several days.  Honestly, this is not a cop-out.  Ballard Design had the best price by-far and the best mirror, too, from what I saw.  Here are a few mirrors that I found that are wannabes, each with definite draw-backs.

I found the Brennan Framless Wall Mirror online at Kohls:

It's on sale right now at Kohls plus an extra 15% off today and tomorrow are the last days for that -- the current price (not including the additional 15%) is $168.99.  The size is disappointing, well, it wouldn't be if I wasn't comparing it to the Bellesol mirror!  It's 23.5" diameter and, as you can see, the outer "layer" isn't nearly as intricately cut and pieced as on the Bellesol mirror.  The Brennan is definitely an octagon, whereas the Bellesol's outer "layer", is 16-segments and its shape much closer to a circle.

I checked Home Decorators online, but the two beautiful segmented round mirrors it offers were $269 for the 32" diameter Amberly mirror ($100 more than the Bellesol mirror), and the even larger (34" diameter) Fortune mirror at $349.

The prices were much more to my liking at Target online.  Here is Threshold's Starburst Mirror:

Of all the mirrors I looked at online, this one was closest in the look of the Bellesol mirror.  It has 16 outer segments but it has an antique gold inner frame.  The size is 24" diameter, so it's 7.5" smaller in diameter than the Bellesol mirror.  But the price is an unbelievable $40.  Yes, $40.   This makes me wonder about the mirror quality.  Is it actually glass, or is it spray-painted plastic with a distorted reflection?  Well, it would be behind a lamp on a wall and not used for putting on make-up, so it would work, ignoring the size differential.  For the price, maybe one could...

I also found some possibilities at, but the closer those mirrors were in design and size to the inspiration mirror, the farther and farther away from $169 they got!  So I'm not posting any of them here, but if you are curious you can do a search for "round mirror" at Wayfair.

Shopping for the demilune table.  Here's the inspiration table:

It's the Torino demilune side table for $399.  It comes in three finishes including the above (Tuscan brown), distressed black and distressed green.  It has two drawers, is 32 1/4" tall, 38" wide, and 14.5" deep. 

A plainer and somewhat less expensive option, in a beautiful mahogany finish, is also offered by Ballard Designs:

This is the Newport demilune for $329.  It comes in three other finishes: rubbed black, rubbed white, and distressed light ash.  It has two drawers, an ogee top, and measures 32" tall, 38" wide, and 11 3/8" deep. 

An honorable mention to this very similar table by Powell, found at Wayfair:

This is the Antique Black Demilune Console Table - 502-515, priced at $266.49 with free 2-day delivery.  It has a distressed finish with terra cotta color underneath.  Dimensions 32" tall x 38" W x 14.5" D.  It's lines are very similar to Ballard Design's Newport demilune, but it's measurements are nearly identical to the inspiration table.  Also, I noted that the two Ballard Design tables come in a distressed black finish, and given that the Calais bedding itself is black on creamy white, black tables would not look out of place.  This is a very good price for a lovely table.

Here is another alternative found at Wayfair:

This lovely demilune table is by the Bridgeport accent table in brown by Wildon Home.  It does not have two drawers; it has storage behind the doors.  I fell in love with the beautiful finish and the details -- the carving underneath the top above the doors; the balls on the legs and their sleek rounded tapered shape.  The overall dimensions are very similar to the inspiration table:  31.625" tall x 38" W x 14.5" D.  It is priced at $222.12 with free 2-day shipping.  Hmmmm, from $399 for the inspiration  to $222 with free shipping (sacrificing 2 drawers but still has storage; same size, prettier finish and detailing...) what's not to love?

I hope you enjoyed this challenge along with me.  It is always my goal to present various price points lower than the inspiration looks, while sticking as close to the looks and dimensions of the originals as possible.  Sometimes, hmmmm, it's not as possible.  LOL!