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


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Swapping Out Beds

Oy, I really must be insane.  Really.

This morning while I was washing dishes, all of a sudden I heard this little voice telling me something.  Now let me tell you, darlings, that little voice is almost always T-R-O-U-B-L-E! 

And what, you ask, was that little voice telling you, Jan?  Well, it was telling me to do what I should have done back in February when I put up my mesh canopy in my (mistress - no masters in this house) bedroom.  It was telling me, rather insistently (how rude!) that I should swap out the beds in my room and the guest room.

What?  I cried!  Are you nuts!  Things are pefectly fine the way they are.  And, indeed, they are.  Here is a recent pic of my bedroom (showing the top sheet of the slippery red striped satin set I scored at TJMaxx -- the set I'm now only using pillow cases from because the satin sheets were too slippery!):

I have been very happy with my bedroom since I got serious in February and rearranged it, added the canopy, jazzed things up, cozied it up, made it altogether much more liveable.  And, true to my pledge, I have faithfully made up my bed every single morning, even on the weekends, ever since!  Ta da!  Isn't it pretty!!!

And so, you may well question my sanity.  I snorted at the little voice and kept washing the dishes.  Then I cleaned up the kitchen, fed the squirrels, and settled down to read the Sunday paper.

Didn't do any good.  Once that little voice speaks, I may as well be a zombie, totally in control of something or someone else.  Spooky! 

Hmmm, maybe I am a zombie...cuz sure enough, about 10:30 a.m., I headed upstairs and proceeded to tear both beds apart!

The first thing I did was take down the canopy in my bedroom.  It has been shaken out a few times but not washed since having been installed in February.  It was time!  So, down to the washing machine it went while I tackled disassembling the beds!

Of course, it all took much longer than I thought.  I kept thinking to myself the Packers are coming on at 3:30 p.m.  The Packers are coming on at 3:30 p.m.  And I was nervous about this game -- more about that later.  Better to keep myself occupied.

And ohmygoddess, I sure kept myself occupied.  Worked up major sweats and really got a work-out. And here Heart Doctor #2, who told me under no circumstances should I ever lift a snow shovel again (HA!), neglected to warn me about the dangers of tearing beds apart and putting them back together again.  HA!  Well, I didn't keel over from a heart attack, Doc.  HA HA!

My bed already disassembled and on the left you can see the footboard of
the guest room bed leaning against my dresser.  I carried the bed frame into
the guest room.  Fortunately, I was NOT swapping out mattresses!

Guest room bed, partially disassembled.  Do you see those thing wire-
thingies?  Those will play a starring role later on...
The headboard from my former bed, waiting to move into it's new digs.
And here it is, in its new home.  Oh, I decided to switch up the bedding
too, while I was at it.  This is a set that I used in the guest room years
ago, when it first became a guest room!  It's been in storage for years!
Hmmm, I'm liking it all over again, a real change from the black and cream.
Oh oh, what am I saying?  Those are the colors I have in my room...

The beds came apart easily enough, it was getting them back together again that took be FOREVER!  Ach! 

My bed, moved to the guest room -- the box spring didn't quite fit into the frame, no matter how I heaved and shoved.  Whew!  Talk about working up a sweat!  So I thought to myself, what would B-I-L Fred do?  Of course!  He'd hammer the damn thing into submission.  So I dashed downstairs to the junk drawer and pulled out a hammer.  Fred would be proud of me!  BANG BANG BANG!  I also took the precaution of loosening up the nuts and bolts on the screws before I started banging away :)  Voila!  Worked like a charm, and I didn't ruin the bed frame.  It's from the 1970's, and although it's got a non-terminal case of rust, it is still perfectly functional, the wheels work and it's very sturdy.  The box frame popped into the widened-out frame perfectly; I tightened up the nuts and bolts, quickly ironed-up the bedskirt and placed it on the box spring, and then arranged the mattress on top. 

Being as this is a guest room that isn't used very often, these are not very expensive mattresses, but they are comfortable, as I tested them out for about a week back in 2009 when the mistress bedroom was torn apart, wallpaper border removed and the walls painted from bubble-gum pink (what WAS I thinking???) to "powder puff" white by Sears Easy Living.  As you can see, though -- in comparison to what this headboard and frame looked like in its former setting, this mattress set is a good two inches lower than the set I use in my room, and the 14" drop bedskirt fits okay. 

And then, it was on to my room, a snap, I thought.  HA!

I got the frame into the headboard and footboard in no time at all.  And then, I had to reattach those thin wire-thingies -- you can see them in the two photos above.  I think it took me at least an hour to do it, and a more frustrating, exhausting hour I haven't spent in quite awhile, let me tell you!  What a work-out, heaving and shoving, trying to "stretch" those little metal hooky-things into the matching hole in the frame on the other side.  Just was-not-happening! 

Not exactly sure when it occurred to me to try loosening the two screws in the middle of the frame on either side, but that was a chore too, because one screw on each side refused to budge!  And so I fiddled and faddled and putzed and putzed and eventually, I succeeded in forcing the frame together sufficiently to get the metal wire-thingies into their respective holes.  Then I tightened the screws back up.

Fortunately, the box spring fit just right into the frame, no further messing around was necessary.  Good thing too, for I was just about spent physically by then, and when I realized it was like 3:25 p.m. and I'd miss my 2:00 p.m. blood pressure meds, DAMN!  Now I'll have to wait until 10:30 p.m. to take my final blood pressure meds for the evening, when I'm ready for bed NOW (6:25 p.m.)  LOL!

Not content to wear myself out putting the beds back together, I decided to flip this box spring and 200 pound mattress -- all by myself.  I succeeded.  OUCH.  Here the mattress is "resting" while I dashed downstairs to iron up the 16" drop bedskirt, since the old one would no longer be long enough.

And here it is, all put together:

I see I need to do some further tugging adjustments to that bedskirt.

Issues:  The canopy, fresh from the washer, was a twisted-up mess!  I got it straighted out, and thought better about putting it into the dryer.  Can't hang it outside (only 24 F outside), and don't have lines strung in the basement.  So, what to do, what to do.  I hung up the wet canopy in the bedroom.  LOL! 

Well, it's mesh and is drying as quickly as I can type this.  Turns out the footprint of this bed is SMALLER by 3 inches length and 3 inches width than my old bed.  Go figure.  So the canopy looks HUGE hanging from the ceiling.  It may look weird tied to the posts, which was my original plan.  Drat!  The old bed didn't have a footboard, and the canopy curtains hung straight down, whether tied (during the day) or let loose (at night).  Tied and floofed up, they looked just fine.  But with these posts and the footboard, it will now be obvious that the canopy is too big.  Well, it was designed to fit from a full size to king size bed.

So, not sure what I'm going to do, but nothing more tonight except to make up the beds.  I think my Packers lost, by the by.  I couldn't watch the game.  Every time I clicked on it on the t.v. something disastrous would happen. So I turned it off.  The last I knew, it was a tie score, but I think they went into over time and Minnesota was threatening to score a TD.  DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMN DAMN!

Okay, I'm going to watch "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" on commercial t.v. and feed myself.  Starving!  I'll worry about canopies and such on New Year's Day (a day off, woo woo!)

10:07 p.m.:

Beds are made up.  Laundry done and bedding packed away.  Here's the guest room - bad photo.  Some things yet to do to make this room more inviting.  I have a NYC poster to put up behind the bed.  My Bombay Company small bullseye mirror used to be hung above the bed, but I borrowed that earlier this year to use in an arrangement above the fireplace in the front room downstairs, and didn't put anything up to replace it.  I was hemming and hawing about what to do.

This has been a "New York" room in the making for years now, ever since my first trip to NYC in 2005.  A water color of the lovely fountain outside of Bergdorf's on 5th Avenue and Columbus is in the room (bought in 2005, along with a photo that Mr. Don took of the same fountain during out return trip in 2009.  It's on the eastern-most corner of Central Park.  A stroll up 5th Avenue to (I think), about 97th Street or so puts one outside the grand facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I have spent much time.  It is rightfully known as one of the best museums in the world!!!!!

Some other photos and souvenir prints are already in the room, along with little miniatures of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty that Mr. Don gave to me some years ago. I just need to pull it all together.
If you look carefully, you can see Mr. Don's miniatures on top of their respective images on the wall beside the window. The bottom photo is Mr. Don, our friends Georgia and Michelle, and me, taken outside the Statue of Liberty. Above that photo is a framed print of a view of the Empire State Building that was given to me by Michelle after our 2009 trip. The large poster that will go behind the bedhead is a print of the Empire State Building from the same vantage point as Michelle's gift, but taken from Central Park during the winter of 1960. It is absolutely stunning in black and white. Hmmm, maybe I will need to put back the black and cream bedding after all... Geez!
And, my room:
Didn't turn out so bad after all, but I think I may need to get a step to help me into my suddenly much taller bed, eek!  Look how far above the cross bar at the foot of the bed the mattress is!  The canopy looks okay, even when tied to the bed posts. Whatever dust was caught up in the canopy is now gone, Thank Goddess, and many of the bothersome wrinkles (but not all of them) have disappeared.  Seems I really must get serious and pull out my steamer to get rid of the rest of them.  How does one steam mesh? 
One last look:
As you can see, I banished my red satin pillows.  I was not able to bunch up the feather pillows within them the way I can do with 100% cottom pillows.  So the pillows are now covered in black and white gingham check.
Geez Louise!  The mattresses are so high that you can't even see the head of the bead with the back pillows up!

And I really must go to bed. Packers DID lose.  By a field goal.  Three points.  Yeah, right. Tomorrow, just in time to greet the New Year, our windchills in Southeastern Wisconsin will be plunging below zero. Great. Just Great.
We will be meeting those fricking Vikings in the first round of the play-offs at LEGENDARY LAMBEAU FIELD (imagine echo effect while reading that...) next weekend at 7 p.m. We are going to KILL THOSE SUCKAS. They play dirty. They do not deserve to be in the play-offs, let alone again the Packers. I think the fix was in, though. A good way to juice up ratings and improve the line in Las Vegas. But, as Harry Potter knows, Good Always Prevails Against Evil, even if we lose an occasional battle or two. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Your Recent Wonderful Posts

One of the great things about visiting link parties is the wide range of interesting posts one finds from bloggers I might not otherwise know about.  I've added many blogs to my personal list of favorites that I've found this way.

I haven't done this for awhile and I'm in the mood (woo woo!).  Here are some recent favorites:

From Wendy's Shabby Nest "Frugal Friday" on December 28, 2012:

I just absolutely fell in love with Lily and Jugsy at Homespun blog, "The Dogs Enjoying Our First Snowfall", posted December 21, 2012.  I borrowed this picture, hope Debra won't mind.  I would have contacted her, but I'm no longer on Facebook and I did not see a contact me button at her blog so I could write and ask for permission to use this wonderful photo of her dogs:

Cheeky, rambunctious and much younger Jugsy goes up against older and wiser Lily who rolls her eyes and thinks "Really?"  LOL!  This post brought tears to my eyes as I scrolled through the narrative and the pictures, reminded of my much loved doggies, gone many years now, and our own romps during first snowfalls.  Oh, how I miss them.  But Jugsy's bright smile and obvious joy just made me smile ear to ear. 

From Gina's The Shabby Creek Cottage "Transformation Thursday" on December 26, 2012:

We have a 16th floor cook-off every year at Christmas time. Entries are restricted to hors d'ouerves and desserts, although the hors d'ouerves is regularly stretched to include many different things.  I have entered every now and then, and one time I even won a golden spoon award for best hors d'ouerves (it was a delish cucumber spread!!!)  This year, after a hiatus of several years, I entered again, making chocolate fudge cherry cupcakes, YUM!  People loved them, but they were too large for many people to sample as a dessert after stuffing ourselves with hors d'ouerves, and I did not even garner enough votes to receive an honorable mention.  Oh the horror, the horror!  LOL!  Well damn, I knew those suckers were good, but what I should have done was make them in a mini-muffin pan, and tested out baking times until I got it just right.  But I'm not really that competitive (except when it comes to chess), and I didn't do that. 

However, I learned an important lesson that should have sunk in long since:  make sure things are bite-size and manageable for every one to try out!  Anyway, I saw this recipe at Gina's Transformation Thursday and am thinking this could be a winning entry for desserts in 2013.  This could be cut into quarters for easy bite-size and sampled by all...

From Posed Perfection, December 20, 2012, Orange Cranberry Nut Bread.  Ohmygoddess!  I have a cranberry orange muffin from the cafeteria in our building where our office is located at least 3 times a week (we have access to it although not bank employees).  YUM!  LOVE LOVE LOVE orange/cranberry!  So I was very quick to save this recipe. 

How do you make these delicious photographs?  Oh yum, I want to eat the screen!

FROM baking to bedroom... I don't know what it is about bedrooms that so consumes me.  I didn't used to pay any attention to my bedroom other than as a clean rather spartan place to sleep. It was ho-hum and boring, snore.  Which I suppose one might want in order to fall asleep quickly every night from sheer boredom, but as a sanctum sanctorum within which to shelter and renew my spirit at the end of each hard day, it left MUCH to be desired.  MUCH.  This became more and more important to me as I gracefully aged (ahem).  And finally, I couldn't take it anymore, the boring and ho-hum had to go!

As you may know, in February, after receiving so much inspiration from decorating and home blogs I'd been visiting for about a year or so at the time, I took a big gulp and redid my own bedroom.  It was a mighty undertaking for me -- not by junking my ancient inexpensive (but not to me at the time) furniture, or painting it, or adding many newly-purchased things.  I read some articles on feng shui, shoved my existing furniture around to comply with some of the major principles of the discipline as best I could, given the architecture of the room, and I bought and put up a net canopy hung from the ceiling over my bed, to give the illusion of a four poster.  I also purchased a picture frame at TJ Maxx to go above my bureau and filled it with things I printed off from the internet, and I shopped my house to add other touches, such as creating a totally glam (for moi) dresser-scape that I never bothered with before (too putzy).  Now, every night, I firmly shut my door, not just when I have company visiting.  The world goes bye-bye! Now, every night when I turn down the comforter, fluff my pillows one last time, and undo the ribbons to let down the net curtains at the foot of the bed, I hear an internal and sometimes vocal aaaaaahhhhhhhhh.  I so love love love my bedroom! It is now the haven and sanctuary it should be.

Sometimes this summer I sat up there, late at night, with the windows cranked wide open and no sounds around me except the crickets and the critters foraging in the backyard, and the distant hum of traffic from the expressway, with just a few candles burning, and I read, like I imagine Abraham Lincoln used to do before the fireplace in the log cabin home he grew up in back in the old days.  Yeah, I'm a sappy historical romantic :)  Every morning since my bedroom re-do, when I wake up, I roll to my back and look up at the net canopy above me, and the curtains draped about me, and I smile and stretch to greet the morning.  Another day.  Thank Goddess.

This bedroom caught my eye, at Meredith and Gwyneth, New Yorkie, Room Reveal: Cottage Guest Room, December 27, 2012 -- another stolen photo:

I have to confess, though, I much preferred the Queen Anne style desk that formerly sat to the left of the bed before the redo.  But, oy! Who would not want such a window in one's bedroom???  But, I'm pretty hokey-old fashioned.  Goddess blessings to Meredith's Mom, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.

At Savvy Southern Style's Wow Us Wednesdays, December 26, 2012, I found another incredible bedroom that just made my heart go zing zing.  Only wish I could have seen more of it:

From Opulent Cottage, Toile, Plaid and Gingham Christmas Bedroom, December 18, 2012 (another stolen photo):

Be still, my heart!  Years and years ago, long before the internet was invented, I clipped out of a decorating magazine three pictures of toile, check and floral bedrooms.  Always meant to have a bedroom that had those elements.  Still have not done it, LOL!  Well, I tried, but the toile curtains I bought for the bedroom in 2009 just do not go with the comforter I bought, etc. etc.  Someday I'll get it right, if I live that long.  And maybe I'll even have the time to enjoy it for a few years, rolling over every morning and smiling up at my net canopy...

Make a Wine Bottle Light WITHOUT DRILLING!

Happy Holidays to everyone! 

My Christmas break was lovely, and I hope yours was, too.   This year I had 4 days off in a row because we have Christmas Eve off as well as Christmas Day, and this year Christmas Eve was on a Monday!!!!

A few years ago, I received a lovely gift I received from a friend.  I fell in love with it instantly, it wa so unique.  Here are some not very good photos of it, showing the front, and the back:

Yes, a lighted wine bottle!  As you can see, the bottle is "frosted" with a pattern of snow flakes (it is on the outside because when I run my fingers over it, I can feel the texture) and the lovely front "label" is similarly applied (I have no idea how), and above it, a texured "Warm Wishes."

When I plug the bottle in at night, it is very bright! 

As you also can see from the second photo, the lights were funneled through a polished hole that was somehow drilled into the bottle a couple of inches above it's base.  The cord, left free, is able to be plugged into a nearby outlet. 

I was just awe struck by the ingeniuity of using a wine bottle to make such a light, and how it was done.  And the decorations - wow!  All together one of my favorite Christmas things here at Maison Newton. 

I have from time to time wondered how it was made, but I don't have a bent toward craft making.  I figured it was done with tools I don't and never will own and techniques I know nothing about and have have no interest in learning, LOL!  That's what craft fairs are for, buying creations like this from people who are much cleverer and gifted in these ways than I could ever dream. 

There are as many variations of this clever idea as there are creative and inventive people.

Here is a commercial site that sells many different kinds of liquor and wine bottles for $20 each:  Lighted Bottles from M and M Designs.

Light Up Bottles features a clear bottle with hole pre-drilled and a 50-light strand of white lights for $9.99 plus shipping.  There is also a dark green bottle available.  What's cool about this is that you can decorate your bottle the way you want and you don't have to go shopping for the right kind of lights. 

I fell in love with these apple cider bottles used by Design Mom in "Bottles Full of Light" in a 2010 blog post. She learned after the fact of successfully using her technique to drill holes, however, that what she did was potentially very dangerous!  She worked without goggles, mask, and gloves, at what looks like her kitchen or dining room table!  Eek! 

Do-it-yourselfers always find a way to drill a hole in the bottle, some methods better than others. It is a messy and potentially dangerous business.  Not for moi!  I'm just not a goggles, gloves and breathing mask kind of gal.  However, this method (below) seems fairly safe, as the glass you're chipping away at would fall INTO the bottle, not out toward you:

DIY Wine Bottle Christmas Lights from Blog Your Wine, December 10, 2010.  He makes it sound easy :)  I may try it one day when I'm feeling particularly fearless and brave...

I apologize in advance for not being able to come up with a link, but I swear to you yesterday during lunch hour when I was catching up on visting some of my favorite blog parties, I saw a lighted wine bottle where the creator had simply fed the lights into the bottle through the neck opening and left the cord dangling outside the neck of the bottle; it was then hid down the backside of the bottle (I didn't see any ties, so perhaps it was left loose or was glued  to the back of the bottle?  And then she decorated the top of the bottle.  NO DRILLING!  NO CHIPPING A HOLE IN THE BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE!  The cord plugged in and voila, beautiful Christmas wine bottle light!  I looked and looked for that post at that party today and I cannot find it. I don't remember which party it was at, or what the date was.  Damn my bad memory!  I knew knew knew then I should have saved a link -- but I didn't.  If I do find it again (I will continue to look for it, I'm obsessive that way...) I will be sure to add it in right here.

[ADDED 10:04 P.M.  I found it!  It's from Slowly Faded Treasures, and I did not see it while visiting a link/blog party, I visited her site separately.  So sorry for the senior brain cramp.  Here is the link:  Wine Bottle Nightlights, December 22, 2012]

But that got me thinking last night.  What if....

And so today, I used a few things I had on hand to create my own version of that clever hole-less lighted wine bottle, LOL!

I used:

  • An empty, cleaned wine bottle that I happened to have  (okay, I drank the last few ounces of rich, sweet red wine I usually keep on hand that I use to make a marinade for my once-a-week steak)
  • Battery-operated LED mini light set (15 lights), on sale at Walgreens a few weeks ago 3 for $10.  They come in clear and multi-colored
  • Four decorative Christmas picks temporarily borrowed from my Christmas tree
  • Assorted twist ties (I wasn't sure which ones or how many I might use)

I opted to leave the front and back labels on the wine bottle for this project.  As I wasn't sure I could get the idea to work, my primary goal was to keep the muss, fuss and putzing to a minimum.

It was easy to feed the lights into the bottle through the neck opening.  It wasn't difficult to use one of the LONG green twist ties (about 8" long) to secure the battery pack to the neck on the outside of the bottle, twisted extra tight so it wouldn't wiggle, and I slid it around to be centered over the back label.  The most difficult part was inserting the floral picks around the battery pack to hide it as much as possible.  Their stems are about 6 inches long which wouldn't do to have them dangling down around the bottle, so I bent them upwards to cut their length in half. I didn't want to cut the stems, as the length comes in handy when sticking them into the Christmas tree branches.  But, the doubled stems made it difficult to insert them inside the tight twist tie.  One pick wanted to keep flopping over, arrgggghhh.  I probably should have used five or six floral picks instead of just four.  Someone more talented and imaginative than me would come up with some fantastic ribbon bows and florals to cover the battery pack completely and beautifully!

Not shown in the "what I used" photo above is a long white ribbon that I pulled out of my magic cabinet (it has all sorts of junk in it) that I used at the end to wrap around the bottle neck to hide the twist tie and the double-bent stems of the floral picks and add a touch of frou-frou.  I also plopped a foil-wrapped chocolate "ornament" into the mouth of the bottle as a final touch. Pretty and edible, too!   Probably any smaller size round ornament would work, or even another floral pick, being careful when inserting it into the mouth of the bottle that you don't pierce the cord/wiring.  So, without further ado, here is my "finished' product:

The lights were turned on, but it's a little hard to see in these photos.  The bottom photo shows more of the side of the bottle and you can see the lights a little better.

So, using a battery-operated light set to make a lighted wine bottle works.  My LED light set offers fast blinking, slow blinking, and steady glow options, so I can play around with it.  I just made sure when I twist-tied the battery pack to the bottle's neck that I had the on-off switch at the top, easily reachable without dislodging any of the other decorating elements.

The entire creation disassembled much more quickly than it took me to put it together.  So the lights and the same or a different bottle could be used again with seasonal decorations (spring, summer, autumn, winter) or for other things.  Very thrifty, if I do say so myself :)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Satin Sheets = Epic Fail!

Around November 17 or 18, I had stopped at the TJ Maxx store that's about a mile from where I live.  I was on the hunt for other things but you know how it goes, sure enough, I came across a full-size set of red satin sheets on sale for $16.99 that has FOUR pillow cases!  Oh Heaven, I thought, now I can finally add that touch of red bedding to my bedroom while I still have the Jacquelyn Smith black and white toile comforter and shams on the bed!  So, home the sheet set came with me.

I'd intended originally to add it to my bed in January or February, but yesterday, the first day of my four-day weekend woo woo!, I pulled the set out of its packaging, washed and dried it and put it on the bed.  I was in a festive holiday mood, after having my friend over yesterday for Christmas lunch and gift-exchange, and I thought the red sheets would add a lovely touch of holiday cheer to my bedroom.

I'm in love with the color of these sheets.  It's not a perfect match for my red, black and white floral Penney's valances (I have a matching comforter but that sucker is HEAVY and so far it hasn't been cold enough to warrant using it), but it's assez bon (my motto). 

Here are some not very good photos I took last night of the red satin bedding with glimpses of my red valances. I also finally replaced the white tie-backs on the canopy (came with) that I did not like, with some sheer red ribbon in a complementary tone.

I love the look, but the sheets are not staying on the bed after last night.  I slipped and slid all over the mattress, couldn't get my down pillows situated properly or the comforter either, comforter and pillows kept sliding this way and that way on the slippery satin!  I actually thought I might slide right out of my bed, eek!  While I managed to stay on the mattress, it was not a restful night.  I love how they feel, soft and silky and sensuous, but they are just not conducive to a good night's sleep for this femme.   

I may try mixing the bottom sheet with a cotton top sheet, and possibly try using the satin top sheet by itself during the summer, with a cotton fitted sheet on the mattress and no spread or comforter to slip and slide.  I cannot use the satin pillow cases on my sleeping pillows (down-stuffed), and since they are pillow cases and not shams -- well, I'll see how they look like on the back pillows that are for decoration during the day but prop me up during the night, so that probably won't work either if the cotton-covered down pillows keep sliding off the satin covered pillows!  Ach!  It seems if I want to use the pillow cases at all, they'll have to be on purely decorative pillows.  Yes, I know, pillows are inexpensive, but do I really want six pillows in my not-very-large master bedroom?  NO!  And I don't want to be swapping out pillow covers every night, either.

Yep, I've essentially wasted $16.99 plus sales tax on these pillows and sheets I may never be able to use as intended.  Drat!  Too bad I've already got a rose-red damask tablecloth for my dining table, the flat sheet could easily be made into a round tablecloth.  This set may end up being donated to the Purple Heart or St. Vincent dePaul. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Potential for a Christmas Craft Project

Hi everyone.

Macy's is having a winter sale -- I opened one of their emails this evening and out of curiosity started looking around.  I came across these two items that I found highly desirable.  They are not exactly my style-- they are rustic and cottage-y or country-ish.  Then again, these days, I've no idea actually, what my style is anymore.  My tastes have changed so much -- but I am constrained by budgetary considerations (few of us aren't, these days) and generally I am still pretty happy with the way my house looks, even if the downstairs powder room is pea-green and purple and hasn't been touched in nearly 10 years, LOL!  Oh, it still has sponging on the walls too!!!  Quel horreurs!

This photograph does not do this wreath justice!  The white frosted branches are covered in a sort of white glittery snow that is just gorgeous on close-up!  This is the Winward Wreath, Twig Cone, Web ID 713770.  I was shocked to see a full retail price on this 17" diameter wreath of $100!  I mean - what????  On sale at 50% off, $50 - plus another 10% - through December 24th, I guess lots of other people agreed with me!  It is made out of wood, polyester, and plastic -- oh, and no doubt lots and lots of Super Glu to (although the description does not mention Super Glu...)

But I'm thinking hmmmm, look at that.  If I had a hot glue gun and some patience (and a supply of branches, and some of that gorgeous glitter, along with some pine cones) -- I COULD MAKE THIS!

Well, I crashed and burned trying to make a simple tied together star out of twigs -- EPIC FAIL!  So what on earth would I be like set loose with a hot glue gun, I ask you.  Oh, my, Goddess.  But I wouldn't pay $45 for this on sale either, cool as it is.  So...

And here is a companion piece, which I equally liked:

This is the Winwood Holiday Candle Holder, Twig Cone Votive, Web ID 713772.  Full price is $90, on sale for $45 plus another 10% off.  Too expensive!  Okay, maybe I'm being a little unfair, because according to the description online, this measures 13" by 13" - so perhaps it's not quite a votive holder?

I can easily visualize the wreath above and the votives on my mantle/mantel...

I know every crafter starts out somewhere, but without some directions, I don't think I can cut creating something like this by myself!

That's not to say, though, that perhaps someone else (or many someone elses) saw these pieces, or something similar, and being braver than I with their glue guns, set to work.  Well, to be fair, I don't own a glue gun, so I can't even pretend to be brave with one...

From Adele's website (adele.com.au):

How to make a stick Christmas wreath
2 Dec 2012

An interesting idea - using the old metal coat-hanger forced into a circle trick (what I did last year to make my ornament wreath).  These branches are much longer than the inspiration piece, and it entailed using thin wire to bind the branches on to the metal "frame" to get it to work.  Hot glue probably wouldn't work on this form of stick Christmas wreath.

From the How Stuff Works blog:

Craft Stick Projects
(from late November, 2011 -- maybe I'm blind, but I couldn't find an exact date for the original post).

This website gave me a crucial clue how to start a base and build upon it -- no coat hanger necessary. Well, it uses something like popsicle sticks, but I think the principal is sound -- right? Right?  Think - five sides -- a pentagon!

But maybe an octagon would work better (be larger, in other words...)

Well, I'm tired tonight and I'm watching The Voice Grand Finale -- so if I find something else I'll add it here or do another post.  And I think I have to get me one of those hot glue guns...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pottery Barn Inspired Christmas Gifts!

Hi, everyone.

I struggled tonight with whether to even post anything now - or maybe forever.  Horror once again struck America today, in the form of a killer of young children in Connecticut.  But I thought that I should go on, but take a day or two off.  I cut this post short, because it doesn't seem right to be writing about Christmas gifts when so much suffering and heartbreak is taking place right now.

Unfortunately, suffering and heartbreak is with us - always.

So, how do we deal with it?  How do we cope?  I don't know.  All I can tell you is that 2012 has been the absolutely worst year of my life, and yet here I am, writing about it.  I just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  My heart kept beating when I thought it might break and die.  It didn't.  My brain kept functioning to keep my mind on an even keel when I might have gone mad.  I didn't go mad.  Maybe I even wanted to go mad, but I didn't.

I have no explanations, no adequate words.  Life can be absolutely unbearable at times and yet - yet - most of us continue the brave journey onward anyway, doing the best we can.  To do otherwise, well, maybe that's just caving in to the terrorists who seem so proliferate among us these days.  And that just makes me angry.  I will never lay down and roll over for any terrorist.  Ever.

And so, tonight I want to share with you a few gifts that I would love, personally, to receive -- there is still time -- email me and I'll send you my delivery address, LOL!  No, seriously -- I selected these because I thought they were great and they are not outrageously expensive -- and they are also generally available. There aren't many featured.

The originals are all at Pottery Barn.  I am offering a look for less from various "go-to" online vendors.  You can also find replicas or facsimiles of these items at TJ Maxx, but TJ Maxx does not sell online, and maybe at your favorite local vendors, too. For some of the items, I have also noted other sources that I saw online but did not offer the items for online sale, only at local stores. 

Faux Fur Throw

I have wanted one for years, but until recently the prices never dropped down low enough to tempt me into buying one for myself.  This is the PB version in grey - reminds me of a wolf's color and it looks spectacularly gorgeous in the PB photographs:

Right now they're on special at $99 (regularly $129).

  • 50 x 60"
  • Woven of acrylic/polyester.
  • Ultraplush 670-gram weight.
  • Reverses to solid polyester.

  • Can be machine washed but dry-cleaning is recommended.  The throw comes in golden brown (looks like a beautiful dark mink color in the photographs), butterscotch (a tawny medium to dark beige, I'd call it a neutral color), caramel, and ivory (both lovely colors).  Golden brown and butterscotch are on sale for $90 right now.  Don't know for how long.

    I found a similar look at Target's online website and had it all set to feature here -- and then I read that it is ONLY available in stores.  Drat!  It was a Threshold offering for $19.99 in the 50" x 60" size and looks great -- very similar to the same type (but not the grey color) that I saw at TJ Maxx a few days ago.  Argh!  Oh what the hey - here it is anyway -- judge for yourself and yes, I'm absolutely cheating right now:

    Target Threshold faux fur throw in grey grey ombre

    At Amazon.com, I found a faux fur silver and white throw from J&S Home that looks very pretty and comes in the 50" x 60" size, but it came with one bad review.  So, buyer beware:

    Amazon offering in grey and white

    It is being offered for $23.99 but is in limited supply (well, at least according to Amazon.com).  I had no luck finding anything reasonably priced at Wayfair or Overstock.  And since I will not pay more than $20 for a throw like this since I've seen really nice soft ones in person for $19.99, I am XXX this off of my online shopping list!  I don't have forever to spent hunting for it.

    Silver Plated Hurricanes 

    Blown glass hurricanes with silver-plate base and trim -
    Pottery Barn 2012

    Pottery Barn's offerings are quite beautiful -- blown glass with a silver-plated base.  The etching is extra

  • Small: 4.5” diameter, 5” high
  • Large: 7.5” diameter, 9.75” high
  • Edged with a silver rim along the top.

  • There is a special right at this moment on the smaller size, for $24 (down from $29); and on the large size $49 (down from $59).

    I found some quite lovely hurricanes at K-Mart online, with silver-colored trim (although the bases are not silver-colored), at a price is right!  Check them out:

    This is the smaller size of the Sandra by Sandra Lee, 8-1/2 in. H x 6 in. D, selling for $6.49 on sale right now (regular price is $12.99):

    Sandra hurricane with silver-toned trim
    by Sandra Lee - K-Mart

    The slightly larger size (not pictured here) measures 10 in. H x 6-1/4 in. D, and is on sale now for $7.49 (regular price is $14.99). 

    The Sandra by Sandra Lee hurricanes are made of glass and feature silver-tone trim around the top.  You can see the silver-tone edged rim and also what appears to be a sprayed-on coat of silver color around the top of the hurricane, in an arched pattern. 

    One could always use mirror paint on the foot of this hurricane if one wanted the look...

    Honorable mention goes to this lovely pillar holder that has a base of "antique zinc" -- no shiny silver but ooh la la!
    This is the Stonebriar Collection Grand Fleur de Lis Candleholder for $15.99 at Amazon.  Dimensions: 4.5 x 4.5 x 8.9 inches.  Although the look is not the same as the PB silver-plated hurricanes, the small size is similar.  I found this one so pretty!

    Antique Mercury Glass Pillar Holders

    Antique mercury glass pillar holders - Pottery Barn 2012
    Pottery Barn is sold out on the "medium" and "large" sizes.  Offering now only small and extra large.  The small size is 5.5" square, 6.5" high (square base) and is $19.50.  The extra large size, is 5.5" square and a very tall 21" high, and is $49.50.

    World Market has a nice selection, but available in stores only.  TJMaxx also has some in stock right now, at less than $19.50 for much larger sizes than 6.5" tall.  However, as I restrict myself to online vendors, I didn't have much luck finding anything remotely similar at the same or better price at Amazon or Wayfair, Target or K-Mart!  Wow!  So, Pottery Barn would get my business for the 6.5" tall pillar holder at $19.50.  For the medium and large sizes at $10 more for each (on sale) - see Ballard Designs below.

    Honorable mention: I found a "medium" and a "large" size on sale at Ballard Designs for $29.99 each, regardless of size -- the small is evidently no longer available:

    Large: 22"H X 6 1/2" Diameter
    Medium: 16"H X 5 1/2" Diameter
    Construction: Made from mercury glass.
    Country of Origin: India (Not made in China, I'm sold)

    Sunday, December 9, 2012

    Final Touches to Christmas 2012 Decorations

    Today was our investment club meeting and gift exchange.  This year we opted to keep it simple and we met at Meyer's Restaurant (Milwaukee) for breakfast instead of having bring-a-dish and then adjourned to Maison Newton for our meeting and gift exchange. 

    Before I left the house I had put on the battery-operated lights on the tea lights, wreath and around the live greenery centerpiece on/around the mantle, turned on the flameless candles on the coffee table, etc. so that when the ladies walked into the front room (the front door opens directly into the room), they saw the full glory of my decorations, LOL!

    Well, things were a big hit, and that makes me so happy.  We had our meeting in the kitchen/dinette area where I did minimal decorating this year (not that I ever went full out in prior years!):

    Fresh-clipped juniper fronds from my gigantic juniper out back, with barberry clippings
    (with berries still attached) from out front.  Ruby-red beaded snowflakes hang from
    the chandelier over the table.  Christmas cards (not shown) are taped to the side of the fridge.

    I took several photos of us, but all of them turned out too blurry to use, except this one:

    Guess you can see just how much my hands shake as I tried to take these photos at low exposure -- look at the path the little light on the t.v. (on the fireplace mantle/mantel) took!  LOL!  As for the spooky white smoke effect - I've no idea what caused that!  Hey, Gay!  And not-quite-half of Angie!

    Gayle is on the right and I'm on the left, nearest the tree. 

    Presents are under the tree, and fresh greenery was clipped and added (left upper corner) yesterday, in an old basket I had on hand.  This is the first year I actually thought to utilize the evergreen resources that reside in my front and back yards!  Last year I had used clippings from the barberries out front, but those are red with berries, not evergreen.  This year, I combined both in three separate arrangements and the house is now filled with the fresh scent of juniper.

    Close-up of the arrangement on the kitchen/dinette peninsula (now back in the center of the table underneath the light fixture, as our meeting is over).  The barberry is so pretty, and so ouchy with its sharp thorns!

    Above, a photo of the mantle/mantel.  I added two gold-glittered tall picks to the Norfolk pine and added the feather boa as a garland across the bottom of the mantle/mantel shelf above the firebox.  That was one of my St. Nick's gifts from one of the Ladies of the Bus/Crazy Cougars.  She brought each of us a special St. Nick's gift bag filled with goodies :)  Thank you, Pepper Spray. 

    The kitchen/dinette greenery looking toward the kitchen.

    New this year, I decorated the top of the tall curio cabinet next to the staircase.  I framed a new greeting card I received showing a cardinal on it (to add to my fledgling collection of cardinal greeting cards) in an old frame (you may recognize it from my bedroom), added some clipped juniper, a bit of Mugo pine, and a barberry branch arranged in a woven basket (one of those holding fresh fruit at a Christmas past) lined in tin foil, and one of my Home Interiors candleabra. 

    Yesterday I pulled out this very old basket that was given to me (filled with goodies!) when I moved into this house 21 plus years ago!  I stuffed it full of juniper clippings and some barberry and planted it near the northeast corner to hide the power outlet and electrical cords.  I'm going to add some battery-operated mini-lights to it tomorrow after I stop at Walgreens to buy some (on the way home from the office).  It adds color and a wonderful scent to the room!

    I am loving my white feather boa -- it reminds me of snow and angels' wings:

    My decorating scheme this year was a big hit with the ladies of the investment club.  In January I will be hosting a party for the Ladies of the Bus/Crazy Cougars (actually we're the Rockin' Crazy Cougars). 

    My decorating is now totally complete, I will not be adding anything more, well, unless I get another feather boa or two for Christmas...

    A view of the tree from the staircase.

    A Simple Christmas Door Decoration

    Hola darlings!

    Brrrrr, it's a raw cold, rainy day here in SE Wisconsin, but inside it's toasty warm near the fire and candles are aglow. At this time of year, we certainly need a festival of lights and celebration and, indeed, the herstory of this celebration goes back thousands of years before the birth of Christ.  Originally December 21st was called, in Roman times, "The Feast of the Sun."  And then when Christianity took over the place of many gods with one god, it became "The Feast of the Son." 

    Having this time to which to look forward -- decorating the tree, putting out candles and special decorations that only come out during this time of year, fond remembrances of days gone by, all the good foods and special rich treats, sitting before the fire snuggled up in an afghan dreaming in the candle and firelight, and anticipating and praying that the next year will be better than the last -- this is what gets me through this cold, grey dreadful time of year. 

    2012 was a Year from Hell.  I am looking forward, however, to 2013 and a new beginning. Mr. Don will no longer be at my side, and his loss I will never be able to mitigate.  But I smile with memories as often as I cry, and someday I will smile more and cry less, and maybe not at all, when I think about us. 

    I think I reported recently that at a neighbor's party I bought a "Scentsy" plug-in thingy that melts specially formulated scented wax squares at around body temperature, so even if you have an accident you cannot burn yourself with hot wax (good to know).  I've been using the piney-scent but just a little while ago I put in the top melting dish an "Apple Press" and it smells delicious!  Yum!  It scents the entire house too, a plus I didn't count on.  It's grey-dark outside right now, at 4:14 p.m.  Pardon me a moment while I go throw out a final handful of hazelnuts for my squirrels...

    Okay - about this door decoration thing!

    As you know, this year I used the wreath that used to grace the front door on the wall above the mantle/mantel, and I'm loving it hanging up there with it's little battery-operated lights (until I came across this wreath on clearance at Boston Store for only $9.99, I never knew such things existed -- talk about moi being out of touch, Holy Hathor!) 

    So, I wanted something to hang on my front door.  But, being a cheapskate, I did not want to spend another $9.99 (or whatever) to buy a second battery-lighted wreath.  I have to tell you, though, I've seen so many wonderful and drop-dead gorgeous wreaths that you all have made -- well, I was just panting with desire, darlings.  But, alas, I don't have the skills, or the patience to learn the skills, necessary to make such wondrous creations!

    This is what I did instead:

    I think it's tres bon!  I'm not a crafty person, but riding back and forth to work on the bus (45-50 minutes 2x a day, 5 days a week) gives me time to think and to socialize with those Crazy Cougar Ladies (and honorary member, Thelma, who is only 32 years old, so she cannot possibly be a cougar for at least another 20 years).  I came up with an idea that I thought I'd be able to do with little fuss and less bother!

    And so, during a recent stop at the Pick 'n Save after I got off the bus a few nights ago on my way home, I purchased:

    One Christmas-themed serving plate ($2.99) -- 12 3/4" diameter
    Two mini-stockings out of plush material (on sale each for $0.79)
    One box of 12 special-stripe candy canes ($1.79)

    I had at home:

    Narrow red and gold French ribbon saved from a gift box of candy a few years ago
    Masking tape (half inch wide, generic)
    Two Christmas ornament hooks (small size) 

    And voila!  But I decided not to add the candy canes, which I had intended to super-glue around the perimeter of the plate.   I liked it well enough the way it was, so the individually shrink-wrapped in plastic candy canes will be toted to the office tomorrow and left on the kitchen table for all to enjoy.  It would have no doubt cost me less to buy the platter and mini-stockings at the Dollar Store, but honestly, I just didn't feel like hiking another mile there and back just to purchase the components (if they had them!) 

    All I did was use the length of narrow french ribbon I already had, trimmed the ends at an angle, and taped it to the back of the metal serving plate.  I staggered the lengths so one end hung down longer than the other.  I didn't measure it before hand, but I'd say it was perhaps 36 inches long, maybe a few inches less.  Then, as you can see, on the right side I hung a green mini stocking by poking a small green ornament hanger through the mesh of the ribbon on one side, squeezed it shut so it wouldn't come undone, and twisted the "hook" part of the hanger around to catch on to the inner hook/hanger part of the stocking, then also squeezed that shut so the stocking wouldn't come undone.  I did the same with the red stocking on the shorter length of ribbon on the left. 

    That's all there it to it.  The entire project took me perhaps 10 minutes, including hanging time (the plate is hung from an over-the-door-wreath-hanger purchased at Walgreens for $1.99 a year or two ago).  It took longest to tape down the ribbon on the back of the plate -- I wanted to make sure there was enough masking tape across the ribbon so that it would be sturdy to hold the plate and stockings.  The plate is very light-weight, by the way.  It's pressed or rolled metal but I don't know what kind of metal -- painted aluminum maybe? 

    Being that I made it, it's not perfectly hung or centered or whatever -- I don't have the patience for that -- but it works for me :)  Just hanging the plate itself would have worked for me, because I find it very cute, but I thought, since it was easy enough and only cost me another $1.58 plus sales tax for the two mini-stockings, to "fancy it up" a little bit.

    The true test was that the ladies of the investment club, who came over today for our meeting and gift exchange, all thought it was very cute!  An inexpensive way to add a spot of color to my front door.

    But you know, now that I'm thinking about it, I might have been able to just decopage some Christmas-themed cut-outs from the newspaper, printed from online and/or cut out from magazines and glued on to the cardboard from a frozen supermarket pizza....  Hmmmm.....

    Thursday, December 6, 2012

    Unexpected and Unusual Christmas Trees! Part 2

    Updated December 12, 2013:

    Hola darlings!  This was one of my most popular posts, and I'm sharing it today at Throwback Thursday #13 at Glitter, Glue and Paint.  Enjoy!  JN

    Some more interesting trees I found on the internet:

    (1)  At Trendy Tree, this is 2012 Champagne and Sparkles!

    There are many different takes on a wooden Christmas tree:

    (2)  The Jubilee Re-usable Wooden Christmas Tree.  What a clever idea!  I found this at Apartment Therapy:

    It's 7 feet tall, made in America out of American hardwood.

    (3)  From the Nautical Cottage Blog, I love this small driftwood tree decorated with flameless tea lights:

    (4)  21 fabulously different trees at bestdesignoptions.com (posted December 1, 2012).  Check all of them out.  As a voracious reader and book lover, I was especially attracted to this Christmas tree made out of books stacked in circles!  How clever is this, oooo la la!

    (5)  From Interwarez.com, looks like something someone imagined a tree would look like in the 24th century as a take on the classic aluminum Christmas tree!  It is 180 degrees from my taste, but I like it anyway!

    (6)  From Roses and Rust, a December 11, 2011 blog entry on Neutral and Natural -- lots of trees and decorations, inspiration galore!  Love love love this tree!  It's totally off the scale on what I am usually attracted to, but there is just something about it...

    (7)  I'm partial to black and white and this tree is beautiful.  It was posted in August of 2011.  Check out Christmas in Maxwell:

    I'll take one of each, please.