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.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Look for Less: Ballard Design's Emerson Kitchen -- the End!

Tonight I'm finishing up the Emerson kitchen.  Yep, you guessed it.  I saved the most difficult for last -- finding a suitable table and chairs for $899 or less (en suite) or $499 for the table and $229 for a pair of chairs (X2).

Here's a final look at the inspiration table and chairs:

The table is "Augusta" and the chairs are "Provence" dining chairs.  Buying en suite ($899 for table and four chairs) would save the buyer $58 over buying the table and four chairs separately. 

When I started this challenge (it really wasn't SO long ago, was it?), the table came in three finishes:  black, white, and deep walnut.  Now, it is only available in white and black!  Geez Louise!  The Provence dining chairs are still listed as being available in black, deep walnut and white.  Also, there is a back order on the black finish table and the white finish chairs, LOL!  So, with that in mind -- yes, darlings, I've been shopping!!!

I did a lot of shopping, but I wasn't very satified with the vast majority of the expandable (or "with leaf") pedestal tables I found.  I didn't like the pedestal on most of them compared to the lovely slim and shapely lines of the Augusta table's pedestal and feet!

As I had already settled upon Ikea's Hemnes glass door cabinet with four drawers in a black-brown finish ($365!!!! and also available in white and grey-brown which is a taupe-looking color), I decided to see if Ikea had any expandable pedestal tables that might serve as a good and less expensive substitute for Ballard Design's August dining table.  I found this nice table:

This is the Liatorp table.  It is priced at a modest $279 but only comes in this white finish.  It is approximately 42" in diameter and has an extension leaf that stores underneath the table when not in use, that extends the table to approximately 61" and can seat six.  The top is made of MDF and the assorted parts are solid birch. 

I'm  not crazy about the pedestal, but it is a slender pedestal, not a big fat clunky-looking thing, and the feet are okay - they look large enough to stablize the table even when the leaf is in use.  I also was disappointed that the table was not offered in brown-black (to go with the Hemnes cabinet).

But...if one wanted to buy the Hemnes cabinet in white, then this white table would be a great buy.  It's got a nice apron on it so doesn't look chintzy as some less expensive pedestal tables are wont to do. 

And, sticking with Ikea for the moment as I went to look for dining chairs, I found this great little chair for $59 each:

It's the Ingolf chair.  Yes, I know, it does not have the same kind of back shape as Ballard's Provence dining chair, but I feel it has the same feeling/spirit -- and the price is right!  Nearly half less for two Ingolf chairs than a pair of the Provence chairs...  The Ingolf chair comes in three finishes:  white, brown-black, and "antique stain", which appears to have a finish similar to light wood with a few coats of medium toned varnish on it -- hard to describe -- a lightish tan maybe???

But, knowing that not everyone is a fan of Ikea, and keeping in mind that white sure was not the color of the inspiration table and chairs, I continued my search for a suitable table and chairs.

I absolutely adore this table from Target:

Ooooh, looking at this table's shapely pedestal and feet just makes me all tingly inside.  This is the Embassy dining table.  I love the color combo of black with cherry.  Unfortunately, this table is NOT extendable.  But I didn't disqualify it because of that, because at 48" diameter, it could seat five comfortably and squeeze in six with the right-sized (i.e., not too wide) chairs. It's on sale right now (available online only) for $279, regular price is $358. 

I found these chairs at Wayfair, that are only $102.10 for a pair:

This is the Winsome Basics Ladder Back Chair in antique walnut.  This chair is also available in a light oak finish.  I selected this chair as a potential because it has a Provencal vibe with the ladder back and curved top rail.

Guess what I found just tonight - on clearance at Ballard Designs!  Yep, the Rudolph Pedestal Table and a beauty he is!

A very nicely shaped but thicker pedestal than Augusta and the Embassy, but check out the detail on the feet - that extra "ribbing" (not sure what to call it).  This table was priced at $699 but is on clearance for $399.  It is available in black and chestnut (chestnut shown above).  Rudolph is 48" diameter (6" larger than the Augusta without the leaf added), and 66" with the leaf added, so you're getting more table without adding the leaf for $100 less the Augusta if you opt for the Rudolph table.  But I doubt it will be around for long! 

Price comparison of the tables:

Inspiration table Augusta:  $499 (42" plus 14" leaf extension)
Liatorp:  $279 (42" plus 14" leaf extension -- comes in white finish only): $499 - $279 = $220 (44%)
Embassy: $279 (48" diameter, no leaf extension, comes in cherry finish with black pedestal base only): $499 - $279 = $220  (44%)
Rudolph:  $399 on clearance (48" and 66" with leaf extension): $499 - $399 = $100  (20%)

Price comparison of the chairs:

Inspiration Provence chairs (pair): $229
Ingolf chair ($59 x2) = $118: $229 - $118 = $111 (48%)'
Winsome Basics Ladder Back chair (pair) $103 (rounded up): $229 - $103 = $126 (55%)

Frankly, I keep changing my mind about what would look best with what!  Right now, I'm thinking that because of the great amount of money I'd save with my other selections, I would select the inspiration chairs (Provence dining chairs) from Ballard Designs at $229 x 2 for four chairs in black; I would select the Embassy table (no leaf), with its cherry top and black pedestal for $279 (48" diameter) on sale at Target and  sacrifice a leaf exension; alternatively, I would select the Rudolph table in chestnut on clearance at Ballard Designs for $399 (also 48" diameter) with the leaf extension.  And the Hemnes cabinet I love from Ikea, at $365.  (I'm thinking of this wonderful cabinet for my den/library, when the budget allows, if it is still available then...).  As for the chandy, I really like the World Imports Colchester Collection 6-light at $140.26.  For the rug, I would go with the Heights Area Rug from Home Decorators ($440). 

Breaking it all down:

Ballard Designs Emerson kitchen:

Paulette Server:  $1,099
Arturo 6-light Chandy:  $349
Augusta 42" table with extension plus 4 Provence Chairs: $899
Emerson rug (estimated price point $600)
TOTAL:   $2,947

Jan's Look for Less:

Hemnes cabinet from Ikea:  $365
Colchester 6-light Chandy: $140.26
Embassy 48" table (no extension): $279 on sale OR
Rudolph 48" table (with extension): $399 on clearance
Four Ballard Designs Provence Chairs: $458
Heights Area Rug: $440
TOTAL:  $1,682.26; $2,947 - $1682.26 = $1,264.74 (42.9%)
OR $1,802.26 (higher total includes price differential for the Rudolph table): $2,947 - $1,802.26 = $1,144.74 (38.8%)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Post-Christmas Mantle/Mantel

Hola darlings!

First things first.  Here is a photo of my post-Christmas mantle/mantel:

This is going to be a very lengthy post.  Yeah, I'm full of hot air, darlings.  But there is a method to my madness, so I do hope you'll read on.  Settle in for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  With potty breaks.

After my successful Beat the Winter Doldrums pahty pahty on Saturday night, I got started Sunday afternoon deconstructing Christmas by removing all of the Christmas decorations from the mantle/mantel and packing them away in a separate box.  Goodbye, mercury glass tall votive holders!  Goodbye, greeting cards with cardinals on them!  Goodbye TJMaxx mercury glass pillar!  The lighted decorated wreath was taken down, the ornaments and gold bead garland put away until next year.  The late addition white feather boa was tucked away for next year's Christmas tree, which will be decorated in feathers and birds and pearls (mostly -- I always have the tendency to go overboard, you know, more is like - more!)

It looked bare. SO bare. Barren, actually. A wasteland holding one 19" LCD television and rabbit ears.  OY!  What to do, what to do? 

During the past few weeks I had given some thought as to what I wanted to do with my post-Christmas mantle/mantel during my bus rides to the office in the mornings.  I had jotted down a few notes:

-- historical
-- bring out my wooden globe book-ends
-- a few books
-- pictures of famous queens?
-- some of my old maps?
-- global theme?
-- English manor house traditional
-- hang dark round mirror

I love history.  And I have always leaned toward a more traditional decorating style.  So I wanted to go with that, and use things I already have in the house, without buying anything new, which I cannot afford to do anyway after paying my property taxes, EEK! 

This is what I ended up doing:

(1)  The 'New' Dark Round Mirror

I bought this mirror last year at Wayfair when I was shopping for a round mirror, so I guess technically it is not new.  I actually purchased two mirrors (maybe also at Wayfair? I don't remember), the smaller of which I used above the mantle/mantel for a portion of last year after coloring part of it's icky pukey-looking "antique gold" color with a furniture marker (used to cover over scratches and where finish has worn off).  I used that mirror not because I was particularly enamored of it (I sure was not, but I was too cheap to send it back and I figured I could always paint it, and I probably will), but because it came with a central "hole" area on its back that made it relatively easy to hang on a single hanger pounded into the wall above the mantle/mantel!  The somewhat larger and darker framed mirror that I really wanted to hang up, well, I did not because it came with two little hooky-things on its back and a large warning:  DO NOT USE WIRE TO HANG. 

I wondered why.  Was it because the hooky-things were not screwed into the "frame?" This is not a wooden-framed glass mirror, it's finished plastic and that mirror sure isn't glass, it is shiny bright but it has a horrible warped reflection. Fortunately it's up high enough where I hope most people won't notice that!  It was inexpensive, and I do like the design and color of the frame, that is primarily why I purchased it.  It serves the purpose as a decorative but relatively useless mirror!  But it's not heavy.  So why the LARGE INJUNCTION against using wire (or string took, I figured) tied between the two hooks to hang it?

I sort of had a feeling as to why.  When I looked at the back of the mirror, I could see that those hooky-things, screwed into what is essentially a "cardboard" MDF backing with two tiny screws would be pulled inward toward the center of the mirror due to the strain upon either wire or string strung between the two hooky-things once it was hung over a hanger, or even two hangers, pounded into the wall.  Even I could see that eventually it might be enough pressure on that wire or string to pull the hooky-things out of the back of the mirror. And then CRASH BOOM!

Well, Monday night, I strung the mirror up anyway, using string, not picture-hanging wire, tied with many different kinds of knots from hooky-thing to hooky-thing.  And I hung it up on the same hook upon which I'd hung the Christmas wreath.  And I loved how it looked!  I admired it this way and that and thought to myself, that's perfect

But I was worried all fricking night about that mirror crashing down upon my mantle/mantel.  I've had some experience with things crashing down on/from that mantle/mantel, enough to traumatize me for life!  What if it happened at 3 in the morning and I died in bed from a massive heart attack for fear that someone was breaking into the house through the front window or the patio door?  And I kept thinking about that dire warning plastered across the back of the mirror -- do not use wire to hang...

So, before I went to bed last night, I took the mirror down.  Just to prevent a potential heart attack.

This morning, I went online and did some research about WHY it is not a good idea to hang a mirror or even some art work upon a wire (or string) hung between the two hooky-things on the back.  It's because of something called "torque" and it has to do with that "pressure" I had intuited somewhat, above, and the pull it exerts not only on the fastenings of the hooky-things but also on the frame of the object in question.  The hooky-thing fastenings ultimately give way, or they may stay secure but the frame warps sufficiently from built up torque and gravity to cause the mirror (or artwork) to literally pop out of the frame!  So I was glad I had decided to take it down.  In any event, even if it had not "popped" last night, it sure did lead to a relatively more restful night knowing that at least THAT would not go wrong (mirror crashing down over mantle/mantel and taking out t.v., brass plate, candlesticks, etc. with it!) 

Then I did research on just how the heck one is supposed to hang such a mirror (or picture) with those two hooks, without putting dozens of nail holes in one's wall!  I found this way cool tutorial at Apartment Therapy about how to use masking to do it!  I totally "got it" on the first read-through and said to myself "Self, you can do this."  And I did!

In my case, the center of the hooky-things was about 1 inch below the top of the back of the mirror frame above them, so I lowered the placement of the tape below the hook where I'd hung the Christmas wreath above the mantle/mantel by about an inch.  It took a few trips up and down the ladder and eye-balling it's "levelness" and "centerness" to get the tape into what I thought was a proper position before I took a giant gulp and drove in my hangers with one of my decrepid hammers.  It worked!  I am very happy with the result!

(2)  English Manor House Traditional

The heart of any traditional look stems from symmetry.  I've written a little about this before, in relation to my struggles with getting a look on and around my mantle/mantel that I felt truly comfortable with.  Seems I'm just a traditional kind of gal at heart...

Obviously, with a small t.v. on one side of the mantle I cannot have perfect symmetry unless I also have a t.v. on the other side, placed exactly the same distance and depth from the edge of the mantel and the wall in back.  Hmmm, actually, not a bad idea, LOL!  But not something I'm likely to do. 

"Dad's Plant" holds anchor on the opposite end of the mantle/mantel nearest the eastern-exposure window and has been there (except for short stints) ever since I brought a then much smaller plant home from Dad's funeral in November, 2002. 

And so, unless I remove Dad's Plant and the t.v., I will never have 100% pure symmetry on my mantle/mantel.  I can't see that happening in the foreseeable future.  I like the t.v. where it is, even though I have considered removing it and replacing it with a 32" t.v. (about as large as I'm willing to go) sitting on something, a low bookcase, perhaps) along the west wall where the steps march up to the second floor, all totally open to the second story.  I would have to move Dad's Plant somewhere else.  Or put a similarly sized plant on the opposite end of the mantle/mantel to balance it out.  Hmmm, really didn't think of that before writing it just now. That could be a future option...

For the time being, I am happy with the set-up in my front room, seeing as how my desk and the giant china hutch that I use as a bookcase/curio cabinet/storage unit are perfectly situated in the room as presently configured and while working on my computer at the desk by turning my head to the right I can see the t.v. on the mantle/mantel just fine.  If I start to get a kink in my neck that means I need to stop working on the computer, or need to stop turning to watch the t.v.  LOL! 

So, working within my "givens", I continued my efforts, instituted during my Christmas decorating, at achieving symmetry on the mantle/mantel!  I actually moved the location of the mirror over a good inch or so, so it is now more or less centered over the firebox opening below.  Everything else on top of the mantle/mantel was scootched over to the left accordingly, including the t.v. 

As to what, exactly, comprises "English Manor House Traditional" -- well, I figured in addition to symmetry, there might be:
  • One or more large oil paintings and/or an imposing mantle-piece with a carved crest, or some poor dead animal's head, possibly with horns sticking out of it, flanked by shields and swords, or aforesaid oil paintings of venerable ancestors (real or fake)
  • Something to demonstrate one's wealth, such as flashy gold, silver, jeweled somethings, or - gasp - a mirror.  During the Dark Ages mirrors were very precious objects.  Even during the Renaissance period mirrors were pretty much the province of the extremely wealthy -- think Versailles, for instance
  • A clock -- either something imposing in a dark case with a chime and pendulum or, in later years, something more delicate, golden and airy-looking such as an "Anniversary clock"
  • A light source -- candles!  No electricity back in the day...
So, I cheated a little bit...okay, more than a little bit.

(3) Definitely not "Global"

I have had since the early 1970's a pair of wood book-ends in the form of globes showing an antique map of the world.  They were a gift to me by one of my myriad (cough cough) suitors back when I was of marriageable age.  Alas, we parted, but I kept the gifts.  The book-ends were a birthday present, so I figured it was okay.  No close-up pics of them are available, and I did not pull them out of the cabinet where they're stashed just to photograph them.  Anyway, I'm saving them for later.  Possibly I will put them back on my desk because I love them so much.  Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to Mark...  And exactly what was it that made me drift away from him?  Well, water under the bridge.  Ultimately I met Mr. Don, and we spent 13 plus wonderful years together, even though most of it wasn't actually spent under the same roof.  It was worth the wait for the right man to come along!

I had not originally thought about using those book-ends up on the mantle/mantel, but a few weeks ago as I was cruising through the TJ Maxx at the downtown mall during a lunch hour looking for more "fancy" faux-wood picture frames (alas, all gone, probably until NEXT Christmas season) I saw a couple of different small globes priced at $9.99 each and I thought hmmmmm, maybe something "global" would look real cool in the front room...

I had in mind using one or more of my collection of National Geographic maps, for instance, and my globe book-ends.  But in the end, I chose not to spend $20 plus sales tax to buy two new small globes, although I'm sure I will regret it later on. 

So...back to Square One design wise. 

(4)  The Queens -- Actually, One Queen!

Those TJ Maxx frames I purchased last October that played such a prominent role in the reconfiguration of how I think about that space above my mantle/mantel came into use again.  As I decontructed the Christmas mantle/mantel, I removed the greeting cards that had cardinals in them (some not so prominent as in other cards in my "collection" and could barely be discerned unless you walked up close to the mantle/mantel to see what the heck was in those frames...) and put them away until next Christmas season.  So I had bare frames.  I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to use them to frame "portraits" of two incredible queens from English/Normal history:  Elizabeth I and Eleanor of Acquitaine! 

I have their biographies among my myriad books, read years ago, and now worth re-reading, again. Such incredible women, awe-inspiring.  Think Katherine Hepburn's performance in "The Lion in Winter" (Eleanor of Acquitaine) and Cate Blanchard's performance in "Elizabeth" -- and you will see a smidegeon of what those incredible women were like and what they overcame in order to achieve greatness in times when women were thought of, at best, as property, less worthy than a sheep, goat or cow.  Guess we haven't come so far, have we.  Women are still worth less than such animals in about 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the world today, and those same forces are making inroads here in the USA, too.  Barefoot, ignorant, pregnant, SUBMISSIVE, yeah, that's the ticket set forth for females by certain political and religious forces, isn't it...

So, that's why I decided to frame Elizabeth I, the greatest Queen of all time.  I looked for Eleanor of Acquitaine too, but there are no actual "portraits" of her -- she lived and ruled around 1000 years ago and they just did not DO oil portraits back then. I found a stained-glass image of her, secondary to her first husband as they rode side by side on horseback together, Eleanor a respectful "pace behind" -- Ha!  I was not about to frame that! 

So, the two "fancy" frames above the mantle/mantel were filled with different prints of portraits of Elizabeth I painted during her long reign as Queen of England.  I have another framed printed-out portrait of Elizabeth I on her Accession Day, when she was 25, sitting atop the curio cabinet to the left of the fireplace, that is visible from all corners of the room.  Alas, she is also in a mere 5" x7" size.  She needs to be larger!  Seeing Elizabeth I at the height of her beauty just as she was coming into her rightful position as Queen of England, it is no wonder at all to me that she was called "Regina" and "Virginia" and the "Fairest of the Fair."  She really was a beautiful young woman when she ascended to power as the Queen and, until a few years before her death in 1603, six months before her 70th birthday, she perpetuated that illusion of grace, beauty and -- power.  Always, awesome power; sheer strength of will and determination, coupled with a fiercesome intelligence.  That was Elizabeth I. 

The portraits I printed are all incredibly beautiful, even in 5" x 7" off of the computer printed by my middle-of-the-road HP does it all. I wish, however, they could be larger.  I need to go do some serious frame shopping in second-hand stores.  I want the same kind of frames that Divine Theatre has found!  Short of perhaps having a large framed portrait of my grandmothers or great-grandmothers, I can think of no other woman I admire more that I would want to display in my household. 

Anyway, since I already had the photograph paper, the print-outs of Queen Elizabeth I did not cost me anything other than the cost of the paper and the ink with which to print them.  These are the portraits that I printed out, in miniature:

The Accession Day Potrait (event January 15, 1559) (not shown in photo, on top of the tall curio cabinet net to the stairs on the left side of the fireplace):

To see a lot of portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, check out Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, charting her early, middle and final years.  For my part, for above the mantle/mantel on either side of the mirror, I selected the "Pelican portrait" in the left frame, and the "Ermine portrait" in the right frame:

The "Pelican portrait."

The "Ermine portrait" (ermine on the right side,
the Queen's left arm).
(5) The Rest...

Dad's plant resumed it's place at the right end of the mantle/mantel, and my 11-year old Norfolk Pine resumed it's place on the peninsula separating my kitchen from my dinette. 

I kept out my tall aluminum candlesticks with equally tall cream-colored candles from the Christmas mantle/mantel.

A now somewhat tarnished brass plate also remained on the mantle/mantel from the Christmas display, but moved to center stage underneath the mirror above. 

The pair of golden nut and floral topiaries were removed for another day.  Since it's still deep dark winter here, I replaced them with a pair of taller faux-evergreen topiaries in woven wicker baskets that match the woven wicker in which Dad's plant rests.  These topiaries were another gift from my oldest godchild/niece.  They fill in the otherwise empty "negative space" as interior decorator Christine Fife calls it, on either side of the candlesticks, and link what is happening on the wall above the mantle/mantel with what's happening below on the horizontal surface of the mantle/mantel itself. 

Finally, I felt there was too much empty space at the "front" of the mantle/mantel, and so I moved my Anniversary clock that had been stashed inside the curio cabinet to the mantle/mantel centered in front of the brass plate. It adds more sparkle as well as movement from the rotating balance. 

I'm  debating whether to try out the battery-operated LED lights tucked into the back of the mantle/mantel to add a little glow at night.  It's them, or battery-operated votives or candles, and I don't necessarily want to add "clutter" to this design.  '

That's the sum total of  my design:  four elements (pair of candlesticks, pair of topiaries, brass plate, clock; plus t.v. and Dad's plant as givens) on the mantle/mantel surface, and two elements (round mirror and two Queen Elizabeth I prints) on the wall above. 

I expect that somewhere around the house the other elements will be (or already are) lurking...  Yeah, I'm a traditionalist after all!

I am participating in the Moonshine Monday (Woo Woo!) pahty-pahty at the Honeysuckle Bus Stop.  Stop on by! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Beat the Winter Doldrums Pahty Pahty!

Hola darlings!

I don't expect that my 6 fans will be interested in this at all, so you can skip this blog post unless you want to read about debauchery and decadence... Nope?  This is for the Beyatches who comprise those rocking wild and crazy cougars plus honorary cougar Thelma, cuz she's just too damn young yet to actually be a cougar, those Woo Woo Wisconsin Wenches, the Ladies of the Bus!!!

Saturday evening was our mid-winter Beat the Winter Doldrums Pahty Pahty and I hostessed.  The house was left dressed in its Christmas finery for the most part, in anticipation of this Gala Event of the Season.  Ta Da!  Of course I wanted to show off my gorgeous mantle/mantel and my even gorgeouser - er - drop-dead gorgeous - Christmas Tree!

Saturday started out as Day 2 of crazy mild weather for this time of year and it got into the mid-40's, with hazy sunshine in the afternoon for awhile, after an overcast morning that looked like it was going to rain. But, we had been forewarned -- subzero temperatures and strong winds were coming our way.  Damn! 

As I went through the day doing my final shopping for the pahty pahty and then started a round of cleaning and prep (I was making sloppy joes and doing it the Lazy Woman's way, with a big honking can of Manwich and two pounds of ground round), I had the local radio on to catch the weather forecast.  A wind advisory was put into effect for southeastern Wisconsin beginning at 5 p.m. Well, it was still mild and not windy at Maison Newton at 5 p.m., but I knew better than to scoff!  Sure enough, it didn't seem long after the ladies were here, by 6:15 or so, that when I cocked an ear (no off color comments from Ginger Snap, please!) I could already hear the winds blowing hard outside (no off color comments from Ginger Snap, please!)

Ani was so sweet!  She brought flowers for me, and they spent the evening happily bobbing in the warm air from the fireplace and enjoying the comradery and witty conversation flowing every which way!

Soooo pretty!  And you should see them now, Monday evening as I'm
writing this!  The rose has opened more, the rest of the flowers are
still perfect!  Guess they like this household.

Everyone brought way too much food!  Despite reminding everyone not to go too overboard because we always buy way too much when we have get-togethers at Meyer's Restaurant and Bar, we ended up with way too much!   I should have taken pictures of the spread on the countertop in the kitchen and the dinette table, but I didn't think of it until I already had most of the things cleared away and stashed in containers in the fridge.  Everyone also brought their own special drinks (beer, fixings for brandy Manhattans, soda) and I supplied two different kinds of wine plus cheap box wine plus Rumchatta for shots, and Pepper (Peppa) Spray brought several boxes of "low alcohol" (20%) shots already in plastic shot glasses -- half was a flavored liquer and half was -- not sure what, white stuff that was gooooooooddddd!

Tons of left-overs!
More left-overs!

We had brownies from Thelma (delish -- I "tested" two -- but a little difficult to cut), Ginger Snap made her world-famous taco dip and also supplied a relish tray and a veggie tray, and slushy wine and lots of chips plus, Mr. Hot Dog Men and fixings from Pepper (Peppa) Spray (we fried one in my microwave...oops -- didn't mean to do that, but I had no idea how long to cook a hot dog in the microwave, so we set it for a minute!  Poor Mr. Wiener... or is that Mr. Weiner?  Mr. Whiner?  He was toast!)  DD brought a cheese platter PLUS a wondersome layered filo pastry filled with some kind of cheese that I cannot remember the name of but was DELICIOUS,  plus grapes plus - hmmm, I forget, there was just too much.  Ani brought NUTS (har!) and fixings for a dip that we never even made up because we already had tons of stuff, PLUS all the makings for hot fudge sundaes and banana splits!  And we didn't even eat any -- so now it's all mine...bbbbbwwwwwaaaaaahhhhaaaaa!  I cooked up the sloppy joes and never even pulled out the Badger Baked Ham (best ham in the whole damn world!) that I'd picked up earlier in the day during my Saturday trek to the Pick 'n Save, so now I get to keep THAT all to myself, too!  Double bbbbbbwwwwwwwaaaaaaahhhhaaaaaaa!  All the left-overs were wrapped up righty-tighty and will be toted to the office after I just cannot eat any more of it and it's in danger of spoiling! 

I took some pictures at the beginning of the evening, but most of them didn't turn out very well.  I really do need to take a course some day in how to use this camera to better advantage:

Peppa, Thelma, and Ani!
Oooooooh, special effects!  This is Ginger Snap! Look, her head is
in two places at once...
Another photo of Peppa, Thelma and Ani.

Let's see - we went through 27 of those "plastic shot glass" shots that Peppa brought along, but I think we had more, because we used some of the empty shot plastic shot glasses over a few times for shots of Rumchatta (since I only own 2 regular shot glasses, not enough for everyone to have a shot at the same time), and I think a couple got tossed in the garbage when we did a first round of clean-up.  Plus Ginger Snap brought along a dozen dark chocolate shot cups that we were able to devour after we had our shots!  I just love dual purpose "green" items -- absolutely no waste was left from those chocolate shot cups other than the packaging, and that went right into my recycle bin!

We talked and talked and talked and laughed and laughed and laughed our butts off!  And then we got down to serious yuchs when we played Password!  LOL!  We only had two password card-Holders so we played in teams of 3: Peppa, Thelma and Ginger versus me, DD and Ani.  Our side won! (But later on, Ginger and Peppa got their revenge on me but giving me mostly horrid clues when we were were playing one-handed Password, making up the rules as we went along, and changing them as we pleased, LOL!) 

Password!  Thelma is so young, she had no idea what the game was!
Look - someone's tennies attached to legs!  More weird spirits
emanating from the candles...  WooooooooOOOOOOOOooooooo.....
Ani won "Imaginiff" as a door prize, ding ding ding ding ding!

Okay, this score card is from when Peppa, Ginger and I were playing
and they consistently were feeding me totally CRAPPY clues!  And
look, I was the score-keeper, and I was totally FRICKING HONEST!
Check it out - I got two perfect scores when I was given two decent clues.
Ding ding ding ding ding!

About 9:30 or so DD, Thelma and Ani started talking about maybe, possibly leaving and calling for a ride, but they were easily dissuaded, at least for a time.  They ultimately left shortly after 10:30 p.m. (pahty started at 6 p.m.).  After yet more drinks and more Password and more yuks, close to midnight Peppa and Ginger called it a night too.  As they departed, all of the Ladies helped wrap up some things and took some of the over-abundance of food and goodies home, but I was still left with a TON of food.  So I got to work putting away the left-overs, cleaned up and scrubbed up a few dishes. 

Then I sat down to do a little blogging, reading of email, catching up as I gobbled down a final sloppy joe for the night.

And then, I couldn't believe it -- it was nearly 2 a.m. and the winds were roaring outside and I could hear twigs and small branches smacking into my aluminum siding as I headed to bed after a wonderful night.

Pahty Pahty!  We laughed.  A Lot!  We argued about politics! A Lot!  We Laughed Some More and forgave each other for our various non-sins of holding some differing political views.  The main thing is, I know each and every one of these ladies has a truly good heart and generous spirit.  We are all Sisters in Spirit and Soul, and love and appreciate each other.  We miss each other if we don't see each other on the bus for a few days!  Thank Goddess for The Ladies of the Bus, the best-ever support network that ever was, or ever will be.  What an awesome group of friends to have.  Truly, I think I might not have made it through the second half of 2012 without their encouragement, support and sympathy during the dark moments.  Every single one of those at least 27 plastic shot glasses filled with liquers plus the 12 chocolate shot cups filled with Rumchatta were hoisted in different toasts by all of the ladies, in turn, throughout the evening, and all of those toasts were for blessings for us and blessings for our continued bonds.

Doesn't look like 27, does it, but I counted them again tonight while stone cold sober,
and there are 27!  Here's to US, Ladies of the Bus!

The empty box from the dozen chocolate liqueur cups!  27 + 12 = 39 shots
(minimum, but who's counting...)
Going into the future, no one knows what it holds. But I have a little more Peppa in my step each day, and a little more Ginger in my "snap," a sense of those Territories Yet To Be Explored that Thelma brings, the droll sense of humor and depth of experience of Ani (Ani is the ancient name for the fortune-telling black-bird, and having one in your life is considered a great blessing by Old European Peoples), and the motherly warmth and wisdom of DD.

I am sure, however, that we will have more PAHTIES like the one we had Saturday night, just because we're all WONDERFUL! 

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Look for Less: Ballard Design's Emerson Kitchen

Shopping for a look for less area rug:

Tonight I went online shopping for an area rug as part of the Ballard Design's Emerson Kitchen challenge.  I do not have a full image of the Emerson area rug because, wouldn't you know it, except for the runner, Ballard Designs is entirely out of stock of the Emerson rug!  I also have no idea of what sizes it came in or what the prices were.  So I guestimated since it was hand-hooked 100% wool (made in India) the size I'd need -- around 7x9 so one's chair would not "fall" off the rug when dining at the kitchen/dinette table -- would run between $500 to $700 and I selected the mid price of $600 as a budget point.

But then I got to thinking hmmmm, would I really want to have a 100% wool rug in an area where food would be eaten (and no doubt spilled and/or crumbs brushed off the table top) regularly plus there will be a lot of foot traffic from and to the kitchen through the dinette into the family room (and to the garage service door that is in the near corner of that room), not to mention that my dinette area hosts the sliding door to the deck!  So I selected a few of wool and synthetic, at varying price points.

The thing about rugs is that what appeals is so subjective!  I have a picture of the Emerson rug, yes, but to find one like it for a better price -- not so easy.  I have a color description:  DARK CHOCOLATE, PEWTER AND BUTTERSCOTCH.  As you know, there are almost always many more colors used in such rugs that are not mentioned in the description!   It's got a cotton canvas backing.  I looked at it several times online in close-up.  It's a floral pattern rug that could be classed as traditional, or transitional, and it's got a medium to dark brown background, grey, and varying shades of beige and tan. I think the photograph of the rug, above, from the Ballard Designs website, is misleading, because when I first saw it I thought the rug background was GREY, not brown!  I was surprised to read it was brown, actually!  Overall, the rug appears very neutral, but without being able to see just the rug alone and in close-up -- well -- who knows! 

Here are my choices. They came from Home Decorators Online!  I looked at Bed, Bath and Beyond, Target, and as well, but did not find any rugs that appealed to me within the price ranges I was looking for.  I also have to say that overall, Home Decorators Online had, in my estimation, prettier rugs, although out of the price range when shipping costs were added. 

And the winner is - ding ding ding ding ding:

This is the Heights Area Rug from Home Decorators.  I selected the larger size, 6'7" x 9'6" at a price of  $440.  I didn't think the smaller size, 5'3" x 7'3", would work well with a round table and four chairs.  The price for the larger size is $440; for the latter size, $269.  Shipping charges are $57 for the larger size and $34 for the smaller size.  It's color is "Dark Brown," but in close-up you can see varying shades and tones of beige/cream, tan, what appears to be a light rust color, and grey.  I thought this rug most closely looks like the inspiration rug in both design and color.  The Heights area rug is a machine-woven synthetic, in contrast to the Emerson rug's hand-hooked 100% wool.  Price differential:  Emerson ($600  price point ) -  Heights larger area rug ($440 +$57 shipping) = $103.

My other selection is:

the Finn area rug, in the 7'10" x 10' size!  It it priced at a meager $239 for that size plus $31 for standard shipping, a total of $270.  It is a synthetic machine-made rug.  As you can see, it is more colorful that the Heights Area Rug, but similar in design spirit to both the Emerson inspiration and Amboise II rugs.  Finn's border looks light blue, definitely not the "butterscotch" color of the Emerson border), and the rusty-colored tones in the floral field are pronounced and totally absent in the Emerson.  But it would be hard to beat this price for this size of rug.  Price differential:   Emerson ($600 price point) - Finn ($270) = $330.  Soooo --

Price differential between:
Emerson inspiration rug and Heights:  17% savings for Heights.
Emerson inspiration rug and Finn:  55% savings for Finn. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Look for Less: Ballard Design's Emerson Kitchen

I next shopped for a chandelier but I have to tell you, I didn't spend much time on this because I thought right from the get-go that finding a similarly sized chandelier for $349 (plus shipping, whatever that costs) would be very difficult.  And I don't like to send a lot of time on these challenges.  That's why they're challenges.  I mean, if I shop for months and months in advance, what's the challenge in that?  LOL!

This is the inspiration chandelier from Ballard Designs:

The Arturo chandelier costs $349.  It is 27 3/4" tall (from ceiling to bottom of rim) and 32" diameter, sizeable!  The wood frame (you can see it is finished in a rustic looking brown) is 2 3/8" tall.  There are six frosted glass pillars set inside what appears to be wrought iron or black-finished metal "arms."  The glass sleeves are 5 1/8" tall.  The chandelier comes with three 12" extension rods and two 6" extension rods.  The only thing I do not understand in the description is this:   "Cord 10'L & black."  What cord? Are they talking about a cord that plugs into an outlet?  I envisioned this as being hard-wired into the ceiling to replace the existing hanging light fixture.  So -- would need to be clarified.

I was surprised by what I came up with:

This is the World Imports Colchester Collection 6-light Iron Chandelier in oil-rubbed bronze finish! (  The rim is not wood, it is a double circle of metal.  The glass sconces are "tea stained." Dimensions of the glass shades were not given.  It is 24.4" tall and approximately 28.5" diameter.  So, it's a little shorter and a little smaller than the Arturo chandy, but the price is $140.26.  Nearly a 60% savings off the cost of the inspiration chandy, and not sacrificing much in terms of size.

Maybe you don't like the "smudgy" look of the "tea stained" glass finish on the World Imports Colchester chandy.  A close-up look reveals that it looks like "melted wax!" (I like it).  I found an alternative that appears to have plain white-frosted glass, but at a higher price and smaller size.  This is available at Home Depot:

It is the Hampton Bay Alta Loma 6-Light Dark Ridge Bronze Chandelier.  It is 24 1/4" tall and 24" diameter.  It's base is steel, not iron.  Dimensions of the glass shades were not given.  It has a dark bronze finish (looks nearly black), as you can see, and is priced at $229, about 34% less than the inspiration Arturo chandy.  One does give up quite a bit in diameter, however -- from 32" to 24". 

I present this chandy as an alternative, although it has cloth lamp shades rather than glass:

This is the Royce Lighting RLCH204/6-43 Outdoor 6-Light Chandelier with Beige Weather-Resistant Shades, Dark Wood.  It is described as being made out of wood, but a customer description says she thought it was metal.  In any event, it can be wired as an indoor or outdoor light and has an optional cord to go into an outlet instead of being hard-wired.  The finish is "dark wood" - not very descriptive, LOL!  Dimensions are 17" tall (but 36" hanging chain is included -- not sure what this means unless it's like a swag?) and 26.5" diameter.  The dimensions of the shades are not given.  This chandy is priced at $174.82, roughly one-half the cost of the inspiration Arturo chandy. 

Depending  upon which option you choose, price differential is:

Arturo ($349) - Colchester ($140.26) =  $208.74
Arturo ($349) - Alta Loma ($229) =  $120
Arturo ($349) - Royce Outdoor ($174.82) = $174.18

You have to weigh shipping charges -- the Alta Loma is available at Home Depot, so perhaps  it would be available for pick-up or free delivery to your local Home Depot and then pick-up.  That is certainly a consideration, but of the three alternatives shown, the Alta Loma is the smallest chandy in diameter. 

The Look for Less: Ballard Design's Emerson Kitchen

I've been scouting my favorite sources online to see if I can find lower priced substitutes for the lovely Emerson kitchen:

The price tag for the server ($1,099), chandelier ($349), table and chairs ($899 as a set; table $499, set of two chairs $229), and rug (not priced, out of stock - I estimated between $500-$700 and selected the midpoint $600 for my estimate), is $2,947.00.

Ballard Design's server is the Paulette in a "Tuscan brown" finish.  It's dimensions are 83 3/4" tall, 28" wide, and 18" deep.  The hutch is 12" deep, so 6" shallower than the base.  The server is designed in such a way that two or more units can be pushed closely together with no gaps.  It's a lovely piece of furniture, made out of MDF and "fine veneer" in China -- I could not find a description of the wood used for the "fine veneer."  There is a narrow area on top of the drawer area topped with marble, but notice that the two small drawers at the bottom of the "hutch" part pull out over the marble top. 

I started with looking for the server, and I knew it wasn't going to be easy! The piece is not wide like I would consider a more "traditionally styled" server -- actually a hutch with drawers! And as we know, hutches with drawers are expensive when buying retail, which is how I shop for these "look for less" challenges.  I also looked at secretary/hutch combinations because of their drawers and shelves.  All too expensive! 

But, at Ikea, I found this piece and fell in love with its look and its price:

This is the Hemnes glass-door cabinet, that retails for $365.  It has to be assembled (think party of friends to help) and this is the brown-black finish, much darker than the Tuscan brown of the inspiration Paulette server.  But -- keep the doors off and voila!  Add a marble cutting board on the lowest shelf -- with the savings (see below), you can have one custom-cut to fit if you wish. 

A handy person with the right kind of equipment could, if she wanted to, cut a curved piece of wood to fit inside at the top of the Hemnes cabinet to give the look at the top of the inspiration piece, and add baseboards to give a "legless" look, but I like the design of the piece as it is. It could be modern, it could be cottage/country, it could be traditional. Actually, it is a very smartly designed piece. Kudos to Ikea! 

Hemnes' glass-door cabinet has the following dimensions:  77.5" tall (6" shorter than the Paulette server),  35 3/8" wide (7 3/8" wider than the Paulette server), and 14 5/8" deep, 3 3/8" less deep than the bottom of the Paulette server, but about you make up the difference in the shelves, which do not shrink by 6" above the drawers.  This piece would comfortably fit into my small dinette area and, while wider than the Paulette server, which is not a problem, it is shallower and therefore would leave important floor space/clearance on my one solid wall where it would have to be parked.  That area also serves as a passage way through the dinette into the family room so it is crucial to have enough space to freely walk through and not feel "crowded." 

This Hemnes cabinet comes in white and also grey-brown (which looks like a light taupe color) finishes in addition to the brown-black finish I selected.

I do not know what shipping would run on either piece.  Gross price savings, not including shipping charges (and assembling the Hemnes cabinet) is $1,099 - $365 = $739. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Look for Less: Ballard Designs' Emerson Kitchen

Ballard Design's Emerson Kitchen is beautiful, and real.  It's not so grand it would only look good in a big mansion; it's not so humble that it wouldn't look good in a standard dinette area right off a 1990's style kitchen area like mine, separated from the dining area only by a peninsula:

This is the inspiration photo.   It is designed to fit into a smaller area -- like my dinette area, which has a solid wall (with thermostat) on the east side, a large opening to the family room on the south side, the patio door on the west side, and the kitchen separated from the dining area only by a peninsula on the north side and open walkway from a short hall on the east side.  The dinette space is roughly 11 feet  wide (from nearly wall-to-wall entry into the family room on the south to peninsula and walkway into kitchen on the north) x 11 feet 9 inches deep.

My online shopping expedition in the hopes of finding this look for less, will consist of finding less expensive substitutes for:

(1)  The Paulette Server, $1,099

(2)  Arturo 6-Light Round Candelier, $349

(3)  Augusta Five-piece Dining Set (round pedestal table plus chairs), $899

Hmmm, where does the "Emerson" name come from???  Well, lo and behold, it comes from the RUG, which is no longer available.  LOL!  Size and price details are no longer available.  Here is the info available on the rug:

(4)  The deep, rich colors give it a dressy, sophisticated attitude. Weave is tightly done to bring out the fine Persian design. Hand hooked of 100% wool in dark chocolate, pewter and butterscotch. Cotton canvas backed for added durability. Use of a Rug Pad is recommended. 

I can add that it was advertised as imported from India.  I'd much prefer to buy an imported item from India rather than China. 

The description for the rug gave me my color cues because my color take after looking at the inspiration photo was that the rug was DARK GREY or BLACK.  Hmmm, am I now going color-blind ?!?

Left to guess at size and price! I will be looking at 6 or 7 x 9 and 8 x 10.  As it was made out of 100% wool, I estimate the original price would have been between $500 and $700 on the lower range for Ballard Designs. 

I have to say, though, that this room is basically SO devoid of color (all the basic and primary elements many of the acessories are light to mid-tone neutrals, although the wood floor appears to be a darker tone) that just about any saturated (deep) color of rug would not only anchor the table and chairs but also provide the necessary contrast to make the room successful as it was designed for the Ballard Designs website.  That is why the little punches of black, green (from the Christmas foilage) and the "yellowy/goldy" colors stand out so much.  I understand the lesson, but I don't think I would want this particularly decorated room in my house year around!

So, onward to shopping online! 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Faucets for Bath and Kitchen

Yep, I bought new faucets during my shopping trip today.  My handy dandy handyman, Kevin, told me to buy some, that it would be less expensive to replace them than to repair the drips they'd developed that were driving me insane!  See the prior post for details.  I should add, the kitchen faucet is about 11 years old, the upstairs bath faucet is as old as this house, 22 plus years.  Hmmmm, guess they've served their purpose!

Not ever having paid much attention to faucets in my entire life until now -- see what you've done to me, people! -- I'd always shopped for cheapest rather than balancing esthetics and cost, or going purely for esthetics no matter what the cost, eek!  So, this time, when my buddy Ann drove me to Menard's earlier today, I was looking at esthetics for the first time in my faucet-shopping life.  Woo woo!

Moen brand, which currently resides in Maison Newton, was on sale at Menard's but, wouldn't you know it, I did not like a single Moen faucet I saw.  Perhaps if Ann and I had gone to one of the new super-large Menard's, but we went to the one that was closest to my house after we had breakfast out.  It is now probably the smallest of the local Menard's stores.  But we love it anyway.

Picture of current upstairs bath faucet (gross warning!):

Look at all that water in the sink from the non-stop drip drip drip...  Yeah, single faucet action, that's okay but the acrylic handle is not cool.  It's all scratched up and murky from 22 years of scrubbing to get the gunk off of it, and there's still gunk, even after removing the center top-piece and cleaning under that time and time again.  Time for a new look. 

I was looking for an oiled bronze finish faucet for the upstairs bathroom but no luck there.  There were only three faucets shown in bronze and I didn't like any of them -- and the finish was way too dark, too.  The kicker as ridiculously high prices, sheesh. 

Then, I saw one faucet in a brushed-nickel finish that I really liked, but brushed nickel would just not do in my bathroom, which has some (light-colored) oiled bronze, some shiny brass and some shiny chrome finishes.  And so, I looked for and found the same style in shiny chrome, but I did not like it as much as in the brushed-nickel finish. 

Up and down that aisle, up and down, up and down, looking looking looking.  Wish there'd been a bigger selection, but then again, maybe not!  I'd never be able to make up my mind if there was an endless selection!

I did like this style, someone similar to the brushed nickel faucet I liked but a wee bit simpler, in chrome, and so I bought it.  As I was not swapping out the bathtub-shower fittings and they are chrome, the fittings will continue coordinate, additional savings.

Here is what I finally picked out, at a cost of $39.99:

I wanted a two-handle faucet after all those years of single twist/turn action, and I love the elegant wing-like look of the hot/cold handles!  It is a sleek yet graceful design.  Price was right, too.  Kevin told me it didn't make any difference if I bought a two-handle or a single-handle faucet, either would fit.  So, I took him at his word. We'll see...

Significantly, I picked out my kitchen faucet first, because I figured it would be - and so it proved to be - the easier choice.

Here is what I have now:

Blah.  Functional but blah.  And where did that white spray head come from?  In the set that B-I-L Fred replaced for me at least 10 years ago.  Yikes!

So, I went for a different look.  I was shocked at how much money one can pay for a kitchen sink faucet.  This is what I settled upon:

Yep, Jan is coming into the 21st century with a goose-neck faucet and - check out those bird-wing handles :)  I think there is a beak on the spray too (kidding!)  This cost $47.99.  So, heading into 2013...

Shopping and ... Christmas Clearance!!!

Hola everyone!

With 2013 comes a list of minor home improvements I intend to get done, and that encompassed a call to and visit from my handy-dandy handyman, Kevin.  He came over last Saturday and we went through my short list:  put up new range hood that I purchased back in January 2009, LOL!  Fix leaking kitchen and upstairs bath faucets, replace wax rings in both toilets. 

So, Kevin checks things out and tells me that I need to buy new faucets.  What?  WHAT?  Yeah, because mine are so fricking old it's doubtful he'd be able to find parts, and even if he could, it would take him so long to take them apart and put them back together again (cuz he's not a trained plumber, although he is very talented), it would be less expensive to buy new faucets and have him install them for $25 each, flat rate.  And I'm pretty darn sure Kevin is a lot less expensive than a plumber! 

So, after thinking about it, and knowing that he's right about the age of these faucets and I've never been particularly in love with them anyway, today my friend Ann took me shopping to Menard's!  Save Big Money At Menards...

I LOVE Menard's.  I could spend hours walking up and down it's aisles.  While I happened to be scooting up and down one of those aisles around the mirrors and framed artwork Ann said hey, want to look at the Christmas clearance stuff?  And I said YEAH!  Mind you, my short list had exactly four items on it, two of them were faucets!

Here's a pic of my haul:

Yep, I shopped the Christmas Clearance! And bought a few other things, too...

Christmas Clearance was 40 to 50% off!  I scored these Kurt Adler (KURT ADLER!!!!) glittery butterflies in both gold and silver.  I bought 6 of each for $0.49 each (originally $0.99 each).  My total outlay, not including sales tax of 5.6%, was $5.88 for one dozen butterflies.  Nice!  These will go on my 2013 Christmas tree.

Another Christmas score were 50% off low-temperature scented wax-melts, each for $0.99.  There are six wax-melts in each pack:  Cinnamon and Vanilla Cinnamon Brulee.  YUM!  I may gain weight just sniffing them...  I will use these in the Scentsy thingy I bought some weeks ago at my neighbor's annual house gathering/sale of craftsy and homey things.  I have to say, I am greatly enjoying my Scentsy thingy, particularly the woodsy and Christmas tree/piney scent wax-melts I purchased at the party along with the light-bulb powered wax melter. I've also used the apple-scented wax melt once, and it was so delicious, for my Christmas luncheon with Ann I bought and baked a Mrs. Smith's Apple Pie!  YUM!  The scent of those Scentsy wax melts does fill the entire house, much to my disbelief!  But the Scentsy wax melts are pricey compared to $0.99 for six (not Scentsy-brand) that I bought at Menard's, and the ones (above) I bought at Menard's are already subdivided, no need to crack the wax into pieces like I have to do with the Scentsy wax-melts.

Another Christmas score was a candle-holder center piece.  I'd been looking for one ever since, before Thanksgiving, I was a good neighbor and purchased a live pine/evergreen candle centerpiece from one of the local Boy Scouts in the neighborhood for more $$ than I could make one myself.  But, what the heck - it's the Boy Scouts, and a neighbor kid.  That live centerpiece, the first one I ever purchased, was great and it was front and center on my Christmas mantle/mantel:

But, as with all live greenery, after more than a month of sitting on my mantle/mantel and suffering waves of heated air washing over it from the fireplace, it wasn't looking so good. Needle drop!  I'd had it in my mind for a couple of weeks now to replace it with some faux-greenery that I would not have to worry about, and would look pretty, fresh and new up on my mantle/mantel for my Beat the Winter Doldrums party on January 19th. 

And here is the new faux-greenery candle holder, pic snapped earlier today:

I used the three white-tipped pine cones and three berry pics salvaged from the fresh greenery arrangement in this new faux-greenery candle holder.  Here is a close-up:

I especially love the glittery sparkles that are on the faux-berries (not the Boy Scout berry picks).  No more needle drop! (Final cost: $9.99, candle not included, but it does include a small hurricane-shaped clear glass candle holder that I did not use because my candle was too fat for it).

And finally, here is my new door wreath.  I can't say I'd been on the look-out for one, since I was happy with the knocked-together Santa platter "wreath" I'd hung up on the front door earlier this season after I'd expropriated for this year's mantle/mantel display the battery-lit wreath that hung on the front door last season.  But when I saw this one for 50% off at Menard's (final cost $12.49), well, even before I saw it was 50% off, it was love at first sight:

It has large "frosted" pine cones, purplish-colored berries, and bay leaves amid mixed evergreens.  It is 24" wide.  I just plopped it right on my hang-over-top-of-door-wreath-hook without shaping it. Looks pretty good against the faded blue paint on the front door,  heh?  Perhaps next season I'll twine some battery-operated mini-lights around it to give it some additional glow/glitter at night.  Heck, I like this new wreath so much, maybe next year IT will go above the fireplace mantle/mantel and the original front door that is now holding down that spot will go back to its original place on the front door...

As you can see, I'm still much in the Christmas decor mode, and I'm loathe to let go of it.  Letting go of the gold, the silver, the crystal, the glitter, the sparkling lights -- that just means going into the gloom of February with - nothing.  And what looks like big fat empty cold spaces in my front room.  BLECHY!

I'm not one of those chicks who puts up Spring and/or Easter stuff before we're even nodding at the Spring Equinox.  So, may just skip Spring/Easter this year and go right to my English Manor House Library mantle/mantel look.  We'll see.  I am not one who revels in changing things around in Maison Newton every few weeks, and I am not a particular fan of Winter (Boo! Hiss!) 

Wish I could afford a REAL mink throw to put about my shoulders as I work at the computer.  It's cold in here, at 64 degrees F.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Horse Designs in Home Accents

I have signed up to receive emails from many different design and retail sources, not because I'm buying things all the time, but because I enjoy looking through catalogs and sales books, both the old-fashioned paper kind and the online kind.  Besides giving me an occasional case of money envy (I don't have any) and wishing I could buy whatever struck my fancy, whenever I wanted to, I never know when inspiration may strike, or what may trigger it.

Today I received notification of Ballard Designs' weekly specials, one of which caught my attention.

As you can see, it is one horse divided into two pieces to use as bookends.

I love horses, and (besides knight chess pieces), have several horse items in my humble abode, including a small cast bronze sculpture of a rearing horse on a wood base that I bought years ago at one of the gift shops at the Fireside Theatre in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, onyx bookends in the shape of a horse-knight's chess piece, a machine-tooled wood horse in the style of the Tang dynasty in black with red accents (I got a good deal on it at the Museum Store in The Shoppes at Grand Avenue in Milwaukee), and my most recent horsely acquisition, the celedon ceramic horse from TJ Maxx in the style of the Tang dynasty.

Hmmmm. A horse sawed in half.  Is it just me, or does the thought of having a horse's patootey as a bookend strike you as, er, rather strange?   It is regularly priced at $99.00.  What? That's outrageous!  They're made out of resin, for goodness sake, not cast bronze! 

Right now the bookends are on sale until January 14, 2013 at a mere $69.99.  Maybe some folks would think that is a bargain.  I think it is ridiculous!  But, if you want to pay $35 for a horse's patootey as one of a pair of bookends, you can find them at Ballard Designs online!

Also received in the mail on Saturday a Gump's paper catalog -- I love looking at them while I'm doing the 45-50 minute bus ride to the office weekdays, but you can also find these sales online at Gump's website.

Now here's a good looking horse!  It's pricey (for moi), but 50% off, at Gump's:

I find it prettier than the cut-in-half horse at Ballard Designs. It could potentially be used as an anchor bookend if the books are resting against a shelf on the other side, or you could buy two and place them at either end of a run of books. I find it's lines (despite the awkward- looking hind legs) beautiful enough to be used as a worthy work of art on its own.

It is not cast bronze, or wood.  It's resin with a bronze finish.  Sizeable, at 21"W (I think this means length from tail to nose) x 5"D x 17 1/2"H.  It's on clearance sale right now for $69.99, regularly $139.  it is not inexpensive, even at 50% off, but it is almost two times larger than "Black Beauty" featured below, from Home Decorators. 

Home Decorators online is also running a sale (they do so regularly).  Home accents are right now 10% off plus free shipping.  As a chess lover and a horse lover, I found these items of note:

If one can get past the "Godfather" connotations of a horse's head (oh my!), these horse-head bookends are really well done and I love the patinaed finish with antiqued gold color. 

Although the material of which they are made is not specified, I assume they are cast resin.  They measure 9" tall by 3" wide, so they are substantial pieces.  Best of all is their price (plus free shipping) of $34!  I am buying these bookends for one of the gift bags I am putting together for the top female finishers in the Open and Reserve Sections of the Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVII that will be held in Milwaukee in April, woo woo!   They are very reminiscent of chess' "Knight" pieces done in the Staunton style.  The Staunton pieces were modeled after the horses from the section of frieze from the Parthenon that resides at the British Museum in London. 

Also at Home Decorators Online:

Black Beauty sculpture. It's made of resin but it looks like the original inspiration piece was modeled in clay. I'm not sure if I like it or don't like it. It's sort of ugly, but beautiful, too. It reminds me of a sort of cartoon rendering of a horse out of a Tim Burton cartoon nightmare, but the lines of grace, power and a bit of hubris (as in a young stallion) are, I think, expertly captured.

The price is an incredibly low $29 plus free shipping.  Black Beauty is made of resin with a "rustic black" finish and is 10.5"H x 9.5"W.

To be fair, I also did a quick search at for "horse bookends" and discovered LOTS of them, woo woo!  

Good shopping, and be careful out there!