Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Simple Christmas

  On Saturday I said my last good bye to my beloved corgi-basset mix and, what with the fireplace work and all the rain we've had, decorating the house for Christmas has been a challenge.  I decided to keep things simple and in line with the slightly rustic Country French look I have going, so here is my Christmas tree.

  I managed to pull the very sparse artificial tree (the safest! and best for me to avoid allergy problems) out of the basement and added one single string of white lights, a few miniature grape vine wreaths that were in my craft closet,  and a rustic fabric ribbon, also from the craft closet.

  Because I seem to be appreciating friends and family even more this season, I decided to print out their photos on ivory card stock, in muted colors, and simply punch a hole to hang each one on the tree, too.  It's probably the simplest tree I've ever displayed but I love it more than anything I've ever done.  A closer shot follows.

  The middle top photo is one of my sisters, Bonnie and Stephanie, sitting at their new card table at Christmas many years ago and it's flanked by photos of my grandchildren, Andrew and Christina.  Below them are photos of dogs Beau, whose spirit is still with me for Christmas this year and Flame, who is my comfort in our loss.  At the bottom are my granddaughter again and a photograph of my sister, Bonnie, brother-in-law Earl, and me at my son's wedding just a few years ago.  Other "ornaments" include photos of my mom; my grandmother; dear family friend, Scotty; my son, Chris, and daughter-in-law Andrea; and more.

  Oh and there's also this, something I found on the Internet and printed - a stitchery that says "Happiness is a place between too little and too much."  And I think that's exactly where my tree sits.

  May your Christmas be in a place between too little and too much - with plenty of love and God's blessings but not  too much distraction from enjoying both.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas - almost

  I can't believe that Christmas is nearly here.  No surprise that I'm not exactly ready.  Two weeks ago, work was begun on a mantel for my very plain fireplace wall.  Two small windows above flanked both sides of the fireplace, which was a small square hole surrounded by a single row of tiles as you can see in the photo.   Not especially exciting.  
I didn't have much money to spend, so I started thinking of something easy to do.  I knew I wanted the mantel top to go from wall to wall, a span of 12 feet.  I also knew that, as much as I like the look of shelves on either side, I didn't have an inch to spare in my tiny bungalow living room.  The mantel shelf would only be 6 inches deep and a friend suggested treating the lower half differently from the top, maybe using bead board.  That sounded like a winning idea.  Then I decided I would pay someone to do the work as the very hard lath and plaster made me pretty nervous at the thought of nailing into it.  Bead board turned into a board and batten style panelling and eventually into recessed panels.

  I was able to find a nice, straight, clean 2 x 6 for the mantel shelf, good enough to be stained rather than painted.  The design evolved as we worked on it.  The carpenter I hired, Dave, would show up each morning waiting to hear what I was going to change that day.  He and I considered each design option as it came to either one of us and then we called in the tie-breaker, my professional painter and decorator best friend across the street who would also agree to stain and varnish the mantel shelf.  After a week and a half, paying about three times what I'd hoped for, I have a wonderful look that really enlarges the room and creates a fabulous focal point.  Just in time for Christmas.  
  Someday, when I have the money and know what I want to do, I'll improve the fireplace surround.  I hope to be able to keep the original tiles without damaging them, maybe covering them and extending the treatment to the mantel.  I'll also need to do something with the plain concrete hearth.  But for  now black paint finishes off that space and all I have to do is to hang the stockings!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Stepping Out

  I had dinner with a good friend last night who chewed me out for not letting her know that I've started a blog.  You see, it's been my little secret with all of two followers I'd allowed in on it.  I just wasn't sure where I'd go with this blog but I admit that I enjoy sharing words and photos.  I'm not exactly prolific at this point and I thought it was mostly self-indulgent blather about my latest progress decorating my little bungalow.  But Wendy ranted and raved just enough to make me think that what I post might be of interest to others out there, so here I am, going a little more public.

  On the one hand, I'm not sure how far I can go with this - how much more can I say about my 750-square-foot home?  And the 650-square-foot rental in the back and the small back yard with several levels.  But on the other hand, I'm also preparing it for our Historic District's Mothers Day Home Tour this coming May, so there could be some interesting things coming up.  So, I guess I'm stepping out and letting the world in.

And with that, I say - Welcome to my home.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Improving the Inside

  Just in time for the cooler - and wetter - weather, my decorating interests have moved from the garden to the indoors.  I did some serious de-cluttering in my (adjoining) living and dining rooms and then painted them both; warm tan walls, white trim, and black - yes, black - doors and window sashes.   This plate that I'm now displaying reflects my latest approach to decorating - and life.

Written on the plate: To live content with small means, to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion.  To be worthy, not respectable, wealthy not rich, to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly.  To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages with open heart: to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never.  In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common.  This is to be my symphony.  Channing

 I'm trying to avoid purchasing anything whenever possible so I'm re-arranging and, as needed, getting creative.  I'm using vintage linens as curtains.  The center window curtain is a square table cloth and the side windows are just barely covered by very dainty hand towels.

  Some items I'm using again have been freed from previous banishment to the basement.  Others re-arranged and/or painted.  I've also added a couple of things that were special to my mom, like the fancy pettit point chair in the corner below.  I like what I've done so far; it's more comfortable and seems more spacious and, best of all - easier to clean!

  Yesterday,  I did a couple of little things with the kitchen, too.  Inspired by a friend's blog that featured her beloved bulletin board, I decided I needed a bulletin board, too.   Off to my basement again, I found a cabinet door with perforated metal insert given to me quite some time ago by another friend.  Cleaned up and hung on the wall, it fits perfectly in the spot next to the back door and a variety of magnets hold my "stuff" in place.  An odd set of keys hangs from what was the friction latch that held the cabinet door closed.

    Cleared of the magnets and items now filling the bulletin board, my 1934 monitor top refrigerator looks much happier and that corner has a fun new look!

  I'll miss reading in my garden this winter, but with the new look of my cozy interior, I'm sure I'll enjoy some quiet time inside, making plans for the spring, which may include having my re-decorated home on our Historic District's home tour again!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ode to a Thrift Store

  Time flies by and this is only my second post.  But sometimes life gets in the way of good intentions.  The work on my garden has been interrupted for the most part by other priorities but I continue to enjoy lunch and nap time there often enough.  In the meantime, among other things, I've redecorated my living room and adjoining dining room and am nearly finished.

  Needing a different chandelier for  my freshly painted dining room, I went to a favorite store on Tuesday to see what their selection would look like.  Amvets here in Escondido has been a marvelous resource for my eclectic home and life for many years now.  It's a place where I have been able to spend hours sorting through an astonishing assortment of things and carry off an armful without blinking over the cost.  Whether in celebration or out of loss, I've often enjoyed my visits to this mega thrift store.  Seems to me I even went to Amvets on the same day my mom passed away.   It's been a place where I can lose myself, and find precious additions to my home and wardrobe.  But, like so many good things in life, this, too has come to an end.

  As I walked through the door on Tuesday, I saw a sign advertising "75% off everything in the store." "My lucky day!" I thought.  Until I saw that more than half of the merchandise was gone and that the business, to my dismay, was closing down.  I looked around and saw other shoppers with cartfuls of selections who should have been rejoicing over their bargains but many of us shared the same forlorn look.  Where would we go now?  Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I told another woman that they should have had counselors on hand to help us through this - and she said she was glad her daughter hadn't come with her or she would have "totally freaked."

  I'm sure many people won't understand how a store can mean so much to anyone and I'm sure I'll get over it and, hopefully enjoy the new thrift store coming in, but I thought this experience would be something to share here, especially when I began to think about several of my favorite household items that have come from Amvets over the years and decided to photograph them and post them here; a tribute to good times at Amvets...
This was a fairly recent addition to the garden.  A steal for only $75 for the set - am considering using it indoors for my dining room, but the jury's still out on that.

  This area in the garden features lots of bunnies and this big, heavy cement piece was another fairly recent bargain.  You can also see it in the top picture, upper right corner.

  This chair was a natural color bamboo when I found it - and carried it all the way up to the front myself to make sure I didn't lose this gem to another bargain hunter.  Starting to fade after several years, I recently painted it a perky Chinese red.  The seat cushion was another Amvets purchase - a great place to buy garden cushions that can be used one season and tossed.

You've gotta love this precious little birdhouse, complete with its own bird and nest, hanging from my peach tree.

The chandelier in my living room that inspired my last trip to Amvets.  I had to buy new sleeves for the candles but I was able to use my mother's collection of crystals to return it to its glory.

  I bought this lovely lady several years ago to sell in the antique shop space I had for a while.  Fortunately, she didn't sell and I'm now able to enjoy her - in flawless condition.

  The very peaceful print atop the antique dresser that was my mothers came from Amvets and fits with my collection of dogs/children with dogs in my bedroom.  In the winter, I sleep underneath any of several quilts I purchased at Amvets.

  I found the two little chairs on either end of my (rummage sale) coffee table on two separate shopping trips -  a nice bit of luck to be able to accommodate both of my twin grandchildren.  Plans are to paint them in a clever way some day but I seem to need to think about it some more.  Books were also a bargain at Amvets - I bought the second one down on Tuesday along with quite a few mysteries.

  As I look over the things I've gathered in my home, I realize how much I enjoy "the hunt" as well as acquiring older pieces with histories of their own. Amvets was "one-stop" hunting where I could find a comfortable outfit, a good book, or the perfect decorator piece for my home in one location.  Yes, I miss Amvets already but maybe the new thrift store will be full of surprises, too.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

c.rea.tiv musings

Well, I've officially started my first blog.  I'm not exactly sure where I'm going with it or why but I'm enjoying my first step on my journey to somewhere.

Much of my time these summer days is spent in my modest back yard.  When I'm not working on it, I'm sitting on my chaise enjoying it.  The landscape is pretty funky; something I started a couple of years ago during a record heat wave with the help of someone special who appreciates my uniqueness - thanks Patrice - and the efforts of two other friends - thank you Sylver and Gary.  Because of my two crazy dogs, planting in the ground doesn't work especially well so I opted to create gravel-filled beds bordered by broken concrete and lots of pots of various sizes and types.  The garden is divided into several areas.

The first area is next to my greenhouse, which I had built for my mother's orchids.  This area I call "the farm" and the decor is farm-related.  Space and sun are limited here, but I do manage to grow strawberries in an old pail hanging from the corner of the greenhouse (it's a "bucket o' berries"), Brussels sprouts in a fertilizer spreader, and tomatoes in a large clay pot.  The sunflowers growing out of a wooden box are not doing as well as I'd hoped and are close to expiring.

The next area is the "boudoir," and it includes a rusty old innerspring from a mattress that serves as a trellis for a sexy red mandevilla, an iron headboard for looks, and an old tin bathtub painted periwinkle blue that holds a large hot pink geranium.  A tarnished silver champagne bucket and ornate mirror are among the accessories adding charm to this area.

Next door is the "wild, wild west."  An old buckboard is surrounded by succulents planted in an old keg, a spittoon, a possum belly drawer, and an old red wagon.  Today I added something of a niche made from a long tray with rusted out bottom.  Hung vertically from a heart-shaped hook with a rusty old trowel hanging from the other handle, it created a nice spot for a funky little succulent.
The Wild Wild West - that's an old rusted trunk lid creating a shelf for the shoe.

Here's a close up of the new "niche."
I've probably shared enough in my first posting, so I'll stop the tour here.  I look forward to sharing more about the other areas in the near future.