Wednesday, January 27, 2016

sweetness and love

I poked around in my tub of Valentine's Day decor the other day and ended up putting most of the decorations back. As with decorating this past Christmas, I'm really feeling that less is more lately.

I added just a few touches in the kitchen and my office.

A simple place setting on the table...oh, hello Clementine on the chair!

Added just one heart to the china cabinet. I'm liking the red, white and's cheery. I didn't feel like removing everything and starting all over with all Valentine's Day stuff.

Like the china cabinet, the kitchen cart had enough stuff on it, so I simply added a heart bowl with a little birdie on it (found at Target years ago), and filled it with stuffed hearts (gifted from Carol of www.artandsand a few years are all the stuffed hearts in this post) on the middle shelf.

In the office, I stuck some more stuffed hearts in the little drawer of the vintage letter holder. This piece belonged to Brian when he was a boy. Can this be considered vintage already...are we that old?!

On the cookbook shelf in my office...I got the pretty plant pink polka dot plant on the top shelf (in the rose planter) for just 79 cents at Aldi today. I bought two: the other is in my kitchen. And I made a little banner with vintage Valentines and hanging ornaments to string across the middle shelf.

"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do...but how much love we put in that action." (Mother Teresa)

Linking up to Share Your Cup #182 and Thoughts of Home on Thursday #1.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

me and my big ideas

My living room is an awkward decorating space. 

~ There's no designated foyer or entryway: When you walk in the front door, you're smack dab in the living room. 
~ The (unfinished) fireplace is on an angled wall. 
~ The only windows in the room are next to the fireplace. 
~ The only way to get to the other rooms in the house is right through the middle of the living room. All the furniture has to be pressed up against the walls to preserve that walkway. 

Every so often I get the urge to rearrange furniture. You would think that I've had enough change with getting new glasses a few days ago and then getting my hair chopped short yesterday. But, nooo. I was so determined today to pull that dang huge sofa from against the wall. I put it on an angle facing the fireplace and then put the console table that used to be on the wall in the "entryway" behind it. I figured the new walking path to the kitchen and hallway could go behind this arrangement.

I thought I could make a nice, cozy seating arrangement by the fireplace. So far, so good. In this photo, you can see the front door and how you walk right into the room. The console table used to be right under that mirror.

 You know how one thing leads to another when you start a project? That was the understatement of the day. I then had to move the huge mahogany buffet that was on the wall next to the fireplace because that space was now too crowded. That left the wall empty, so I "shopped the house" for other furniture. I ended up moving the butler's table from my office against the wall where the buffet used to be.

Of course, when I started moving furniture, I had to take the tchotckes and lamps and plants off all the furniture so I could move it. Which meant everything went into the kitchen. My counters, table and floor were covered with stuff. Zippo seems to be looking around at everything and thinking, "What the heck is going on?"

Then the little "oh crap" moments set in. I realized the canvas flower pictures on the wall to the right (that's where the couch used to be) looked silly just hanging there on a wall with no furniture underneath it. And there wasn't any room to put furniture on that wall because that was the new pathway! Frustration was really setting in.

 Sorry for the bad lighting in this photo, but the sun was setting when I took the photo. You can see the buffet's new spot in the background. Look at the wall art above the buffet. There used to be a tall ladder bookcase there (which I moved into our bedroom) and the wooden HOME piece and the sconces fit perfectly around the top of that bookcase. Now those pieces looked terrible with the buffet there. The scones are screwed into the wall and the HOME piece is actually pretty heavy, so it's hung with some heavy-duty nails. I knew if I had to take those items off the walls, that I'd have a lot of plastering and touch-up painting to do. Ugh.

Another problem? Nowhere to put any lighting. All the electrical outlets are on walls; there are none in the floors. Any lamp beside or behind the couch would mean there'd be a cord stretching out across the floor to reach an outlet.

 The only thing I ended up happy with was moving the secretary desk from our bedroom under the "entryway" mirror. It really opened up the space since the console table that was there took up the entire wall.

After moving furniture and dusting and vacuuming for over four hours (amazing how much dust accumulates behind furniture!), I finally called it quits and went and soaked in a hot bath with lavender essential oil and epsom salts. When hubby got home from work, he helped me move all the furniture - with the exception of the secretary desk since we both like it where it is - back into its original places. I was disappointed and felt I wasted so much time today. Nothing on my to-do list got done. Brian just shrugged his shoulders and said that I would've never known unless I tried. 

Tomorrow I'm sticking to my to-do list.

Monday, January 18, 2016

warmth and cheer

 These past few days have been brutally cold, with wind chills as low as -25F. I always know that when I see the little igloo icon on my phone's weather app, that we're in trouble. Brian had the weekend off, but the cold didn't keep us indoors. We had a lot of errands to run, so off we went. On Sunday, we visited a friend in the hospital which is in a town that we haven't been to in years. This town has a few of my favorite shops, so despite the cold, we braved a few more stops. I can never resist browsing in an independent bookstore.

We also ducked into Sur La Table. A cook's paradise! They even had a kitchen in back of their store where you can take cooking classes. I'm a good cook and can both follow a recipe and make dishes up on my own. But there's still a few things I've never tried and think it'd be cool to learn, such as making pasta and Asian dishes.

How would you like to own your own little coffee-shop-in-one-machine? I nearly fell over when I saw the price. Sheesh, this thing had better give you a back rub, too!

That coffee machine isn't going home with me anytime soon (OK, how about never - not that I'd even want that in my house), but the red ceramic utensil holder on clearance for $8 was doable.

Speaking of cooking, I also stopped in Penzeys, which is a spice shop. I only needed two spices: the Italian Herb Mix and saffron. The jar of air-dried shallots was free, as I had a coupon from a promotional email. They have high-quality spices and herbs and the prices are good, too. 

Back at home...spring-like flowers bring warmth and cheer to my living room. I also have a bouquet on the kitchen table. A budget buy at $3.99 for a bouquet at Trader Joes.

New towels were needed in the main bath, so sticking with cheery, I chose a hot pink hand towel to "pop" against the gray. The wall art is from Hobby Lobby from several years ago.

To warm and fill up our tummies, I've been making a lot of homemade soups. I try to keep a container of soup in the fridge all the time, as it makes for a perfect quick lunch (for me at home, or for Brian to take to work) or light dinner.

But, the other day I wanted to make something different and also wanted to use what I had on-hand. I had a few organic russet potatoes that needed to be used up, as well as some leftover meatloaf in the freezer. So, I made a Shepherd's Pie. It was easy and so delicious! I started put by putting frozen veggies in the bottom of a greased baking dish. All I had was green beans, peas and corn, but you can use whatever you have. Carrots would be delicious in this dish. I then layered on big chunks of defrosted meatloaf and sprinkled the meat and veggies with a little beef broth. I made a pot of mashed potatoes and smoothed them over the meat. Then I sprinkled the top with shredded cheddar cheese. Into the oven the dish went for about 1/2 hour at 350F. 

Brian and I were both saying we weren't very hungry that night, but when this dish came out of the oven, lust of the eyes and flesh took over and we dove in.

We ended up eating almost half the pie. ;-)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

organizing kitchen cabinets and drawers

Good morning! I love when the sun streams into my house like this. Makes me (kind of) forget that it's really -15 with the wind chill out there.

Are you familiar with the blog, Apartment Therapy? I love this design blog. I'm following their January Cure where every day they email you a short assignment to do in your home - little organization projects that will lead to a cleaner, more organized, more peaceful home. Who doesn't want that, right? There were a few assignments to clean out and organize kitchen cabinets and drawers. Mind you, this doesn't have to be done all at once. Just one cabinet or drawer at a time. I've been working on this for several days.

Here's what I've accomplished so far. I don't have a walk-in pantry, so a lot of my everyday staples and baking goods are in cabinets. I am fortunate that we have an unfinished basement with metal shelving units where I keep other pantry items (broth, canned tomatoes and beans, tuna, toilet paper, etc.). This is my main food cabinet before. Not too bad, but still needed to be cleaned out and better organized. 

Here's the after. I keep a lot of food items (mostly grains and pastas) in jars. Takes up less room, is easier to see what you need, and keeps these items fresh. 

The bottom shelf holds my spices. Since I have so many, I find it easiest to keep them organized by category. For example, one basket is Italian spices and herbs: oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, bay leaves, dried shallots, onion powder. Another basket holds Mexican spices such as chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, and cayenne. Additional baskets hold Indian spices - turmeric, curry powder, garam masala, cardamom, coriander and fenugreek seeds; herbs such as dill, Herbs de Provence and lemongrass; and seeds like sesame, poppy, celery and caraway. And still another basket holds fall baking type spices such as cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg and cloves.

Baking cabinet before:

Baking cabinet after:

Moving on to drawers...

Junk drawer before:

Junk drawer after. 

I have two utensil drawers. Here's one that started out organized with bins, but over time got messy. I took everything out of the drawer, washed the bins in hot, soapy water, wiped down the inside of the drawer and went through the utensils to see if there was anything we never used. Those items went in the donation bag I keep in the basement.

Better, though I see I need a bigger basket instead of that little white one to hold the stray stuff.

This is the second utensil drawer which is right next to the stove. I didn't get a before picture, so this is the after. I keep spatulas, big spoons and a ladle in this drawer since they're easy to grab while cooking. This drawer used to be so crammed with stuff that something would get stuck almost every time I opened the drawer.

So what to do with the "extras" that I took out of that drawer? I found there were a lot of serving spoons and a couple of serving forks. I found room for those at the end of the cutlery drawer.

I also had wooden spoons crammed into that narrow drawer. Those went into a utensil crock on the counter.

My kitchen already looks and feels better. Next cabinet to tackle is the storage container cabinet. If you don't hear from me in awhile, I probably fell into this black hole.

Sharing with Cozy Little House Tweak it Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

starting with a clean slate

 Welcome, 2016! This was the sunset on New Year's Day when we were walking out of Barnes and Noble. We head there at the beginning of every year to get planners, calendars and Christmas cards at 50% off.

That little virus I had after Christmas - the sore throat, headache, and tiredness - was gone in a few days and never progressed into anything where I was truly sick. I hope it was due to using natural remedies as soon as I felt that sore throat coming on. Or maybe it was one of those minor bugs that would've went away quickly on its own anyway. Either way, I'm thankful it passed quickly.

Like many of you, I've been working on putting the house back together after getting all the Christmas stuff packed up and put away. While I like the pretty lights and warmth of Christmas decorations, I enjoy starting January with a fresh, clean look. I got the other two white kitchen chairs from overstock, so now there's finally a complete matching set around the kitchen table. 

Also, that's Clementine sitting by the heater vent. One of her favorite spots in the winter. ;-)

Found those cute rooster oven mitts on winter clearance at Crate and Barrel. Needed new oven mitts anyway, so win-win. And, do you see the middle shelf of the china cabinet...a peek of the red and white cake stand?

That was an impulse Target purchase. (No way...not at Target!) Normally I don't buy cheap, made-in-China stuff like this, but I couldn't resist the red and white, especially since it was only $5.

Changed out the winter snowmen plates on top of the fridge for something lighter. I know I could've kept the snowmen plates out all winter, but again, in the mood for lighter and brighter right now.

Moving into the living room, I brought out some of my milk glass pieces, but notice I did keep one snowman alive and well...

I used more milk glass pieces on the buffet. Digging in my linens storage box, I found this vintage, white, cotton piece that belonged to my grandma. We think its from when they used coverlets over pillows, but we're not completely sure. I have it folded in half on the buffet. Any thoughts as to what this might be, if not the pillow coverlet? It's about five feet long.

No milk glass on the entryway console table, but capturing the colors in the mirror and curtains with other accessories.

 Sunset casting a warm glow tonight in the living room...

And there's Miss Clementine once again by a heating vent. Yawning this time. ;-)
Diffuser going on the little table by the window.
Can you make out Zippo on the blanket on the couch? That's one of his favorite sleeping spots. 

Here's to a clean, fresh start for 2016 - hopefully, in several different ways.

Sharing with Tweak it Tuesday.