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Dismantling the mantel

Maybe I am one of those people who just isn’t supposed to have a fireplace mantel. Goodness knows it throws me for a decorating loop more seasons than not.

However, even though I struggle to keep it updated, I *do* put stuff on it, and take it down, and put other stuff on it. Want proof?  Here was the 2013 Christmas mantel. Awwww….
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The miniature sled was something I snagged in an antique/thrift store down in Bell Buckle last year; I had planned to work it into an outdoor Christmas decoration, but at the last minute, I propped it on there, and it seemed to fit.

The mantel was one of the last things I put up and took down. (It was slow going this year.) Since it was dismantled late, I went straight for a wintry vignette with a little Valentine’s Day thrown in for good measure:
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Now let’s see if I can get myself in gear and update it before Easter. Hmmm. Maybe if I update the mantel and the dining room with a spring-y feel, this gray, cold winter will take the hint and take its leave? If only it were that easy, I’d dismantle the mantel today.

Happy Monday,
Terry

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For the uninitiated, that’s short for Pottery Barn and TJ Maxx, parent company of my new favorite store Home Goods. (Mr. Official is very thankful there isn’t a Home Goods in our county :-).) PB’s catalogs are a constant source of inspiration to me, although I rarely feel the urge to splurge on the real deal.  Nor do I typically follow through on the good  and crafty ideas they put in my head.  But sometimes, they catch me in just the right mood. Even better is when the aforementioned stores have stocked up on some great imitations of PB trends.

Case in point: we have built-in bookshelves in our den and I consider them both a blessing and a curse. When we moved in, I arranged our books and a few “objets d’art” in them, but didn’t spend a lot of time or thought on composition. Fast-forward two years (yes, it’s been two years!) and last week I found myself staring at the same arrangement, and mentally comparing it to the gorgeous photos in every PB catalog. It didn’t help my mood that we were braced for another dreary, rainy weekend. (TYVM, Mother Nature.)

So before the sun came out and dried off all the rain, I got busy inside.  This is the “before” shot:   IMG_3898-001
And this is what happened after I dragged everything off the shelves and re-arranged it:
IMG_3903-002The funny thing is, there isn’t much new in there:  the painting in the upper left corner is from a wildly fun Girls-Night-In craft-a-thon that Swimmer Girl and I participated in on Friday. I bought the ginormous “L” and the mirror, and a little chippy antique-looking cube. Everything else was either in the attic or somewhere else in the house. (And yes, the cords drive me nutsy, too. Somewhere in our garage is a kit to cover those hideous things, and since I’m in the prettifying mood, I may be motivated enough to go find it.)

I also found myself in the mood for new pillows, so the couches got a much-needed boost, too, with fraction-of-the-PB-price knockoffs from TJ Maxx & Marshall’s. The coffee table got a new candle holder; the hourglass and basket-o-balls were already on hand:
IMG_3904Even the sunroom got sunnier with some yellows and blues:
IMG_3906The mantel is updated, but not quite ready for its photo shoot (next Monday, I hope.) After this whirlwind of activity, it looked like a Home Goods store had dumped its load in my den. But I had to switch gears and spend the rest of Saturday shoveling mulch and spreading pine needles. By nightfall, I managed to summon the stamina to stow all the tubs away in the attic before collapsing in a warm bathtub myself.

The forecast for this weekend is … drumroll, please … more rain. And a graduation.  At least inside we’re ready to welcome summer whenever it is ready to come and stay for a while.

Happy Monday,
Terry

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Before Thanksgiving, I was gung-ho:  this year, by virtue of calendar “magic” we had an extra week between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I was determined to take full advantage of it.  Alas, it has simply allowed me to procrastinate by another several days.  I should have known better.

We worked on perfecting our “exterior illumination” skills a couple weekends ago and wound up with twinkling lights all twinkling.  Which wasn’t easy as we thought it would be…apparently there is high demand for LED outdoor lights, so we had to regroup, reconnoiter and strategize our lighting with the hodgepodge of cool and warm lights we could scrounge up.  (Note to self:  next year, we go hunting for lights before Thanksgiving.)IMG_2918

Last Saturday, Mr. Official and I raced to see who could deck their tree in the quickest twinkling of an eye.  I tackled the kitchen tree while he took on his UT tree.  And he did a smashing job – in fact, I think he might have found himself a new annual job.

This week, I have a few major to-do’s on my list before family arrives and we settle in to enjoy the holidays together:

Baking and candy-making today.
Last big shopping/wrapping push tomorrow.
Last decorating push to finish the dining room and other little nooks and crannies on Wednesday.

I think part of my procrastination has stemmed from a desire to uncomplicate Christmas.  I love all the hoopla and festivities that surround the holidays, but I’m also coming to appreciate that sometimes less IS more.  So now that we’re down to the last few days, only the most important (to me) to-do’s are going to get done. The rest was arguably just not that important.  It should make the take-down and stowing away a little easier at least!

Happy Monday
Terry

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I am blessed with many friends.  A few of them really love to shop.  Among them, a few are less likely than me to shop until they drop; others put me to shame. Some like to scour for vintage finds; others are more into the latest trends and styles.  Variety is the spice of life, and I love all my shopping girl pals.

Here is a recent find that makes me smile every time I see it:over-the-door hanger

And I owe it all to a good friend who went on a spur-of-the-moment shopping spree with me recently. While we were out, she pointed to some over-the-door hangers and mentioned she was looking for one herself.  A few stores later, I happened to spy the one you see here, and I immediately saw its usefulness in my kitchen.  (She got one, too – slightly different style.)

Even though I didn’t know before that moment, this was the answer to my mental debates with myself about this pantry door:  do I take it off and replace it with a windowed French-style door, like Thrifty Decor Chick did?

I could do that, but then where would I put all the spices that are conveniently located on the inside of the door?

Not to mention, my pantry is a true workhouse larder for our canned goods and dry goods.  My little warehouse is efficient, but not necessarily beautiful to behold, even if I blurred the view with some seeded glass.  But this idea was a stroke of luck and genius:  It keeps my aprons handy, and adds a little color to an otherwise stark white door.

So thanks to my dear friend for putting the notion in my head, and being ready to hit the stores – any stores – at the drop of a hat.

Happy shopping,

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I’ve had a vague hankering for a plate rack filled with creamy white platters for a while. But it wasn’t until I stumbled over this photo of a simple plate rack that it finally crystallized into a full-blown D-I-M project (you know: “do-it-myself”) – I knew I could accomplish this pretty handily.  Well, maybe with a little help from Mr. Official…

Google image = inspiration

I roughed out a sketch and drew up a materials list for a rack 36 inches wide and 48 inches tall (that allows 16 inches for each shelf – something to keep in mind when you’re considering loading it up with platters, most of which are 12 inches and up these days), then gathered the materials. Here’s my shopping list, in case you’re suddenly struck by the same longing:

Materials for 36×48 plate rack:
3 each 1x4x6 pine boards for the shelves, cut in half
1 each 1x4x8 pine board for the sides, cut in half
1 each 1x6x6 pine board for the top and bottom, cut in half
3 each 3-foot dowels (I used a squared-off screening or lattice wood instead)
36 wood screws (I used #6 x 1 1/4-inch)
1 small can of stain (I chose dark walnut)
1 can of water-based polyurethane (alternatively, you could paint it)
1 pair of heavy-duty picture hangers (capable of holding at least 50 pounds)

So I had the supplies, the creative spark, and the mental image of the finished piece. But right about then, the annual holiday tsunami hit, and my project stayed high and dry in the garage, until just a few days ago.

The tools needed are your standard fare: router, a saw to cut the boards in half, and a drill to make pilot holes and screw in the screws. Once I (ahem, we) got started, it really was a very easy project.

Steps:
1. Route grooves down the middle of one of the 1x4x6 boards and the same distance from one edge of the 1x6x6.
2. Cut all the boards in half.
3. Make sure everything was either 3 feet or 4 feet long.
4. Lay it out and assemble.
5. Sand, stain, seal.
6. Wait for everything to dry.  Tap, tap, tap.
6. Add hangers and hang.
7. Acquire platters to fill it up; the most time-consuming and expensive part!

The total investment was about $50 in cash and around 4 or 5 hours of actual effort.  There was most definitely a good cost-benefit ratio. Here’s the rack before staining, and the finished rack, hung fairly level, all by myself (to my husband’s barely concealed astonishment.)

Here’s the dining room, ready for some Sunday dinners, all decked out in winter white and silver:

And the Edwardian hutch. The Christmas village is gone, but in its place is a mix of traditional and contemporary white pieces including an elephant for luck.

Happy project-ing!

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Just like the old Blood Sweat & Tears song and Newton’s law of gravity, the Christmas decorations that go up must eventually come down.

When do you take yours down?  I have friends who have them down in the twinkling of an eye, pretty much as soon as Christmas dinner is finished. 

As for me, I let mine linger a bit.  We start our decorating later than most, and I’m just not ready to put it all away on December 26.  But I do make sure it’s down shortly after we’ve ushered in the new year.

Every year for several years, I have vowed to go through all the Christmas bins and straighten them out.  This year, I made good on that promise.  No excuses – the walk-in attic is adjacent to our bonus room, so I had the perfect staging area to spread out all my tubs and really organize them.  I also did a little “Santa’s Workshop” repair on a few items that needed re-gluing.

Today marks the 12th day of Christmas (see note), and I’m happy to say my decorations are down and tucked away, and I’ve even made a little headway on decorating the dining room for the winter months.  Den and foyer are next.

There were two distinct approaches I could take to stowing away my Christmas decorations:

1. Room-by-room (kitchen, dining room, UT stuff for the bonus room….)
2. Like-goes-with-like (garlands, ornaments, lights, nutcrackers, Christmas village…)

I chose…both.

For example, the kitchen tub contains everything I need to set up my kitchen for Christmas:  tree decorations, Christmas mugs and linens, even my party paper goods (of which I have enough to last the next 30 years.  Okay, maybe just the next two or three, but it seems like a lot.)  Next to it is the box with next year’s gift mugs for my 3rd graders.  I picked them up on clearance, and it’s one less thing to worry about.

Yes, the caroler’s book is upside down

On the other hand, my nutcracker collection stays together (albeit in one large tub and two wine boxes – they are the perfect size for storing them.)  I store them as a group even though some go to the sunroom, some to the kitchen, some to the den and some to the foyer.  I always shuffle them up, so each year I can pull them out and decide who-goes-where.  Ditto for the garlands and wreaths.  But the light strands and ornaments are separated in tubs for specific trees: dining room, big tree, UT tree.

I also tucked in some reminders for next year to make decorating easier – you know, those things you tell yourself, “next year, I’ll do it this way instead” and next year, you remember it too late?  Yeah, me too.  Maybe my notes will help next year – we’ll see.)

Of the stuff I didn’t use this year, I designated one tub for Santa Claus decorations, and another for snowmen and the cream/gold ornaments. When I get the urge to switch from silver to gold, or do a Santa or snowman theme, I can “shop” from my own inventory first.

After everything was in tubs and I had tossed all the irreparable, melted, discolored or otherwise unusable stuff, there remained two large bags of “haven’t-used-in-forever” (or maybe never) stuff.  I’ll take pity on the Goodwill folks who are dealing with the year-end glut, and keep them until early next fall to drop off. They’re set aside in one corner, visibly marked for their final destination.

The only remaining to-do is to get some shelving up in the attic so when I need the tub on the bottom of the stack (isn’t that always the one you need?) I don’t have to offload all the other tubs to fetch it. But that’s a task that can wait for a warm Saturday so we don’t get frostbite in the process.

Even though Christmas is officially over and the decorations are down, I think I’m going to be vacuuming up glitter and pine needles for a very long time….

Happy cleaning,

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P.S.   A big thank-you to Mr. Kurek for setting me straight on how to count the twelve days of Christmas. I’m just glad I was a day ahead, instead of a day behind!

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Not me, of course.  But some dangly, pretty, glass gewgaws to daintily swing and sway and cast rainbows on the walls with every twirl and move.

Yes, I’m speaking of a crystal-bedecked chandelier.

Before you yawn, I haven’t mentioned the location of this new light fixture.  It’s not in the usual  dining room or foyer.  It’s the master bathroom.

I’ve been intrigued by the fantasy of a bathroom chandelier since the mid-90s when a forward-thinking friend mentioned her interior decorator suggested one for her powder room. That was almost two decades ago – she (and her decorator) were way ahead of their time.  And for those of you who are thinking that electricity and water don’t mix, you’re right. I already checked it out:

National Electric Code 410.4(D) Bathtub and Shower Areas. No parts of cord-connected luminaires (fixtures), hanging luminaires (fixtures), lighting track, pendants, or ceiling-suspended (paddle) fans shall be located within a zone measured 900 mm (3 ft) horizontally and 2.5 m (8 ft) vertically from the top of the bathtub rim or shower stall threshold. This zone is all encompassing and includes the zone directly over the tub or shower stall.

Fortunately, the perfect spot in our new bathroom is already wired in a spot outside said range.  I can hang it just as soon as I take down the ceiling fan that’s there now.  (Which seems a tad more dangerous than a chandelier, if you ask me.  I think stories of flying fans and crashing chandeliers are mostly urban legends, concocted by ultra-cautious engineers and lawsuit-phobic lawyers. Seriously – has it ever happened to you or anyone you personally know?  Me neither.  Anyhoo.)

Oooh!  Did I mention the price? That’s truly the best part!

My inspiration for this project was this Pottery Barn chandelier.  (Sidenote: they have the coolest, most copy-able stuff.  I’m so glad we don’t have a PB store in town, because that might prove too much temptation for me. As it is, I only let myself venture into their stores only for inspiration.)

As much as I drooled over this photo, I knew there was no way I was spending $300 on a light, especially a (trendy) bathroom light.  Not when there were curtains and paint and other needs and wants to fulfill as we settle into our new digs.

They call it “Bellora” which I’m pretty sure is Italian for “beautiful and expensive”

I scoured our local Craigslist regularly, hoping someone might be ready to discard their PB or PB-esque chandelier, and I could snag their cast-off for half-price or so.  Instead, I found an ad for a chandelier, at the unbelievable price of $25. And the amber glass covers perfectly match the existing vanity lights.  But it was too tall.  Back on Craigslist it goes.

However, thanks to eBay, I snagged my knockoff for $150 including shipping – back in June.  It has hung out in my closet for six months; thanks to my awesome dad and middle son playing electrician over the Christmas holiday, winter bubble baths under the soft glow of a chandelier, here I come!

Of course, now that the chandelier is hung, I’m scheming 2012 projects, starting with revving up the decorating in the bathroom. First step is painting the walls. Then I hope to install some trim around the two vanity mirrors and trick out the tub alcove with some shelving and some window treatment.  It is more than a little bland, as you can see from the picture above.  I may – or may not – get our closets re-done this year (the wire racks are functional, but they don’t really inspire good organization or a desire to tackle the day when we open our closet doors each morning.)  But for today – just for today – I’m happy to look up and see this pretty new light in place.

Happy lighting,

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