Visiting your Newborn Grandchild in the Hospital

Our second granddaughter arrived sooner than expected a couple of weeks ago! Our son and his wife had their child about a month early, and thankfully everyone is doing well.

Going to the hospital on short notice made me wish I had prepared a list of stuff to bring with me.  Even though this is my second grandchild (our daughter welcomed a daughter last year), I was still racking my brain for something helpful and useful to take.  That was my first mistake.

A gift doesn’t have to be useful!  Take balloons!  Balloons add such a festive touch to a sterile hospital room.

Food is usually welcome and appreciated.    Mom and Dad are probably off cycle with the delivery. Once everything settles down a bit, they may notice that they are starving.  Specialty sandwiches are a good option since they don’t have to be served hot.  Fruit and cookies are nice additions as well.  Everyone needs to keep their strength up.

Present for Mom. Perhaps the new Mom would appreciate a nice robe or wrap to put over her hospital gown, especially since everyone is snapping pictures right and left, not to mention plenty of friends and family dropping by.  Or maybe some scented hand sanitizer to dispel that hospital sterility and encourage clean hands.  Any suggestions on this one from some new moms out there?

Champagne?  Maybe.  You know the couple and what they would like.  Juices are also good for nursing moms.

Beanie or mittens for baby.  Etsy has so many options, personalized or not.

Also, just ask the couple what they need/want you to bring.  Most people are not in the hospital that long so there really isn’t a need to take too much stuff.

Of course the main thing is welcoming that new little member of the family!

After your visit you can start planning a meal or two to take over when everyone gets home.

Memorial Day and Shrimp Etouffee

 

We had a somewhat soggy Memorial Day but that did not dim our fun any.

Luckily I had planned a meal that did not require the grill. Growing up in southern Mississippi, on the Louisiana border,  my tastes tend toward the spicy and flavorful blend of seasonings that defines the region.   It has been awhile since I have done some Cajun cooking and I had a yen for etouffee.

Etouffee is a kind of gravy combining spices with celery, bell peppers and onions.  This gravy adds so much flavor to the shrimp.  It is really good served over rice with some scallions on top.  I used this recipe and it was outstanding.   Serve it with a tossed salad, maybe a little fruit salad as well and to me, it is the taste of home.

 

Chef John (creator of the recipe) says he used frozen shrimp and it was very tasty.  I used previously frozen shrimp from Whole Foods.  They were really delicious, and also came peeled and de-veined which was a bonus.

Back when my mother used to make etouffee we used crawfish, which were plentiful in that area.  Crawfish are the poor relation of shrimp; they are a little chewier, but they do hold onto the sauce more tenaciously.  Shrimp works just as well.

No one seemed to miss the burgers.

Naturally, the red, white and blue decor had to come out.   Have you noticed how useful red napkins are?  I plan to go out this week and buy some more.  Between the patriotic holidays, Christmas and Valentine’s Day they are on a steady rotation.  The blue tablecloth is from Ikea and it is so easy to care for.  It comes out of the dryer wrinkle free.

I bought those funny little patriotic characters over 15 years ago at an antique mall.  They add their own kind of spice to the table.

And now summer is officially underway!  Unfortunately we have another week of rain to look forward to.

Rosewater Anyone?

Rosewater Anyone?

It’s been a long time coming but finally I have the rose bush of my dreams.

I was pretty sure I couldn’t grow roses in my shady back yard.  Roses require a lot of sun, usually about 8 hours.  My yard is bordered by large trees, which I love even though they don’t allow much sun to penetrate their foliage.  There is only one little awkward corner in the back yard where the house and the driveway come together where the sun’s rays are not obscured by structures or by shadows.  There I have had some luck with a few sun loving flowers, such as canna lillies and morning glories.

Finally, I could no longer ignore my desire to have a rosebush and though it wasn’t ideal, that awkward corner was the only spot in my yard where roses had a chance to flourish.  So I would plant my rose there.

I bought the Cecile Brunner rose which does tolerate light shade.   The first two years seemed to bear out my misgivings about growing roses in our yard.  There were only a handful of blooms.  But the stems were lush with leaves.  And then this year, there was a sudden profusion of blooms!  I’m not kidding when I say I did a double take when I looked out the window a few weeks ago.  I beheld a glorious rosebush that seemed to have bloomed overnight.

And the smell!  The bush fills the air with its fragrance. Sometimes I just stand there and inhale.   I’ve been cutting stems daily for bouquets for the house.   Even as cut flowers the scent perfumes the air inside.   It’s hard to describe the pleasure they bring.

After the arrangement wilted, the fragrance lingered in the petals.  I didn’t want to waste those sweet smelling petals and decided to see about making my own rosewater, which I have been hearing so much about.   I looked up “rosewater recipe” and found this one.  It could not be more simple.

After steeping the petals for 10 minutes, I ended up with this golden liquid.  You can’t really tell from the picture but there is a thickness to the water.

I used it on the back of my hands and now they feel supple and soft.  And they give off a subtle rose scent.

Apparently rosewater has been around for a long time, thousands of years, and has many uses.  This article from Elle was quite interesting.  Although, I must admit I can’t see myself using it as mouthwash.

I do not have a spritz bottle, but I do plan to get one so that I can spritz rosewater around on linens and pillows.  I love natural scents.

Of course the best scent of all is to have a big bouquet of beautiful roses in every room.  You could just put bowls of petals around too.

I deferred my dream of growing roses, thinking I was being practical and realistic.  But there was so little at stake to just give it a try.  I’m not sure why it took so long to realize that.

I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.

Emma Goldman

 

My Hammam Bath Experience

My doctor, dermatologist, actually, suggested the hammam bath for me due to my dry, scaly, bumpy skin.  I knew my skin, especially on my back, needed attention.  In fact, one reason I was in her office was to check for cancerous spots, but also to diagnose the itchy rash that suddenly appeared all over my back and legs.

For the rash I was prescribed a visit to the spa.  Well, kind of.  In many cultures body scrubs are part of a monthly ritual for deep cleansing.   The hammam treatment is a Moroccan bath which  involves a period of steaming followed by vigorous scrubbing.

I’ve been to many spas over the years, but I have never experienced the hammam.  I googled it to see what to expect.  Experiences vary so I thought I would share mine.

Fortunately a spa providing hammam baths is located within a 15 minute drive of my home. Soon after arriving I was ushered into a comfortable room with a daybed and two chairs.  Maria, who performed my service told me to remove all of my clothes, including underwear and to wrap in the large Turkish towel provided.

Next I followed her into a sizable tiled room that was filled with steam.  A shower was running in the corner and I showered there, basically letting the warm water wash over me.  From there I was helped over to a large tiled slab where I lay down on a mat.  The room is so steamy you can barely see and I felt like my breathing had to adjust a little.  But it also feels good.

Then Maria used black soap to wash my entire body, front and back.  This took about 5 minutes.  You are left to steam for about 15 minutes.  When she came back, she began a vigorous scrub with a brush on my legs, working her way up to my shoulders and arms and then doing the same on my back side.   This scrubbing felt good for the most part.  Only my abdomen felt a little sensitive.  After scrubbing a section Maria would pour really warm water over me and that felt wonderful.  After the scrubbing and the water she applied a thick gel-like substance, like a masque all over my body.  I steamed some more, probably 5 minutes.  She came back and poured more water over me, removing the masque with her hands.

Then she had me sit up and she washed my hair and applied conditioner.  I went back to the shower for a final rinse.  In the dressing room I toweled off and Maria came in and applied Argan oil which my skin just drank up.  The entire process lasted a little over an hour.

My skin feels so smooth now.  I think I will go on a regular basis because I do have exceedingly dry and bumpy skin.  Also my doctored “ordered” it.

Afterwards you  feel a little raw, so if you are going to go anywhere you might want to bring a hairdryer and a little make-up.  Although there was a hairdryer and brush in the room, which I used, I would probably bring mine next time unless I planned to go directly home.

All in all it was a good experience and I see why some make it a regular part of their skin care routine.

What is your favorite spa procedure:  massage, facial, scrub, steam?

Basement Update-Sectional

The sectional for our basement living room was delivered last week.  We are completely pleased with it.  It fits the space well and is very comfortable.  Its the Luxora Bisque from the Ashley Home Store.  (This post is not sponsored)

I’m trying to decide if we need a coffee table.  I’m afraid a table will make it look cluttered.  What do you think?

Just to remind you what this area looked like before:

The blue sofa is the Pottery Barn Basic sleeper sofa.  It is a very comfortable sleeper.  I plan to buy a new slipcover (not from PB, though) and give the sofa to my son.  Anyway, you can tell from this picture that the sofa did not fill up the space very well.  So I added this hodge podge of chairs that had no other home.  The basement was a repository for old forlorn furniture.

I still love my new walls down here..  For more about this renovation go here.  They are so perfect I don’t want to put any nail holes in them.  I’m still figuring out the other side of this room.

I used to say that I didn’t want to spend money on the basement because we never came down here.  But now that it has been updated and painted I do want to spend time here.   Lesson learned:  you will want to use rooms that are fresh and pretty and inviting.

Do you have rooms full of tired old furniture?

Make College Graduation Day Special

Make College Graduation Day Special

Our three children  have long since graduated from college.  But I clearly remember the excitement and pride I felt on each of those occasions. We wanted to celebrate afterwards  to make our graduate feel special and show them how proud we were.

 

 Each institution has its own traditions for those celebrations that take place immediately after the commencement ceremony.  How do you throw a party when you aren’t at home?  Won’t the restaurants be packed?  If you prefer to host a gathering, finding a venue can be challenging.

Perhaps your student has been living in an off-campus apartment and that would be suitable.  Streamers and balloons in the school colors add a festive touch.  Don’t forget napkins and other paper goods in the appropriate colors.   Food and drink could be purchased locally or brought from home if you are driving from nearby.

 If the weather is conducive, a picnic is a great option.    Picnics can be as casual or as elaborate as you like.  You will need to coordinate with your student to find out if the institution allows picnicking on the grounds.  Or perhaps there are public parks  nearby.  Check to see if these spaces require reservations.

Along these same lines, perhaps a tailgate picnic would work.  If you have the capability to bring a grill and some coolers, then your graduate can invite friends to join the celebration. Or some of those public parks may have grills (and restrooms) available.

Some colleges and universities have provided options on campus for families to set up their reception area.  I am surprised that more schools don’t do this, recognizing that families want to take the time to congratulate their student.

Obviously if you want to go to a restaurant you must plan ahead and make reservations.  I would start calling in February for a May graduation.  They may tell you that you have to wait, but then you can find out when reservations open for graduation day.  Put that date on your calendar and call early that day.

For one of our children’s graduations we rented a house for the weekend.  Having a house enabled us to invite our graduate’s friends and their families over to join us.  The school colors were orange and navy blue so I found as much decor in those colors as I could.  We brought food from home since the school is a short  two hour drive.

For another child’s graduation we attended a party at his fraternity house that was coordinated by some parents.  We all contributed to the cost. This provided an opportunity to socialize with the other graduates and their parents.

Any other suggestions for celebrating college graduation?  Let us know in the comments!

 

Carpet Runner Fail

Carpet Runner Fail

Maybe the purpose of this blog is for me to make all the mistakes. Then, from a position of authority, I can warn you away from costly decorating errors. Read on for a cautionary tale of what to do and not do when you decide to carpet your stairs.  Mostly what not to do.

I have been planning to carpet the stairs to the basement for  years, but this project always took a back seat to other more prominent needs.  But, recently  I took down old paneling in the basement and saw the huge improvement there, which motivated me to  keep going.   I found a reliable and competent handyman who could do the job and I had some house guests coming.  The timing seemed fortuitous.  I’m all about timing.

I found this bright and jazzy runner at Wayfair.  Wayfair, as you probably know, has more selection than anyone has time to look at.  But I spent a weekend poring over all the choices. The runners that were predominately red really attracted me so I narrowed my search by color.  I kept going back to this red chevron and I still really like it.

So what’s the problem you ask?  Well, these stairs have a landing at the bottom, a turn to the left.  Landings require some piecing and  maneuvering and matching.  If only I had known that during those hours of looking at carpet runners.

It’s kind of funky isn’t it?  My first reaction was No, I didn’t just see that.  The installer did not consult with me about how this was to be done, not that I would have known.   I have tendency to leave workmen to do their jobs and not hover.  As he was showing me the completed work he explained why he had pieced it in this manner.  It boiled down to “not a lot of options”.

I think it looks better from this angle.  You do too, right?

At first I was thinking “rip it out and start over”.  But, honestly, I’ve gotten used to it.  And I still like this pattern.

Even with that issue, I am glad I finally installed carpet.  The stairs are  transitional space that prepare you for the next room.  Before it felt as if you were descending into a dungeon.   Now, the red color and the pattern give you a sense that you are entering a fun and playful space, one where you might want to spend some time.

I hardly even notice that weird fusion anymore.  Really, I don’t.

  But you might want to think about how your runner pattern will match up if you have a landing on your stairs.

Basement Living Room Update

Basement Living Room Update

Those who have been following me may remember that last fall I noticed a water issue in our basement bedroom.  Yes, water was definitely seeping into the walls and the carpet in this room.  We have had water issues in the basement before and have installed a waterproofing system where a company comes in and installs a french drain and a sump pump.  However, we added on to our home, including a basement bedroom, but we stupidly did not extend the waterproofing to this area.  We thought some of our outdoor landscaping would mitigate but it did not.

Anyway, we had the waterproofing company return and take care of the issue.  In so doing, they remove drywall.  So, when I had the drywall installers come, I had them do some long needed work in another part of my basement, the living room.  Previously I had old dated paneling in this area.

I have wanted to have that old paneling removed for so long.  Once I had the professionals in to take care of the bedroom I got an estimate for removing this paneling, extending the TV wall 4 feet and painting this entire room.  Mr. DB and I agreed the cost was  reasonable and we gave the go-ahead.

This is a picture of the wall that we extended 4 feet, enabling the TV to be centered across from the sofa.

This short wall forced the furniture placement to be crammed into one end of the room.  That just threw everything off and made me give up.  Side note:  This room has looked worse. Our young sons used this room for indoor soccer, baseball, wrestling, etc.  Once they grew up and left I tried to make it somewhat more presentable, albeit with cast-off furniture.  Half-measures never really work, do they?

Finally, with the new drywall and wall extension, I am making progress.

I found this TV stand at HomeGoods.

We also updated the lighting down here with more recessed lights.  Those two updates made it feel like an entirely new room.

I have ordered a sectional sofa for this space.

My decorating process is step by step.  Once the sectional comes in I can decide on a coffee table and art.

This is the last room in our house to be modernized.  Nineteen years ago we bought a ranch home built in 1960.  It had been updated somewhat in the 1970s.  But I am not really sorry that we couldn’t do a whole house renovation in one swoop.  Our sons had their indoor sports room; now we have a grown-up space.  All things in their time.

Getting Ready for Summer

  We finally had a nice warm day this past week,  where it just felt good to be outside getting rid of winter’s debris and cleaning up the dining furniture.  It’s a little like playing house; I clean and rearrange, plan my purchases of annuals for all of the containers.

This year I left my furniture out in the weather.  Cold weather came on suddenly, then left just as quickly.

Never buy a glass-topped table for your garden.  Yes, that is glass.  I will scrub it with a steel brush and water to remove the grime that has adhered over the winter.  I am looking for a replacement but not sure what I want to get so this is it for the meantime.

We bought this “set” of table and chairs at a garage sale years ago.  I still love the chairs’ vintage vibe.  I did have them professionally recoated and that has been a good investment.  It will be pretty easy to clean them off.  And yes, I should put them in storage for the winter.  Now, after a good scrub down, I am not embarrassed for anyone to sit down.

I plan my trip to the plant nursery carefully. I have found that it is a good idea to go  there on a cloudy day. The most popular nursery in our area is so busy on the initial sunny days of spring that they have  people directing traffic in the parking lot.  Having to negotiate crowds and lines makes me too tired to garden when I get home.  If you go on a cloudy day, during the week if possible, you will find a good selection and plenty of help.  I also try to have a color scheme, although it is hard to stick with.  A lot of impulse buying happens at the garden center.  Lately I’ve been buying flowers in flats to save time and money.  If I go before our last frost date the seedlings will keep well in the garage for a week or two.

I also get my pots and potting soil ready for planting.  If I haven’t already, I dump the old potting soil in the compost and start fresh with new potting soil.  That way my plants will have the best nourishment for growth and bloom.

As I mentioned, we need a new outdoor dining table.  We also need more comfortable  lounge chairs for a small deck closer to the back door.   Luckily Emily Henderson just did a round up of good options.  I struggle with  the issue of  spending any money on outdoor furniture since we are not outside that much.  You see, we have a lot of mosquitoes here in northern Virginia.  They love Mr. DB but me, not so much.  I am looking into solutions that work because it’s no fun sitting outside alone.

I added these pillows to our iron furniture to give it a little more comfort and color.  And that has been a good solution .

I am really looking forward to enjoying my favorite season, mosquitoes or not!

 

Best Greenery for Your Home

Best Greenery for Your Home

I think we all know that plants and flowers add a warm and nurturing feeling to a home.  Plants not only add beauty but also make our homes healthier by acting as air filters.

I know, I know.  What if you are not good at keeping plants alive?  House plants can be somewhat tricky.  For the most part I confine myself to the easier variety.  Today I’m going to share what works for me and a few other ways that I bring foliage into my house.

Continue reading “Best Greenery for Your Home”