New Lighting

I have been procrastinating for years on some new lighting in our house. The fact that an electrician would be needed in some instances and I wanted to have him accomplish several projects while he was here was one factor in my procrastination. What projects was he going to do and what fixtures are right for the space, not to mention budget concerns, well I could mull that over for a long time. And I did.

Giving myself a deadline of getting it done before Christmas broke through the freeze. Once I sat down to decide once and for all on the kind of fixtures I wanted, I noticed that when I looked at lighting online and in catalogs I kept going back to the same style. Okay that seems like a decision.

The project that didn’t require an electrician was in the living room. At a dinner party last fall Mr. Bee and I noticed some of our guests were seated in such deep shadows we had trouble seeing their expressions. The shadowy living room had been a problem but this incident brought it to the fore. Time to do something about this situation.

And in this case I did know what I wanted. I’ve always loved the look of two identical lamps bracketing the sofa.

The lamps I chose are from Lamps Plus which offers a wide range of floor lamps in all prices and styles. These were quite moderately priced and were pretty easy to assemble. The modern traditional style compliments the room. But the unknown with buying lamps online is will the actual light be what I need/want? In this case the answer is yes. They provide good light that is not stark. And that is important to us as avid readers.

Most importantly, their subtle glow lights up the corners of the room so that our guests never again need peer out of the shadows.

As you can see I went for the rubbed bronze finish. Bronze just hits that middle level of subtle and traditional.

I spent a lot of January in that sofa corner. Ha!

The next project was to change the light fixtures over my kitchen island. Nine years ago when we added on a larger kitchen, I could not decide on the pendant lighting. We decided to go with these inexpensive pendants that would “do for now”. I just didn’t know what I really wanted.

I must have really disliked these pendants because this is the only picture I can find that contains even the tip of the shade.

The vaulted ceiling allows for substantial fixtures. It’s so hard to visualize how various styles will look. I had Mr. Bee hold up various bowls that were the approximate size to try to get an idea. That at least helped me see that the size would work.

These seeded glass fixtures are also from Lamps Plus.

It hasn’t been the most startling change. But these lights are more to the style of the room so I’m glad I changed them.

I still have those Asian style bar stools though. I found them at a consignment store for a reasonable price. I tried disguising them with covers for the backs. Bar stools are pricey! I do have my eye on some. I need a sale or a coupon.

While I had the electrician here he installed an electrical outlet in a closet so I could plug in my new-ish Dyson cordless vacuum, and also a video doorbell. I wanted the video doorbell so that I can see who is at my door before answering. The neighborhood is safe but it’s just an added security to know who is at your front door.

I am planning to change a few more fixtures but for now it feels good to cross some things off the list.

Do you put off projects too?

I received no compensation in any form for this post.

Breakfast with the Grandkids

Breakfast with the Grandkids

Since our granddaughters became toddlers we have looked for new ways to host family gatherings.  With early dinner times and bedtimes, dinner is difficult to manage.  Through trial and error we discovered that Saturday morning breakfast is a hit with everyone, adults and toddlers alike.

For the sake of convenience, I choose dishes that mostly can be made ahead of time.  Lately I have been loving this egg strata recipe from the Pioneer Woman.  It’s quite versatile – I don’t think I’ve made it the same way twice.

The recipe calls for bacon to be added to the strata mixture.  However since we have a vegetarian in the family I leave the bacon as a side dish.  Instead I added red pepper and mushrooms.  I added an entire package of shiitake mushrooms (next time I’d add two packages) and 1/2 of a red pepper.  Green pepper would be good too.  I sauteed the peppers and mushrooms with the shallots.

Recently I have been cooking bacon on a rack in the oven.  I’ve always heard that it makes your bacon more crisp.  And it’s true!  It takes longer but it’s worth it.

Cantaloupe and banana bread rounded out the menu.

A few months ago I bought these wipeable placemats at HomeGoods.

They work so well for casual meals. 

Finding ways to be with your grandchildren so that you can get to know each other can be challenging when they are so young. We have found that when their parents are present the girls much prefer them, of course. For now the goal is to see them on a regular basis and become familiar. Then we will progress to some short outings to the playground.

If you have experience with young grandchildren I’d love to hear about it!

Recent Finds

Recent Finds

Last week Daughter Bee and I were able to get to a barn sale held in the beautiful Maryland countryside, about an hour from our homes. Once we got past the DC congestion and suburban sprawl we drove through picturesque farms and quaint little towns which seem much unchanged by time. The morning was cool, my daughter beside me, it could not have been more perfect. Daughter Bee works at a hospital as a nurse practitioner, plus she has a husband and a two year old daughter. With that schedule, it’s pretty rare for us to have an entire day together.

Not only were there lots of vintage and antique furniture and decor, but plenty of crafters with jewelry and pillows etc. I was too busy taking it all in to take many pictures.

On my wish list for this day was a settee or loveseat for under the window of my office. The requirements for this piece were so specific that I wondered if it even existed. The office is a small bedroom already full with office furniture and a decorative shelf so this settee could not be long or jut into the room too much. The style was important too as I didn’t want anything antique or too “nice”. I guess I was going for vintage. Oh yes, and it had to be comfortable too. I plan to sit on it, maybe even put my feet up. And it had to be within my budget of $225 max.

Here she is in said office. And she is a perfect fit. I have plans for the cushions of course. And it was under budget at $195. Success!

We bought a few other small items. How adorable are these felt acorns? I wish I had bought more of them. They were 6.99 for this handful.

I can never have too many small round stools. They are great for everything from plants to a cup of tea.

And we both bought some incense. I’m loving the way the fragrance softly wafts through the house.

We entertain about once a month around here and I have been looking for a beverage stand. I was beginning to accept that I might have to pay more than I wanted to. Until I found this baby. It was only $40. I will report back after I’ve used it. It almost seems too good to be true.

Daughter Bee bought cute prints and a papasan chair for a playroom makeover she is working on. We will show a reveal when the time comes.

Although there were food vendors, I brought a picnic lunch of veggie wraps which turned out quite good. I used up a cucumber from Mr. Bee’s crop along with some roasted red pepper hummus as a spread and a few spinach leaves sprinkled in. Perfect!

I savor these leisurely visits where we have the time and space to talk and catch up on our lives. Even running into traffic is no bother on a day like this. It’s more time to visit.

What is your favorite way to visit with a friend or family member?

Matchmaking with Vases and Flowers

Matchmaking with Vases and Flowers

One of the fringe benefits of hosting a dinner party is that afterward I usually have more flowers around than I normally do. Since I usually buy a few bunches to create a centerpiece, and often guests will bring a bouquet or two, this gives me an opportunity to divide and rearrange and spread them around the house for maximum enjoyment. Of course, there are also those days that I don’t have time to play around with flowers and I just want to get them in fresh water. They are still pretty. Anyway, I wanted to share some ideas for using all your flowers in different vases.

Here is what I started with recently:

The arrangement below is one of two identical arrangements.

I started with a few taller vases and a couple of smaller ones. I began with these three, but as you will see more were needed.

The mums are long stemmed so this taller vase was called for.

Then I went around the house finding the right spot for them.

These gerbera daisies are peeking around in the master bedroom.

And these gerberas add a cheerful presence to my office. Gerberas look beautiful in any size vase, don’t they?

I ended up liking the stock in this silver vase the best, after playing around with it in some other containers.

Alstromeria always makes a great loose, informal kind of arrangement.

This is one of the arrangements I tried with the stock. I like it better in the silver vase though.

One flower in a small vase is kind of adorable sometimes.

Did you notice that all of the arrangements were composed of a single type of flower? I didn’t start out to do that, but each type of flower seemed to lend itself to a certain vase. The purity of it was quite appealing.

All but one of the containers came from a thrift store! I always look for unique vessels for flowers when I’m shopping in thrift stores. I try to find two or three that are similar in size and color so that I can use them on the dining table. It’s hard to tell but I found glass containers for this early summer arrangement from a few months ago.

It’s always a pleasure to have flowers around, isn’t it? I hope you found some inspiration to help you enjoy them even more.

Making the Most of Summer’s Bounty

One of my most favorite things about summer is the abundance of fresh produce whether from the farmer’s market or your own garden. Mr. Bee’s garden is beginning to produce and, as you gardeners know, when things ripen, you can almost have an overabundance. Over the years I have collected recipes that help me make the most of the harvest.

We didn’t have a good year for beans in the garden, but there are plenty of farmer’s markets in our area that have them. One of my favorite dishes with green beans is a twist on the Nicoise Salad. It’s filling and flavorful, perfect for a quick weeknight meal. Find how I did it here.

You wouldn’t believe how many cucumbers one plant produces. We do share them with friends and family but somehow end up with 3 cucumbers in the refrigerator on a given day. Mr. Bee found this recipe for pickled cucumbers that his mother used to make. The fresh ginger gives them a real flavor boost. We love them with any grilled meats.

I am a subscriber to Bon Appetit magazine and I recommend it for great writing, informative articles and delicious recipes. Now that Mr. Bee is bringing home 3 and 4 tomatoes a day, we are making this Spaghetti with No-Cook Puttanesca once a week. You won’t believe how good this easy sauce is.

I have heard so much about aioli but wasn’t sure what exactly it is. Of course it was easy enough to learn more about. Aioli is a versatile sauce involving a raw egg, garlic and lemon juice. It’s delicious as a sauce for dipping or spooning over those fresh vegetables. In the course of my research I found this Cheater’s Aioli. It’s so delicious. And she has a great technique for adding the garlic flavor without the garlic bits.

I spooned it over some roasted carrots, but ate them before taking a picture! This sauce is irresistible.

I hope this gives you some ideas for enjoying summer’s fresh vegetables.

Easy Salmon Pinwheels

Remember office parties? It seems as if they are a relic from the past, but we had one this past weekend. I have been working on a recipe idea and I used this occasion to try them out. .

The office party is obviously quite different from having your friends over. It sits in that gray area between formality and familiarity. Our crowd this weekend was friendly and outgoing so that made it fun.

Smoked salmon served with capers and red onion, a little creme fraiche is one of my favorite appetizers. However, it can be messy to keep all of the ingredients contained so they don’t end up on your clothes or the floor. The answer? Put those ingredients in a tortilla! So I did and you can find the recipe here.

I usually offer vegetables and dip at a cocktail party. My go-to dip is curry dip which has so much flavor. I took this picture before adding the curry dip to the bowl.

At a party I hosted a few years ago, I found out by accident that water is something your guests will greatly appreciate. At that time I served water and lemonade in crocks because I was hosting our extended family with a lot of teenagers and I wanted to give them choices besides sodas. But the water crock was what I kept refilling. Every since I have put one of these containers out at parties and people always drink it up. I encourage everyone to make it easy for your guests to get some water.

Last week was a busy one. A party really gets me motivated to tackle and finish projects around the house. I put up a towel hook in the bathroom, washed my dining room chair slipcovers, planted pansies in the yard, cleared out a bunch of clutter from all over the house, and cleaned. Whew! It felt good.

Do parties get you motivated to take care of all those little chores you have been putting off?

De-cluttering

De-cluttering

How’s your New Year’s resolution to de-clutter your house going? I have actually tackled some closets and had a few thoughts in the process, which I wanted to share with you.

Obviously de-cluttering or cleaning out has different connotations for various stages of life. When Mr. Bee was on active duty and we moved a lot (over 15 times) I was constantly getting rid of items we did not use. Even though I did not have to pack our stuff, I had to unpack it and keep track of it, and that made me want to be as streamlined as possible. That attitude served me well then and has carried over into our non-moving life. So, yes to continual cleaning out. I always have a thrift bag in my closet that I constantly add to. This practice is good for disposing of unworn clothes, books or knick-knacks. As soon as I realize an item is not functional, into the bag it goes.

As we moved around and my children were growing up, I culled their toys and clothes with an eye toward the future. It may be because my mother-in-law saved everything and my mother saved nothing that I decided on a more intentional path. Before a move I would look at the toys and clothes and consider what should be passed down to my grandchildren? Honestly, the answer was very few clothes. What I did save was out of sentimentality rather than utility. I only saved one plastic tote of baby clothes and that was about right. Even of that, I only shared a few precious items with my children who are parents. I have a few classic toys and that has worked well for when my grandbabies visit. I saved almost all of their books which has been great.

I think we all find the most difficult items to purge are those that have sentimental value. The military culture is marked by pride and recognition in achievements, awards for exceptional service, plaques on every departure, just. endless.recognition. Of course Tom is proud of his service and we are so proud of him. He served 31 years as a Marine officer and every bit of the memorabilia is special to him. I am working on him to cull and pick the MOST special of the special. That’s going to be a process. He’s a sentimental guy and I love that about him.

And what about me? Trust me, I have my sentimental items too. My memorabilia involves crafts. I loved cross stitch, quilting, sewing. But what do you do with all of it? Hopefully I can talk my children into taking some of it. On top of that, I have crafts from relatives, such as unfinished quilts my grandmother made, samplers Tom’s mother made. They don’t fit my decor and so they are stored in closets and totes. Yet, I cannot toss it in the thrift store pile. Yet I am conscious that what I do not deal with now, my children will have to deal with later.

I observed our parents’ aging and how their ability and motivation to clean out dissipated the older they became and so it was left to the grown children to do. I would rather save my children from that if I can, recognizing that some clearing out is inevitable.

Perhaps the sequence is de-clutter, clean out, downsize as we progress through life. I know I need a certain amount of possessions around me to feel at home. Mr. Bee needs his memorabilia. I can see us continuing to pare down all of it on a continual basis. My goal is to have an empty attic, very spartan garage, almost empty closets. Will I get there? I don’t know. I’ll keep you posted.

Appetizers for Anytime

With the Superbowl coming up on Sunday, it seemed like a good time to talk about appetizers. I have a couple of favorites I make whenever I need to take a dish or when I’m the host.

I always make curry dip to go with some fresh vegetables. I know these days it’s customary to pick up a veggie tray at the grocery store. And yes, that is not a bad option. But the curry dip is easy to make and it’s different. When I serve this dip, the bowl is usually scraped clean by the end of the evening. Find the recipe here.

I also like to make deviled eggs. They are finger food, easy to pass around, and a good vegetarian option.

Another great dish is tortellini salad. You can make it more finger friendly by offering toothpicks to spear it with if you weren’t planning on needing utensils.

And then, there are always a few recipes that I would like to try, like this pigs in blankets by Martha Stewart. She uses puff pastry instead of the classic crescent rolls.

And I have been wanting to try this recipe for beer nuts by way of Smitten Kitchen.

The internet is full of appetizer and party recipes right now. It’s kind of fun looking at all the possibilities. I will abandon my goal of eating healthy for one evening and just enjoy myself. Then, on Monday morning, back on track.

Have fun!

Halloween Decorating

Old Town Alexandria is a beautiful, historic section of Alexandria Virginia, home to George Washington.  The colonial homes and streets of that era are well preserved, making it a quaint area to stroll around.  There are also plenty of shops and restaurants to enjoy.

It’s been a few years since I have visited the area during fall and my memory was one of formal and stately decorating on these lovely old homes.  So imagine my surprise when I saw  some imaginative and playful Halloween decor.  Honestly it brought such life and fun to the neighborhood.  I thought I would share some of my favorites.

bats on door, better

bats on door

Someone took the time to place those little bats very carefully.

dried hydrangea wreath, expanded front, best

This house features the traditional mums and pumpkins, with a beautiful wreath.  Then you notice that skeleton rearing up out of the flower bed.

dried hydrangea wreath, expanded front, best1

This doorway is simply elegant. The small stoop didn’t stop the homeowner from adding style and warmth to the entry.

dried hydrangea wreath, expanded front, best-2

I love the wreath with it’s beautiful loose arrangement.

dried hydrangea wreathFall Exterior, pumpkin wreathFall Exterior

That black and white ribbon on the pumpkin wreath is so fun, not to mention the yellow door! Perfection.

witch by door, another anglewitch by door

Someone is really into Halloween – they already had candy out.

Halloween, witches' legs

Halloween, witches' legs1.jpg

Seeing this fun Halloween decorating makes me want to come up with something fun for our yard or doorway.

Do you decorate for Halloween?

 

 

 

 

 

Thrift Store Makeover #15

For quite some time now, a small round tray has been one of those hoped-for items on the back of my mind as I rummage around  thrift and consignment stores.  No luck and I couldn’t even find one in retail stores.  Admittedly I did not look online where I’m sure I would have found plenty.  Sometimes you just want to happen upon the perfect tray at the perfect price, you know?   Last week my patience paid off  when I was browsing at Goodwill.

This is what it looked like when I found it.

I wasn’t going for the ethnic mood that this tray exhibits, but for $1.99 I could afford to experiment with it.  All it needs is a coat or three of paint.

Once home, I got out my go-to paint, Annie Sloan chalk paint in Pure White.  After cleaning the tray and removing the sticker and it’s glue, I brushed on the first coat of paint.  I love that you don’t have to sand or do any prep before using chalk paint.  It did take three coats to cover up that bright design.

Afterwards I sealed it with Annie Sloan’s clear wax.  And I achieved exactly the look I was going for!

I don’t think I will ever have too many trays.  Large or small, they add style and organization to any table.

I’m trying to finish off a few projects that have been hanging around too long.  My motivation is to finish them all before getting caught up in the holiday rush.

Happy Thrifting!

http___signatures.mylivesignature.com_54492_214_40AFAE8E09950A49639BAD7198023B7E