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

Tips for Buying Thrift Store Frames

Tips for Buying Thrift Store Frames

Buying frames from thrift stores started as an act of necessity and now it’s my default when it comes to framing artwork or photos.  It’s not only the prices, but the beauty of unique, vintage and hard to find pieces.  Even if you love Ikea frames (and I do too) adding a vintage frame here and there adds a lot of interest to your walls.

But, maybe you don’t want to collect frames so that you have a ready supply for any and every size of art.  You just want one or two frames for a project.  Here are some tips on finding the right frame at a thrift store.  The only tools you need are screwdrivers and a measuring tape.  I have used light wire cutters for removing picture hanging wire but usually heavy duty scissors will work for this also.

Before you head out, measure your artwork or your photo, whatever you are planning to frame.  If you want to mat your art (and don’t have a mat), you will need the measurements for a mat opening.  Write your measurements down.

Take a measuring tape with you to the thrift store.  It’s the only way to be sure your picture will fit.  If the frame has a mat, measure the opening around the art to see if it is the right size for your project.

 Once you have found a frame that might work, look it over carefully for any nicks, dents, scratches.  Inspect the corners where the frame is joined.  Then check the back to see how easily it can be taken apart.  Even if this is your first experience with dismantling a frame you will be able to tell the easy ones apart from the more difficult.  These two are easy.

 

I try to find framed pictures that come with a mat, especially a white or cream colored mat.  That cuts down on many other steps like getting a mat that is the right size for the frame and the art.  A custom cut mat can add to your cost.

This is the front of the black frame pictured above.  It is an 11×14 frame with a mat that has an 8×10 opening.  The photo is one I took of the ocean on one of our beach vacations.  I edited it to make it seem a little more artsy, then had it printed at Walgreens.  The frame was about $4, printing was about the same so for under $10 you have something for your walls.  I did this one for my son who is setting up an apartment.  More to come on that later.

The gold color and ridged texture on this tabletop frame attracted me.  It had no mat but I knew with it’s standard size I could buy one very inexpensively.

Of course, tabletop frames are made for easily inserting photos or art.

Sometimes I violate my own rules and buy a frame that does not have a mat.  This frame was perfect for some art I had purchased online.  Read this post about finding inexpensive art online.

‘Not so great, is it?  Frame shops will custom cut a mat for you and it is not prohibitively expensive.  I recommend taking the frame and picture in to be sure the cut is accurate.  That is my plan for this picture.

Lately I have been gravitating to these modern black frames.  Notice the one above has a square mat opening.  It measures 9×9, and it is brown.  So that mat probably won’t work for me.  However, since the frame is 11×14, I can easily get a mat to fit.  I will return the art to the thrift store since it won’t work for me, but may for someone else.

I bought this artwork on Minted and to my mind it works beautifully with this vintage frame.  The soft colors in the artwork meld with the mat and the frame.  The dings and nicks on the frame are part of the charm.  I’ve had this frame for so long that I can’t remember the cost.  But I do remember it was a chore to get the previous artwork out, professionally and thoroughly installed as it was.  Then placing my art and making sure it was centered was not at all easy.  I saved a lot of money but it took some time to get it done correctly.  All worth it to me.

Sometimes the art and the framing go so well together that I cannot dismantle them, like the one above.  Can you see the blue in the frame which picks up on the blue in the picture?  Luckily I liked the art and had a place for it.  Which brings me to another point.

I try not to buy frames and pictures that go together so well that it’s a shame to rip them apart.  Usually the prices are higher on those items anyway.

While I have had a few mishaps in my framing adventures I recommend it as a great way to get unique and inexpensive frames for your art.

So, are you ready to try your hand at framing with a thrift store frame?  Start small and maybe you will become hooked as I have.

Updating the Master Bedroom

Updating the Master Bedroom

Our master bedroom has looked like this for years.  At various times there were attempts to make it inviting and cozy.  I made the bedskirt and the pillow covers, as well as the curtains.  Yet for all the softness and texture that fabric can bring, the room lacked warmth.

It was one of those situations in which I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I decided to start with the obvious. There was no question that a new rug was needed, something soft underfoot that would add warmth and beauty to the room most of us want to be a sanctuary.

The room called for something traditional but edging toward modern.  And it absolutely had to fit the room.  No more making do with cast offs from other rooms.  I looked at several websites, but settled on the Wayfair site pretty quickly.  I knew this rug was the one the moment I saw it.  And it wouldn’t break the bank to get it in an 8 x 10 size.

The pattern was just interesting enough but wouldn’t box out any other decorating decisions to come.  And the gray and cream colors are pretty neutral.

After this decision was made, it was pretty easy to click over to headboards. The four poster bed had had its day.  Our style is still traditional but something I think of as modern traditional.  It was a difficult decision to move it out – we’ve had it forever!  Does everyone attach as much sentiment to their belongings as Mr. Bee?  Finally, I got him to agree to move it on.  It hasn’t gone very far however.  It’s still in the garage.

And getting rid of the heavy wooden bed frame would make putting down the rug much easier.  I bought a metal frame so that when we removed the wooden frame, we could place the rug, then set up the metal frame for the box spring and mattress.  So easy!  The headboard came later and was simple to place against the wall.

Without the big four post bed the room felt much more spacious and more modern, even though there are still antiques in the room.  The new headboard is  very reasonably priced at $250. Assembly went without a hitch.

With these changes, the curtains looked more humble than ever.  Searching online I found the ones I liked on the Target website.  A pretty blue, linen-like fabric, they are light filtering which the others were not. That is  a big plus since the morning sun streams into that window by the nightstand.

I moved this chair from the desk to this corner.  It would never have fit there before with the previous bed.

The room isn’t quite where I want it to be yet, but it’s getting there.  I’m trying out art and pillows from other rooms.  Probably new lamps would help too?  Still considering options there.  As someone who loves to read in bed, lamps can’t be just pretty.  They have to provide good light.

Starting with the obvious need for change, the rug, really got the ball rolling. Do you have rooms that make you wonder where to begin?  Start with the obvious, the worst flaw in the room and see if that works for you.

And it’s nice not to have  to climb up into bed anymore.  Now we can just fall in.

Have a great week!

Useful Gear for Grandma’s House

Useful Gear for Grandma’s House

Being a Grandmother has been heartwarming and fun and a learning experience.  It’s been quite a few years since my own baby care days.   What’s interesting is I ask my Grandma friends for tips, just as I asked my Mom friends for ideas and advice back in the day.  We can always learn from those who go before, right?

One question that has come up, is there any gear I should have for my home?  I have found that  yes it is easier to have a few things at your house.  Parents don’t have to lug so much stuff around just to come over for dinner and your grandchildren adjust more quickly to your house if you have a few items they use again and again. Most of the gear I have acquired is second-hand.  I make sure it is as clean as possible (then clean it again at home) and  in good working order before purchasing.

The first item I bought  was a Pack ‘N Play.  This portable crib was recommended by one of my daughter’s friends, and we have used it quite a bit.  We started off sharing it, but she eventually bought her own because we used it that much.  I paid $30 and it has been worth every penny.  We set it up for short babysitting stints in the beginning, and now my granddaughter uses it for the occasional sleepover.

A stroller may not seem like a necessity, but when I saw this one at a thrift store for $20 I couldn’t pass it up.  As my granddaughters get older and I get to babysit more, it will be very useful for strolling around the neighborhood, or just sitting in while we blow bubbles in the backyard.

Your family or friends may still own some things from their baby raising days.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.  Luckily this  high chair that belonged to my husband’s family was still hanging around in a garage when I needed it.   It is a small folding high chair that will fit in a closet.  I will admit that it probably doesn’t adhere to today’s safety standards and we will never leave a baby in it unattended.  All of my children used it when we visited their grandmother and there were never any issues.  Obviously this is something you won’t need for awhile and there other options, such as seats that tie onto chairs.

Most importantly you need toys and books, and sooner than you think.  I had saved a few of my children’s toys, like the Fisher Price barn and animals and some dolls.  It’s a good idea to get them out before you think you need to so you can wash them or make any repairs.     Also, I saved most of our kids’ childhood books.  I recently brought them out to a bookshelf so they are more accessible.  Already my older granddaughter looks for her toys when she comes over to our house.

 

In my short Grandmother tenure (a year) these are things that I have found to be very handy to have at my house.  My motto is, the more convenient and fun it is, the more they will come!

A Make Ahead Breakfast Casserole

I know I have mentioned here that I am always looking for breakfast dishes that can be made in advance.  When I have houseguests, it always seems as if the morning slips by while we are talking and drinking coffee and I haven’t taken the time to feed anyone, because I’m having so much fun.  Also, truth be known, I’m not one to wake up all bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  So, having a casserole and some muffins all ready to go is the best option for me.  My guests get fed and I can still visit with them and not miss any conversation.

Last week some friends were in town and I had an opportunity to try this casserole.  It’s a grits and smoked sausage recipe and I knew I would substitute cooked pork breakfast sausage for the smoked sausage.  I used a 16 oz. roll of pork breakfast sausage which I cooked and crumbled before adding in place of the smoked sausage.  It makes a large casserole, fills a 13×9 pan, easily feeding 8 to 10 people.  My guests loved it.  My husband loved the leftovers.  And, it can stay in the refrigerator up to 4 days before you cook it.  It hits all my must-haves.

Smoky Sausage-and-Grits Casserole

Photo: Alison Miksch; Styling: Caroline M. Cunningham

I also made Classic Bran Muffins, which can be made ahead and frozen.  Add peach slices and some juice and your guests will think they are at a fancy B&B.  Ha!

I also plan to take this casserole to the beach when we go on our family vacation in a few weeks.

What’s your plan for breakfast when you have guests?  Please share in the comments!

We Painted the Brick!

Painting the brick exterior of our home has been on my wish list since we bought our house.  Unfortunately, it was not on any list of  Mr. DB’s and since there were other priorities I didn’t push it.  Every now and then when we drove past a pretty painted brick house I would point it out to him.  His response usually mentioned “maintenance issues”.   There’s always maintenance I’d say, as if we just had to accept it as the cost of being homeowners.   Adding to my painted brick houses board on Pinterest only fueled my belief that our house would look so good if it were painted.

Here we have a picture from those early days.  The landscaping consisted solely of English ivy from one end to the other, giving the property a somewhat sinister, deserted look.  While we were getting used to having a mortgage, we had little money for major improvements.  But we could pull out the ivy ourselves, and we did.   Little by little we added new plantings – it’s still a work in progress.

You know that expression lipstick on a pig?  I guess I thought  I could disguise ugly brick with landscaping and black shutters.  Didn’t work.

In another attempt at improving the curb appeal we had a tree cut down in the front yard.  We hate to cut down trees.  But I knew it would make a difference in the landscaping.  I wrote about that here.

Now we have more lush plantings that give us the perfect setting to display the American flag.

These half-measures did not make me stop wanting to paint the house. In fact, I became more and more convinced that we really needed to do it and now. I had painters at the house on another job and while they were here I got an estimate for painting the house. Hmm, less than I thought.  The maintenance will not be a big issue.  I was able to reassure Tom and he started really noticing some other painted brick homes in our neighborhood.  Gradually, he came around.

The brick color is Gateway Gray and the trim is Snowbound, both by Sherwin Williams from their HGTV home collection.  Interestingly, getting Tom to agree to paint the house was the hard part.  We quickly came to agreement when we found this color.  I bought many samples and we painted them on the side of the house.  Once we saw Gateway Gray we both knew it was the one, not too dark, not too light, just right.

The painters fixed the facing around the front door and removed an old intercom from beside the door.

Full disclosure, Tom isn’t the only one who hesitates on unnecessary home improvements.  I have to talk myself into spending money on projects that are purely cosmetic.   Shouldn’t we put that money in our retirement fund, or, if I’m going to be frivolous,  maybe toward a trip to Paris?

There are no regrets here.  We love the way it turned out.  It was just the fix the house needed.

How do you feel about painting brick?