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!

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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!