Taking In the Old Family Antique

Taking In the Old Family Antique

Family heirlooms can be a big obstacle in our path towards downsizing and decluttering. I recently experienced this when my mother in law moved into an independent living facility. She had to part with a number of things including a Victorian slant front desk that had been in her family for a generation. No other family members wanted it. Nor did I. But I wasn’t ready to let it go either. It had history, belonging to a great aunt who operated a TB sanitarium in upstate New York in the early 20th century.

As I was thinking about this dilemna while getting ready for bed one evening, the solution was staring right at me. This desk that I am using as a bedside table had no special significance and I had been thinking about replacing it. The space was just right for the antique desk. I don’t know why I didn’t see it sooner.

Had I seen this in a store would I have been attracted to it? No, not at all. It’s too ornate, too fussy. And that green felt! Even if clean it’s so old and dreary.

That being said, I kind of like it. The shelf portion of the desk gives the room some coziness somehow. It gives me a feeling of enclosure to have this solid surface by my pillow.

It’s kind of interesting that I like the one that I never would have chosen better than the one I did choose.

I did change the felt and I think it updated the piece a little bit.

You know how one thing leads to another when you start working in a space? The ceiling light fixture was a “boob” light (which I never took a picture of). I knew there had to be an easy, inexpensive way to update it.

And there was.

A Google search led me to this tutorial from Young House Love. My previous fixture was very similar to theirs. Mine also has a rod coming down from the mounting plate. However, the finial would not screw very far up the rod which left the drum shade hanging too low. You could see the plate with the light bulbs above it. A trip to the hardware store yielded a hex nut for lamps. That’s important. Regular hex nuts will not work. Finally, I was able to push the shade up so that the mounting plate doesn’t show.

There are quite a few storage possibilities in that little desk. But I’m determined not to fill it up. I am decluttering.

To read about my remedy for the unsightly view from this room, click here.

To see our update on our master bathroom, click here.

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!

Minimalist Christmas

Minimalist Christmas

Do you change up your Christmas decorations from year to year? My answer to that question is yes and no. The primary tree stays pretty much the same. But I do change some areas, just using (mostly) decor that I already have.

For example, the mantel is different every year. Don’t ask me why that particular area demands newness but it does. This year a nature inspired theme was called for. I’ve had these dried pomegranates for over 20 years. One year I rubbed a little gold leaf on them to give them some shine. The greenery is fake and I use it throughout the year in various arrangements on the dining room table or in vases around the house. I gave up on real garland a long time ago. The daily shedding and mess were too much!

Vintage items, especially vintage holiday decor, always speak to me. I found this cute snow people salt and pepper set at an antique store. I think my granddaughters will love this little vignette.

At the same antique mall, I found this unusual reindeer. I’ve never seen one on rockers before. This particular antique mall had so much vintage Christmas that it was overwhelming. None of it was expensive either. I really don’t want the clutter though so I resisted, mostly.

This guy was just too unique to pass up!

The library needs some sparkle and frivolity, which this vintage tree provides. It’s just the right size for a table top tree.

I’m off to a good start. How’s your decorating coming along?

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?

New Fence

Recently we had to replace our 20 year old fence. Its time had come, as you can see below.

I decided to change the design slightly and add the arched effect. Our fence is mostly just a backdrop to the shrubberies and trees in our backyard.

This corner of the yard is a neglected area. We have never settled on a purpose for it.

It’s a few steps away from the house, just far enough that it seems too far. But there is potential. A few beautiful shrubberies up against that fence, along with some comfortable chairs and this spot could be a nice contemplative area. Or just a good spot for admiring the rest of the yard. Suggestions? I’d love to hear them.

I have one tip if you are ever building a fence. Don’t forget to tell your neighbors! Some of the construction will take place on their property and it’s not good to surprise them with people stomping around their garden. How could I forget to do this?! I will be smoothing feathers for the next little while.

Oh well. It’s good to check another home improvement off the list.

4 Perennials that Outlast the Heat

4 Perennials that Outlast the Heat

I usually try to assess my garden at this time of year, looking to see what has done well, what needs to be replaced and what holes in the garden need to be filled. It is still too hot here in the mid-Atlantic region to plant any shrubs but I can identify the conditions of the area and start researching appropriate plants for the spot. I also note my successes which are amazing since we have had many more 100 degree days than normal around here.

Caryopteris blooms this vibrant purple color in mid to late August, a time when most of the flowering plants have given up. It doesn’t seem to be bothered by drought or neglect and continues to spread and produce more and more bee-loving flowers. Before I got close the bees were swarming all over this bush. It brings welcome color to the front garden.

My Black Eyed Susans have been blooming for a month already and show no signs of wilting. Wedged in between the dark purple barberry and the dark lace cap hydrangea, the bright yellow really stands out.

This Annabelle hydrangea was planted 17 years ago. It dominates the garden with its height and large cone shaped flowers. Usually the butterflies are flitting from flower to flower.

My canna lillies never bloom but I still love the beautiful deep purple leaves that provide plenty of dramatic color. Cannas grow from bulbs that cannot survive the winters here so they must be dug up every year. My solution has been to plant them in these pots and move them into the garage in the colder months. I move them out again in late April and they reliably leaf out.

We have weeks of warm weather ahead of us thankfully. We are replacing our fence next week which is much needed since the old one is leaning inward. The new fence is a different style and I will share that with you once it’s installed.

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.

Meal Planning

Meal Planning

I am not a consistent nor organized meal planner. Now that Mr. Bee and I are empty nesters and there are no growing children to constantly feed, I am able to plan meals on the fly, usually as I do my grocery shopping. And this is okay for the most part. I have a repertoire of meals in my head, plus the cooking experience to know that I can come up with something we will enjoy. We usually do not eat out or order in and our meals are fairly healthy.

But I would like to up my game and have more variety in our weekly meals. Also, I realized that I do get repetitious and prepare the same dishes over and over. Let’s face it: eating is one of the pleasures of life, but it takes planning to make it truly so.

I really wanted to make the planning process less onerous and so I created a printable sheet where I can list my meals under categories. This sheet has proved helpful in several ways.

The idea I came up with to make meal planning easier is to categorize each day according to the routine that is established already at our house. For example, Monday is healthy meal day. We may have over indulged on the weekend, so Monday is a day to have a lighter meal. Sometimes it is a vegetarian meal but sometimes we have a salad with chicken. The weekends are grill time, although now that we have our first ever gas grill that may change. I have Thursday as leftover day to remind me of my goal to have less/no food waste. On that day my plan is to use our leftovers in pasta or on pizza or any way that I can to come up with a new meal.

I write in pen those meals that I make regularly. But if I plan to try a new recipe I will add it in pencil. That way, if it’s not a keeper I can remove it from my list of tried and true recipes. This planning tool is a new one and I will probably tweak it as time goes by.

I have two templates today. One printable has the weekdays categorized for our preferences. However, if you would like to set up your own categories, say crockpot Wednesday, or salad Tuesday, then there is a blank template for you to add your own categories.

How do you meal plan? I would love to learn about different methods.