Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Project for the New Year

By the end of next week, if everything goes according to plan, The Husband and I will each have our very own walk-in closet!  This is a project that I have been ruminating on for a long time.  (I mentioned it earlier in the year in THIS post about trying to find a place to store my shoes.)

For the past 5+ years, our hanging clothes have shared a long closet with 30-inch bypass doors and inaccessible dead spaces at each end.  I installed two rods in there, one high and one low, but it still was a barely-functional situation.  The smaller door on the left is a narrow closet with The Husband's jeans, tshirts, etc., folded on shelves.

I have been working with Peter, a contractor friend of ours, on the remodeling of our rental properties.  He and I communicate beautifully, and he always does a super job with anything we have asked him to do.  Yesterday, he emailed to say that he has a light week coming up ... and that he will be available to do my closet project!  (cue the happy dance)
The dotted lines are the current walls and door spaces.  The shaded lines are where the new closet walls will be.
The plan is to demolish the wall that forms the front of the current closets.  Peter will build a new wall that continues the line of the wall behind the bedroom door, then bisect the new space with a partition wall to form two closets.
The new wall will fall approximately along the line of the rug fringe.
The part of the project that has eluded me has been the design of the new wall with the closet doors.  My original idea was to reuse the sliding doors (which are solid wood and well built), making them into hinged doors, and center the doors in the new wall.  This bothered me because it seemed like too modern of a design in this old house of ours.
As I was up there folding laundry last week, I was staring at the wall and I realized that a solution to my design dilemma is SO simple.  The new closet wall can be built to look like a whole wall of built-in cupboards.  By reusing all three of the doors that are there now, and adding one more door and some molding that we will 'borrow' from another bedroom, we have the materials on hand to make the new wall look like it has been here all along. 
This is a quick Photoshop facsimile of what we plan to do.  The center 30-inch doors will open into each new closet.  The 24-inch doors on each side will be fixed, but they will look like they're operable. 
You have to imagine that the doors are painted a nice, clean white, and accessorized with antique glass doorknobs.
Peter and his crew will be here bright and early on Wednesday morning to get started.  In the meantime, I have to empty the closets, heaping our clothes wherever there's room for them, and move furniture to make way for the construction.
This is a small job for Peter, but it will be a HUGE improvement to how we function in this old house.  (It should only take two or three days.)  Stay tuned, because you know I will be in there taking photos of the whole process so I can share it with you as it's happening.
The work on this project is being done by:
Peter Csemez
Homebrite Renovations
(If you are in northern/central Virginia and you need a contractor, this one comes highly recommended ... by us!)  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Alice's Self Portrait

I'm really glad that I had my iPad handy to get this shot. 


Alice was crazy-happy on the table while I was doing something on my laptop ... rolling and pawing to try to get my attention.  I picked up my iPad, steadied it on the table top, and clicked this one shot. 

I like to believe that this is something that Alice would post on Instagram, if she had an Instagram account.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Hartwood

This Christmas morning, I am sending my best wishes to each of you who take time from your life to read what I publish here.  This blog started four years ago as a place for me to record what happens in my garden, and it has transitioned into a community that I am thrilled to be a part of.

Our Christmas Day will be filled with family.  Everyone will meet later this afternoon at my parents' house ... two of our three daughters, inlaws and grandkids, my brother and sister and their families, and friends who have become family. 
Merry, merry Christmas, Everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What Are You Doing Today?

So far, today has been a very productive, very relaxing day.  The Husband and I spent a good part of our morning in the kitchen baking.  All of our friends and family have enough 'stuff'.  We really like making gift bags full of homemade goodies to give as gifts instead. 

Baking was sort of a tag-team thing.  He decided what to bake, read the recipe and added the ingredients to the mixer, and I did anything that needed extra preparation ... like grating lemon zest, and stuff like that.  Two of the things we made were based on a new recipe from Pinterest, Lemon Blueberry Bread, and it was a winner.  (Click HERE for the recipe.)

Here it is as small loaves of Lemon Cranberry Bread.  (using dried cranberries in the mix, instead of blueberries)

Next, we made it with blueberries that we picked and froze last summer, but baked it as muffins.
I finished up the muffins while watching football ... Redskins vs. Eagles.  (Redskins won ... Wooo Hooo!!)
As the last of the muffins were baking, I cut a roast into cubes and it's simmering on the stove.  I think I will make beef stew out of it for dinner.
At least one of the cats is around whenever there's something interesting to see.  Here is Alice watching me cook.  She's not really supposed to be on the counter like this, but it's the high counter, away from any of the cooking ... and she's not hurting anything, so I let her stay.
The rolls of ribbon in front of Alice represent the last Christmas thing left to do ... wrapping presents.  I plan to do that while we watch the next football game ... the Giants and Ravens ... go Ravens!
In between all of this, I have been working through the steps and scheming a paint treatment for the vanity we are using in a mini remodel of our master bathroom.  (Put on a coat of paint, ... do something else while it's drying ... another coat of paint ... bake something ... a bit of wet distressing ... more baking ... a quick coat of wax ... ooohhh, pretty.)  I'm calling this finish 'black cherry', and it's been a lot of fun to create.  After the first of the year, when The Husband has time to give me a hand with the plumbing part of the job, I hope to get started.
This is my test drawer front.  The photo doesn't look nearly as cool as this does in real life.

It's your turn ... what has your day been like?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Back Among the Living

It sucks to be sick.  Late on Saturday night, the stinky, nasty cold took over.  All I could seem to do was sit on the couch, sneeze, blow my nose, cough, and try not to whine all the time.  I don't watch TV during the day (unless it's football on Sunday) so I spent a lot of time reading stuff online ... lots and LOTS of Pinterest and online garden and old house forums. 

This is a photo of all of my stuff on our family room ottoman ... aka, Command Central ... an unstaged peek into my life on the couch.

The 'fog' finally lifted on Wednesday morning, and I quickly realized that I had lost a full three days of Christmas preparations.  Fortunately, there's not too much left to do, and no small children at home expecting a full Santa production.  I should easily accomplish the few things that I have left on my To Do List.

Our Christmas tree is finished.

I will not finish the remaining decorations I planned for our front porch ... I probably could, but it would take time away from other things that I should be doing instead.  The box of half-finished ornaments will now have to wait until next Christmas to be used.  (I showed you how I was making glitter stars in THIS post.)   I'm a bit disappointed that I won't finish, because I was really excited to see how everything would turn out.  Perhaps next year I may have our new porch railing and gingerbread made and installed ... wouldn't that be a great accomplishment. 

This railing in downtown Warrenton is similar to what we have planned for our porch.

Christmas cards were signed and addressed on Monday, and mailed on Tuesday.  In this modern email/social media/instant gratification world we live in, I still love the old-school feelings of a hand-written Christmas card.  We include a letter in our cards, to bring everyone up to date on whatever happened with us during the year ... not one of those boastful letters that we all dread receiving ... in fact, the one year we didn't do a letter, we received complaints from friends and family, each one thinking that we had forgotten to put a letter into their card.

In our letter, I included this photo of us on our anniversary in the Arctic Ocean in Barrow, Alaska.

Anyway, even though I am forced to do less this year, Christmas here will be as good as it always is ... I love Christmas!  It reminds me of my favorite quote from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (my all-time favorite TV Christmas special ... our Siamese cat was named after Cindy Lou Who.)

Five days to go ... I can't wait!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Shhhhh ....

Silence here today, out of respect and support for the victims and survivors and families at Sandy Hook Elementary School.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tea Can Make It Better

Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling fine ... almost as if it were a normal day.  As the morning progressed, my voice began to fade. 

When my throat feels a bit off, a nice cup of tea can make things better. The way I sometimes make tea, though, will make a real tea people cringe.

It was really a bad day to have this happen, because I was going to help Janet at her shop for Miss Mustard Seed's book signing event. 

10 - 12 ounces of water in a measuring cup and a heaping teaspoon of loose tea.

I worked for about three-quarters of the day ... until the crowd died down a bit.  Whenever I spoke to someone, I know I sounded like one of those dusky-voiced old-time movie actresses.  By the time I headed for home in the afternoon, I probably had only of half my voice left.

Microwave on high for two minutes.

When I woke up today, my head was stuffy and my voice was GONE.  I still felt fairly okay, but all I could do was whisper and croak. 

I've been like this all day ... which has made for a good day to finish decorating the Christmas tree, watch lots of football, and snuggle on the couch with Maggie and Ruby.
... strain it into a pretty cup, and enjoy!
As of this evening, I have more voice than I've had all day ... but it's still not all that much.  I sure hope it's mostly back by tomorrow.
Monday morning update:  I'm fairly certain that this is a cold, dammit.  I'm not too sick, but my head is stuffy, my throat is sore, and I'm blowing my nose about every 30 seconds.  Thank goodness for Puffs with Lotion!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Mantel

True to my word, as Ruby was napping in the sunshine yesterday, I WAS sorting through boxes of Christmas decorations and ornaments ... getting a good start on the holiday decorating.  I try to do at least one thing a little differently each year.  This year, that different thing is the family room mantel.

Usually I decorate with a combination of fresh and artificial greens, and bows and garland, etc.  This year, I liked how it was looking after I added the artificial greens, and this is where I stopped.  The poinsettia clip-ons may stay, or not, depending on my mood in the next couple of days.  I'm liking things a bit simpler around here, and this falls right in line with what I want to work toward with my non-seasonal decorating in the whole the house.
See that box of lights in the fireplace?  I saw the idea on Pinterest.  Since I have a large collection of boxes and trunks and crates, it was a simple matter to put some artificial greens, a string of lights, and a log into a Farmers Creamery crate.  (Farmers Creamery was a dairy that operated in downtown Fredericksburg until the late 1970s.)
We can't use this fireplace for a real fire because the brickwork is original the 1848 date of our house and is in really bad condition.  (One day, it will rise to the top of our restoration list and we will spend the $$$ it takes to have a fireplace repaired and the chimney lined.)  In previous years, I have put candles or an arrangement of greens in there.  I think I like what I did this time the best!
I will share more Christmas decorations as I finish them.
(If you have not seen the rest of our family room, click HERE for an old post with a full tour ... which includes before and after photos of the renovation.)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sunny, Chilly Day

It's the perfect type of day for sifting through boxes of Christmas decorations (me) and napping in the sunshine (Ruby).

I hope your day is this kind of relaxing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Moving Things Around

Late last week, against my better judgement, I ran through the Goodwill store when I was planning on only driving through the donation area to drop off a couple of things.  While I was there, I found the most wonderful set of dishes.  Did I need dishes?  No, but when did that ever enter into the decision. 

As soon as I saw these, I fell in love.  The fact that I got 46 pieces for $48 was icing on the cake.  (Each piece was 99 cents ... except the high-priced platter and serving bowl, which were $1.99 each.)
The cherry hutch in our dining room contains some of the best pieces of our Lu-Ray Pastels dinnerware ... which I have been collecting pretty much since we got married in 1980.  I love the colors, but the mixture of colors and shapes has seemed a bit chaotic to me lately.
Tucked in among the dishes, you can see some of my favorite little things.
A metal cricket given to me by my grandmother, and a small vintage chalk mouse figure.
An American Girl Bitty Bear sits in an egg cup.
This ceramic moose is my favorite souvenir from our trip to Alaska last summer.
Crystal crab placecard holders support a small porcelain doll, and a tiny ceramic cat.
The new dishes will be perfect in the hutch, and I can move the Lu-Ray to the glass-fronted cabinets in the kitchen ... some of which were holding my Moss Rose tea and luncheon set.  I love this set because it is so representative of the time in which it was made.  In addition to cups and saucers, creamer and sugar bowl, and small plates, the set includes a cigarette lighter and individual small ashtrays for each place setting.
Yesterday morning was spent moving things around between the hutch, the kitchen cabinets, and storage in a cupboard in the basement.  First step, remove the Lu-Ray from the hutch.  As I emptied the hutch, I found things that I had stashed in there.
The demitasse sugar bowl had a handful of assorted change
The Colonial-era cannonball I found earlier this year was in the yellow teapot. 
(Click HERE to see how I found it.)
With the Lu-Ray out of there, it was a simple matter to arrange the new dishes in the hutch.
... and I put back most of my 'treasures', and a few smaller pieces of blue Lu-Ray.
I swear, the cannonball looks like a giant cocoa-dusted truffle.
Arranging the Lu-Ray in the kitchen was a bit more involved.  I stacked, and rearranged, and fiddled, and I finally came up with an arrangement that I like.
The pitchers in the top cabinets are sitting on saucers and berry bowls to raise them up enough so they display nicely when the doors are closed.
Four colors, four doors, four pitchers ... perfect!
I have lots more Lu-Ray stored away ... I think I could almost supply the dinnerware for an entire State Dinner at the White House.  As I go through things later, I will probably bring in a few more pieces to add some height and interest to the blue casserole in the center cabinet.
What started at Goodwill as an impulse purchase of dishes I really didn't need has turned into a morning's worth of work that really did make things look a LOT better. 
Eventually, inspiration will strike and I will think of a good place to display the tea set.  Until then, it's safely tucked away.
Sharing this at Sherry's Open House Party.

Monday, December 10, 2012

No Christmas Tour Photos Today :(

The Fredericksburg Candlelight Christmas Tour was this past weekend.  Every year, during the second weekend in December, a number of historic houses in town are decorated for the holidays and are open to the public ... with hosts and hostesses in each room telling about the house, the history, and some of the more interesting furnishings and decorations. 
The Husband and I always volunteer to do a shift in one of the houses ... on Saturday, he was on the porch of our assigned house telling about the architecture and the the history of the original family, and I was showing guests the living and dining rooms.  On Sunday, we went out to breakfast and then headed to town to be among the first in line to tour the rest of the houses.  I had my trusty Nikon D70 camera with me, and I took lots and LOTS of photos.  The day was cloudy and a bit drizzly, but I still think I got at least a few really nice shots of the outsides and decorations on the tour homes.
Earlier this morning, I hooked up my camera to download the pictures.  Nothing happened.  I checked the camera's playback, and I got this:

(This is a simulation, because my iPad camera wouldn't set its exposure compensate for the brightness of the LCD screen to photograph the actual words.)
I took about a hundred photos yesterday, and I know the images were there as I was taking them, because I checked the playback numerous times to make sure I got the shots I wanted.  Somehow, the photos vanished.
This happened to me once before ... while I was in Sacramento at the rose conference in October.  I hooked up the camera to my laptop to download my photos, and the last 75-or-so of my 400+ photos from that day disappeared.  Gone. 
I suspect that it may be the memory card.  I have three that I use with this camera, and I wonder if this was maybe the same card I was using that day in California.  Just in case, I have put that one aside and now I will go back to using my tried-and-true original 512mb card that I KNOW has never let me down.
(Just so you know, I don't use any camera software to download my photos.  I read the files directly using a USB cable and Windows Explorer, cutting and pasting them into the destination folder on my computer.  This morning, there were no files on the card at all.)   
I really wish I could have shared the tour photos with you.  I can get streetside shots again on another day, but many of the photos I lost were views of the parts of the outside of the houses that are only available if one is actually IN the private parts of the yards.  No interior photography is allowed, but I did sneak a few shots through the windows while I standing outside.
Have you ever had this happen to you?  If so, did you ever find out what caused the problem?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Husband's Latest Painting, and More

Please permit me to brag a little about my uber-creative husband.  I think his talent for all things artistic is truly amazing ... and I hope you agree.

His latest painting is a portrait of Jim Livingston, our neighbor who owns Hartwood Winery.  The painting was a surprise Christmas present for Jim and his wife, so we have had to keep it under wraps until now ... we gave it to them on Saturday night, so it's okay to show it to you now.

The painting looks WAY better in person than it does in this photo.
This portrait is a great example of teamwork and technology.  In June, I snapped the photo of Jim at a wine festival.  It perfectly captures his look and personality, but the quality of the photo itself left a LOT to be desired.  Jim's face was in heavy shadow caused by the top of his golf cart and the background of parked cars and outbuildings was very unfortunate.
I knew this would be a great portrait if we could lighten Jim and put in a new background ... a vista of his vineyard would be perfect.  Over the course of the summer, I took photo after photo of the vineyard ... from different angles and at different times of day.  Finally, in late August, I got the shot I was hoping for.
In addition to being a genius-computer-guy and a super artist, The Husband is also a whiz with Photoshop.  He says that it was a simple matter to lighten Jim and his golf cart, clip them out of the original photo, and lay the clipped image onto the new background.  It didn't have to be perfect ... he just needed a combined image to work from for his painting.
Here is the painting and the photo side-by-side.
This is absolutely my favorite one of his paintings to date!!  What's even better is that Jim and his wife love it more than I do.
I'm going to shift gears and show you another one of my husband's artistic talents ... he loves to draw with kids.  It was a wonderful activity that he enjoyed with our three girls, and he continued the tradition when our first grandson was old enough to draw.  (This was a fun way to keep the kids busy and entertained, especially while waiting in restaurants.) 
When our grandson lived with us, he and my husband would spend hours drawing together.  These sessions developed into a series of superhero drawings ... the earliest of which are cherished mementoes.  My husband decided to pass these lessons along to other families, and over the past two years he wrote and published two books to teach children to draw characters using a few simple shapes.
Book One shows how to draw Super Heroes.
... and Book Two is about the Villains.
Do you have a child on your holiday gift list who likes super heroes?  My husband's books may be just what you have been looking for.  The page to order the Super Hero book is HERE, and the Super Villains book is HERE.
If you would like to see more of my husband's paintings, click HERE to visit his web site.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Snapshot ... Kitchen Windows

I posted the view from my kitchen window a couple of weeks ago (in THIS post).  Also in that post, I asked anyone that was interested to send photos of THEIR kitchen windows to share the view with everyone.  Today is the day we all get to look through their windows and see what they see!
I will start with my window again ... this time it's a photo that I took two days ago.  My kitchen window faces west, and I stand there many evenings and watch the most beautiful sunsets.  (Last night's sunset was also lovely, more pink than orange, but there weren't enough clouds to reflect the colors into the sky like this.)

Linda (A La Carte) is in Georgia.
"My messy deck that needs cleaning!  Still I enjoy my view!"
This is the view from Kate's (Chronicles of a Country Girl) kitchen window in northern Maryland on a recent rainy day.  Her window faces West, like mine, but her house is MUCH older than mine ... 1769, compared to my 1848.  Imagine how many people have gazed through her windows in the past 240+ years!

Teresa (The Garden Diary) invites us to share her view toward her potting shed and garden.
"Just outside the window is my sun porch.  The plant in the middle of the picture is a bay tree sitting on our cafe table. 
On the left of the window frame you see a thermometer. I always want to know how cold it is or isn't! 
The swing on the porch is a wonderful place for morning and evening coffee as the porch windows open to my gardening world that is alive with roses and their companions in the spring and summer and alive with birds and the occasional squirrel and raccoon in the winter. 
On the bench you see a chart that contains pictures and description of birds. We love to know who and what is dining at our feeders.
The plank of wood you see on the window ledge is a sign my husband made that says ... THYME OUT. A good reminder to "chill". 
The cast iron lamp holds special memories as it was passed to us from my husband's mom. 
To the right you see a gray building, this is "my happy place"--The Potting Shed." 
Another Teresa, this time in Santa Cruz, California, shares her winter roses from last January.
"This was the last of my roses in January before I pruned my garden.  The pot was a gift from Italy from my mother; I just love it.  My tired rose garden (ready for pruning) is in the background past the deck.  I have a deer fence that surrounds my 1/3 acre to keep the deer out of my rose garden.  I live in the Santa Cruz mountains, near Santa Cruz, California."

Adrienne (My Memory Art) is in Boston.
"I look out onto a hill beyond our little back yard. Birds, chipmunks, squirrels...the usual. I've seen deer. Love the changing seasons.  Around my window are treasured gifts from good friends...always lots of fresh fruit...and one little pic of my kids when they were littler!"
This is the view from Lynn's kitchen window.  (Lower Alabama Lynn)  She didn't send a description with her photo, and I am totally fascinated by the glimpse of what looks like a wonderful shed or cabin in her yard.

Janet (The Empty Nest) has a beautiful place in Warrenton, Virginia.
"Had to take the screens out of the window to get a clear shot. Just my luck as I was taking the photo an Eastern Bluebird landed to get a drink of water!!!  That is a Rosé of Sharon on the left and a lilac bush on the right...freshly trimmed for the winter although I am sure we should have trimmed the lilac right after blooming...oh well!
You can see an overgrown patch of yard that was once a tall bearded iris bed...borers got the better of it and now we leave it for the deer to hide their babies in during the day.
To the far left you see chairs and a black tarp which covers our chiminea where we grill hot dogs and drink wine in the Fall. Why does food taste so much better on the end of a long stick???
Behind that is the 35 acres that belong to our lovely neighbors who live in a great old estate pre-Civil War era. It has a tiny graveyard with a couple of family members and a little baby...always makes me sad to see that.
Just this morning 5 deer strolled across the back yard (3acres) headed for the private lands just across the street from me.
This is what I see every morning while making my house great views all around."
Søren (Flaneur Gardening) has a wonderful garden in Copenhagen, Denmark

"Here's my kitchen window view from our city apartment. Our kitchen is definitely utilitarian at the moment, pending an overhaul once we've knocked down a wall, re-done the bathroom and added a balcony with access from the kitchen... (Please note the fake marble plastic a previous owner used to hide some perfectly nice white tiles!)"

 Deborah (Confessions of a Craigslist Junkie) keeps favorite and useful things at hand in her kitchen window.  (I see that she and I both have a thing for aqua glass insulators.)

Donna (Lady Courtney) lives about 40 minutes north of me on a wonderful historic country property.
"From here you can see the log kitchen to the left, the tractor shed on the side of Bob's machine shop with wood shop in the barn behind.  And tractors are ready for, Bob has put the snow blower on my JD and Big John has the blade ready (he thinks it will keep the snow away)"
I hope you enjoy these views as much as I have!
Happy Sunday, Everyone!!
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