Thursday, January 29, 2015

Facelift Takes Years Off a Bath

Before Christmas we decided to give our master bathroom a facelift, nothing major, just a nip and a tuck. The makeover began, as they all do, with the modest intention of a minimally invasive procedure: merely a paint job.

However, when I looked at the room with a critical eye, I had to admit the once-classic-beauty had the design-equivalent of drooping eyelids and a sagging jaw line. Now mind you, I did not want to spend the price of a real facelift :).  I just wanted to tweak the room without breaking the bank. How much would it take to refresh the lady?

Ferreting ideas from Pinterest and Houzz, I embraced the makeover maxim: subtraction before addition. First, off came the peeling wallpaper. Although I loved the paper when we built the home, the surfaces had steamed for twenty years producing a not-so-youthful glow.
Beige and mint wallpaper was definitely over-the-hill.
Next, I studied the room's bones and realized that, whereas youth is streamlined, this lady was--well, shall we delicately say--embellished.  Soffits above the double sinks and cabinetry around the mirrors crowded the space. 
Away they went.
A new face emerged.

Losing the excess was so freeing, we also eliminated the upper door of the corner cupboard.
Ah, less is more!
With the nips & tucks behind us, we were ready to contour a youthful vibe. I had the walls painted a Benjamin Moore Color Stories selection called "picnic basket", purchased a pair of gilded mirrors from the 1940s, and lighted the vanity with three Circa sconces.  

The old embroidered cafe curtains were country, not cool.

I replaced them with sleek Roman shades. 
(Drapes made by Pat Martin of Going Home Interiors.)
Now we step, instead of onto the needlepoint Victorian runner,

 onto a contemporary dhurrie rug. 

I love how the fleur-de-lis rug pattern acknowledges the Napoleonic motif on top of the mirrors.

 Finally, I splurged on a lighted makeup mirror (since I am not getting any younger myself)...
 and a new shower head for my husband.

Actually, the master-bath face lift didn't break the bank. We kept our flooring and countertops and  didn't move or replace any plumbing fixtures. Yet, I think you'd agree, she looks years younger!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Best After-Holiday Return

A local greenhouse has an annual return-your-poinsetta-and-get-twenty-percent-off-a-house-plant sale. I try to take advantage of the deal, because by late January I am ready to be done with Christmas decorations.
  This year, I replaced the poinsettia with a white cyclamen surrounded by white-tipped ivy.
Besides the new centerpiece, I also got some new plants for around the house to replace ones that had shriveled from lack of care. These are white speckled plants called a Domino Peace Lily.

 They don't require light, but they do need a drink regularly.

I have a personal aversion--no matter how realistic looking--to fake plants--be they plastic or even silk. If it isn't real, I would rather not have it. The only exception to this is glass or pottery blossoms, but even they too aren't as good as the real thing.

However, I don't have a particularly green thumb so I have to be careful which plants I choose. They can't be finicky or require careful monitoring. So, here are my tried and true favorites: jade plants which don't require much water,

succulents, and mini-palm trees thrive when they are ignored.
And perhaps, the most foolproof "plants"--curly willow twigs. They don't require light or water, but then they don't bloom either.

Every once in awhile I succumb and purchase plants that require care. Why? I guess, because "hope springs eternal in the human breast."

Two plants I have been coddling are these fiddle-leaf figs. They like lots of light and weekly watering. After I got them, they each lost a main branch of leaves and only recently have each sprouted another branch. The verdict is still out as to whether these will survive my black thumb.

I encourage everyone to splurge on blossoms this winter. Even if they won't last more than a few weeks, their fresh beauty will brighten your days.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pitch-Perfect Anniversary Ambiance

Our anniversary was December 23rd, and even though my to-do list was still long, my husband and I ventured off for two days to a gentrified country inn on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It was perfect for a holiday get-away.
The Inn at Perry Cabin charms guests with varied roof heights, dormer windows, and columned porticos. Enshrouded in the mist of winter, the clapboard hotel seems to float above the Miles River which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay.

A variety of outbuildings and garden follies add to the property's quaintness.

The interiors, decorated in English country style, are cozy and inviting.

Decked for the holidays, the hotel is an ideal place to celebrate Christmas.

The inn is located in the Victorian town of St, Michaels, Maryland which is replete with antique shops and bookstores. At this time of year, the village churches were especially festive.

If next Christmas you are looking to splurge on a big anniversary or if it is your year to share your family with the in-laws, I'd highly recommend The Inn at Perry Cabin. It's wonderful at any time of year, but especially uplifting for a winter holiday get-away.

p.s. We have been married over 40 years, and I am still learning how to be a better wife. Let me share two insights from our trip last week. I should have put aside the pressing Christmas card list, and just enjoyed face-time with my best friend. On a positive note, we did take time to pray together. As the old expression goes: "The family who prays together stays together". On our trip I analyzed why that is true and concluded that when you express your thanksgiving, your wishes, and your hurts to God in the presence of your spouse, they learn a lot about what makes you tick and vice versa. Besides, when your "better angel" talks to the Almighty, it is endearing to the one listening in on the conversation.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

No-Fuss Decorations with Memories

Little by little, I have been getting the house dressed for Christmas. As I age, I increasingly try to simplify my decorations, aiming for arrangements that won't have to be redone multiple times between December 1 and January 1. Even with simplifying, it is a lot of work to deck the halls. That said, I enjoy it because it reminds me of happy memories from Christmases past.

These silver trees have been used on table tops around the house. I purchased them at Wannamakers in Philadelphia on a shopping trip with my sister. That department store closed years ago, but when I put out these trees I can almost hear the pipe organ swells reverberating off the marble floors of that grand old store, and I think of the fun that sister and I have had over the years. This year the still- glistening trees found a place on our library mantel. I'm loving the simplicity.
 In the short hallway between the living room and library is a door to the lower level. Every year it seems to be the perfect spot for a wreath I made when we were first married. I smile when I remember how creative I had to be to decorate our small bungalow on my meager salary when my husband was in grad school. What we didn't have in the way of discretionary spending, we made up for in love.
The freeze-dried boxwood balls fill this bowl year around, but I added some small shiny glass ornaments in honor of the season. You can't get any simpler than that.

The tiny nativity set on our living room coffee table has special significance. Our first baby lived only a few hours. Shortly after he died, my husband and I took a trip to the Outer Banks. We walked the beach and cried together. On that trip, we visited the amazing Christmas shop on the southern end of the island and purchased this Mary, Joseph, and Christ child. Now every year as I put it out, I remember our little boy who looked so much like my husband, and I whisper a prayer thanking my heavenly Father for sending his Son to purchase eternal life so we have hope of seeing our son again.
Across the room, from the nativity are three angels made from antique lace and linen by a kind neighbor. These remind me of the three "angels" God gave us after our first baby's death. (My adult children will smirk at this.)
Over the years, we have collected quite a huge choir of carolers. We purchased the first family when we lived in Haiti. Our resident school teacher went home in the summers and worked at the factory where these are made. I gave "Miss Chris" money to buy some for us. She kindly added a pooch to the family to represent our little cock-a-poo. Over the years our choir has grown much as our family has.
Our Christmas tree is a vagabond. Yearly, it changes locations. This year we placed it between the kitchen and the sunroom. Happily, in this spot I can see it as I prepare meals! My sweet sister gave me the angel that sits atop the branches.
When our kids were younger, I bought the June McKenna nativity because children could handle it without breakage. The initial pieces to this set were purchased at The Charm House in Leola, PA, and additional angels and wise men came from Donekars, a family department store in Ephrata. Neither store is still in business. However, I sure do have happy memories of shopping at both places! :)
Three of the buildings of our Dickens village on the dining room sideboard were an anniversary gift from my husband's parents. When I set them out each year, I recognize their wisdom in affirming our marriage. My wise in-laws were simply following the Proverb, "A wise woman builds her house, a foolish woman tears it down."
On my dining room table is the simplest table arrangement I could think of--glass balls heaped in a large bowl. This does not wilt nor need to be watered!
 And what could be easier than placing some poinsettias in a footed brass cooler?
 A final touch of Christmas hangs in the kitchen from the oven door. (I keep easy-to-launder ones on the lower oven door.) I bought a red embroidered towel like this to give a friend one Christmas. However, the design stuck with me,  so I went back and purchased a couple more for myself. Now these cheerful towels remind me of that friend and my own folly. :)

There you have it, in no particular order. I hope you enjoyed a stroll down memory lane and a few ideas for no-fuss decorating.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Giving Thanks this Year at Our House

We have a whole lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Two of the biggest blessings this fall are the births of two healthy little boys.
James Danford born in September
William Mark born in November
In response to God's gifts, we have tried to share his goodness with others. We made harvest baskets for our neighbors.
I decided giving in the fall is easier than baking bread on Christmas Eve--which I have done in the past. Here are the local favorites that I included in the baskets:  strawberry jam, peach salsa, home-made 7-day pickles, chow-chow, and apple butter...
 some corn chips for the salsa...
 a loaf of fresh whole wheat bread...
 and some special Lancaster caramel soft creams.
  A few ears of indian corn and a big brown bow added a festive touch.
Why did it take me so long to think of gifting in November rather than at the hectic Christmas season? I don't know, but I'd highly recommend it.

Next week, we will be hosting fifteen guests, so I have revelled in decking our home for the holiday. Here are some snapshots.

I made an indian corn wreath. It was so easy and turned out so well that I think I may go into business selling these! :)

I added my pilgrims to the entryway sideboard along with the white pumpkins hold-overs from Halloween.
Then I filled a large bowl with vegetables and set out the silver pheasants.
I left the Murano glass pumpkins on the coffee table.
And tucked the grandmother and child figure my husband gave me for my birthday next to the ceramic turkey.
Now I'm ready to wrap the Christmas presents for the little ones, so I can avoid mailing them. Then I will do the food shopping and baking. I love having everyone come home. The six young children are so fun to entertain. And this year we will have two tiny babies to love on. My heart is overwhelmed with thanksgiving.

Is it your turn to host Thanksgiving? What did you do to make your home festive? I'd love for you to post photos in my comment section.