December 6, 2017:

Hola!

It's COLD here. Cold and windy. But the Sun has been out for the past 2 days so it's bright, and that helps me to bear the cold and the short days. Only 15 more days to Winter Solstice, and then each day, a few more minutes of daylight will magically begin to be added, and even though the cold and snow will continue, the "worst" will be over because I know we are over the hump and headed toward the Spring Equinox.

Meanwhile, I am busy decorating the tree. I dug out an old collage of photos from the former Maison Newton (above). Gosh, that was a beautiful fireplace. My current gel fuel fireplace is great, but no match for that large and lush gas fireplace in my former home. In my case, downsizing meant not only much less square footage and a single story (which IS nice), but no fireplace until I purchased my gel fuel fireplace. I love it, but there was only one wall I could put it on, and this current living room is much smaller than my former living room, so I sized the fireplace accordingly. (It was also much less expensive and did not need to be installed by professionals).

Yesterday I womaned up and muscled, huffed, puffed, cussed some, breathed heavily and heaved mightily to get my Christmas tree up the basement stairs and dragged into the living room, and then into position in front of the picture window overlooking the front of the house. Whew! Quite the work-out. But I wasn't ready this year to switch to a "single woman of a certain age" (4 foot tall) tree. Maybe next year...NAH!

Jan

Monday, December 11, 2017

Revised Mantle

Hola!

After three tries, I settled upon a Christmas arrangement for the mantle.  I'm still not as happy with it as I'd like to be, but I like it better than what came before.

You'll recall this is what I started with:


The balance was off; I felt that the clock didn't balance the "bulk" and height of the three candle holders on the other end of the mantle.

I added a second string of lights, and I added the third deer that had been hiding out admiring the Christmas Star from underneath the Norfolk pine on the coffee table.  I tried switching around the tall candle holders, then I added a lantern that I have on the built-in bookshelf.  It's a burnished bronze color.  The clock was removed.  While the lantern looked okay, I thought I still needed some more heft and height on that side of the mantle.

I came up with this as Option 3.  Option 2 didn't last long, and I didn't take any photos of it.  I put the tall candle holders back where they were originally and added a larger lantern on the other end of the mantle, along with the third deer.


So, decorating for 2017 is officially done.  Whew!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Christmas 2017 Tree and Mantle

It's finished!

Hola!  Finished at last (yesterday).  I need to shovel - we got 2 inches of fresh snow overnight:
Looking out from the front door.
Here's the mantle!  You can see the snow blowing outside the window and one of
two pine trees along the driveway.  I am going to add another string of lights, and maybe
some ribbon; it's just looking a little bare to me right now.  Maybe I'll remove the clock and
put something else there, too.  The balance is off.  The candles and votives are all lit at night.
The deer are looking up toward the Shining Star.  There's another one hiding underneath
the Norfolk pine on the coffee table, also looking up at the star (not shown).

This was taken the day before yesterday, before I decorated the mantle.
Here's the same shot angle taken this morning, the now decorated
mantle is in the background.  I also added a few extra gold pine cones
here and there and tweaked the French ribbon a bit.
I kept it simple again this year (but not as simple as last year.  I used the French ribbon that I had not put on the tree in years.  I used the French ribbon and decorations I haven't used in several years, along with my collection of hand-blown crystal ornaments purchased at the "Egyptian" store at Southridge Mall on Christmas Eve day in 2008.  Inexpensive gold pine cones, a dozen white frosted "tear drops" (from Oriental Trading Company online for cheap cheap cheap), and a dozen silver glitter snowflakes were also used to fill in some gaps (all purchased in past years). The topper is a concoction of five beaded picks, two feather sprays that are at least thirty years old, one each gold glittered "wheat" and "floral" picks and two gold painted pinecones on long picks.

I took my time decorating over two days and tweaked yesterday, enjoying the process while listening to jazzy Christmas classics on Radio Tunes online.

You can probably tell that my "theme" was gold and silver in the living room.  The kitchen and dinette, pictured in previous posts, were done in red, black (in plaid), gold and green to accompany my beloved cardinal two-foot tall countertop tree and cardinal decor.

The rest of the photos are close-ups of the tree.  Warning: I'm not a good photographer and my 5 pixel camera is now 12 years old :)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Christmas 2017 Kitchen and Dining Area Pics

Still have not attempted to lug the tree up those 11 go on forever basement steps, but I have targeted tomorrow to do it, as soon as it's light enough outside.  I had to be out and about today, in balmy temperatures (I believe it got up to 60 degrees F) but also near gale-force winds, whew!  I was tuckered out by the time I got back home.  Lost my ambition to tackle the tree today :)

Here are the second set of pics that I was having trouble posting yesterday - I never figure out what I'm doing wrong, or if blogger just doesn't like me very much at times.  C'est la vie.

A close-up of my favorite cardinal plate, another TJ Maxx find from several years ago.

Cardinal greeting card collage on one side of the patio door.
There's a cardinal sitting on one corner of the back of the
bench in the bottom scene - see him - a little red smear.

A close-up of the cardinal tree.

That's the pretty pine-scented candle in its lovely plaid glass container at TJ Maxx.  Will
light it as it gets closer to Christmas.

One of two framed cardinal greeting cards on the other side of the patio door.
Another cardinal greeting card.  Can you tell I have a thing for cardinals?
Here's the back door (side door opens to driveway) decoration.  One
of my handy-dandy creations.  Yeah, the bottom ribbon sucks, but
I'm proud of my effort, har :)  The platter is metal purchased at
my neighborhood Pick 'n Save some years ago.  The pretty bow on top was added this
year, I found it stashed in one of the boxes from the basement loaded
with Christmas decorations, I have no idea where it came from.
This is the wreath that I used to hang on the back door here, but it got
squished every year and wasn't showing well.  So this year I removed a clock
and put it up overlooking the dining table.  I added the cardinals.
Another cardinal plate, also a TJ Maxx purchase before I retired in 2015.
You can also see my year-round cardinal perched up on the window sill.
This current Maison Newton was built in 1956 and has typical 1950's
features, including three rounded shelves at the end of the cabinet runs
on either side of the corner windows above the angled-in-the-corner
sink (which I hate, it's impossible to reach the windows to open them
unless I'm on a ladder).  My mini-collection of squirrels, including
the winter-dressed squirrel with acorn on the second shelf.  The top
shelf, not shown, has a furry critter with a red wool scarf around his neck.
I will post pics of the tree when it's done.  It always takes way longer to decorate it than to undress it!  But first I have to get it up those stairs and dragged into place and then upright.  I should have Popeye muscles by the time I'm finished.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Wait - Where Did Summer Go? Where Did Autumn Go? Holy Hathor!

Hola everyone!  I am in some kind of time-warp evidently, whew!  Here it is, December 3.  No - I didn't die, I'm still here, TA DA!

So far behind on everything - but I have been busy.  Still, somehow summer seemed to not want to end and then it got COLD all at once, hardly any autumn at all.  The trees were caught totally surprised - most of them here had not even begun to turn color yet.  I don't remember an autumn like this, it was truly strange and rather scary.  We got a series of hard freezes and even a nasty storm of sleet/snow one day with 40-50 mph winds:


That's my backyard.  Fortunately, I did catch a few breaks in the weather before this storm hit to get everything out back put away for the winter.  Wowsers.  This storm happened toward the beginning of November.

So, I turned my sights inward - specifically, toward Christmas decorating.  One of the ways I manage to survive the stretch of the march of ever-shortening days toward the Winter Solstice (December 21 this year) is to surround myself with candles galore and lots of fires in my gel-fuel fireplace.  That has been such a great investment.  It burns absolutely clean, no air pollution and no need to vent it outside.  When I use 3 cans of gel fuel to make a fire (I usually only use 1 or 2), it generates 4500 BTUs of heat.  I do that during the coldest days of the year, when even with the heat on and the furnace seeming to kick in every 20 minutes I still feel COLD inside the house.  And I do that as it gets closer to Christmas.

So, this year, instead of moving the sofa into the only spot that logically makes sense to put it (with its back toward the entry way into the dinette, looking toward the large picture window where the tree will be centered, I decided to try a different arrangement.  It took me a good week to decide it was okay enough to leave it.  A few shots of the new arrangement for Christmas season:




I'll have to scootch the wing chair over and angle it closer to the fireplace, which will be just fine with moi, to make enough room for the tree in front of the picture window.

This year, I also took down all my previous curtain arrangements and put up those 92" long sheers that are budget-saving Ikea.  They used to hang as backdrop curtains in my bedroom, where I have two long narrow "ranch" windows that meet in a corner of the room.  I replaced them earlier this year with inexpensive sheets from Ikea that I added a hem to to thread the curtain rod through.  Easy peasy with iron-on hemming tape.  They added a little more opaqueness behind the front layer of curtains, also from Ikea. 

Those sheers now in the living room let in a ton of light and it has made a tremendous different in the light level in the house.  I am loving it.  I only put one curtain on either side of the fireplace because the window is narrow and tall and people cannot see much of the room when passing by that side of the house other than the upper walls and ceiling.  I also like the poofy effect of the excess material on the floor (which you can't see in any of the photos, drat).

The picture window, however, is ginormous and for me, privacy is a problem and a must-have.  One can see the entire living room all the way back through the patio doors into the back yard from the front sidewalk.  I could probably add a few more panels for some extra privacy from the eyes of passers-by, but I don't light up the room at night with lamps, only candles and the occasional fire, and sometimes I have the TV on.  I've done the privacy test from the outside and you really can't see a whole lot.  It's not like I run around naked anyway, har :)  During Christmas season, once the tree is up and decorated the curtains will be drawn back but the tree blocks the view into the room, creating plenty of privacy. 

This new temporary furniture arrangement focuses on the fireplace:



It gives me plenty of cozying up in a wing chair with a good book when I have a fire going while still enjoying the tree, and the sofa to stretch out on (it is used only for my naps when I am not entertaining).  So, the living room is ready - to be decorated.  The sofa table normally sits in front of the picture window behind the sofa, which is centered on the picture window wall when it's not Christmas. 

What's that you say?  Oh yeah, no tree yet.  I am working up to dragging it up from the basement.  Eleven steep, narrow steps.  Eleven steps that seem to stretch from China to here.  Every year for the past 3 years, it seems to get a bit harder to get the heavy tree up those stairs.  Hmmmm, wonder why that is.  The tree hasn't grown any larger ...

That said, I DO have the kitchen and dinette done!  Last year I did pretty minimalist decorating and did not even put out my beloved cardinal tree.  This year, I decorated in the dinette and even the kitchen more than ever, and I didn't even pull up the rich red and black traditional wool rug and hang the teal and red floral curtains on the patio door this year!  I felt it looked great just as it was. 

Pics:  Lots of cardinals everywhere.

 


Looking toward the back hall.  I open that door up when the Sun is shining to let in the
light and lots of solar gain.  That's the beginnings of a Christmas card tree on the far wall.
You can see a wreath complemented with a few cardinals, and also a cardinal camping out
(year round) inside the built-in display case.  The wreath replaced a pendulum clock.

Cardinal tapestry runner - a steal from Family Dollar a few years ago.  The deer are
composite finished to look like burnished wood, purchased at Walgreens on clearance
a few years ago.  They came with janky wreaths around their necks which I cut off.
The candlesticks are at least 30 years old, brass, I don't remember where I got them from,
I suspect it may have been Home Interiors.  The candles are battery-operated.

Okay, Blogger is acting all sort of wonky on me right now, so I'll try to put the rest of the pics in another post and see how that works.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Views from the Shezebo 2017

Hola!

It was gorgeous today, so the grass out front didn't get cut after all.  I hoofed it to the Pick 'n Save and then back home, got all my rays for the day, wow.  I spent hours in my Shezebo, reading and just relaxing and snoozing (I confess).  Here are some photos from the inside looking out.  This is what I see:


My feet say "Hellooooo!!!"


This is my view looking directly across from mt seat (I removed my feet).  The yellow table was the one I created last year from an old TV stand purchased in the early 1970s.  I spray painted it the sunny yellow and added the wheels for easy mobility.  More about that chair (and its twin, the one I'm sitting in) tomorrow, OY!


Pan to the right (you can see peeking out my enshrouded poor roll of sod - see yesterday's post...)  In the background is the back of the yard, it faces east and is anchored on the left by several clustered arborvitae and three large hostas, and the raised garden bed that runs most of the length of the east fence line.


And panning to the left of the second photo, a matching chair.  They're old, they take a ton of scrubbing even to make half-way presentable, and one of these years, I'll get around to spray painting them with plastic paint :)  In the background you can see one end of the north garden bed that contains a massive multi-trunk arborvitae and the concrete birdbath.  That's the new fence that was installed last November.  Because of the cost, I could only afford to do that one side.  The east fence line will wait until next year.


Here's my seat in the shade.  Across the south side of the Shezebo behind is a queen size white sheet, and on either side turning the corners are two curtain panels I purchased last year.  As soon as I can find reasonably priced yellow flat sheets that don't come in a set I will hang them instead.  This time of year, the Sun beats in from that south side and even though the Shezebo DOES provide much needed shade, it's not 100% shade all the time, depending upon the angle of the Sun.  The perfection, though, is the bug-free environment, especially since yours truly is a MOSQUITO MAGNET!  No problemo while I'm inside my Shezebo, aaaaaaahhhhhhh!


There's the view toward the southeast corner of my lot.  You may notice a roof-like structure running from the garage to the top of the fence along the east fence line.  That's my extra storage area and it's HUGE!  It's at least 10 feet wide and the length of the 2.5 car garage, all poured concrete.  Thanks to the prior owner who installed it, the rain and snow don't get in and it's a good space to store the Weber grill, the patio table and chairs, miscellaneous things that can withstand the cold and damp and assorted tools (there are hanging racks installed - thanks, prior owner!) and also to grill under, with the double doors that open wide to the back yard open if it's raining out.  It also allows me to rent out half of my garage for car storage, since I don't drive and do not own a car myself.  The space would otherwise pretty much go to waste.  Always nice to get that extra $100 a month.


The final pic of the day, a rather blurry close-up of the hooky thingy at the top of my Shezebo (inside).  As you can see, it is NOT CENTERED!  Now what woman, I ask you, would ever design something with a hook meant to hold a chain that holds something else not perfectly centered in the space?  I therefore know my Shezebo was designed by a man, for a woman would NEVAH do such a silly thing!

I haven't attempted to hang anything form the hooky thingy (like a battery-operated lantern) because I know it would drive me bonkers seeing it off center.  Arrrrrgggghhhhh!

Tomorrow, the sad saga of the put-together-backwards chairs.  Yes, it's true.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Endless Puttering Around the Garden

Hola everyone!  I'm still here and kicking, although not quite as 20 years ago, sigh.

It seems that yard work around here is never-ending.  It's funny, I do not seem to remember having this much to do in the yard all the time when I was at my bigger house with the much bigger yard.  Why on earth is that, and how can that possibly be???

I have several items that still need to be transplanted, including a volunteer (probably from bird poop) of a honeysuckle shrub that has sprung up on the right side of the concrete bird bath:


I also want to move over the purple shrub against the back of the fence on the left side of the bird bath (you can just barely see it, about 3 branches peeking up), as it's too close to the Japanese maple. I want to move it to the spot I'm vacating by moving the honeysuckle, which was never intended to be there.  That honeysuckle will get very large if I let it, and I don't feel like constantly pruning it to keep it a small size for the north garden bed.  It seems every time I turn around, I have some new surprise popping up in my garden beds.

The nice 6 foot tall privacy fence that went in early last November looks great; it hasn't started to "silver" yet, but it will, eventually.  The plants seem to like having the taller fence there, I think it may be creating a warmer micro-climate, especially along that north lot line.

I bought a roll of sod to finally fill in a few depressions in the backyard that have been driving me nuts for the past few years.  I keep filling them in with top soil and the squirrels promptly dig out all the dirt in record time, so the depressions are deeper than ever because the dug-out dirt builds up around the edges, sigh.  Well, I bought that sod on May 26th and it's still rolled up in a sheet.  Oops.   As of today, the poor sod is probably dead; I wet it down when I remember to do that and it hasn't rained (we've had a LOT of rain here lately).  I'm afraid to open up the sheet and unroll the sod (yes, I'm a coward that way).  Oh well.

I have more to write about, but I just got off a Skype call with a friend of mine, and once I get her on I can't get her off, 1.5 hours poof - gone!  It was supposed to be a test to see if her Skype still worked.  So, here are a few photos of plants and/or successful transplants I moved into the south garden along the edge of the driveway last year, I'll have to come back and post again, there's some to catch up on!


This is one of two shasta daisies I planted new last year in the driveway garden bed.  One did not make it over the winter but this one popped right up and as you can see, is loving the hot sunny location.


The hydrangea was transplanted from the backyard north lot line last year, in preparation for having the new fence put in.  It was a little droopy in this photo; I watered it afterwards and in less than an hour it perked right back up.  There are two pine trees on that side of the lot bordering the driveway (south lot line area) and they shed tons of needles and pine cones, keeping the soil very acidic.  The hydrangea loves it.  When it was in the backyard, I had to give it lemon juice to get that color on the blooms.  This year, it came up with the flowers already those lovely lavender and lavender-pink colors!  This is a "mini" shrub, it will get wider as it matures but not much taller.

On the left side of the hydrangea is a columbine I put in last year, which seeded plentifully and I now have columbines popping up throughout the south garden bed, which is fine with me; on the right is a faded bleeding heart.  The blooms on both are gone, although the deep purple blossoms on the columbine only just stopped, they were gorgeous this year!  The spring got warm early and then we turned hot and dry and the bleeding heart didn't like it this year, it faded early and the greenery is already dying out; usually it lasts until the end of August but not this year.

And in the background to the left of the hydrangea, you can see the only survivor of three artimesias I planted in the north bed a couple of years ago.  It is much happier in this hot and sunny spot than in the north lot line; the other two just faded away and did not reappear last year.  On the right is a hybrid double mini-day lily that is a luscious peach-pink color; the last of the blooms fell a few weeks ago.  I am hoping it will survive the winter and give me a good crop of blooms next season.

And what Milwaukee garden would be complete without the common old-fashioned day lily:


This is a shot from the east garden bed; you can see a Rose of Sharon to the left and some volunteer Queen Anne's Lace peeking up.  The day lilies are just nutso blossoming this year!

More coming - promise!  I want to show you what progress I've made in the kitchen, as well as visiting my Shezebo and its current accoutrements :)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Celebrating Earth Day and the March for Science with Crow Offerings

Hola everyone!  Wow, how time flies.  I must catch up -- someday...  For now, the kitchen/dining room is more or less finished.  The cabinets still need to be painted out, the backsplash removed and replaced with the porcelain marble look subway tiles I purchased last year, the cabinet hardware replaced, and new countertops purchased.  And the woodwork needs to be painted - probably black.

Today is Earth Day, and also today all around the world are Marches for Science.  Science and respect for Mother Earth go hand in hand.  In my home state here in Wisconsin, fourteen (14!!!!) separate cities/towns are hosting Marches for Science and Earth Day combined.  Thousands of people have turned out in Wisconsin alone.  Wisconsin, I love you!

There is also a huge March for Science and Earth Day taking place today in Washington D.C.  I am glad to see people standing up for what they believe in and exercising their Constitutional First Amendment to peaceably assemble and exercise their freedom of expression.  No hate involved, only a love of our planet - and a deep love of knowledge along with the acknowledgement that without science, without the quest for knowledge and the application of what we call the
"scientific method" of reasoning things out and working out how to solve a problem, we would all still be living in caves, folks.

I DO put my money where my mouth is.  Along with monetary contributions to various environmental organizations and hours doing postings elsewhere highlighting the dangers of the proposed Trump budget that would totally cut funding, for instance, for NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, that funds research into how to better predict weather patterns and such things as hurricanes and tornadoes, along with support development of new and improvements "weather" satellites, oceanography exploration, mapping and surveying, etc.) - and talking with people about the easy things we all can do to help make our world a cleaner, safer and more beautiful place for all of us and for our descendants (RE-USE, RECYCLE, REPURPOSE, RE-IMAGINE), later this month I'll be working with a volunteer group to plant flowers along a stretch of boulevard in my city (as well as taking pride in keeping my property pristine and pretty year round).

We can ALL do things to help our Mother Earth, and support continued research and scientific discovery, too.  Many of  the bloggers I read and fans out there have gardens, for instance.  Every garden supports hundreds of thousands of little critters that we never even see, every single day of their existence.  Each and every one of them serves a purpose on our Mother Earth.  Of course, our lovely gardens also support all of the wildlife and birds that we do see and so enjoy.  These are in addition to the bountiful harvests that our veggy gardens can give us, the shade our wonderful trees can provide for us (as well as homes for our wildlife friends), and the undeniable beauty and fragrances of flowers, blossoms and blooms throughout the season.

My favorite times of day are after going to bed at night, with the window cracked open just a hair, and listening to the hootie owl when he arrives well before spring, singing his subtle song; He either sits in the ornamental cherry outside my bedroom window, or perches up on the rain gutter. I fall asleep to his HOOT, hoot hoot hoot, hoot - HOOT.  And in the very early mornings, especially this time of year, the birds begin their serenading in the pre-dawn, about 4 a.m.  The robins seem to be especially melodious this year.  I hear the through a half daze of sleep, revelling in the softness of my bed, the warmth of my coverings, the peace, the tranquility.  The OH SO RIGHTNESS of it all.

I've been meaning to post an updated photo of current contributions to beauty in the world deposited by my loving crow families in my bird bath over the years, several new ones since I moved into this version of Maison Newton in July 2014.  Geez, almost 3 years ago already, and I'm still unpacking boxes, LOL!  Take a look:


Collected through the years in the bird bath from grateful crows, who believe in paying back a favor with a pretty shiny thing (I've fed families of crows for years, along with about half the squirrel population in Milwaukee County), the following:  From the former Maison Newton of the big and much treed backyard, the "gold" bracelet with inset brown glass stones (one missing); the single die; the yellow doo-hickey, which I think is from an electrical something or other; and the rounded smooth white stone in the upper right hand corner.  From the current and much smaller backyard Maison Newton - a new haul:  The crystal bead - and where that came from I've no idea; two bottle caps (ahem) - crows like local brewery brands in Milwaukee (Miller Beer); the smaller quartz-flecked stone in the top row, center; and the piece de' resistance -- what I call the "Pyramid Quartz Crystal" stone, that has the shape of a deteriorated Egyptian pyramid from the Giza Plateau!  The Pyramid Quartz Crystal showed up about 2 weeks ago or so.  I figured it was a tribute from the crows for feeding them during the long bout of winter from December through the end of March.  They like to surprise me :)

the Pyramid Quartz Crystal is hefty, so it must have been one of the big Alpha Male Crows who delivered it to my birdbath.  I can hear them when they come, and I will always open up the patio door and throw out handfuls of peanuts in the shell (they LOVE peanuts!).  And every year since I've been here, the crow offerings have appeared in due time -- usually in the spring.  Like a Crow-Human ritual, perhaps.  Hmmm...

Celebrate today!  Enjoy our lovely Mother Planet and all of its glorious beauties offered to us so freely each and every day.  And remember that in order to protect it, in order to continue to grow and prosper and live safer, healthier lives in the 21st century and beyond, we need to keep learning, need to keep researching, need to keep studying, and need to keep asking those questions and searching for those answers.  We need - science.