December 21, 2014

Hola darlings! As abnormally cold as November was, December is turning out to be abnormally warm! No White Christmas this year at Maison Newton, but I'll take 40 degrees F and rain any day over 3o below zero and a foot of snow! I noticed yesterday I turned on the tree lights and and the rest of the Christmas decorations by 4 p.m., Holy Hathor! I am in full holiday mode, but not cooking like I was in 2013. Maybe it was just a strange phase of the Moon??? I decided I hate my front porch. Something has to be done with it. Don't know what, there's no budget, as I'm planning on taking a (3 years) early retirement as early as I can realize my strategic plans in 2015. I'll figure something out (so she bravely writes...) Happy Holidays and a wonderful and blessing-filled New Year to everyone!

Jan

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Two Fabulous D-I-Y Alternatives for the I DON'T THINK THEY'RE AWFUL "BOOB" LIGHTS

Hola darlings!

Never heard or read the term "boob light" until I started visiting D-I-Y and decorating blogs. Which is probably a good thing, because calling this budget-wise and (let's be frank, ladies) practical type of light such a sexist oinky name is downright insulting.  I would have been appalled having such lights installed at Maison Newton if they were called such insulting names back then, but they weren't called "boob lights" then, and there were no such things as blogs (or even the internet) back then, either.  Not sure I'm going to replace my own BOOB LIGHTS in this house, either.  I am fond of my boobs.  I am, actually, outright PROUD of  my big boobs, and they even have nipples. GASP!  What is so fricking wrong about boobs, anyway?  I'm not interested in looking like an anorexic wannabe America's Next Top  Model, either in body, or in my home.

I have such lights here - at least three of them that I can readily see: (1) in the driveway hallway entrance into the kitchen/basement stairs; (2) above the sink; and (3) on the ceiling in the bath/bedroom hallway.  I've seen these identical lights advertised at certain big-box stores on sale THREE FOR $25.  What's not to love about a budget-friendly alternative when one needs new light fixtures to update a space money is tight or you just want to throw up a light fixture while getting ready to sell your house, heh? They aren't obnoxious and just what is this fixation with a woman's boobs, anyway?  Rather sicky, if you get my drift.

I don't have a thing against boob lights. Would I prefer to replace them with more "glamorous" and expensive light fixtures?  Sure. But budget is always a consideration.  I have to tell you, replacing my boob lights is not on the radar of my decorating want-to-do-over.  I don't even notice them.

But -- that's not to say some people don't have a definite hang-up about "boob" lights.  So, as I am a blatant liberal and do not wish to discriminate against anyone, even someone who has issues with budget-friendly light fixtures that they think are shaped like a woman's boobs, check this out, all booblightphobiacs:

 I happened to come across TWO absolutely incredible transforming treatments that just turned my head around in circles, and that normally doesn't happen. I'm not Linda Blair from the Exorcist.  How many of you even know what the hell that is, LOL!

Anyway, here they are.  The first one is from one of my regular-visit-blogs, Simple Details:


It is absolutely beautiful, and much easier to create than I ever would have dreamed possible.  It uses a simple flush mount white glass shade and a Martha Stewart sunburst mirror that retails for around $30 or so,combined together.  Thank you so much for making this incredible do-over, Pam.  Check out the easy to follow tutorial.  I am definitely considering this as a project for my wonderful Handyman, Kevin, as a Spring 2015 project to replace the boob light in the bedroom/bathroom hallway.  Sadly, there is not enough room in the areas above the sink or in the back-hall ceiling area for this treatment to fit.  So --

Check out this equally glamorous and cost-efficient redo, put together by Emily at mysocalleddiyblog of the Mia Faceted-Crystal Flush-Mount Ceiling Fixture at Pottery Barn -- really pretty:


Thing is, if I upgrade my ceiling light fixtures to look like those above, I'm not going to be very happy with the rest of the house... You people out there, SO talented and visionary!

Tick, Tick, Tick to RETIREMENT!

Hola darlings!

This is it - FIVE MORE WORKING DAYS TO R DAY!

It's coming true - early retirement, and I still can't believe it, but I don't want to pinch myself because if this is just a dream, I sure don't want to wake up.

I gave my "official" notice to Human Resources on January 5th and then spoke with the head of the Practice Group I am in, in early afternoon, giving him the news and the whys/wherefores.  From there, news spread like wildfire.  Until I gave "official notice" I had kept it very close to my vest, telling only one friend at the office whom I knew would keep her lips zipped.  She did.  And of course, my best buddy Ann, whom I've known since 1991.  So it was a BIG surprise, this news of my impending retirement, and something of a bomb to everyone at the firm.

Suffice to say that my bomb turned into a NEUTRON BOMB.  Wow - I never imagined so much drama, but there's been drama a-plenty, mostly surrounding who would be my successor.  It's been - interesting, since we learned, although it's never been officially announced, that evidently the firm's new "policy" is NO NEW HIRES.  Nope - those left behind will have to suck it up and take over the gargantuan work-load (and incumbent stress) I shouldered.  Well, good luck with that.



My last work day is January 30th.  I cannot tell you how many people have come up to me -- people I didn't even know knew who the heck I was -- wishing me well and congratulating me on my "early escape."  There have been lots of lunches with co-workers, a supper with special friends last Tuesday night (it was SO much fun!), and my last week will be very busy with social events and work.

Monday afternoon there will be a "goodbye"get-together with my co-workers over cake in one of our conference rooms. Thursday lunch with two of the attorneys I've worked with for years at the firm.  Friday night, FREEDOM DAY, dinner and drinks with two special friends at Kegel's, one of my favorite places to eat, drink and make merry.  I will turn in my card-keys and commuter-pass and cell phone I never learned how to use, and collect a check for my accumulated PTO and start paying a ridiculously expensive amount every month to COBRA my health and dental insurance.  I won't qualify for Medicare for 18 months.  But my investment advisor and I have both crunched the numbers (me, several times), and I have enough for a comfortable (not lavish) retirement.  Investment advisor advised me to travel, play chess, and laugh a lot.  I like his advice :)

We had a meeting a week ago Saturday and went over the numbers once again and I received lots of good news.  Mind you, I'm not sure I believe his projections 100%, but he does this day in and day out for his living, working with people of moderate means like moi, and he's an upright guy, so I take what he says more seriously than anything I might hear from the kinds of "advisors" and brokers I interact with on a daily basis.  JH is, first and foremost, NOT a salesman. He truly cares about his clients.

I've saved a lot over the years, diligently working at it.  It was a concept I absorbed and adopted as a credo way back in the early 1970's, when I started working full-time.  Dad had always told us that if we wanted something, we would have to do it for ourselves, that nobody was going to magically appear and hand anything to us on a platter.  We would have to work HARD for what we wanted.  My parents did not preach, they worked their butts off (Mom worked full-time outside the home as well as Dad to support our family of eight) and showed us how to go by example.  Mom took me to the local bank when I was 15 to open my very first savings and checking account. I received a "free" Miriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary for opening a savings account of $150. (I still have that precious dictionary more than 45 years later). After that, I was solely in charge of the funds I earned at a part-time job after school and on weekends during school year, and worked full-time in an office (at $1.65 an hour) during the summer from the time I was 14. (Mom and Dad got tired of running my checks through their checking account!)  Of course, before that, there was baby-sitting and chore money saved up, a quarter at a time, turned over to the parents or put into a piggy bank. Every penny counted then - and now!  I still pick up found coins off the street - what can I say?  You know the old saying, A PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED.

Please do not under-estimate teaching your children and young loved ones the ins-and-outs of saving money from an early age on.  Hopefully it will stand them in good stead in future years.

Earlier this year, as things shook out, I ended up downsizing to a smaller and less expensive house (I called it my Retirement Home), when early retirement wasn't even on my event horizon!  Downsizing had always been my plan, it just happened earlier than I thought it would.  As it turned out, it was a fortuitous event. The disciplined saving habits of this child of Depression-Era parents has and will continue to pay off. Thank you, Mom and Dad!  I am very fortunate, and very grateful to be in this position.

Best of all, the anxiety/stress induced angina I've been suffering through for months is rapidly fading into nothingness.  I fully expect to be angina-free as of 5:00 p.m. on January 30, 2015.  WHOOP WHOOP!

What's the saying - one picture is worth a thousand words?  What is a music video worth, then?  I love DONE (Band Perry, above), because in a work context it expresses fully what I've experienced my past twelve plus years of working at the firm.  Time to say GOOD BYE-EYE, OOO OOOH MY-EYE, OOMPH.

I also came across this wonderful music video from the early days.  Does anyone remember the band YES?  I did not remember their name, but I remembered a phrase from the song that cropped up into my memory the past few days. I went hunting for it on You Tube last night.  Found it!  Outside of the wonderful movie "Joe Versus the Volcano" which contains galvanic scenes of worker bees drudging toward the monolithic concrete monster building in which they slave away day in and day out, the words of this song, but most of all, the imagery, fully speaks to what I am experiencing in these, my final days of WORKING ON SOMEONE ELSE'S TIME CLOCK.   I hope you enjoy it's message and meaning as much as I do:


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Joyeux Noelle!

I'm saying Merry Christmas today as I won't be working online tomorrow, I'll be too busy feasting and visiting with the family and I expect most of you will be, too.

I took what I think is a somewhat better pic of this year's Christmas tree:


I really do need to take those drapes down and press them!

Shades of Christmas past, here's a photo of Mr. Don at Mom's house during Christmas, 2008.  Mom's little poodle, Penny, glued herself to Don's side during the entire visit:


And here is this year's version of the Christmas tree at Kegel's, a venerable family-owned German restaurant/bar on Milwaukee's south side (they have the best filet mignon in town):


A long-time friend, Ann, and I, go to Kegel's every season to admire the Christmas tree.  The owner does a brand new themed tree every single year and they are always spectacular!  This year's tree is absolutely gorgeous in person -- it just glows!  It is silver and gold, as you can see -- I should have taken some close-ups, the floral sprays are so beautiful.  We go to Kegel's and exchange our gifts (sometimes saving opening them for later), and have a good meal.

Then we go see the neighborhood decked out along "Candy Cane Lane."  The neighbors in the area decorate their houses and Santa, along with local and sometimes national celebrities, station themselves at the main intersection in the subdivision and collect donations to fight childhood cancer.  Since 1984 the neighbors have collected $1.6 million dollars, and it all goes to the MACC (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer) Fund.  This year's displays were wonderful, and I think more houses participated this year, too (the relatively warmer weather this year and lack of snow certainly helped).

I didn't take any pictures -- Ann drives and I am not good enough to take photos from the moving car (even though we are going slow).  Below is a photo of one of the houses from this year's Wisconsin Hunger Task Force website (you can donate a canned good or cash at a special collection area):


Christmas is a time for family, sharing, community, and traditions.  We need Christmas!  I wish, like the reformed Mr. Scrooge, that people would keep it in their hearts 365 days a year.  Peace, love and harmony to you all.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Trees with a Twist

Hola!

Love this idea!  I found this one at Urban Outfitters' blog:


U.O. put pinned or taped their lights and decorations directly to the wall.  For renters, though, this might not work so well.  What I'm thinking is that it would be easy enough to draw a tree on a large sheet of paper or tape several sheets of paper together and then decorate the seams, or cut a tree shape from corrugated cardboard and maybe cover in cloth -- something that could be taped to the wall and taken down with no damage to or holes (no matter how tiny) put in the wall.  Up it goes, and decorate away.

I found this Christmas made out of pillows at World Inside Pictures blog (22 Unusual Clever DIY Christmas Tree Ideas).  Unfortunately, it linked to a website written in French, but not to the specific post at the website, and I was not able to find it -- so, cite with caution, because I found the same image at several different websites, none of which appear to be the original source and all in different foreign languages:


As a book fanatic, LOVE this bookshelf tree from Swiss Miss -- so clever:


I found another clever use of books or thick catalogs (are there still such things -- I grew up ooohing and aaahing every year over fat catalogs from Sears, Spiegel and J.C. Penney!) at Lush Home, along with several interesting ideas for creating Christmas "trees:"


I found this tree at Organized Clutter blog via Pinterest.  With all the unsolicited junk mail I receive, I'd have enough to make a very BIG tree in practically no time at all, and wouldn't have to commit the ultimate sacrilege of tearing a book apart:

Bed Curtains Are Up!

I was able to get the bed curtains ironed and installed on December 6, as I knew Gayle's granddaughters would love them!

Are those curtains on your bed, Josie asked.  Yes, they're tie-on curtains that I used to drape the bed.  I got the idea from a picture I found online, I said.  Both girls then demanded to see the picture.  I produced it for them.

Mimi O'Connell design, picture from Cote de Texas blog (previously posted).
This looks different, Josie said, and Sophia nodded.  Yes, they are different.  But in this small room, I didn't want to put up curtains that would take up too much space.  [I didn't mention there was no way I could ever afford to hang what appear to be custom-made silk shatung or similar tie-on draperies spilling lavishly to the floor and held in place by gigantic gold tassels.]  Both girls nodded sagely.




I'm thinking about doubling up the curtains on those two corners, as I have a second pair.  Right now my thinking is that having four corner curtains would be too much for the space, even though these curtains are sheer voile.  They are very nice curtains, by the way, am so glad I found them at Amazon.com.  They are machine wash/dry and iron like a dream.  I had a harder time balancing on the mattress to get the curtains up than getting the ties more or less the same distance from the bedframe "rod" to which they're tied.  Once I got the hang of it the curtains went up quickly.  They are 95" long and 59" wide -- and they don't make it all the way down to the floor.  To add a little Christmas bling, I hung a satin and glitter champagne ornament to each tie to hold the curtains in place.

It's almost finished!  The last chore remaining to get my mistress bedroom in shape is to finish the mini gallery wall.  Well, also to start saving for some new area rugs.  I had thought faux sheepskin, but haven't seen anything that's rung my chimes.  I like the real thing -- the thought of my feet sinking into such a rug every morning or evening as I get in and out of bed is very tempting; but then I saw some beautiful grey and white oriental-styles that made me salivate.  We'll see.

And Yet More Christmas Reveals Around Maison Newton

Hola everyone!

I'm home today because overnight we got rain that turned to sleet and then to sheer ice covering the sidewalks.  I made it as far as the end of my driveway, slipping a few times, and knew there was no way I could safely walk the half mile to the bus stop to get to work.  A gal my age has to keep herself safe, first and foremost.  Taking a spill on the ice at 63 isn't something I take lightly.  If I went down and seriously injured myself -- don't even want to think about it.

Anyway, it's dank, dark and dreary out there; the ice is slowly melting but still not 100% gone.


Soon I'll be looking for cardinals online and printing out some vertical prints to replace the autumn-toned prints in the frames flanking the patio door. In this photo is the centerpeice of live greens with a scented candle that I've purchased the past few years from the Boy Scouts.  Candy is held in a glass dish in the shape of a Christmas tree (but the overflowing candy obscures the small dish's shape), framed cardinal greeting card in the background; the copper framed cardinal greeting card has since been replaced with my red, white and black Northwood Cottage cardinal plate; a cardinal snow globe in the shape of a lantern, and my first greeting card of the season.  Resting atop one the largest wood cannister in the background is a little votive holder, Mama snowman and little boy snowman, peering into the "fire."  I tried to get a close-up of it but none of them turned out (too blurry and shaky).






Love this cardinal plate, found at TJ Maxx some years ago.



Squirrels and birds abound in this household.



Another framed cardinal greeting card -- do you see the pair -- one on the park bench, one on the snow next to it?





The main floor bathroom received some Christmas cheer, too:




Sunday, December 7, 2014

More Christmas "Reveals" at Maison Newton III

Hola!

I fluffed up the new 4 foot tall artificial trees with lights (in urns, woo woo! -- you caught a glimpse of them hiding out in a corner of my dinette --)


destined for the front porch, and got them looking all spiffy.  Hauled them out to the front stoop, unwrapped the outdoor power cord I bought yesterday at Walgreens, plugged everything in and - voila - NOTHING.

Oh poop.

I was racing against sundown, which comes before 4:30 p.m. in these parts these days, geez.  CAN'T WAIT FOR SOLSTICE when the days will start to get longer, a few minutes each day.  In 30 days of December 21, we'll have gained an hour and a bit more sunlight, thank Goddess!

Didn't work. Not a fricking flicker.  ARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!  The trees are so cute and would look pretty lit up!  I really wanted them to light up this evening and introduce the new neighborhood to Maison Newton style, ahem.  I tried several different things and nothing worked.  I may just resort to battery-operated lights.

Although the big Christmas tree reveal is past, here are  photos of how I decorated the rest of Maison Newton III.  There may be a tweak or two upcoming but, basically, this is it.

P.S.  Decided it's ridiculous to keep referring to the "FORMER" Maison Newton, as if it had died and gone to House Heaven.  So now it's Maison Newton I (first house bought in 1986, sold in 1989), Maison Newton II (second house, stick built and moved into in August 1990, closed on sale June 30, 2014), and Maison Newton III (1956 one story rancher with a smaller lot and much smaller footprint, my retirement home, closed on buy June 30, 2014).

Here come the photos!


Above:  The new gel-fuel fireplace/mantel, decked out for the holidays, and the old coffee table with its minimalistic decorations -- gold pine cone pics amidst the Norfolk pine and the silver-colored ceramic deer I bought last year at Walgreens.



Photo above, the bookcase niche decorated for Christmas with votives, flameless candles, and a few other Christmas trinkets.



A closer look at one of the bookcase niche shelves:  mercury glass votive, a Christmas trinket box holding station underneath Xena Warrior Princess' horse, and an ornament/music box.  The trinket box and the ornament/music box were both gifts from investment club members in prior years.



Above, left side of the mantel.  I took Coz Roxanne's advice and removed the porcelain church and added a low dish of ornaments; I introduced height and rhythm with the tall mercury glass votives.  I bought them at Kirkland's online a few years ago and they were such a deal; I believe I paid $19.99 on sale for the set of three.  Hanging just beneath the mantel are some jingle-bells I picked up at The FamilyDollar last weekend.  The light blue and silvery colors go well in the living room.



The mantel from the right side.  I did not want to put too much on the mantel -- it's smaller than the one I had at Maison Newton II and not as deep.  This mercury glass candle stand is a favorite find from TJ Maxx a few years ago.  It anchors the space with a flameless candle atop but doesn't crowd the t.v., balancing out the trio of tall votive holders on the other side.



A lot of wow for little effort!  There's not much simpler than piling some ornaments in a pretty glass dish, and this worked so well in the space.  They are mini-ornaments in satin white, shiny silver, one satin gold and one shiny gold.  Some of the ornaments have white curling ribbon strung through them -- adds a little frou-frou.  The mini-size ornaments I used to fill the glass dish are just right, I think; 2" diameter ornaments may have been a bit too large for the space and I wouldn't have been able to pile as many of them in the dish.



The tree and the counter, view from patio door (see opening paragraphs, above).

The lantern on the left was purchased at TJ Maxx a few years ago, it was $20.

The deer duo in the center are faux wood and were $9.99 each at Walgreen's.  In design, they are similar to beautiful gilded deer I've seen at Gumps online for $128 for a pair.  Holy Hathor! Soooo glad I added them to my Christmas decor.  I first saw them last Christmas but by the time I made up my mind to spend $10 for each one, they were all gone.  I think the deer look organic with their "wood" finish and work fine on wood countertop, while giving a nod to continuity with some contrast to the little silver-colored ceramic deer trio I bought last year at Walgreen's for my 2013 mantel.  It's hard to make out, but in-between the deer duo is an elegant brass ornament holder and a beautiful blown-glass rainbow-colored finial ornament.  It was a gift from one of our investment club gift swaps a few years ago.

The tall brass candlestick on the right with the glass hurricane cover were purchased more than 25 years ago at the former Gimbels downtown store.  How I miss Gimbels!  The candle is a vanilla-scented pillar -- it's not going to last until Christmas, LOL! It smells so good when lit, but it is burning down quickly as it is lit every night.  Can you believe it started life at 8 inches tall?



The view from the living room into the kitchen.  The former owner, Mrs. "Seller," installed the vinyl print saying above the pass-through:  "In all things of nature, there is something of the MARVELOUS -- Aristotle."  I couldn't agree more.  This view is one of my favorite views in the house. It overlooks the dining table (minus computer and stacks of papers for this day) straight out into my back yard and beyond.  It faces east, so I get good light, especially in the summer.

Below, a photo of the show-stopping tree topper I fretted over and came up with a solution late Saturday evening December 6 by adding the bling -- three gold colored picks from prior years I discovered in a box marked "tree topper stuff."  LOL!  I'm not showing you the tree topper in this photo because I'm crazy about it but this photo shows the bird sitting on top of the bookcase (china) hutch in the background to the right.  She's the Queen of Heaven in her dove form, crowned in gold, and she sits upon the highest perch in the room, surveying all below.  



She sparkles -- tried to get a close up without getting on a ladder -- ssttrreettcchh:



Not such a good photo, it's not all sparkly like she is!



I'm living with the wall color on the living room "accent wall" until spring 2015, then it's sooooo gone...  Oops, I see I caught my reflection in the mirror back of the hutch, geez!  You'd think by now I'd know better.  I look rather like a Peruvian mummy in that reflection, hmmm...

More to come, but not tonight -- it's 9 p.m. and one of my t.v. favorites, Revenge, is coming on.