February 3, 2015: Hola darlings! I am SOOOO happy -- I officially retired on January 30, 2015. I am a FREE WOMAN! If you are retired, you probably know this feeling of being completely liberated to do the things that you WANT to do instead of the things that you HAVE to do in order to keep a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food on the table. I am so thankful to be in this position -- retired three years earlier than I thought would happen. Now I actually have energy to do some of those projects around Maison Newton! We got socked with a snow storm over the weekend and Lake Michigan piled on some lake effect snow for good measure -- 11.5" official but I have 3 and 4 foot tall drifts! Well, I am not complaining too loudly because we've had way below average snow-fall this winter; more snow is coming later today - I heard starting around 3 p.m. and making rush hour traffic a mess! I hope Mother Nature doesn't decide that February, March and April are "make up for that" months! The new collage contrasts the conditions outside and the warm and cozy inside of Maison Newton. This house is definitely growing on me :) Take care, everyone! Jan

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Two of My Squirrels

Hola everyone!

Will spring EVER come?  A week ago Monday I was basking in 70 degrees F; today it's threatening snow, and will be in the 30's all week.  Sigh.  After our brief week of warm weather (2 weeks ago), though, all of the snow and ice have melted from my yard, YAH!  And the sump pump, which had kicked in two weeks ago Sunday, finally stopped its non-stop running five days later.  It has cycled on only a few times since, so I know the ground has dried out after the foot and 1/2 of snow melted from the front lawn!

Now all the lawn services are going around door to door in the neighborhood trying to drum up business.  They do NOT understand the meaning of N-O!

As you know, I'm a squirrel nut.  I feed an entire tribe of them all year round.  About a month ago, on a very sunny but bitterly cold day, two small squirrels showed up in my backyard.  I could tell they were not regulars of the tribe because they were very thin and scrawny looking, and both of their tails were rather bedraggled.  My heart immediately went out to both of them.  I stood at my patio door and watched as they searched for food.  One could barely move and was either very sick or injured, although I could not see exactly where or what its injury may have been; I thought perhaps it had the "tipping" disease -- that's what I call it -- I think it is a brain disease that affects a squirrel's balance; the other squirrel passed right by hazelnuts and peanuts, as if it couldn't see them.  And then it dawned on me after watching for awhile, that little squirrel could NOT see.  It was blind!

I very carefully opened up the patio door and rolled more nuts out, trying to get them as close to the newcomers as possible.  The blind squirrel walked right over some of them, but once I hit in in the rump with a hazelnut he turned and was able to find the nut!  My other, healthy fat squirrels tolerated their presence; normally the healthy squirrels will chase each other away if it looks like one is getting too greedy with the nuts or is attempting to move into the territory.

I had not seen a blind squirrel before -- could not even imagine that such a thing was possible -- how could a blind squirrel possibly survive in the wild?  He actually got close enough to me, barely a foot away as I was kneeling down at the patio door attempting to roll nuts into its little paws, and I could see that its right eye was white-opaque -- maybe a cataract, maybe blind in that eye from birth?  No way for me know.  I named him Blinky, for it appeared that the right eyelid would droop over the blind eye as Blinky ate.

The other little squirrel that was either sick or injured (or both), did not come close enough for me to get a good look, but after about 10 days I was able to get some photos of him as he visited the yard and rummaged for peanuts (his preferred food over hazelnuts) and sunflower seeds:


The photo above was taken on March 12th, when the thaw was in progress (that's my back patio -- it was a mess).  You can see the little one's injured left shoulder, the matted fur, and the wizened left leg and paw, but he has become chubby thanks to my food supply!  I named him Intrepid, Treppy for short. It's just amazing to me that an animal could survive such a severe injury; how intrepid this little fellow must be. You are not able to see it in this photo but I could see where his skin has been torn open/pierced and the remains of dried blood -- along with the matted fur, I believe his shoulder/leg muscles were severely injured and he will be permanently crippled.

Over the next days Treppy and Blinky visited often.  They may have come every day, but I did not see them every day.  Slowly but surely, they got plumper, and Treppy is now moving around much more like a normal squirrel, and can climb trees and the fences.

Here is a photo of Treppy taken about March 17th:


He maneuvers on his hind legs and his right front leg; you can see in the photo above that he keeps his left leg in the air, but when he has to move in a hurry it goes down and he scrambles away as fast as any other squirrel!  The injured area looks much improved from its condition in the March 12th photo.

I have not seen Treppy since the photo above, and I'm worried.

Today Blinky paid a visit and I was so happy to see him again!  While Treppy is very leery of me and my camera, Blinky would come right into the house if I held the door open for him, LOL!  Blinky is looking healthy, except for his blind right eye.  I tried getting several photos of him, but my hands have the shakes today so most of the photos turned out too blurry to see much of anything.  In the photo below (which is on maximum zoom on my ancient camera), you can sort of see his white eye as he sits atop the fence near my garage, happily nibbling away on a hazelnut:


He (she?) is not quite as chubby as Treppy but is in much better condition now than the first time I saw him. It seems he doesn't like being around the other squirrels, so he comes during non-rush hours (rush hours are sunrise to 8:30 and between 3-6 in the evening).  He still has difficulty finding the nuts but he must have vision in his left eye, else I cannot imagine how he would be able to survive.  This morning I spotted him sitting on top of the garage and I was relieved, for I had not seen him in several days.

I opened the patio door, and Blinky stood up.  He didn't turn his head, though, he just kept his blind eye toward me -- could he possibly see something out of it?  I tossed some nuts out -- and I could tell he instantly heard them hit the concrete patio.  He came scrambling down the roof, jumped to the fence, and down to the patio and started searching; I rolled a few nuts to him -- it's like playing bocce ball with hazelnuts, LOL!  Up into his little paws -- how do they hold a nut and climb at the same time?  Up to the top of the fence, then he cracked open the hard hazelnut shell with his teeth.  He ate four nuts, then disappeared toward the southeast over the garage roof.

I hope I see Treppy and Blinky again.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Bedroom Rug Bust

Oh crap.  I finally pulled the trigger on March 4th and ordered two area rugs for my Mistress Bedroom.

I thought the light grey color might work with the other tones in the room, even though the walls are much darker; I wanted (or thought I wanted) rugs that had some warmer (beige) tones, and also a little touch of black and red.  These rugs have all of those colors, and I liked the Oshak pattern.  I thought the warmer tones would work well with my dark dressers and the much lighter refinished oak hardwood floors.  For Feng Shui purposes, I wanted to have something with a bit of red to tie into the other bits of red I have scattered about the room (they are very subtle, you don't even realize they're there). I figured the black would go with anything, and tie into my black bedskirt and, when I remove the grey and cream duvet cover, my black and white toile comforter.

Rugs as ordered:

Safavieh Lyndhurt Oshak grey/beige rug, Overstock.com.  
I thought they would work, but began having second thoughts almost immediately.

Then I would go back and look at the photos of the rugs and be reassured that they would, indeed, work in the space.

They came today.

I unwrapped them.

I laid them down (to uncurl and unkink) on the wood floor in the Mistress Bedroom.



They don't go. (Please try to ignore than I threw one of the rugs on top of current area rug that came along from the old house; it doesn't really "go" either, but it's better than cold bare feet in the winter!)

Oh, they look fine against the floor, and go nicely with the dark dressers and the black bedskirt, but they don't go at all with the duvet cover. Scale of the patterns and colors are way off.

I like the duvet cover.  I do not like the rugs in the current scheme of things.

Damn damn damn damn damn.  Should have listened to my second thoughts and cancelled the order.

I'm not one for returning things unless defective, and I sure don't want to go through the hassle of getting these wrapped (how?  The plastic wrap they came in was destroyed by my eager scissors) and to the post office (would have to hike more than a mile on foot to get there, toting two rugs?  I don't think so!)  I'm thinking they'll work well in the guest room, where the colors and pattern will coordinate much better with the curtains, bedding and the wall color.

The guest room is on my "to do" list, but I won't tackle that room until my bedroom is "finished" -- needing only the rugs and completion of my gallery wall.  For now.

Back to the (rug) drawing board.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Cool Hacks: West Elm Reclaimed Wood Buffet and Hicks Pendant Light

Hola!

I'm not particularly fond of the term "hack" to describe modifying an object to turn it into another form of the same object (like the ubiquitous "Ikea hacks") -- to me hack signifies a person who smells like a bar the morning after (if you ever worked in a bar and cleaned up after hours you know exactly the smell I'm talking about) -- a rummy, if you will -- and is just going through the motions performing his or her craft or trade.  A perfect example of a hack was the role performed by Paul Newman in the excellent 1982 movie "The Verdict" in which he played a washed-up, burnt-out lawyer with a drinking problem.

Be that as it may, I do love the idea of making something "low" look like something "high" at a minimum cost, and to that end one of my favorite websites is Knock Off Decor.   I visit it often to see what you genius d-i-y-ers out there in blogland are doing with your creative selves!

This morning I saw two projects that just blew me away:

The first one is a "Reclaimed Wood Buffet Ikea Hack" that was done by Aniko at Place of My Taste.  Aniko fell in love with West Elm's "Reclaimed wood and lacquer buffet" that has a price tag of $1,199 plus $100 delivery surcharge.  Yikes!  It sure is a beauty, though, I do have to say so:

Photo:  West Elm website.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Big Lazy and Pinterest Pins

Hola darlings!

Well, since retirement D-Day I've been doing a whole fat lot of n.o.t.h.i.n.g.  Binge-watching the Property Brothers and Rehab Addict on Netflix and hunkering down during our nasty February and - thus far - pretty nasty March.  But supposedly the weather is going to turn - at least for a few days - starting tomorrow, with the temperature getting up to 30 F, 34 on Saturday, 38 on Sunday and 40 on Monday, woo woo.  I have to say, the Sun IS feeling much stronger and warmer on my skin, even today, with below-zero windchills.  I had to go for a mammogram and since I had rescheduled from a month ago when the weather was even colder, I bundled up and stuffed Hot Hands into my down mittens and braved the cold.  Brrrrrr!!!  Fortunately, since I was travelling by city bus during the week the buses are scheduled much more frequently than on Saturdays and I had things timed pretty well so I didn't have too long of a wait to transfer buses to get to where I needed to go.

Well, that's done for six months and the only dreaded up-comings are a couple of dental appointments I've yet to schedule and ditto for a full physical with my primary care doctor.  She will scold me, I know, for letting it go so long.

After I got back home this morning and settled into lazy mode again, I saw a nudge in my email from Pinterest, so I thought why not, drop in and take a look.  Well, I found some cool stuff -- here are a few:

First up, this great idea for using an old lean-against (not step) ladder to create a canopy effect over one's bed.  Never would have thought of this in a million years.  I tracked down the original idea posted at Pinterest, found it at Chipping with Charm blog:


The only thing I would do is move the curtains to cover over those large brackets.  I love her color scheme, BTW.  The light blue, white and grey, lovely.

And then, there is this absolutely stunning living room -- and more!  There are also pics of the dining area and kitchen -- all open to each other and perfectly coordinated.  There is enough inspiration in the living room alone to last me a lifetime, let me tell you.  I WANT THAT SPACE!  The link is to the first photo in the series at Flickr which I believe were taken by (or are originally from) Lynda Q. Davids' Focal Point Styling; I just kept clicking on the right arrow and more photos of the space kept appearing so eventually you saw every part of the living room, and then the dinette, and then the kitchen.  I cannot say enough about the sophisticated color palette and the absolute design perfection of these spaces.  Here's one of the photos of the living room:


The ethereal curtains -- there are a couple photos of them -- were found at a Goodwill store and were tagged $5.99 a panel!  Check out the photo series, it's just absolutely stunning.  Whoever put this design together won whatever the equivalent of an Oscar is for designers in my book.  WOW!

I also followed a couple of links to websites that gave some good step-by-step instructions on how to paint one's kitchen cabinets.  Yes, I'm contemplating doing the job myself because I do not want to think about how much it would cost to get a pro in here to do it for me simply because I'm being so damn lazy!

I read about two different approaches:  one used a cabinet restoration kit by Rustoleum and one used home-made chalk paint and deck sealer.  I have to tell you, chalk paint and deck sealer sounds like my kind of d-i-y job.  If I do go this route, I will wait until it is warm enough to rig up some kind of plastic-drape enclosed space in my garage (I don't have a vehicle so there's plenty of room to use it for such projects) and figure out where I'm going to lean 21 cabinet doors to dry and "cure."  Holy Hathor!  This kitchen is not large, and I just counted 21 cabinet doors!

Now I'm having second thoughts.  Thus is design paralysis created, geesh.  I've either got to do it myself, or pay someone to do it for me.  Hmmm.  Should the choice really be this hard???

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Is This Just A Glorified Boob Light???

I've been looking around off and on for some different kind of lighting for my kitchen and dinette area.  They are wide open to each other and I want them to be coordinated through either style or color, if not matchy-matchy.  I still go for matchy-matchy, BTW.  There is a third light by the kitchen windows, above the sink.  It is pretty much a classic boob light, but it doesn't have a rounded nipple - it looks like it had a mammogram and got squished.  Replacing this light (if I do), will be problematical as the space is small and I haven't seen anything that looks like it "goes" with any of the other light fixtures I like:



Its rim is a sort of dark copper-y color though, not that almost blackish-dark brown that some manufacturers try to foist off on unsuspecting consumers as "rubbed bronze fnish."  

There is a matching fixture in my back hallway/entry/basement stair landing, and I don't care about that because nobody, absolutely nobody, is standing there looking up at the light fixture critizing it.  In contrast, there is  a true boob light in my narrow hallway to which the bedrooms and bath append:


You can definitely see that protruding nipple, LOL!

Thank goodness that most people, though, don't usually look up at a hallway ceiling fixture through which they're passing in a few seconds.

Anyway, I came across this fixture at Overstock and it has a matching chandelier that would, I think, look beautiful above my dinette table.  Here is the semi-flush mount ceiling fixture that would go in the center of the kitchen work area:

I think it's gorgeous.  I love the metal work and the more copper-y finish, along with the translucent glass shade.  I think that if I left the light in above the sink until I find the absolute perfect solution, they would all work together.  

But -- is this just a glorified boob light look????

I would be horrified to replace two light fixtures in such a visible part of the house with what amount to glorified boob lights -- wish I'd never come across the term.  Damn!  Here is the chandelier:


The price is good on the combo, too, with free shipping.  But - should I keep looking for something less "booby?"  Do I have a psychological fixation on boob light fixtures?  Do manufacturers have a psychological fixation on boob light fixtures -- or feed into this irrational fetish on a grand scale -- all around the globe???? Arrrgggghhhh - sometimes I hate this home improvement stuff.

Duvet Cover Redux

Hola darlings!

Happy belated Valentine's Day to all.  This is what I woke up to on February 14:


We had a snow storm two weeks ago Sunday and had nearly a foot of snow dumped on us; and then we went back into the deep freeze.  Slowly, ever so slowly, as the sun has come out every now and then and the rays ARE getting more intense during the countdown to the Spring Equinox, the snow levels have shrunk somewhat, but as you can see, there is still plenty of it and it's not going anywhere in a hurry!  I was rinsing out some dishes just after dawn on the 14th and looking out my kitchen windows and I thought "What is that?  Fog???"  But I knew it could NOT be fog -- it was like 10 below outside!  No -- it was SNOW.  With the texture of sand in a sandstorm.

I tried to get a couple pictures of it by quickly sticking my camera out the front door -- managed to get a wet lens but not that sense of sandstorm that was happening at 6:30 a.m. on February 14th!  You can see on the driveway, though (above), that blowy-drifty kind of fine grit snow that swirls up into sudden white-out conditions.  Photo above was taken looking to the southwest.  Photo below was taken looking toward the northwest:


Today it is sunny, YAH!  But very very cold.  I hiked to the Pick 'n Save yesterday about 1:30 p.m. -- during the height of the "warmth" when the windchill was about zero degrees F, and picked up some supplies.  Today it will be temps consistently 10 to 15 below zero F because of winds out of the northwest.  Sigh.  We won't get a break from this until Saturday, when it may get up into the 20's, YAH, but also snow.  BOO.  Old Man Winter ain't letting go of Milwaukee any time soon.

So, now that I am a FREE woman, I've been spending a LOT of time working on my friend Barb's family tree and going through ink on my small printer like you wouldn't believe. I completed the first family lines binder and could not squeeze another page into the 1.5" binder; Barb moved the contents to a 3" binder and it works much better now, and a good thing too, because I still have more pages to insert.  Now I'm working on the second binder which contains the "paternal" lines and it's going to be as large as (if not larger than) the first binder.  There are many more people and family lines I was able to trace back to Europe in the 1600's in the paternal line so I'm going to have to pick and choose what records to print out and what stories to tell!  All of us have wonderful stories in our family histories -- if only you knew...

BUT, I have taken some breaks from this fascinating work.  On February 4th, I nearly strangled myself with an Ikea duvet cover, and things went downhill from there.


Do you see how perfect the set looks in the photo, above, from the Ikea website.  They should take photos of what the bedding looks like after someone like me spends a night sleeping on it! Truth in advertising!


I really tried to like this cover, I really did.

But I just was not happy with it.  The material is ultra-soft and warm and I loved sleeping beneath it, it has a luxurious feeling and is wonderfully comfortable, and the flowered vine pattern is artful and lovely!  I especially loved the pop of red color.  But this just wasn't doing it for me.  I thought I would grow to like it more and so left it on my bed for 10 days, but on Valentine's Day I knew it was coming off.

I just could not deal with the wrinkles.  I get the night sweats something fierce (still) and so I'm constantly waking up at night and flinging the comforter off, and then back on as I cool down, and it's a broken record like that throughout the night.  The Lyocel fabric wrinkled too easily during this on-again, off-again process, and I couldn't get the wrinkles smoothed out in the morning when I huffed and puffed and fluffed the comforter (perhaps my over-heating body permanently "ironed" in wrinkles???), attempting to make the impossible happen (wrinkles disappear).

I am not going to give up on it, though.  I have a plan for how to adapt this set to fit my comforter and pillows better.  You can see by comparing the photo of the bed above with the photo of the bed below, how much larger the Rodbinka set is that the Alvine Kvist set.  That needs to be changed, so I will haul out my sewing machine and stitch away...  I envision using the lovely Rodbinka set during the fall through December, and I will switch out some accessories to accommodate the red tones.

But for now, Rodbinka is resting in a drawer and I unwrapped the Ikea Alvine Kvist duvet cover that I had purchased at the same time:


My experience in putting this set on my bed compared to my wrestling with the Rodbinka duvet set was as different as night and day!

After cold-water washing and drying the Alvine Kvist, I ironed it. I won't kid you, it took a long time to do this, although not as long as it did to iron the Rodbinka set.  The Alvine Kvist set is 100% cotton and so ironed beautifully and did not readily wrinkle again as I maneuvered the large duvet cover around the ironing board to get it all ironed.  This was a very different experience than when I ironed the Rodbinka Lyocel material.  To be fair, the Alvine Kvist cotton cover has a much sturdier "hand" to it than the Rodbinka cover, and is not nearly as translucent and soft, so it holds up much better to handling.  It also buttons down the openings on both the pillow covers and the duvet cover rather than closing with ties (which I found for some reason I seemed to undo nearly every night while I "slept").  The opening on the Alvine Kvist duvet cover goes all the way across its top, too, so it was much easier to stuff my comforter into it; also, the size of the Alvine Kvist pillow covers and duvet cover are somewhat smaller (tighter) than the Rodbinka set, and my pillows and comforter fit into the covers much better -- less "wiggle room," so to speak.

I love the pattern -- it's a floral in charcoal grey against a creamy white background, and the background color goes perfectly with the creamy white Ikea curtains in my bedroom:


I paired the Alvine Kvist set with flannel charcoal and creamy white checked bedding that I bought online during Target's white sale last month.

Does the Alvine Kvist set wrinkle?  Yes, it does -- but not nearly as much as the Lyocel fabric did; I think the somewhat "tighter fittting" size, the "hand" of the fabric and the overall pattern help camouflage the few wrinkles that have appeared since the initial ironing.

I am soooooo happy with this set, and am totally in love with the look.  I think it will easily transition to spring -- if it ever comes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Finale: I Nearly Strangled Myself With A Duvet Cover

In order to get the full impact of this mega-drama, please check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Today, my third official day into retirement, I decided to iron the smutty duvet cover and get the job finished!  Come hook or crook, I wanted to get that Ikea duvet cover on my bed.

And so, off came the comforter, off came the sheets, off came the mattress cover. Never one to leave well enough alone, and since it hasn't been done since last July, I decided to flip over the mattress to see if I can temporarily erase sleeping in a crater (my poor back).  Oh brother.  Note to Self:  Must budget for new mattress set.

Heaved and shoved and pushed and pulled.  Let me tell you - this top mattress, it's no light-weight, ugh!  Finally, get it upright off the bed.


Notice where the arrow is:


Close up of arrow:


Facing the head of the bed from the foot, that arrow had been on the lower right hand corner...

More shoving and heaving of heavy mattress, I got my work-out!  Half-way to the goal line:


After much more heaving and shoving, I got the mattress turned around the corner to the other side of the bed!  But before I could get a decent picture of it, it started sliding downward -- OOOOHHHH NOOOOO!


I quick grabbed my camera and then tried to stablize the mattress - didn't work!  But I got this blurry photo of the turn arrow as I desperately gave it a yank with one arm and a swift kick with my my right leg (picture a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle move).  Notice its position now as it is falling, falling, falling onto the bed -- when finally settled, the arrow was in the upper left hand corner!  Success!  The mattress was turned 180 degrees.  Is this the stuff top blogs are made of, or what!