Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Beautiful Jewelry I can Afford!

Last weekend (two weekends ago? who can keep track... )

Sometime in the recent past... I accompanied my mother to a Gem and Jewelry Show.

I'd never had much interest in going to one because frankly the word "gem" is out of my price range. I didn't realize that fully half of the show is things that I can afford, like beads and wire to make my own jewelry, jade and pearl creations from China, and the occasional much more expensive looking gem (look, turns out I can afford to use it!) buried amongst the rest. Here is the one I found (and obviously took home with me!):

That's a rather overexposed shot, so here's an underexposed one to balance it out:

The designer, Babrbara Garwood, was manning the table herself and was more than happy to tell me the wonderful story of how her pieces are created. Inspired by designs she sees in museums, Ancient Byzantine being one of her favorite influences, she sketches out each piece and sends her sketches to Mongolian master-craftsmen where the pieces are constructed from silver wires, enamel, jewels and stones and coated in 24 karat cold. Even the backs of her pieces are gorgeous!

She has a website where you can see some of her other stuff and see the unbelievable prices. I practically got this pendant for free because as pieces sell out at her show, she takes the odd men left from sets (like someone else bought the earrings and necklace that match this) and puts them in a box and marks everything $34! So with tax my pendant was $35! Unbelievable...

Someday, these earrings will also belong to me...:$88!!

Though these are gorgeous, too...:Ahh, to shop, perchance to dream?...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let There Be (Pretty) Light!

I've finally found a fixture to replace that awful (ok, not awful, but awfully plain and traditional) light on my dining room ceiling!
This is the fixture that was up there before:Except the shade was a pure white, which cast an awful, glaring light.

And this is what I've replaced it with:

I also installed a dimmer switch for it (and when I say "I", I mean the same friend that helped us do the window-sills,) which might have helped the old fixture be more user-friendly.
I'm so happy that before the family descends for the holidays I actually have lighting that will simultaneously allow me to create a lovely candlelit atmosphere, and the guests to see their food!

I confess that this wasn't my first choice, I wanted something arm-y that wasn't flush mount so that when we get a real table set (to replace this patio set we stole from our deck, which is bar height) we can lower the light accordingly. But my husband loved this one (as did my mother) and it was one of my top three choices, so I guess with this style it doesn't matter so much if it's not 30 inches above the table top, right?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Baby, It's COLD Outside!!

Is that ICE on my River?!!!

Yes it is. It's been below freezing for a little over a week now, but I didn't think a moving river would freeze so quickly! Shows how much I know...

Despite the below-freezing temperatures, Saturday afternoon I evilly forced my husband out on a bittersweet collecting trip. I thought, ,"He's always complaining that we don't spend enough time outside, he loves a little hike, and he skis, so the cold really shouldn't bother him." Boy was I wrong!

Bittersweet is a vine that grows around other plants (and trees and telephone poles) and in the fall grows beautiful reddish-orange berries. The vines make wonderful holiday wreaths and garlands, and though I've never made either before I thought I'd give it a try.

So we took a trip back to the fields we'd taken the dogs running a couple of weeks ago, where I knew there was plenty of foliage to be found. Clippers in hand, we hiked out and partook of the bounty.

For about 20 minutes.

After which my husband was complaining so loudly of the cold that I gave up!

We did manage to come home with two big arm-loads of bittersweet and enough birch branches to fill my two big vases.

These branches in the blue living room I'll spray a silvery white and sprinkle with an opalescent glitter. I'll make a trip back to the Christmas Tree Shop to see if they still have the battery operated mini lights, which I'll weave in the vase and lower parts of the branches.

And these in my orange and red dining room I'll try to give an antique gold coating. I may have to make my first attempt at gold-leafing to get the look I'm thinking of! For the lighting on this bunch I've put a short pillar candle behind it so it up-lights the branches, casting a really cool pattern on the ceiling.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Great New Christmas CD!

Rachel Ray has come out with a Christmas CD, and it's fantastic!

No, no, she hasn't taken up singing (probably a good thing since she always seems to be losing her voice,) she has gathered together a bunch of classic Christmas songs on one very well priced CD. I picked up How Cool is That Christmas at Borders books for $5.99! What makes it really great is that while they are songs I recognize, they are versions that I haven't heard on the radio a million times (and I'm one of those people that listens to 103.3 as soon as they start playing the holiday tunes, which was the day after Halloween this year!)
Strangely, Amazon is selling this same album for twice as much money...

I also received Harry Connick Jr's 3rd holiday album, What A Night! I have been playing his first, When My Heart Finds Christmas, for about 6 years now, and while I adore it, my husband was getting a bit sick of it. I wasn't sure if this one would live up to the legend of the other, but it's pretty darn good! It's jazzier than the first was, but while I'm less tempted to sing along I think it will be great to have on in the background while cooking (and you know, dancing around the kitchen!) And best of all, it sounds different enough from the first one that the husband has no cause to complain!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas is A Comin' !!

I know, I know! It's not even Thanksgiving yet! I know because my husband keeps yelling that at me...

And although I can't begin playing Christmas music (when the husband is home...) until after the Turkey has been eaten, and can't go buy my tree until someone is actually selling them (yes I still buy real ones and spend the intervening year sweeping them up,) no one can stop me from planning the decorations!

So I spent the afternoon on looking for inspiration, and here's what I found:

I love the traditional look of this red white and gold theme. It always seems so hard to get that wonderfully full look they have achieved here. How to do that without looking like a rats nest?

They've done a good job of that on this slightly more Toyland tree, too. Though since my living room walls are now blue, I don't think the classic Christmas green will look quite right against it.

I am strangely drawn to the white trees this year. Strange, of course, because I have banished all the white walls in my house... But I like how easy it is to do a shimmery ethereal effect, or...

go for a real POP!

Sadly, a pretty white tree is neither in the budget, nor the list of allowed items my youngest sister (who has taken over planning family Christmas at my house) has issued. Maybe I'll find a nice one at the after-Christmas sales and have two trees next year...
On an unrelated note, I adore that coffee table! Or part of that coffee table... it depends on what those insets are: tile good; glass bad! And is that wall above the fireplace bronzed?

Speaking of tables, I found some interesting ideas for that, too.

I like the combination of the natural and shiny elements. Though the shininess of the orb candles on the stag is somehow distracting... possibly it is less so in real life. But what a striking stag that is! I would love to find something like that. Though, frankly, I would never spend the money required to purchase one that large! But a nice idea...

And while this one isn't quite so striking, I have a scarf that I could use for that table runner, and I have some gold chargers and cream pillar candles... so really I copied this because I could conceivably do that with what I already own! And though I can't see it completely, I am fascinated by that chandelier!

And finally:

The guest bedroom! I have plans to paint the guest bedroom a nice spring green, and how cute would it be to turn it into a little Christmas suite with pops of red and gold?! I also really like the effect of the twinkle lights in the glass vase. The Christmas Tree Shop had tiny strands of battery-operated mini lights for like $3 that I liked but couldn't think of anything to do with, and those would be perfect in a vase! Maybe with some sparkley branches stuck in there... ooh I like that idea!

I don't suppose my husband could complain if I just started experimenting with decorating ideas... it's not really decorating then, right??

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good Scents!

And yes, that's meant to be a play on words implying that I found a great, inexpensive fragrance!

I like to attempt to match the scent in my house somewhat to the current season, and I always have a little difficulty this time of year. Most winter fragrances make me or my husband either hungry, or head-achy.
But I am pleased to say that I have found both a candle and a reed diffuser in scents that make my house smell like a wonderful forest, and cost less than $10! (ok, the initial reed diffuser is $13, but stay with me...)
First, Glade's Glistening Snow candle:

I can't find any product images, so you'll have to put up with my bad picture of it.
For about $5 (I got it on sale at Target for $2.50!) this candle fills my house with a wonderful, slightly sweet woodsy fragrance for hours. tells me that it's fresh bayberry with undertones of cinnamon, clove and peppermint.
Though I rarely actually burn it for more than an hour at a time since the essential oils in the candle let off a rather strong aroma that fills the kitchen and living room very quickly.

And then the Chesapeake Bay Oil Diffuser in Winter Pine:

This is a very fresh evergreen smell that I love- it makes my house smell like a fresh Christmas tree!
I purchased this one at Target too, for I think $12.99, but the best part is that you can buy refills for $5! So if you have a pretty bottle that you paid a little more for but like the scents available in these refills (I remember there being Sandlewood, Apple something, and one other in addition to the Winter Pine), instead of paying another $15 for the oil in the fancy bottle, you can just buy the $5 refill and put it in your nice container!

This less expensive line from Chesapeake Bay doesn't show up on the Target website, so you'll have to make a trip to the actual store to get them. They're in the candle aisle.

Time: Months of searching, and a 10 minute trip to Target!

Cost: $17.50! (if you don't count the $30 I spent on other fragrances I didn't like...)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Unexpected Art

There were two bare walls in my pink bathroom that have been bothering me for a bit.
I couldn't quite think what to put in there that would look right both thematically and aesthetically. And then I inherited three square gold picture frames with teapot paintings in them. Well, clearly teapots aren't quite my speed, but the frames were interesting sizes- one about 6 inches square and the other two about 4 inches square. So I decided to frame a few things that don't necessarily belong in a normal person's bathroom.

I filled the larger frame with the cover from a souvenir box of Godiva chocolates from Paris. I thought it was cute, so I'd saved it, and here the colors turned out to be perfect!

The two smaller frames I filled with postcards of miniature paintings I had picked up in India.

Most of the postcards I'd purchased were from the Kama Sutra, so I was happy to see that I had two that were not so... explicit!

The larger frame nicely filled the empty spot on the wall next to my medicine cabinet, and I stacked the other two kitty-corner to that in the slim spot next to the door.

They make me grin every time I walk into my bathroom now!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Unapologetically Cute

This past weekend my siblings came to visit, and brought their dogs with them.
I don't have any dogs (yet,) I have two cats who spent most of the weekend hiding outside or under the couch. Between the five animals (yup, five!) there was so much cuteness going on that I felt the need to share.

First Toby started trying to cause some trouble by batting at Skittles' whiskers while Skittles was trying to eat.

Skittles didn't like it much, but behaved very well, only hissing and swiping at Toby twice.

Moments later my younger sister, Sarah, arrived with her two Pointers, one 6 months old (Mia) and one about 9 years old(Promise), and the cats high-tailed it to their favorite hiding places. The dogs, meanwhile, quickly discovered a motorized mouse toy that made so much noise that the cats were too terrified to play with, so I happily let the dogs at it.

Though they were trained to hunt birds, they didn't seem to care much that this was covered in fuzz instead of feathers.

After my older sister arrived with Oscar, her sweet but ENORMOUS mutt (best we can figure he's some kind of Rottweiler/Great Dane mix), we decided to take the dogs out for a nice walk to tire them out a bit.
Mia, the younger of the two Pointers, loved the idea and decided to help out.

Oscar, though twice her size, played along and let Mia lead him around the house a bit.

What a good sport, eh?
A run through a nearby field had the desired effect and tired the dogs out nicely.

Awww... Which allowed us to do a little shopping. We headed over to the Christmas Tree Shop to check out the early Christmas decoration specials, where Sarah found the PERFECT Christmas outfit for Mia.

The men were appalled that we would do such a thing to the poor, defenseless dog, but she didn't seem to mind too much. And she's soooooo cute!

Aw, so sleepy and so cute... time to go home!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our Sailboat Baby is Here!

Our brand new (to us) Olympic class 470 sail boat!

Doesn't Haris look so happy? He's posing there with the spinnaker pole. The guy who dropped it off showed us how to rig it up. Here's a shot of it with the jib up:

Look at the size of that thing! The mast is something like 26 feet long (you can't see the top of it in these pictures,) and with the 15.5 foot long hull, this thing is going to move! We didn't raise the main sail in the driveway because it was way too windy, and the boom was within swinging distance of the Volvo's rear window, and though eager we were, we thought cracking his window would be a poor way to repay the guy for driving the boat all the way up from Rhode Island.

Haris has told me that instead of jewelry this year for Valentine's Day I'll be getting a wetsuit and sailing gloves! Check out this video of the pros sailing some 470's (in much heavier winds than we'll be sailing in, I hope!) and you'll see why!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Newest Member of the Family

Now, don't get so excited Moms! Here she is:

For about three years the conversation has gone like this:
Husband: "When will you buy me a boat?"
Me: "After you buy me a house!"

Well. I have my house, so last weekend we drove down to Bridgeport Connecticut (via Teaticket, Cape Cod, MA to see a trailer that we didn't buy...) to fulfill my end of the bargain. We couldn't fit the boat on top of the car- the current owner is going to deliver it this weekend- but we filled the car with sails, tiller, rudder and centerboard, which have kept my husband giggling happily all week. I'll post some better pictures and more detail this weekend when she arrives. Yay!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Halloween: 0 to 60 in 1 Year!

Over the last five years and last five homes, we've had a total of 1 trick-or-treater, and this year we got 60!

I guess that's what happens when you move to a quaint neighborhood in the suburbs! Since I will dress for any occasion, I donned my good ol' gypsy costume to answer the door. Normally this costume involves a very bare midriff, but in consideration of the small children (and let's face it, the temperature!) I added a tank top and

shawl to make it a bit more modest.

We had a notion that we'd get a few kids at the door, so we stocked up with three double-sized bags of candy. Around 7:30, though, we could see the bottom of the bowl and Haris panicked and ran out and bought 3 more bags. Which we are now trying very hard not to eat, because apparently 7:30 is the end of suburban trick or treating time... we'll have to remember that for next year.

Somehow my decorating enthusiasm failed me on this holiday, and this was the extent of my Halloween decorations:

That's Skittles in the window there- I had to tempt him up there with a bowl of food. Oddly, though, I'm already planning my Christmas decorations...