Friday, August 19, 2016

August: Waterskiing, Great Self Tanner and Black Cabinets

We are loving our new fence! Its added a lot to our outdoor ambience,
 more than I imagined it would.  Progress continues on the upper level, 
and the next project is to spread pea gravel all around the shed and tomato garden area.
The weeds have been growing all over the ground, and my solution was to snuff some out with this old oriental runner until we get the weed barrier put down and then the gravel.  I planted an eggplant in addition to my tomatoes, and look at my first eggplant! Its very satisfying to see things grow, and somehow I feel that next year this small garden will need to expand.
 I realize its been a few weeks since I have posted and its really been an unintended hiatus. This summer is shaping up to be the summer of all summers, weather wise, and its been wonderful overall, taking me away from the laptop into the beautiful outdoors. Since its been so nice (although very hot), I have been working a lot in the garden and yard.  In addition to yard work and enjoying our outdoor space, with our new fence (!), we took a week to head to a New Hampshire lake with my parents and some of our kids.  We had an open door policy for the guys to visit and stay over whenever they were able, and it was one of my most favorite lake vacations ever.
 Every day was filled with relaxation.  Having my mom and dad to share this with us was great, and although my dad is not really the kind of guy that sits around "doing nothing", even he was able to crack a book on the deck and absorb the peacefulness that being lakeside can offer one. I never got tired of sitting out there.  Perfect vacation mode activities included swimming every day, water skiing (yup, even I went skiing!), playing cards or banana grams, cooking big breakfasts and grilling bigger dinners, with turkey sandwiches for lunch and icy lemonade.  Ice cream cones and fresh corn on the cob from the local farm stand down the street were extra special treats. 
Night time swims were especially fun, but the most fun of all was watching Colby learn to swim!! 
 Prior to our trip I found a dog life vest at Marshalls and it was the most marvelous thing!  We strapped it onto the dog and it gave me peace of mind that he wouldn't sink or drown.  He was reluctant at first, but quickly got used to the idea of being in water.  Hubs would put him in the water from the ski boat about 100 feet or more from shore to follow one of the kids swimming back to the cottage. Worked like a charm. Colby was a good little swimmer, keeping his head above water and diligently paddling to shore with a determined expression. I can't say he loved it, but at least he wasn't afraid of it.  And on some of the hottest nights, he would willingly wade out should high with me along the shoreline.
Of course everyday included skiing, as that is Mr. Maison Decor's passion.  He bought this 1984 ski boat back in 1983 and has skied every year since.  He skied barefoot and one ski and it was quite impressive. Did I ever mention that when we began dating, I was in my late forties and he wanted me to water ski!? Errrr..... I hadn't done that since I was 12 years old...but I was determined to impress him, and after a few tries, I got up.  Its not my passion, but I was determined to share it with him.
Anyway, this time I got up after one try, and instead of trying to impress him, 
I was mostly trying to impress my son, Justin, who kind of laughingly asked 
if I wanted to give it a go, assuming I would say no.  Well, heck why not?
And without too much time to over think it, I jumped off the boat in the middle of the lake
and skied the length back to the cottage.  Done. That was plenty for me.  I did it, and I not
only surprised my son, but I felt elated that I still had the gumption to do it.
 And before I forget, THESE PANTS!  The other great buy I made this summer at Marshalls (and no, this is not a sponsored post), was this relatively pricey pair of swim pants from Trina Turk.  I wore them often and they were just fabulous slip ons over my bathing suit or nice and comfy for loungewear on the deck.  When I bought them I just thought they were mod summer pants, but then discovered the tag that said "swimwear collection" while I was in the ladies room at a recent wedding! Hahaha! 
These pants GO EVERYWHERE! 
 And while I am giving out kudos to my favorite buys this summer, I must mention that I discovered the best self tanning lotion, and I felt like I had been tanning for the entire month after just three applications.  Why do we feel we look better with a little color?  Especially if you want to wear sleeveless tops (or even a swim suit or shorts)?  If you want a realistic looking tan then give  L'Oreal Tanning Serum a try, it comes in a small squirt pump bottle at any drug store.
 I am in love with my new "healthy glow"!! 
 For the kids and the dog and the parents and the grandparents, 
this week was a great time was had by all.
Our youngest learned to master skiing on one ski, and after that big moment 
happened we started getting up before 6 am to take advantage of the glass like 
surface of the water.  It was glorious just watching it, and the sunrise was a bonus. 
But as all vacations do, it came to an end, and upon return to the house, and as I walked
 through the doors, I fell in love with my home all over again.  We have done quite a few upgrades,
 to include some new counter tops, the courtyard and the shed and of course the fence, 
and it feels and looks so good.
Feeling energized, I have tackled a few more minor updates, like painting all the cabinetry in my bathroom/laundry room black.  I had leftover paint from the French doors, so on a whim I painted these cabs and vanity and I love the result.  In the back of my mind, I know I am spurred on by the fact that there will be a photo shoot here with Fifi O'Neil for Romantic Country magazine in about a month.  That is like anyone hosting a big party for lots of people who have never seen your house and you want to make sure it looks as good as it can.  
So I find I am in that mode right now...what can I make look more beautiful? 
There is a list for sure.
While on vacation I did hit up the fabulous antique shop, White Home Collections
 in Wilton, New Hampshire.  These old rusty iron sconces came home with me from there....
as did a few other things like the dog statue I placed at the arbor, as well as these things below:
See that cute dog statue?  He is adorable and kind of looks like Colby I think.  A lovely old pansy oil painting, a pink tole tray for bringing drinks out to the courtyard, and a neat hand painted wooden tray table which I bought for our TV room, which I rarely show on my blog. 
 That is one room I am in the midst of redoing at the moment.
 All in all a busy July and August, and I am enjoying all it has had to offer.  
September is coming up fast, and I have two photo shoots
 plus I am doing something special with that lovely company Soft Surroundings.
  (Hint: new furniture!!)  
In just a few weeks, my house should look better than ever! 
(she said optimistically)

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Our white picket fence

 It finally came. 
The day had arrived to have the fence installed. After months of 
waiting to order a fence, and then another two months for the installation day,
I can say it was truly worth the wait!  I think it is one of my most favorite home
improvements and worth every penny.  After getting the puppy, I did not want another decade
of always needing to put a lead on him to take every. single. bathroom break. through every.
single. season.  We don't have a big yard, and its configured in a terraced fashion, so figuring
out a fence layout was a bit of a challenge.  In the end, we did a privacy fence with picket top
facing the street, with a gate to allow entry to get to our front door.  And then an open picket
with the same spindle style and another gate to get out of the fenced area into the back end 
of the yard, which is where our courtyard and our upper level garden and shed is situated.
 Its a small area that was fenced in, but big enough to fulfill its role of glorified dog pen.  
And I couldn't be happier!  For the first week we barely let Colby go inside, 
and he would whine to get in the pen.  Hahha! Reverse psychology really works.  
Of course when I am outside wandering around, he does get to tag along on his green tether, but when I am in the house and he needs to go out, I simply open the door.  Its so nice! He has gotten accustomed to the new routine and its working out well.  I know when winter rolls around I will be ecstatic that we have this pretty fence.  It has a classic New England feeling and it makes the house seem more stately, if you know what I mean.  I am still finishing up the shed, but it is already loaded with garden things and it is very cute sitting up on the upper level, with the tomato garden right in front of it.  A new rose bush for the arbor, and some blue hydrangeas were added to the inside of the dog pen, (ugh should I really call it a dog pen??), and summer is only half over.  
I am enjoying the gardening and decorating of the outdoor spaces very much.
August is coming, and I hope we get more sunshiney days so we can enjoy
the outdoors.  Everyone seems to love gathering in the courtyard as the day comes
to an end.  And I love when that happens.
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Friday, July 29, 2016

Easy Alfresco Entertaining Ideas from Matthew and Amy

Making magic moments....
Would you like some beautiful outdoor entertaining ideas? 
I mentioned in the last blog post that I participated in a short film with Matthew Mead
for his upcoming presentation at Haven, the big blogging conference in Atlanta.
Matthew has given me the green light to share his images with you from that day~
and what inspiration they hold!
We filmed a story of how to create a stunning party, alfresco style. 
The setting was an enchanting pergola made of twigs and logs, 
that had grapevines covering the structure.
But regardless, you can use these ideas for your own patio or backyard or deck to
create some terrific moments for your next party.  Remember that you can always
bring an indoor piece of furniture outdoors, like a side table to use as a bar or server.
How about this centerpiece that Matthew made using a tiered display piece?
  Filled with fruits, vegetables, flowers and votive candles, 
it is a natural and beautiful centerpiece without the fussiness of 
the standard floral centerpiece many of us employ. 
Not to dismiss a floral centerpiece too quickly, Matthew created a show stopper
of a statement piece by clustering flowers in this glass and twig vase he found
at HomeGoods, and then added his own touch by spraying the base of the twigs with
his copper metallic Fusion paint from his own paint collection.  Placed on a
counter height stool, it is a stand alone piece that creates a memorable moment in any setting.
 A hint of how to get started before any party when you want to have decorating options,
just gather bunches of flowers in a theme.  These are all harvest type colors, as the film is 
geared to Fall entertaining.  For summer you could do groupings of hydrangeas and roses,
or multiple blooms from your local grocer or florist in one color-way.  
After you have your flowers, place them in the sink or in
pails and then gather your receptacles for your arrangements.  
Jelly jars, juice glasses, vases, galvanized tins, empty tomato name it!
Then create smaller centerpieces for your outdoor table tops.
Matthew created small arrangements (3 of these), and then placed them 
at the main table, instead of one large arrangement.  It was casual and chic.
Imagine your own simple picnic table....
totally transformed with fruit and flowers and a few candles.
You will be entertaining with style!
 We had such fun making this film, which was shot by the Wagner Spray Tech peeps.
I got to see the finished film and I was so impressed with how it turned out.
It will make its debut at the blog conference Haven, and then I hope to share it right here!
Until then, use these ideas to create a memorable outdoor dinner party.
Even if its just for you and your regular cast of characters.
These are the things that can add a little zip to life, 
creating moments of beauty in a world of mundane living.  
Make yours magical!

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

French door for the shed and filming with Matthew Mead

 So much progress to talk about in regards to the ramshackle shed project!
As you can see its looking quite finished, which it practically is now.
Instead of using just an old screen door I had from Brimfield, I spotted a pair of
old french doors for sale on a Facebook yardsale page, so I ran off to buy them.
I hoped I could have the pair of them on the shed, but together they were too wide,
so we settled for one.  I painted it black and hubs installed it for me with my help.
Its quite darling, and since the shed is very tiny and has no windows, this glass
door seems to be the perfect solution for both adding style and light to the structure.
 Since I hate heights, even the shortest of heights, Justin did the entire roof 
with the cedar shingles.  Topping it off with a cedar shingle ridge treatment,
it is finished and basically waterproof now! 
 The idea to stain the exterior with a solid white was so it would go along with the house and the white arbor.  Using a big fat 5" wide brush made short work of painting the siding.  I still have two sides left to do, and that will likely be done next week.
 It is really adorable and I can't wait to clean up the site, put away the saws and ladders and all the tools.  Then move in my rakes and shovels and gardeny stuff.  The interior is not going to be all dolled up, its just going to be a utilitarian garden shed.  Over time that may change, but I have a small tomato garden that is going gangbusters and I just want to keep up with the watering and weeding and staking of the plants. 
The arbor needs a coat of the same stain, so I have been tackling that as well.
I also whipped up a new umbrella cover using Sunbrella Cabana Classic in black and white
which looks pretty with the black door and the white siding of the shed.
I will post more on how I did that project, but in essence it was simply taking off the umbrella
fabric (did you know you can do that?) and then copying it as a pattern to cut new fabric pieces
and then sew them together. Much quicker and cheaper than buying a new umbrella!
 So the shed is part of the backyard transformation, and it is really 
looking cute back here in the courtyard.  After I get all the tools put
away I will share some pics.
 In other news I have been doing a few things with Matthew Mead.  Yesterday he came out 
to the house to photograph my office studio for the magazine, Where Women Create.  
He brings flowers for the shoots he does, and they are an essential ingredient to a room looking as 
pretty as it can possibly be....and so after it was over I put one of the arrangements on the 
dining room table and I just loved how pretty it looked in the room.
Flowers really bring a room to life.
 Colby has recovered from being neutered and is just being terrific.  He is getting more affectionate as he gets older, and his one year birthday is coming next week, so we will be celebrating with a steak dinner for all!! 
The other fun thing I did last week was appear in a short film that Matthew Mead is 
preparing for the Haven Conference in August.  Haven is a conference for bloggers.  Yup,
like most industries with their conferences, blogging has several, and Haven is a big one.
While I was in a lot of the film with Matthew, sometimes I was watching him
 shoot his bits, and so I filmed a bit of the behind the scenes.  
Wouldn't it be fun to see more of this?  
He is so much fun to hang with, 
and some of this will be on our next Youtube video. 
 Stay tuned for that...and the shed....
and Colby's birthday party!
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Friday, July 1, 2016

Courtyard and Shed Progress

We have been working on the outside, hubs in his heavy equipment and me on my sewing machine. 
Making new Sunbrella pillows and a special tent that will be revealed later...Oh, and I have been doing some woodworking too with shingling and more.  Hubs on the excavator and building his amazing walls~our worlds have combined to create a really nice space outside. To refresh~ the courtyard was expanded to gain six more feet and it has made a huge difference in how it feels out here. The old space was very narrow due to the rose hedge that confined the space. 
Rose Hedges along the Courtyard last Fall
The roses were killed off during the winter.  So with the roses now gone, Justin suggested we just extend the pea gravel to the edge of the new wall that hubs built. I was thinking I would have some kind of border, a cutting garden or boxwood or hydrangeas, but this idea has proved to be wonderful. 
 If you look beyond the mess activity, you can see the new wall, as well as our saw table and "juice" lines leading up to the shed where we are busy rehabbing the thing.  Hubs has straightened it out, and Justin and I started to shingle it and now are almost done.  Shingling after a quick YouTube video and we did a pretty good job.  Its not that hard, and for most things you can find out how to do them by watching videos, why not?  Yesterday I tackled the right side and then the back of the shed, installing the trim boards as well as the shingles all by myself. Look how proudly it stands up on the ledge.
This is the shocking BEFORE pic of the "ramshackle shed". 
 Hahahah!!! OMG, I mean would you think it could be salvaged? 
 I thought it was worth a try.
We used all the inner boards but did replace the two side walls with new plywood.
Then we used the least expensive white cedar shingles at Home Depot to do the siding.
We will install the screen door I found at Brimfield last year, but never used.
For now the courtyard remains a work zone, but we hope to make great progress
during this weekend of the Fourth, as we have a "staycation" at home.
I also love the feeling of being under the umbrellas when outside, so I searched and 
found another matching white ten foot market umbrella.  The old blue umbrella offered shade
to us when we used the saw and I loved how it felt.
 Two umbrellas feels more festive and kind of like a resort!
I was lucky to find the same umbrella at the Christmas Tree shop, and at a great price too.
The ten foot umbrellas can be very pricey, but this one is a reasonable $69.95.
 The flags and buntings have come out to honor our nation's birthday. 
We will be firing up the grill for burgers and steaks, but rest assured we will
 be hammering it out on the old shed, so I can put the saw away and reclaim 
the space for the rest of the summer.
Happy Fourth of July everybody! 
I will be catching some Wimbledon action in addition to the grilling 
and the shingling~ makes for a great American holiday!
 An old sketch I drew up years ago of an imagined outbuilding is a bit 
grander than what I am rehabbing and creating now.  But it just inspires me
that I have been able to take such a crappy building and breathe life into it
to create the little garden shed I have always wanted.

Yeah, it was bad.
 And now its looking soooo good!
Don't you agree?

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