Shyanne’s Halloween House

For a long time, my daughter, Shyanne, had a life-sized faux skeleton posed in the passenger side of her jeep. It was hilarious watching people walk by her car and suddenly take a second look and a jump back! Victor proudly held onto the front seat until Shyanne got another car. Victor seems to have found a new place, this time on the front porch, sunning in the autumn rays and scaring playfully in the evening haze.

Our family has always gone all out for holidays. On October first, the children would arrive home from school to find the house joyfully decorated (I am not much into real fear and gore, more Disney Halloween) and I would be standing at the stove with an outrageous witch hat on carefully stirring my pot of witch’s brew. (Apple cider with pumpkin pie spice.) The dollar store, spider webs and cardboard cutouts graced the house and a large witch on a broom, that we named “Grandma,” hung from the ceiling fan above the dining room table.

“Grandma!” the children would all greet her.

The children had a great bin of old clothes, past year’s costumes, and lots of dress-up in order to create the perfect Halloween costume. We made veggie burgers with American cheese that had eyes, nose, and mouth cut out of the slice to make a face. They melted onto the patty in fierce/darling images of scarecrows, vampires, and ghosts.

Yesterday, I went to my daughter, Emily’s house to help her with her girls so she could clean out a closet and so that we could put up spaghetti sauce. Their house is cheerfully decorated for the spooky season. A mask was on their scarecrow, and each time that ten month old Ayla Mae saw it, she began to laugh. That cheerful-baby-laugh continued every time she saw something scary. She will be like her Auntie.

Shyanne needs a job with Martha Stewart, I have always said. She is brilliant with crafts and baking and bringing to life fun and creativity. I am bringing you scenes of her yard today to inspire and enchant you; and maybe scare you just a bit!

Shyanne hand crafted this spooky arbor. Enter if you dare!
Victor’s new girlfriend.

How to Make a House a Home (decorating styles)

The thought of starting over both exhausts and excites me.  I am moving to a simple box of a home with an acre of wildness.  I asked a friend of mine who lives out there about wildlife.  “I suppose I will be back with wildlife,” I wrote.  “Deer?  Coyotes?” I ventured.

She wrote back, “Deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bears, mountain lions, hawks, owls.”

My chickens are toast, I thought.

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Outside of fencing in the chickens, the rest of the gardens will wait.  Fencing, soil, amendments, and careful planning over the winter’s months will result in a full fledged gardening and farm animal movement.  In the meantime, I turn to the house.

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In my mind’s eye, I see it burgundy with white trim, dark brown rustic shutters, and a wrap around porch.  I have no doubt that will come to be, but first, we work indoors!

How do you get the feel of a house?  How do you choose your decorating and design in a new place?  It is easy in old houses.  The old wood floors and crooked lines and personality shine through.  Doug was surprised that I liked the house we chose.  He commented that I don’t usually like new.

The house we spent eight years in after being married and when our children were young was an ugly bi-level in a suburb.  The photos of the place were on the internet as we peeked at real estate recently.  Gone were my murals and whimsical painted cupboards.  Also gone were the broken hand rails and the bare sub-floor.  That house swiftly fell apart the moment we bought it.  We were astounded by the new recessed lighting, sharp looking kitchen, soft carpet, and beige walls.  It was very rich looking and very…boring.  That house was all about homeschooling and raising children.  The downstairs was an art room and library with cement floors they could ride their scooters on.  The upstairs was open for entertaining and was full of color.  I don’t miss it though.  Once we made our exit to the country, I didn’t think I’d be back in the city!

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Back in the city, in a fancy apartment that looked out across the skyline of mountains that we rented for a year while saving up for a house, I decorated with eastern Indian motifs.  Golds and sharp pinks, black and white designs, and an area for yoga so that I could look out at the mountains and wonder how our life got turned so around that I was living in an apartment a few miles from that first house!  The colors were stimulating and inspiring.  A country look would not have worked.  And that was my calming place to get my mind right after so much loss.

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My design inspiration for my current house.  I kept it on my fridge for a year dreaming of my own homestead.

Here in this home, that used to be a farmhouse, the design is simple.  We moved in with practically nothing and it didn’t take long to fill it with hand me downs and antiques.  It is colorful with chili ristras and my bright paintings, yet serene with comfy seating and lots of plants, thanks to all the natural light.  The decor is incredibly eclectic, bouncing from Amish country to New Mexican to old farmhouse.

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New house decorating inspiration.

We are now moving to a circa 1993 (my baby was born in 1993) home with brand new greige paint (the newest trend- grey/beige blend), and fresh floors, and newer appliances, and not a hint of personality.  But I can find it, harness it, use it to create a new home.

The house has an incredible view of the surrounding mountains.  The acre is filled with cactus and cedar and other southwest, desert plants.  Snowfall will create a breathtaking view.

We are at a different stage of our life now.  We want to have enough beds to host all of our children in hopes of big country Christmases.  I want the house to feel welcoming, calming, inspiring, grown up, with a sense of fun and whimsy placed here and there.  A homestead, but modern farmhouse style.  I will take the greige and use it as my base of ideas.  Creams, dark woods, and warm knits will give it a hygge (Nordic) feel.  A mix of industrial, Nordic farmhouse, and cabin elements with lots of light and coziness.

Clear the clutter will be my motto and striking single pieces will replace lots of stuff.  We have our eye on a large, tall book shelf complete with a ladder.  The high ceilings will allow it.  Image it filled with all of my brewing herbal extracts with suspended plants, and stained glass-like jars of canned goods lining the shelves.  I am painting my dark piano cream.

Our shelves of books will line a wall in our new office/sewing room with a pull out couch.  The guest room will boast a stunning queen sized bunk bed.  The television will sit on a roll cart that can easily be put in a closet.  I despise having to decorate around a blasted, ugly television!  An oriental rug in the slim kitchen and blackboard doors on the pantry.  The oil lamps keep getting knocked over by a very large farm dog, so they will be replaced (*sigh) with elegant lamps.  Whimsical vintage signs and things we love, like drawings from Maryjane, greenery, and photographs.  Yes, this will be a lovely home.

The inspection on our new house is today and I will take along a measuring tape and graph paper to measure and plan.  This is my favorite part of moving!

Here are a few tips on how to find the personality and decorating style for your home.

1- Find the story behind the house.  Use surrounding scenery and house style to find the personality of the home.

2- Where are you in life?  Raising kids or working from home will all change the needs of the house.

3- What colors make you perk up?  What design elements (antiques, old/new signs, plants) make you smile?

4- Can you reuse what you have?  What do you need to buy?

5- Decorate with what you love.  Even if they don’t “match,” you will find that they end up seamlessly working with everything else.

6- Check out design and decorating books from the library and cut out decorating ideas you love from magazines.  I keep a huge binder of them and look at them each time I want to redecorate or move.

7- Fill your home with visiting friends, laughter, great books, candle light, and a kettle for tea.  Music, less electronics, and joy will make your home a respite from the world.  I think I might turn in my smart phone for a home phone and a record player.

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A Kitchen Themed Bridal Shower

My beautiful daughter, Emily is getting married next month.  Her sister and I planned a kitchen themed bridal shower.  The invitation talked about how Emily loves to cook and that she will be cooking for a very long time for her growing family so we may as well make it fun!  Party goers were encouraged to bring a fun kitchen item that they love in their own cooking.

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We had the party at Shyanne’s house, since she lives closest to everyone.  My children watched Martha Stewart when it was on television every morning growing up, and it shows.  Little signs decorated the space.

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Ayla, Emily (the bride), and Shyanne

Shyanne spray painted green wine bottles gold and placed mums in each.  Balloons captured the attention and smiles of our baby, Ayla.

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I made strawberry shortcake on sweet biscuits (recipe to follow), Seven layer dip with tortilla chips, and roll ups (tortillas spread with cream cheese and topped with green chilies then rolled up and sliced).  Shyanne make cupcakes, and ricotta and peach bruchetta, and little tea sandwiches.  The table was beautiful and inviting.  Cardboard cake holders glued to sturdy plastic cups acted as stands.

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Drinks were set up on the island.  Raspberry juice and sprite in one pitcher, coconut rum and juice in another.  I brought a gallon of sweet tea.  Every one helped themselves to finger foods and drinks and met new folks and talked.  The kids were adorable playing together.

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My granddaughter, Maryjane (middle) and her best friends.

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Shyanne printed out three games for us to play.  They were all quizzes about the bride or the bride and groom.  It was a lot of fun guessing things about who kissed who first, who is the best dancer, does the bride like coffee or tea better, and so on.  Small succulents acted as the prizes since that is one of the themes of the wedding.

We had everyone write out advice for the new bride and share it.  There were some very inspirational words.  Young girlfriend’s advice as sound as the women that were married half a century.  It was a lot of fun and made us all nod and strive to be better partners.  Those went into a sweet picture album.

An Instapot, box of Corningware, breadmaker, immersion blender, knife set and cutting board, pressure cooker, and cookie sheets later, the young bride was inspired to start cooking.

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My friend, Tina, and I. This was taken by a mama with a wiggly baby on her hip!

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This is a great picture of Doug and his parents with our granddaughters.  

It was such a wonderful time with family and friends to celebrate a profound new chapter in our daughter’s life.  A wedding is an amazing event and celebrating and preparing the young bride is the community’s honor.  We are very thankful for our “village”.  To help the young couple is a pleasure and being together is always special.

Sweet Biscuits and Strawberries

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a mixing bowl combine,

1 3/4 cups of flour

2 Tablespoons of sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

1/3 cup of olive oil (I use lemon infused olive oil for half)

2/3 cup of milk

Drop by spoonfuls on greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes.

Top with a sprinkle of sugar, whipped cream, and chopped strawberries mixed with a little sugar.

 

Five Decorating Elements to Create the Perfect Space (and taking life slow and easy)

When making a bedroom cozy, or a kitchen entertainment friendly, or in this case, setting up a reading nook, there are specific components to decorating a space to consider.  The addition of the following things will create a peaceful, flowing, and delightful space.

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1. Incorporate plants- Besides the obvious benefits of cleaning the air and releasing oxygen, they are beautiful live creations to share the space with.  Put a small rose in a pot from the grocery store.  Don’t be afraid to bring in big plants and some unusual ones.  I have a poinsettia year round and a large Asian aloe.  Use pots that please you.

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2. Add gentle light- Do not turn on the overhead lights!  Twinkly lights and candles make a space so serene.  Oil lamps add unexpected coziness.  My eyes have been a little funny lately so I begrudgingly hauled up a lamp from the basement and put it behind my reading chair.  It actually feels cozy as well.

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3. Add color- Add at least three colors and then repeat them.  Even if you are an austere type of decorator, add three different shades of white.  My pops of southwestern color all work together because at least some of the colors repeat themselves in the patterns.  The vibrant pink, reds, blue, and the yellow all are found in two or more items.  It doesn’t matter what the pattern is as long as the colors repeat; florals can mixed with stripes and other designs.

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4. Add comfortable places to sit.  We have our two god-awful recliners with chewed arm rests, but covering them with inexpensive blankets transforms them.  A rocking chair with pillows is always inviting.

5. Add things you love.  Like books, or souvenirs, or cats.

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Finally, take time to enjoy your space.  It’s a little crazy out there sometimes.  Everyone is in such a rush.  At the grocery store the other day there was a quite elder woman who moved slowly and kept adjusting her oxygen tube.  She stood in front of me in line and every few minutes she would mutter, “Come on!  Hurry up!” to the people in front of her.  She sighed exasperated and practically bumped the lady in front of her out of the way to get to the counter.  Why on earth was she in such a hurry?  And did she get there any faster?  On the way home, on thirty mile and hour roads, tailgaters checked out my bumper.

Listen folks, life is going to end before we know it and I know y’all trying to get there before it does, but slow and easy is the new beauty secret and anti-depressant.  You will get there when you get there.  We ought to cut everyone some slack and not schedule ourselves to the point of hysteria.  Take some things out of your schedule.  Take time to smile and chat with the cashier.  Drive safely.  If someone is driving in front of you super slow, pretend like it is your grandpa or your granddaughter.  Just easy now.

And after the supper dishes are cleared, pour a glass of wine and set down in your reading and resting area and enjoy the space.  The way you decorate can be a respite from the world.

 

Planting in Glass Jars

Planting in canning jars and other large glass vessels is such a fun idea.  I have seen these a few places now and I love the idea.  My bamboo is planted in a canning jar.  I love the idea of giving succulents in canning jars as gifts.

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I equally love the idea of using larger glass jars to showcase pine trees, like this one that we saw at a restaurant in New Mexico.  They really would have to be for a party or a few weeks of decoration because of the lack of drainage.  But they really are charming.  I can also envision miniature rose bushes in large glass jars lining a table.  The ideas are endless.

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My Easter bunnies

My Easter table this year will seat ten.  Bright colored oil cloth of reds and blues and my new Fiesta ware will be used at each place.  I am making a feast of enchiladas, chili rellenos, beans, rice, guacamole, and icy margaritas.  Perhaps a bit untraditional for Easter dinner but shaking things up is my specialty.  Succulents or miniature cacti in canning jars may very well complete the décor.

So grab those wide mouth jars and plant away!  Gifts and entertaining just got more creative and fun.

 

All the Beautiful Collections

What do you collect?

I am not a great lover of tchotchkes because I am not a great lover of dusting.   I do not need fifty seven plastic Santa Clauses no matter now much I love him.  In Country Living magazine they have a section that showcases this gal who collects so many things.  So many useless things.  But if they bring her joy or remind her of a time long gone or of her mother, who am I say they are useless?

When we lost our rented farm and became homeless (not completely homeless thanks to the goodness of friends allowing us to stay in guest rooms with our nine cats until we could get on our feet which took six months), I lost so many collections.  Antiques, dishes, silverware, New Mexican Santos, books….everything.  For the first few years we just gathered what we needed.  Why collect when it could be gone in a moment?  Why waste energy and money on material items?  Simplicity!  Freedom!

When we were first married we both had a few Coca Cola items.  I had purchased my first one from an antique store down on south Broadway when I was twelve years old using my babysitting money.  Together we had the beginnings of a regular collection and friends bought us pieces and we bought pieces and it was a full blown collection before I tired of it and sold it all at a garage sale.

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Back at the farm, while we were reeling from loss and devastation from losing everything, my daughter, Shyanne, was calmly moving some special things to her apartment.  She had saved the Christmas ornaments we had collected over many travels and years.  And she saved the wedding dishes.  She gave some to me when we moved into an apartment.  They are beautiful English Castle.  She has the rest.  I want her to have the whole collection.

Times change and our tastes change and different things become practical and memory filled.  I do love useful things.  Of course, over two of said items is probably just collecting.

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I love aprons.  They are so sensible.  I wear them most everywhere.  A pocket for my keys.  They keep dish water from splashing on my clothes.  They keep my clothes clean in case Doug wants to whisk me off to dinner.  They have a delicate feminine flounce to them that takes me back to a bygone era and makes me feel pretty.

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I love book bags.  I have never found a purse I like.  I love to throw my wallet, some tissues, my daytimer, a pen, a writing book, a great reading book or magazine, and my water bottle into a unique bag.  Each bag showcases a side of me.  A bear having tea.  Lots of cats and books.  A typewriter.

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Plants.  I collect plants, I admit it!  I am truly out of windows now though.

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Books.  I can be frugal as can be.  Envelope system, check.  Budget, check.  Book store, we didn’t need that much grocery money anyway!  Even if I don’t care for the book, I keep it.  I adore books.  I want them to be available for others to read.  I love bookshelves of creativity and knowledge at my fingertips.  (I also love libraries and read a fair amount of their books too, but I also love taking my time, and a fresh new cover pleases me so.)  We didn’t move our books when we moved to the country.  We had such a huge collection of books while homeschooling but didn’t have the strength or time to move them all.  I wish I had.  I wish I had those books.  The ones I had to give away when we left our farm….an autographed copy of Jane Goodall’s book…..so many books….are gone.  I am clinging to these books I have now.

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I know, I know, they are just material items.  I know that, you know that, but material items bring some joy to our life.  They remind us of things that made us who we are.  They inspire us to move towards the person we want to be.  I had just mentioned to someone that I wanted to find Fiesta dishes.  My love of the southwest is not a secret and my home doesn’t hide that fact.  Oh Fiesta dishes would make me ever so happy having my coffee in the morning.  A student and friend of mine, out of the blue, offered me nine sets for a crazy low price.  They were her mother’s.  Her mother passed away.  Can’t take it with you.  I hope she loved them while she was here.  I know I will love them.  They inspire me and brighten my morning.

What do you collect?

 

 

Decorating With Notes of Spring

The air has a slightly different feel to it.  A different scent.  The cold is still there.  I bundle up as I go out to do chores.  But there is a tinge of something else upon the morning breath.  Life.  Spring.  By all indications, it is still the dead of winter, but I sense it.  I sense the pulse of the earth strengthening and the awakening of the plant world beneath it all.  Spring is coming.

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Pick up miniature roses from the grocery store.  Water once a week.  They will live until you can transplant them outdoors.  I had miniature roses grow three feet high in the garden before!

My home is still in the dead of winter.  Warm blankets caress chairs and the furnace is on.  The sun shines like a spotlight through the closed windows, still low in the sky.  My spirit falls more easily into stress and I long to be in the garden.  To be outside with a book without wind chill.  What to do?  The only thing I can do is to introduce notes of spring into the house.

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Plants always infuse spring and life into a place.  These are the babies from my very large aloe.  Last week I transplanted them into a new pot.  Its wide berth lets them spill out and catch the sun, giving a warm desert feel to this corner.  The cheap pots at Walmart are usually my go-to.  I love their cheery celadon, rouge, and artist blue colors, but sometimes it is nice to get a special pot that reminds you of something you love.  In this case, the land of the southwest where my heart and inspiration dance.

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It still gets dark out early so candles are still throughout the house.  These Catholic prayer candles sans saints are perfect and long lasting.  I used an old Coca-Cola crate to hold them.

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Found bird nests and unique pieces of wood and stone are set carefully around the house to bring nature in.

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My Farmhouse sign (bought at Cracker Barrel of all places!) doesn’t have a place on the wall right now because I have all my own bright paintings up but it seems cheery on the floor against the wall amongst the geraniums and other plants.

I seem to collect things with bicycles on them.  Bicycles with baskets.  I love the idea of them.  I love the freedom of them.  The perk of being in the city.  The promise of warm breezes and exercise and French bread in the basket picked up from the bakery or fresh flowers.  I have coffee cups with bicycles with baskets that say things like “Do More of What Makes You Happy.”  My daughter, Shyanne, gave me a small bicycle statue.  So Doug gave me a bike for my birthday last year.  With a basket.  I only rode it a few times before the tires were inundated with goat heads.  But a kind friend came over three different times to fix my tires, fill them with fix a flat, put on my basket and other accouterments (a bell included!) and I am ready to take off on the first nice day without Nordic winds.  The bike had a place on the porch but I brought it in.  It adds notes of spring and whimsy to my living room.

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Lastly, I picked up a snazzy pair of bright galoshes.  Oh, spring, I hope to see you soon!

 

The Well Stocked Pantry and Repurposed Antiques

I love interesting furniture pieces.  These were cubbies in a hardware store in 1950.  I love the original stenciled numbers.  I bought it at an antique store ten years ago and it was the primary showpiece, holding my tincture bottles, in my shops.  It now holds a place in my kitchen.  I realize that it is getting really dingy looking.  Sixty-nine years of army green can only hold up for so long.  (Spoiler alert!  Next week I am revamping my kitchen.  Can you guess what color the cubbies are becoming?)  I just sold my Hoosier yesterday to make room for my new kitchen idea.  It held glasses and barware.  You can take any old piece and reimagine its purpose.

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I love this idea with the pantry items.  It looks fun and unique while being practical.  Things do tend to get lost in the back of the pantry or spoil.  I end up buying way too many of one thing over time, thinking I am out.  This is a great way to keep track of what pantry pulses I have on hand.  It makes grocery planning easy.  And it serves as dinner inspiration.  Choose a grain or legume, see what veggies I have on hand, think up a theme, and go!  Dinner is on.

Living Space Makeover- Part 2 (after photos!)

When we moved into this house two years ago (my goodness, time flies!), the walls were a dingy, rental white with chipped grey trim.  I have never been a fan of white.  I rarely utilize white.  I adore color!

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Before

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After

I have kept a notebook of magazine clippings of loved décor for the past fifteen years or so.  As I flipped through the worn pages I discovered something; every single room had white/cream walls.  All of them.

“I’m surprised you are painting the walls white,” Shyanne responded on text after I sent her the first wall completed.

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Before

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I am still working on organizing this corner, but it will be a sweet little space for writing and dreaming.  I moved the desk so that I could put up a folding table to hold more plants under the window.

As soon as we moved in two years ago, I painted the walls warm yellow with a library brown trim and they were lovely.  This house is nearly one hundred years old, adobe, build in a proper style where the windows and eves are set just right so that in the summer the sun is above the house and in the winter, the sun floods through the windows.  I can touch the ceilings.  This house wasn’t built by tall people, y’all.  The result is that it feels almost cave-like sometimes and remarkably cozy.  With all my bright colors and plants though, it felt cluttered.

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Before

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So, what the heck, right?  I went and chose a crisp with a touch of cream, white paint and set to work New Year’s Eve.  It is amazing how dirty walls get over the years and the white paint was like a cleansing.  All of the colors of my southwestern things just pop against the new gallery walls and the space feels bright and wintery.  Cool and enlivening.  New and fresh.

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Finances and a very large puppy mean that we aren’t getting new furniture very soon but these pieces, dingy and a bit torn as they may be, become transformed with a few bright blankets.

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“What do I want to devote space to?”  A very good question for the new year.  For me, it is my work.  With all my beautiful items at the ready, I don’t have to be digging through closets and bags to find what I need for ceremony!

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Next to it I placed a table with my curiosities.  My bird nests and feathers.

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Before (found my husband!)

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After

With the house nice and bright and filled with southwestern color and all my bright paintings displayed, I feel light and calm, happy and inspired.  So white was the right color for me all along!

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With a bit of paint, some blankets to use as throws, and a rearrangement of furniture, you can have a whole new living space designed for what you want to make space for.

 

Happy New Year everyone!

 

Living Space Makeover in Poem- Part 1

Oh my, there’s clutter and  everything galore

There are Christmas boxes all over the floor

I have books aplenty and furniture too

I love all my beautiful things, this is true

Vibrant plants fill the places fighting for sun

An inspiration ignited has begun

Trying to find my husband in all this stuff

But getting started here can be kind of tough

So out with the old, the new year rings tonight

And I want my house to be a pretty sight

So we’ll start with a paint can of creamy white

And begin to fill this living space with light

As the promise of bright tomorrow dawns clear

I’ll tone down the clutter, put things away I hold dear, decorate, because that’s what I do

And start the year 2019 anew.

Check back January 2nd for the “After” pictures and post!  Happy New Year!