Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pull it down, pack it up, and put it away: 10 tips for De-decorating after Christmas

My latest column as published in The Daily Sentinel the day after Christmas.

Pull it down, pack it up, and put it away. 10 tips for de-decorating your house after Christmas

The bad news is Christmas is over. The good news is that the decorations will come down faster than they went up. Here are some tips on how to pull it down, pack it up, and put it away:

1. The day after Christmas is not too soon to start de-decorating, especially if you have a real tree, time may be of the essence. Valentine’s Day is too late. New Year’s Day, is just about right for people who want to start the New Year off fresh.

2. Upgrade all your storage containers. If you are still using the same cardboard box, year after year, it’s time to start storing in plastic bins. Consider purchasing them in red and green to easily distinguish them from your other storage bins. You’ll know exactly which ones to pull down next year.

3. If possible, return your ornaments, lights, villages, and nativity sets to their original packaging. The Styrofoam and plastic trays will protect them from damage.

4. If you have lost the original packaging for your lights. Take the time to neatly wind them back up and secure them in a rubber band, masking tape, or a twist tie. If you have lost the original packaging for your ornaments, consider purchasing an ornament organizer. They are plastic boxes with individual slots. It’s well worth the investment if you plan on using your ornaments year after year. If new storage options are not in your after-Christmas budget, shoe boxes and crumpled newspapers will do just fine to cradle your shiny wares until next year.

5. Don’t let the little odds and ends linger loosely on the bottom of your bins. Keep all the extra ornament hooks, replacement light bulbs, and adhesive backed -wall mounted hooks in a clear plastic baggie. You won’t want to scrounge around for them later.

6. Tired of your old decorations? Ready to switch your traditional red and green ornaments for purple and silver next year? Cull any decorations you don’t think you will use again. Consider doing an ornament swap with friends and family. Toss what is damaged. Donate the rest.

7. Think about how you want to group your decorations for storage. Is it more convenient to store them by room i.e., “Entryway décor,” or by like items, “Garland and Greenery?” There is no right or wrong way. It’s whatever makes the most sense to you.

8. Has your Christmas tree box taken a beating? Is it getting harder and harder to re-tape the thing year after year? Buy stretch wrap. It’s like a giant roll of plastic wrap. Stretch wrap reinforces the box and protects your tree from damage. No more taping and re-taping because the stretch wrap adheres to itself. One roll will last years. It can be purchased locally at Grainger for between fifteen to 20 dollars per roll depending on width and thickness. Stretch wrap can also be found at other shipping supply stores.

9. When you are doing your after-Christmas returning /shopping, you will find some great deals on marked-down decorations, be sure you have enough storage for the incoming items.

10. Label each box and store with the label facing out. If you are an over-achiever, an itemized list of what is inside may save you time later.

The good news is that after following these tips, your decorations are organized and safely stored until next year. Put up your feet and enjoy some hot chocolate. The bad news is Christmas is still 364 days away.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from Anniethology


From the snow of Mt. Baldy to the sand of Newport Beach. Merry Christmas to my faithful readers. Wish you were here!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tiger Woods, you gone and done a bad, bad thing

I'm not going to say that I am surprised. Fidelity isn't a common attribute among professional athletes, but I would say that I am disappointed. Most men, like him, you see coming from a mile away, but Tiger, you wouldn't expect it of him and that makes him even more dangerous. But this is what happens, my ladies, when a man gets too successful and too rich. He starts to think the rules don't apply to him. That's why I like my men po' and humble. Secret Agent Man is too busy to bother with another woman and he couldn't afford another woman anyway, I make sure of that. If he has a twenty in his wallet, I'll take it. Don't want him getting the idea that he can take someone else out to Taco Bell for lunch. Keep him broke, keep him humble, keep him home. Broke, humble, home. Nuf said.
And, I don't believe for one minute that she had no idea what was going on. I think it only became a problem for her when the rest of the world knew about it. I'm not judging. If I was married to a billionaire, I could turn a blind eye, too. Don't judge me. Don't feel sorry for these celebs and rich folk, they don't marry for love anyway. You know they don't. It's all about (ahem) the class and power that money can buy. It's the kids, the kids I feel sorry for. They have a sorry excuse for a father and that is sad. A big bag of money will keep mommy warm at night,but money can't replace what those kids are going to miss out on.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What does your Christmas tree say about you?


I have a rare talent. Some might call it a gift. Others, the more incredulous, call it a cheap party trick, but I have yet to meet anyone who can do what I do. I am a Christmas Tree Prognosticator. It’s sort of like reading palms. I can tell a lot about a person’s life and personality by their Christmas tree. Here’s a free sample:
Artificial or real
There are two types of people: Real Christmas tree people and artificial tree people. One is not better than the other, just different.
If you are a person who likes real trees you probably like the outdoors. You enjoy creating an ambience that invokes smell as well as sight. Real tree people feel that the experience of searching it out, chopping it down and dragging it back to the old homestead is all part of the fun.
If you like artificial trees, you like an investment that lasts. You want something pretty, but don’t want to make a lot of fuss. Artificial tree owners can also be perfectionists. They don’t like to deal with gaps in the branches or dropping needles of a real tree.
White lights or multi-colored lights
If you have white lights on your tree, you think of each light as a tiny star. White light people like simplicity. White lights convey the serenity of an “Oh, Holy Night.”
Conversely, multi-colored lights say, “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” People who like multi-colored lights are party people. They like the festive feeling of multi-colored lights because it reminds them of a disco or Las Vegas. To them, the holidays are one big party and everyone is invited. And it wouldn’t be too far out of the realm of possibility that when the holiday party rolls around, they might even don a strand of multi-colored lights like it was gay apparel!
Matching or eclectic ornaments
If you have a tree with an eclectic assortment of ornaments, each one having a special meaning or story, you value your past and family history. Perhaps it’s the clothespin reindeer your first-born made in kindergarten or the delicate snowflake that Grandma crocheted. Each one is different, each one is special, they may not match, but it doesn’t matter to you.
The decoration of an eclectic tree is often a group effort. Some will hang the ornaments; others will string popcorn and cranberries together. Even the littlest elves in the house will take part in decorating the eclectic tree.
A matchy-matchy ornament tree is usually a one-woman (or man)-show; a person with a vision of what a perfectly coifed tree should look like. Matchy-matchy ornament people like order and consistency. They usually have a theme for their Christmas tree. Like Victorian, Old World, or country. For the matchy-matchy ornament people, the tree is the crowning glory, the pièce de résistance, of all the Christmas decorations.
Angel or star
Angel people believe in a higher power guiding their lives and directing their path. Angel people might have, at some point, imagined what it would have been like to be in that choir, as told of old, that sang to shepherds guarding their flocks by night that a babe was born in Bethlehem.
Star people are the hopefuls, the ones that hope for a better, brighter tomorrow. They are sign seekers. They lead their lives by, the sometimes imperceptible, directional arrows. Star people will follow that little nudge inside of them that says, “Take cookies to your neighbor (peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses on top),” or “slip a twenty into the bell ringer’s red bucket.”
That’s it. That’s all you get for your free sample. How did I do? Eerily close, eh? If you want a full Christmas Tree Prognostication, you’ll have to invite me to your holiday party. Don’t worry, I work cheap. You can pay me in cookies (peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses on top).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Christmas Decorations

Peacock Pete, the mascot of our Christmas tree, with his vanity mirror. He's so vain, I bet he thinks this blog is about him.

Click on the pic to see it big time! Picture collage created in Picasa.


The reflection of the dining room chandelier in my heart mirror ornament.




I use mirrors at the base of the trees to reflect prettiness. I didn't use all the ornaments I'd used in previous years, so I put them in pretty stuff that holds other pretty stuff.





Peacock feather sticking out of the top of the tree.



Less than $5.00 chandelier decor. One strand of garland. Two strands of beads. 6 tassels and 10 or so poinsettias.


From the outside looking in. Garland and big jingle bells in the window boxes with fake frost on the windows.



You can buy "Peace" at Walgreens!


Dear Santa, I've been a really good girl this year. Please bring me a decent camera for Christmas so I can quit using my crummy camera phone. Thank you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Spruce up your home with two basic colors: black and white


I love classic game shows.One of my favorites is “Password.” It’s played with two contestants giving and receiving word clues.Let’s try it!
Me: Dice.
You: Vegas?
Me: Piano keys.
You: Liberace?
Me: Zebras.
You: The zoo?
Me: Pandas.
You: China?
Me: Black and white.
You: What paint colors to use to inexpensively spruce up your house for the holidays?
Me: Correct!

THE PRICE IS RIGHT
This being our second holiday season in a recession, perhaps you, like me, want to spruce up the house for guests but don’t have a lot of extra money. Paint can make a big impact with little out-of-pocket expense.
If you look away from your monitor, for just a second, and have a look around your house, I bet you will see something that could use a fresh coat of clean, white paint or something else that could use a modern lease on life with black paint.
And you probably already have cans of white and black paint in your garage.
If you need to restock, I recommend buying just a quart of each with some sponge-tipped brushes. That will get you on your way.

BEAT THE CLOCK
There never seems to be enough time during the holidays to get everything done. So don’t try to paint a whole room ... besides, white is too stark and black is too Goth. Instead, use little touches of each to freshen or sophisticate.
Use white to repaint doors, door frames and moldings. They are most likely white to begin with. Clean them off first, and then give them a fresh coat of paint.
Use black on a worn-out pieces of wood furniture or picture frames.
I gave some dated gold frames a modern look by painting them black. It took less money and time than driving to a store to buy new frames.
I also used black paint on a $5 table I picked up from the Fruita Thrift Shop. It had great “bones” but needed some love. It took me less than a half-an-hour to change that table’s look from trash pile to Pottery Barn.
A can of black, outdoor spray paint also added a few more seasons on to my old patio furniture.

DO YOU TRUST YOUR WIFE?
My husband, “Secret Agent Man,” and I never agree on colors.
To avoid a fight, and to his chagrin, I paint the walls in our house when he is out of town. But he doesn’t flinch when I bring out black or white paint. He knows it will just be a touch-up and not a whole style change.
With black and white you don’t have to worry about matching or color coordinating.
Whatever the season, whatever the trend, black and white are mainstays of design.

QUEEN FOR A DAY
Not me. My daughter, “Mini Me” is the “queen.”
I woke up one Saturday morning with the idea of painting her dingy off-white dressers a clean, bright white.
Mini Me helped by taking the handles off the drawers, which we later spray-painted silver (another cheap fix). I loved the change in the dressers so much that we painted her bed headboard white to match ... and then her bookshelf ... and then her toy box. By nightfall, her room was transformed by one can of leftover white paint.

WHEEL OF FORTUNE
If the bonus round has eluded you these past few months, make your own good fortune by making due with what you have.
Just take a look through what you’ve been storing in your garage, shed or work bench, perhaps all you’ll need will be there in black and white.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

11 years later, I'm glad I didn't make a run for it.


When I called my parents with the news, they didn’t believe it. The chances were just too astronomical. Being known as a kidder didn’t help much, either. When they heard the crack in my voice, they knew it was true.

“Mom, I’m not kidding. I really am pregnant with twins.”

Their incredulousness was due to the fact that my brother and his wife had just delivered their own twin boys the month before.

I was only eight weeks along when I went in for an ultrasound due to a little spotting. I told Secret Agent Man that it wasn’t a big deal and he didn’t need to take time off for the appointment. By then, I felt fine and the possibility of twins never even crossed my mind.
A couple minutes into the procedure the ultrasound tech said,

“Well, there’s one of the babies.”

They looked like two little pieces of rice in a sea of darkness in the small black and white print- out the doctor’s office gave me. A few weeks later we found out we were also having boys.

The rest of my pregnancy went off without a hitch. I was lucky enough to carry my twins full term. I was huge! People would ask me if I was twelve months pregnant. So sensitive.

I remember when I was driving through a drugstore parking lot, there were some guys hanging out in front of the store. They whistled and cat-called to me as I drove by with my window down. They watched me as I pulled into my parking spot and waddled out of the car. When they saw the behemoth of a pregnant lady, they sulked away, embarrassed. I laughed so hard I almost wet myself. Pregnant ladies are prone to incontinence.

We planned a scheduled c-section the day before Thanksgiving. My parents traveled from Colorado to California for the birth.

The day before I checked into the hospital, I decided I needed a new pair of slippers. I remember standing in the mouse maze of a checkout line at Burlington Coat Factory. (They sell more than just coats.) My parents left the store to pull the car around for me. After standing in line for ten minutes, I finally made it up to the cashier. She told me I couldn’t pay with a credit card at that register and I would have to get back in line. I wanted to yell,

“Hey, can’t you tell I’m twelve months pregnant? Give me a break!”

Instead, I just left the slippers at the counter and walked out. My parents were so upset to see their little/big pregnant girl, empty-handed and on the verge of tears, they took me to JcPenney and bought me a new nightgown, robe and slippers. Take that Burlington Coat Factory!

The morning of my c-section I showered, put on make-up, curled my hair, and put on my nicest maternity dress. When we got to the hospital, the nurses met me at the door with a wheelchair. I refused. I told them that I had carried my babies this far, I would walk into Labor and Delivery on my own steam.

An hour later, I wasn’t full of so much gumption. The operating room was cold and I had nothing on but a surgical gown. They hadn’t let Secret Agent Man in yet and when I saw that long needle they wanted to stick in my back, I went into panic mode. I quickly concocted a plan. I could use one hand to support my burgeoning belly and the other hand to hold back of my gown closed. I thought if I could make it out the hospital doors, I could deliver my babies in the bushes. I don’t know why I thought that would be a better option. It was about that time when my husband came in the room. I knew I couldn’t get passed him, so I resigned myself to that fact that this was going to happen with or without my cooperation.

The operation was quick. The first sight of my babies turned my panic into elation. I was the mother of two healthy twin boys, tipping the scales at 7 lbs and 8.3 lbs.

The weeks and months to follow were a sleepless blur of feedings and changings. I’m glad we took a lot of pictures, because I don’t remember much of that first year.

Today, my twins are 11-years-old. Every year I am amazed that I have kept them alive for this long. I am very proud of them and happy that they have each other.

Happy Birthday, Boys! Mama loves you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's things like this that make me love being a woman


I bought some friends for my new baby. I love my new purse so much, I couldn't let it live all on its lonely so I got some maryjanes from Kmart, yes Kmart, and some Crushed Crimson nail polish from Revlon. They get along great.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Easy one hour home improvement project

I had an hour before my kids came home from school, so this is what I did!

I bought mirror framing kit from Lowes and framed out my builder-standard mirror. It was so easy and would have taken less than an hour, but I had to wait for the paint to dry. They didn't have it in black so I bought dark brown and spray painted it. I tried it out on our little bathroom first to make sure I liked it and I do, so now I'll do it in my bathroom on my big mirror. The price for two kits and one bottle of mirror glue was $20.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mini Me's Room Re-Do


I didn't intend on spending my whole Saturday in my daughter's room. It just turned out that way. I started with the idea of painting the dressers. Then I realized the handles would need to be painted, too. Then I wanted the bed and the shelf to match the dressers. But, I couldn't very well put these freshly painted pieces of furniture back up against the yellow walls that had taken some use and abuse, they needed to be touched up, too! After that I decided to replace the closet doors with curtains. Everything was looking so good, I couldn't ignore the blue marker on the toy box (Breathe, Annie, breath girl!)...two trips to the hardware store and a bottle of Diet Coke later, Mini Me had a spruced up room! And I had caffeine jitters.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The real "Real Housewives of Atlanta"

As seen in Saturday's Home and Garden section of The Daily Sentinel and at gjsentinel.com.
(Top left: Lazette, Lisa. Bottom Left: Carmine, Annie, and Kate)

One of the most popular shows on cable television is “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
It is a reality TV show that follows the lives of five housewives from the Peach State. But they aren’t your garden variety carpooling, laundry-folding, bake sale moms.
No, they are loud, brash and rich.

On a recent trip to Atlanta to visit my sister, I wanted to meet some real “real housewives of Atlanta” and see how they compared to the gals I’ve seen on TV.
I asked my sister to find me some of the most fabulous Southern ladies she knows. We set a date to meet them at one of their homes.

Each lady was as beautiful and charming as a Georgia peach and immediately showed me why the South is synonymous with hospitality.

The morning we met, I was greeted by each one with a warm hug. My sister and I were escorted into the kitchen, where the housewives were cooking bacon in a cast iron skillet and the Southern favorite: grits. (I was told grits stands for “girls raised in the South.”)
When I asked if I could take a picture, our hostess Lisa said, “Wait! Let me get out the Williams-Sonoma.”

MEET THE HOUSEWIVES

• Lisa, Georgia native and “life of the party” is a former cheerleading captain, wife of seven years of an attorney and spunky mommy to a 4-year-old boy.
When she is not taking care of home and family, she is a hair and makeup stylist for weddings and photo shoots.

• Kate, “the adviser,” is her friends’ go-to gal. Kate has a master’s degree in educational psychology and is a former high school guidance counselor. Now, she stays at home with her three girls.
When she is not doling out advice, Kate is a social activist supporting a charity organization that helps children in India.

• Carmine, “the beauty queen,” was born in Haiti and came to Georgia via Boston. She is a former model and Miss Massachusetts.
Carmine’s average day starts with a 5:45 a.m. workout, after which she gets her four kids ready for school. Time with her family is very important to Carmine. She and her computer engineer husband never miss their Friday date night.

• Lazette, “the planner,” was too modest to describe herself. But her fellow housewives, who know what the inside of her pantry looks like, said she is “organized,” “hot,” “humble“ and "uber-talented.”

Although Lazette is a stay-at-home mother of three, she says she is never home. She is so busy, she doesn’t watch TV. In fact, Lazette is the only one of the four ladies that had never watched “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

HOUSEWIVES VS. HOUSEWIVES
I had plenty of questions for these real housewives.

“The cast members of ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’ are said to be Atlanta’s high society. Is that true?” I asked.

“I’ve been to high society events, and I’ve never seen them there,” Lisa said.

“High society is made up of Atlanta’s ‘old money,’ and they don’t flaunt it,” Kate added.

“One of (the show’s) housewives, Kim Zolciak, says in the intro of the show that, ‘In Atlanta, money and class buy you power.’ What do you think of that and what makes you feel powerful?” I asked.

Being powerful has more to do with who you are as a person and less about having money, Carmine said.

Having her home “in order,” meaning that her relationships with her husband and kids are good and stable, makes her feel powerful, she said.

Kate said her education and a continued quest for knowledge makes her feel powerful.

Lisa added self-confidence to the list.

On “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” there is a lot of drama. Sometimes the ladies’ actions might not be considered those of a proper Southern lady: Pulling out each other’s hair extensions, swearing, gossiping and lying about each other.

So, I asked, “would anyone like to comment on how you think the housewives represent Atlanta?”

The general consensus was a big “thumbs-down.” True Southerners don’t air their dirty laundry.

Lazette gave the answer I expected of a genteel Southern lady: “If someone says something I don’t like or agree with, I don’t say anything. I just smile.”

Then I asked the ladies another question related to Kim Zolciak from the show. She and her daughters are financially supported by her mysterious and married boyfriend she calls, “Big Poppa.”

“Do any of you ladies have a boyfriend? Let me rephrase. Does anyone here know of anyone here who has a boyfriend?” I asked.

(Cricket-cricket.)

Just like true friends, no one was about to “out” a friend. All of them admitted and verified that the others were happily married.

With that, I asked a final question related to show cast members Nene Leakes, who wrote a book, and Zolciak, who started a wig line.

“Have any of you read Nene’s book or worn Kim’s wigs? Let me rephrase. Does anyone here know of anyone here who has read Nene’s book or worn Kim’s wigs?”

(Cricket-cricket.)

The only answer I received was a smile.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Because I love you and I want you to be happy...

...we are going to play a little game.

Lately, I have had some friends come to me asking for advice or another point of view, which I am more than happy to give. Everyone could use another voice in their head every once in a while. (What's that? Shhh... be quiet. I'm typing here. We'll talk later.)

Anywho...I figured there might be a few more of you out there, that need some advice, but are afraid to ask, so we are going to play the Spaghetti Noodle Game. Here's how it works:

Have you ever heard that if want to test your noodles to see if they are done, you throw them against the wall? If the noodle sticks, they are ready. Now, this seems ridiculous to me. I don't know why anyone in their right mind(s) would throw their food against the wall when they can just eat it to test to see if it's done. I didn't say it made sense, I just wondered if you've heard that. (You have? Great, but I'm not asking you, I'm asking them. Sshhh... I said we'd talk later.)

So, I'm going to take this pot of spaghetti noodles, full of random advice, and I am going to throw it out there. If any of it sticks to you, you are welcome.

Sometimes when things are stressful, spouses say things they don't do mean or speak without thinking. At moments like this, give each other a pass. Make up a little coupon that says, "This pass entitles you to immediate forgiveness for the dumb thing you said when we were in a stressful situation." Give your spouse a few and keep some for yourself. They may come in handy. Don't dwell on it, harp on it, or drag it on. Just forgive.

If you haven't touched that lotion, shampoo, perfume, makeup, tonic, or potion in the past 3 months, throw it out.

If you can't turn in a movie on time, sign up for Netflix.

Don't waft the blankets.

If your new shoes are a little big there are these pads with adhesive on the back that you can buy and put them on the inside heel of the shoe.

Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Did I mention that I love you?

You would be surprised at how little people think of you. They don't think you are little, they just don't think about you as much as you may think they they think about you.

Sometimes the voices in your head are just trying to help. (Yes, I told them about Netflix. Gimme another second. I have to click "Publish Post," then we'll talk.)

What do you mean you don't like my dinner?!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Halloween to outdo all Halloweens




Nathan Hale, a soldier for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, famously said,
“I only regret that I have but one month to celebrate Halloween,” or something like that.
I can relate to Captain Hale’s sentiments. I love the month of October and Halloween and each year I try to do it bigger and better than the year before.
Let them eat soup
I’ve inadvertently set a high standard for myself. My kids enjoyed last year’s Mystery Halloween Menu so much that they’ve asked that we do it again! If you missed last year’s article when I wrote about our new family tradition, here’s a taste:
“First, start by setting a fit-for-a-ghoul Halloween table. In order to keep the cost low, I use my holiday dishes, Halloween decorations I already have on hand and some skull straws and an orange table liner I purchased from the dollar store.
Now that the table is set, create a “mystery menu,” from the meals you were already planning on serving. If you are having spaghetti, change the name to “Worms and Gut Sauce.” Or, if you are having chili, change the name to “Ground Goblin Brains with Beans.” Just be creative with the names. If you have young boys, like me, you’ll score extra -cool-mom points for the gross-out factor.
Adding food coloring is another inexpensive, but fun way to add some creepiness to your Halloween dinner. For instance, Black as a Bat Meat Loaf or Purple People Eater Chicken Pot Pie.
With their stomachs full of a spooky, but square meal, a few pieces of candy before bed shouldn’t be a big deal.”
In an effort to “outspook” last year’s Halloween feast, this year I will make soup in a pumpkin. No, not pumpkin soup, but soup cooked in a pumpkin. The recipe and instructions from Cooks.com are as follows:
SOUP IN A PUMPKIN

1 well shaped 5 lb. pumpkin1 c. grated cheese (Mozzarella or Gruyere)1 c. cooked ham, chopped2 c. toasted croutons2 c. creamPinch of nutmegSalt and pepper
Remove top of pumpkin. Scoop out seeds and stringy portion. Fill pumpkin with layers of cheese, ham, and croutons. Combine cream and seasonings. Pour into pumpkin, adding more cream, if necessary to fill shell. Cover with aluminum foil and place pumpkin in baking pan. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring several times. Remove pumpkin from oven; place on large serving dish. Top pumpkin with lid and serve soup from pumpkin "bowl". Serves 4.

A recipe with ham, cheese, cream, and in a pumpkin, even, can’t get much better than that!
The early decorator catches the millipede

To “outhaunt” last year I had to start early. I started decorating for Halloween in September! It’s an illness, I’m sure.
Mini Me and I created a Halloween tree from a small tree branch we painted black and decorated with little ghosts hung by gingham ribbon. I stuffed and tied squares I cut from an old white sheet to create the ghosts “bodies” and Mini Me used a marker to draw on their spooky faces. Our ghostly tree is now a centerpiece for the coffee table in our living room. My next project was the outside.
I’ve never ventured far past the front door with my Halloween decorations, although I have admired the effort of others. A couple years ago, someone in my neighborhood recreated a spooky graveyard in front of their house, complete with headstones and cobwebs, minus the bodies, I think. I hope.
Decorating our front yard was a group effort. Boy #1, Boy #2, Mini Me and I created a giant millipede.
We used eight pumpkins of various sizes, a couple bags of carrots and a four foot length of rebar.
First, the boys performed the lobotomy on what would be the millipedes head and I carved the freaky face.
Mini Me was in charge of preparing the “body.” After I cut the pumpkins in half, she worked to “disembowel” them. Then, the cleaned-out pumpkin halves were laid end to end in an “s” pattern on the grass to create the millipede’s body.
Next, we drove the piece of rebar into the ground at an angle and left enough of the length sticking out to support two pumpkins and the carved-out head, giving the effect that the millipede was rising up to eat you, I mean, meet you.
Finally, we carved small holes in the side of the pumpkins to insert the carrots or “legs” of the millipede. The result is a great yard decoration to outdo anything we’ve done before, until next year.
If you pass out candy, they will come

For the first time ever, I will meet the trick-o-treaters half-way; I will pass out candy from my driveway.
We are going to give our door bell a rest. Secret Agent Man and I will set up a couple of lawn chairs and light the fire pit and watch the costume parade as it comes and goes. What a great night it’s going to be with our fire, our bowl of candy, and hordes of ghouls, fairy princesses, and Jedi knights. I’ll be sad when it’s over.
I can imagine Captain Hale during the American Revolution doing something similar. Standing around the campfire with the other soldiers, trying to stay warm and thinking to himself, “October is almost over, perhaps now, I will just give my life for my country.”

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's things like this that make me love being a woman

Givin' the Kathy Van Zeland a break. This is my new "baby" from Nicole Lee!
Say "hello" everyone.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It was the wedding of the year! I'm glad I was there.

Congratulations to Jim and Pam! True love forevah!!

In honor of National Poetry Day and my favorite month

I love poetry that is accessible and relatable. I don't like reading poetry that requires a secret code to understand. I think that negates the purpose of being a writer; to clearly communicate your message. This is an example of one of my favorite poems about my favorite month.


October


The month is amber,

Gold, and brown.

Blue ghosts of smoke

Float through the town,


Great V's of geese

Honk overhead

And maples turn

A fiery red.


Frost bites the lawn.

The stars are slits

In a black cat's eye

Before she spits


At last, small witches,

Goblins, hags,

And pirates armed

With paper bags,


Their costumes hinged

On safety pins,

Go haunt a night

Of pumpkin grins.


-John Updike

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Make your travel treasures part of home sweet home

A noren (Japanese door curtain) frames a collection of masks. Japanese postcards add the finishing touch on either side of this “Great Wall” of souvenirs.


If you follow of my articles, you may remember a month back I wrote about having a yard sale to help pay for the souvenirs for our upcoming family vacation. We had a wonderful time at Walt Disney World (thanks for asking). We came home with lots of goodies: stuffed animals, water bottles, caps, sunglasses, and, of course, Mickey Mouse t-shirts.



Mere days after our return from Disney World, Secret Agent Man left for Asia. He visited the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Xiamen, China.



We love to show off the things we collect from our travels. Nothing says, “Nah-ner, nah-ner, look where we’ve been,” than a home with well-placed souvenirs.



Whether your souvenirs are from your own travels or gifts from another jet-setter, here are a few tips on how to shop and incorporate travel treasures into the décor of your home.



Black, the universal color
When you are perusing the wares in Peru, it may be hard to remember the correct shade of green you have in your living room. One way to avoid a mismatch it to always buy a decorative souvenir with the color black in it. Black is the universal color of decorating. If it has black it can be worked in somewhere, somehow into your present décor. Black reads as sophisticated, simple, rich, clean, and modern all at the same time.



Buy in pairs in Paraguay or triples in Tripoli
One little Buddha statue may seem lonely on a shelf, but two Buddhas equal bookends! Sometimes it’s hard to find a place for one Chinese scroll or one bottle of sand from your favorite beach in Mexico. But, if you buy them in two’s or three’s then you have an instant grouping that can go anywhere.



If you buy in multiples you may end up, advertently or inadvertently, starting a collection. My brother-in-law has an impressive collection of masks from around the world. Some he has collected himself, others were gifts. Over the years it has become a prize family collection that’s displayed proudly in their Atlanta home.



Go big or go home
Instead of bringing home a suitcase full of magnets, key chains, and snow globes, invest in one big souvenir, perhaps a painting, a big pot, or carved wooden plaque that can be hung over a doorway or mantle. Larger items make a statement.



One of my favorite souvenirs is a giant fan that my brother brought home from his time in Japan. The intended receiver was my mother but, when I had a big niche above my stairs to fill, that fan turned out to be just the right size for the space. Everyone who enters Casa de Payne comments on it.



Hanging in an adjacent hallway is a kimono that my brother also brought back from Japan. Again, the intended recipient was my mom. After we all took turns wearing it for Halloween, the kimono found a place of honor on the wall. It hangs by the sleeves on a curtain rod.



Postcards from Paris
I don’t have a nice camera and I am not a good photographer, so I depend on postcards. But, I don’t just bring them home and stick them in a drawer, I frame them. One of my favorites is a collection of vintage-style postcards I bought in Hawaii. I used a dark wood, collage frame to show them off. I have another framed collection of postcards Secret Agent Man brought me from India. I picked three of my favorites that were taken in the palace of Mysore. I used a gold frame to compliment the throne of the Raja pictured in the postcard.



Show off a Great Wall of souvenirs with color
Every great wall of souvenirs I have seen has been displayed on a wall painted in a beautiful color, one that sets off the collection. I recommend a rich, dark color. Add enlarged, framed pictures of the origin of your collection, especially if you are in them.



Don’t travel globally, think locally
We are so lucky to live in an area with so much natural beauty, with artisans and photographers that have been inspired by that beauty. Buy local souvenirs. Create a “Colorado” room. I love pictures of our home state, especially over-sized pictures of the Colorado National Monument.
Epcot or Estes Park, gadabout or a homebody, you don’t have to have your passport stamped to have your own Great Wall of souvenirs.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kitchen Backsplash Project

The very boring, vanilla, before picture.


The supplies purchased from Lowes. (I won't hold my breath for an endorsement check.)

The cute and willing carpenter, also known as "Dad." Works for lunch from Taco Bell.



The result!





Loved it so much we did the other wall.


Took the trimmings and lined the foot of the cabinets.


(All thepoor quality pics were taken with my camera phone. Santa is dead, because he has never brought me a new digital camera. )

Friday, September 11, 2009

Freaky, Frenchy, Friday Night

Tonight, I got my red-neck on and used my deep fry'r for the first time.
The French fries were so golden and crispy and delicious that they were eaten before I could get an after picture.
***
Do you remember the Easter tree?




It's been given a new life or should I say, "a new death." Muwahahaha!








Monday, August 31, 2009

10 + 10 = Yard sale success and happy souvenir shopping



It’s a Payne family tradition. Every five years we take a big family vacation and before every trip we have a yard sale to pay for souvenirs.


For our last vacation, we took our family on a Mexican cruise and used the yard sale spoils for sombreros and serapes.


This fall, we are turning Secret Agent Man’s frequent flyer miles and hotel points into a trip to Walt Disney World. So, we will be posting signs, pulling out tables and turning our gently- used items into extra cash for Mickey Mouse ears and Goofy t-shirts.


There are tell-tale signs of garage/yard sale readiness. Admittedly, I scored 9 out of 10 (I don’t have a pool table). What will your score be?


10 signs you need to have a yard sale


1. You can’t fit a single car in your three-car-garage.
2. You have 250 plastic, Easter eggs.
3. Your kids are afraid for lives to enter the garage.
4. Conditions have become so terrible in the garage that the mice have moved into the house.
5. There are unopened boxes from the last time you moved.
6. You are embarrassed to leave your garage door open.
7. You have pool table, but you haven’t seen the top of it since the 90’s.
8. You bought new Christmas tree because it would be too much work to dig out the old one.
9. Every time you enter your garage you hear the theme song to “The Addams Family.”
10. You own a sombrero or a serape.


September is one of the best months of the year to have yard/garage sale. The weather is cooler, people are home from vacation, and there are two big events in September: the Parade of Homes and the Fruita Fall Festival. If you are lucky enough to live near the festival or near a home on the parade route, you will be able to take advantage of the extra foot traffic.


10 Tips for a successful yard sale


1. Advertise your sale. We posted our yard sale online with GJsentinel.com. Make your signage clear and readable from the road. If you advertise it, they will come.
2. Group like items together: house wares, electronics, tools, and clothes all on separate tables or areas.
3. Play music. This helps to keep the atmosphere casual.
4. Plan to have plenty of small bills and coins on hand to make change. Decide ahead of time whether you will accept checks or hold items.
5. Encourage the kids participate and let them keep the money from the sale of their items. While preparing for our yard sale, I unearthed a box of my boy’s old toys. They were so excited to see them again (I should have saved the box for Christmas). Their possessiveness quickly turned to greed when I told them they could keep the money if they sold the old toys.
6. Sell a variety of items. My friend and yard sale enthusiast, Rachel, told me a good yard sale has at least three of these items: 10 used flower vases, some half-used bottles of shampoo, some roller skates (men's size 10), a copy of “The Catcher in the Rye” with some pages missing, and a tent that will sleep six, but has a few bullet holes. I have four of those items. That means my yard sale is going to be awesome!
7. Ask neighbors and family members to participate. Keep track of each person’s items with different colored stickers.
8. Mark the prices clearly, price them to sell, and be willing to negotiate.
9. Anticipate parking. Consider parking your vehicles down the street to make room for your patron’s.
10. Launder clothing items. The clothes at our yard sale will be “Payne free.” If you want something with Annie cooties on it, it will cost you extra.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The most comprehensive look book of bedroom inspiration




Decorati is a wonderful website for home design eye candy. Today I looked through pages and pages of gorgeous bedrooms.




Chandeliers make every room better. That's why I have one in my bathroom!




If I was more hip, this would be my room.




If I was a single gal, this would be my dream room.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I think I need a lawyer

Secret Agent Man yanked my DVR.





Is that considered spousal abuse?

I think I need a restraining order to keep him away from my other technologies.