Thursday, December 30, 2010

Easy New Year's Eve Appetizer

These little guys will be one of two ingredients in a great New Year's Eve party treat.

Button up.  Yep. That is all you need to do to have a tasty, nutritious, low-calorie and thrifty treat for your family and guests on New Year's Eve.  This delight requires only two ingredients.

Marinated Mushrooms

1 or 2 cans of button mushrooms
1 small bottle of low-cal Italian dressing (I prefer Wish-Bone, but use your favorite)

Drain mushrooms and place in a bowl.  Add enough dressing to cover them.  Put in a storage container and refrigerate for at least four hours to allow the ingredients to marinate.

Serve in a pretty dish. I put some cocktail picks beside them to make picking up easier.

Everyone will think you worked much harder than you did to put this recipe together.  It will be our secret.

As Julia would say, "Bon appetite!"

Unfortunately, Wishbone did not pay me to mention their product.
Photo provided by Google Images.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The One

This is a springtime photo of  the home we have lived in for 16 years and are moving from next week.

We all know about "The One".  Like when you meet the perfect life partner, you tell your friends that you have found "The One."  It also applies to wedding dresses.  You can try on different styles for hours, but when you have tried "The One", no other dress will do.

I think the same applies to the place where you live.  Whether it is your first apartment or your dream home, you get a certain feeling when you walk in the front door, and you know it is "The One."

We started talking about down-sizing and moving from the suburbs to a downtown townhouse about 18 months ago.  Since then I have looked at about 15 townhouses in search of either the perfect place or the place that could be remodeled into our perfect place.

We had certain criteria that were non-negotiable.  For instance, it had to have a first floor master bedroom, dirt (instead of a condo with a balcony), room for our out-of-town family members to come and spend a few nights, a two car garage, and be in a good downtown neighborhood.  We felt everything else that didn't fit this description could be added through remodeling.

Last December on a sunny but cold afternoon, we found "The One."  The trouble was we had a busy year ahead of us with our daughter's wedding in April, four months of traveling and some big business projects to tackle.  We would not have time to put our house on the market until the fall, and we weren't about to buy a property before our current house had sold. 

So, we had to just cross our fingers and hope that no one would buy our number one choice.  Lucky for us, the owner had priced the unit much higher than it was worth.  Meanwhile, we continued to look at townhouses and found two that we thought could be our second and third choices.  We felt that maybe one of the three would still be on the market by the time our house sold.

When October arrived, we were ready to put our house on the market.  We had it professionally appraised so we could price it properly, we had it staged so that its beauty could be enhanced, and we hired a top-selling realtor.  Our house sold in just three weeks time.

Meanwhile our second and third choices had sold during the year, but "The One" was still available.  After an afternoon of negotiating with the by now motivated seller, we settled on a price that satisfied us all, and we signed a contract to buy.  We will close next week. 

Keep coming back to see where we are moving and to follow the process.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Homeless, No More

This is part of the lake we will see when looking out the window of our temporary rental property.

A few weeks ago I blogged about the hunt for an apartment to rent on a month to month basis while our new digs are being remodeled.  At that time I was looking at unfurnished apartments in the downtown area.

 I looked at several, including a house over 100 years old, a second-floor condo, an apartment in a busy shopping area, and some studios.  Based on what I saw in my first session, I was able to compile a priority list of what we needed to live comfortably in a temporary dwelling for just a few months.

The most important item was to have two bedrooms.  My husband works from home, and he needs his own space so that we don't get into each other's way during business hours.  The second bedroom would serve as his office.  We also knew that finding a rental with two covered parking spaces was not going to happen, so that became a low priority item on our list.  We decided that finding a furnished place would save us from packing and unpacking twice. So, a furnished dwelling moved up to number two on the list.

We then knew which key search words to enter when conducting our on-line hunt:  two bedroom, furnished, and month to month.  When entering these three requirements, we were able to narrow down the list that presented itself to us, and immediately we found an intriguing ad.  It was promoting a large, clean, furnished, lakeside duplex available to professionals on a month to month basis.  It had two features that weren't very appealing to us:  no garage, carport, or parking structure, and it was located a few miles out of town.  But, when we visited the duplex and saw its new, clean furnishing, numerous windows, very high ceilings, and completely equipped kitchen, we knew it was our perfect temporary home, and we were homeless, no more.


These are five of the depression glass patterns that I currently own and use frequently.

Depression glass, that is.    In case you aren't familiar with it, depression glass is a generic name for dishware that was used as promotional items in products during the Depression Era of the 1930's.  Pitchers, dinner plates, saucers, cups, bowls and glasses could all be found in various products for free or purchased at low prices.  Businesses and theaters gave the dishes away to their customers as incentives.  Quaker Oats is a well-known company that distributed the glassware.  Twenty companies manufactured over 100 patterns in the United States. 

The glassware is translucent and comes in a rainbow of colors including green, pink, gold, amethyst, clear, ruby, blue, black, and white (milk glass).  It was not considered a high-quality product.  The well-to-do families probably did not own these dishes.

Thanks to my mother, I have sets of eight dessert/salad plates in seven colors.  I love them because they go perfectly with our wedding china which is Moonspun by Lenox.  By adding depression glass to that beautiful creamy colored china, the table setting takes on a more vivid appearance.  If I add flowers, and napkins in matching or complimentary colors, the table pops even more.   They also go beautifully with some other vintage sets of china that I have collected over the years.  The colors I own are gold, clear, green, pink, blue, white, and amethyst.

The color I use most is green.  Added to our Moonspun china at Christmas with red napkins and candles on the table, they give our table a holiday look.  In the spring I team the green plates with pink or yellow flowers, candles and napkins, and the table takes on a fresh spring look.  In the autumn, they work perfectly with brown, gold, or rust colored accessories to have an instant fall color theme.

People started collecting depression glass in the 1960's, but it still can easily be found at garage sales, flea markets, auctions, and on ebay.  Each salad plate is usually under $10.00.  Why not start a collection of your own in your favorite color to enhance and easily change-up your year-round table settings?

Monday, December 20, 2010

My Christmas Doll

I found this doll while packing up our guest room today.  She has been stored in a dresser drawer.

I might have just found my big Christmas gift this morning.  Let me explain.  When I was a little girl, an elderly friend of my mother's gave me this antique bisque doll which had been restored.  Realizing how delicate the little doll was, I kept her on a shelf in my bedroom and didn't really play with her. 

When I left for college, I stored her away with my other childhood memorabilia.   And then my mother gave her to me about twenty years ago along with other belongings from my past.  I stored her away in a guest room dresser until today when I was clearing out drawers for our upcoming move.  I had forgotten she was there.

Since we are downsizing, I decided to sell her on Craigslist for $100.  First, though, I decided to check on Ebay to see what these antique bisque dolls are going for, and wow, was I surprised.  The prices of the recently sold dolls range from $500 to $8,000.  So, forget the $100 bargain on Craigslist, everyone.

Meanwhile, I have contacted a doll collector in California to look at the photos and let me know if I have indeed found my early Christmas gift.  (Cha-ching!)

Do you have a personal treasure stored away?  Tell me about it in the comment box below. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Simplicity

Learn how to make a simple holiday pillow by shopping in your jewelry and sewing boxes.

Running out of time, and you haven't done your Christmas decorations yet?  Here is a simple trick that I did to "holiday up" a plain yellow pillow.  I went to my jewelry box and found a vintage looking silver brooch with a faux sapphire stone.  I then took some lime and white polka dotted ribbon from my sewing box.  I attached the ribbon to a creamy yellow brocade pillow with a  hidden safety pin, and attached the brooch.   Presto!  I had a decorative and original Christmas pillow.  I then tossed the pillow and a big red throw (actually a comfy piece of fabric from JoAnn's), onto a chair in our library, and the whole room came alive.

Maybe you can create your own unique pillow from your jewelry box.  What do you have in mind?  Be sure to share with me and others.

Have a great week-end!

Unfortunately, JoAnn's Fabric did not pay me to use their fabric.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Mr. Big

Here are Mr. Big and I surrounded by Vietnamese children during our bicycle trip from Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) through Cambodia to Bangkok.  These village children had a parade for us because they were celebrating Tet, the Vietnamese new year.

Carrie Bradshaw has nothing on me.  Well, hmmmm, maybe that's not exactly right.....She does have the designer clothes, the beautiful shoes, the great New York apartment, the dream job, and the big city lifestyle.  But, I have Mr. Big - the Real Mr. Big.

My Mr. Big earned his name - he is seven feet tall.  Yep, that's right  - seven long feet tall.  It has been great for him, though.  He earned a full basketball scholarship to a Division 1 school, played pro basketball in Europe, and always has an instant conversation piece.  And when we  travel in Asian countries like China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia, it is as if I am with a rock star.  We travel to many remote areas of these countries, and the people are fascintated to see someone as big as he is.  Mothers line their children up to be photographed with him, they want to shake his hand, do high high-fives, and just joke around.  He is very good-natured about it and plays right along.

Being seven feet tall does have its negatives, too - like when buying furniture and cars.  We have to try them.   It is like trying on clothes, but we don't have to get undressed.  As the Cambodians would say, it is "same, same but different."  The sales people always take us on as a personal challenge and work really hard to find something that "fits."  When there is success, we are all happy.  We do our own little session of high-fives.  We will be buying some new furniture for our upcoming move.  We need some new chairs for television viewing in the great room and possibly a new sofa. 

Mr. Big and I have had our discussions and are on the same page with what we are looking for.  We want our chairs to be sturdy and firm, rather than the big plush ones that you sink into.  We want our sofa to be long enough so he can lie down and maybe take a nap when watching a Saturday afternoon basketball game. 

So, if you are in a furniture store in the near future and see a tall man and his wife carrying a sofa to the dressing room, it might just be us...

Do you have any furniture shopping needs for 2011?  Please let me know in the comment section below. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bourbon Slush, Anyone?

Here in Kentucky, we know our bourbon.  In fact 90 per cent of the world's bourbon is made within a 50 mile radius of  where I live.  With the holidays approaching, I thought it would be fun to share a recipe that I received from my sister-in-law who grew up, ironically, in Baltimore - not Kentucky.  But the girl really knows how to make a good slush.

This is a great drink to serve with an appetizer before a meal or to serve as your featured cocktail at a party.

I told you in a previous blog that I am a one-drink kind of girl, and this cocktail is worthy.

Bourbon Slush

Prepare the day before serving.

6 cups water
1 cup bourbon
1 cup sugar
2 cups brewed unsweetened tea
12 ounce can  frozen lemonade
6 ounce can frozen orange juice

Mix all of the ingredients until the sugar dissolves. 
Put in freezer.
Stir after 6 hours.
Put back in freezer for a few more hours.
Spoon into high ball glasses and serve with a short straw.

Remember to make sure none of your guests - or you- over indulge.

Which brand of bourbon do you prefer?  Share in the comment section below.

Image taken from Google images.
Unfortunately, the bourbon industry is not paying me to promote their product ):

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Boxes Day

The English call the day after Christmas "Boxing Day" because they box up the food left over from their  Christmas feasts and go to each other's homes to have a second and more casual celebration.  Some people enjoy Dec. 26 more than Christmas day.

We are knee-deep in boxes and packing here, so I am having a "Boxes Day".   Working my way through the house, one room at a time, progress is being made, and the boxes are stacking up. 

Needless to say there is no time or need for a Christmas tree this year at our house.  But don't worry.  We realized back in October that we might be in the middle of packing during the holidays, so, we made plans then to take a road trip to the next state over and go to Grandma's house for the holidays.  We will meet up with the family there. 

Our big move will start when we return home and be complete by New Year's Day.  And then I get to have more "Boxes Days" when the unpacking begins.

Friday, December 10, 2010

And The Winner Is

Josie!!!  Congratulations Josie on being the winner of Down-sizing Boomer's first give-away.  You have won (drum roll, please) a box of Old Kentucky Chocolatess. 

Old Kentucky Chocolates have been a staple in our family for years as the perfect hostess and/or thank you gift.  They have a huge variety of chocolate delicacies but are best known for the bourbon balls.  Yummmmm.  Enjoy.

Thanks to all of you who have become followers, have made comments, or have contacted me privately through email to tell me how much you are enjoying this little blog.  I have said that I have tens of readers and hope to make it hundreds, than thousands.  Be sure to add this blog to your "favorites" and check back regularly.  Or, become a follower and get the updates automatically.

Stay tuned to see more before and afters, recipes, our temporary home, our new digs (yes, we have signed a contract), decorating at the Newlyweds' home, and our travel experiences.  Have a great week-end.

Unfortunately, I am not being paid by Old Kentucky Chocolates to mention their blog.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let There Be Light

When the Newlyweds moved into their charming bungalow, they had a rude awakening.  Like many older homes, the number of electrical outlets are limited, and there are no overhead lights.  So, they needed lighting, pronto.

The first thing on my "Mamma-do" list when I arrived for my week of decorating aid was to help with lighting.  Like most young couples, they are working within a budget. So, the first place we went was to a local thrift store and bingo, we hit pay dirt.  We found four lamps, and with my (ahem) over age 55 discount, we snagged them all for around $10.00.  One of them was  cream-colored ceramic and only needed a new shade.  It was perfect for the guest room.

  The next three were brass and dated, but the wiring worked just fine.

 We decided that one of them would be perfect for the black buffet in the dining room. But first it needed a pop of color.  Mrs. Newlywed decided a bright apple green would be perfect.  She selected leafy green by Rustoleum.

We gave the lamp two coats of paint, and bam, it was perfect.  The next addition was an adorable white shade from Target.

The final two lamps were also a tired-looking brass.  We decided to spray paint them both with oil rubbed bronze.  It worked perfectly, and afterwards, they looked as if they just stepped off the store-room shelf.

With the addition of two new shades from Target, they were ready for center stage in the living room. 

And just like that, there was light.

Unfortunately, I was not paid by Target or Rusoleum to use their products.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Stockbridge at Christmas

Norman Rockwell, anyone?  This late, great artist of Americana spent the end of his career and life in Stockbridge, a bucolic little burg in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.  He is known for painting everyday scenes of American life, including families, the military, lovers, and animals, all going about their day to day lives.  But his artistic interpretation coupled with some flair and whimsy made him one of America's most beloved painters.

Rockwell's most famous painting is a Christmas scene that appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1967.  He actually began painting the scene, called "Stockbridge at Christmas" in 1958 and put it away.  When rushed to meet a magazine deadline almost a decade later, he pulled the picture from his storage area, added some snow and some mountains and sent it in to the editors.  They loved it and put it on the cover of their Christmas issue.

The residents of Stockbridge know they have a good thing going.  Their town still looks the very same as it did in 1967, and for the past 21 years, they have been creating the scene in the painting on the first Sunday in December, closing down the street, and selling tickets.  Thousands of people flock there to spend an hour or so walking down the middle of Main Street, taking photos, and imagining they have stepped back in time.

A visit to Stockbridge is something I do every year.  It just makes me feel good.  So, one of the items on my bucket list was to go there during their Stockbridge at Christmas celebration.  Since I have been visiting the Newlyweds this past week, and they only live three hours from the Berkshires, it was the perfect time to make the trip.  The atmosphere wasn't quite the same when you take the scene and toss in all of the visitors taking pictures, but with the carolers, vintage cars, historic buildings, and horse-drawn wagon, it was a good interpretation.

What is your favorite Norman Rockwell painting?  Respond in the comments box below.  Remember, I will be giving away a prize at the end of this week to one of my followers or commenters.

Reprint of the Stockbridge at Christmas painting taken from Google images.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I Kissed A Girl....

And I liked it.  You know that line, right?  It's from the Katie Perry song that put her on the map.  Well, the girl I kissed is named Margarita as in the popular Skinnygirl Margarita.

 Skinnygirl Margarita is a company founded by reality star Bethenny Frankel.  (I know way too much about this.....)  She didn't actually invent margaritas, but she was smart enough to make a low-cal version and put it in a bottle.   It is so different from the margarita mixes we usually can buy because it absolutely tastes as if you just squeezed your own fresh limes and mixed them with some tequila and orange liquor.  I promise you, it is that good.

A regular margarita is loaded with calories.  Skinnygirl is loaded with taste.  It is made with agave nectar,  and  Blue Agave clear tequila and has only 100 calories.

I am a one-drink kind of gal.  So, if I am actually having a cocktail, I would like it to be one that tastes good.  If I can get the taste without all of the work, even better.  But, there is a problem here.  Skinnygirl Margaritas are not available in Kentucky where I live.  I had my drink in Syracuse while visiting the Newlyweds.  And with the three-ounce rule on airlines, it's not as if I can sneak a bottle through my carry-on when I fly home.

So, I guess the next time I want to sip a margarita and pretend I am in Cabo, I need to fly to Syracuse.

What's your drink of choice?  Please leave your answer in the comment section below.

Unfortunately, I was not paid by Skinnygirl Margarita to write this blog entry.

Chocolate or Vanilla?

When the newlyweds bought their house, they weren't in love with the living room fireplace.  It is on an angle in the corner, which they like.  They will position their seating area at an angle, also, to take advantage of the room's main focal point.  The fireplace is brick with a nice big white mantel.  Above that is a large mirror trimmed in molding that is about four inches wide.  They plan to lean art against the mirror and use it as  a backdrop.  Below is a before picture of the fireplace.  Excuse the photography.  In the midst of unpacking, we couldn't find a camera and had to use the phone camera.

What the couple wasn't crazy about was the color.  The previous owner had painted the brick a chocolate brown.  It was the exact color of a Hershey chocolate bar minus the almonds.  The newlyweds are young and energetic, and the brown just didn't fit them.  It wasn't ummmmm sexy enough.  (That is my word - not theirs).  The fireplace needed to be fresh looking, and the drabness of the brick was pulling the entire room down.  One of my projects upon arrival was to select a color from the color cards we picked up at Home Depot and then to paint the brick white.  They wanted the white to be in the same hue as the mantel and trim, which is a creamy white - like vanilla.   Being new at this, they were surprised by all of the shades of white that are available.  We finally settled on Snow Fall by Behr in a flat latex.  Even though all of the below swatches are considered whites, you can see the definite color variations.

After removing the wood logs and screen, I coated the bricks with Kilz, which is a primer.  It is available in both oil and latex base, and because we wanted an easy clean-up, we used the latex base.  The primer dried several hours while we worked on some other projects, and then I painted the first coat.  It looked even, and I thought the job was easier than I had expected.  But the next morning when the sun was shining in, we noticed that some brown shades were still showing.  So, I quickly gave it a second coat of paint.  A few hours later, we could tell that the job was complete.  

The fresh, white bricks changed the personality of the entire room.  The walls are a great taupy green, and the fireplace pops now.  We have one project successfully completed with many more waiting, but first we are going to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fireplace.

I have to add this disclaimer letting you know that, unfortunately, Home Depot and Kilz are not paying me to use their products.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Newlyweds

Greetings from Syracuse, NY, where I am visiting the newlyweds in their new/old house.  My daughter and her new husband moved to Syracuse three months ago for his new job and moved into their 2000 square feet 1928 updated bungalow two weeks ago.  Lucky for them, all of the updates (kitchen, baths, hardwood floors, windows, landscaping) have been done so that they can concentrate on painting and decorating.  That is where I come in.

I arrived yesterday, and we promptly went thrifting where we found some great lamps that can be modernized with ORB (oil rubbed bronze) spray paint, a chair with a padded seat that we will paint and reupholster for seating at a make-up vanity, a mirror to be painted for the foyer or guest room, and a bulletin board to be painted and covered for the kitchen desk area. (Watch for photos in upcoming blogs).

We also bought a soft celery green paint for the study which is now a deep red.  We will first have to prime.  The newly weds have never painted a room before, and it is my mission to make sure they don't learn any bad habits.  We also bought a soft blue for the master bedroom.

The weather forecast for tonight is not pretty.  The folks up here talk about the lake effect which often makes snow become a snow storm.   Supposedly the temperature, which is now hovering in the low 50's , is going to drop to 28 degrees, and we are going to get a lake-effect snow storm.

We are fine with that though.  There is plenty to keep us occupied on the inside.

If you would like to continue receiving this blog, please subscribe or become a follower.  Next week I will have a give-away, but you must be a follower to win.

The photo was taken by professional photographer Eric Graff.