Crate & Barrel Designs and Downloads

Is there an app for that? Essentially everyone I know has a smart phone or a smart tablet or a smart something. Iphone 5Who out there doesn’t play Words with Friends with at least a dozen other people?!? But, as we all know, the free downloads typically have pop-up ads, and some apps can range up to $10 apiece!! So this week’s High Five for Friday goes to Crate and Barrel, who is providing some free iphone/pad/pod downloads-free, that’s right, free!! Just go to There you will find download links for Scrabble, movie trivia, kids books, an Itunes party playlist and more.C&B Get the DownloadAnd the Crate and Barrel website says to check back often, as they will be updating their free downloads and adding more. So a big high five to Crate and Barrel, for not only giving us great design and decorating ideas in their January Inspiration Catalog,

C & B January Inspiration

but for adding a little fun to our Fridays as well! Have a fun weekend everyone! Susan

It’s Personal…A Photo Gallery

If you are fortunate enough to have done some extensive traveling to some fabulous places, it only seems natural to want to have a few photos around your space to show to your visitors. Recently, my daughter asked for my help in putting together a gallery wall in her hallway. Along with the photos are the word “love” in many languages, including Swedish (Karlek) and Dinosaur (rwrrrr)- so cute, and so personal to their space.

Kablek Gallery Wall

She had been collecting travel photos of she and her boyfriend for quite some time, chronicaling their global adventures. Recently, she had some of her fav black and white 4 x 6’s printed to hang. Rather than using a heavy frame, she went with the clear, frameless glass ones from Ikea. So being frameless, the photos appear almost collage-like, rather than individually framed pieces. The trick is getting them into order and then hanging symmetrically on the wall! Now it would have been a bit easier if we had this nifty Iphone Tapeulator app

gallery wall tapeulator

(download available free from Crate and Barrel!). Not wanting an entire wall of black and white, she added just a pop of color.

Memory Gallery Frenchie

In this case a super cute graphic of a french bulldog representing their beloved little guy, Bartlet (note the resemblance?!?)

by Marc Roulstone of Marcart.  We discovered him at the SOWA market last summer : ) The bright yellow helps to break up the otherwise blue, black and white wall. Gallery Wall

Imagine my delight when I opened the January 2013 Pottery Barn catalog and spotted this:

Create A Memory Wall

Create A Memory Wall

create a memory wall, under Style Resolutions No.15. Same idea, essentially the same color scheme (except for her Bartlet pics : ). I guess she was on the right track! Have a memorable Thursday everyone! Susan

Living in a Vacuum…

..less home. Over the years, I have purchased more than a dozen vacuum cleaners of various shapes and sizes, spending hundreds of $$$$.

Vacuum Graveyard

I do all my research, check the consumer surveys, read all the real consumer online reviews. So when I purchase said vacuums, I am hoping they will work as advertised. Pretty simple, actually. Suck up dirt, get rid of the dog fur, deep clean the few area rugs we have in our home as well as the stairs. Alas, I have yet to find a vacuum that can do it all. And some can’t do much of anything! These are our (I use that term with some amusement, as Coach does not have enough of a vacuum use track record to weigh in on this particular subject. Awhile ago, I sent him to the vacuum repair shop to retrieve the Bissell that had malfunctioned almost immediately after I had purchased it. The voicemail he left? “Hi, I am at the vacuum store and they are trying to give me a maroon vacuum cleaner. Is our vacuum maroon? I thought it was blue.” Just saying…) current units we have at Casa Mathison.  Presently we have FOUR vacuums stuffed in our closets, two hand-helds, two uprights. (not counting the shop vac in the basement- which is fine- at the moment).

Number 1: A Black and Decker Cyclonic Dustbuster.

Vacuum Dustbuster

Apparently cyclonic means that there is a bit of a tornado going on inside, so as the bits are retrieved off the floor, they swirl around away from the filter so it doesn’t get clogged or slow down. Makes sense. Great for picking up small bits in the kitchen, like when the dog knocks all the unwanted food out of her bowl, or when I drop oatmeal on the floor while making cookies. But not flour. It won’t pick up flour. And clearly not for vacuuming an entire house, especially carpeting!

Number 2: Shark hand held vacuum with the beater bar.

Vacuum Shark

This one is for the stairs, where the dog fur collects in the corners and risers. The main part works fine for a short time, but the hose attachment gets clogged up with the fur while I am trying to do the corners, and there is no way to detach it to clear it out, except to use a knitting needle-yikes! Once it’s clogged, it’s done.

Number 3: Eureka! I found it! Or at least I thought I had found a great little machine for doing the floors with this Eureka stick vacuum.

Vacuum Eureka

I am not sure what the “four-in-one” is, as it pretty much just stands up and picks up small bits on the floors. No beater bar. Not enough suction to clean a carpet. Can’t do stairs, whether you keep the handle long or short. And then there is this bad boy, Number 4: the Bissell PRO-LITE with 12 amps of power! (This is where Tim Allen is supposed to make that “more power, ar, ar ar nosie”)

Vacuum Bissell

Did my research, purchased it for the best price, assembled it. Best vacuum I ever had. Not too noisy, lots of suction. Then the switch broke and needed repair. And then pieces started falling off of it! It seemed like every time I took it out of the closet, more parts fell off the bottom- the entire base is now being held on with one bolt. Then the suction lessened, so it doesn’t really clean the rugs deeply any more. Tough with the dog, and the winter sand and salt presently making its way into the house.Vacuum BissellSo here I am, once again searching again for the one vacuum that will do it all-floors, stairs, area rugs, dog fur. This time I would like a cannister vac-but one with some serious power to get the rugs clean and do the stairs! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I just don’t want to purchase yet another unit that will quickly kick the bucket and join the growing heap of parts in the vacuum graveyard. Here’s hoping your Sunday doesn’t suck-or maybe hoping it does-literally!!  Susan

Iphone 5 Fever!

This week’s High Five for Friday goes to Dianne @ Walmart in Danvers, MA, who sold me my brand new, awesome, quite pretty silver and white Iphone 5 for $127.00!! I have been using an old 3Gs for the past two years, so this is an exciting upgrade for me! No more grainy, blurry photos for my blog and oh, hello Siri : )

Iphone 5

Walmart is not advertising this deal-I heard about it through word of mouth-they apparently don’t have many in stock-Danvers only had white, and only a few of their stores are participating in the program.  You have to be eligible to upgrade your existing contract with a new two-year deal or open a new contract with a few different carriers offered, including Verizon and AT&T. You also have to be the primary account holder for this transaction. But what a deal!!! However, yesterday it took me 3 hours to purchase and activate the phone (counting the time it took to drive to the North Reading store, only to find out they didn’t have them there, so I then had to drive to Danvers. Now, if I had had Siri at the time, I could have asked her which store had the new phones…). With the very nice and persistant service manager Dianne, who runs the Danvers Walmart “Connection Center”, it took us 2.5 hours, plus the assistance of two separate AT&T customer service reps, the store manager (who was no help at all) and the assistant store manager (who was a great help), the “Connection Center” phone tech support, and finally some mystery phone tech support person named Esther who talked Dianne through the amazingly ridiculously complex process of producing a contract and a bill for me to pay (while my phone was already activated and I was using it to text!). So far, it appears to be a worthwhile investment of my time, but I’ll let you know when I start taking pictures for my next blog-at least this phone camera has a flash! Enjoy your Friday everyone, and if you do need an Iphone upgrade, head over to Walmart to see my new friend Dianne, and tell her Susan sent you! (But don’t wait too long, her phone was ringing off the hook with people asking if she had the phones in stock and there were customers milling around, anxiously waiting to get their new phones while I was there) Susan

The Year of Fun!!

January 01, 2013New Year’s, to me, is always a time to cleanse the palette, wipe the slate clean, start anew. A few moments of reflection of years’ past is typically followed by a resolve (like millions of other repentants) to better 2.exercise more, blah, blah, blah. Well, this year is different! I am personally declaring 2013 to be The Year of Fun!! If there is an opportunity to learn, create, travel, design, teach, cook, dine, soar,Alaskan Bi-Plane on Country Design Home

entertain or be entertained, count me in! Time for a fresh start and a new perspective, time for some fun! (disclaimer: this does not include any activities where I am strapped to a harness and soaring above the clouds- I do like to keep my feet firmly planted on our planet. Oh, and also, not kayaking, not a huge fan, although a little water rafting in Alaska might fit the bill nicely : )    Alaska Water Rafting

And so it begins by clearing out the dining room cupboard. Out went all of the colorful Christmas holiday plates and decorations.

Christmas Dishes in Hutch     Snowman PlatterNikko Christmas Dishes

In their place? White. Loads of white. Cupboard with white pottery

Plates, stacks of bowls, crocks and tureens-all white-that I have collected over the years.

Cupboard with white bowls

The color white makes everything clearer, cleaner and purer. White becomes the perfect backdrop for the millions of other beautiful colors in our spectrum and makes them pop. There are so many shades of white, so you can mix and match them to create a fabulously layered look.

White can be classically elegant:

or elegantly classic

White mirrored armoire

Photo via My Shabby Streamside Studio

White can be whimsical

Photo via Better Homes and Gardens


White flower paper installation

Photo via

funky & fun

white vintage vignette

Photo via Biskops Garden Blogspot

tastefully simple

White mirrored vanity

Photo via

or simply extraordinary

White room from Capri Palace Hotel, Anacapri - Italy

Photo via Fabrizia Frezza Architecture Interiors

So if you are looking for a way to start fresh and new for 2013, forget those resolutions that only last a day or two and get your exercise by grabbing a can of white paint and giving your space a whole new look!! Happy Fun Year everyone!!! Susan 

Idyllic “I Do’s”

Wedding Trunk Bay         One month ago today, Coach and I were standing barefoot on a pristine sandy beach in Trunk Bay, St. John USVI. We were there, along with family and friends, to celebrate the wedding of my lovely niece Lindsey & her handsome groom Matt.

Wedding Rings

One can only imagine the difficulty in planning an elegant event such as this from long distance, but absolutely nothing was lost in the details. The bridesmaids wore dresses in tropical shades of pale aqua that took on the hues of the water behind them as the light changed- absolutely stunning! As was the bride in her gorgeous lace gown with a train that literally floated over the sand as she walked.  The groomsmen were in white shirts and khakis, the flowers girls in fuschia- could there have been a more beautiful bridal party!?!?

Wedding Bridal Party

The bridal sisters : )

Wedding sisters

Cute little basket for shoes by the beach.

Wedding shoes optional

It’s a sign of good things to come!

Wedding happily ever after

Palm fronds and shells were the aisle markers for the seated guests. Wedding Aisle markers   The steel drummer played as the guests and wedding party entered the beach cove where the ceremony was to take place.

wedding steel drummer

The setting was idyllic: a seafoam green ocean and gentle waves softly lapping just short of the feet of the bridal party as the couple recited their loving vows. As the sun set, the sky turned a soft pink and glowed with the promise of many perfect tomorrows as the new husband and wife kissed.

Wedding The Kiss 2

Following the ceremony, the guests were taken by the island shuttles (these were all over the island- kind of a hop-on, hop-off deal where you could be taken pretty much anywhere for $3-4 dollars- a steal!!)

wedding island shuttle

The venue was the Ocean Grill, a gorgeous restaurant with an indoor/outdoor grotto feel,

Wedding venue

where the table settings (created and then transported to the island by the bride’s mom), along with the orchids and tea lights set the tone of casual elegance for the evening.

Wedding chevron table runners

The only thing missing was the couple’s three dogs-clearly they couldn’t bring them (although if they had had their way, there would have been three wagging tails on the beach : ) but they got into the act anyway with their welcome sign.Wedding Dogs

Tropical blue drinks were the beverage of choice-not sure what was in them, but they were soooo delish and accented the gray and white chevron table runners perfectly!

Wedding blue drinks

There were flip-flops tied up with bows for the ladies and tiny silver bells for the guests to ring.

Wedding flip flops

A romantic first dance

Wedding venue first dance

a lavish buffet and a rocking dance floor (spearheaded by the groom’s dad : ) kept the party going well into the night. Even a sudden torrential downpour couldn’t dampen the spirits of the partygoers who were there to celebrate with this young couple!

Wedding rain

All in all, a fantastic night weekend that created so many great memories. Our best wishes for a lifetime of love and happiness for the new bride and groom! Susan (& Coach)

Merry Happy Holidays!

Beauty of Christmas

I will be taking a few days off from writing to celebrate the holidays with family and friends, and my wish for all of you is for a peaceful, joyful and very Merry Christmas!! Susan

“Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree…”

“…at the Christmas Party Hop!”  (What exactly is a party hop, anyway??) Yesterday I decided to make a cake for a an amazing person whose birthday happens to fall three days before Christmas. I imagine that it’s not always fun having your birthday so close to the biggest holiday of the year- your special day may totally get forgotten in all the hustle and bustle of the season. So I pulled all these ingredients out, and turned this:

Cake Ingredients

Into this Winter Wonderland Cake:                Christmas Tree Cake

It is a pretty simple cake, although it looks like  you spent hours and hours creating it! Here’s how:

1. Bake a cake in a bundt pan. Cake Bundt Pan

Here is a great recipe for turning a box mix into a pound cake with the additions of butter, water and pudding mix!

Cake Mix Recipe

Cool the cake, and invert in onto your serving plate.

2. Frosting: you certainly can use the kind in the tubs, I did for this, but I added some more confectioner’s sugar, cream and vanilla to boost the flavor. Then I added the green food coloring, but I saved a little of the white for the top layer of drizzle. Fill a pastry bag with the colored frosting.

3. Make your trees from ice cream cones. Take a “star” tip in a pastry bag and fill it with whatever color frosting you want the trees to be- green is good, pink or purple is fine too! Holding the cones at the tip, and starting at the bottom, pipe rows of stars, pulling them out a little so they look shaggy.  Cake Frosting Trees

As you go along, every fourth or fifth row, turn the cone sideways and sprinkle with decorations-cute, huh?

Cake Trees

When you get just to the top, put the cone down on wax paper and then add the frosting tip of the tree.  Frost your forest, then allow to dry.

Cake Frosting Forest

4. Take whatever colored frosting you have remaining, and put it in a microwave-safe bowl and begin to melt it. I use the high setting and check it every 15 seconds until it is a runny consistency. Don’t burn it!!!!

Cake Drizzle

5. Now using a spoon or fork, drizzle the icing back and forth over the cake until it is covered. It sets quickly so you have to work fast. Then take the white icing and melt it the same way.  Doing one section at at time, drizzle the white icing onto the cake, sprinkle some coconut, place a tree into place and push gently to secure it. Repeat with remaining icing and trees until you have a wonderland!

6. Final step: take confectioner’s sugar and a little sifter and sprinkle all over the entire cake to give the illusion of snow fall…pretty!! Now serve it to the very special birthday girl : ) and sing a little “Happy Birthday Party Hop”     Cake Sprinkling Sugar   Hope you have a sugary sweet Sunday everyone!! Two days until Santa arrives!! Susan


A Sweet Swap

Wednesday was our second annual cookie swap at my work place-sweet!!! When I proposed the idea last year, it initially was greeted with some trepidation (why would I swap my cookies, and how do I decide what kind to bring?). But it was such a success that this year my co-workers were quite enthusiastic about rolling up their sleeves and rolling out some dough!

Cookies Gingerbread men

Knowing you will be going home with two dozen+ assorted home made delicious cookies is quite an incentive! I found this book, which I thought might have some great swapping recipes, along with tips for a fun and successful swap. Although we did skip the recipes for Juicy Sangria  and Fresh Lime Margaritas-tequila is rather frowned upon in the middle of a work day.

Cookie Swap Book

Then I turned to my holiday Pinterest board for recipes, and I found this one for cute reindeer pretzel cookies. Reindeer Pretzel Cookies on Country Design HomeWhich I did not follow exactly. So they came out like this.  Cookies Pretzels Not very pretty, very yummy, but sooo not pretty! They would be right at home in the land of misfit toys– am I right? For my other selection (we each brought in two dozen to swap), I went with a traditional sugar cookie, drizzled with icing and decorated with sprinkles.

Cookies Trees

My co-workers’ yummy cookies included: Chocolate Coconut Disasters (per the baker, but they were really awesome!)

Cookies Coconut Disasters

Peppermint Bark

 Cookies Peppermint Bark

Chocolate Dipped Macaroons

Chocolate Dipped Macaroons

Peanut Butter Rolo Cookies

Cookies Red and Green Rolos

I provided the trays, cello wrap, ribbon and the little gingerbread guys for gift tags.

Cookies Trays and Wrap

When we were finished, each participant walked away with a tray filled with variety of cookies to bring home-yum!

Cookie Trays

For more holiday recipes and ideas, please visit my Merry Happy Holly Days on Pinterest. If you have a favorite cookie recipe that you would like to share, send it to me and I will add it here!  And have a sweet, sweet Friday everyon! Susan

The Glidden Project-Complete!

Part two of the Glidden Project. A budget remodel using Glidden paints.

The Glidden Project-Complete!.

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