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!.

The Glidden Project-Complete!

Soooo, how did I do?!? If you remember the before pics, dark and dreary, not much light, kind of drab. But now… bright and cheerful, lighter and fresher-just in time for the holidays!! A few things I did for this makeover:

1. Repainted all the walls, including the tired blue fireplace wall, which immediately brightened up the entire room.

Completed Room

2. Transformed the bookcases/media wall. Fresh paint on back wall, repainted all the shelving from dark, stained brown to creamy white. I also painted the niche with the Steel Blue for a focal point- where the hand-carved whale now sits. Backlighting it with some LED lights gives an aquarium-like transformation-kind of cool, right?

Glidden Bookcase Whale Wall

3. Edited the shelves by removing most of Coach’s old books and keeping the ones that have some meaning (or the colors looked pretty : )

Bookshelves Edited

4. Had this old chair and ottoman re-upholstered in a light blue linen with creamy white trim.

Family Room Chair Before

Here is the brighter, fresher, newly transformed chair and ottoman! I have a great company in Lynn, just in case anyone needs a remodel…

Glidden Chair Redo

4. We kept the rugs the same, but change out some lampshades, added some colorful throw pillows, some soft fluffy blankets for those chilly winter evenings and re-arranged the pictures and mirrors.  This is Daisy’s chair. She would be really upset if we got rid of her chair, even if she really isn’t able to get up there to curl into a ball : )

Daisy's Chair

Wall Completed with Sofa

5. I also used the Steel Blue to re-paint the arched mirror so it would stand out against the Antique Beige background.

Arched Mirror Steel Blue

And then I decorated for the holidays, of course!

Decorated Fireplace and Tree

Arched Mirror Steel Blue Decorated

I would like to again thank the folks at Glidden for their paint, and their patience in allowing me the time to make this happen and write about it in my own words. I hope this story inspires you to try something new, break away from the known and do a little experimenting of your own!  Susan

A Lousy Im”Press”ion

So, it appears as if you all received an email from Country Design Home yesterday that held no content, just a link to a post that was password protected. Apologies for that! Apparently, if you privately publish a post, Word Press (my blog hosting site) still sends out an email with the link to all of your followers, even if they cannot view it! I am not sure what the concept is there, but I will tell you that the blog post in question is now live, and I would love for you to read it- it is part 1 of 2 posts! Here is the link: This is a project I have been working hard on for the past couple of months, and would love any comments or feedback! Again, I apologize for the snafu…and I hope you enjoy the blog! Susan

The Glidden Project

Glidden Autumn Paint ChipBack in October, I spied this insert from Glidden Paints inside the Halloween issue of Country Living Magazine The brilliant autumn-inspired colors in the ad caught my eye, as did their interactive Country Living October 2012website, so I blogged about it. Well, the good people at Glidden saw my blog (yay!) and asked if I would be interested in doing a room makeover using their paint brand. They would send me the paints of my choice, I would paint it myself and then write about the experience. Now, those of you who read my blog know that I am a one-paint kind of decorista. Over the years I have tried just about every paint brand, only to keep returning to my personal favorite. But, since I had been contemplating a facelift for our family room anyway, it seemed like the perfect time to sieze an amazing opportunity to try something new and write a blog for the whole world to see (well, maybe not the whole world, but at least my blogging world).

Here’s the story: The last time we re-painted the family room, I had decided to add an accent color to the fireplace wall.

Glidden Before Mantel

At the time, it worked to enhance the fireplace and mantel that were viewable from the kitchen, which was the same color. However, last fall we converted our adjacent deck to a screened-in porch, which we LOVE, but any natural light we had streaming into the picture window wasGlidden porch

greatly diminished, making the room darker and less appealing. Along with that, I had changed the sofa slipcover from this light toile print

Glidden Blue Toile

to a brick red solid, creating a cavernous feel.

Glidden Brick Red Sofa

 Of course, that was not my intent. The original blue slipcover that came with the sofa we bought back in 2005 was too flowery for this more “countrified” space, and the red slipcover I purchased online looked a lot brighter on my computer screen than in person. Bright, cheerful color is my thing…dark and gloomy, not so much. And several of the decorating elements in the room- like this hand-carved whale-also creamy white, just faded into the walls, which were the same color as the trim. Glidden Whale

Time for a change. The new colors I chose were Antique Beige Glidden Antique Beige

for the walls, because I needed a color just a shade or two darker than the trim but still bright and light, and this one has just a hint of pink, and Steel Blue for the accents to match the rugs and curtains that I was planning to keep. Glidden Steel Blue

I kept the trim, fireplace and bookcases the same creamy white semi-gloss. But before I could paint the wall, I had to do a wee bit of patching since I had made some pretty big screw holes while hanging a mirror awhile back.


A hole this big cannot just be filled with putty, you actually need to use some of this mesh tape to bridge it, and give it something to grab onto.

Mesh Spackling Tape

Patching the Hole

Once the putty was dry and sanded, I used this Glidden Primer called Gripper . (I had given this a High Five For Friday awhile ago-see Primed for Success...)

Glidden Gripper CanIt has a school-glue consistency, covers everything and seals in stains and dark colors, yet it is water-based for easy cleanup.

Blue wall with Gripper Primer

I was able to paint all of these shelves that were stained and polyurethaned over 25 years ago-without even sanding them!



Amazing stuff.  Next up was two coats of the eggshell finish Antique Beige Glidden. Having stated above that I have been using the same paint brand for years, I have to tell you that I was very happily surprised by how great this paint is! I typically judge my paint by the several factors listed below; in each case, the Glidden paint passed with flying colors!

1.Drippiness: Minimal dripping and splattering, both from the brush and the rollers (foam and low nap), even from up high on the ladder.

2.Sagging: No sagging at all (that’s when you roll or brush the paint on, then look back a minute or two later and find that the paint is literally     sagging from the wall, which you then have to go and redo before it sets).

3.Ease of Use: The paint rolled and brushed on smoothly and quickly, covered beautifully, cleaned up easily with soap and water.

4.Overall Depth of Color. The color is deep and even and the eggshell finish has just enough glow so the light from the window is refracted- exactly what I needed to brighten up the room!

Coach walked in after I was done (yup, the interior painting is my thing, he sticks to the outdoors), and said “wow, this looks really amazing!”, which, if you know coach, is a lot for him to say… Sooo, this is the before:

Glidden Blue Wall Before

Bookcases Dark

But you will have to come back tomorrow for the after : ) Happy last minute shopping everyone!!! Susan


As those of you who follow my blog know, I do love a touch of bling on pretty much everything, especially when it comes to holiday decorating. This year, I decided to try a more rustic vibe using fresh greens, burlap and jute in our recently repainted family room-sooo country pretty!

Christmas Flowerpots Candles

Here are a couple of just-completed projects, as I continue to race against time to get the house in shape for the holidays! Colorful Pinecones: On a recent episode of Sarah’s Holiday Party (for those of you who are not HGTV fanatics, Sarah Richardson is a Canadian designer

Christmas Sarah's Housewho creates breathtaking interiors in everything from a secluded island summer home to a rustic pigsty), Sarah shared many holiday decorating ideas with her assistant and “quick-to-quip” sidekick Tommy. One that I immediately fell for was colorfully painted pinecones.

Photo Source: Stich, Craft, Create

Photo Source: Stich, Craft, Create

Hers were tinted in various shades of pinks and greens, but I needed to use these for family room decorations, so I went with my recently-painted contrast color, Steel Blue by Glidden. (more on that later) This is a simple but slightly messy project. First, gather all of your materials (we happen to live near conservation land, so there is a never-ending supply of fresh greens and pinecones : )

Christmas Pinecone supplies

Take a leak-proof container with a sealable top that is large enough to accomodate the pine cones you wish to paint.

Christmas Pinecone Paint

Add a paint color of your choice- about 1/2 cup, then dilute it with some water, about 1/4 cup- you just want to make the paint the consistency of whole milk.

Christmas Diluted Paint with Water

Drop in a pinecone

Christmas Pinecone in Paint on Country Design Home

seal lid, shake, (If you have ever attempted to paint a pine cone, you know how hard it is to get the paint into all the crevices- this is brilliant!!!)remove and allow to drip, then place on wax paper to dry. Christmas Pine Cones Blue  (if you place on newspaper, the cone will stick to it when dried).

Christmas Glitter

I added a little glitter while the paint was still wet for my touch of bling.

Christmas Painted Pinecones

When dry, decorate! In this case, I had an old tin bucket from the porch.

Christmas Tin Pail on Country Design Home

Added some pine boughs that Coach and I had gathered along with the pinecones. Add the colored and plain cones, some votives and you’re done!

Christmas Tin Pail Decorated on Country Design Home

Speaking of pine boughs, I needed to decorate the mantel, and staying with the natural theme, had gathered some a few days ago while Coach and I were pinecone hunting. No bling here, just tied the boughs in lengths with jute rope until I had the desired length to create a garland.

Christmas Pine Boughs on Country Design Home

Added some berries and draped it along the mantel for a fresh and natural holiday decor.

Tree is up, family room is done-the dining room is all that remains! Susan

High Five for Easy Holiday Decorating!

Loving Christmas carols this time of year. One of my favs is “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas“…but I’m not really. Although I love a bit of white on the ground, the rest of it (shoveling, boots, cleaning off the car, dodging giant icicles hanging from the roof, etc) is not my cup of tea.

My Little Red Ice House

But, we live in New England, so we take what we get! So far, no snow to be seen-yay! So I wanted to make some decorations with a little fake snow to give the illusion of winter, without the hassle. So, this week’s High Five For Friday goes to Santa Snow in a can!! Makes everything merry and bright and cheerful and white : )Wreath Santa Snow & Glitter My latest D.I.M. project: needing a new holiday front door wreath, I found an old autumn wreath in the barn.


Wreath Autumn

It was a little beat up, and quite a few of the berries had little bites taken out of them. Hmmm…

Wreath Berries

I think one of our barn critters thought they were having themselves a feast! So I pulled out all of the autumn leaves, and sprayed an undercoat of white enamel paint. I always keep a few of these around- at 99 cents a can, you can’t go wrong!

Wreath White Quick Color


Wreath Painted

Then I hit it with my new favorite decorating tool- fake Santa Snow in a can!! This week’s High Five For Friday! LOVE. And some sprinkle glitter- it’s bling in a bottle. LOVE. So then the berries looked like this (well, it looks prettier in person- this kind of looks like a magnified science experiment…)Winter Berries on Country Design Home Added a cheery bow (thanks to my new bowmaking skills I learned on Pinterest : ) And we have a pretty new Christmas wreath!!

Wreath Winter White

Total investment: $2.99 for the Santa Snow, $4.99 for the glitter (but I had a 40% coupon, so do the math on that) $.99 for the paint. But I only  used a fraction of those supplies, so I have plenty left over to decorate more stuff! Ribbon: $1.50 for a 5 yard roll. The wreath was a free reclaimed castoff!  Total investment: $3.00 tops! (Disclaimer: just be warned that it is very possible that you are having soooo much fun spraying snow and tying bows that you forget to go to work on time. Just saying…)

My other High Five goes to this amazing Krinner Christmas Tree Standsation.

Krinner Tree Stand Box

Nicknamed the “marriage-saver” for a reason, this is the absolutely world’s best fresh tree stand!

Krinner Tree Stand

For many years, Coach and I have done the annual tree dance of anger using one of those old screw-in type stands. There was always lots of hammering and sawing and rope-tieing and occasional yelling and frustrated sighs…Tree Stand

It would typically take a couple of hours for us to get the tree up in the stand, straightened and tightened, and then tethered to the wall. This year, putting the tree up took…1 minute!!! Straight and secure, no worries about toppling over. Simply amazing. To watch a YouTube how-to video, click here  (Note- this is NOT me and Coach!!!) We purchased ours last year at, but this year every major retailer has them, including Best investment you will ever make, guaranteed!!! Now we just need to decorate it…anyone have an easy way to string lights?!10 Days til Christmas- make every minute count. Susan

Chalking It Up

I am still playing catch-up from our tropical weekend, and slowly but surely I am making the final push to get the house decorated for the holidays! For quite some time, I have been wanting a chalk board for the kitchen, not so much for notes and memos, but to add a bit of my own brand of humor to our environs. Not wanting to go out and purchase a chalkboard, and knowing that we have dozens of bins of holiday stuff that I could upcycle, I found this old tavern sign hanging around the basement. Cute, huh? Mistletoe Sign       Time for some simple D.I.M! (Do It Myself,  because if I don’t, who else will!? ) I really didn’t want to ruin the cute pic on the front, in the event that I would want to use it again. So I flipped it over to the back side, where there was a nice, clean, even surface to work with. You can pretty much transform anything into a chalkboard! Here’s how:

1. Clean, then sand the surface lightly to remove any dust or surface imperfections. Then, wipe it down with a tack cloth (you can pick these up at your local hardware store). The tack cloth is a little sticky, so it picks up all of the extra fine dust that your rag may not.

2. For the first coat, I used Martha Stewart Magnetic Paint, so the surface becomes a magnet board as well. If you don’t want that, then proceed to the next step.

Chalk Magnetic Paint Marthat Stewart

3. In between coats, lightly sand and wipe down with the tack cloth again. See what you missed with that damp rag!?

Chalk Tack Cloth

4. Paint on the chalkboard paint with a sponge brush to avoid lines.

Chalkboard Paint finish

Make sure you don’t leave any streaks or blobs of paint. Wait an hour, apply a second coat. Allow to dry for 24 hours.  Chalkboard Plaid Paint

5. Take a piece of chalk on its side and rub it all over the board- this “cures” the surface and allows you to write easily on your new board. Now write some funny, witty holiday greeting for all to see and enjoy!

Chalk curing

6. Hang it up. Decorate around it. Add a few candles. Done. So my niche in the kitchen went from this fall vignette:

Chalk board Fall Vignette

To this holiday greeting!

Chalk Finished Wall

Time to tackle the mantel! Susan 

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