I’m Dreaming of A Tropical Holiday

While I was whiling away the hours ocean-side in a tropical paradise called St. John this past weekend

Tropical Paradise

I was only too aware that upon our return to Boston, we would be in for some dramatically different weather. The virgin white sands

Tropical Beach on Country Design Home

would be replaced by drifting white snow (although today is it 60 degrees, so there’s that!)

Holiday Snow Covered Street

and the tropical green palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze Holiday Palm Trees

would be replaced with tall evergreens bedecked in Christmas finery.

Holiday Christmas Tree

Other than a few evergreen-swagged railingsHoliday Swag Railing

and balconies (which looked oddly out of place in this land of pastel blues…)

Holiday swag

or a lighted palm tree (although I suspect this was a year-round part of the decor)

Holiday Palm Lit

and an occasional surfing santa Holiday Surfin' Santathere wasn’t much in the way of holiday decor. So while I was hanging around the pool in between all of the wedding festivites, I found a few online suggestions for decorating your sea-side villa for the holidays. A simple seashell ornament could be the start of a dramatic tree design using blues and golds Holiday Seashell Ornament Or you could do an entire tree in seashells and starfish for dramatic tropical effect

Holiday Interior Yellow

Some colorful twinkling lights and baubles on your palm trees or Holiday Free Christmas Wallpapers.net

multi-colored lights reflecting on the water make a dazzling display that will surely attract Santa’s attention!

Holiday Outdoor display

Or you could go full-on tropical holiday with starfish trees- so pretty!! Holiday Starfish Tree on DIYnetwork

One final tree image today…one of the most ridiculously scrumptious desserts I have ever tasted! Deep-fried Key Lime Pie. I know, right?!?

Deep Fried Key Lime Pie on Country Design Home

Take a big slice of pie, wrap it in what appears to be jelly donut dough, deep fry it and then dust it with sugar and cinammon. Add the fruity red and green drizzle for a holiday effect. AMAZING. And with that, I need to unpack (both my suitcases and the Christmas decorations-yikes!) Have a sunny Monday, no matter where you are! Susan

A Gem of A Christmas Gift

You know when you have an idea in your head of the perfect gift you want to buy, and you wander around the mall or scour the internet for hours trying to find it? Only to settle for something less than perfect because it just doesn’t exist!? Then this week’s High Five for Friday is for you! Gemvara is a Boston-based online jewelry company that allows you to create your own custom piece of gorgeous jewelry. Recently featured on Oprah’s “My Favorite Things” show for military spouses, these Naked Cushion Triple Earrings were worn by Oprah during the show,

and she presented a pair to each of the incredibly deserving recipients in the audience. Not to be outdone, this is me modeling my “Mother’s Day” ring that I received this past May. With both of my children’s stones, it was a meaningful and so special gift. LOVE. On the website, Gemvara.com, the offerings are endless, as they provide the inspired original designs for custom rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets and you take it from there. Any stone, from brilliant top-quality diamonds (I know, right?!?)and exquisite emeralds are available, and they have golds I have never seen before- check out this Whirling Heart Pendant in 18k Rose Gold-amazing!! The description: “Lined with tiny round gems, this heart pendant whirls into abstraction, forever suspended in a blissful dance” Couldn’t have said it better myself!

So if you are looking for a bit of sparkle and bling to light up your Christmas morning, check out Gemvara.com. And if you happen to see Coach wandering the mall, could you mention it to him? Thanks and have a gem of a Friday! Susan

Wandering Through Williamsburg

It’s Wanderlust Wednesday! This week, while we are wandering off to our next (and final!) wedding of 2012, I am sending you back in time to the 1700’s to Williamsburg, Virginia!

This past summer Coach and I went to the revolutionary epicenter of America, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, one of our favorite touristy-type spots. Anything you want to learn about colonial life in Revolutionary times, you will find it here in intricate detail,

where actors and performers portray colonial men and women working and living as they did in the 1700’s, in startlingly realistic fashion.

Stroll down the Duke of Gloucester Street, which appears as it did in the 1700’s, and you will find most shops and taverns lovingly restored and maintained through the efforts of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

This is one of our favorite shops, owned by Mr. Prentis,

a purveyor of authentically fine colonial goods.

Since there is so much rustic architecture and beautiful hand-wrought brick and iron works, I decided to attempt to photograph the alphabet letters that spell Williamsburg. Not as easy as one might think! So use your imagination as I take you on the tour…

ig Makers Shop. These two lovely ladies patiently answered questions about where and when wigs were made and worn…by the colonial men!

ron Works were being created in the Blacksmith’s Shop, where despite the blazing heat and the roaring fires, the workers answered questions from the crowd.

Throughout Williamsburg you can see their handiwork, like this beautiful garden gate at the Governer’s Palace.

ivestock abound throughout Williamsburg, and can be found pulling carts and supplies.

When they weren’t working, they were resting behind post and rail fences, munching on lush green pastures.

ittle Lambs having their lunch-baaah!

nspired signs decorate the buildings, telling the story of the offerings inside. This mug of ale beckons the thirsty traveler into Chownings Tavern.

rchaeological dig sites spotted behind the buildings. Since Williamsburg has so much history buried beneath it’s pathways, dig sites are set up to unearth treasures from the 1700’s.

Many of the items for sale in the local shops, like this blue Delft jug

these salt and pepper vessels

and this politically-inspired teapot, are replicas of period pieces discovered under the ground. (you’ll have to ask Coach about the Stamp Act)

illinery Shop. These ladies spend their days stitching and creating hand-sewn dresses, skirts and accessories.

tomping the clay to created the thousands of bricks used annually to build and maintain the streets and pathways. Many of the characters that perform in the town are actually students at the College of William and Mary, whose campus sits adjacent to Williamsburg Proper.

irds for pie-baking. Four and twenty at least!!

nder the hot summer sun, women wore these colorful straw bonnets to keep cool and protected.

einactments are performed throughout the day, as soldiers and town folk tell the story of the days leading up to the American Revolution.

loves from the Milliner’s Shop, worn by the town’s gentrified elite.

So that was my walking tour, sharing some of my fav pics from Williamsburg. If you have an interest in American History, and you have the opportunity, Williamsburg Virginia is a must-see! Have a revolutionary day! Susan

So Very Thankful…

…that my holiday prep is over!! Sorry I haven’t been blogging much, it has been such a busy time around here and something had to give. Thanksgiving is absolutely my favorite holiday, and we love to entertain family and friends with a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixins! This year we had special guests from Ireland, New York and Oregon, so we tried to make it especially festive.

Since last year, my plan had been to host a primitive dinner in our re-furbished barn, but those hopes were dashed when we were rejected by HGTV. Sooo, necessity being the mother of invention, I decided to hold our annual feast on our newly vinyl-clad porch. After three long hard weekends of cutting and taping and grommeting, we had this:

So I hung thermal-lined drapes, added three tables and chairs for 22, twinkle lights and candles and then it looked like this:

Each table had its own centerpieces and decorations, using autumn leaves, burlap runners, rustic vases and candles to add a warm glow:

Once the candles were lit and the twinkle lights were glowing, it made for a pretty special (if not a bit chilly-could only use one portable heater as the others kept blowing a fuse!) outdoor dining room.

One of my young nieces walked in and said “Wow, awesome, it looks like a wedding!”

Mission accomplished. I would like to thank everyone who joined in to celebrate this special day, bringing wine and sides and pies and last-minute, hand-made place cards

and delicious hors d’oeuvres to make this dinner the best ever! Funny story about the hors d’oeuvres. My brother texted me to ask what time the party started. This was my unintended response (thank you, auto correct!)

Look for it on Ellen’s Clumsy Thumbsy : ) Hope you all had a lovely holiday as well.

On to wedding #6! Susan

Rejuvenating Your Space

It’s Friday again?!? This week’s High Five for Friday goes to a vintage lighting company called Rejuvenation. LOVE. I mean like heart palpatation love. Their motto? “History Is Our Designer”. This Portland, Oregon company creates hand-crafted vintage-inspired lighting. If you are redecorating and redesigning your older home or building a new “old” home, the pieces they offer are simply stunning and can be custom-designed just for your space!

Upon receiving their gorgeous glossy catalog in the mail, I immediately fell in love with this glamorous cover girl: Meteor.

Perfect for a mid-century modern space, inspired by out of this world styles of the 50’s and 60’s (anyone reading this remember Sputnik?).

Thumbing through page after page of styles and spaces, I could envision many of these fixtures in my country-style home. This McCoy pendant is simple and elegant.

And this “Hood” pendant can be customized with your choice of metals, globes and bulbs to give your space your own personal style.

Industrial chic is all the rage right now, and all of the items in this picture are offered,

including the salvage table and the wire chairs. This Bar Cart was fashioned from a salvaged metal aircraft mechanics tool chest- amazing!

So after looking through the catalog, I did a little online research and discovered that Rejuvenation was founded by Jim Kelly in 1977 with a few bucks and an idea to open a salvage restoration shop. In 2011, the company was sold to mega-company Williams Sonoma (you know, Pottery Barn, West Elm, etal). The plan is to keep the Rejuvenation brand intact, meaning that you will still be purchasing custom, hand-crafted lighting but have the benefit of the Williams Sonoma access and customer service. Brilliant! Literally.

Have an enlightened Friday everyone! Susan

Settling the Estate

Cleaning out my blog files and came across these pics taken this past summer at The Kaminski Estate Auction in Nahant, MA. The Devereaux Family Estate was once a stately white colonial surrounded by lush landscapes with views of the ocean.

Now reduced to a shadow of its former self,

with torn and moldy wallpapers,

crumbling ceilings

and ancient, broken-down kitchens and baths.

But oh, if you could only imagine what this place must have been in it’s prime-a real show stopper worthy of any decorator’s showhouse! This fabulous dining room with its wainscotted walls, crown moldings and glorious wood floors would have been the setting for many a fancy dinner party.

And the mahogany railings that spiraled up three floors were magnificent- just needing a little TLC (I guess they never heard of Glidden Gripper)

Inside the home was the tag sale with the entire contents being sold for a song. There were buyers swarming throughout the home, like red ants on a hill, scooping up boxes of vintage fabrics, mahogany furniture, antique dolls

and period lighting fixtures.

While outside, a large auction tent had been erected and was filled with Americana antiques,

unusual items like this bronze elephant

and this fortune tellers booth. Do you think one of the family members was in a traveling circus!? Also on display was an impressive collection of nautical works by important artists such as William Pierce Stubbs and Antonio Nicolo Gasparo, and a spectacular reproduction Jaguar!! A check of the website in the weeks following the auction revealed that this collection had garnered in excess of 100k!

These kinds of sales always make me wonder about the family who inhabited this space, and why it was allowed to crumble around them. We’ll never know. But my hope is that the new owners do not tear down what was once a treasured New England Home, but instead restore it to its’ former glory and pass it on to the next generation.  Moving forward… Susan

Charming Charlotte

It’s Wanderlust Wednesday, and I am sharing one last look at Charlotte, North Carolina, where the fabulous Wedding With A View took place. It was a whirlwind weekend, flying in on Friday afternoon and departing Sunday morning, with little time for sightseeing. But we managed to steal away for a couple of hours in between the planned wedding festivities to take a stroll in the Uptown City Center area, which is where our Marriott Hotel was located. Inside the hotel, this lovely bronze sculpture greeted us

while this amazing light fixture illuminated the front lobby.

Other than several museums, including the Wells Fargo HistoryLevine Museum of the New South and NASCAR Hall of Fame, downtown Charlotte is populated with restaurants, gastropubs and bars. Great for dining and night life, not so much for finding souvenirs! A few images to share: This spectacular firebird sculpture stands guard at the entrance of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.

As we walked the streets, we couldn’t help but notice how beautiful and clean this city is- not a piece of litter or cigarette butt to be found!

Surrounded by skyscrapers sandwiched in between the hotels and parks,

we spent a lot of time looking way up to note the varied architecture.

After walking for a couple of hours, Coach and I happened upon this cute little pub called the Dandelion Market, where we stopped for lunch.

With a full-on Bloody Mary bar,

and deliciously fresh, home-made everything,

the perfect place to rest up for the wedding taking place later on in the day. LOVE this wall of antique shoe forms-it added a rustic touch to the decor.

After a couple of hours of walking, it was tempting to treat ourselves to a carriage ride, but this guy looked pretty sleepy…

So that is just a small glimpse of the charming Charlotte we experienced- I know there is a whole lot more to see!

Apparently there is a saying in these here parts: that people only come to visit Charlotte once- then they decide to move there! We certainly could see why : ) Have a charmed Wednesday! Susan

Wrapping It Up!

Last year Coach and I converted our deck into a screened-in porch, which was simply awesome. No more buggy nights, or rainy afternoons when we couldn’t use the deck for anything other than furniture storage!

Since we had decorated it with quite a few pieces of antique wicker, I decided to “shrink-wrap” it to prevent any winter weather from ruining our newest addition. We used thin plastic sheeting and some lathing strips and tacked it up all the way around. Functional, not very pretty and it wasn’t very transparent, it flapped in the wind (which drove me crazy!) and the plastic kept ripping away from the lathing. Uggh. So this year I decided to get a more permanent wrap, something we could re-use each season. I went online to purchase a custom porch weather-proofing system, only to find the prices @ $1500.00 and up, to be a bit exhorbitant. Sooo, this past weekend’s project was weather-proofing the porch, country design home style! With this how-to video on You Tube as my guide, we began the laborious task of wrapping it up!

The supplies: 20 gauge clear vinyl (heavy enough to withstand the winds and rain, clear to let in the light) and 2″ white Duck Tape

Dritz 7/16″ steel grommets

5/16″ screw-eye hooks. 

I measured each section, determining the placement for the grommets. Cut the vinyl, then wrapped the edges with the tape on both sides for extra stability, overlapping in the corners where the grommets will be installed.

Some sections had to be taped together, since the width of the vinyl is only 54″. That proved to be the most difficult part of this project, as the unrolled edges were a bit curled. You just have to smooth it as you go.

Mark the center holes for the grommets, cut out the circles and then hammer the grommet into place (this pounding away with a hammer activity is fun for anyone wanting to vent some anger or angst : ).

Hanging the large panels requires 2 people to make it level and install the screw-eyes.

The finished project : )

Hard, painstaking work, this easily took 20+ hours. The cost? All of the materials, with the exception of the screw-eyes ($5.19/50 @ Home Depot), were purchased at Joann’s using 60% coupons, of course! So the vinyl that normally would have been $7.99/yard became $3.20/yard and in total we will probably use 25 yards-so $80 + tax. The grommets, screws and tape totalled approximately $70, so the grand total (aside from the band-aids, the Motrin and a trip to the nail salon to repair that damage) comes to $150+ tax- one tenth of what the online estimate was! It wasn’t easy, but it looks great, the sun shines through year round AND we don’t have to pack away all of our deck/patio furniture-it just stays in place! And now we will have another functional space for the holidays- as long as you wear your winter coat and mittens : ) And remember, always measure 3Xcut once!! Susan

Primed for Success

OK, so back to the Hall of Shame Project…we are getting closer. Time to paint the balusters that have been covered with the drippings from the Minwax Antique Refinisher I used a while back to strip the railings. I don’t know about all of you, but I HATE prep work. The stripping, sanding, tack cloth wiping.. and the prospect of prepping all of those white poles was daunting. 

Then I remembered a product that my design instructor had mentioned: Gripper, By Glidden, this week’s High Five for Friday!

It is an interior/exterior primer, sealer, all-purpose stain killer and bonder for walls, woods, masonry, glass and previously painted metals. If you have a surface to prime, they’ve got it covered. And you don’t even have to sand!!! Just so long as it’s clean and dirt/oil free, you are good to go. OK, I am soooo in. Upon opening the can, I discovered that it is essentially odorless (although it does have all of those “harmful if inhaled warnings”), and the consistency of white school glue.

It glides on easily and smoothly, and leaves a nice, even coat. It even covered all of those brown drip marks on the first try!!

This is DIY magic in a can : ) So if any of you are attempting to complete a major renovation in the next week leading up to Thanksgiving (I know, who is dumb enough to do that?!?) then get to your local big box store and grab some Gripper! And while you’re at it, could you find me someone who will install carpeting in time for Turkey Day? TGIF everyone!! Susan

Wedding With A View

After a year in the making, and months of anticipation, this joyful wedding celebration of Jenn and Jeff was unlike any of the others we have attended in this “2012 year of the wedding”.

The ceremony was simple and heartfelt, taking place in the Charlotte Trolley Museum  and officiated by their good friend who was reportedly instrumental in their introduction.

The bride, Jenn, resplendant in a creamy white couture gown, alongside her handsome groom, Jeff

could have easily graced the cover of any glossy bridal mag. (photo via WeddingSnap.com)

After vows were exchanged in front of a hundred+ family and friends, we were off to the reception venue: “Roof With A View“. As we approached the historic old mill/converted office building, we were a little unsure about what to expect. But upon entering the office lobby, we were immediately greeted by servers with baskets of mini-muffins and glasses of red and white wine-and then escorted to the elevators to the rooftop venue. The name says it all. Roof With A View. A renovated industrial space with glossy wood floors surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass

and an outdoor balcony with spectacular views overlooking the city and the Carolina Panthers Football Stadium. AMAZING.

The decor, simply autumn-inspired, with creamy linen tablecloths and various centerpieces that included shafts of wheat, pumpkins and gourds and ruby red cranberries was a colorful contrast to the white walls and ceiling of the venue. 

After the introductions and the official first dance as husband and wife, the party was on! Every wedding menu its own special style, this one being elegantly rustic, with a never-ending delicious variety of passed hors d’oeuvres (this was the Tomato Bisque Shooter : )

A scrumptious meal of beef tenderloin, salmon, shrimp and grits, mac ‘n cheese and lobster bisque was served, followed by a yummy dessert table. These little canning jars, tucked inside an antique frame trays, were filled with apple and cherry cobbler. Delish!

In lieu of a traditional wedding cake, a sweet tower of cupcake bites drizzled in chocolate and caramel.

And of course, the bride’s favorite gummy bears (that, as it turns out, are quite delicious soaked in a bath of vodka : )

As the evening wore on and the sun began to set, the venue glowed with thousands of twinkle lights reflected in the glass, and the cityscape turned shades of blues and pinks.

From outside, you could see the dance floor was hopping!  

A few special touches: the photo booth by Fun Mugs – so much fun to be dressed up and silly with all of these props!

A little high-tech wedding share: WeddingSnap.com, where guests were able to text or download their pics from their smartphones. As the night progressed, the pics were posted for all to see and enjoy-brilliant! (Although, I do have to say that the quality of the photos trended downward as the evening wore on. Perhaps something to do with the fabulous top shelf open bar?!?)

A table featuring framed family photos- a loving touch.

This was the city view at nightfall.

A special thanks to our hosts, Kathie and Rich, who invited us to share in this most special occasion and hosted quite a party!

And congrats to Jenn and Jeff, the new bride and groom! Our wishes for a lifetime of great love and great adventure from your own roof with a view. Susan (& Coach)

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