We’re Talking Hot Hot Hot!

“It’s hot.” “Wow, it’s hot!” “Can you believe how hot it is!?!” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that in the past week… In the winter, we New Englanders are hardy stock. Ten feet of snow?! No problem!  I’ve got my boots and a shovel- let’s get to the mall! But when the thermometer tips 90+ for more than a few days, we tend to get a little wilted and cranky around here.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate a good 9,000 BTU air conditioner as much as the next girl, but going from my AC’d house to my AC’d car to my AC’d work and back home again, I start to long for some crisp, clean fresh air. Living within a stone’s throw of some of the most beautiful beaches on the North Shore, you would think that oceanside would be my preferred destination when the temp is approaching 100+.

But I have to admit, as much as I love the ocean to look at, I much prefer the clean, chlorinated, fake azure blue, no-fish-allowed water of a beautiful swimming pool.

Perhaps it is the childhood memory of that crunchy bite of a sandy wax-paper-wrapped tuna salad sandwich at Sandy Beach?

 Or the sunburned afterglow with a scratchy topical application of sand mixed with SPF 40 after a beach day under cloudy skies. Or being knocked to the ocean floor by a rogue wave with a strong undertow…and struggling to stand up, minus half of my bathing suit! Suffice to say I was on the wrong beach in Martha’s Vineyard for topless sun-bathing! Talk about a great white sighting…dundun, dundun…

So I went searching for some really cool pools to share with you.

Near a beach for the view without an undertow? Great.

On a tropical resort… this one’s in Hawaii

Would never be bored in Bora Bora!!

Or at this resort in Turks and Caicos 

At a villa in Tuscany…

To Infinity…

…and beyond!! 

Waterfire 

Add a bar…

…with a frosty tropical umbrella drink?

And then there’s this…apparently called the “Redneck Pool”. Pickup truck, plastic tarp, fill with water add a few beers. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures y’all! 

The best of both worlds…wave pools in Australia

The end to a perfect day in paradise 

Stay cool, everyone!!! Winter will be here before you know it! Susan

Bathing Beauties

For the past couple of years, Coach and I have been discussing the hot topic of replacing our “upstairs bath”. Living in an antique cape that did not come equipped with a “master bath” (heck, it didn’t even have a master bed), we have made do over the years with one tiny bath at the top of the stairs. The 9′ x 5′ bath that we inherited when we purchased our home had what I would refer to as an eclectic style-lol! Old dark grey bathtub, aqua porcelain tiles, beige toilet,  grey sink on stainless spindles, speckled linoleum floor tile. Seems like whatever the plumber had handy when something needed replacing, that’s what was installed.   Over the years, the D.I.M. (Do It Myself-because if I don’t, who the hell else will!?!) projects have included tearing out and replacing the aqua tiles with wainscotting, painting and wallpapering and painting again,  and replacing the linoleum with stick-down tiles. That one required a trip to the ER and a few stitches in my thumb. Time for a new bath, this time done right by the professionals!

There isn’t anything vintage or pretty about this room except for this floor grate and this faucet both of which I would like to keep.

I was fortunate to find these pretty glass tiles at a yard sale- $20 for 3 cases of 4 x 4’s!!

So I’ve got my start, time to find some inspiration. I’ve been searching for pictures, starting with Pinterest and Houzz, working my way over to Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn & Google Images, where I have seen the good, the bad and the very, very bad.

Seriously, a Christmas tree and two white shag rugs!?!? Santa’s boots would leave some pretty nasty footprints in that bath!

I have found that my eye is drawn to vintage style… And Bling.

And of course, I love color, but not this color!!  

Or this one…can  you imagine stumbling in there after a night of partying!?!? Talk about green around the gills!I have found a few baths that have my brain bubbling… this one is so country pretty~

This one is simply beautiful, but a bit too modern for my vintage home.Who wouldn’t want to have a long soak in this sun-filled space from Pottery Barn? Although this Stainless Lab Bath by Restoration Hardware is striking, I think it’s a bit too clinical for my space. I adore farmhouse vintage, but I worry that the rough, unvarnished surfaces may not clean well.

This is the one. The bath of my dreams. Colorful. Restful. Vintage look with marble and modern chrome finishes.But way too big for my space. Perhaps Coach would be open to taking down a wall…

Here’s hoping you make a splash today, no matter what you do!! Susan

Where’d she go this week? I dunno, Alaska!!

Old corny joke. I know. But it kept running through my head as I was writing this blog post. It’s Wanderlust Wednesday, and this week we are off to the great state of Alaska! America’s 49th state.

The Last Frontier. Home of  Mt. McKinley – @ 20,320 feet (6,194 m) above sea level  – the highest point in the USA. Although Alaska is the largest state in square miles, it is 48th in population. Alaska borders Canada to the East and the Pacific Ocean and Arctic Sea, but no other US states. And contrary to popular belief, you cannot see Russia from your back porch.

A few years back, we had the amazing opportunity to cruise with Princess through the fjords and glacial passages of Alaska.

Forget what you’ve seen in travel brochures and read in glossy magazines. There is no way to accurately portray the immense beauty, the pristine countryside, the majestic mountains of this great state unless you have seen them with your own eyes.

Whether we were river rafting next to a glacier

soaring to new heights (no I was not on that plane, have a hard enough time getting on a 747!!)

panning for gold

and that’s what we got (certainly not enough for the new bracelet I had in mind!)

mushing with the dogs (It was summer, so no snow- but it still was fun!)

sailing away  at sunset

…we were never out of sight of some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. 

As our ship made its way into the Fjords, the spectacular glaciers came into full focus.

Mountains peaks of turquoise blue, black and white ice,

with melting sections “calving” into the water with deafening crashes.

The Mendenhall Glacier 

Our Inside Passage cruise from Whittier to Vancouver, British Columbia took us to Juneau, the state capitol,

Skagway … part of the setting for Jack London‘s book The Call of the Wild.

and Ketchikan known for it’s Alaskan Native Culture and Salmon Fishing. 

Each stop along the way was rich with scenic vistas

and local customs and history, including the Totem Bight State Historical Park

Mt. McKinley again! Apparently people travel from all over the world to view and climb the majestic Mt. McKinley. We were told that some folks visit for years and never actually see it, due to constant cloud cover. Every time we walked outdoors, someone said, “Hey, look at that, it’s Mt. McKinely again!” The highest mountain in North America, Mt. McKinley has been the goal of aspiring high altitude climbers since it was first climbed in 1913. Its reputation as a highly coveted summit derives from its location near the Arctic Circle and the Pacific Ocean giving it some of the most ferocious weather in the world. Because of its weather and ease of access, some climbers use McKinley as a training ground for climbing the 8,000 meter peaks of the Himalaya, including Everest.

And with that I will sign off, as my dogs are tired (uggh, another bad joke) . Happy Mushing! Susan

Bartlet…The Dog, The Myth, The Legend

A year ago today, Bartlet the French Bulldog was born. When my daughter and her boyfriend decided to get a puppy to shares their lives in the new condo, she was adamant about getting a “Frenchie”.  After doing quite a bit of reading and research, she was certain this was the dog for her. Her boyfriend was not quite as excited due to the fact that they are reportedly terrible swimmers (as a matter of fact, some literature suggests not having them near open water, beacause due to the size of their heads, there is a threat of drowning.), they are supposedly somewhat lazy, cannot run, are rather reserved and don’t like to play all that much. But he was quickly won over by the Big “B”! He is comical, endearing, loveable and guess what- he can swim!! Well, with a PFD (personal flotation device). He loves chasing Frisbees on the beach,  playing with other dogs at doggy day care and the park, and will run to the point of exhaustion chasing a beach ball.

Last year, not soon after they brought him home, Coach and I (I’m Nana in Bartlet-speak) were called upon to “puppy-sit” for a long weekend. I hatched a plan to create The Year of Bartlet Calendar for his “mommy and daddy” for Christmas. Along with my so talented sister-in-law, the marketing guru, and my nieces, we posed Bartlet and put together what we think is a hilarious calendar, that they have enjoyed this entire year. Not sure what I am going to do to top it, but I am puppy-sitting again soon…hope you enjoy it too!

January … Jingle Bells!

February… Who Woofs Ya Baby?

March… Slainte!

April…Thanks Easter Bunny!

May…The Most Interesting Dog In the World

June… Let’s Go Red Sox!!

July…Yankee Doodle Dandy

August…Beach Blanket Bingo!

September…Liverpool or Bust!

October…Trick or Treat

November…Let’s Go Patriots!

December…Santa Paws is Coming to Town

Disclaimer: no puppies were harmed in the making of this calendar 🙂

                                                                                          Happy Birthday Big B!! We love you!!! Nana

Sunday in the Garden of Weedin’

Here’s what’s happening this week in the garden….

The Phlox are in full bloom in shades of purple, white and lavender. They give off such a rich, flowery scent. Probably the biggest we have ever seen in our garden- some are 5 feet tall!! (If I didn’t know better, I would swear coach had cross-pollinated them with those creepy sunflowers

The daisies are happily basking in the bright sunlight. As is Daisy the dog 🙂

Roses, roses everywhere! Bright pinks and vibrant reds. Is there anything prettier than roses against a white picket fence?

Not sure what these cute little yellow flowers are…

The pond has some lily pads, but the frog seems to have disappeared : (

Black Eyed Susans! One of my favorites, and my name sake. Not sure of the origins of the name, but it always reminds me of the week before my wedding (oh, so many years ago) that I was playing right field in the Wakefield Softball League.

Racing after a long fly ball, I crashed into the center fielder and ended up with a black eye! Nothing a little concealer couldn’t cover by my wedding day. Of course, we didn’t leave for our honeymoon immediately following the wedding, because we both had games on Sunday.

Up at bat, bottom of the third, game tied, the pitcher peers down at me, goes into her windup. Then she does a double-take (may have been a balk, not sure) and yells “Hey, didn’t you get married yesterday!?! What are you doing here!?” Ah, for the love of the game : )

Tiger Lilies are also of the giant variety this year, and in desperate need of some cutting and splitting. Anyone need some for their garden?

The finished bouquet in one of coach’s crocks. Fresh flowers are the perfectly natural way to bring bright, bold color to your space.

So what’s happening this week in your garden? Happy Weeding! Susan

Taking Center Stage

“So, what did you learn in school today?” When my children were young, the typical response to that question was “nothing”. Now that I am back in school-for the third, and hopefully last time-everything I am learning is essential. Staging and Re-Design, my current class, is so helpful when learning how to make a home saleable in today’s volatile real estate market. The take-away from this class? Take away!! Remove the junk, reduce the clutter, neutralize the colors. Obviously, since you are selling your home, you don’t want to spend a lot of money to update it, but with a few simple tips, your home can look like a show house at any price point. You want prospective buyers to walk in and imagine their families and their belongings in your space. Remember that buyers come from anywhere and everywhere, so you want your rooms to be appealing to all. In poring over the MLS listings, we came across many rooms that were in dire need of some serious cleaning and editing. It simply amazes me that sellers can’t grasp why they need to clean off their kitchen counters, or de-officize their bedroom! However, what amazes me even more is the horrible photography on so many real estate websites! I mean, seriously? Would you even venture over to look at this scary place!!?! Is there not a mandatory photshop class for real estate brokers?!? If not, maybe that’s a niche market someone needs to explore.

When coach and I bought our house back in the 80’s, prices were at the 50K mark and rising, and interest rates were at 17%! At the mercy of our local realtors, we had no information regarding the houses we were being shown other than the asking price and the taxes. Nowadays, thanks to the likes of Realtor.com, Redfin and Trulia, there is a wealth of information regarding the properties you are looking to buy. Helpful, yes, but oftentimes the accompanying photographs are so dismal it could easily turn a buyer away before they even arrive on your doorstep! Digital cameras, folks! Iphones are great, but not for the purpose of creating a stunning portfolio! So here are a couple of spaces with some staging suggestions that will have potential buyers saying “ooohh!” instead of “eeek!!”

The Red Tablecloth Room. Do I need to even say it? Take it down. Too much furniture in a small space. Remove one of the matching pieces. Paint out the trim white. Not sure what that string of things is hanging from the ceiling, get rid of it.

Too small of a space with too much stuff. Paint out all that old knotty pine paneling to match the wall color. Neutralize that dark beam and trim by painting it white. Remove all the little pictures and knick knacks on the shelf and replace with one large mirror and a couple of candles. Old TV’s date a room, especially on an old little stand. Remove and if you need to have a TV for viewing, get a small 19″ that you can mount on the wall.

Way too much going on in this kitchen. Obviously very nice tile-work, not going to change that. The overall effect makes me nervous- too many patterns, too much color (and you know I am all about color!). Remove the valance over the sink and replace with a light bamboo roller shade. Why do you have a stove top covered with pans?!? Makes the prospective buyer think that there is not enough storage. Clean off the countertops. Put it all away!! Clean out those glass front cabinets and replace with simple white or cream dishware. Remove the ceiling fan and that little sconce over the sink if possible, with something more contemporary.

I mean seriously, what realtor walks into this space and at the very least doesn’t remove the dog crate!?! And then to post a crooked photo on the website? There is so much crap in this room, it’s silly to even post it. And believe me, this pic was one of the better ones. To me this screams, I’ll take your listing, but I don’t care if it sells or not.

The rock room! I have no idea if those are all real stones or not, but when you are trying to sell this home, a buyer is going to walk in there and think one of two things: wow, “that’s awesome”! or “no way I am tackling that project- how do I get rid of all that stone!?!” At the very least, take away the bold graphic rug and show off the hardwood floors. Maybe soften the look of the stone by painting the walls a pale gray. Neutralize that wooden door with a coat of matching paint.

This bedroom needs a stripping from ceiling to floor. That fan looks like it could cut someone’s head off if they sat up too quickly. Lose the striped wallpaper, open up the windows and take down those swags! Lose the gold rug, re-dress the bed in plain white “hotel” style sheets and comforter.

Too much of everything: paneling, furniture, lace. Take down the curtains, remove the tattered blue velvet sofa and the plaid one as well, paint the paneling a neutral color. Knotty pine was out in the 70’s!!! This room needs a focal point.

So there you have it. Just a few of the hundreds of horrible real estate pics I looked at. If you have a room you want to re-stage or re-design, for selling or just for living, send pic to countrydesignhome@gmail.com and I will try to help! In the meantime, step in to one of your rooms and look at it with fresh eyes, and see it as a potential buyer might. You will be amazed what you find! Happy Staging! Susan

Have a Whale of a Fourth!!

Before heading into Boston today to view the Tall Ships via Hestia Cruises (an early birthday gift from our kids : ), I was excited to give Mr. Whale the coffee table a new look. As soon as I saw him at the yard sale this past weekend, I knew he just needed a fresh face to return him to his former maritime glory! Since our back porch is red, white and blue, it only seemed appropriate to make him the patriotic focal point. Mr. Whale before:

During the transformation process: the whale wash

Sanding off the old shiny varnish

Painting the base (Coach did this while I was at work- one less thing for me!)

Designing the pattern (best not to do this after a long work day and a couple of wine coolers-makes for many mis-measures)

Taping off the design

first coat of red stripes (remember 7red, 6white…7red, 6white) taping makes for perfectly straight rows and sharp, clean edges

Addition of the stars on the blue background these little stickers were perfect as a stencil- stick on, spray over, peel off when dry! Couldn’t fit 50 stars, so decided to go with a random, funky look instead. My apologies to Robert G. Heft, the schoolboy who designed our current 50 star American flag for a school project…for which he received a B-!!!

Unfortunately, today is a damp, rainy one. Not great for Tall Ships viewing, and certainly not great for painting and glazing whales out on our makeshift workshop on the porch. Sooooo, here is Mr. Whale- patiently awaiting his glaze finish. Moby Dick never looked this good : )

Left to do (once the air dries and the sun comes out):

1. Sand one last time for a truly rustic, aged appearance

2. Antique glazing to add a touch of shine and protect Mr. Whale from the elements

3. Enjoy our new coffee table!!!

Have a whale of a Fourth everyone!! Susan

That’s A Crock!

Once again, this weekend flew by, along with my best intentions to work on the Hall of Shame. I know, it’s getting to be old news by now. But it was just so darn hot, especially in the hall, where heat rises and turns the upstairs into an inferno. The alternative? Hit the road in the CRV with the AC and music cranked up, on yet another trash to treasures hunt. Had some major scores, including these pretty vintage fruit compotes ($1.00!), this amazing pressed glass punch bowl set ($5.00!) and

…my new favorite piece of porch furniture- meet Mr. Whale!!! I have been searching for quite some time for a whale coffee table to replace one that Coach and I had acquired for our first apartment- is it possible that was 30+ years ago!?! Not sure why we ever gave it away the first time, but I am so happy to give this little guy a new home. We had (shall I say it?) a whale wash today, and it will be sanded, primed and painted, hopefully in time to celebrate the 4th in patriotic fashion. After a few yard sales, we made the trip to Todd Farm in Rowley, still searching for a final piece for the porch- a couch. Although I think we have done a fine job of filling the porch with vintage wicker, Coach has complained loudly and often that he needs a couch for his afternoon siesta. After months of fruitlessly searching yard sales, antique shops and

craigslist, we came upon this vintage Benchcraft rattan sofa. Vintage is putting it nicely. It is smelly, dirty, has UGLY cushions and some unexpected guests-yuck! These creepy little things started crawling out of the sides when we were hiking it up on to the roof rack. Brought back memories of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery– remember the episode when the earwig laid eggs in the guy’s brain and they hatched?!?!?!? Not sure if I will ever be able to lay down on this couch, but the reno has begun in ernest. Washed, bleached, cushions tossed. Stay tuned for the final results.

Along with the couch, Coach picked up yet another crock for his growing collection, this one a George Washington Commemorative Crock! (Click the link if you would like one of your very own)

Him being a history teacher and all, anything presidential always peaks his interest. Me being married to a history teacher, I am all about learning important historical origins. So I wanted to find out where the phrase “that’s a crock of Sxxx!“came from. Let’s just say the Romans could have used a little indoor plumbing while waxing philosophical.

Walking along the dusty paths of Todd Farm, saw some really cute vintage yellow kitchenware I love it when the dealers actually bring some sense of order and style to their offerings like these stacks of vintage crates

Anyone got the time?

I am kicking myself for not buying this beautiful set of Virgina Glassware- Tangerine Tango!!

But I am not kicking myself for not buying this clock. Vintage and pretty, but not sure if it worked (if there is a worm stuck on the second hand, does that slow the time?) and just saw it listed on Ebay for $10 less than the dealer wanted. Phew!

So that’s a wrap (gotta find out where that saying came from). Time to start sanding Mr. Whale. For those of you who have the whole week of the 4th off, have a great vacation! For the rest of you, does anyone have a red,white and blue punch recipe? If you do, send it to me at countrydesignhome@gmail.com and I will post it! Susan

Here Comes the Sun(flowers)

Dreary gray sky today, hot and humid-temps in the 90’s-severe thunderstorms,  per  the weatherman. Having my morning coffee on the back porch, looking at the exploding garden that all of a sudden needs some serious pruning and weeding. We have rose bushes, daisies, tiger lilies, phlox in several shades of purples and pinks (thanks to the cross-pollination from the bees : ). One forbidden flower in our garden? The Sunflower, aptly named because of their ability to follow the sun with their giant heads. Now, Coach loves sunflowers, perhaps because they are so big that they give a little extra bang for your buck? Me, not so much. They remind me of that giant man-eating Venus Fly Trap in “The Little Shop of Horrors”. (for those of you unfamiliar with this vintage cult film, click here. When I imagine those ginormous flowers hovering around my back porch, the phrase “what’s eating you” always comes to mind. Do you think there is such a thing as SAD (Sunflower Affected Disorder)? If so, I believe I may be afflicted with that particular malady. ..That being said, I do appreciate that sunflowers, with their bright yellow petals and chocolate brown anther (that’s the middle) can make a colorful impact in a small space. Because of the various shades of yellows and browns and golds, they are comfortable in any color scheme.

Most often used in what I consider to be rustic country decor (with chickens too!)sunflowers in today’s modern eclectic esthetic can add a touch of whimsy

a pop of color in an otherwise black and white and red scheme-LOVE THIS!)They can be bright and cheery or

add a bold contrast (yikes! this shower would slay me-literally!)

Sunflowers can bring a touch of country to a city dwelling

Or create a cozy colorful outdoor nook for reading and relaxing (where they are safely ensconced in that large glass cylinder : )

You might like to know that the color Yellow shines with optimism, enlightenment, happiness and energy and carries the promise of a positive future. Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh thought so, as they were a favorite subject, but most likely that was before he cut off his ear in the throes of depression…

Here’s hoping that this blog about Sunflowers will brighten your day!  Susan

Addendum: Dried Sunflower seeds are also a fun, nutritious treat that can be used in many recipes to add some crunch and flavor. This cold broccoli salad with raisins, bacon and sunflower seeds is a family favorite at any BBQ. DO NOT USE UNSHELLED SEEDS in this recipe! Lesson learned the hard way-literally. Have a sunny Friday!

 

L’Italia Con La Familia

“Italy With My Family” in Wanderlust Wednesdays

The first time I saw the movie “Under The Tuscan Sun“, I immediately added a stay in Tuscany to my bucket list. Longing became a reality the summer of 2010, when we rented suites in a rustic villa  Il Castello di Fulignano located on the hilly outskirts of the medieval town of San Giminano.

The living room…

The pool at sunset…The view from our villa…a gathering storm over San GiminanoThe streets of San Giminano were lined with shops and cafes, a feast for the eyes and the palate…this is me and coach having dinner in an outdoor cafe… 

We ventured out to see the tuscan countryside, with trips to Lucca

and Pisa…who could go there and not assume some crazy pose with the Leaning Tower??!

We enjoyed fabulous wine tastings (not quite as enjoyable at one villa, as we were shown the door by the somelier, whom we apparently insulted.) However, this wine came from a  farmhouse winery, Fattorio Poggio Alloro, where we enjoyed a delicious local lunch : )

We made day trips to Siena, home of the spectacular Duomo Di Siena (Cathedral of Siena) a Gothic marble treasure dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries and  Il Palio, an annual horse race through the city square harking back to medieval times.

 We toured Florence, the capital of the Tuscan region of Italy, and home of Michelangelo’s David (sorry, no picture-taking allowed)

and the Ponte Vecchio bridge, lovely at sunset.

Lovely vacation, spectacular scenery, amazing food and wine, beautiful people…next stop…Venice!!!  But that’s a blog for another day. Ciao! Susan

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