Thursday, January 5, 2017

Window Watching

I sleep with the curtains open. It's not an invitation to peep (you would have to either dangle from a helicopter, or be a very skilled acrobat to see into the window) but I do like to look outside while lying in my bed. Perhaps it's from listening to so many of Robert Louis Stevenson's poems as a child, or, much less romantically, the worry of that large tree falling on my house, but whatever the reason, I do find it comforting to curl up so small and warm by the window, imagining all sorts of life happening outside as I fall sleep.

I think that maybe the world is divided into two types of people - those who crave sunlight and sky, and those who prefer privacy over exposure. Not to say that sunlight people are exhibitionists, but we tend to compromise a bit more when we need our Vitamin D, and if that means excessive dreaming and the occasional mad dash behind the curtain then so be it.

But windows do far more than let in the daylight and shield us from passers-by - they show us the world, and let us watch the changing seasons without wearing a coat, or grabbing for a nearby pair of flip-flops. They make us curious about the world, and let us wonder why the neighbor hasn't taken down their Christmas Tree yet (little do they know, that after we judge, we secretly enjoy seeing the twinkling lights on a cold, gray day).

I think, that if we didn't have windows, we wouldn't know that the morning always comes, that time passes whether we want it to or not, and that life without us is not as finite as we thought.
We tend to pause at the start of a New Year, and even the most cynical among us gives a passing thought as to how they are doing, and wonder if they could do just a little bit better. We write lists and lists on how we can change, but really, if we just take some time to look out the window, we will see that wonderful things are happening already....

p.s. The above illustration is by Marion H. Matchitt (she illustrated a lot of the childrens books that I have at home.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Christmas Poem

'Tis the week before Christmas, and all through the town,
Credit cards are up, and bank balances are down.
With the season of Giving getting into full swing,
The Children are wondering what Santa will bring.

Shopping malls are filled from morning till night,
As Everyone tries to find something "just right".
Houses are decorated, Menorah's are lit,
Too many snacks mean our clothes don't quite fit.

People are travelling, Cookies are made,
Presents still to be wrapped, and the table to be laid.
For some a religion, for many a Belief,
For some, when it's over, a huge relief.

The Holidays remind us of who we have lost,
Of what we have Done, and was there a cost?
We promise to be better, and have more direction,
Just one more chance, and we'll try for perfection.

Back to Shopping - just in case we haven't gotten it all,
Maybe it's time to drive back to the Mall?
That last minute sale - that Special thing we must get.
Are we trying too hard? Are we having Fun yet? 

Christmas Carols, parties and trees that are faux,
We are running out of Time, so we decide not to go.
It all seems so much, too many to Please,
And dammit, why is it so hard to put colored lights on trees?

But our intentions are good,
And we are sorry for freaking.
I guess our Joy got a little lost, and could do with some tweaking.

Because Children are happiest when they are with Us,
So forget all the shopping, and forget all the fuss.
Spend time with Family and Friends that are dear,
Add Kindness to your list, and have a Peaceful New Year!

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Dog Ate My Comforter

About eight years ago I found the most deliciously soft comforter cover in the entire world. It was the color of farm fresh cream; the softest, thickest, warmest cotton imaginable, and it was chenille; not that awful, shiny chenille that feels like something you would insulate your attic with, the lovely, old fashioned, grandma kind. The type of chenille that you want to lie on for hours, gently pulling out the short pieces of cotton when your mom isn't looking, then wondering how to cover up the little holes that were left behind.

That type of chenille. You know the one I mean.
And then we got a dog. A dog who was never technically allowed on my bed, but would sneak up in the middle of the night when he knew I was asleep (or too tired to yell at him). He wouldn't move, and he decided that if he avoided eye contact in the morning I wouldn't see him (kind of like when I take the garbage out in my nightie at 6am not wearing my glasses - if I can't see properly then I am sure that my neighbor driving by can't see me in all my disheveled glory).

So, eventually the dog and I stopped pretending, and he began to sleep on the bed while I was working in my office. And, he would lick the comforter (not so strange, because he also licks the polyurethane off the floors).
After a while, I noticed a bare patch where the chenille used to be, but I didn't actually twig as to what was happening; I just moved the chenille around, and assumed the washer and dryer had eaten the cotton. Unfortunately, about a year later, I had four giant, empty patches on my comforter where the dog had licked off the chenille, and it had gone from being the most beautiful thing in my bedroom to something extremely sad.

Because I loved it so, I kept it for another year, but the licking continued, and after several failed attempts to throw it away, I finally put on my big girl pants and put it in the garbage bin.
I looked for ages, but I couldn't find another one like it (well, I did see one on Ebay for sale, but it was in Australia and the cost was almost as much as an airplane ticket) so I made do with a cheapie that was dog-proof, kind of okay, and sort of went with the color of my room.

But it wasn't cotton - it felt unnaturally smooth, almost unpleasant to the touch, and cold all the time. I have no idea what it was made of, but the dog sure as heck wasn't interested in licking it.

Then, this last weekend, a friend was doing a Spring clean, and asked if I needed a comforter set. A bit adverse to comforter sets (visions of 90's polyester bed-in-a-bag still haunt me) I was prepared to not like it. And then she showed me the color and pattern; it was simply beautiful, but completely wrong for my small bedroom with the dark brown walls, so I said no thank you.

A short while late I was showing my daughter, and we decided to open the package and pull the comforter set out. Inside was the softest, coziest cotton that I had felt in a long time.
On the spot, I decided to take the gift, change my bedroom around, and repaint the walls to match my new comforter ...

p.s. We rescued Toby about five years ago; he is a German Shepherd mix, and loves cuddles, country music and chenille. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Winter Garden

With the reluctance of settling my garden in for the Winter months comes the sudden, sweet joy of finding yet another reason to decorate.
Being a tad lazy, I am inclined to have decorations that will last from November to April; ones that aren't too themed, and will stand up to the snow and ice that could easily keep them firmly in place until Springtime. They have to be something that I enjoy seeing every day, and something that won't look misplaced in the middle of February (quite possibly the worst month of the year), and, if it somehow involves a gnome or a small, metal bird, then I may just have to wrap a plaid scarf around its neck.

For me, it is all about exploiting Mother Nature, and working with rather than against the harsh elements that could crack a favorite sculpture or topple a childhood tree. Nothing should be too fragile. I like to keep it simple, play with shapes that are already there, and use materials that will only look better with a good dose of age.

I am sure that my small gargoyle (made handily of resin) will last for many seasons, and that the verbena flowers can be left tall, holding onto their seeds, waiting for when the hungry birds will need them the most. The old trellis brings much needed height, while a small mason jar is able to sway, ever-so-gently in a nearby tree - holding a candle that may never get lit, but bringing the quiet magic of possibility to many of our cold, gray days.
Some berries and leaves have stayed vibrant and red, defying common sense with the stubbornness of a child that won't be ignored, holding on tight to their color next to the freshly fallen snow.
I actually don't like the cold at all, yet I find myself bracing the freezing temperatures for a few, stolen minutes outside; I am still amazed at the transformation when I stare at the harsh, brittle landscape - alternatively watching clouds and stars, gathering new images every day, and reminding myself of how simply beautiful the Winter garden can be .....

For more information on where the photographs came from, just click on the name:
Birdhouse, Topiary, Bird Feeder, Trellis, Flowering Quince, Verbena, Gargoyle, Glass Jar, Metal Orbs

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Decorating By Numbers

I like simple Math; tell me how much money is in my checking account, what I can spend on a new coat, and I am very happy, but please don't ever ask me how X multiplies into Z, or why Radicals are invading the privacy of my Square Root Quotient. See, even my brain just laughed at the mere thought of trying to figure all of this out.  
But, lucky for us, I escaped from the classroom a long time ago, and found comfort in knowing that not all numbers are boring, and we can even use some equations to help us decorate.
So, whether you like numbers or not, here are some of the tried and true one's that you may find quite useful.

How Close should my Sofa be to the Wall? 

Not that close. Pulling the sofa slightly away from the wall (about 6 - 8 inches) will do all sorts of wonderful things for your room - it will make your room feel bigger, cozier (strangely enough) and help to avoid that formal, Waiting Room appearance. 

How much Space do I really need between the Sofa and Coffee Table?

The minimum is about 18 - 22 inches. This gives most of us enough room to move around, but also is close enough for us to sit down and put our cup of coffee on the table without pulling a muscle or having to getting up every few minutes.

What actually is Eye Level Height when Hanging Artwork?

This is a useful guide for when you are a hanging a large piece on a fairly empty wall; the center of your piece of artwork should be approximately 5 feet from the floor (57 - 60 inches). The same goes for if you are starting a gallery wall - put the first piece around the 60 inch mark, and work out your designs from there. If you are hanging art above a sofa, then the bottom of the piece of art should be about 6 - 12 inches above the top of the sofa.

How Large or Small should my Ceiling Light be?  

For the height of a ceiling light, take the height of your room and multiply it by 2.5 - 3 inches (i.e. an 8 foot tall room can have a 20 - 24 inch tall light). For the width, take the width and length of your room, add them together, and that should be the approximate diameter, in inches, of your light (i.e. 10 x 15 foot room = 25 inch wide light).

What is the Ideal Height and Width of a Chandelier over my Dining Table?

The bottom of the chandelier should be approximately 30 - 34 inches from the top of your table, and about 12 inches narrower than your table. If your room is taller than average, add a couple of inches for each additional foot (i.e. for a ten foot tall room hang your chandelier 34 - 38 inches above the table).

How High should my Coffee Table and End Tables be?

Most of these are at a fairly standard 16 - 18 inches tall; just make sure they are slightly lower (or even) with the arm of your sofa, or 6 - 8 inches taller than seat level.

What size Coffee Table do I Need? 

Look for a coffee table that is approximately close to half the length of your sofa. The goal is that everyone can reach it comfortably, and it visually fills up the space.  

What Size Rug should I Get?

In a perfect world, in a perfect room, a rug should sit approximately 18 inches from the wall, however there are other ways to choose a rug that can help you determine the size you need.
-  Decide whether you want it just as an accent i.e. just under the coffee table, with the furniture surrounding it, but not touching it.
-  Do you want it to be a part of the seating area, but not taking up the entire room i.e. just the front legs of the furniture on it.
-  Do you want it to act a bit like a carpet i.e. all of the furniture on the rug. 
Because rugs are such a cumbersome item to buy and return, a good idea is to lay down a bed sheet, or mark the space with painters tape first to see what size and layout looks best in your room before you choose.  

What about Using a Rug in my Dining Room? 

This is probably the only rule that I never mess with. The table and chairs should all be on the rug, with the rug extending at least two feet further behind the chairs so that people can push their chair in and out without getting caught on the rug. If in doubt, use a bed sheet to map it out first.