Taking A Breather

Or I might have overdone it a bit yesterday.

Much to my amusement, Saturday once again turned out to be a Busy Day. I don’t know why, but even though I’m retired I seem to get more done during the weekend than during the week. Truly, it makes no sense to me. A friend mused that it is a result of all those years when the only time to do housework, etc., was on the weekend.

The lawn guys came and mowed the lawn – and I can not tell you how thrilling it is to realize that I actually have a lawn after a few too many years of too much shade and too little grass. After all the rain we’ve had they had a bit of a clean up to do, but it still is beautiful!

I turned the telly on to “The Lawrence Welk Show” and went into the Library/Craft Room to start in on a clear out. I’d been working on it for a while; getting rid of old magazines and catalogs, sorting through the papers that needed to be shredded, collecting the no longer needed cardboard and started hauling it all to the trash/recycle bins. I even managed to kill my 25+ year old shredder. And I wasn’t even trying! LOL!

Clutter not only takes up space physically but it crowds out creativity, too. I recently splurged on replacement ink pads since my old one are a bit old. I also picked up a couple of paper packs that I really liked. After the major clear out, I sat down and put the color/name labels on the ends of the pads and set them up for storage. I drooled over the new papers, too. Why not!

I’ve been bingeing on card demonstrators to see new ideas for the new papers. Stampin’ Up’s new catalog goes live on Tuesday, May 4th so there are a lot of new ideas out there!

Paige over at Farmhouse Vernacular has introduced The Vernacular Society, which I think is brilliant. She has all the information on her website. I will be looking into joining.

The Garden Adventure continues. I have a window full of planters all with at least one seed that has sprouted and is in some level of growth. Many have 4 leaves or more!

Weather-wise we’ve gone from cold to wet to hot to cold to wet to …

My U.K. folks – Mr. Carrington, Hermione Chantal, and Luke Catleugh, posted recently about their adventures now that the charity shops are once again open and people are able to get out and about for a while. I honestly don’t know which I like most; the opportunity to do some armchair traveling or checking out the hauls.

DIY Danie has done some great projects around her house, too. All of them give me some inspiration as I work to update my home.

I’m thinking that it is probably time to get back to what I had planned before the shingles came to visit back in March. That being said, don’t be surprised to see some updates.

If you like what you’ve seen and read, please click on the “like” button below and please share us with your friends. I’m always amazed that there are so many folks who come by to see what Bella Cat and I are up to. We appreciate your including us in your own adventures.

That being said, if you have comments or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

In the meantime, I’m off to put my feet up a bit. 🙂

Odds And Ends

I spent March down with Shingles which provided an opportunity to change the way I did some things and create chaos with the way I want to create things. <shrug> 🙂 April has turned out to be an opportunity to ease back into a ‘normal’ work process here at the Mulebarn. Bear with me – it hasn’t been easy.

Have You Seen?

I don’t know about you but I’ve been struggling to keep some sense of order with my viewing habits. Some shows have had short seasons, constantly interrupted by specials, repeats or whatevers. Other shows have had episode drops that allow a binge to occur – even when I’d rather not. I have a long list (!!!) of things I think I might actually want to watch, but… never quite find the interest, time, or gumption to actually sit down and do it.

Sound familiar? What do you do?

By the way, for those of you who love documentaries and the BBC, check this out: BBC Select. I will be investigating to see if I will be picking it up. Note that YouTube does have at least one episode available.

Have You Heard?

I’m still listening to Pumpkin FM, but I recently went back to TuneIn radio and dove into a few Old Time Radio stations there. Like Bygolly OTR and Radio Once More. I occasionally think I would like to try regular radio, but frankly, the local signal interference can be annoying and I really don’t want to deal with the hourly news broadcasts.

I did pick up a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories on audio read by Derek Jacobi and, to be honest, am hooked! He is an excellent reader, provides a wonderful experience with all the stories, and makes listening a pleasure. Even though I can probably recite them from memory at this point. 🙂 You can find this on Audible.com.

In the Meantime

I’ll be waiting to see when Spring actually arrives and the dreaded cold and rain moves on.

I have a product review that I’ll be posting soon. As long timers know, I don’t recommend things if I haven’t used them and feel good about them. This one is quite a find.

See you soon!

Getting Creative – Expanding Your Style

I recently spent a lovely evening bingeing DIY Danie over on YouTube. Last year she purchased her very first home and has been working on updating many of the rooms. These past couple of weeks focused on the reno of her Master Bedroom which turned out amazing. Her friend, Alexandra Gater, took on the task of designing Danie’s Guest Room and that project was the “Ah-Ha!” project for the house, IMNSHO.

Danie’s vibe is very open, bright, airy with lots of plants and splashes of color along with some inspired DIY projects. Alexandra has been very much pale pink and pom-poms with plants and some interesting DIY projects.

Color can be intimidating for many, many people. If you have been a renter for any period of time, chances are you are stuck using white or variations of the same because many landlords aren’t interested in repainting once you move on. White can be very safe, but also very boring. Adding tints of other colors might seem to be a step forward, but you still run the risk of getting stuck in the same old rut. Is it any wonder folks find themselves caught in a rut they don’t know how to get out of?

Danie did a project a while back working with the 2021 color pallet of one of the major paint companies. She stepped out of her comfort zone using one of the blues and while it was intimidating for her at first, she found she liked the end result.

Gater has also stepped out of her comfort zone a bit while working on projects but it was this latest project she worked on with Danie that really pulled her out of her comfort zone and moved her game up an entire level. Danie was hesitant at first but the end result was Awesome – and if you go over to Gater’s channel, pull up the video and read the comments, Danie said that every guest who has used the room loves it, too.

The point of all of this is to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and experiment a bit. Not sure if you want to make an entire room a particular color? Get a small can of the paint and use it on a bookshelf.

Not sure what colors will work with the color you’ve chosen? Look for collection sample cards and see what goes with what. Don’t particularly like all the colors? Pick a few and consider using some as accents. A little goes a long way.

If you have a decor piece that you love, why not pull colors from that and put them into the room? One of my very favorite finds was a bedroom linen collection picked up at Target years ago. It was a floral with a black background – the black made the colors Pop. All of the colors on the linens worked together and when matched with paint samples, provided a blueprint for accessory pieces that I painted myself.

Getting out of the box allows you more freedom to express yourself and create a room that is comfortable, cozy, and makes you want to spend time there. Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit. It is only paint after all. 😉

Getting Creative With What You Have Part Two

Cathy Hay – How To Finish What You Start

This might seem to be a bit of a side track to being creative with what you have, but I think Cathy’s comments about getting the job(s) done make sense no matter what the job might be.

How many of us take on a new hobby or a project only to feel overwhelmed and defeated but not knowing exactly why? As Cathy stated about her embroidery project and her cookery issues, it came down to tools.

You might be surprised to learn that sometimes the apparent roadblocks to success can be overcome with some very simple solutions.

I mentioned that I am often slow to jump into some projects but once I’ve made up my mind on what I want, in I go not always certain of how it will turn out. For me, the idea of failure (it isn’t perfect) is not an issue. I can fix it to suit myself and, should I be creating a gift, as long as the issue isn’t excruciatingly obvious, I’m okay with that. That mindset provides a lot of freedom.

As Maymay says: “It’s only paper!” The point is simply to be happy with the end result or start over. There is no Quilt Police, Card Police or whatever. And, as someone has said, if recipient is going to be picky about a handmade gift, they won’t be getting one from me anytime soon.

All that being said, we often find ourselves creating our own speed bumps. Check out Cathy’s video:

Sometimes solutions are as simple as taking a moment to look at what the problem really is and then working to correct it. Sometimes the solution might be that you are so intimidated by the project that you are not ready to tackle it. As one who has taken years to resolve certain projects, I think that is fine. I will also go further and say that if you have taken on something that doesn’t work for you don’t be afraid to leave it behind.

I can not knit to save my life. However, I do enjoy crocheting, but I do it so infrequently <cough> I end up re-learning it every time. I have a particular liquid embroidery project that I started years ago but put it down because, frankly, I’d painted a portion of the design that intimidated me and I ended up not picking it up for a year or two later. In the end, it is a beautiful wall hanging but it was not a quick and easy project because of me.

There is no shame in deciding that you are no longer interested in doing something, but there is also no shame in taking the time you need to find out how to overcome completing something you do want to do.

What do you think?

Getting Creative With What You Have Part One

Rachel’s Basement Project

I’m always interested in seeing how other people make use of their space. Some do it well while others seem to struggle. And, to be clear, I get the struggle. I really do. As friends will tell you, I can take my merry time (years at times) to make up my mind and continue on a particular project.

For me, it is a matter of being certain of what I want and how I want it to be without having to redo a lot. I am basically a lazy person so the idea of putting in extra work where more thought and less actual work is necessary appeals to me. I’m also the person who, once the mind is made up, jumps in with both feet not always being certain that where I’m jumping actually has a ‘floor’ if you will.

Rachel Maksy’s Basement Makeover is an interesting experience of knowing what needs to be done, having ideas (plans) for changes, gaining the courage and the where-with-it-all to actually jump in and – Voila! – enjoying the end of project thrill of it being better than anticipated, happy with how it turned out and, more importantly, learning new skills while gaining trust that you really can do it. Check it out:

Rachel has done a great job and learned a lot about herself in the process. She also has a great workspace that will cost her a lot less than the original plan. Added bonus? Without the need to leave the house to get to a studio, she’s removed a hurdle that could keep her from creating her amazing creations. Sounds like a win/win to me!

What do you think?

Check back next week for Part 2 of this Getting Creative series.

If you like what you’ve read, please let me know.

Home Decor: Thinking Outside The Box

Have you looked at my Very Favorite Piece in my home? Go on over to the Gallery and check out my cabinet.

My postage size kitchen was in extreme need of storage when I bought my house. I still need better storage, but thanks to the addition of the cabinet, I have space for my dishes, counter appliances, and extra bits and pieces that aren’t needed every day.

The cabinet itself is a combination of a base cabinet, a wall cabinet, an over the fridge cabinet, and a countertop. It is screwed together, handles were added and it sits in the perfect spot in the kitchen.

There were no special tools required; a drill and a screwdriver were all that were needed.

This project came about thanks to a couple of handy friends who volunteered to do the heavy lifting and other work after I found what I wanted. My intention was to create something like a Hoosier cabinet but without the cost.

When you think about things you want in your home and space is an issue, check the options available at your local hardware or home center. I looked for finished cabinets, but there are unfinished as well as custom options.

I went in this direction rather than order a custom cabinet or buy prefab items because the prefab usually doesn’t come in the size I needed and the custom would have been more expensive than my budget could handle.

Don’t be afraid to look outside the box. You never know what you might discover that will be Perfect For Your Home.

A Tale of Two Design Aesthetics

If you’ve been around here for long you know I love beautiful design. I’m also the person an interior designer friend said was a designer’s dream because “You like everything.”

Not exactly, but close. LOL!

I love homes that are comfortable, cozy, and well-loved, and lived in. I have no interest in clean, pristine, dust wouldn’t settle on anything, picture-perfect, no warmth to save your life productions that often appear as the New In Thing.

There are a lot of interior designers around these days. Some are professionals who showcase their talents using the Internet and some are amateurs who strive to make their homes more than they started. A few stand out because they reach beyond the current fad. Here are two of my very favorites.

You can find both of these ladies on YouTube and Instagram. They are well worth the effort.

Hermione Chantal

I’ve been following Hermione Chantal for quite a while. I think I first encountered her when she purchased her very first home; a late 1800’s to early 1900 row house on the Isle of Wight in the U.K. Watching her take what was a disaster and turn it into a lovely home has been quite a journey.

The house has been transformed into a warm, cozy space with soft colors and thoughtful details using thrift finds, DIY projects, and an evolution of style. It is an interesting mixture of old and new and Hermione isn’t afraid to change her mind and try new things. She has stated that her intention with the house was not to keep it long-term which explains and informs some of her choices.

Farmhouse Vernacular

Paige and Brandon over at Farmhouse Vernacular are a young couple who have purchased their second home with an eye to it being their Forever Home. They found an old farmstead that needed work and started in.

Their home was built around 1905 and over the years has withstood a lot of … life. Check out the tour of the home when they bought it and you’ll get a good idea of what they were in for.

The intention of the sympathetic renovation is to make all the rooms as beautiful and multi-functional as possible without changing the footprint of the home, even though there has had to be some adjustment inside to accommodate things like bathrooms and storage.

This home is a working farm home. That it is also beautiful is the icing on the cupcake.

Paige talks a lot about the house speaking to her and I have to say I believe her. The choices made, be it colors, furniture, whatever, make the home so much lovelier than what was there when they moved in.

What I take away from these two aesthetics is the opportunity to get out of the box and create homes you are comfortable living in. Show homes may be beautiful but many lack any real warmth and that sense of the home being loved and well cared for.

Let me know what you think. Do you have a preference?

Fall In Love With Your Home Again

I recently read a piece in a home decor magazine written by someone who had decided to sell the family home since interest rates were way down and more space might be nice, etc. As the author prepped the place for sale, doing all those clear out, clean up, and make pretty jobs, s/he was surprised to discover that moving to a new home really wasn’t something s/he wanted to do.

You see, as a result of clearing out the excess stuff, clearing collection spots (and we all have them) getting rid of furniture that they no longer wanted, and reorganizing spaces they discovered a home they really loved. Again.

I’ve been on a multi year clear out quest and I can attest to the truth of the author’s experience. We tend to forget why we chose the home in the first place.

I recently reclaimed my Library/Craft Room and it is my favorite place in the house. Again. My kitchen is going through a bit of a renaissance; having cleaned and reorganized it is a bit more spacious, a true feat considering its postage stamp size. I’m looking at colors and contemplating window treatments – something I’d given up years ago.

Perhaps the point of all of this is to reclaim what we loved about our homes when we first moved in? Think back to those plans for updating the garden or repainting the living room. Why not do a bit of planning for that now? Granted, the weather may not be conducive, but if you take the time to work out all the details, when you do get a chance to do the job, you’ll have the opportunity to really take it to the next level.

I’m still pondering my deck garden and I’m considering adding solar lights. It has been years – really – since the deck was more than just a place to get from the driveway to the door. I’d like to add plants and Gussie it up a bit, if only for me. And why not?

DIY Danie has partnered with Behr Paint on several projects. She has links to the 2021 Colour Trends Palette which might give you some ideas and inspiration as you contemplate updating your home. The link will take you to the video and information on the paint and her project.

If this is your first attempt at a home project, getting started is pretty easy. Dig out a notebook, grab a measuring tape and browse magazine and Pinterest. Daydream a bit – what would happen if… ? Don’t be afraid to collect paint swatches and pictures of rooms or areas you like. Samples are the best way to see what colors will look like in an area. Personally, I plan on collecting some that I can use to update some bookcases and shelving. Small quantities, small cost, huge impact. 🙂

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to take the time you need to find what works for you. It is your home, after all.

Thoughts on Kitchen Organization

Or, Things I’ve Learned Through Trial and Error

I’ve come to the realization that ‘organization’ is a never ending process. It isn’t a bad thing, it just never seems to actually come to a conclusion. Perhaps it would if I never used the space or items and everything was left to its own devices.

I was lucky enough to be raised by two people who had a lot of experience putting things in their proper places. My mother’s kitchens were well organized out of necessity – lack of space will do that, you know. When you don’t have airplane hangar-sized rooms full of custom cabinetry with fancy pull out drawers and shelves, you learn to make do with what you do have.

My father’s workspaces (he had quite a few) were textbook guides on the use of pegboard, drawers, counters and even hanging shelves. Hanging from the roof/ceiling. Walk into our multi-vehicle garage and you were met not only with the vehicles in their proper spaces, but back walls full of well organized, orderly accumulations of the materials that farmers and tinkerers used. Hanging from the roof were reams of pipe and lumber that would be used in projects along with bags of potatoes and onions that were harvested from the garden. The actual workshop was originally a single car garage that evolved into a workspace with a forge, space to weld, and accumulation of tools of pretty much every type and description. All stored in proper places in logical locations and easy to hand.

My own kitchen is what I refer to as ‘postage-stamp sized’ because, well, it is. I don’t have a lot of built in storage space, so I’ve had to learn to use what I could in the best manner possible. When I was able to add storage, I thought carefully about what I would use it for and how it could be maximized.

What I’ve learned can be summed up as follows:

What do you need -vs- what do you want.

There was a time when I would have loved to have a full set of Spode Christmas ware. Never mind that I had no place to store it, no way to pay for it, and really not much use for it as I didn’t host large family gatherings. On the other hand, I loved Fiestaware but the price tag for that actually did curl my hair.

Now I look at fulfilling my wishlist with dinnerware that makes me happy, doesn’t require a second mortgage, and can be used more often.

Multipurpose pieces save money and space.

A few years back I picked up a couple of sets of canisters with vacuum seals. These handy square shaped containers hold a variety of dry foodstuffs, take up the same space as far as footprints and are stackable. And did I mention that they were reasonably priced, too?

Their shape is important. They are all square. No round containers that leave an empty shelf area. I do have a set of containers that are also square but have rectangular pieces as well. These are also space users and stack well. Round containers take up space that can’t be used for storage.

I emphasize shape for a reason. A few months back I happened to see a self described decor expert showing off her newly restyled kitchen cabinets. Behind the doors she had proudly put up round containers with chalk labels for dried goods.

Now, I have no issue with either the round containers or the chalk labels. My issue comes with spending money on these items that are clearly decorative and will live behind closed doors. Where no one but the cook will ever see them and taking up space that could be used for other foodstuffs.

Interestingly enough, the next time we were treated to a view of the once again redecorated kitchen cabinets, the round containers with the chalk labels were no longer hidden away behind closed doors.

Ask yourself if you are inadvertently making your kitchen work more difficult.

Odd as it might seem, when we put things in places that require more steps or more work we make working in the kitchen more difficult. This might seem like a non-issue unless you are one who struggles to find any enjoyment in the kitchen to begin with.

It might be aesthetically pleasing to have the spice rack on the wall opposite the stove, but if you are constantly hiking across the room to get what you need to create a meal, at some point you are going to get tired of the trek and stop using it. Ditto for putting the clean dishes far from the sink and/or dishwasher.

I can always spot a house designed by someone who has never, ever done a load of laundry or purchased groceries. How? Easy. The garage is on the farthest side of the building away from the kitchen and the laundry is tucked into a spot away from easy access points like common walkways or stairs. This can be a lot of <cough> fun if you are dealing with bad weather, especially if the laundry is located in a garage that is separate from the house.

If you have a lot of laundry or a large load of groceries, that hike can be exhausting.

Now, you may not be able to do anything to move the laundry area or garage, but you can take charge of where things reside in your kitchen cabinets.

Cabinets are where the magic happens. Get yourself a set of containers for your dried goods. While boxes and bags seem simpler and easier, they take up a lot of room and don’t seal properly once opened, so you lose the food and the money you spent on the food when you have to toss it out. You don’t have to spend a lot, but be sure you do your research to find quality containers. i.e: Read the reviews.

Do you have a beverage area? Great! Put the mugs, glasses, whatevers nearby so you have what you need at hand. If you have a coffee / tea bar, gather all the fixings together. If you have a snack section, do the same and be sure to put things like napkins and serving bowls nearby.

Baking requires specific cooking pans and ingredients. Having them in the same general area makes the process easier – even more so if it is near the oven.

As you look at your space, think about what you use on a regular basis, what you use rarely and where you use things in general. That stand mixer is great for large projects but if you don’t use it every week maybe it can be put in a place that keeps it handy but doesn’t take up limited counter space? Mine is quite hefty, so I keep in mind that carrying it is a consideration.

If you have little ones around and are teaching them to set the table or put things away, look at your lower cabinets and consider putting things at their level.

If you have a cookbook collection, or are just starting one, consider making space in or near the kitchen. Handy for actually using the books to either cook or plan meals.

If you don’t use it or need it get rid of it.

This one is difficult, I know. But at the end of the day, getting rid of things you don’t use or need will save you time, space, and a lot of frustration when you need to find a place for something you do need and use. Besides, someone else might be looking for exactly what you don’t want!

There will always be some issue with storage and organization. The key is to make the best use of what you have and keep a sharp eye on how you utilize your space. Are you inadvertently sabotaging your cookery efforts? Are you not making the best use of the space you have? Do you already have a tool, box, container, thing that will help you resolve this issue?

With that food for thought, I will leave you to ponder. I hope this has been helpful. If so, please click on the “like” button below.

The Flexibility of Design Choices

Or, One Size, Color, Genre Does Not Fit All

I’ve often been intrigued by the array of colors, designs, patterns and genres that are available for pretty much everything.

If you are into Art Deco, there is a wide array of color choices that include metallics like gold and brass.

Prefer a bit of Americana? Red, white, and blue are obvious choices, but the variety of fabrics is astounding. Consider: You can go with the standard, but why not up the game with Civil War fabric reproductions? The color pallet is broader with more interesting combinations. Or, you can choose 1930’s fabric reproductions for a softer approach. One of my favorite collections is called “Lately From London” and is a collection of deep, rich colors and patterns that were prevalent around the end of the 1790’s. Not your ordinary run of the mill collection, for sure.

Want to aim for a French Country look? Are you interested in attempting to recreate a Downton Abbey look? Not sure where to start?

I suggest you head over to your local, or online, fabric shop and see what is available. Before you panic and tell me you don’t sew, don’t worry. My thought is that you can look at the fabrics and get an idea of colors, patterns and how they work together.

For example, when Downton Abbey was in its heyday, there were several fabric lines based on the time period of the series. Actually, they covered the various time periods in the series. Each represented the variety of colors and intensities along with patterns of the various time periods.

Contemplating a bit of Early American or French Country? You’ll no doubt find a variety of possibilities in the fabric lines carried by the stores.

Perusing the collections on display, you will get an opportunity to see all kinds of colors, patterns and collections to see what strikes your fancy – and what doesn’t. The flip side of this is that you will be able to get a sample of your favorite and be able to match paint colors.

Feeling adventurous? If you find fabrics you like, you can make your own pillow covers, window coverings, place mats, napkins, etc. Most of these projects are simple to do and a good starting point if you are a beginning sewer.

I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest frustrations shopping for home decor in the stores is that the store wants to tell me what I should have in my home. Most of the time, we don’t agree. Yes, it might be a bit more expensive (or not) to go my own way, at the end of the day, however, my home will be My Home.

Helpful? Giving you ideas? Don’t forget to hit the “Like” button!