My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant


Monday, December 31, 2012

Auld Lang Syne

I love that even on the last day of the old year, I learned something new. In reading through a brief and also a very detailed history of "Auld Lang Syne" ~ both the poem (attributed to Robert Burns in 1788 but inspired by an anonymous poem from the 15th century), and the popular melody we all know and love the world over ~ I learned that Burns' poem was originally set to an older Scottish folk tune, which is still sung by traditional singers. Here is a version of it, sung by Edinburgh's own Mairi Campbell, in a lovely video from 2010 (in the spirit of auld lang syne!)...


And in the spirit of not-as-auld lang syne, I shared this rendition of the better known tune sung by Dougie MacLean last year, but I love it enough to want to reprise it...


Do you prefer one over the other? I think they're both beautiful and moving, but my favorite is the modern one, as sung by Dougie. :-)

And for those who prefer your Scottish melodies played on Scottish bagpipes, enjoy...


Ach, what is it about the pipes that always brings on goosebumps (and often a tear?) They're as stirring as the magnificent Scottish Highlands scenery. (A very special Happy Hogmanay to you, dear Penny!) :-)

The Dougie MacLean video shares the lyrics in the traditional Old Scots that Rabbie Burns used to pen his poem. There are several versions translated into modern English, but this version seems to be the most widely accepted...

AULD LANG SYNE
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And days long gone?
CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’kindness yet,
For days long gone.
CHORUS
We two have run about the slopes,
And picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
Since days long gone.
CHORUS
We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine (dinner time)
But seas between us broad have roared
Since days long gone.
CHORUS
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
For days long gone.

May the New Year bring you a year rich in joy, peace, love, health, kindness, and contentment, and may you always prosper in the ways that truly matter.
Wishing a very Happy New Year to you, my friends! 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holiday House Tour (Part 1)


To part 1 of the holiday house tour of our new home!

Most of you have watched it materialize from a vacant lot and ambitious idea to my last construction post, published when it was still a mess just four days before we closed on it and moved in back in late August. It's been an exhausting whirlwind, and I'd be lying if I said we were completely settled, organized, landscaped, decorated and FINISHED. But, it's far enough along for a tour, at least of the downstairs (which is the only part we decorated for the holidays, if you don't count the candles in the upstairs windows!) :-)


Since we built this one from scratch ~ from finding and making changes to the floor plan to researching and choosing every single bloody item, finish, style and color in and on the house, I thought I'd include a few details. I've noticed that several visitors to my blog arrive from Google searches for things like paint colors (that I mentioned on past remodeling/redecorating posts), and we found really helpful info and ideas on blogs and websites that shared details about the various phases of new home construction (two that were especially helpful were Houzz and de Jong Dream House: Building Terms). So I'm sharing some info of our own for anyone out there, now or in the future, who is building, remodeling or decorating and might find it helpful. If you see anything you're curious about that I haven't shared a link to or info about, don't hesitate to ask. I've bookmarked nearly every source and resource from this project! :-) The prices shown on a lot of these linked sites are now in most cases not what we paid - I've noticed a big increase in some of them, and we hit a lot of great sales and got some wonderful deals. It really pays to shop around or to wait for a good sale if time is not of the essence.

To the extent we could afford to, we made the home as energy efficient and sustainable as possible. It's well insulated with R-49 in the attic and spray foam insulation in the walls, has a high efficiency furnace and water heater, cork flooring in two rooms, passive solar and two Solatube tubular skylights, zero VOC paint throughout, only Water Efficient and Energy Star rated appliances and plumbing fixtures, and built-in passive and active radon mitigation.

The south side of the house

Siding: LP SmartSide
Exterior Lights: Dolan Designs Craftsman sconces from Lighting Direct
Garage Door: Wayne Dalton 6100 "Brunswick" painted to match the siding,
with "Stockbridge" window style

Siding color: Sherwin Williams "Svelte Sage" SW-6164
Front Door: "Connected Grey" SW-6165
Exterior Trim: "Extra White" SW-7006

But I've kept you standing out in the cold and snow long enough. Come on in!

The front entry way and the study's French doors from the staircase.

Hallway wall color: Sherwin Williams "Kilim Beige" SW-6106
Interior trim color throughout house: "Pure White" SW-7005

You've seen a couple of these photos of the study in past posts, but here's a more comprehensive look...

A re-run from my Christmas Eve post, I'm including it because it's the only photo 
of the study that shows the big window, which is one of its best features! 

Wall color: Sherwin Williams "Smoky Blue" SW-7604

The Command Center of the Starship Mehitable Days :-)

As you may remember, I designed this bookcase around the Italian millefiori lamp! (Do you spy Foxy Love, Rose?) The Halloween school house gets replaced with Santa's Workshop this time of year, but Alice's Tea Party remains 365.

Some of you might also remember the ceiling lamp from a past post, but it's been awhile and I thought it deserved a second look.

Crystal glass reproduction door knobs on French doors 
from Rousso's Reproductions via Amazon.com

The hallway and front entry from the living room (dining room's on the left).
I hate that floor runner. 

Hallway ceiling color: Sherwin Williams "Divine White" SW-6105
Front Door: "Connected Grey" SW-6165

Looking down the hallway from the front entry into the living area.
The short little door on the left leads to the crawl space.

Floors: White oak with custom 1:1 mix of Minwax "Special Walnut" and "English Chestnut" stain with two coats of satin polyurethane

Looking into the hallway from the dining room.

The cute quilted Santas wallhanging was made by our own AdventureJo! :-)

The door leads to the little powder room, tucked under the stairs. 
The goose print on the wall is "Dinner Call" by Dawna Barton, mounted on wood
one of our several art finds from AllPosters.com.

The powder room is so small, it's nearly impossible to photograph. This is my attempt to capture the pedestal sink and one of the hardwood HVAC vents (I think those are cool!), without capturing myself in the mirror! :-)

That grey gadget at the base of the pedestal sink is a Watchdog Water Alarm.
Having suffered several water leaks at our old house, we have them throughout this one wherever a leak might occur. Could save a lot of grief and expense.

Wall & Ceiling color: Sherwin Williams "Misty" SW-6232

Looking into the dining room from the living room.

The pub table, bought for our tiny dining area in Dragonfly Cottage, is supposed to go in our kitchen's breakfast nook. But lacking a dining room set, at least for now, our pub table is having to fill in. Sure makes the dining room look big! :-)

Dining room wall color: Sherwin Williams "Grassland" SW-6163
Ceiling color: "Svelte Sage" SW-6164

Took this one without a flash. It's not great, but I like the warm, cozy glow of it!

We had a hard time deciding what to put on the dining room wall. We really couldn't afford another framed art print, especially one large enough. We looked at metal wall art, but didn't find anything that fit our taste or Craftsman style home. Then we looked at tapestries and found this one. We like the warmth and texture it provides, and it was more affordable than framed art.


The oak lawyers bookcase belonged to my grandfather (who was a surveyor, not a lawyer; hope the ABA doesn't find out he had one of their bookcases, lol), and is still home to my rocking horse collection. :-) The cardinal picture on the post to its right is a quilted postcard, again made by my very talented friend "AdventureJo". (Click here for a closeup!) And the antique radio to its right, which still has all its vintage vacuum tube guts but doesn't work, I bought in 1986 for $30 from a roadside antique stand in New Mexico for my little TV to sit on. Now it displays Texas Bluebonnets from our wedding (we got married in Abilene, TX).

Wall color: Sherwin Williams "Kilim Beige" SW-6106
Ceiling color: "Divine White" SW-6105

The Kilim Beige walls in these living room photos have a greenish cast to them (on my monitor) that is not how that color actually looks. The color is much closer to the color of the Travertine tile around the gas fireplace, only lighter.

We added the two little windows to the floor plan, and are so glad we did. And we LOVE our gas fireplace! The tile surround is travertine (at BW's insistence!) 
We had the alcove above the mantel wired for the television, but then decided we like our TV just fine on the media cabinet to the left, so hung a picture there instead. The next people can put their TV up there if they want to!

I thought it would be fun to include a closer view of my snowmen collection, though I miss my bay window where I could display them all with my birdhouses like a Christmas snowman village. (The little snowman holding the fox that's featured in my current holiday header is third from the right). :-) You can also barely see the very wee row of blocks, spelling out "NOEL," that I tucked into the mantel trim on the righthand fireplace column (beneath the tall Santa, which is made from a fencepost!) It fits there perfectly! I wasn't very satisfied with how our mantel was decorated. Next year, I'm thinking a garland draped across the front, along with our stockings. would be nice.

We ordered the picture above the mantel from AllPosters, figuring it was a perfect size, would go well with our wall color and coordinate nicely with the colors in the adjacent dining room, and because we liked it. I didn't realize how much I liked it till later when I was sifting through some of the images I've saved in my Photobucket account over the years and found this one! It was one of the first ones I ever saved there several years ago. I hadn't recognized it when we found it at AllPosters, but I guess when you really like something, you really like it! :-)

(We bought the art print, matted and framed, which is no longer available. So this link takes you to the unframed stretched canvas product at AllPosters)

Coming up: Part 2: The Kitchen :-)

Friday, December 28, 2012

SkyWatch Friday: Dawn of a New (cam)Era :-)

My Kodak EasyShare point-and-shoot captured the sunrise's colors nicely in this first photo...

But as is often the case, it couldn't manage the actual look of the beautifully bright orangey-pink puffy clouds, which were out of focus in all the photos I took of them, and turned out flat and dim in this SOOC photo...

And too lurid in this one...

And no amount of fussing with them in various freebie photo editors made them look anything like they actually did. Should I use better photo editing software? No doubt. But what dawned on me (get it?) is that what I neeeeeed is a new camera. A grownup DSLR camera. Just happens my birthday is next week, just happens there was a recent too-good-to-refuse deal on the Canon EOS Rebel T4i I had my eye on (even before I first saw this fantastic commercial that I think all photographers can relate to!), and just happens that the Birthday Faerie - who bears a striking resemblance to my husband - heard my pleas/whining and granted my wish. :-) In fact, it arrived, appropriately enough, on a SkyWatch Friday two weeks ago (I got to start playing with it early because it's also my Christmas present!) Now I just need to flounder through the enormously daunting learning curve that lies ahead!


But check this out - one of my very first photos with it, taken last weekend and totally unedited,  and I don't even have a clue what I'm doing yet. This bodes well! :-)

Happy New Year and Happy SkyWatching!
Wishing you beautiful skies and wonderful photos in 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Treat & a Tree for Christmas Eve :-)

Merry Christmas Eve!

I've been struggling with a cold, some technical difficulties with our computer (and with a new gizmo, which I'll divulge in a later post), and with far too many other distractions lately to get my act together in time to do the Christmas posts I'd planned. 

But I didn't want to go all Ebenezer on you either, so here is a treat I've been wanting to share since we discovered it a couple of weeks ago...


Delicious and filled with flu-fighting, immune-boosting goodies that are packed with vitamins (especially C), important minerals (like potassium), and other anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, this festive Ginger Cinnamon Fruit Salad is not only ideal for flu season, it's even perfectly colored for the holiday season with its green pears and bright red apples and pomegranate seeds!

Speaking of which, we had no clue how to de-seed a pomegranate, so we found a couple of helpful videos and this is the technique we use. His warning that pomegranate juice stains mercilessly is not to be taken lightly! 

I follow the recipe, though I don't hesitate to add a second pomegranate if we've got one, and I sometimes use an orange-mango juice blend. Yum!


I also wanted to share our new Christmas tree with you, but have to say I'm far more satisfied with our tree than with my photos of it. But I'll forge ahead anyway...

Our old artificial tree was nearly 25 years old (I'd bought it in Kennebunkport on sale after Christmas before I ever met BW!), had been through many moves, was showing its age, and I'd stopped bothering to decorate it for Christmas a few years ago. So we gave it away during our downsizing project before our house sale, and last year in our little rental cottage we just used the 3' tree I've had since I was about seven, which you can see in the background in the first photo above. (I get a lot of mileage out of my fake trees!)


But I missed my collection of tree ornaments and having a full-size tree to enjoy, and figured a new house (especially one with 9' ceilings) deserved a new Christmas tree. So we got this 7 1/2' tall one from Home Depot, pre-festooned with little white lights. We didn't have a good spot in the living area for it (not without moving furniture out) and since the only large downstairs window that faces the street is in the study, we chose that room for our tree and so got one with a fairly narrow base. I've usually found artificial trees to be too full and bunchy for both my taste and decorating style, and while this one is better than most, it still doesn't compare to the Christmas trees of my childhood. But then, the bar was set awfully high...


We always had real trees when I was growing up, and if we were living close enough, we'd cut our own from my grandparents' 200-acre farm in the Maine woods. They were always balsam fir, a wonderfully aromatic tree with lots of space between the branches. This suited my mother perfectly, because she hung most of her ornaments with pretty ribbons (as her mother had done, and as I do too), and would also drape it in tons of silver tinsel ~ applied one strand at a time. I never had the patience, and as soon as she caught me putting it on five or six strands at a time, I lost my tree-decorating privileges! :-) But her technique worked magic, because our tree would shimmer beautifully in the light, as if covered in ice crystals. 

My dad always had a knack for selecting a perfect tree, but even that was never quite good enough for either of them. So Dad always cut a few extra branches from other balsam firs along with the ones he trimmed from the tree base, and if an area on our tree was too sparse he'd drill a hole in the trunk and glue the extra branch into it. If some branches drooped too much, he hoisted them with invisible thread. And he always took great care in feeding and watering the tree so it stayed fresh until my birthday in early January (I would not permit the decorations to come down until the next day!) And then after all that tinsel, the ornaments and lights were off it, Mom and I would strip many of the needles and clip most of the aromatic tips from the branches, and Mom would spend most of January making wonderful balsam-filled pillows and sachets. They'd last for years - one crush and it smelled like Christmas all over again.

So although I think our tree turned out quite pretty, it does not compare with the amazing trees of my youth. Someday, maybe, we'll be able to get ourselves a real fir balsam and I'll make a zen-like attempt at draping it in tinsel. But for now, here's our tinsel-less fabulous fake...
Plus a bonus sneak-peek at part of the study, to reassure some of you that I have indeed been taking photos of the inside of our house, which I hope to post by New Year's!)

Though my camera and I tend to struggle with low-light situations, I played around with a few photos and got a couple I was pleased with (the one on my current Christmas header is one of them)...

Here are a few of my favorite ornaments (at least the ones whose photos turned out pretty well!)...
A partridge with her pear :-)

I liked this artsy shot, taken through the branches

For our British friends! :-)
We bought this one at Harrod's on our first trip to England in 1996.
(On our next trip to the UK two years later, we bought a Scottish thistle ornament. 
I think ornaments make wonderful travel keepsakes!)

This little glass bear is an antique that belonged to my grandmother and probably dates from the 1930s when Mom was little. It's made to fit a tree light, but today's mini lights are too small and regular sized lights are too big! I made do, but I always have to find a branch for him to sit on, along with a handy bulb above him to stick down in his head!


Here's hoping that yule have yourself a merry little Christmas!
May it shimmer and sparkle like the prettiest tree. :-)

Friday, December 21, 2012

SkyWatch Friday: Solstice

Behind the complicated details of the world 
stand the simplicities. 
~Graham Greene~

A stack of sunrise-colored clouds 

A warm, soft glow of lights and snow illuminate the blue spruce in our backyard
(May my Southern Hemisphere readers please forgive my Northern Hemisphere bias!)

Happy Solstice and Happy SkyWatching!
See you next week (she said with utmost confidence)...

;-)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

ABC Wednesday: The Wizardry of W :-)

After a devastatingly wrenching week (whose emotional wounds have not yet begun to heal), perhaps some whimsy, and for many a visit to a bit of wonder from our childhoods, will offer a bit of welcome diversion. At least, that's my wish!

Today's ABC Wednesday post is made possible by our neighbors, Doug and Carol, who invited us to dinner on December 1st. Not only was the evening was filled with a wide range of music, conversation, and delicious vegan food, it was also filled with W's!

First, the wine was poured from an unusual "world" decanter...
(Wish I'd photographed it while full, but it went too fast!) :-)

Vintage music from the 50s and 60s wove its way through the house from the genuine Wurltizer juke box (which plays CDs)...

But most of the Ws were on one of their several themed Christmas trees, their wackily wonderful 12-foot tall "Pop Culture" tree, which had several Wizard of Oz ornaments - all with animation and/or sound. Here are a few of my favorites, in photos and video...

The wretchedly malicious "Miss Gulch," who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West when in Oz (and later Cora, the Maxwell House Coffee lady!) The video I'm linking to just cracks me up - what a wistfully amusing blast from the past! (I was 14 that year!) :-)

Dorothy about to embark on her Yellow Brick Road adventure
This ornament has a whoops, can you detect what it is?
(Dorothy should be wearing the ruby slippers as she sets out!)

The warm-hearted Dorothy works oil into the Tin Woodsman's rusty joints

"The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken!" 

The intrepid friends start to get woozy in the poppy field...

...while the Wicked Witch and one of her Winged Monkeys watch

After Dorothy's been whisked away to the tower cell, her three friends disguise themselves as Winkies (the Wicked Witch's guards) to rescue her. According to the abundant Wizard of Oz trivia shared on IMDb, "There are many alleged lyrics to the "Winkie Chant" performed by the Witch's guards, including "All we own, we owe her," "Oh we love the old one," and "Oh we loathe the old one." However, the correct version, seen in the film's screenplay, is "O-Ee-Yah! Eoh-Ah!" and any other interpretations are simply the result of the listener's mind treating the chant as an audio ink blot." :-) 

"What a world, what a world!" wails the wilting Wicked Witch of the West!
This is my favorite of the Oz ornaments, and I wish the video weren't so wee. I recommend you click on it to watch it in a larger version or watch it in full screen on YouTube.

And near the end, the Great and Powerful Oz is exposed, the gifts bestowed (or, more accurately, acknowledged), and the erstwhile Wizard of Oz sets sail for Kansas and home. :-)

And just in case you haven't yet gotten enough of the Wizard of Oz, here was another of Doug and Carol's Christmas trees...
Wow, check out those wild ruby slipper tree lights! 

Click here to see some of the non-Wizard ornaments from their Pop Culture tree!

And it goes without saying, your visit to ABC Wednesday is always welcome! 

Wishing everyone a peaceful holiday season filled with love!

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SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

SOME CURRENT & RECENT READING...

  • INFERNO ~ Dan Brown
  • MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD & EVIL ~ John Berendt
  • MY NOTORIOUS LIFE: A NOVEL ~ Kate Manning
  • ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 ~ Bill Bryson
  • QUIET: THE POWER OF INTROVERTS IN A WORLD THAT CAN'T STOP TALKING ~ Susan Cain
  • THE BEAUTIFUL CIGAR GIRL ~ Daniel Stashower
  • THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY ~ Erik Larson
  • THE SHADOWS, KITH AND KIN ~ Joe R. Lansdale
  • THE TIPPING POINT ~ Malcolm Gladwell
There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"