New Year's Cleaning

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

I know, I know…  We are technically already into the month of February and I'm just now talking about New Year's.  Well, there's a reason for that.  We all make New Year's resolutions that last for only a few weeks (if we are lucky) and then we kind of start to fall off.  I wanted to make sure that I was going to stick with this resolution before I mentioned it here.  But now that we are almost six weeks into the new year and I'm still going strong, I think it's time to confess what I've been up to.


One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to clean house.  And I'm not talking about dusting and vacuuming, although that wouldn't hurt either.  :)  I'm talking about decluttering, organizing, purging, and really deciding what things are useful and what things just need to be tossed for good. And when you're talking about doing this for your entire house, you're really talking about a big undertaking. But so far, what's really working for me is breaking things up into very small and manageable sections of the house to work on at a time.  

For example, instead of saying I'm going to organize my entire closet today, I have chosen to break things up by spending 20 minutes to go through all of my jeans.  Maybe the next day I'll spend 15 minutes going through my sock drawer.  And when I'm organizing and purging, I'm using these criteria to determine what to keep and what goes.  

  • Is it useful?
  • Is it beautiful?
  • Do I love it?
  • Is this a sentimental item?


And if it doesn't meet at least one of these criteria, then it goes in a pile to donate or toss, depending on what it is.  

Here's a little rundown of all the things that I've been able to organize just in the first six weeks of this year.

  • Cleaned and organized under the kitchen sink; tossed old cleaners and ones that we don't use or don't work.  
  • Organized all of my jewelry; consolidated everything into one armoire; tossed old, broken, or junk pieces I no longer wear.
  • Cleaned and organized bathroom cabinets and drawers; purchased and installed drawer organizers that have literally changed my life.
  • Sorted books and toys; began preparing items for children's consignment sale.
  • Cleaned out the laundry room; tossed large hamper that we aren't using.  It was taking up precious real estate that I intend to use for a drying rack instead. 
  • Organized office files; retaining only important receipts, documents, and files.
  • Went through Lexi's clothes and shoes to weed out what no longer fits and needs to go into the upcoming consignment sale.
  • Cleaned and organized guest bedroom/ closet/ gift wrap area (which was still a mess from Christmas)

Oh, there is still much to be done. But I am slowly chipping away at it and feeling really good about the progress I'm making so far.  Some of these tasks have taken me several days or more to complete. But as I mentioned I'm trying to do things a little bit at a time. I find if you take on too much at a time, you just get burnt out and overwhelmed. This way seems to be working really well for me.  And stuff is getting done.

There are also a few things that I am delegating to my husband for his help.  And when he has a few minutes to spare, I enlist his help for small projects to knock them off the list.  Things like:

  • Changing light bulbs
  • Taking tools and such back to the garage to put away
  • Hanging pictures
So there you have it.  An organized and simplified home greatly contributes to my sanity.  That's the goal, and we are slowly but surely chipping away at it.  What resolutions did you make this year that you are still working toward?

A Valentine-y Dining Room Tour

Saturday, February 6, 2016

As promised, here is another look around at more Valentine's Day decorating that I've been cooking up recently- this time in the dining room.  I really do enjoy unpacking my seasonal treasures with each change of season, and carefully helping them to find their place.  If they need cleaning, I clean them up.  Many of these pieces are vintage wares, so I try to take very good care of them now that they have found their home.  

Here's the big picture of the dining room all gussied up for Valentine's Day.


And here's the bird's eye view of the table setting. 


Now, let's zoom in to see the close-ups.  The blue dishes that you see here are our every day dishes. We have had them for several years now, and I still enjoy them.  I accent each place setting with our Irish linens that we brought back from our trip to Ireland a few years ago.  I always add roses to the Valentine's Day table- just because.  And the tea cups and saucers are new to me this year.  They were a Mother's Day gift from John and Lexi last year.  Their pretty pink floral pattern made them a no brainer to add to this table setting. 


Here's a closer look at some of the tea service pieces.  I remembered that I also had a couple of pretty tea strainers in my kitchen cupboard so I also added those to a couple of the tea cups. 


I like to sprinkle the Valentine's Day table liberally with "love birds".  Here are a few of them now!



This little creamer bird is new to me this year.  He is small but very sweet.  I thought he matched this table well. :)


And remember my pink nursery rhyme glassware?  I decided to display it in the dining room along with a few other vintage finds. 


It would seem that I have a thing for old children's cups and plates.  I found this one recently in a little antique store and couldn't pass it by. The image in the center of the little girl feeding her teddy bear is just darling, but what makes it for me is that the sides of the plate say "I go here, says the Fork" and "I go here, says the Spoon".  I swoon. 


On that same antiquing trip, I also found this gorgeous pink poodle bank.  It's ceramic, and it doesn't have a stopper in the bottom.  The head actually comes apart to access your coins inside.  You can see the two pieces are tied together with a ribbon to hold everything in place. 


And finally, I also found this huge antique German Valentine's Day card recently.  It is a 3-D card that stands about six inches tall, with pop up and honeycomb features.  These cards were popular in the early 1900s, but aren't super rare.  Most of them feature scenes like this one.  Very pretty, and very Valentine-y.  They sure don't make them like this anymore. 


So there you have it.  My Valentine's Day dining room is ready for big day.  As you can see, this room is decorated very differently from the kitchen.  And it's not a traditional red and pink decor with hearts everywhere.  I used my soft blue dishes and accented with other pastel pieces, sprinkling in lots of floral and lots of vintage finds.  Decorating is highly personal.  It doesn't have to be precise or to anyone else's liking but your own.  It should always be fun and always be filled with things you love.  :)

For more Valentine's decorating, be sure to take a look at these other blog posts from the Harris Sisters:







And we wish you are your sweetheart a very Happy Valentine's Day!

A Valentine-y Kitchen Tour

Friday, February 5, 2016

Can the calendar be right?  It's already February, and Valentine's Day is just around the corner.  Oh heavens!  Wasn't it just Christmas yesterday?  Thankfully, I started my Valentine's Day decorating right after I put away all my Christmas decor, so even though I don't feel quite ready, I guess I am more so than I thought. 

Here's a look at my Valentine's kitchen tablescape this year. 


And here's the bird's eye view of the whole thing in action. 


Now, let's zoom in on a few favorites for you.  This is one of my very favorite pieces, added last year. It's a shelf sitter set of salt and pepper shakers.  These kissing kiddies are adorable and fit right in to the tablescape.  I sit them atop a vintage pink depression glass cake stand. 


Here's another favorite- probably my MOST favorite- it's my vintage Humpty Dumpty cookie jar, and I have shown him on the blog several times before.  I always look for reasons to bring him out.  I think his pastel colors match this table perfectly, and with the addition of my "new" vintage nursery rhyme table glassware this year, I think my Valentine's decor is starting to take on a new theme. 


Here's another look.  He sits atop another cake plate.  You will see lots of pink depression glassware, candy conversation hearts, and vintage Valentine Cards on display.  It's fun to find these treasures through the year and bring them all together for this tablescape.  

Oh, and my mini chalkboard now advertises "Kisses" for only 25 cents.  It's been fun dressing it up with each change of seasons. 


Oh, but my piece de resistance are these amazing vintage honeycomb wedding bells.  I hung them from the kitchen chandelier this year overlooking my Valentine's tablescape.  I LOVE them so much. And I have to say a HUGE thanks to Magpie Ethel for her inspiration of vintage bells that she uses for her New Year's display.  When I saw them on her blog, I nearly did a backflip.  They are amazing. She is amazing.  If you love treasure hunting and decorating with vintage items, read her blog.  It is everything.  Enough said. 


Here's a peek at the table with the wedding bells hanging down in the center.  I really do like the effect.  They were such a cheap thrill, and are pretty readily available on both eBay and Etsy.  And what's more, they fold flat for storage, so they take up very little room in the storage box. Another plus!


I usually add a special piece of two of depression glass to this table setting each year, but this year I opted instead for new napkins.  The napkins I previously used with this table were nothing special, so I had this set embroidered from an Etsy vendor, and I love how they turned out.  The "Be Mine" napkin is my favorite.  So I placed it at hubby's spot at the table.  Now that's true love.  Speaking of which, that's one of the other napkins.  The set included "Be Mine", "True Love" , "XOXO", and "I Love You".


I used the "I Love You" napkin for my own place setting. 


So that's the quick look at this year's Valentine's tablescape.  Stay tuned for more Valentine's decorating in the dining room too. How are you gussying up for Valentine's Day this year?

***UPDATE***

Just when I thought I wasn't going to add any new pink depression pieces to the collection this year, these lovelies found their way into my life.  I was out window shopping in one of my favorite shops this weekend when I spied two of these gorgeous sherbet glasses. 


There were only two, and the shop owner said he just put them out.  They came from Ohio and had only been on display for a couple days  when I found them.  He also told me this pattern in the Miss America pattern, which was very helpful so I can keep an eye out to hopefully find a couple more one day.  What a wonderful find!

Cheddar Cheese Fondue

Sunday, January 24, 2016

For all you long time readers of the blog, you know that I've posted a few fondue recipes in the past. I gave this one a try this weekend and it's a real winner too, so I thought I would share.

This is a traditional cheddar cheese fondue, so your kids will probably love it. (Mine sure did.)

Super easy to whip up!


Cheddar Fondue


1 cup white wine
1 teaspoon chopped garlic  
16 oz cheddar cheese, shredded 
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper 
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder 
Bread, pretzels, fruits, veggies for dipping - (apples, pineapple, carrots, broccoli)

  1. Simmer wine and garlic in fondue pot over medium-high heat for one minute. 
  2. Add cheese, flour, pepper, and mustard powder to a Ziploc bag and shake. Add mixture to fondue pot 1/4 pound at a time. 
  3. Stir after each addition to incorporate until cheese is melted. 
  4. Serve with cut-up bread, fruit, and veggies.


Notes: 

For those of you who don't want to use wine (or quite frankly don't happen to have a mere 1 cup of it laying around unused), you can substitute apple juice.

Don't forget our other tried and true fondue recipes. All of these make great recipes for snow days or for upcoming Super Bowl parties:


Enjoy!

Mermaid Tail and Shark Lapghans

Friday, January 22, 2016

Did you craft anything as a gift for Christmas? Well, I did.

I decided that for all the kiddos on the Harris side of the family, I would crochet them matching lap afghans (or lapghans). You may have already seen the popular mermaid tail and "eaten by a shark" personal afghans floating around on Pinterest and Facebook.

With sharks being all over the news this past Summer and with our family's association with The Little Mermaid having been well documented time and time again, I thought that sharks for Aidyn and Jaxon and mermaid tails for Charlotte, Emma, and Lexi would be perfect.


I used these free crochet patterns and adjusted them for sizing: Eaten by a Shark Pattern and Mermaid Tail Pattern.

Here's the whole motley crew. I know, Lexi, you have crazy cousins! ;-)


But she soon figured out what to do with it . . . 


Of course, my boys wanted to show you what it looks like to fend off a shark attack:


And also what it looks like when you lose (silly boys):


Pattern Modifications

For the smaller mermaid tails, I only completed each half tail until there were 16 stitches left. This made a smaller tail that looked more appropriately sized for a smaller mermaid tail.

For all tails (both mermaid and shark), I only completed the very last row (12 or 16) with one row of stitches. That way, the matching row on the other half tail would complete the two row pattern that all other rows had formed. If you complete two rows on both sides, then when you sew the two half tails together, you'll have four of the same sized rows together in the middle, which I thought would look odd.


For the mermaid tails, I used this decorative stitch around the top edges: *7dc in same space, skip a stitch, repeat from * 


For shark teeth, instead of the bobbles, I used this decorative stitch to form triangle "teeth" around the mouth: *hdc, dc, tr, dc, hdc, skip two stitches, repeat from *


Measurements

You'll note that both patterns walk you through the bottom portion, which includes all shaping, and then instructs you to complete the rest of the pattern "to desired length." Well, since these were for gifts, I had to sort of figure a way to ask for measurements so that I would have something to work with.

For the mermaid tails, I asked for the girls' measurements (standing) from floor to waist height and then I added to that measurement the length of their feet. This will give them room to move their feet around at the bottom of the tail, and for the little girls, will give them some "growing room." I crocheted to this length in each instance and then added the final decorative stitch in the contrasting color.

For the sharks, I measured the boys from underneath their arms (standing) to the floor and then added to that measurement the length of their feet. I crocheted to this length in each instance and then added the jaws.

Yarn Choice & Colors

For the mermaid tails, I used:

  • Red Heart Super Saver Turqua (body)
  • Red Heart Super Saver Grape Fizz (tail and ruffle trim)


For the sharks, I used:

  • Caron One Pound Soft Grey Mix (body, fin, tail)
  • Caron One Pound Black (eye)
  • Caron One Pound Scarlet (blood)
  • Loops and Threads Impeccable White (eye/teeth)

(Note: You certainly don't need one pound of the black, red, or white color for the shark pattern. These were just leftover from another project, so I put them to good use for these projects to accomplish some stash busting!)

All in all, I would certainly recommend these patterns, as they are very beginner friendly. They do take some time with the finishing (for the sharks more so than the mermaids), but the majority of the work is a simple Granny Stitch. Easy peasy!

Add these patterns to your Ravelry queue:


Note: Designer is the same for both the Eaten by a Shark and Mermaid Tail lapghans. Eaten by a Shark is featured on Ravelry, but that link will also take you to the free Mermaid Tail pattern on her website.

Enjoy!

Vintage Pink Nursery Rhyme Glassware

Monday, January 18, 2016

Just in time for our next grand holiday, Valentine's Day, I present to you my latest and greatest vintage pink glassware treasures.  As I have shown you before, I like to use pink depression glass in my Valentine table setting each year.  I actually spied these pieces last summer and brought them home to store until now.  It's time once again to decorate for Valentine's Day, so these beauties are making their debut for the very first time this year.  


This little set includes six pieces: a small pitcher, two glasses, one handled mug, a divided plate, and a bowl.  And each piece actually depicts old nursery rhyme quotes and images.  And while I was instantly drawn to this beautiful pink glassware, it's definitely not depression glass, which is fine by me.  I still love it just as much and will mix it right in with my other pieces. 

Here are the drinkware pieces.


And here are some closeups so you can see what drew me to these super sweet pieces in the first place.  Humpty Dumpty graces the side of the handled mug. 




Here are the two juice glasses.  They are a matching pair of "Jack and Jill" glasses. 


One side of each of the glasses has the actual rhyme on it. 


And the other side is an image of the characters themselves. 


Here's the small pitcher.  It's a really solid little piece, in great shape and features two nursery rhymes on it. 


One side is "Mary had a Little Lamb".


While the other side is "Jack Jumped over the Candlestick".


Then finally, we have the dishes.  This is the divided plate, and it features a couple more rhymes: "See Saw Margery Daw" and "Where are you Going My Pretty Maid?"


The bowl was super difficult to photograph so you'll have to take my word for it.  The image in the bottom of the bowl is of Mother Goose, while "Little Bo Peep", "Three Blind Mice" and "Little Miss Muffet" are printed around the edges of the bowl. 


So there you have it.  Another vintage find and I'm a happy girl.  These will be tucked right into the Valentine's decor in my dining room this year.  Stay tuned to the blog for more Valentine's decorating in the coming weeks!

2016- The Year of the Owl

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Well, it's not really the Year of the Owl.  In fact, if you follow Chinese astrology, it's the Year of the Monkey, and I'm pretty sure there is no such thing as the Year of the Owl.  But we aren't in China, and in my own little world, it may as well be the Year of the Owl.  Let me explain.


This year for Christmas, we decided we were no longer going to exchange adult gifts in our family. So I was beyond surprised when my father-in-law dragged in box after box of big heavy gifts, each wrapped just the same and all addressed to me.  What in the world?!?!  As I started to raise an eyebrow, he started to explain.  Apparently, it's been YEARS (like since before I was part of this family) since they have done this (but decided to revive the tradition with me)- the grand tradition of the over-the-top gag gift.  So as I faced these huge boxes with this new explanation, I really started to worry. Each box was wrapped in owl paper.  Now I've never made any bones about it.  I do love owls, and have for a long time.  It seems the rest of the world caught up several years ago, but I'm an owl lover from way back.  In any case, apparently I'm not the only long-time owl lover out there. 

As I opened my first box, I could see what I had there.  Apparently, I was now the owner of someone else's COMPLETE lifetime collection of owl statues.  I'm not kidding, and I can barely describe the expanse of what that means. My fearless father-in-law is a long time junker.  He comes up with some good stuff, no doubt about it.  But this was supposed to be a gag gift, remember?  It was mostly humongous statues of realistic and scary looking owls- I'm talking wings spread, talons unfurled, scary stuff- the likes of which I hope to never see again.  

Here I am on Christmas Day with my stacks of owl boxes and (a rather tame) example of what was inside. 


Everyone assured me that this was just a joke, and I should immediately just haul all these boxes to the trash or to Goodwill, but I was determined to go through each owl and see what I had there. Now that we are into the new year, I've finally had time to take on that task and I've been pleasantly surprised with a few of my findings. 

This is hands down my favorite.  This mug is double sided.  The same lazy owl face appears on both sides.  It needs a good cleaning, but if this was all I found out of all those boxes, I would have been more than over the moon.  I love him!


But take a look at these beauties.  Weather owls!  It's a little tough to read, but the owl on the left reads "Weather Forecaster" on the books and the one of the right reads "Weather Owl".  Of course, these are mine, mine, mine.  


And then I found this little cutie just calling out to me. It's the sign that he's holding that did it for me.  "Please don't smoke.  It's not wise."  Do they even make things like this now?  I seriously doubt it.  I'm in love.  


As you can see, the owls I have chosen to rescue are all of the cartoony variety.  Here are three other sweeties that I couldn't send away.   They are small.  I'd say each one is about 3 inches tall. 


Oh, but Harris Sisters always stick together.  Even though I know Harris Sister Misty doesn't love owls in the same way that I do, I still couldn't resist holding these out for her.  They are both bells (something that Mama collected), and both are from the Great Smoky Mountains.  They are kitschy looking.  To me, they appear to be from the 1970s.  And Misty, they are all yours!


And for Harris Sister Donna, who loves Halloween, these are for you.  Owls and Halloween just go together and the color of all these are perfect for that time for year.  The yellow one on the right is actually a bank.  And even though the orange one in the middle looks a little scary in this photo, I think it's actually my favorite one of the three.  


As it happened, there turned out to be a couple of non-owl items that made their way into the boxes. This little cup was sweet, and obviously old, but I probably wouldn't have given it more than a second look. 


UNTIL....  I turned it over.  On the bottom was a handwritten note that reads "Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Guss Baker and family were leaving for California.  They picked apples and other fruit and paid their way through.  Aunt Myrtle bought this for me when I was 3 years- 1918."  Alrighty, that dates this cup to nearly 100 years old.  It also dates the owner of this collection, and makes me very happy to be a part of the story.  I am without a doubt keeping this special cup.  


And finally, in the entire collection, there was one Christmas ornament.  It's small and I could have easily missed it, but I'm glad I didn't.  Of course, it's three owls- Mama, Daddy, and Baby- just like us. I'm saving it for next year's Christmas tree- to remember the year of owl.