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Friday, December 5, 2014

It's Haulin' Out The Holly Time

Nineteen days until Christmas.


How is this possible, when just a few weeks ago, we were still
harvesting tomatoes from our diehard and shriveled vines?

November, right after Halloween: 
(I suspect our tomato plants actually benefit from our benign neglect
of them, and become tougher and more productive out of sheer cussedness.)
Weird, eh?  Weather.
Mother Nature is a wicked practical joker.
The day before Thanksgiving, this:
...which piled up to 6 or 7 inches before it ended
Thursday morning, and it stuck around for 5 days.

Now the tomato vines look like this:

The Prison Yard looked like this, not all that long ago:

And today it looks like this, like some abandoned industrial site:

Collapsed annuals, weeds, and veggie plants,
gritty dirt from snow shoveling, and just that dreary look of winter.

It's time, my friends.  It is time.

Bring on the bling!

I think one of the strongest arguments for decking
your house with Christmas lights is that
it is so freaking dark in winter!
Even just a bit of light around the front door helps dispel that winter gloom.
Meanwhile, my house looks really spooky, doesn't it?  Hmmm....

Take heart.  In just a few more weeks we begin the
long slow climb back to the Summer Solstice.

Well, as Auntie Mame sang:

Haul out the holly
Put up the tree before my spirit falls again
Fill up the stocking
I may be rushing things, but deck the halls again now

For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet

Yes, we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
We need a little Christmas now

This weekend, Howard and I will get the Christmas storage boxes
up from the toasty boiler room, and they will take over the dining room.
Big time.

2011's chaos.  It's the same every year!
The chandelier gets poinsettias.

 The front stairs get garland and ribbons.

And there will be a Christmas tree in every room.
Well, every occupied room!

What are your plans for Christmas decorating?
Less than past years?  More?

And do you change styles year to year, or keep with
your own traditions for the holidays?

I'm so nosey!  -- Cass

PS  Howard already has lights on our side fence.  Show off.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanksgiving Day -- The Good, The Bad, the Stupid, and The Ugly

One week ago, I was slaving over a hot stove,
getting some cooking done before Thanksgiving.
And expecting 20 people to gather at the table.

Then, the snow struck.  And it also stuck.
6 or 7 inches of the dang stuff.
That's the Bad.
Our numbers dwindled to 15, as our five Virginians
wisely decided to skip this trip up the coast.
The Good is that the food all got cooked, even both turkeys.
Including this little one, cooked on Wednesday, unstuffed
so it isn't tainted by the wheat (gluten) in the bread stuffing.
Sorry, there's just no way to make a hunk of cooked bird look pretty.
Especially when you have done what you swore you would never do, and
roasted it in one of those stupid aluminum pans.  Which you'll never do again.
Wiggle wiggle wiggle!  Not strong enough for 14 pounds of poultry!
Now that is the Stupid!
As for the Ugly. . .
What is the holiday season without a few ugly holiday sweaters?

Dylan DiPoochy was wrangled into a reindeer sweater by my daughter Anne.
It was not a hit with Dylan, although we thought he looked pretty cute.
It lasted about 15 minutes, and he was back to comfy nekkid.
I don't have the heart to tell him that I have little Sherpa-lined jackets for him and Gilda.
(Gilda doesn't really care if we put clothes on her.
Do you think she'd look fetching in the ugly reindeer sweater?)

Oh.  One more Bad.
I did not get a new picture of Howard in his heirloom Turkey Shirt.
I forgot this last year, too.
I also took no pictures on Thanksgiving Day.
So many Bads!
And one last Bad.  Or is it more one last Stupid?
Remember my master plan to have our guests put the little
cups and saucers on the Dining Room Christmas tree?
That probably would have gone better if I'd actually put the
ornaments out where people could find them, and if I'd actually
asked them to trim the little tree.
Oops.  My BadMy Stupid, too!
But to wind up with some more of the Good,
there are people I want to thank.  Without them, I'd be sunk.
Husband Howard and Daughter Anne pitched in tirelessly on Wednesday and Thursday.
Sister-in-law Phyllis and Mother-in-law Irene washed and dried
pots and pans and wineglasses and serving dishes ... and more!
Phyllis also brought cranberry pie, and our niece-in-law Deb brought cookies and brownies.
Irene (Howard's Mom) baked dozens of tiny pecan rolls and mini-muffins.  An annual tradition.
Sister Peggy and her hubby Bill brought champagne and shrimp.
Nieces Grace and Mary bailed us out by picking up ice on their way.
And I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting someone but my personal hard drive is running low on space.
On to Christmas, my friends!  -- Cass

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's A Thanksgiving Kitchen

A kitchen, in a home where
Thanksgiving Dinner will be served,
is a bustling place on the day before the holiday.

So it is today, at That Old House.

Our daughter Anne is home from Washington for the holiday
and just put the first turkey, which stays gluten-free, into the oven,
and now she's working on a gluten-free stuffing to accompany the bird.
It will begin to smell divine in here.  Soon.

Meanwhile... outside, it's doing this:

Yes, it is snowing.  A lot.  Weather folk say we'll get around
8 inches of snow before it ends late, late tonight.

Good. Grief.

We've got our little infrared heater things heating up the sunroom,
and making believe it's a woodstove.  Yes, it's cheesy, but we love it.
(Thank you, Martha of Linderhof, for inspiring us to add this to our sunroom.)

And later today, Anne will help me fish the
Thanksgiving china out of the breakfront . . .

and since we serve buffet style, we will wrap
flatware in big napkins to mark each place at our two tables.

Most importantly, Howard has located his Turkey Shirt,
shown here in a shot from Thanksgiving 2012:
The Turkey Shirt will be a little looser this year; low carb eating!
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

We wish you delicious turkey, and tasty trimmings.
And no matter if your table seats one, or thirty ...
That Old House is grateful to know you!
Tomorrow, the Big Bird (no, not that one!)
goes into the oven, stuffed with a savory bread dressing.  
I'm thinking ... half my plate for stuffing,
everything else can jockey for space!

Later, gators!  I'm going to check my lists again,
to see what I am forgetting! -- Cass

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Christmas Tree For Thanksgiving

At Christmas, we have a decorated tree in pretty much
every room.  Including the dining room. 

Up until a couple of years ago, we put a small spiral tree there,
and added pine cones to it, tucked in here and there.

But then, I remembered this picture,
from Mary's Little Red House blog:

Mary put a small tree in her dining room, and
festooned it with tea cups.  And I absolutely loved it.

So, out with the wee spiral tree.
And in with a small traditional tree.

That little tree is decorated with a lot of red,
and lots of birds, and lots of faux fruits & pine cones,
and lots of little vintage demitasse cups, their saucers Crazy-glued on.
Because who doesn't like a craft project at Christmas?

It's not a fresh tree; we put our big fresh tree in the conservatory,
where it is cool overnight and the fresh tree stays fresh.

No, the dining room tree is proudly fake.
Can you tell?  Oy.  I pretty much always forget
to toss a tree skirt around its spindly ugly plastic bottom.

Seriously, Cass, how hard is it to remember to do that?

Anyhoo, this year, on Thanksgiving Day, this tree will already be set up
in the dining room, but it will be nekkid as the day it was born.

There will be a nearby box, and maybe a basket or two,
of little vintage coffee cups, flocked birds, pinecones,
red and gold and silver glass balls ... all the lovely things that belong on this tree.

If you are one of our guests on Thanksgiving Day, I hope
you'll be inspired to grab a few ornaments and sling them onto the tree.
You will do this, or there may not be any hot gravy
at your end of the table.  It's good to be Queen.

Then come back to visit the tree you decorated, at Christmastime.

Oh.  What happened to the little spiral tree?  It has a new job;
it stands sentry on the landing of our front hall stairs.

Just one week, my friends, till Thanksgiving!
Are you cooking this year? -- Cass

Link Parties on this Wednesday.... go visit. Go join.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What DO You Do With A Wee Tiny Room?

Most of the rooms at That Old House have had
their makeovers in the six years since we moved in.

But a couple of them are still in their as-found state.
Including this one:
My, my.  Ain't that purty?
Especially that dingy old strawberry wallpaper, the shade at a rakish angle,
and the college-dorm plastic drawers as a nightstand.  Stylin'.

The Cell, as Annie has dubbed it, is the first of three
similarly sized rooms on our second floor.
Each is about 12 feet long, and 7 feet wide.

The second of the 3 wee little rooms is our upstairs bathroom.
(Yes, I did go there ... wee room.  Bathroom.  I crack myself up.)
I don't take wide-angled shots of this room, because that would include the ... well ... the potty.
No one needs to see that.
The last of the wee little rooms is Howard's walk-in closet.
I do not have pictures of that.  Do you have closet pics?
I thought not....
 Someday, this third wee little room will be our master bath.

Since this house was built before indoor plumbing, these wee tiny rooms probably
were nurseries, or hired man rooms, or even box rooms, for storage.

Or, maybe, they were simply ... teensy bedrooms.

The Cell is kind of out-of-sight, out-of mind.
It's at the top of the front stairs, to the right of the little landing, 
up the one step that you can see just at the right edge in this picture:
Since we almost always use the back stairs, which are past that tiny mid-hall step,
and not the front stairs, we really don't see this little room very often.
It's turned into a sort of modern day box room, and that's a shame.  It has potential.

I needed some inspiration.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this picture, below, online.
I loved it.  And it put me in mind of our own tiny wee room.
I saved it, but forgot to label it with its source.
I apologize.  I'm quite twitchy about stealing intellectual property,
whether that be words or pictures, recipes, whatever ... and I spent
a lot of time today trying to track down this picture.  No luck.
If you know where it is from, please let me know so I can credit it properly.
I thought it was from Better Homes and Gardens, but I cannot find it on their website.

However, there is Houzz.
And Houzz has thousands of pictures of, well, houses.  (Houzzes?)
Inside and out.
Including bedrooms.
Even wee tiny bedrooms.

So I have been cruising Houzz, looking for inspiration for our own wee tiny room.
You can click on any of the following pictures to go to their source, or to their Houzz location.

See anything you like?

This is a little white for my taste, and a tad claustrophobia-inducing.
I wonder... do you squinch in along the side,
or walk onto the bed by climbing over the footboard?

I have thought often of doing The Cell in toile -- walls and
ceiling -- but as we'll probably be selling That Old House
when Howard retires, I'm not sure that's a wise choice.
But wouldn't it look grand?  It would be like sleeping in a lovely hat box!

A daybed is very tempting.
But I hate to change the linens on them .... so awkward.

Admitted -- this one caught my eye because of the
dress form; it's very much like Anne's old dress form.
But of course, that one lives with her in D.C. now.

If I were a little girl, I'd so want this!

Dark walls.  I like it.

This English room, at 2 meters by 4 meters, is just about
the same size as The Cell.  A little smaller, actually.
Nice end wall treatment.

I'd love to visit this room, below, but not have to clean it.
Some rooms are meant for admiring.
But ... I do love, love, love that bed.
That's a bed I can see in The Cell.  Sometimes bold is it.

First step: The Walls and Ceiling.
This explains why we have not done this room, and the one next
to it, yet.  Wallpaper stripping.  Worse than root canal.

And we'll keep the eventual sale of this house in mind, as we make our choices.  Because in 5 years or so, Howard will retire, and we'll decide that New Jersey is just too expensive, or too cold, or too far away from one or the other of our children ... and we'll move.

I'd like to go to some enchanted little place like this;
it looks made for grandchildren.

And convince all the neighborhood kids that I'm a witch.  :-)

Is it cold where you live?  It's in the 20s F here.  Crazy.
Just a week ago we were still growing tomatoes.  Nuts.

Link Parties!
At Coastal Charm, it's Show and Share #237.  Click here!
It's the 243rd Inspire Me Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life. Click here!

My Show and Share PartyA Stroll Thru Life

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Silver Polishing for the Hopelessly Lazy

So on Saturday I promised to let you in on 
The Lazy Lady's Silver Polishing method.
It is cheap, non-toxic, and doesn't leave a funny chemical smell on your flatware.  Promise.
Here it is, in a post from May 23, 2011.
Read it, and never dread silver polishing again.

A Lazy Lady Polishes Her Silver

You may already know that I've got a
boatload of old silverplated flatware.  

I love the stuff.

I hate to polish it.

With our daughter's wedding coming up in fewer than 5 weeks,
I want even my mismatched old silverware in its best bib and tucker for the occasion.

Leave me out in the air, and I wrinkle.
Leave silver out in the air, and it tarnishes.
It just happens, y'know?

But at least for the silver, there are remedies.

Below, The Lazy Lady's Silver Polishing treatment has begun for some pieces,
while their tarnished relatives wait patiently alongside the hot tub.
Welcome to The Lazy Lady's Silver Polishing Club.

All you need to join are some bits of silver, plated or sterling.
Line them up like meek little lambs in a disposable aluminum pan.
(You can also line a non-reactive pan with aluminum foil.  I find the pan is easier.  I'm all about easy.)
Membership in this Club is free, or pretty darned close to it,
because the only thing you need to buy is a big box of this stuff, which is cheap:

Generously sprinkle plain old baking soda over your waiting victims flatware.

And put the kettle on to boil.

Pour the boiling water over the baking-soda-covered flatware.

It will bubble up most gratifyingly, then settle down.
Walk away, put your feet up, have a cuppa, come back in a little while when it's not blistering hot.

Fish the flatware out of the aluminum pan, and rinse it in the sink.

Take an old, soft towel, and dry each piece, giving a quick light buffing to really bring out the shine.

And you are done.
Your old tarnished flatware can join its gleaming relatives,
where they will all admire one another's brilliance, like families do.
I didn't invent this method; it's been around for a long time. Even Martha Stewart has instructions for it on her web site.  It's a chemical reaction; the baking soda in water transfers the tarnish from the silver to the aluminum.

When you pour the boiling water over, you will smell tarnish -- you know that unpleasant metallic smell that settles in your nostrils?  And when the polishing is over, the pan or foil you used will be dark with tarnish, so you won't want to use that disposable pan for a batch of brownies to take to the church coffee hour.  Ick.  Save it for silver polishing!

Silver is hard to photograph.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Anyway, some pieces look dark; they are not.
One warning:  If you have valuable antique pieces, or other pieces that are purposefully antiqued, or you are particularly fond of a darkened patina on some of your silver, don't use this method.  It really polishes and cleans too well for that; you may lose those darkened areas, the ones that highlight any raised areas.  I haven't explained that very well, but you know what I mean!
But the good news is:  Lazy Lady polishing is very kind to silver, especially plated pieces and old pieces.  Commercial polishes often take off just a tiny bit of the silverplating each time they are used, and if you are vigorous with your polishing, you can find yourself getting down to brass or nickel.  (Don't ask me how I know this.)  The plating is unharmed in this process.  Just the tarnish perishes.  
And ... we're back to November 2014.
Don't you just love time travel?

Anyway, my deadline now is not my daughter's wedding,
but Thankgiving, just 10 days away.  Eeek!  :-)

Enjoy your own holiday prep!
Question: Do you begin Christmas prep before Thanksgiving?
Just wondering .... Cass

Link Parties

It's Silver Pennies Sunday at Silver Pennies Blog.
A beautiful place to visit, or join the party.
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Lots of action here, some great featured posts, so go read, and maybe join!
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