Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Fave -- Christmas in January

The nights are getting shorter and the days longer--although you can't tell if you're not paying attention because you're too busy freezing your bewhondus off.

All the twinkling lights are packed away as are the tartookers, bizilbigs, popcorn and plums. So what's a girl to do to ward off a severe case of the dreaded January Doldrums?  Funny you should ask!

It helps that I've hoarded every post-holiday sale cross-stitch ornament pattern that I've ever seen.  I have kits marked Shopko $.30--and we haven't had Shopko here for a decade, people.  And, oh, how I miss that store!  So I'm loving lots and lots of cheery projects to stitch while I watch George Eliot's Middlemarch on Netflx, with an occasional Marco Polo episode  thrown in to satisfy my sweetie's viewing habits.

It might have taken a few days of digging in various boxes and bins to round up all the kits that have scattered over the years, but I managed to herd them into one corral finally. So maybe the correct embroidery threads aren't with the right kits. Details, details.  Close enough.

I'm just started project number seven!  Which sounds impressive--especially with an exclamation mark thownin--but three of them were already mostly finished (similar to "mostly dead", but in the opposite way) and took just an evening to wind up. 

Don't you just love that little gingerbread house on the green Aida?!  It's my favorite.  Atlhough the little hen with the brown eggs that says Merry Eggsmas on it (not pictured) is darn fun too.  In a chicken-loving way.

I'm not only avoiding the post-holiday letdown but I'm a whole eleven months ahead on next year's Christmas ornaments!  Whoot!


Sunday, January 25, 2015

My Guideposts--Number 107

Fail to plan? Plan to fail!

 The saying has been attributed most often to Ben Franklin, who is also credited with having said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

More recent variations:
“Fail to plan, plan to fail.” Carl W. Buechner

“Failures don't plan to fail; they fail to plan.” Harvey MacKay
"He who fails to plan is planning to fail." Winston Churchill (during WW II) 


Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Guideposts -- 106

Live strong.
Act bold.
Be brave.
Nothing's too hard to do.
 Always believe.

~James Hellwig
The Ultimate Warrior 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Favorite -- Fuzzy Flannel Sheets

Growing up, my least favorite part of a northern California winter was climbing into a cold bed. My toes took eons to warm up in those cold sheets no matter how many of Aunt Mabell's quilts and wool blankets were piled on top!

Brrrrr.  Still makes me shiver thinking about it.

The high desert is a lot more comfy in winter even if it is a whole lot colder since we have such low humidity.  Sheets seldom get clammy-cold.  Which explains why this is only the second year we've owned a set of flannel sheets. What a luxury!

When the nights drop into the single digits or teens, I make our bed with a set from Costco.  They are the same color as a tub of vanilla bean ice cream. These sheets feel as good as ice cream tastes!

I hop into a vanilla-colored nest of warm fuzziness, top and bottom.  No cold toesies.  No shivers.

Just fine, fuzzy, furry, fluffy, fizzy, fabulous, friendly flannel.  Yum!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How to Easily Backup Your Blog at Blogger/Blogspot

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to backup your blog.  

I was a good girl and just saved all my glorious pearls of wisdom from 2014.  I'm no computer whiz but it's easy!  Really truly pinky promise!  At least, it is on Blogger aka Blogspot.  

I can't speak to any other platform.  Sorry 'bout that.

First, you'll have to open your blog in Blogger (preferably in a separate window so you can read these instructions and toggle over to your blog to carry them out.)
 There on the left side, all the way down at the bottom, is a little wrench icon called SETTINGS.  You'll want to click that.

At the bottom of the menu you just opened is the completely uninformative word OTHER.  But that's the one you want. Click.

Near the top of your page you should see the title BLOG TOOLS and in blue it will say 
Import blog     Export blog     Delete blog

You want to select EXPORT BLOG.  Don't worry, your posts aren't going to disappear.  What you are doing is copying the whole shebang to a safe and secure location where Blogger can't accidentally lose every word you've ever published.  Your blog may not be Tolstoy (or maybe it is) but you've put time into selecting photos, writing and editing, reading comments and, as unlikely as it is, I've heard of bloggers whose posts that simply up and disappeared into the North Woods one day, never to be seen again.  

Big collective "ouch!" here.

A window will pop up to reassure you that you are doing the right thing and merely backing up your blog.

So select DOWNLOAD with a happy heart.

Yet another window will open asking you if you want to Open With (a default program) or
SAVE FILE.  So select SAVE FILE and push OK.

Great!  You've downloaded your blog, every comma, every paragraph, every comment.

You've essentially copied your blog from Blogger/Blogspot to your own hard drive.  But your hard drive is subject to various ills--viruses, malware, old age--so you need to find secure storage to park all the info. Here in the cottage, we have an external hard drive which is where I save my valuable photos, videos, blog data, etc.  You could choose to put yours on a DVD.  Or maybe up in the Cloud.  I share the external storage with my sweetie so I have my own section and a file I have brilliantly named Blog Backup.

Ahem...moving on.

You'll find your downloaded blog under My Documents (click),  Downloads.  I find My Documents when I push my Start button.  It's also under My Computer/Local Disc (C:)/your Documents.  There's always more than one way to access data. 

There, you'll find it listed alphabetically under "blog" along with the date you downloaded it.
i.e., blog-1-14-15

Right click on the icon or title and CUT (or COPY** if you're the nervous type), then PASTE in your chosen safe storage.

**If you selected COPY, you can now first check that you successfully exported your blog into your safe storage before you go back and hit CUT.

See, told ya it was easy. 
I'll bet the hardest part was deciding where to save it.  Am I right?

One last trick.  Copy this post onto your blog, give it a catchy title like HOW TO BACKUP MY BLOG, and save it as a Draft rather than publishing it.  You've put it into an easily found and easily remembered place so next January you can do the same thing again. 

Stay shiny,

Parties to visit for more fun, inspiration and eye-candy and how-to's:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My Guideposts- Number105

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. 

~His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Je suis Charlie.  Islamic State urging producing babies as future jihadists.  North Korean bluster.  I can't change any of them, but I can produce an expanding bubble of peace in my own space that will reach others and bring them peace.


Friday, January 09, 2015

Friday Favorite - Simple Enjoyment

In the "Trying To Be A Better Blogger and Post More Often" category, I've had the idea of featuring one thing that's brought me joy during the week for a while but I never followed through.  I regularly find myself looking at something I'm using and thinking, "Gee, I love this".  They are almost always vintage items I've had for years, but sometimes I discover that things I didn't know I needed are amazing additions to daily life.

So here goes, my first Friday Favorite: My Dish Drainer.  Exciting beyond belief, right?  But honestly, every time I look at my dish drainer recently, I smile.

I have a dishwasher that I could (but don't want) to live without.  Our '50's bungalow didn't have one so I was more than a little excited when we bought a new house With A Dishwasher. 

Although it turned out to be a dishwasher that I'd turn on then leave to grocery shop.  Or go upstairs and use the sewing machine.   Or wander outside to pull weeds.  Noisy, much?   We never started it up when we wanted to have a conversation or watch TV or eat dinner.

There are some things that are not meant to go in dishwashers though--like wooden knives and cutting boards, aluminum measuring cups, melamine bowls--so they get washed by hand.

After twenty-five years of noisily but efficiently cleaning dishes, Dishwasher #1 began having issues (I can relate) and a new quiet model has since been installed (thankfully my husband has not replaced his older and noisy Wife #1). 

Those wooden/aluminum/melamine items still have to be washed individually though.  Hence the dish drainer. The current one is as old as our granite counter tops. Well, not as old as the granite pluton that spawned them originally. 

That would be silly since plastic didn't exist then.  

Neither did humans, now that I think of it. 

When we gleefully demolished our ceramic tile and grody grout a few years back, we bought a clear plastic dish drainer that wouldn't obscure our amazing smooth granite counter.  Years of cradling wet dishes left the rubber with a cloudy residue from unknown minerals in our generally fabulous water straight from Lake Tahoe.  Not pretty 'though still fairly see-through.

New Year, new eyes.  As I dried the dishes recently I actually looked at the drainer, saw the residue and made a change.  Not by buying a new drainer--applying a bit of elbow grease showed how easily the cloudiness could be eliminated.  A baking soda paste and a soft cloth revealed a clear, good-as-new surface.

So humble dish drainer, thanks for making my dishwashing chores a bit more beautiful and satisfying.

And the moral of the story (it occurs to me as I type) is that I have the power to improve life in lots of ways if I just open my eyes and make the effort.  I'm betting it works on people and relationships as well as dish drainers.  Grin.

Stay shiny,

Thursday, January 08, 2015

My Cool Old Horse

Last October I bought a cool old horse at My Friends and I in Niles.

The horse caught my eye immediately.  I loved that it was a draft horse (my ranching family has a history of draft horses: my grandpa's Star that my mom drove during haying season, my uncle's Belgian mares, and a hitch and wagon owned by some cousins currently.  I loved the patina--but a bargain it wasn't. I walked past it a second time and found myself envisioning a Christmas tree being hauled home and was tempted, but the price still made me think twice.  Well, the third time I passed it...I gave in.  If an object is calling your name that insistently, what else can you do?

When I got to the register, my saleslady said she was glad someone wanted it.  She just thought it was a cool old horse so she'd obtained it for her booth.   I laughed when I saw my receipt.

(It's a bit faint, but it says "cool old horse".) Yeah, that's the price too.

Getting a Christmas tree for my draft horse to pull was easy--Walmart has bottle brush trees in various sizes and guises every year. 

You might notice that the tree it has a very realistic trunk.  I just pulled off the white plastic base, used my pruning shears to cut a branch the appropriate length, drilled a hole in said branch and glued the tree wire into it.  Easy upgrade!

Next project was giving the horse a harness.  I Googled "horse collar harness images", then grabbed some Sculpey and shaped my own version.

 After baking it, I painted it and then rubbed it with dark shoe polish--it looks just like leather!  All of the sudden you can see my cool old horse leaning into her load.

For the holidays I used doubled-over brown binding tape as traces (the straps that attach to the load being pulled) to let my cool old horse haul the tree home from the woods.

I plan to find some leather shoelaces to create traces as well as attach a swingle tree for a bit more authenticity.  Don't you love the evocative sound of "swingle tree?"  You can almost tell what it is from its name:  a wood piece between the traces and the tree   There would actually be several more pieces to a working harness but a harness, traces and swingle tree will do the job.

I'd been on the lookout for a vintage pickup that needed a Christmas tree on top but obviously the Universe thought I should use a horse instead. Good call, 'Verse.

 Stay shiny,

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Last Year's Projects: Rescuing Jenny Lind

She wasn't a roadkill.  Just a damsel in distress.  Wait, I'm getting ahead of the story.

It helps when you volunteer at the PTA Thrift Shop because you get first crack at the goodies as you unpack them.  Sounds great, right?

Remember that saying "No good deed goes unpunished?"   Lavender-blue dangly earrings--check.  Flannel-lined sleeping bag like the one I had as a kid--check.  Vintage Jenny Lind bed--check.  Jenny was a find with a capital F and more than a bit of a bargain at $7.50 but still dangerous to those of us with more vision than sense.

Still, there are times you grab the deal and hold your breath until you're safely away.

In my defense, I didn't price it--some other volunteer mom did and the finish was disastrous.
On the other hand, that was in 1987 dollars and she's been stored since, so maybe she wasn't quite the bargain I'd intended? 

Tell me that I'm not the only one who's held on to a project for eons.

I always meant to re-stain the bed, but the thought of all those turned-wood posts meeting sandpaper effectively discouraged me from starting.  Then we moved Nevada from SoCal and she's been tucked away in our garage ever since.  Waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.  Not unlike a princess asleep in her tower.

A very messy, garage-like tower with large gargoyles office desks lurking in the shadows.

Pinterest to her rescue.  A very playful, adventurous yellow or red or aqua rescue--I absolutely knew no white knight paint would suit her.  As a bonus, if I painted rather than re-stained her I wouldn't need to sand even one spindle.  That's a win/win, in my book.

I fell in love with this bed from Land of Nod currently "on sale" for five hundred down from five hundred ninety-nine (allow me to interject an exclamation mark at both those prices here). Inspired, I bought a subtle Robin's Egg Blue paint sampler from the Paint Mart and was ready to begin the transformation.  Sort of like a fairy godmother. 

That was the plan.

It always seem easy at the start, doesn't it?  Then reality interrupts that pleasant easy DIY daydream.

I was NOT pleased when I wiped off all the dust and spider webs and found my damp cloth was brown.  And not from dirt either. I had not bargained for bleed-through at all. (I did think it was odd though, since the old stain wasn't of the reddish/mahogany variety and I wasn't dealing with veneer.)  But the second cleaning gave me a brown towel again.  ARG!

Bear in mind that I worked on this project as a way to avoid the elephants in my garage (aka the two huge office desks that take as much space as a Mini Cooper)--not trying to give myself another headache. 

This story has a happy ending though.  Turns out the original finish was in such poor shape that I was actually wiping it off with a washcloth.  Crazy good!  I was able to use a medium sandpaper and "flick" the entire bed, spindles and all, down to bare wood without breaking a sweat.  Might have taken a whole hour, at most.

The only way it could have been easier was if the finish disappeared when I gave it a stern look.  Or waved my Fairy Godmother wand.

The result may be my favorite painted piece of furniture of all time! 

It is just the most perfect color possible.

 Pictures don't do it justice. 

The ironic part is that after all these years I don't intend to keep this sweet bed for myself!

   Why?  Well, I don't foresee a vacation cabin on a lake in my future.  Or a home with a loft where I can put multiple beds covered in homemade quilts for all the grandchildren. Some dreams you just have to let go.  And I already have a cutie-pie red iron bed in our guest room. 

So next summer (sniff, sniff) I'll take some evocative photos of an aqua Jenny Lind dressed in lace and ruffles in our flowery backyard and then with a great deal of reluctance (sniff, sniff), I'll post her on craigslist (for a bit less than the Land of Nod price).  Somewhere out there is a sweet little princess who needs the perfect bed for her tower.

The other happy ending...I was so happy with this project that I did actually finish the  two gargoyles elephants desks before the snow flew!

Stay shiny,
Party Central:  My Romantic Home
French Country Cottage
Miss Mustard Seed

Sunday, January 04, 2015

My Guideposts--Number104

To live content with small means; 
to seek elegance rather than luxury, 
and refinement rather than fashion; 
to be worthy, not respectable, 
and wealthy, not rich; 
to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, 
act frankly; 
to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; 
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, 
await occasions, hurry never. 
In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony. 

~William Henry Channing
 Stay shiny,

Friday, January 02, 2015

Research--Laying a Foundation for Success

How high-falutin' does that make me sound?! 

Mindful is a great mantra but it's only a place to start.  I could see the possibilities for better health, less stress, stronger relationships, and a fulfilled spirit--and I had some ideas.

This (Be Inspired/Be Inspiring) was a good starting point last year and I achieved some successes but I know I could been more inspiring if I'd had a stronger focus.  Or anything like a plan.

So...I've been spending time picking other people's brains.  Motivational-speaker-type brains.  It's the beginning of a New Year--like you hadn't noticed and needed me to tell you--and it's hard to tell if there's more people trumpeting Losing Weight or Making Resolutions solutions.  There are a lot of amazing people out there with some great ideas who want to help us live happier and better lives.  I'm sure they wouldn't mind us lining their pockets with a bit of lucre (the clean kind) but they are also willing to share plenty of free info.

I'm processing a truckload of their advice--I'm keeping the emeralds and blue topazes and throwing back the diamonds and rubies.  That sounds ever-so-slightly insane if you're a diamond and rubies sort, but now you know what jewelry makes my heart flutter.  Same thing with ideas. Or decorating trends. Or husbands.  Gotta go with what's right for you.

Currently:  evaluating last year.  Making a list of wins.  Deciding what I want to be thankful for as I look back on 2015.  Thinking a whole lot.

Stay shiny! (I'm in the midst of a Firefly marathon and can't help myself.  Kaylee fan!)

My Mantra for 2015

My inspiration word for 2015.

I read this in an email link on the very last day of 2014...

                      "most of the time we live without intentionality,  
                  and that's when we look back many years later and say, 
            'Where did it all go?'
         It's time to live as if it mattered."  

That resonated with me since the days/weeks/months/years have been flying by. 

As in *blink* and another year has vanished.

Not only gone, but leaving me wondering what I have to show for it.  What have I achieved?  What have I contributed?  What have I improved?  For myself and for the world?

And where do I want to find myself in a year?  Life is short and there are no guarantees. 

So living in the moment is going to help me be more aware of the choices I am making throughout the day.  And those days will add up to weeks and months and a year of being more focused on my goals.

Mindful.  That's my inspiration, my compass, my goal.  I can hardly wait to see how this affects my self, my mind, my spirit, my relationships, my organization. 


Thursday, January 01, 2015

The Best Things About a New Year

I loved the quarter system in college.  Every nine weeks I got to buy new spiral bound notebooks with not a mark in them.  No matter what grades I'd earned in the previous quarter, there was the possibility of straight A's. Unknown professors with different styles of teaching.  Subjects that I'd never considered taking--like design, environmental horticulture, beginning art, veg crops or Chinese history--offered diversity.

I love fresh starts, possibilities uncluttered by baggage, the space to dream large. 

Then too, it's amazing at year's end to look back at what I've accomplished--especially since I frequently astonish myself by the volume I've completed.  Then there are always those high-priority tasks that somehow go begging for years.  I'm both encouraged and motivated.

Although I spend a lot of time during the eight months when I can actually hand's-on play-in-the-dirt in the high desert thinking about plants, it's that slim slice of time every year as I put the garden to bed when I learn the most.  It's enlightening, taking stock of failures and successes, planning for the future. 

So I'm looking backwards at 2014, even while I'm hanging up that new calendar.  I'm rummaging through the drawers and closets, discovering unfinished crafts and ideas and then curling up watching Firefly (for the fifth time) as I quilt, embroider, stitch and hem.

I'm just--just barely--disciplined enough to enjoy the satisfaction of completing a wall-hanging and packing it away until next autumn. But, trust me, my brain is busily and enthusiastically planning an assault on myriad fronts.  Some painting, lots of embroidery, sewing and more sewing.  Definitely planning for next Christmas--it's never too early and sometimes even a year ahead can be a bit too late!  Some big tasks, some itty-bitty ones.  Some for my own satisfaction, some as gifts, some as just a way to work out a challenge.  A visit to the garden store for seeds is in order.  Gift certificates to be redeemed.  Christmas money to be wisely used--membership at the scrapbook store so I can use workshop space and tools throughout the year, perhaps some new tools (because Santa somehow forgot to pack the requested clamps on his sleigh), and let us not forget some new boots to stomp out the cold weather blues.

So farewell, old, and welcome, new.  Twenty-fifteen could be the best year ever.  The potential is there.  It's fresh and shiny and just waiting for us!

May some of our dreams come true, may there be more happy than sad, may we choose to grow in wisdom and grace as life teaches us new lessons.

Happy New Year from my cottage to your casa,