home spaces

MOVE It!!

Yep! Another design tip blogged because I LOVE sharing!

My neighbor and friend who invited me to the design class, gave permission to share the new look of her living room space. Her cat, Raphael (pictured), gave two paws up on the new look and blog sharing, as well! Thank you, Raphael!

It’s amazing how moving furniture around, without having to add anything to the space, can impact look and feel! Pictured are before and after photos. The goal is to bring the room together for a cozy and conversation friendly space, working with beautiful outdoor natural landscape and light.

This past week we learned how important it is to identify the focal point in a room and then arrange large furniture accordingly. Sometimes the focal point can be dual vs a singular point. In this case, the fireplace is a focal point and yet, so is the beauty of the outdoors with all the windows surrounding the living room.

Moving the sofa away from the window opens the space so the eyes are drawn outside instead of the view stopping at the sofa. The new placement of the sofa creates a soft divider to the kitchen, distinguishing the living room from the kitchen. Bringing the end table between the two chairs creates a functional space that can now be used when hosting company. The space is conversation friendly as guests are able to face each other with an added benefit of the area being framed by the fireplace and outdoor landscape. The amazing greenery of the outdoors feels like it is part of the room! The large floor lamp is moved to the back of the room, with the black shade anchoring the space.

This was all planned first, on graph paper, with the wisdom and guidance of Pam Smith, Instructor. Visit Pam at Pam Smith Designs.

Pam has shared many tips and here is an awesome one, HGTV Home Design Studio Room Planner, through Basset Furniture website. This tool allows you to place furniture on a graph, planning and visualizing different options before you begin heavy lifting and moving. The instructions are simple and the results are effective!!

You, too, can refresh your home! If you are feeling a need for change, all you have to do is MOVE it!! As summer gets ready to usher in fall, pick a room in your home to highlight the natural beauty of the layout and bring in the outdoors. Go for a whole new look and feel that may not cost anything but a little time and some physical work. You can do it! MOVE it!!

home spaces

POP That Color!

Recently, a friend of mine asked if I would be interested to attend an interior design course to learn basic principles. Wanting to do this for many years, I quickly said YES!! Last week we attended our first class. And, this past weekend, I took out the material handouts for review. It didn’t take long to look at my home with a different “educated” perspective. This is when a little acquired knowledge can sometimes be dangerous!!

The class was on COLOR and after watching the suggested video, noticed some areas of my home that needed POP!! It’s ok to use different shades of the same color in a room. To create interest, however, include contrast, either much darker or lighter.  An example is shown in the blog photo of a guest bedroom in my home. All the colors are different shades but too much along the same tone. I happened to have a black and light cream check flannel fabric. Practicing the simple principle learned, decided to make 2 pillows in this fabric for the bed. Notice the difference? The room and bed now feel warm and welcoming, like a magnetic draw into the room.

If you have a room with similar color tones, add pillows or consider an accessory or throw blanket that is in a much darker or lighter shade. Perhaps choose items in a complimentary color on the color wheel chart. If you need to introduce texture, this too will incorporate interest adding contrast and value to your room. As shown in the before pics of my dining room, I needed to incorporate lighter colors to offset the dark room and dining room furniture. I purchased the perfect find, a light distressed wood cabinet at our local Castle Rock, amazing shop, The Barn! The color and texture are perfect for this room and functional, providing needed storage for some of my collectibles. See the difference? 

Decor pillows are a great way to introduce simple and low cost updates without breaking the bank. If you are not one who sews, Home Goods/TJ Max and Ross Stores almost always have a HUGE selection, organized by color. Other favorite stores for pillows and trending accessories are Pottery Barn and Pier 1 imports. If you live  near Castle Rock check out The Barn and The Emporium. Small changes can make for BIG results. POP that color!!

home spaces

Oil To Perfection!

A year ago, the credenza shown in the blog photo above looked tired with patches of scratches and a surface that was becoming dull and light in color. After trying a number of wood products, nothing appeared to work. At this point I decided to put a generous amount of olive oil on a clean cotton rag, and in a circular motion gently rubbed the oil over the top of the credenza. Like magic all the markings and dry patches disappeared and my credenza looked like new! Amazing, it has remained looking this way until I noticed a 2-inch scratch yesterday.

No longer do scratches and tired looking wood surfaces bother me. Why? Because, the olive oil trick works better than any solution I previously tried and so far, the solution has been permanent!

OLIVE OIL!! Pure OLIVE OIL! Wish I took a BEFORE photo of the scratch, but I didn’t. After applying olive oil, the above photo shows where the scratch simply disappeared.

Checking other areas of the credenza, noticed a few nicks. Applied the olive oil and the nicks DISAPPEARED as shown above, BEFORE and AFTER.

Love when simple home remedies work! If you have scratches on your wood furniture, try applying olive oil on a cotton rag, and gently apply in a circular motion. Once the scuffs and scratches disappear, run the oiled rag across the top of your wood surface. You will be amazed…oil to perfection!!

Food & Drink

Biscotti For All Seasons!

This week we received sad news. Steve, who inspired me to go into the biscotti business back in 2002 and partnered in the launch, passed away. At that time the business was poised to do well, however, getting the required venture capital funding did not happen and after one year the business came to a close. We had one impressive account, some fun times and a wild ride on the learning curve of being an entrepreneur, for sure!

As a tribute to Steve and in memory of those days, I’m sharing 4 biscotti recipes, the most popular from each seasonal group we sold at that time through Dean and DeLuca, an upscale grocery store in St. Helena, CA. The concept is American style biscotti, and therefore the cookies reflect the American palate of flavors.

For ALL – Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Fall – Gingerbread

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • ¼ stick of salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-tablespoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1-teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1-teaspoon lemon flavoring
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour plus a cup on the side
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder

Winter – Peppermint Chocolate Chip

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ stick of salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of pure peppermint flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla flavoring
  • 1-cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour plus a cup on the side
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda

Spring – Cherry Blossom

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ stick of salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla flavoring
  • 1 ½ teaspoon orange Flavoring
  • ½ cup dried chopped Bing cherries
  • ½ cup whole almonds chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour plus a cup on the side
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder

Summer – Lemon Poppy Seed

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ stick of salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon flavoring
  • 2 teaspoons of poppy seed
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups of All Purpose Flour plus a cup on the side
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder

Apply to all the recipes

  • In a mixer, whisk sugar and butter.
  • Then add eggs one at a time, until each one is incorporated.
  • Add remaining ingredients.
  • The dough should be stiff but workable. Add more flour if needed.
  • Dust a board or counter surface with flour. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts.
  • Roll each one into a long log to fit your cookie sheet.
  • Spray the cookie sheet with Pam.
  • Place each log on the cookie sheet. 
  • Slightly press each log down the center so each log is about 2″ wide. 
  • Place in pre-heated oven. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove from oven.
  • Depending on your oven and where you live you might have to cook it less or more.
  • Reduce heat to 325 degrees.
  • Let cookies rest for 5 minutes.
  • Using a serrated knife, either cut straight, one inch wide, for bite size biscotti OR cut diagonally for a larger cookie.
  • Separate so there is breathing space between cookies. (I don’t lay the biscotti on their sides.)
  • Place back in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes
  • OPTION: Before the 2nd bake, you can brush lightly with milk and sprinkle granulated sugar. OR after the second bake, when the biscotti cools, drizzle with white or dark chocolate.

The biscotti are great to store in the freezer. They also make great gifts. Mygirlfriendshouse.com has the best cellophane self-sealing printed bags for all seasons that I use (flat, self-sealing, 6.25 x 12) and the bags are awesome for keeping the biscotti fresh and crisp!

Gluten-Free option – you can substitute APF with Pamela’s All Purpose Gluten-Free or Cup-4-Cup. I do find the consistency is not as good as the regular APF and haven’t yet found a solution.

Salute to you, Steve! Remembering your enthusiasm, laughter, and the quick OMG whisper when a famous person would come into the store!

Buon Appetito!!

 

inspiration

A Climb With A View!

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Last week I received an inspirational email from a dear 15-year-old very close to my heart. She lives in Africa. We became her USA family when she was 9 years old and I had just turned 50. Every time we receive a precious letter from her, we are inspired. In a recent email she shares a quote from Nelson Mandela, writing ,“once you climb one mountain there are also other mountains to climb”. Here is Mandela’s quote in its entirety.

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

We are to always be moving forward, to be the difference for change, not hoarding experiences because with freedom comes responsibility. What caught my attention reading this quote is that Mandela chooses to use the word “climb”. He could have chosen words such as  “walk” or “hike” a hill but he chose not. Climbs are challenging and require perseverance to give of our best, applying giftedness, skills and talents, as well as patience in all circumstances, especially challenging ones. Sometimes our climb brings us through tragedies and difficult times that we simply cannot avoid, appearing without warning, independent of any action on our part. It’s like a thief in the night who comes and suddenly turns our world upside down. This year I have heard too many unfortunate events take place in the lives of those we know, like that thief in the night, turning almost perfect worlds into sheer chaos. This is when the hill becomes a steep mountain and the scariest is fearing the length of this climb and wondering where you will land. When you are able to rest, will the view be that same glorious vista that surrounded Nelson Mandela?

Recently I read a book titled, Embrace the Moment by Bonnie Lee Mahler. The author knows about climbing personal hills. And, like Mandela, she too has climbed many but a mountain came with a steepness of terrain that could have been paralyzing. And, with only a brief reprieve, another similar climb followed. The author shares her journey traveling through a dark time experiencing tragedies, losing both young teenage sons within a 2-year period from unexpected accidents. Ultimately, she finds peace and joy and she reveals the secret in her book. We are each responsible for choosing whether to have dark times shape us in a positive light or pull us into darkness, a pit of bitterness. In this tar pit, bitterness flourishes and there is no freedom. The author’s struggle included doubt, insecurities and fear, but she eventually discovered how to break free from the heaviness of her loss. The help of positive and loving people to encourage her also contributed to that forward movement in life, when it could have been so easy to slip into the abyss. “I honor the past in every way. I’ve loved, I’ve Lost, I’ve trusted, I’ve hurt, I’ve missed, I’ve made mistakes, but above all, I’ve learned!” WOW! Sharing her story to inspire others is continuing the climb. As Mandela so well articulates, “I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” It takes great strength and courage to revisit horrific loss in order to write so others can benefit. She is using her life experiences and giftedness to continue, share, inspire, make a difference as the Mandela quote models for all of us to do, and of which our dear 15-year-old young lady in Africa is so inspired to do, too!!

The past 5 years have been challenging for me, dealing with circumstances beyond my control, facing fear, discouragement and hurt. Often I’ve said to my husband, “When can I dance again?” Well, I realize now I never had to stop dancing unless I choose to allow difficult circumstances and the negative actions of others control the measure of my joy. The same applies to you.

Mahler quotes in her book, “Looking back, I realize more than ever how everything has purpose; life flows with people and experiences.” We all deserve glorious vistas and it’s already ours on this long journey, living our life purpose to make a difference! All we have to do…choose to feel deserving of this awesome rest and give ourselves permission to experience the surrounding beauty!!

Resources

  • Children of Grace  Sponsor a child and be the difference for that child’s future! 
  • Embrace the Moment by Bonnie Lee Mahler, Live life fully..”Honor the Past, Release It, Live the Present, Embrace It, Create the Future, Ignite It.”
  • The Land Between, Finding God in Difficult Transitions by Jeff Manion, “The Land Between provides fresh biblical insight for people traveling through undesired and difficult transitions such as foreclosure, unemployment, uncertainty, and failure.”

Bargain Boutique

Best NATURAL Clean!!

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Lately, when using store bought cleaning products, I feel the effect of chemicals. My nose becomes itchy and my throat, sore. Also, I notice an annoying film buildup on my counters and floors. This past February I decided to make my own natural cleaning product. It feels good to have the assurance that the product is truly chemical free and the ingredients won’t leave a residue. Discovered one solution can work for granite countertops, stainless steel, ceramic, porcelain, and wood!

Online research and experimenting with a few test products, I created an all-purpose cleaning solution. After using this product since February of 2017, I am ready to share it. The total cost for a 16 oz bottle is about $.70 not including the spray bottle container. AMAZING!

I call this product…Natural Clean. My stainless steel SHINES like no other product ever used! Glass (including car windows – the ultimate test) comes out STREAK-FREE. Granite countertops SPARKLE, as does porcelain and ceramic. Wood furniture and floors look INCREDIBLE and I find my floors no longer pick up dust on every pair of shoes that walk through the door. When products leave a residue, everything sticks either from the bottom of shoes to fingerprints on stainless steel appliances.

What You Should Know

  • Essential oils are natural but they can be toxic to children, adults and pets. So, even though this cleaning product is “natural” please keep it and the individual ingredients used to make the solution AWAY from children and pets. Click this LINK about the safety of using essential oils.
  • Citrus-based oils (sweet orange, blood orange, bitter orange, lemon, grapefruit, lime, lemongrass, bergamot, tangerine) and white vinegar are acidic. Ultimately, using these ingredients could affect the top coating of furniture, floors, ceramic, marble and granite, dulling the surface. BEST to keep the product acid free, even through you are using a minimal amount for each 16 oz bottle. For this reason, I don’t use citrus based oils or vinegar in the product.
  • Witch hazel and essential oils used provide a naturally mild antibacterial disinfectant. However, if I accidently spill raw chicken or meat juices on my counter or sink, I will use Clorox wipes or 1 part bleach and 10 parts water to fully disinfect the surface.
  • ALWAYS test in a small area for comparison to see if there is an undesirable result. Only you know about the floors, appliances, furniture, and counter-tops in your home. Find a small test area and use the product over 4 weeks to be sure the only result is a desirable one!!
  • If you already have build-up, especially on your counters and stainless steel, you will notice residue when you first use this cleaning product. It will take a few cleanings to no longer see that awful film. Get ready for some work!
  • A funnel works great to get Distilled water and Witch Hazel through narrow bottle openings.
  • Best to always use a clean cotton cloth. These cloths from Amazon.com, Galaxy Glass Cleaning Towels, 18-Pack GT18,  are the ones I use.

Natural Clean Recipe

  • 16 oz spray bottle
  • Distilled Water – 14 oz
  • ¼ cup (2 oz) Witch Hazel
  • 20 Drops of Essential Oil – Lavender
  • 15 Drops of Essential Oil – Cloves
  • Always shake well before using.

Essential Oil Combinations

Experiment and come up with your own favorites or Internet search and find combinations to try.

  • 20 drops of Peppermint, 15 drops of Eucalyptus
  • 20 drops Lavender, 15 drops Eucalyptus
  • 20 drops Lavender, 15 drops cloves
  • 15 drops Cinnamon, 15 drops Cloves, 5 drops Lavender

FAQs

Can I use tap water? You can. I find distilled water is best. Tap water can leave residue. Where I live the water is HARD and it does streak and leave build-up over time. Distilled water is typically .99 cents/gallon jug at the grocery store.

What is Witch Hazel and where can it be purchased? Witch Hazel is a plant-based topical ingredient processed through steam distillation from the bark and leaves of the witch hazel plant. It can be found in the pharmacy section of most grocery stores, Walmart and Target. Click HERE to see it at Walmart online.

Where can I find essential oils? Local grocery stores carry essential oils in the pharmacy section. You can also purchase online. There are many levels of quality and organic oils are also available. This blog ONLY covers its use in cleaning products and therefore the oils do not need to be high quality or pricey.

Where can I find spray containers? Local grocery stores carry empty spray containers with soft spray nozzle heads and those that can easily adjust to a sharp spray for large area cleaning. Otherwise, take your favorite spray bottle, clean it well and use it. Remember to adjust the recipe to the size bottle you are using.

Should the container be glass to avoid plastic bottle deterioration? Since this blog only covers essential oil use in cleaning products and it is significantly diluted with distilled water and witch hazel, plastic and specifically PET bottles are fine. Essential oils are potent and typically when storing undiluted oils, glass or aluminum is recommended.

Can you use rubbing alcohol in place of Witch Hazel? To me, rubbing alcohol is toxic, so I don’t.

This product cleans well, has an awesome aroma, and I use it to clean my jewelry, too! Love the incredible feeling, knowing, I am protecting my home from unnecessary chemicals and the cleaning solution result is far better than any other cleaning product I have previously used!! Give it a try and enjoy a clean home with an aroma that will make you feel “naturally” good and leave your home NATURAL CLEAN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Lesson

A Renter’s Tug-of-War, Protecting Yourself

 

tug of war 185556989Whether you are renting a summer vacation home, looking to rent an apartment/home, or a college student excited about dorm life, this blog provides wise suggestions to protect yourself.

It wasn’t that long ago our son was excited about heading off to college with his two good friends. The three young men were accepted to the same university and shared a large dorm room that first year. Of course, being excited parents, all met to help the boys move in. We noticed the room by far was not perfect. Existing carpet damage, stains, tile issues in the bathroom, damaged desk drawer, some marked walls – were all visible. Overall, it was dorm room standard. Although the boys went through the check- in process with the Resident Assistant (RA), only two broken data ports were noted. Fast forward to the end of the year, and after a good walk-through with the RA, we received a bill totaling $258 for dorm room damages that were pre-existing. Fortunately we had a copy of the signed Room Condition Form (RCF), but it took 17 emails to get the unwarranted charges removed.

Throughout college living and apartment renting, the concern over pre-existing damages and security deposit reimbursement continues to be a struggle regardless of location. The following is a suggested checklist before moving in and out of any rental. It is quite easy today to take precautions when cell phones are camera ready and mobile phone journal apps (I use Day One) easily voice record and date summaries and lists. Being diligent and taking these extra steps to verify pertinent information can save you money, time, and frustration.

  1. CREATE an email folder labeled RENT (or whatever you want to call it).
  2. ALWAYS request a walk-through before moving into any rental, including dorm rooms.
  3. ASK before renting, what is expected at the time of move out (carpet cleaning, professional cleaners, etc), in writing, and ask about the walk- through process at that time. You don’t want to discover before moving out that you are expected to paint the space, clean the carpets and have professional cleaners.
  4. BE DILIGENT to note any existing damage or imperfections throughout, including bathrooms and kitchens.
  5. REVIEW the document to be sure any and all pre-existing issues are noted and take photos of all flaws and damages. Email these photos to yourself and save in your email designated folder. FYI…emails are dated which validates about the time photos were taken. Cell cameras do not date photos, that I am aware of, other than organized and stored by date in iPhoto.
  6. SAVE a paper copy of the signed document, in a place you will remember, that verifies the existing condition of the space.
  7. PHOTO the document with your cell phone, email it to yourself, and save in email RENT folder.
  8. REPORT immediately by email (so you have written record) any other flaws or damage you notice after moving in. Save in RENT folder.
  9. ALWAYS before moving out, request a walk-through. (We, and others we know, have experienced being declined by designated managers saying it wasn’t necessary. Then, surprise, we don’t get the security deposit refunded.)
  10. REQUEST the walk-through document, signed, before handing over the keys.
  11. TAKE PHOTOS of the living space BEFORE you leave. This is important!! Even through you have a clear walk- through report; you could still get hit with charges. Then it’s your word against theirs. Photos are also a great way to cover yourself if, because of timing, you are out of the living space and the walk-through never happens.

A quick Internet search brings up many possible reasons why college students are assessed extra dorm fees and people feel security deposits are not returned, which seems to happen most often in large apartment complexes managed by corporate property management firms. Knowing about the walk-through process before moving in and out, having signed documentation about the living space condition with photos all filed for easy access, can be a proactive way to protect yourself. Enjoy your summer vacation away, apartment/home rental or dorm room experience with peace of mind. A tug of war between renters’ word and theirs might be someone else’s struggle, but it won’t be yours!