Interior Design for Non-Designers

Creating a pleasing room for the rest of us.

I’ve never been that good with decorating, but I want my home to look nice and reflect who I am now. So I decided to do a little research into Interior Design. I wanted to find out the basics, so I can make the rooms in my house work well, have flow, and look pleasing to the eye. No mean feat, right?

Well, I started digging around for free info. Lots of designers have their own ideas. Of course they do, or who would hire them, right? What I wanted to find out was the elements of interior design. You know, what makes a nice room. I’m not interested in the history of design, or the mechanics of building a space, I just want to decorate. So I dug down deeper to the good stuff.

There are two aspects to designing a good room – the aesthetic and the physical attributes.

The aesthetic attributes are all about the atmosphere of a room, the beauty of the space and furnishings. When you walk into a room, is it pleasing to the eye? Do you feel good in the space? Does it make you feel welcome? Is it comfy?

You need to think about space, color, texture, light and scale. These are what are called the elements of design. There should be a variety in colors (blending or contrasting) and textures (soft/rough, wood/metal/fabric,etc). In an old Better Homes & Gardens decorating book it suggests something like “something dull, something bright, something dark, something light”. Speaking of light, make sure the room has general light as well as task light – for reading or handwork. As for scale, the size of furniture and accessories should be right for the size of the room.

In this picture below, notice the softness of the couch, the brightness of the lamp and picture frame, and how the colors blend. The color scheme may have come from the artwork – the browns of the mountains, the blue from the sky. The lamp provides task lighting for reading or working. The shade is a gray blue color that blends well with the couch. The walls are a muted tan, the floors wood (brown). It looks pleasing to the eye.

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

The physical attributes of a room are more about how the room is used, and does it function well. The size of the furnishings in relation to the floor plan. Large, open rooms can handle large, overstuffed furniture, but that furniture would overwhelm a small room. Is there room to walk around the furniture? Can you reach the lamp from the chair? Can you see out the window to enjoy the view?

So, when decorating a room, we need to take into account the physical space we have to work with, the size of the furnishings, and then the colors, textures, and light in the room we’re working on. Also, think about the mood you want in the room. A quiet dining room will be decorated differently than a busy family room with the tv and games.

Here’s some steps to redecorate a room. These are just suggestions, you do what feels right for your space.

  1. Decide how the room will be used – eating or cooking, tv watching or reading, crafting or computer work for example.
  2. Choose a theme – farmhouse, mid-century modern, shabby chic, cabin/lodge, beach house, western/southwestern, or english garden…the theme will give you your color palette and your accessories.
  3. Pick 3 colors – a main color for the walls, carpet, and background fabrics. A second color for fabrics and accessories. A third color for accents. If your room is already painted and you like that color, make that your main color. And remember, ‘wood’ is considered a color.
  4. Find the focal point in the room – usually a fireplace or a view, but it can also be a piece of artwork or a large piece of furniture. This will be what the furniture is arranged around. You can also pick your colors from your focal point, especially a view or artwork.
  5. Make sure the furniture fits the space and function of the room. Only use overstuffed furniture in large rooms. Make sure there’s room to get around things and keep traffic patterns open. Keep seating within about 8 feet for conversation areas. Keep tables and lamps within arm’s reach. Make sure all seats can see the view or the tv. Make sure everyone has light, and a place to put drinks. Don’t be afraid to come into the room with furniture, don’t line it all up against the walls.
  6. Let there be light – general room light, either natural light thru a window or general overhead lighting. Make sure chairs and the sofa have a light for reading or handwork, like knitting.
  7. Decorate the floor – If you have carpeting, keep the color pattern in your main color. If you have wood or vinyl floors, think room size rugs under the couch and chairs, or runners for hallways and traffic paths.
  8. Bring in accessories – books, pillows, pottery, baskets, vases, collectibles, drapes, throws, candlesticks, etc. Use various colors and textures – a soft chunky afghan, a woven basket, and a brass pot with a plant in it is a good example of mixing textures. You can mix patterns (plaid,floral,check,stripe) if the background colors are the same. It helps if you vary the size of the pattern, too, not all tiny or all large.
Image from pinterest.com

Remember, the room should reflect you, so inject your likes and interest in the colors and accessories of the room. The room above looks very pretty and put together, but it looks staged, not lived in. That’s fine for a formal living room, where you greet visitors, but not for a family room, where you want more personal items around you.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match, and use things you already have along with new items. You can mix up vintage and modern, too. Redecorating a room doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes, just moving things around or changing out accessories makes a huge difference.

Ways to Ignite Joy in Hard Times

When things are bad, whether huge like a global pandemic, or something smaller in scale like, say, winter, with it’s shorter days and bad weather, or just anything that gets us down, it’s hard to keep our attitudes positive. It’s hard to keep going sometimes. We get weighted down, depressed, and then we kind of shut down. Our moods head south. And I don’t mean Orlando and Disney, I mean south towards grumpy and cranky.

There’s something we can do. We don’t have to live with grumpy and cranky. We can kick them to the curb and invite in happy and energized. How? Some kind of magic? Well, kind of. The magic that happens when we change our focus.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Change your focus – and change your mood, and attitude. Take some simple steps to get the juices flowing in your life again. And by juices, I mean activity…mental and physical activity. You need to create positive activity. That creates positive energy.

Here are some ideas.

Make a list of things you’ve done. And not just big things, little things, too. List school degrees, things you’ve learned to do, things you’ve made, a family raised, jobs you’ve held, people you’ve helped, etc. Realize how strong you are and how far you’ve come. Some ideas: building a bookcase from a kit, driving across the state, taking a cooking class or learning to play piano, helping your Mom replant her flowerbeds, playing a sport, being a scout leader for your child when they were young. Maybe you take great photos or throw a great backyard barbecue, or you set up a website for your brother-in-law’s restaurant. List everything you can think of.

Read a book – choose a happy ending romance or an autobiography of someone you admire (chances are their life was not as easy as we would think). Or read about a new subject that you’ve always been interested in. Reading uses the mind more than watching tv.

Cook or bake something you’ve never made before – I’ve always wanted to make a bundt cake but I haven’t yet. I even bought the pan. Find a recipe that sounds awesome and give it a try. If it doesn’t work out, no big deal, just try something else. Learning is good for us.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Get physical – find an easy exercise video (check out youtube) like yoga or tai chi. Ride a bike. Walk the dog. Even if you’re not very mobile right now, there’s exercise videos that you can do from your chair. Get your blood moving.

Look around you – take walks if you can, and look at the trees, the sky, watch the clouds. Pay attention to the weather, and notice how it affects life around you. Watch the rabbits or squirrels run around your yard. Watch the birds. Pay attention to your spouse, pets, children. Really be in the moment. Enjoy what’s around you.

Plan a trip you can’t afford – I know this sounds strange, but pretend you can afford that trip to Rome, or Yosemite National Park, or Denver, or wherever. Find a neat hotel, plan your activities, where you’ll eat, etc. Learn all about the area.

Think of others – hold the door for someone, be courteous, be kind. Maybe your kids are too big for you to sew up a flannel blanket or stuffed bear, but there are other needy people out there who would love something you could make. Consider your elderly family members or neighbors, and offer to get them groceries or see that they’re taken care of. Helping others helps us too.

Dream a dream – reawaken a dream you’ve let slide to the back burner. Think about it, plan it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to knit, or make a quilt, or learn to play guitar, or compete in horse competitions, or raise goats, or grow the best roses in your county. Maybe you want to grow a hobby into a business so you can quit a job you hate or are tired of after 30 years of working. Now’s the time.

Photo by Karyme Franu00e7a on Pexels.com

Find a dream – if there isn’t any dream on your back burner, so to speak, it’s time to find one. Think about what would bring you joy. Research ideas, read about subjects that interest you, and find a dream or project to work towards. Something that will add a spark of joy to your life and ignite your energy.

Start a new project – maybe you’ve been wanting to redecorate your bedroom, or organize the closets in your house, or finish that vacation scrapbook, or plan next year’s garden. Clear a space on the dining room table or wherever you can spread out, get some supplies, and get working. A project doesn’t have to be huge. It can be as small as cleaning out the entry closet. Or sorting thru your clothes and tossing what doesn’t fit. Sit down and make a list of things that need done around the house, or things you’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t. And don’t forget to add something fun, too, like sewing new Christmas stockings or making your own candles, or whatever.

Get crafty – speaking of making your own…whether or not you consider yourself crafty, there are a zillion craft ideas out there for all kinds of diy craft project skill levels. Search the internet, especially pinterest.com for tons of ideas for things you can make. If your skills are lacking, check out tutorials on youtube.com. It could be making soap or jewelry, coloring, poetry, sewing, knitting, crocheting, paper crafts, wood signs, painting (even paint by number kits), drawing, scrapbooking, etc. Creating something is a great activity anytime, but especially when things aren’t going well. It makes you feel in control and capable. And that’s always a good thing.

Decorate – similar to ‘get crafty’, each season brings new opportunities for new decor items – for the front porch, the living room, the kitchen, the office. Find some inspiration and a diy craft idea that you want to try. If you have seasonal decor that you’ve always used, try to mix and match and change it up a bit for a change.

Reconnect – whether it’s with a sibling, or an old friend, an older relative, a neighbor, or even with your younger self or an unused skill or talent, spend some time reconnecting. Talking helps us feel connected, and helps relieve any loneliness you may be feeling. Reliving old times helps us remember good things (great memories) but also the bad things. This makes us realize how resilient we are, and that things aren’t always great, but we get thru them. Sometimes we make the past seem all rosy, but in reality there is never all good, and never all bad. And we get thru it.

Start a journal – when you start reliving those old times, think about writing down the joys and tribulations of growing up and living your life. Write about things you’ve done, people you’ve known and loved. Write about your school years. Write about your family. Write about what you’ve loved and what you wanted when you were a kid. There could be some hidden dreams rediscovered. And sometimes, we think we haven’t done anything with our life, but when we start writing things down, we realize we’ve done quite a lot.

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

These are just a few ideas, there are so many more things you can do to get your energy and mood back up. Try one, or two. And remember you are capable and resilient. And, as the saying goes, this too shall pass. Bad times don’t stay. The rain storm moves thru and the blue sky and sunshine return.

Dinner for Two (or One)

For most middle-aged country women, we’ve grown used to cooking for a family, maybe 4 or 5 (or more) people. But there comes a time when the kids grow up and move out on their own, and it’s down to you and your hubby, or maybe just down to you and you are now cooking for 1 or 2.

How do you go from cooking for a group to cooking for just one or two?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The appetites of growing children and middle-aged adults are different. You can cook food that is lighter, now, and you can cook less of it. How hearty your meals need to be depends on how hard you work, though. If you both work hard on the farm, you need more than if you are semi-retired and not very active.

As we age, do you find that certain foods cause gas? Or maybe everything does? LOL. You can adjust what you cook to the foods that feel better on your stomach, or that cause the least upset.

Dinner for two can be a calm, peaceful activity, accentuated with a sharing of ‘guess what happened to me today’ or ‘guess who I saw today’. The last thing you want is to feel that there’s no use cooking for ‘just us’ or ‘just me’. You – or you and your spouse – deserve to eat well and to enjoy all that life has to offer at this new stage in life.

You can set a nice table in the dining room any day you want to. But you don’t necessarily need to eat in the dining room, or even at the kitchen table. You can eat in the living room with old-fashioned tv trays or folding tables, or you can eat out on the deck if the weather cooperates. You can relax, now, and make things fun and interesting. Even if you’re cooking for one or two.

Think about packing a lunch and heading to the park or the beach. Maybe not in the winter, but in nice weather, picnics can be very enjoyable. All by yourself? Take a friend, 2-legged or 4-legged. Or enjoy the peace of spending a little time by yourself.

Eat on a tray in your favorite easy chair while you watch one of your favorite movies on tv. Getting older should have perks.

So, we’ve covered how to make cooking for 1 or 2 more fun, but how do you turn your recipes for 6 into a recipe for 2? After all, most recipes are for 4 to 6 servings, right?

It depends on how much you enjoy leftovers.

If you don’t mind leftovers, you can make a pot of stew and eat on it for 3 days. Or, if that’s not appetizing to you, you can cut the ingredients in half, or freeze half. Did you used to make a double batch of lasagna and freeze one for later? Scale down, and bake one, and freeze half of it for another night. Used to baking a sheet cake that the kids would finish off in a couple days? Instead, bake two 8×8 inch size cakes and freeze one. Or bake one 8×8 inch cake and a dozen cupcakes. Freeze one or the other.

You can still enjoy the price savings of buying the family pack of meat, but when you get home, divide it into usable portions and freeze it that way. If there’s 2 of you, and you don’t mind leftovers, put 4 pork chops or chicken breasts in a freezer container. That way, you can cook 2 meals at once when you decide to thaw them later.

Imagine the freedom of not having to make huge meals every day. Cook once and eat 2 or 3 days. I love that! Just pull something out of the freezer the night before. Easy peasy. Cook 3 things with one serving of leftovers each, and eat all week. Well, almost.

Photo by Pexels via Pixabay

Some things freeze better than others. Pasta and potatoes can get soggy after being frozen. Cooked rice freezes well. Cream soups don’t freeze well because the milk separates, but broth soups do freeze well. I find chili freezes well. Remember to wrap things well, in aluminum foil or wax paper, then in a freezer bag. Or use plastic containers made for freezing. Bread can be frozen. If you find you don’t get thru a loaf of bread before it gets moldy or stale, freeze half of it for later.

For lots of tips on freezing food safely, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website. Here’s a link:

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/freezing-and-food-safety/CT_Index

Also, now that it’s down to you two (or just you), you can spend a little more on the cuts of meat, or products you buy. You can splurge on going out once in a while. It’s cheaper for 1 or 2 than for 6. Or you can eat leaner. You can try new recipes that the kids might not have liked. You can also spend a little more time on setting a nice table. I mean it’s not like little Joe is going to spill his milk all over Grandma’s lace table cloth now.

You can also splurge a little on desserts once in a while, since you’re only cooking for 1 or 2.

Here’s an old recipe from the cookbook, Betty Crocker’s New Dinner for Two, copyright 1964.

Individual Brownie Alaska

Bake brownies as directed on our fudge brownie mix pkg (or make your own). Cut two 3 x 2-1/4″ pieces. Make meringue by beating 1 egg white until stiff; add 2 tbsp sugar gradually and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Place brownie pieces on baking sheet covered with double thickness of aluminum foil. Top each piece with a slice of hard brick vanilla ice cream (or any flavor). Cover with meringue, being certain it completely covers ice cream and comes down to foil. Back at 450 degrees (hot) for 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. 2 servings.

The only thing I’m not sure of in this recipe is the aluminum foil. It doesn’t say to take it out, so I guess ‘eat carefully’. 🙂 I remember making Baked Alaska in high school home ec class. But we didn’t use aluminum foil that I recall.

Here’s a newer version from the Betty Crocker website. See the link below the picture for the instructions. That looks like a zillion calories doesn’t it? But super good too!

https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/holiday-baked-alaska/c936a634-e9d5-4acc-ae6d-0127fc8d1371

So, enjoy the lightened load of not having to cook huge meals every day. Try new recipes. Go out to eat once in a while. Pare down the recipes you’ve always loved. If you don’t want the leftovers, share them with someone who could use the home cooked meal. Enjoy the life you have now.

As with all things in our lives, the only constant is change. You can’t go backwards, you have to go forwards, so make it enjoyable.

Happy eating!

Heading into a New Year

The magic of Christmas has come and gone. The presents have been exchanged, the turkey eaten, and the family has gone home. The presents lay under the tree waiting to be put away. In the next few days, depending on how long you like to leave the tree up, you’ll be taking down the tree, and putting away all the decorations. Doesn’t it seem to go fast?

Another year has come and gone. Pretty soon it’ll be a new year.

After Christmas, there’s a kind of lull. A quiet time before the hoopla of New Year’s Eve. A time to think about how crazy your family is…err, no, I mean it’s time to think about what kind of year it was, and what went right or wrong or sideways or just right. And it’s time to think about what you would like next year to be like.

Of course, if you think about it, a new year is kind of like a do-over. Right? Didn’t get around to something this year? You get a do-over in the new year. Try again. Wanted to try something new but didn’t? Do-over! Try again in the new year. You get another chance.

You know, as the year comes to a close, and the Holiday season winds down, there’s gonna be a lot of cold, dark winter evenings to fill. It’s a great time to start a new project. Or do some sorting/purging.

As I put away the Christmas decorations, I sort them, and choose which ones to keep. I set a few aside that I’m not in love with to take to Goodwill, or maybe pass along to someone I know. I’ve got tons of Christmas decorations, and I want to make sure that what I keep is what I like, or what has value for me, like things that reflect my interests, or were my parents or grandparents.

Every year I like to get a few new ornaments or things to put on the wall or shelf, and if I keep everything I won’t have room for anything new.

It occurs to me that life is the same way. As we pass thru this adventure called life, we should sometimes take a breather, look around at where we are, and what things or people surround us, and make sure that we’re keeping the good stuff. The stuff that has meaning. People we love. Things that we enjoy, or that remind us of loved ones that have passed on, our childhood, good times.

We need to be open to new, wonderful things in our lives. In order to do that, we need to have enough room in our hearts for the new stuff. We do that by letting go of things that no longer reflect us, or have meaning.

Take some time to reflect on the year. Photo by picjumbo.com on Pixabay

Think about all the good stuff in your life. For sure, 2020 has been a year for the history books, far from normal, but maybe Covid has shown us more of what is truly important…jobs, family and friends. We can still take stock of the good stuff in our lives. And we can purge the stuff we don’t want or need anymore.

Whether that’s a mean looking Santa figurine, an ugly sweater that we never wore, (but thanks for the thought sis!), or an old grudge that we’ve carried around so long we don’t remember the reason behind it, it’s good to let stuff go. It clears our homes and our hearts for better things.

So as the new year approaches, take a little time to reflect on all the good stuff in your life, and maybe let go of a few things that don’t serve you anymore. Like hard feelings, or ugly sweaters. Make room for some more good stuff coming your way next year.

Enjoying Christmas on Your Own

Many of us are facing the Holidays alone this year, with COVID restrictions and trying to keep gatherings to a minimum. But that doesn’t mean we have to give up and spend the day hiding under the covers in our jammies.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy Christmas. Gatherings may be smaller, people may opt not to travel, or it may just not be possible this year. Christmas may not be what you picture as a perfect Holiday, but try to think outside the box and reimagine things. Or rather, imagine a Happy day…what would that look like for you?

Enjoy the Christmas you have. Picture by Jill Wellington via Pixabay.

Find ways to spark some joy in your Holiday, even if you’re alone this year. Maybe the kids aren’t coming home, or you don’t have kids or grandkids, maybe you got divorced, maybe you’re not able to have the large family gathering you usually do, whatever the reason, know you are not alone in feeling blue at Christmas.

But there are ways to enjoy the most happy time of year even though it’s not ideal.

Here’s some ideas.

Photo Albums, picture by jarmoluk via Pixabay.

Take a stroll down memory lane.

Go back in time to when Christmases were fun and magical, and relive those times in your mind and heart. Whether that’s your childhood, or when you were first married or the kids were little, whenever you remember being happy this time of year. Cherish those memories, let your mind wander back, remember the magic, and the good times. What traditions do you remember? What decorations meant the most to you? What presents do you remember loving the most? Who do you remember loving you and you loving in return? Remember. Cherish.

Take a stroll outside.

Get bundled up and take a walk in the snow. Notice what’s around you…the beauty of a snow covered bush, sparrows chirping in the trees, a bright blue sky, or maybe a gray, overcast one. Listen…to the birds, to the earth crunch under foot, or to silence. Feel…the sensation of cold air in your lungs, the emotions at the memories that spring to mind, the knowledge that you are part of a world much bigger than you…feel the progress as your feet and legs move you along, and know that represents something bigger…the strength that comes from tackling your problems and moving ahead.

Photo by Tsuneya at Pixabay

Play with your dog.

Dogs can be wonderful companions…loyal, loving, and true. Snuggle companions and playful friends. Take your baby outside and play snowball catch, or just watch them play in the snow. Inside, sit on the floor and love them up. Whatever you do with your fur baby, just enjoy them and shower them with love. You can talk to them, too, you know. They listen without censor, and they don’t tell anyone what you said. A very good quality.

Photo by Jenny Nguyen via Pixabay

Be grateful.

Yes, there are things…or people…missing from your life, no one’s life is perfect. But we are happier when we’re grateful for what we do have. Make a list of everything you are grateful for. Every night thank the Lord for what he’s given you. Don’t ever get complacent or think that nothing has gone right in your life. That’s never true. Make a point to be grateful.

Sing Christmas music

I know…you’re feeling blue and “All I want for Christmas is You” is all you feel like singing. Maybe this isn’t for you, but for me singing Christmas songs lifts my mood. Give it a try. Crank up the stereo and belt out “Deck the Halls” and see if it makes you smile. The dog may look at you like you’ve lost it, but that’s no biggie.

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

Decorate anyway

I know a lot of older women don’t put up a Christmas tree if the kids aren’t coming home, and I never quite understood that. Not everyone has children. Decorate anyway. The decorations are for you as well as for the kids. Get out from under the notion that everything you do is for someone else. Do it for you. Don’t you like the lights? Don’t you enjoy the tree and garlands and the happy Santas and elves sitting around? Decorate anyway.

Photo by Bruno/Germany via Pixabay

Buy gifts for those you love.

IF you can’t get to them this year, mail the packages. There’s something to be said for getting outside of yourself, for thinking of others, to make you feel better. If you don’t have someone to buy for, buy for Toys for Tots, and donate so little kids in your area will have a gift for Christmas. There is probably a nursing home in your area as well, you could see about buying a gift for an elderly person who doesn’t have family nearby to visit them. There’s always someone in need. Reach out.

Photo by Free-Photos via Pixabay

Plan your Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Don’t just wing it, because if you’re feeling blue you may just sit on the couch staring at the wall. Or worse. Make a plan. Lots of churches are holding services on Facebook or online if you’d like that. Plan to bake something. Read a good novel. Try a gourmet meal. Watch a movie marathon. Call a friend. Call family. Take a drive and look at the Christmas lights. Visit a friend. Have a few people over. Ride your exercise bike. Try dancing to some great disco song on youtube. Whatever. Write it down, plan your day.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Learn to do a video call on your Smartphone. Then you can see and talk to family and friends without being there. Try connecting via Zoom so you can all get together for a quick visit. Technology is making a lot of things possible.

I hope one of these ideas has sparked your imagination. There are many things we can do to make the Holidays sparkle. And sometimes they end up better than we ever thought they would. I hope your Holiday sparkles with joy this year.

DIY Christmas Pillows

I love changing out my couch pillows for the season. Don’t you? There’s so many fun and pretty Christmas throw pillows out there, we could easily have too many pillows…in fact, last year my sister looked at my couch, and said, “that’s a lot of pillows”.

Sisters…right?

Koh’s Chistmas pillow

I love this pillow. It’s on Kohl’s website. It would fit great with my decor, I love the red barn (I have a red barn) and I love vintage pickups. But…it’s pricey. I might wait for it to go on sale later in the season.

It got me thinking, though, about Christmas pillows I could make myself, and for a lot less than the stores are charging.

So, I’ve rounded up a few store versions of Christmas pillows that you can easily make at home. Now, you can’t store 4 seasons worth of pillows easily, so consider making pillow covers – and use the same pillows for all seasons, just change out the covers.

To make a pillow cover, you need about a half yard of fabric. It can be flannel, fleece, or cotton. Or, an old sweater or sweatshirt works just as well. You can make any size pillow, but most couch pillows are 16″ or 18″ square. Feel free to make a 12″ square pillow, or a rectangle or circle, too. No rules, do whatever feels right.

I suggest making an envelope pillow cover, so there’s no zipper or buttons to deal with. When I made my first one, I googled it, and followed a youtube video. It’s easy, I promise.

For example, this youtube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wc3ZaokODrs is one of many out there. (Just included for your info, no affiliate relationship)

I’m gonna show you some store pillows that you can make yourself at home for a fraction of the cost. Sometimes, if you get creative, you can make designer looking pillows for a lot less.

For example, here’s a table runner I bought at Hobby Lobby.

table runner available at Hobby Lobby (not an affiliate)

Isn’t it cute? Little red pickups are everywhere right not. I love the little red truck design, but I didn’t need a table runner. I wanted a throw pillow. So I used the table runner as my fabric, and folded the red truck portion over the plaid, cut the plaid to match the size of the red truck section, then sewed around the edges (right sides together) leaving one end open. I stuffed it with polyester fiberfill, and then hand sewed the last side closed. The table runner had a red truck square at both ends, so I got two pillows about 15″ square for like $15. I would’ve paid at least $20 each at a store.

Here’s some more ideas you can DIY.

Hobby Lobby buffalo check pillow

This buffalo check pillow was on the Hobby Lobby site. This is an easy DIY, all you need is a half yard of flannel. This time of year flannel is on sale at JoAnn’s for $2-$3 a yard, making this a very affordable DIY Christmas pillow. You can use any plaid you like, or even a Christmas flannel design. Follow the youtube directions for making an envelope style pillow cover.

Target pillow

This is a cool variation with buffalo plaid. For this pillow, make a plain envelope pillow cover using flannel, cotton, or even sweatshirt or fleece fabric, then sew or iron on an applique of a bear, like this example, or a deer head, or moose. It may be easiest to sew the animal applique to the fabric before putting the pillow cover together.

For the animal outline, Google ‘bear outline’, and find a free clipart image that you can use as a pattern. Cut this out of a flannel or even a plain colored felt, and then sew the animal form onto the pillow cover. If you don’t sew, you could buy an iron on transfer to use.

Zulily pillow

Here’s another pillow that you can create. You would make this pillow the same as for the bear pillow above, except you would cut out a few tree shapes and sew those to the pillow. You could use flannel plaids, or felt, or wool pieces, whatever you have.

Here’s another version, using simple tree shapes cut from flannel and sweater knit. You could use fabric scraps for this, making it an inexpensive project.

Here’s a cool pillow with a cabin-y vibe. It looks like cross-stitch, but with some simple sewing, this could be something a little different. My version would be squares cut from Christmas flannel, sewed together to make the front panel. I would use plain flannel for the back. For an 18″ pillow, the squares should be 6 1/2″ square, which allows for a 1/4″ seam allowance. Sew three strips of 3 squares together, then sew those 3 strips to each other create the front of the pillow. Cut an 18 1/2″ square of plain flannel for the back, sew together (right sides together), leaving one side open. Insert a pillow form inside, and handstitch up the open side.

Here’s another option. Cut an 18″ wide piece out of cotton fabric. Make it the length of the fabric, which is usually about 44″. Make an envelope pillow cover using the instructions linked to above. I used this fabric for myself. I love the horses and the red barns. It’s very Christmasy and being a horse lover, it’s just perfect.

Find a piece of fabric that shows what you love, whether that’s puppies or chickens or cows or pickup trucks or chickadees or Santas or snowmen, whatever you love, and make a Christmas pillow for your couch or bed. Make your home decor say, “you”. And what better way for your home to say “you”, than to have things around that you have made.

Happy Crafting!

Outdoor Christmas Decor you can put up yourself

Are you tired of waiting on a man to put out Christmas lights? Whether it’s your husband, boyfriend, brother, or friend, do they promise to make time for you, then never make time?

Oh, most times their heart’s in the right place, they just have too many projects for the amount of time they have available. That’s their story, anyway. And hey, it’s the Holiday Season, so we’ll take it.

That said, there’s no reason you can’t have an outdoor holiday display, you just have to do it yourself. Like someone once said, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Right?

The house from the movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. For some fun facts from the movie, visit https://lancasteronline.com/features/to-celebrate-its-25th-anniversary-here-are-25-facts-about-the-movie-christmas-vacation/article_45972912-89eb-11e4-843a-f725382df410.html (not an affiliate link, just a nice little aside)

I’m not suggesting you go all out, like Clark Griswald, especially if you’re doing this by yourself. What I am suggesting, however, is that you can have some Christmas decor out front, and you can do it yourself.

So, if you’re like me, you’re not going to haul out a 12 foot ladder and climb up to the roof to hang lights. But, you can haul out a 6 foot ladder and hang lights around the garage door, lower windows, bushes, porch railings, and around the front door. All it takes is a few gutter hooks, Command brand hangers, or a hammer and nails, and some strings of lights.

That said, the most important thing to keep in mind here is safety. Don’t climb on a high ladder without someone to spot you. Don’t plug too much into one socket. Okay?

Okay. The first step is to make a plan.

  • How much do you want to do? Figure out how much time you want to put into it, how many light sets you want to hang, how much of the house you want to decorate, etc.
  • Think about where you’ll plug all this in. Do you have outdoor receptacles? (outlets) Also, you may need an outdoor contractor grade extension cord (large green or orange cords) to plug everything in. You can buy these at any WalMart etc. They also make outdoor plug-in stations with timers so your lights will come on and off at scheduled times. You can find these wherever you buy Christmas light sets.
  • You’ll need to attach the lights to your windows or siding – get some Command brand hangers (make sure they are for outdoor use) to stick to windows or vinyl siding, or some gutter hooks – these will attach to gutters or vinyl siding.
  • Get your light sets, garland, and whatever else you have to add to your festive display.
  • Get started! Place your hangers (nails, gutter hooks, or sticky hangers) where you want to string lights – the corners of windows, along the top of doors, etc. String the light sets. Plug them in. You may want to start at the electric outlet to get an accurate starting point for stringing lights.

I found a video on hanging lights around windows, that I’ll link to here. It describes using the Command sticky hangers for hanging the lights outside or inside. It’s https://www.festive-lights.com/blog/christmas/how-to-run-christmas-lights-around-a-window/.

Here’s some ideas to get you thinking.

Beautiful display, see Lowes.com for details

Here’s a beautiful display of lights in a bay window. This was on the Lowe’s website. This would require stringing lights around the top of the window using gutter hooks or nails, depending on whether there is wood or vinyl around your windows. Then you could hang lights around each window using the Command hangers that would stick to the glass.

Festive front door, countryliving.com

If a window full of lights is a little more than you want to tackle, here’s a simpler solution. An evergreen wreath on the door, which is flanked by two potted evergreens. Battery light sets could be used if you don’t have an electric outlet handy. If you do have an outdoor electric receptacle, you could hang a set of lights around the door as well, using nails or gutter hooks to attach the string of lights to the door jam. Add a Christmas welcome mat, and call it Christmas!

festive front porch with evergreen swags. Source unknown.

Here’s another simple idea for a festive front porch. Simple evergreen swags with red bows and light sets strung inside the garland make a striking picture. A matching wreath for the front door would make it perfect. You can choose real or faux garland, the choice is yours. The only thing is, if you have a large porch, this could get expensive.

Red and White front porch, source unknown.

Here’s a beautiful front door that you can achieve yourself. A simple red wreath hangs on the door, flanked by two pots full of poinsettias. You can complete the look with outdoor ornaments hanging by ribbon from your porch roof. However, if, like me, you live out in the country, the wind would reek havoc on those ornaments. They wouldn’t last long. If you have porch columns, you could wrap them in white lights or red ribbon. That would last longer and look just as awesome.

The home improvement store Lowe’s has a great article on hanging lights that I want to share. It has practical tips and a video. You can find it here:

https://www.lowes.com/n/how-to/tips-for-hanging-outdoor-christmas-lights

There’s lots of options for DIY outdoor Christmas decor that you can do yourself. It depends on your style, and how much you want to do. You can decorate your door and porch with a wreath and garlands. You can hang lights around the windows and garage door. You can put light sets on your front bushes, if you have them. You can use the fun pathway markers that you can buy at any home improvement store – either candy canes or Santas or snowmen. They are plastic covers that slide onto stakes with a light set strung between them. Very easy to set up and very cute!

These are from Home Depot, but you can get them lots of places. (no affiliate link, just a picture)

I hope I’ve sparked your imagination and got you thinking of ways to put a festive touch to your home. Just remember, be safe, plan before you do, and keep your plan within your abilities. Oh, and have fun!

DIY Christmas wall art from a dish towel

Don’t you love a cute Christmas themed dish towel? I do, too! The only problem is, we don’t always have the space to display them all.

I hang them on the oven, and sometimes over a cabinet door. But this starts looking a little cluttered. I love Christmas themed wall art, but it can get expensive, right?

If you have this problem, too, I have a solution.

Make some wall art from that towel. Does that sound crazy? Well, it’s not. I saw this towel in the store the other day, and I thought it would make a great little accent for my family room.

dish towel I bought

So, this is my starting point. I also had a 12″ square canvas, like you would paint on. You can buy one of these at your local WalMart or Michaels. And you can buy these in lots of sizes. You’re not limited to a 12″ square.

12″ square canvas

Now, I ripped the seams of the towel on the top and bottoms to give me more room. What you’re going to do is cut the towel in half, and then stretch it over the canvas and attach it with a staple gun. You could use a hot glue gun if that’s more your comfort level. I think it would work fine.

So, next I cut the towel in half. You could make two of these, one with each half. Keep one, give one, if you like. Now, I needed some more room on top of the half towel, so I could attach it to the back of the canvas. So I found a piece of white flannel. You could use a piece from an old towel, or a piece of fleece, whatever you have laying around will work.

I cut a piece of flannel as long as the width of the towel, and about 3 inches long. Then I pinned (right sides together) the piece of flannel to the towel.

Attach a piece of flannel or fleece to the top of the towel so there’s enough to attach to the canvas.

Then I sewed the two pieces together. I then turned the fabric so both right sides were face up. Smooth out the seam with your finger, then sew another line of stitching about 1/8″ from the seam, as in the photo below. This will strengthen the seam, and keep it lying flat.

Detail of topstitching.

Detail of finished top stitching 1/8 inch from the seam.

Next, it’s time to stretch the towel over the canvas. Center your design, and fold the edges over to the back side of the canvas.

Fold the edges to the back of the canvas, and tuck under the wooden edges. Apply glue, or use a staple gun like I did to hold the fabric to the wood.

Kind of tuck the fabric under the wood frame. If you’re using glue, glue the wood and then tuck the fabric under and press it so the glue will stick. I used a staple gun, so I simply tucked and stapled.

If you wanted to hang this on the wall, you could attach one of those jagged edge picture hangers to the top (on the back). Or, you can just use the wood frame to hang it on a nail. Also, you can just lean this on your mantel or dresser, or wherever.

Finished product!

I think it came out pretty well. There’s a bit of a seam showing on the bottom, but I’m ok with that.

You will have the other half of the towel leftover. You can make another piece just like this, to give to a friend, or you could finish the top and bottom (turn over 1/4″ and sew) and keep as a small towel, pet blanky, or rag. Don’t just toss it.

Now it’s your turn. Give it a try!

Indian Summer

Indian Summer is a term used to describe a stretch of warm, summer-like weather that occurs in the fall after we’ve had a frost. It’s been a number of years since we’ve had what I would call Indian Summer, and this year we got one.

We had two frosts so far, not too bad, but enough to kill some flowers and heighten the changing, falling leaves.

And then we got 4 days of gorgeous summer-like weather…blue sky, gentle breeze, 70’s temps…beautiful! We made the most of it, in fact, I wore myself out. We put Christmas lights up (yes we did!), washed windows, mulched flowerbeds, brought in flower pots, took the dog for a walk, washed the car, ate out on the deck, just enjoyed the heck out of it.

Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

It was wierd…one of our radio stations was playing Christmas music, it was 70 degrees outside…I saw a guy jogging in just his shorts in the afternoon and a house down the way had it’s Christmas lights on at night. I think I’m confused…

They always used to say that Indian Summer was a last chance to finish all those outdoor chores before cold weather hit. And it’s also a last chance to be outside and enjoy the sun and warmth.

This year has been a doozy, and this was a nice surprise for us. A batch of warm, sunny weather to start off November. I remember a few mild Thanksgivings, but not very many. Here in the Midwest it’s usually cold by then, and like as not we’ve probably had our first snow by then. Not much accumulation, but enough to notice.

So now it’s time to face the facts…the holidays and winter are on their way.

And that’s ok. To everything there is a season…there is a time for warmth, and a time for cold. And a time for turkey and football and parades. And a time for Christmas, with all it’s magic and wonder and cheer.

But this weekend, it was time for Indian Summer. A beautiful blue sky, the warm sun shining down on us, and a chance to catch up and get some things done, and also sit and enjoy the last burst of warm weather. It was a good weekend.

15 Ways to Know You’re Middle-Aged

When exactly do you hit this stage of life known as Middle-Aged? Is it 40? 50? If we think of a life expectancy of 80, then 40 is the halfway point, right? I’ve heard some people say different ages, or a range of 40 – 60. But who knows for sure?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Is it a certain birthday that tells you you’re middle-aged? Or is it something that happens to you? It’s not clear, right?

Well, I’ve got some real telltale signs that you’re middle-aged, whatever the number of birthdays you’ve celebrated. Here they are, in no certain order.

  1. You gain weight overnight for no reason. You just wake up one morning and you’re thicker around than you were the night before. Some kind of wicked black magic.
  2. You can’t tolerate stupidity anymore. When you’re young, you just laugh and walk away. Now you get irritated and mutter under your breath, or worse, you say something, or, in the case of other drivers, you yell at them. Make sure your windows are up. Just saying.
  3. You wake up in the middle of the night, not because the kiddos need you, but because you have to pee.
  4. Or because your body thermostat just broke and you’re sweating like a pig. Yes, the dreaded hot flashes. Aim a fan at your bed. It helps.
  5. You run out of patience with alarming regularity. I firmly believe we’re all given a bucket of patience when we’re young, and by 50 we’ve run out. This is probably the reason for #2 above.
  6. You groan…when you bend over, when you get into/out of bed, when people say something stupid…it just happens.
  7. You eat 2 oreos, and you gain 5 pounds. You used to be able to eat a whole handful and not gain an ounce. Welcome to middle-age.
  8. You don’t know all the hip tv actors or singers anymore, so you quit watching awards shows. Who the heck are these people? And you find yourself watching older shows…thank goodness for dvd’s.
  9. You watch the weather forecast, and plan accordingly. Remember when you used to head to the mall, not knowing if it was going to rain or snow or how cold / hot it was going to be? What a risk taker you were!
  10. You play the remember when game. Remember when that shopping center was all farmland? Remember when Magnum P.I. and Simon & Simon made for a great Thursday night? Remember when we left the house and nobody knew where we were or how to reach us?
  11. You dread the next digital or technological advance. Enough already. Let’s just coast a while.
  12. You talk about things like LPs and party lines, and the kids have no clue what you’re talking about. Kind of poetic justice, actually.
  13. You realize you’re old enough to be your coworkers mother. You’re the ‘older person’ now. Yikes, when did that happen?
  14. You and your friends or siblings talk about retirement. 401(k) plans and social security are your new buzz words.
  15. You wish people would just call you, instead of texting you for half an hour.
Photo by Oleg Magni on Unsplash

I could go on, but I’ll stop there. Well, how many of these telltale signs could you say yes to? If 7 or more, you are officially middle-aged. Welcome! Get comfortable…you’ll be here a while.

Don’t worry…it’s not all bad. (Remember on Hee Haw, when Marianne Rogers used to say, in her thick southern accent…”I’ve had such an exasperating day…but life’s not all bad…” Don’t know why but that just plopped into my head)

Anyway…

You may not be ‘young’ anymore, but you’ve matured into one heck of a woman. Just think of all you’ve been through. You’re one strong lady, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.