A Summer Home Project – Kitchen Island Renovation

The original center counter design.

Hello followers! I’m sure you may be wondering why I haven’t posted any parties lately. A pending renovation of my kitchen island prohibited me from scheduling any parties for the past few months. I’m sharing what has been going on, and what I feel will be a game changer in available counter space for cooking and entertaining.

I never quite understood this high/low counter top-bar design. Some say it was to hide your sink – from what? It’s still out in the open! In any case it is what the builder’s design provided when I bought my home. My neighbor had her’s leveled into an actual kitchen island and it inspired me to do the same.

First I had to decide how I wanted this revamp to look, and that took more time than I originally expected (a couple of years). Something so permanent requires a lot of thought, and time to imagine what the end result may look like. After all it will last for years to come, so I’d best be happy with it! I had a budget in mind, which of course was greatly exceeded (with everything costing more these days). Still I knew the cost over time would only grow and if I didn’t move forward with it, I would regret it in the future.

Before with bar seating.

My cabinets are already very dark and the granite is very busy. (Basically the only choices provided at the time of construction). To lighten this up a bit, I thought and searched a long time before deciding to add this curio chest to fill the large blank wall on one side of my kitchen. It provided additional storage for my many white serving platters and bowls, but no additional counter space. It also added a much needed brightness to the kitchen.

The curio cabinet that inspired the kitchen island design.

With my curio cabinet as inspiration, I wanted to renovate the island to match the two toned color palette and slightly distressed design. The width of the cabinetry would be expanded out to meet the ends of the pony wall, making room for a large drawer to store a hidden garbage pail and move my small narrow cabinet (used to store my baking sheets and cutting boards) to the other side of the island.

To ensure that I was correctly communicating what I wanted to the contractor, I created the above sketches that he said where very helpful.

I searched for antique corbels with no luck. I didn’t want it to look as distressed as the first photo, but the vintage feel was appealing and I wanted to add a little distressing to match the curio. Basically I wanted this island to be one of a kind and resemble a piece of furniture rather than traditional cabinetry.

Due to the addition of a farmhouse style apron sink (but in a stainless steel brass color), my existing cabinets could not be reused. The doors under the sink were too tall and couldn’t be refinished to achieve the look that I wanted (similar to the curio).

Before and after the demo.

My contractor constructed the cabinet sections of the island offsite, and then demoed the existing cabinetry to replace it with the newly designed pieces from my sketches. Modifications to the sketch were made as it came together where necessary.

Garbage can drawer.

The first piece to be completed and installed was this drawer to store a garbage container and enough room to store a supply of garbage bags. No more ugly visible garbage can.

Shiplap was first stained and then painted in a color similar to my curio, so that when a little distressing is added, the stained color will show beneath. At least that was the plan, but when the sanding of areas was applied, the stain did not show through at all, it went straight down to the raw wood, but still gave the appearance we were trying to replicate.

A stainless steel brass farmhouse sink, with two handle brass bridge faucet, brass covered electrical outlet and power button for the garbage disposal all added the pop of sparkle that blended in with the other brass and copper accessories throughout my kitchen and living areas.

Aged brass hanging rail and hooks from deVOL in the UK.

I will not be changing out my countertops at this time, but hope to do that in the near future.

Pestle and Mortar from Homegoods, gold clay bowls, mini copper cups (The Lost Kitchen).

Sometimes a project that you imagine will go smoothly, has multiple setbacks that you can do very little to remedy. PATIENCE will be pushed to the extreme. The process and pieces that are needed don’t always come as easily as it may seem on HGTV. I’m a planner as you all know, so when the plan goes off course a lot of stress and aggravation rises to the surface by everyone involved.

A friend who witnessed my frustration first hand said, “It’s like giving birth to a baby. You have long periods of discomfort, but the end result is something you dearly love!”

  • Lyndhurst 2 handle bridge kitchen faucet with side sprayer in matte gold. – Ebay
  • Lordear 30″ x 21″ undermount kitchen farmhouse sink (gold) – Wayfair
  • InSink Earator (push button for disposal gold) – Perigold
  • Stain – Hampton Cottage TIS-058
  • Paint – Cameo White MG3-32 (Behr)
  • Hickory Hardware P2144-BGB American Diner Collection Cup Pull 3 Inch & 3-3/4 Inch (96mm) Hole Center, Center to Center, Brushed Golden Brass (on garbage drawer) – Amazon
  • Leviton PFUS1-BR Pop-Up Floor Box with Dual Type A, 3.6 USB Charger, 15 Amp Outlet, Brass (electrical outlet)

After many, many snafooz, I ended up with a different quartz countertop than I originally selected being advised on the day of installation that my original choice was discontinued. I’ve learned that renovations involve a lot of disappointing promises not kept, lip service and pivoting on materials. In the end the alternative quartz option the stone company offered was more expensive (but they did not charge me the difference due to the multiple forms of miscommunication on their part) and in the end may be a better look that I originally planned.

The top trim is hard to see without squatting and standing very far away to see it (and I’m very short), but it’s there.

I had two decorative tins leftover that match my backsplash, so to tie the island to the backsplash one was placed on each side and framed. Finally a little distressing was added similar to my curio cabinet.

  • Leviton PFUS1-BR Pop-Up Floor Box with Dual Type A, 3.6 USB Charger, 15 Amp Outlet, Brass (electrical outlet)

My original bar stools were now too tall and I sold them on Facebook marketplace to a very happy new homeowner, rather quickly. Bar stools vary in pricing and I didn’t want to buy anything overly expensive. I started shopping online for that high end look, at a low price. As always, I pinned multiple versions to a board on Pinterest (Loiret Kitchen Island inspiration); and looked at the photos over and over for a few days, trying to imagine how they would look in my space.

I finally decided on these Abbott 26″ Spindle Stool that I found the best price for on I had a 15% off coupon, but of course more than a week later they went on sale for another 19% off. I’ve gambled in the past, waiting out a possible sale and the item I want ended up selling out and I couldn’t get it anymore. So I decided the overall price for these was reasonable enough with the discount and free shipping to move forward with my order. The stools do require some assembling, but it wasn’t difficult and I was very happy with the little added visual interest the spindled legs provided to the room.

I’m finally going to call this project complete, and moving on to party plans for the near future. Stay tuned! Let the parties begin!


Spice Jar Refresh (A Weekend Project)

The summer heat has been especially brutal this year, but somehow my herb garden has managed to persevere. So much so, that the abundance has resulted in little bouquet deliveries to my neighbors from time to time including a little Mother’s Day gift this past May when my nasturtiums, tarragon and chives were still blooming.

In the colder months to come, when portions of the herb garden may go dormant, those dried herbs in the pantry are more frequently used. How old are the dry herbs in your pantry? Do you even remember when you bought them? Now is a great time to empty those jars and refill them with freshly dried herbs.

To start I cut bunches of each herb (in the garden) and give each bundle a good trim, discard dead or discolored stems and wash well setting the bundle on a tray lined with paper towel to slightly dry.

For the drying process I used the microwave oven, and two paper plates, with one method for thyme, oregano and tarragon and a different method for rosemary and sage. I didn’t dry basil or mint, as those are always best fresh, but I did share a use for using up the large crop of sweet basil below to add elevated flavor to your recipes.

For thyme, oregano and tarragon, I simply laid the washed stems in a small bunch in the middle of the paper plate and then covered it with another paper plate. Place covered plate into the microwave and process for three 30 second intervals. This allows the herb leaves to slowly dry and maintain a green color without burning. Test your microwave (as they are all different) by checking the level of dryness after two 30 second processes. If your leaves are still slightly “fresh” or wet, process a third time and check again. Some may have to process it for less time and others may have to process it a little longer.

Once dried, using your fingertips, gently roll the leaves from the stems and discard the stems. Store the dried herbs into glass jars to prevent crushing.

For rosemary, pinch the stem with two fingers at the top and slide down to remove all of the rosemary leaves. Place the leaves between the two paper plates and process for two 30 second intervals. I found that this was dry enough for my liking and know that they will continue to dry over time in the pantry.

For sage, pull the leaves from their stems, stack three or four leaves and then roll tightly like a cigar. Thinly slice into strips (called chiffonade) and depending on the size of the leaves it may require slicing the strips in half.

Placing the chiffonade sage leaves between the two paper plates, process in 30 second intervals in the microwave watching for the level of dryness you prefer.

For many years, my Thanksgiving centerpiece has been a sage butter roasted turkey, with a sage apple cider gravy that requires both dried and fresh sage. Dried sage pressed together into coarse salt is rubbed all over the turkey skin and then placed in the refrigerator overnight. When baking the following day, it is based with melted butter and fresh chopped sage. Both the aroma and flavors are absolutely amazing! My freshy dried sage will be stored and ready for the big day.

A practiced cook knows that recipes that go into the oven often call for dried herbs rather than fresh because they tend to better handle the heat and long periods of baking, but less amounts are used because the flavor of the herb intensifies when dried. The Fall and Winter seasons are usually enjoyed by savoring rich stews, roasted vegetables and meats that are often cooked in the oven. Having a pantry stocked with freshly grown and dried herbs is not only a tasty plan, but a thrifty plan since buying dried herbs can be very expensive.

If your garden is plentiful, the holidays are just around the corner. Why not consider gifting freshly dried herbs to friends and family as Christmas gifts? Purchase inexpensive jars or use small dollar store zip labeled pouches filled with freshly dried herbs and then nested in a small basket as a hostess or holiday gift is something the recipient can use and enjoy all year. If gifting sealed pouches of herbs, just as you have refreshed your spice jars, your friends and family can toss out the old dried herbs in their pantry and refill their jars with your gifted herbs. A jar of confit garlic and local fresh baked bread (if you don’t bake yourself) and or a jar of pesto (made with your basil) and encourage the least interested cook into creating something easy and flavorful.

Let’s not forget about the basil. I have both sweet basil and thai basil growing in my garden. Both have grown to nearly three feet tall and this is what they look like after a good trim. While dried basil is not something I personally use, a large amount of fresh basil can be used to make fresh pesto. Using a recipe from Pinterest, basil, garlic, lemon juice, toasted pine nuts, grated parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil whirled in a small food processor creates a bright and fresh pesto that is flavorful and delicious spread over grilled chicken or tossed in fresh pasta. It also can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks and can be spread on wraps or used to make a vinaigrette to toss on a fresh spinach salad.

Sweet basil and spicy thai basil with lavender blossoms that the bees are enjoying.
Freshly made pesto.

For my last little project, I made confit garlic and garlic roasted olive oil. Recipes can be found on Pinterest, but for mine I did the following.

For confit: I used a mini ceramic bread loaf pan, and filled with two large garlic bulbs -cloves separated and peeled and then poured extra virgin olive oil close to the top of the pan. Also place on a small baking sheet to protect from spilling. Place in the oven at 250 degrees for two hours. Let cool and store in tightly sealed jar in refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Cover the garlic with the oil and if there is excess add to the roasted garlic oil bottle below.

For roasted garlic oil: I used the same mini ceramic bread loaf pan and sliced the top edge off of two garlic bulbs and placed the entire bulbs in the loaf pan. Fill with extra virgin olive oil, place on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for two hours. Let cool to room temperature. I then squeezed the garlic from the bulbs into the confit jar. Use a coffee filter or cheesecloth folded into four layers and place inside a funnel and filter oil into a measuring cup. Using the same funnel and filter pour the filtered oil from the measuring cup through the cheesecloth again, into your final glass bottle.

Note: You can purchase peeled garlic cloves or break a bulb of garlic apart and place the individual cloves with peel into a tightly closed jar and shake vigorously until all of the peel comes off of the garlic.

How to use your garlic confit and roasted garlic olive oil.

Roasted or confit garlic is sweet and very flavorful. You can spread the soft cloves on breads to make homemade garlic bread, create a vinaigrette, add to soups, pasta or roasted chicken. Be creative and experiment. I had a loaf of freshly baked lucky seven grain bread that I sliced and spread the soft buttery roasted garlic cloves on one slice and caramelized onion chutney on the other slice with thinly sliced honey turkey breast that created a delicious turkey sandwich with intense elevated flavor.

One of my favorite things to do with the roasted garlic infused olive oil, is to drizzle it over fresh tomatoes, avocado or roasted potatoes (any roasted vegetables). Anything you would finish with a little drizzle of olive oil can also be drizzled with the rich garlic infused flavored olive oil.

Bakery Lucky Seven Grain Bread, Confit (roasted) garlic and thinly sliced deli honey turkey breast.

Whether it’s a hot sunny day or a rainy hot day that you are trying to escape, while staying indoors here’s a productive way to spend the afternoon preserving herbs and creating flavor filled pestos and oils to elevate your summer and future Fall and Winters dishes and maybe even create a few gifts for the holidays.


A Handmade♟Family Heirloom

It’s been a while since I’ve shared one of my family stories. A recent visit with my cousin and the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday provided perfect timing for sharing this special memory of my Mom.

This family heirloom…circa 1969 was made with my mother’s hands. In the late 60’s and early 70’s we lived in Fairfield,CA where Dad was stationed (USAF) at Travis Air Force base. Mom became a fan of what was called “The Hobby Shop”, a place on the base for family members to experiment with crafts. Mom took to the craft of ceramics with passion. It seems she was always at the table cleaning or painting ceramic pieces during the three years we resided there.

Unlike ceramics shops found today filled will pre-made and fired pieces that you pick out and only paint, in Mom’s time she chose the molds of items she wanted to make and then actually poured the clay into the molds. Once set, she would bring the pieces home and we would watch her use a little sculpting tool to gently scrape away the seam lines (like those found on chocolate bunnies for Easter) formed by the mold around the entire perimeter of each object. Once scraped away she used a small natural sponge lightly dipped in water and gently wiped the area until it was smooth. She would then bring the pieces back to the shop, where they were placed into a kiln for their first fire, the term for a baking process (just like pottery). A day or so later, she would pick up “the fired” pieces and then settle into meticulously painting and adding all of the little details.

Mom made everything from those retro lighted ceramic Christmas trees that are coming back, to large nativity sets and ♟ chess sets, some small like this one and some with pieces as large as 8 inches tall. Of all the items we remember her making, we only each (my brother and I) have one large nativity set and a couple of Santa mugs that are now found mass produced, but ours is made with Mom’s hands and when my grandchildren spend Christmas at my house, we use the mug for Santa’s milk to place next to his plate of cookies.

A couple of years ago, when my cousin was packing up items in her parents’ home to prepare it for sale, she found two of the ceramic chess sets my mother had made and given her parents as gifts. We have no idea why, she gave multiple versions of these small and large chess ♟ sets to my Dad’s sister (now 92) and her husband. My brother and I clearly remember her making them (see the black and white photo), but we didn’t have any of the chess sets. My cousin packed placed the items she found in boxes and asked me if I wanted them.

Prior to the pandemic of 2020 and 2021, she had give me one smaller and one larger version that my brother wanted. Some pieces were broken, but he set them aside saying he would try to repair the broken pieces.

Recently after two years, I drove the nearly hour distance to visit my 92 year old aunt and my cousin. She had been saying she had some things for me, and I thought we had gotten everything she had found, but she handed me yet another set. (As I said before, why did Mom make so many of these and send them all to this one relative?)

Ironically my oldest two grandchildren, now 13 and 10 were both first place chess champions for their grades in elementary school. My youngest grandson is not yet old enough to play, but I’m sure he will follow in his siblings footsteps.

The Swinger instamatic polaroid camera photo is slowly fading, but here are my brother and I,
watching Mom as she worked on the larger version of the ceramic chess sets she crafted.
In the background, is a large ceramic cat she also made.

Unfortunately, as I lined up all of the pieces to examine them, one white piece is missing to this set. It’s a little chipped and weathered (like most of us after 50 years), but after checking with my brother to find out if “maybe” the missing piece is with the set I passed on to him, I plan to box this set up to give to my grandchildren from their Great Granny.

What I know for sure… sometimes we do things that may not make sense at the time ( like giving 3 chess sets to my Aunt and Uncle), but they’re the ones who saved them all these years later so they would reappear for her great grandchildren. Coincidence? I think not.

An update to the story – I delivered the set and my grandson informed me that “Granny” (what they called my Mom) actually made extra pieces – so we were not short. He informed me that the players can actually win another queen and that “Granny” made two extra queens. He gave me my first chess lesson as my six year old grandson (who is extremely smart and remembers everything) stood by to listen in. Within minutes he was telling my how to move pieces. While he quickly understood the direction that each piece could be moved, he’ll need to learn how to actually “play” the game. I can just imagine that my Mom is looking down on all of us, smiling.


Lavender Sensations

Photo by Baraa Jalahej on

Lavender is my favorite fragrance. So many things in my home are scented with lavender that one morning some time ago when my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren were visiting for several days, I woke before everyone else and decided to ease out of the house to do some weeding in my front yard flower beds. When I returned inside, I found my daughter and grandchildren starting their morning routines of coffee and cereal. As I walked into the kitchen my daughter said, “There she is!” with a chuckle. I said good morning and asked what was so funny. She said, “The kids were looking all over the place for you. They said we can’t find Nana anywhere, but we can smell her!” I’ve learned that my grandchildren have come to associate the scent of lavender with their Nana.

Friends, an occasional delivery person, even trick or treating kids have said as I opened my front door, “Your house smells so good!” The secret for years was the Glade lavender and peach blossom plug-ins, that much to my dismay have been discontinued. Using another lavender scented plug-in is just not the same, but I’m still searching for a better alternative.

I’ve collected a variety of lavender sachets over the years, from Homegoods (to the left with embroidered lavender flowers); the dark purple sachet was a gift, and the sachets on the right were purchase in a long set of six sewn together from a gift shop.

An avid reader, I especially love historical fiction novels set in France and have often read of how a character in the book ended up being invited to spend the night in some mysterious old manor. While settling into their guest quarters, they would find fresh linens folded on their bed. As they lifted the bed sheet or towel a small sachet of dried lavender buds would fall out, and the delicate fragrance would permeate their linens as they crawled into bed for the night.

The idea inspired me. My bed linens are (as you may have guessed) lavender ( in color) that I’ve paired with grays and taupes in my master bedroom. After each change of linens on my bed, I press (yes I starch and iron my pillow cases and flat sheets with – lavender scented starch when I can find it) and then fold the pieces to store away for the next change. As a result of the idea from my novels, I now slip sachets of dried lavender between each pillow case and folded sheet. Adding a couple of drops of lavender essential oil to the sachet brings the scent of the buds back to life after each change cycle.

Note: While you can purchase sachets already made (see link below the picture above), you can also purchase lavender buds online and small organza bags to fill and tie.

Customer Bath Tray from
Lavender bath bomb, bath oil, epsom salts and bubble bath.

Of all the lavender I surround myself with, bath time contains some of my favorites. Bath oils, bath bombs, bath salts, bubble bath and body wash all filled with the soothing fragrance. Lavender scented candles flicker around the room to also help calm a stressful day away.

Italian Bubble Bath and Sage Smudge Stick with Lavender

Hand wash, lotions and occasionally I may even dust a little lavender scented powder around my neck.

English lavender powder by Taylor of London, Italian lavender hand soap
and Laduree scented candle from France.

Lavender scented air freshener and linen sprays are a great way to scent the bedroom and linens just before lying in bed to read a good book. The fragrance is known for its calming and relaxing properties to help one fall into a deep sleep.

A couple of years ago a friend gave me a perfume roller bottle filled with lavender essential oil that she suggested I put on my temples, wrists and upper chest that also helps to calm and soothe the senses for a sound sleepful night. (Note: I do not have skin allergies so of course those with sensitive skin conditions should use caution before putting essential oil on the skin.) The link below is an example of bottles that I ordered and filled with essential oil.

Linen spray and bottle with roller (see link provided above)
filled with lavender essential oil purchased at Homegoods.

When life is filled with stressful events, lavender has provided me the comforts to the relax and the benefits of self care. Over the years I’ve discovered more and more ways to enjoy the scent of lavender and hope to discover more. If you love the scent of lavender, hopefully you have discovered some new ways to enjoy it with the ideas I’ve shared. Be sure to share your own finds with me!


Weekend Project #10; Master Bedroom Refresh

Many, many years ago when my maternal grandmother passed away, she didn’t have very much to leave her family, but when her house was sold, my Mom gave both my brother and I each a check from our grandma.

I thought about what I would do with the funds for a long time, because I wanted to have something special that I could say was from my grandmother. The comfort of vintage furnishings in bed and breakfast homes inspired me, and I decided to purchase this four poster bed. I’ve enjoyed climbing into my extremely comfortable bed every day I’ve had it for nearly three decades, tucked in between a pile of pillows with a good book.

As I’ve aged, I’ve come to realize that climbing two steps in the middle of the night to get in and out of bed, may eventually become more than my 4′ 11″ stature can safely handle at some point. In the back of my mind I knew that when I got around to my bedroom, that it was time to purchase a bed that would be stylish and lower to the ground.

Over the past few years I’ve been making my way around the house one room at a time, carefully researching decor items, paint colors, and pieces of furniture until I formed a final plan of what I wanted for each room. One by one each room has been freshly painted and accessories or a new piece of furniture added, that I couldn’t manage when I first moved into my home. These one room at a time projects resulted in my “Weekend Projects’ Lagniappe series.

In 2020, my entire open living area was repainted and the breakfast room area and kitchen wall was filled with a new table, benches and a tall two toned cabinet where most of my white serving dishes are stored.

This year I decided it was time to finish my master suite and bath area. The bath was painted in 2019, the windows were framed, handmade shades were added and decorative plaques above the windows and doorways. My gray and lavender decor carries into my bedroom as well.

I brought home a number of paint samples with shades of gray lavender. Painted test patches lined the doorways and bedside walls as I tried to find the right paint color. I wanted the paint colors to highlight the grays, lavenders and golds in my room, without being too purple or pink. I finally decided on the color below, Chicago Fog that looks all gray in some light and a slight dusty lavender in bright light. I really like how the color changes based on the light.

The wall color Chicago Fog in eggshell changes slightly with the light in the room with shades of gray with a touch of lavender.

Trim Silver Feather in semi-gloss.

Insert of door in graceful gray, trim in silver feather, wall Chicago fog.

Door insert outlined with Graceful Gray in semi-gloss.

The only decor changes I was planning to make in addition to the bed, was to replace the existing dark ceiling fan with a Persian White French style ceiling fan that blends in with the light fixtures throughout my home of the same color and style.

Quorum Lighting – 78525-70 – Chateaux – 52 Inch Ceiling Fan

The dark, but charming four poster bed has been replaced with this beige tufted headboard and frame. Together with the Parisian White French Country ceiling fan, lighter blades and the gray lavender fresh coat of paint, the room looks bright and larger than before. The bedside lamps and tables were purchased a few years ago, as well as the bench that makes getting dressed in the morning easier. It’s a great place to sit and put on socks and shoes.

While there’s no need to climb steps to get into my bed anymore, oddly the habit to feeling for the step and the back bedpost to balance as I climbed in, is so automatic that I still feel for both of them and laugh when I catch myself doing it.

This weekend project didn’t involve a lot of change, but it took my helpful handyman three days. He painted the ceilings, walls, doors and trim; changed out the ceiling fan, dismantled my four poster bed and put the new tufted bed together for me. On the evening of the third day, I slept happily and peacefully in my refreshed master bedroom that flows perfectly into the master bath. I feel a little like I’m going to a little Parisian hotel room at the end of each day. It’s a wonderful retreat for resting, relaxing, reading and sleeping.

Stay turned for the next weekend project….


Let the Music Play….

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

Whether the table is set for my wine club, book club, mothers tea, Friendsgiving or any of the many other entertaining dates I’ve planned, the one thing you can’t see in the party pictures is the music!

I usually begin experimenting a week or two prior to the scheduled event in search of the best music selection I can find, in search of background melodies that don’t overpower the conversation, but like a subtle soundtrack in a movie, creates the appropriate mood and ambiance for the gathering. Until recently I chose the Pandora App where the variety of options or countless for nearly every theme you can dream up. Simply search with the theme, such as Italian love songs, Mardi Gras music, French Cafe’ or the individual name of a favorite artist. As technology advances, so do the options. Amazon’s Alexa and Echo players or Google Play can provide musical options from Pandora, Spotify or their own musical programs with a simple verbal request.

In the recent year as I visited small shops in our area, the sound of classic French music, smooth Jazz or piano instrumentals caught my attention, and when I would ask what was playing I was informed over and over again that it was YouTube music. Videos created into various music themes that can be played up to 10 hours has become another favorite. I originally streamed the music from my TV, but Google or Alexa will play the music if requested also.

The point of entertaining (dinner party, wine party etc.) is to have shared discussions and conversations. So I choose music that isn’t distracting, but provides a soothing background for the evening at a soft audible level. Below are some suggestions/examples of options I’ve made part of my party planning.

Capri – Italian White Wines Night

For an Italian themed night: (Capri) Andrea Bocelli Radio, Italian Summer Radio, Italian Cooking Music Radio, or Italian Traditional Radio. Romantic Venice, Italian Restaurant Music

Christmas Cocktail Party

Holiday/Christmas Cocktail Party– Jazz Holiday Radio, Diana Krall (Holiday) Radio, Michael Buble (Holiday Radio), Nat King Cole (Holiday) Radio, Vince Guaraldi Trio (Holiday) Radio, Christmas Radio.

Derby Themed – Bourbon Barrel Aged Reds

Derby Theme : Kentucky Derby Radio, Frank Sinatra Radio

Symphony of Whites (Wines) – Austria, Germany

Symphony of Whites (Wine): Classical Dinner Party Radio, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Radio, Antonio Vivaldi Radio, and many more.

Holiday Dinner Party: Acoustical Guitar Christmas, Jingle Bells (Frank Sinatra (Holiday); Christmas Bells (Instrumental – Classical)

French Cafe’ themed small luncheons.

French Bistro Theme– French Cafe’ Radio, Edith Piaf Radio, French Cooking Radio; Spotify : French Cafe’ Lounge Music, French Romantic Music, French Bistro Music, French Mornings-Emily in Paris Vibes, French Jazz Cafe’

Rio De Janeiro Carnival– Brazilian Radio, Tango Radio, Spanish Guitar

Romantic Valentine Theme- Classical Piano Love Songs, Country Love Songs Radio, Diana Krall Radio, Michael Buble Radio, Chris Botti Radio, Romantic instruments

Mother’s Tea – I play a lovely song in honor of remembering our mothers just before starting to help focus our thoughts and hearts in the right place. “I Remember You” by Trisha Yearwood; “Supermarket Flowers” by Ed Sheeran.

Whatever your party, theme or no theme, while preparing the list of things to do, include a selection of soothing musical entertainment that is sure to enhance the enjoyment of your event.


Weekend Project # 9 : Built in Desk Area Makeover


On to my built in desk area….let’s get this weekend project started.

I know it wasn’t that bad to start, but I wanted to elevate the appearance of the area to fit in with the rest of my home. The problem is I wasn’t sure how. I usually have to concentrate for a long time on a space and eventually I’ll find something like a picture or fabric that puts the plan in motion.

My walls were freshly painted at the same time as the Master Bathroom makeover. I had an idea for a decorative shade to place over the window to defuse some of the heat of summer or colder temperatures of winter, but finding the right combination of materials like everything in design (on a budget) takes time.

It began with a piece of decorative crown moulding, that with the help of my handyman Tim was formed into a small valance to hang the shade from. Hidden from view I actually used thumb tacks to fasten the fabric to a wood slat affixed behind the moulding. The initial fabric (a curtain panel) did not provide the desired look and several months would pass before the right materials came along (that turned out to be right in front of me the entire time).

Tim painted the valance with the same medium shade Graceful Gray used on the base boards, window and door frames and left it in the garage to dry overnight. Later that evening I went to get something in the garage and went over to examine the painted moulding. It looked so plain and boring. The beautiful carving of the moulding was not at all accentuated.

In a bold move, I tried to think about what I had that I could use to fill in the carved areas and remembered this Metallic Lustre’ paste in my art box of paints and a small bottle of metallic gold model paint from the craft store. Equipped with a small piece of fabric torn from an old t-shift, I dipped it into the lustre’ paste and slowly rubbed it along the top edges of the carvings. When it would fill too much of the area, I would use another piece of the t-shirt to wipe the excess away, leaving more in some areas and less in others. It didn’t work as well on the top wider area, the carving wasn’t deep enough – so here I used a small, thin, pointed brush and the gold model paint to fill in all of the top area. Little by little it created a more interesting aged finish.

Once all of the parts were put together, the fabric wasn’t achieving the look I was hoping for. As I’ve said in the past, patience is required. I decided to let it sit there for a while and give myself time to look around at different materials that would create the casual elegant result I was hoping to achieve. The project was set aside, and more than a few months passed before I was able to redirect my focus on it again.

Recently, I visited a new home decor store in my area. While browsing through the various items there, I was drawn toward two framed prints in black, gray and white hues. While my home is composed of shades of cream, ivory, soft blues, grays and some mustard golds, I am drawn to soft black accents. I purchased one of the framed prints and the shop owner kindly offered to hold the second, allowing me time to figure out where I would use them before committing to the second.

Daphne Home Butterfly

After experimenting with different locations in the house, I decided that I could place one framed print on each side of the built in desk area. With that decision, I now had something to inspire the shade and desk accessories.

I turned my focus toward my breakfast room, inspired by a picture I cut from a decor magazine that I was throwing out. As purchases were made to replace the furnishings there, I posted two chairs and two benches that were being replaced on a Facebook market page to sell the items. The fabric on the benches (below) caught my eye. I’d always liked the fabric purchased to recover the benches and made a remark to my friend when she was at the house, that this same fabric had the sophisticated look I wanted to create the shade for the window by the desk. She agreed.

The fabric on the benches that inspired by window shade for the desk area (this room now also made over).

The problem was that I would have to find new fabric. I originally purchased the fabric from Hobby Lobby about 5 years ago and they no longer carried it. So I started searching online and found it! I ordered three yards, with the intension of saving a yard of the fabric to recover the desk chair seat. I also ordered a kit to make large covered buttons on Etsy.

When the fabric arrived I was a little upset. As I removed the folded fabric from the packaging, it appeared to be a different version of what I had ordered. It was the same pattern, but different colors. Busy with work I set it aside, but every time I passed the folded stack of fabric, thoughts ran through my head of how I needed to figure out what I was going to do. I carried it over to the desk area and held it up to the window trying to convince myself this was better. Then I unfolded the fabric to discover that, it was in fact the fabric I had ordered- It had been folded inside out! While I had a good laugh, it was a great accidental discovery, because I immediately decided I would use the back side of the scraps to cover the buttons that create a nice contrast against the lighter fabric shade.

I spent several hours measuring, trimming, pinning and then ironing the side seams. I then put together a design completely held together with straight pins in order to hang it and look at it for a couple of days. One evening I took the trimmed away side scraps and using the reverse (back) side of the fabric, covered several large buttons to somehow incorporate into the design of the shade. I then slid a button on a straight pin in areas to decide where they should be placed. Black stitching was added to each side of the fabric. (See notations on the photos

During the Christmas season, I found a large wooden spool of black velvet polyester ribbon by Martha Stewart at HomeGoods. I had purchased it when the intention of wrapping Christmas gifts with it, but when I wanted something to outline the fabric I turned to the ribbon. (See note below each photo explaining how the shade and moulding valance were pulled together.)

My mother’s old sewing machine that I rarely used had stopped working, So I brought the fabric to an alterations shop and had the sides stitched with black thread and the opposite edges surged with an ivory thread. With finished edges I laid the fabric out on my dining room table, once again pinning the folds and then hand stitched all of the buttons on. The folded edges also needed some reinforcement due to the weight, so I also hand stitched those areas together.

I then replaced the light fixture in the room, selecting a black drum shade with a bronze interior. The granite counter top that came with the house also limited my color palette, but the colors I chose appear to blend right in.

Black metal ceiling mounted light fixture with bronze interior.

I then brought the remaining fabric and my chair to an upholster to recover the seat cushion. Wall art hung, faux shade completed and also hung, chair recovered and light fixture installed, this weekend project was complete with a touch of sophistication. I had ordered it with a black piping around the bottom edge to match the outlined shade, and when I picked up the chair they advised me they decided to use only my fabric! At this point I wasn’t thrilled, but I went with it for a couple of days. I then decided to look for a black cord that I could glue along the edge with fabric glue. For $2.60, I think it was worth it. I feel like it looks more finished.

After until I found the lamps

I ordered two wall lamps for another project. When the lamps arrived they were much larger than I was expecting and were not going to fit into the project as I had hoped. I walked around the house in search of an alternate use. I returned to my desk area and examined the lamp that I originally used. I wasn’t completely satisfied with the lamp and have continued to search for something that provide that same cozy scholastic drama of lamp lights found in historical libraries. I thought of a gold lamp with a black shade with a better scale to fit the area, but nothing had caught my eye yet. I put one of the wall lamps together and held it up to the wall. I looked at it for a few days and added a light bulb, holding the illuminated light up to the wall during daylight hours as well as night. By the end of the week, I reached out to Tim to find out when he could come by to install one on each side of the window.

The project is now truly complete and serves as a great spot to write my future blog posts!


An Antique Store Stroll

Savoring the gift of time, past and present....

One of my favorite ways to decompress after a stressful week, is to stroll through antique and consignment shops in search of unique treasures. Sometimes I find an item I want to purchase and use when I entertain or add to my decor as an interesting conversation piece. More often, I just love to find unique and beautiful things and try to imagine how they touched the lives they passed through.

Silver bunny salt and pepper shakers.

Perched upon an antique sideboard were these delicate, but elegant silver bunny salt and pepper shakers. As a practicing cook, I’ve learned that your food should be perfectly seasoned before serving, so salt and pepper shakers in my world are truly a thing of the past. It’s also actually considered an insult to the chef when you add salt to their carefully seasoned and prepared dish. Still I know people who will pick up the salt and pepper shaker adding both to their food before they have even tasted it. As I closely examined these I tried to think of an alternative use for them. I wondered if tapered candles would fit into the cabbages holding the glass shakers, but after circling the shop a few times contemplating, I decided to leave the sweet bunnies behind.

Wedgewood – Beautiful . I pulled the price sticker off to take a picture, but some of it was left behind.

There’s something about this three dimensional Wedgewood – what to call it? It’s not a plate, I guess a plaque. It really is charming don’t you think? I imagine an English literature teacher placing it before his or her students and asking them to create a story from what they see in this little work of art, curious what all of the amazing versions would be. Do young people know about the old customs of courtship and proper behaviors of the past to incorporate in their stories? It would make an interesting creative writing assignment.

This beautifully cared for, small cedar chest brought back memories of my high school graduation. Does anyone remember when the local furniture stores gave these to girls when they graduated? This link gives a little history on the tradition that has since disappeared. I have no idea what happened to mine.

This crumb sweeper was a unique find and was something I decided would add charm to my dining room dinner parties. With all of the entertaining I do, passing it around to clear the table cloth before the dessert course would add a very Downton Abbey flair to the occasion – don’t you think? One of my friends recently told me that I entertain the way they did in the past which makes each event feel so special, so I suppose that’s why unique items like this appeal to me.

As a fan of Ina Garten, I’ve coveted her little silver bowl that she’s filled with everything from nuts to olives or a special dip. A vendor at a local shop that I frequent (Redoux), searches all year for antique pieces to fill each Christmas season with paper white bulbs (which by the way makes a lovely gift). She always seems to have something I’ve been looking for. This year I found two special items. A silver plated nut bowl similar to Ina’s without little handles and….

For years I’ve admired pictures of little pots de creme cup sets in Victoria magazine, but I had never actually seen a set. I especially liked the little cups with these rosebud tops that fit in with my signature “white” serving platters, bowls and dishes that I use for most of my entertaining. Finding these delicate beauties was like opening a gift I’ve always wanted and never thought I’d have. Stay tuned… chocolate pots de creme will be on my next ladies lunch menu – once the bulbs have finished blooming.

During a recent deep clean and reorganizing session of my closets, I found a white bag and pulled out a past find that I had forgotten about. Approximately 13 years ago, a friend and I had taken interest in the Opera and I found these beautiful mother of pearl beauties in an antique store. They have to be fairly old, because the stitching of the silk lining inside of the velvet bag that held the glasses had worn away. I found a pair exactly the same online, listed by an antique dealer. The description Lemaire Fabt Paris; 1900’s; Edwardian era; French opera glasses by Lemaire are crafted in brass and carefully inlaid with hand carved mother of pearl. There is a cute MOP button that finishes the piece. The mother of pearl has a lovely brown tinge to it and glows with a soft fire of purple blue pink and green when it hits the light.  (They are listed for $550!) I think I paid $50 for mine.

For the love of the Opera, found tucked away
in a case of Highland Road Antiques in Baton Rouge.

Most stores with affordable finds are actually little antique malls, where different vendors rent a small space to display their items for sale. The Copper Rooster in Old Covington (LA) is one that I frequent. There is one vendor there that has a little something I end up purchasing almost every visit (for damage control reasons – I don’t visit that often). Below are some of the special finds that I’ve collected from one particular vender’s booth.

The details of this delicate engraved silver platter with handles
is about the size of a dinner plate and has been used
at many of my gatherings in a number of ways.
The bottom has a small pedestal rather than lying flat, which is also unique.

On another visit I found this ornate silver tray, that while not especially old has the old charm of silver from the past. I’ve used it frequently when entertaining so neither this tray or the one above are hidden away in some cabinet. They have both become very much part of my parties adding just the right amount and sparkle and old world charm.

It wasn’t intentional, but this is starting to look like a set up for an elegant evening ahead!

A true hopeless romantic and love of all things French (as you can tell from the various items I’ve collected), one weekend visit brought me to a set of eight stemless champagne flutes with je t’aime (I love you in French) etched on the outside surface. I took a picture of the set and sent it to a friend of mine who oddly seems to buy exactly the same things I do. She loved them as much as I did, but didn’t want eight glasses. So I suggested I buy them and we split the set. If either of us had an anniversary party or other celebration of love that we wanted to use the glasses for, we could borrow the other four from each other. She quickly agreed.

As I carefully carried the glasses, two at a time to the register, I noticed among a jumble of items on a table nearby – a silver dish for serving caviar. I knew that my friend (“P”) had also told me that she loved caviar and that she and her husband would buy it for special occasions. The price was ridiculously low and I was so excited I had to buy it and surprise her.

Caviar dish and etched flutes.

Later in the year “P” sent me a picture of her table set with the two etched flute glasses filled with champagne and her caviar filled dish as she and her husband prepared to celebrate their wedding anniversary. I reached out to her for a picture of the caviar dish, and she sent me this picture of yet another celebration that included the dish I gifted her.

Etched with Je t’aime (I love you in French)

“P” also reminded me of another gift I had given her years ago, found in a combo antique-consignment shop outside of New Orleans. When you have a friend that has just about everything, it’s hard to think of a suitable gift year after year for birthdays or Christmas. Heck we have enough trouble year after year with spouses or other family members. In my imagination, I would love to find thoughtful, meaningful treasures for everyone in my life. If I can manage to get at least one special item over many years, I suppose that’s all that can be expected of oneself.

“P” and I are both drawn to the same things. We have a special connection in knowing what the other will love and appreciate. I think when you have that kind of connection with someone, it’s easier to find something now and then that’s special (like the caviar dish). “P” and her husband are espresso fans and when I saw these silver plated espresso cups, I thought of her.

A set of espresso cups – well cared for“P” has them looking brand new.

We spent the day together one Friday a few years back on Magazine Street in New Orleans. We had lunch at a great little restaurant and tried Lillet Blanc for the first time (her sweet husband later bought us each a bottle). We strolled through several shops including a large antique mall that for the most part was stacked with so many items it was hard to find things to appreciate. “P” peered into a jewelry case filled with various items and came upon these silver teaspoons with “The Roosevelt New York” stamped on the back. “P” considered purchasing them, but then declined – but I wasn’t going to pass them up. I decided to buy four for the iced tea lovers who come to my parties and mothers tea.

Being a book lover, I couldn’t pass up this special set of Collette stories (at Redoux Home -Market. I found this bronze book end (there was only 1) years ago and it just spoke to me as something special.

I especially love when I purchase something that finds a little story attached to it years later. Most of the antique stores I frequented decades ago are now gone, but some hold a memory connected to an item I found there, much like the little corner in the Copper Rooster. Two purchases occurred at a little shop in Harahan, LA. One is this imperfect chest that houses my teacup collection (now used for my annual Remembering our Mothers Tea) and the other….

See the story of how my tea cup collection began in the post

purchase was a set of four soup bowls and plates. After examining each cup and plate to check for any chips or cracks, I asked the shop keeper if she could discount the price. Shops are less willing to give a discount these days, but back then the norm was 10% if you asked and usually covered the tax.

One of a set of four – soup bowl with plate.

Instead of responding to my question, she asked me one. “Do you mind if I ask, what will you do with those?” I explained to her that I love to entertain and I intended to use them. “Oh,” she said, “they were my mother’s and I just want to sell them to someone who will love them as much as she did.” With that I did receive the discount, but kind of felt bad about it.

Years later when I would host my first Mothers’ Tea (in remembrance of my and some of my friends’ mothers who have passed) I served a soup each year in those same bowls. As I shared the story of the little conversation that was attached to this purchase I hoped that their previous owner’s spirit was with us, feeling remembered and know that I have indeed loved her bowls as much as she did.

Note: The items collected or gifted over the years have past lives attached to them filled with memories. New life has been given to each item with my own story of how they became a part of my life, or someone I care about, and live on in my celebrations or decor. Small shops are in need of your patronage. Support a local antique or consignment shop near you and search with fresh eyes to discover your own special treasures that can become part of your own celebrations and memories.

The Copper Rooster

Lee Lane in Old Covington, LA

My favorite little spot inside.

A little of old, new, craft, reproductions, home decor and more.

Mandeville, LA


A Year Long – Weekend(s) Project: Breakfast Room Makeover

A Christmas Present to myself in 2020….

My inspiration magazine photo.

For years I’ve imagined my breakfast room with a comfy banquette, but as with all things it took time to figure out the design I wanted and for several years I just hadn’t seen anything that inspired me. One weekend, I decided to sift through a stack of decor magazines with the intention of tearing out any pages of interest and tossing the rest, when I found the breakfast room design in the photo to the right. I realized I couldn’t stop looking at the picture, and knew that this was the inspiration I had been waiting for to update my breakfast room.

No, my room isn’t shaped exactly the same, and while I would love to have the beautiful hard wood floors shown in the inspiration photo, they’re not in my current budget – so my tile floors would remain. Also my windows reach almost to the base board, so I can’t create a permanent banquette that attaches to the wall (nor did I want to). I decided I wanted something free standing that would be easier to clean around and to rearrange the seating when necessary. Knowing how expensive something with tufting would be for a permanent version like the one in the photo, I knew I’d have to be patient while searching for something similar, but on a friendlier budget.

Tufted benches.

My patience paid off. I looked at these benches for weeks worried the color wouldn’t be right. Described as beige they are exactly the same creamy off-white of my dining room chairs and were exactly what I wanted. I ordered one to make sure it was right and then immediately ordered the second one the same day the first one arrived concerned their stock would eventually be depleted.

Two chairs that I purchased years ago at T. J. Maxx, that have been used for additional seating when a larger group had to sit around my dining room table, would now replace the dark gray chairs that were previously used. Without realizing until I had all of the chairs and benches together, both the benches and chairs have the same curved back design. (I’m always surprised when things like this happen naturally without my realizing it until after the items have been put together.

Meanwhile, I had to figure out how to soften the art on the walls. Deciding to repurpose the current botanical art I had previously put together with store bought frames and a book of botanical prints, I originally considered using a combination of cream and gray paint to achieve a distressed look to the black frames. Later I considered a mat gold might be better; but when I got to the craft store and searched for gold I found this champagne color that I decided was much prettier. It has a more subtle and softer finish than the gold.

This was truly a weekend project all on its own, because it took the entire weekend to search through the book for the best pages to replace the prior prints and then choose the best combinations of two. Meanwhile I sprayed two frames at a time with a couple of coats of paint. When they were all repainted, I selected the two prints that looked best together, for three sets of two frames. Once finished, the final decision was where to hang them.

The original frames were distressed black with red/orange botanicals.
Frames were sprayed with Krylon Colormaster “Champagne” and
images with shades of blue, lavenders and greens replaced the red versions.
Waiting on the table to arrive!!!!

As I said, a plan takes time and patience. As you can see not everything happens all at once. I found the inspiration picture early in the year before trying to put my own design into motion. Time passed from the Fourth of July, to Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and now Christmas was here as is evident from the red ribbon hanging on the lantern light fixture.

The art had been updated and placed on the walls and …… I finally found a table online back in November, hopeful with an expected shipping date of December 8th that it would be here well before Christmas. I instead received an email just two days prior that it was on back order and that it now would not be shipped until December 18th. Coming from New Jersey, it’s expected arrival date was somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

At this stage, once again all I could do is wait. The room looked so plain that I added some much needed greenery. Live plants seem to thrive in this window and not only improve the air quality since I spend so much time in the house these days; but gave the room a much needed pop of color, warmth and contrast.

While I really love the soft slate blue roman shades in the inspiration picture I wasn’t willing to part with my woven wood shades and drapes. So the drapes were brought to the dry cleaner for some freshening up, I steamed them after they were re-hung and there they would stay.

I forgot to mention a Labor Day sale purchase. For at least six years a two toned chest in a pricy furniture and home decor catalog would catch my eye. I had torn out the page and pinned it to my bulletin board. When browsing through a local furniture store for a table (during a Fourth of July sale) I found a similar two toned chest that was on sale. I seriously looked it over, but knowing I was trying to focus on the table purchase, I passed on the chest.

Two months later, still searching for a table (Labor Day weekend), I went back to the store, having been told they get new things every day. As I passed the chest that was in the same spot, a tag hung from it and several other pieces throughout the store, with a “Manager’s Special Price” tag that was 50% less than the previous sale price and knowing the price of the version I originally spotted in a catalog, I knew this piece couldn’t go down much more in price. So I bought it!

Multiple ideas had tossed through my mind on what to do with this large bare wall in my kitchen for several years. The two tone chest captures the same style of the table I had ordered and beautifully displayed my collection of white serving platters, bowls and dishes.

Chest before the lights were fully installed and waiting on the table.

I purchased LED tape lights that connect with just the right length cords and reached the distance between each shelf. My handyman Tim drilled holes in the back just big enough to feed the small connectors through, the wiring hidden behind the chest and taped down against the back side out of sight. The two toned wood compliments my cream painted walls and the dark wood cabinets of my kitchen in a way I never expected.

It’s also another really rewarding experience when you step back and look at the entire area and discover that other little things came together on their own, like the way that the backsplash tile is two toned like the furniture and also similar to the tufted pattern in the bench.

Finally two very kind delivery men arrived with the table and my breakfast room was complete before 2020 came to an end. Finishing a room after all of the searching and waiting feels like such an accomplishment when it’s finally complete.

My final item for this open living area is a new sofa. Something that is very hard to imagine in a room from a catalog or online site. Measurements will have to be taken and careful calculating to find the right style and fit. Once again, I’ll have to find something to inspire me and then start my search in the New Year. For now, this project is complete.


Dollar Store Elevated Pumpkin Decor

Dollar Tree purchases artificial succulents.
Craft store spray adhesive.
Dollar Tree moss, craft store 99 cent rolls of ribbon and glue gun.
A variety of colors makes a cheerful presentation.
The finished pumpkins can be used as table decor or placed on end tables,
in the bathroom for a touch of fall. The three of these will
be favors for my next small lunch gathering with friends.
A medium sized pumpkin can handle the larger succulents.
The succulents look very real. At the end of the season the pumpkins will not last forever, but the succulents can be pulled off and stored away to reuse next year.