Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Design Rules & Guidelines

I majored in Interior Design in college. It was the only thing I wanted to study. As a young girl I used to pour over the house magazines and tear out pictures of my favorite rooms. My mother was artistic and arranging flowers and putting colors together came naturally to her. Sadly, her mother died young - before I was born. From the stories I heard about my grandmother, I think that is where the artistic abilities came from. We had a joke in our Hoffmann house after I married that the artistic trend came from my family, the Stuarts. My son who is now the actor (see side bar) announced in kindergarten during Show and Tell, “I’m artistic. I’m a Stuart!

There used to be definite design rules - all woods in the room must match; arrangements will be symmetrical; all the furniture styles in the house must be the same. In today’s design world those comforting rules are out the window and anything goes. The goal is to have a room and house that pleases those who live in it. Maybe it is more difficult to have no hard and fast rules to abide by, but there are still some guidelines.

Proportion - the relationship of parts or objects to one another based on size.
Balance - the arrangement of things in the room to create an even feel. If things are not balanced you may feel uncomfortable in the room but not realize why. The balance may be symmetrical or asymmetrical.
Rhythm - repetition creates rhythm. It may be repetition of color, shape, texture or theme.
Contrast - can be used to create interest.
Harmony - when these guidelines are followed, the resulting room will be harmonious. The furnishings and decorative elements will relate to each other.
Focus - this one I added. Usually when you walk into a room there is a dominant element that your eye goes to - a brightly colored sofa, a large piece of art, a fireplace, an indoor tree, a picture window. Then as you take in the rest of the room, the rhythm keeps your eyes moving around the room.

Which of the guidelines do you think were used in this room? My eye goes to the window and sofa as the focus. The next thing I see is the rhythm created by the print lamp shades and the print pillows. The room is balanced and harmonious. Certainly everything is in proportion. You could say the darkness of the furniture is the contrast. Eventually these guidelines become instinct.

Monday, June 8, 2009

We’re keeping rabbits?

Women love distressed furniture - things that have been loved and used and bear all the marks of that use. When I was running Sweetwater Country Home, we had some antique, very distressed pieces on the floor. While looking over our pieces one woman told me the story about how she had found a distressed, rustic cupboard with wire on the door fronts. She loaded it into her van and excitedly took it home and asked her husband to help her unload it. He took one look at her “find” and said, “Are we going to keep rabbits?”

This photo is from an old Country Living magazine (9/08). I keep my old magazines and enjoy them again and again. Country Living is one of my favorites.

I checked online and found this great site, Cottage Chic Store.
If you can’t find a naturally distressed bed you like - buy a new one.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cherries - red and sweet!

We have been enjoying fresh cherries and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of them. While spitting out the pits I was reminded of Mutt, the cherry-eating dog, and the story I had just finished reading.

“The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be” by Farley Mowat
A hilarious true story of a family and their dog, Mutt, who liked to climb trees and ladders and do other eccentric things.

In this excerpt it is the 1930s and the family is on a trip in their open car which has a rumble seat. They are driving from Saskatoon, Canada to the Pacific and it is dusty on the prairie. They are wearing driving goggles (including the dog) to keep the dust out of their eyes and eating fruit.

“...Mutt shared our appetites, and for three days he ate nothing at all but fruit.

“He preferred peaches, muskmelon, and cherries, but cherries were his undoubted favorites. At first he had trouble with the pits, but he soon perfected a rather disgusting trick of squirting them out between his front teeth, and as a result we had to insist that he point himself away from us and the car whenever he was eating cherries.

“I shall never forget the baleful quality of the look directed at Mutt by a passenger on the little ferry in which we crossed the Okanagan River. Perhaps the look was justified. Certainly Mutt was a quaint spectacle as he sat in the rumble seat, his goggles pushed far up on his forehead, eating cherries out of a six-quart basket.

“After each cherry he would rise his muzzle, point it riverside, and nonchalantly spit the pit into the green waters of the river.”

What a picture that dog must have been spitting cherry pits!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Revenge in the Garden?

I always plant marigolds near my tomatoes because the marigolds repel nematodes (soil dwelling microscopic white worms) that are harmful to tomatoes. Actually, marigolds are natural insect repellents but they are vulnerable to slugs. Well, the tomatoes are fine but the marigolds took a direct hit from the slugs. The slugs must be fat and happy with their tasty meals, yet I can’t find them on the plants, just their dried slime shinning in the sun. Guess I need to get up earlier and sneak up on them. I considered using Diatomaceous Earth (DE). I have had good results in the past with this powder which is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. The DE acts like razor blades and cuts up the slugs, but DE works only when it is dry and with the weather here I am feeling like I live in the rain forest. Yesterday one of the roads near here was closed due to high water and on the main road to town we could see the creek was just barely below the bridge.

Another thing that has worked in the past is beer. We had a terrible slug problem in Cooperstown, NY. I would fill a shallow cat food can with beer and bury it so the top of the can was at ground level. Maybe the slugs thought it was a beer party and they dove in en masse! Every morning I would empty the cans of dead slugs and put out fresh beer. I bought the cheapest beer available. So why didn’t I do that now? The only beer in the refrigerator was bought for my son Matt. I kept forgetting to buy something really cheap. And it just keeps raining so the slugs are thriving. I was waiting for hot dry weather, anathema to slugs. The marigolds are dead - just little brown stems sticking out of the clay/dirt. Should I say “live and let live,” or get revenge?

Friday, June 5, 2009

It was a wet dark day .....

I woke with a cool breeze moving across my face. From the open window came the sound of a steady rain. It was a dark morning and I could snuggle in, no place I had to be - but there were hungry birds and cats to be fed.

Would there be any birds out and about in this heavy rain? It was dark under the trees and everything was soaked. The moment the feeders were hung (they have to be taken in at night because of a persistent raccoon) the wet birds arrived. A thoroughly soaked female cardinal was the first customer for breakfast. She tried to shake off the rain as she ate. Her mate sat in the bushes, politely waiting for her to finish before he ate. Then the woodpeckers arrived in force - the red bellied male, the downy couple and the male and female hairy woodpeckers. They were wet, hungry birds and they cleaned out the feeders by the end of the day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Save $ Money on Entertainment!

Have you been to your library lately? Yes, your local library! As well as books and computers, libraries have a nice selection of VHS tapes, music CDs, books on CD and movies on DVDs. We recently checked out 4 DVDs of the “Campion” Series from the BBC. Another movie from the library we enjoyed was “Bread and Tulips,” an award-winning comedy about a woman who realizes there is a lot in life she is missing.

And then there are the books - thousands of volumes. You can find nearly any subject you want from science to genealogy. And in fiction, everything from mysteries to romance. And don’t overlook the new-book-section for both fiction and non-fiction.

I have always been a library user and taught my children to be. But we still bought lots of books and movies. Now the bookshelves are full and with retirement there is less money to spend. So we go to the library every week.

Our library has “Fine-free-Friday,” so if I slip up and don’t get a book back in time, I return it on Friday. How cool is that? My hubby and I go to our Orange County Library every Friday and we each get a bag of books plus a couple of movies. That is hours of entertainment - all free. We have movie night, complete with popcorn. Can’t beat the price!

If your county has more than one library, they will swap books within the system. So if the library you go to doesn’t have the book you want, they will check the computer and if it is in their system, they will get it from another branch. If you have a state college nearby, you can also use their library.

Using the library gives hours of entertainment at no cost, other than a one-time small charge for a card. Another benefit is, if your bookshelves are already full, you aren’t adding to the overcrowding since you return the books to the library. Having said that, I sometimes check out a book I decide I want to own. The kind of book I will read over and over again - usually a reference book - maybe about gardening or crafts. Then I go to Amazon.com where I often find my book of choice used. I have bought used many times and have always been pleased.

So, if the entertainment budget is a bit tight, I’ll see you at the library!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Three Bean Salad

1 can wax beans, 15.5 oz
1 can green beans, 15.5 oz
1 can kidney beans, 15.5 oz
1 small onion thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped pimentoes

Drain beans. Mix 3/4 cup sugar (or Splenda), 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1/3 cup canola oil, and 2/3 cup vinegar. Pour over bean mixture and refrigerate.

This salad goes nicely with a sandwich, a hamburger or a plain meat entree liked fried pork chops or chicken.

Monday, May 25, 2009

His name is Paws!

He has extra toes on his front paws so they look like catchers mitts. He walks like a ballerina in toe shoes. And he has silky fur. His favorite perch indoors is on the back of my recliner. When he faces forward I can rest my head on his tummy and he puts his paws on my shoulders and curls his tail around my neck. We spend every evening that way. When I press my head back against him his purr gets louder and I can almost play a tune that way. When I recline all the way back he stays there for the ride, then naps with me.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Watchdog .... watching!

Don’t you just hate to hear a dog bark, and bark, and bark? My dog, Wendy, was a soft, sweet, lovely hound/lab mix, but thank goodness, she wasn’t a barker. When we lived in Pennsylvania, our neighbors, Joan and Chris, were adding a kitchen/bathroom to their house and were unable to use their shower. We told them to use ours and we would leave the door unlocked so they could come in early in the morning and go upstairs to the bathroom. When we saw them later that day we commented that we never heard them come in. They said, “Wendy is a great watch dog. She watched us come in and she watched us go out!”

So about barking dogs, I’d rather hear the birds sing - or maybe the mice, now that I know they sing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Unusual eyes

It finally stopped raining so I set out eagerly on my walk. Look who I encountered! I don't know his name but he was friendly - thank goodness. Look at those eyes!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Help the birds build a home!

Everyone needs help with their "nest" now and then, so I decided to help the birds and give them some building materials. My cats were happy to be brushed and glad to donate their hair. (Actually, I didn't ask them.) The onion bag was a little difficult as it had a huge label glued front and back. After tearing it apart, I had to hand stitch the strips together to make a bag. Leaving the bag open-ended top and bottom, I threaded ribbon through to make a drawstring closure on both ends. I stuffed in the cat hair and hung the bag in the shrubbery. The birds took all the hair and I refilled it. Being disappointed at not seeing the birds take the hair, this time I put it on top of the feeder.

Do you suppose the young birds will be confused by growing up in a cat-hair-lined nest? Will they think all cats are friends?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eggs - A cooking tip

My husband likes to buy extra large or jumbo eggs. That is fine unless I am baking and need small eggs. I checked my Betty Crocker cook book and found this guide for how much an egg should measure. I hope this guide helps you as much as it helped me!
1 egg = 1/4 to 1/3 cup
2 eggs = 1/3 to 1/2 cup
3 eggs = 1/2 to 2/3 cup

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Neighborhood Walk

Several times a week I take a walk in the neighborhood. There is a nice walk of a mile and a half (round trip) that takes me to these secluded stairs that lead to the lake.
Here is the pier where I can sit and hang my legs off the end. It is too far above the water for my feet to get wet but it's fun to dangle a long stick in the water. I like to sit and feel the breeze and listen to the birds. And I am getting my exercise in a pleasant way. Beats going to the gym and walking on the treadmill! This way I can see the flowers and butterflies and smell the cut grass. I'll bet you wish you were retired, like me!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bear, Book and Candle

By special request here is another of my "Collections" photos. This is my bear friend and sometime garden assistant, sitting in a antique child's chair. She has chosen one of my old books "The Tailor of Gloucester" by Beatrix Potter and has a candle to read by.