I’ve Got Great Knobs

29 12 2012


I love my little home in the burbs. It’ll never be in Architectural Digest. But here are some projects that I’ve done that have turned my home into my creative oasis. They go from easiest to difficult. (FYI: I like color and sparkly things.)

Tip: All home improvement projects take twice as long and cost twice as much as you expect. It never goes exactly as planned, but creative magic often happens in those unexpected accidents.

My Top 10 DIY Projects

1. Great Knobs


New knobs are the quickest and easiest way to freshen up cabinets, doors or furniture. Anthropologie has great knobs even if they are pricey. Google “cabinet jewelry” if you like shiny things, that’s what my red kitchen knobs and pulls are called.

Tip: Think use before you buy knobs. Don’t use a delicate knob or one with nooks and crannies in a heavy use area.

2. Family Stories


I come from a long line of repurposers. Maw Maw got tired of Paw Paw’s old metal WWI doughboy helmet lying around, so she painted it, drilled a hold in the bottom and made a flowerpot out of it. I love this heirloom and hung it on the wall along with this great photo of my Grandfather’s WWI Army Company. It’s a good conversation piece.

The pictures on the bottom are brass rubbings I did. If you’re in Great Brittan brass rubbings are often listed under things to do with children.  These make great souvenirs for any age and can usually be done for a small fee or for free.

Tip: Be careful if you repurpose something vintage, your “improvement” could cause it to lose its value. Find out its value first.

3.  The Red Light District


I found this chandelier at a garage sale. I knew I wanted to “funky it up”. I didn’t want to permanently change it knowing I’d eventually get tired of this look. I added light shades and bought some beads on a string. I wanted it to be a little over the top and kitschy. I didn’t really realize that it would look like a light in a bordello. It’s still up and I smile every time I look at my “sexy” chandelier.

Tip: When working on something that will go above your head, think about what it will look like from underneath.

4. Sparkly Things


I do love things that are shiny. I painstakingly glued each jewel on these house numbers. It did take a ridiculously long time. Some people knit, I bedazzle.

Tip: When doing something outdoors, make sure your materials are weather proof.

5.  Photo Collections

photo wall

I took B&W photos on a vacation to Malaysia/Singapore. Framing is expensive so I started collecting frames at garage sales. I painted them all black. I got a frame store to cut the mats and the glass and I assembled them. I did this for about $200 and as opposed to spending that much per picture.

Tip: When putting together a collection to hang, arrange them on the floor first before hanging.

6. Accent Walls


masking stripesI have an aubergine wall and I wanted a red wall. I wanted it to be a little different so I striped it. The secret is taping. You’ll need a ruler and a level—I lightly drew a pencil line before I taped it. This is a real pain to do and takes more time than painting, but is critical to its success. I painted it with a matte paint and used polyurethane to create the stripe.

Tip: Use a matte and high gloss paint of the same color. The polyurethane left foamy residue. Dark colors work better than light colors.

7. Can you move that over an inch?


I saw an ad in some magazine for a vinyl clock that goes on the wall like wallpaper. I created my own and painted it on the wall. I found a few clock shapes I liked with a photo search online and then drew it in the computer program Illustrator. I printed out the actual size on a large poster printer and used it as my pattern. I taped the pattern to the wall and made sure it was exactly where I wanted it before painting. The clock face is real.

Tip: Make your pattern the actual color you want, it’ll confirm whether it’s the color you really want to paint on the wall.

8. Laundry Holder


This may look like a chair, but it’s where I throw my clothes. It was my grandparents’ parlor furniture, from the 1930’s. The cushion is stuffed with horsehair and is very uncomfortable. It was shabby and not in a cool shabby chic way when I got it. So I painted and re upholstered the sofa and two chairs. Painting the details showcased the craftsmanship in a way that wasn’t noticed prior to the paint job. Paint is an easy way to make an old piece of furniture contemporary.

Tip: When painting furniture, have a plan. Take a picture; try out color schemes with markers or colored pencils before painting.

9. Hurricane Bar


I have this because my sweetie is a man of practical skills and loves to build furniture. I wrote a post call “If you give Connie a glass of wine” about creating this. The idea came post hurricane when fence’s were blown down and I needed a something to hold my wine and wine glasses.

Tip: You have to have the right tools to do this.

10. The Big Kahuna: Bathroom Remodel

Bathroom reno

Just like #9, this happened because my sweetie knows how to do these things—electrical, plumbing, furniture building. We had a plan, a small budget (that doubled), the time and another bathroom we could use. It was designed around the vessel sink I found on Overstock.com for $100. I hung art that my daughter did years ago, I pulled a vanity chair that was my grandmother’s out of the attic, a ceiling fan and art that had hung in my sweetie’s previous home that held memories for him. Each of these details was a DIY project in itself. This project confirmed what I already knew about taking twice as long and costing twice as much. But when it’s all done it’s worth it.

Tip: If you put  in a vessel sink you need to realize that it’s higher than the sink you’re used to. Build accordingly or your short friends will have to use a step stool to wash their hands.

My little home, it’s full of hidden jewels and jewel tones. And remember, you too can have great knobs.


New Orleans, a feast for the senses

22 12 2012

This is part of a bloghop created by #GenFab blogger Lori Lavender Luz called A Perfect Moment. Lori’s perfect moment, like mine was in New Orleans. You can click on this link to go to her story and other perfect moments.


I only live 90 miles away, but New Orleans is a world apart. Every time I visit, I love it more. I’ve never been there during Christmas. My sweetie and I just spent the weekend savoring it all. I discovered Christmas in this old city has it’s own feel; it’s not Mardi Gras or festival time or it’s-so-hot-I-can’t-breathe-I-must-find-a-cold-bar-summertime. It’s beautiful and sparkly, people aren’t in a hurry, there’s more children with their families in the grand hotels all dressed up in their holiday best. There’s the odd mix of evergreen and palm trees and the illusion in hotel lobbies that it’s cold and wintery yet everyone is wearing short sleeves. The city feels more ancient at Christmas, maybe it’s the carolers dressed in vintage clothes sitting in the bars taking a break from singing their carols. Or maybe it’s the old spirits of those who have walked it’s streets, have once again come back for a visit.

I love the aromas of New Orleans
New Orleans has it’s own smell that’s like no other city. It’s the wet, humid, tropical, heavy air mixed with french bread, coffee, frying foods, beignets, alcohol and car exhaust. You sense the decay and the decadence and the history. It fills your senses the moment you arrive. For me it breathes welcome back.

I love the sights and sounds of New Orleans
Car horns, people talking, laughing, arguing, but mostly I hear music and as the sound of one musician fades you hear another. A trio of men singing Temptations-style wearing matching suits and standing in the middle of the street; musicians playing instruments I’ve never seen; crowds dancing and clapping; young street people with matted hair making up for their lack of talent with their great enthusiasm.

I love the tastes of New Orleans
Almost immediately upon arrival, we go to have a drink at my favorite spot in the Quarter. The balcony at Muriel’s overlooking Jackson Square in the shadow of the Cathedral.  Muriel’s is a favorite place for a memorable meal; their crawfish and goat cheese crepes will remain a sense memory that stays with you for the rest of your life. But this is also a haunted restaurant. It was once a private home and the owner gambled it away in a poker game one night long, long ago. He came home and hung himself so the home wouldn’t be taken away from his widow. If you meander through the back hallway on the way to the balcony, you’ll see the table set every day with bread and wine for his ghost.

Great food is so much the heart and soul of this city. And whatever restaurant you stumble upon will quickly become your favorite until you stumble upon another. Even the bread and coffee are better here. Herbsaint is a little bistro that we’ve been hearing about. I love to watch cooking shows and am always intrigued by the food combinations that I never thought could be put together. The magic that occurs when tastes blend and marry in your mouth with the perfect pairing of wine.  We had one of their signature dishes Housemade Spaghetti with Guanciale and Fried-Poached Farm Egg. I do not know how you can fry a poached egg with a crust and keep the yoke buttery. But they did it. When you cut that egg and it drizzles into the pasta, well, my eyes rolled back in my head, as I tasted total deliciousness.

A toast to New Orleans
When I win the lottery, I’ll buy a French Quarter home with a courtyard and a balcony. I’ll call to you from the street and invite you up for a drink, maybe a Pimm’s Cup or a Sazarac. And you’ll join me on the balcony and we’ll wish everyone below a Merry Christmas.


10 Small Things I Can Do #stopitnow

17 12 2012

GenFab bloggers across the country are raising their voices in unison and saying stop it now. We want to be a constructive voice after the most recent school shooting. We are linking our stories together, other’s links are at the end of this post.


Mother Teresa said to do little things with great love.

I do not pretend to have the answers to how to stop the escalating violence in this country. But I am no longer going to feel helpless and do nothing. I’m using the hashtag #stopitnow. We all have a voice, it’s time to use it. If you have a constructive comment or idea on how to break the cycle of violence, feel free to use the hashtag. And I know it’s not that simple. Inspired by Mother Teresa’s quote, I’ve come up with 10 simple things I can do. They are ten tiny baby steps, but it has me moving forward.

1. Turn off the news.

2. Educate myself on the issues.

3. Communicate to my representative on the state and national level.

4. Vote.

5. Do not argue; only engage in a civil conversation.

6. Do not give into helplessness or anger.

7. Get involved in an organization that reflects my beliefs.

8. Live in the moment and hold those I love tightly.

9.  Practice random acts of kindness.

10. Do not learn the name of the gunman; do not reward him with fame. Learn the name and stories of those whose lives were cut short.

Charlotte Bacon (6 yrs old)

Daniel Barden (7 yrs old)

Olivia Engel (6 yrs old)

Josephine Gay (7 yrs old)

Ana Marquez-Greene (6 yrs old)

Dylan Hockley (6 yrs old)

Madeleine Hsu (6 yrs old)

Catherine Hubbard (6 yrs old)

Chase Kowalski (7 yrs old)

Jesse Lewis (6 yrs old)

James Mattioli (6 yrs old)

Grace McDonnell (7 yrs old)

Emilie Parker (6 yrs old)

Jack Pinto (6 yrs old)

Noah Pozner (6 yrs old)

Caroline Previdi (6 yrs old)

Jessica Rekos (6 yrs old)

Avielle Richman (6 yrs old)

Benjamin Wheeler (6 yrs old)

Allison Wyatt (6 yrs old)

Rachel Davino (29 y/o, Teacher)

Dawn Hochsprung (47 y/o, School principal)

 Nancy Lanza (52 y/o, Mother of gunman)

Anne Marie Murphy (52 y/o, Teacher)

Lauren Rousseau (30 y/o, Teacher)

Mary Sherlach (56 y/o, School psychologist)

Victoria Soto (27 y/o, Teacher)

Amen. Blessed Be. Namaste.

Below are powerful words penned by the #GenFab blogging community.

Karen Wendy Irving: Thoughts on another senseless tragedy

Sharon Greenthal: The Sandy Hook Massacre and Gun Control: What You Can do to Help

We Are All Guilty When Any Child is Shot Dead (ReasonCreek.com)

Gun Control is a Parenting Issue (HuffPost Parents)

The Sandy Hook Massacre and Gun Control (EmptyHouseFullMind.com)

When will we ever learn? (Middle-AgedDiva.com)

Monday Morning after Connecticut: Hug Your Kids and Let Them Go (MomFaze.com)

Hope for Humanity Rests with the Individual (TheFurFiles.com)

We Are All Guilty When Any Child is Shot Dead (ReasonCreek.com)

Gun Control is a Parenting Issue (HuffPost Parents)

Justin Trudeau and the long gun registry (macleans.ca) (Just in case you think we’ve got it all figured out in Canada)

Thoughts on Yet Another Senseless Tragedy – After the Kids Leave

Hope for Humanity Rests With the Individual– The Furflies

On Love, On Silence, On Speaking Our Minds – Daily Plate of Crazy

Parents, it’s Up to Us to Stop Gun Violence -Yvonne Condes on MomsLA

After Newtown – Holding Them Close  – SoCal Mom

Searching for a Child – Searching for an Answer – Relocation the Blog

Of Guns and Sleeping Elephants – After the Kids Leave

Newtown Old News – Darryle Pollack

Monday Morning After Connecticut – Momfaze

Gun Control Would Not Have Prevented Sandy Hook – resoulin’ My Dancing Shoes

Bullet Points or Me and a Gun – The 3 R’s Blog

Countdown to the End of the World – Ronna Benjamin on Betterafter50.com

A Call for Action – The Giggling Trucker’s Wife

Solve for X – Ambling and Rambling

Wordlessness, Action, and the Sandy Hook Tipping Point – Marci Rich

What They Should Have  – The Boomer Rants

Guns Do Kill People – Style Substance Soul

Do Something – Write Mind Open Heart

Why I Believe We Are Bigger Than Our Weapons – Donna Highfill

A Broken Heart – The Kids are Grown, Now What?

When Evil Shadows Good – Books Is Wonderful

Knowing That No Sense Can Be Made of the Newtown Tragedy – Midlife Bloggers

Dirge – Life With the Campbells

It’s Up to Us to Stop the Violence – Your Family Viewer

A Creative Oasis

8 12 2012

I just played bartender for a friend while her home was on a historic tour of homes in the oldest neighborhood in the city. She’s been prepping for the tour for two months. She bought a rundown cottage 14 years ago, so she’s really been preparing for 14 years.

If you toured it last night you would never believe that not long after she moved in, she allowed my young and wild Girl Scout troop to have a slumber party there. It was in the first stage of renovation and we knew there was nothing they could destroy. She taught them how to climb out of its windows.  Last night with it’s candlelight and perfection and Zen monastic music setting the mood you would not recognize it as the same house where 8-year-olds sang Spice Girls on a karaoke machine.

She told me that she has come to view her home as a work of art. Indeed it is, it could grace the pages of any glossy magazine.

My home will never grace the pages of any magazine. But it is my creative oasis. I just finished painting every room in my little house. It’s only taken me four years. My ex and I bought this little starter home in the burbs more than 25 years ago. My biggest challenge living here was the decision to remain post divorce. My ex and I always put our daughter first and even after we moved on, we both wanted her to stay in the only home she had ever known.

I remember the moment when I decided it was time to make the house mine. My ex had never put back up the house numbers after an exterior paint job. They sat on the porch rail for a few years waiting to be rehung. It slowly dawned on me that I couldn’t blame him any more. It was all up to me now. So before I hung them I decided to bejewel them. With each tiny sparkly jewel I glued in place I started to make this house my home.

house numbers

I had half the house painted when my sweetie and I began our new chapter together. As my daughter grew up and moved out, my sweetie moved in. Now I was faced with a new challenge. It needed to be his home too; no longer what had become my girly house.  So began the purge. In order for him to move in, I had to clean out. The more I cleaned out, the more old baggage I was still carrying around got thrown away.

My sweetie is an amazing craftsman. Over the years building furniture has been his hobby. Our home is now filled with his handcrafted furniture. The old studio is now our master bedroom. The old master bedroom is now the home of our brand new business, Greenview Designs. The favorite art from homes of his past now hang on the walls of our home. Things we have bought and built together are slowly filling the nooks and crannies as this continues to become our home.

We’ll put up a Christmas tree this weekend.  On it will be ornaments that hung on my grandparent’s tree, handmade ornaments from my childhood and my daughter’s, and the beautiful Collectible White House ornaments that come from the decade my sweetie lived in Washington DC.

pooping toys

It’s not like my friend’s beautiful work-of-art home. Hers wouldn’t have the pooping Christmas toy collection. That’s perfectly OK; this creative oasis is our home.

Life is Like a Song

2 12 2012

Autumn has been a season filled with friends and music. Songs speak to us and can bring us back to special moments in our lives. From road trips, to weddings, to milestone birthdays, this season’s songs have kept singing to me of love and friendship.

If dreams were thunder
Lightening was desire
This old house would’ve burned down
A long time ago
—Angel from Montgomery, sung by Bonnie Raitt and by me in my car driving to see her

I took a road trip across the south to listen to Bonnie Raitt perform at the classic Sanger theater in downtown Mobile. Her music has been playing in the background for more than half of my life. The real reason for the trip was to hang out with one of my dearest and oldest friends. She and I have shared our life’s stories over countless cups of coffee and equally countless glasses of wine. There’s been time when I’ve fled to sit on her porch to cry over lost love, but mostly we get together and laugh. We’ve watched our children grow up, seen our life upsized, downsized, our intimate relationships shift and change, our careers evolve and we have always accepted each other for who we are.

We’ve always said when we get old, we’re going to open a Voodoo Shoppe in the French Quarter and live above it and yell at people from our balcony as they pass by on the street. Sometimes we practice what we would yell from her porch overlooking her pool to imaginary people…this always makes us cackle. Bonnie Raitt, John Prine, Jazz Fest—music is always playing in the background of our friendship.

And when I tell you that I love you oh
You’re gonna say you love me too oh
—I Should Have Known Better, a Beatles tune sung by my daughter at a friend’s wedding

My daughter is a musician. Her school years were filled with piano/flute/oboe/choir performances. She stepped away from her music for a short while and has recently rediscovered it with an unlikely instrument, the ukulele. She’s playing and singing for the pure joy of it these days. A casual video of her singing caught the attention of a work friend as she began to plan her wedding. And before too much time had passed, there was my baby girl playing her old flute and her new ukulele and singing in her beautiful clear voice at the wedding. With the setting sun backlighting the scene, a fresh take on an old Beatles classic was a perfect song to float in the air at this lovely outdoor wedding. My friend, the bride is closer to my daughter in age and they have become friends.

The bride’s grandmother is an amazing energetic 94-year-old who got up with the band at the reception and sang “Jambalaya”. Her grandmother recently discovered jello shots. She’ll tell you in her southern drawl, “Yes, they are delicious, I like to make mine with bourbon.” We’ve discovered several unexpected connections between our families. There we all were, new friends with old family connections spanning generations, singing and dancing and celebrating with the bride and groom the beginning of their journey together.

Songs about hope and dreams
Songs about loving everything
—Beneath these Strings, a song by friend Martin Flanagan on his new first-ever CD

Friends and family gathered to celebrate a milestone birthday of my sweetie. A cool, crisp Fall night, under a full moon with it’s long refection spilling across the dark river, sitting on a pier that bridges the space between land and water. Full of gumbo, drink in hand, surrounded by friendships that spilled across decades. A night full of storytelling and reminders of long-forgotten stories. Listening to friends sing their songs and play their music. Well…it all made for a magical evening that took my breath away. I’m also thankful no one fell off that pier.

My sweetie and I have been friends for over thirty years. We know many of the same songs that have been milestones in our separate lives. We’ve just passed our third year anniversary of our first kiss. Life, love and friendship are all singing together this season.

At last
My love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song
—At Last, me and my sweetie’s song