A Pretty and Functional Den

I was visiting Mom recently and she gets pretty much every magazine there is. She had a copy of the Dec. 2010 issue of a really good home magazine, Southern Living.

I spotted a room makeover in this issue and was really impressed with the attention to detail, palette and design of the room. The article appears on pg. 72 and is called “Meet The Hassingers.” It is a story about a couple that met and married and then had to mesh their own personal styles. I am not sure what happened to this world, but apparently men also have opinions on design and style. When I was first married this was all considered the woman’s prerogative and frankly, my own husband never cared what I chose.

But, it’s all different now and that is a good thing. Anyway, if you take a look at the “before” photos, they are comical at best. They feature two giant brown leather recliners and for added measure a huge green leather (pretty sure we are talking faux leather here) wing chair, a sad window treatment and a super-sized TV above the fireplace. This must have been his home, not hers.

The transformation is fantastic. The designer chose a soft neutral grey green for the walls, a large sailcloth sofa big enough for two or four with masculine tacks and then to feminize the space, added bright pink and green pillows, hot pink vases with roses and colorful art to the walls.

But what most impressed me was the window treatment. So many people are skittish about anything but beige fabrics and this designer chose an ikat design drapery in a green, red, pink and gold palette. It totally pulls the room together. The TV is still atop the fireplace, which is ok since there are other interesting things to focus like the jute rug, artwork and accessories.

Of course, I have a few areas I would have treated differently. While the fireplace is not centered on the main wall and is flanked by bookshelves, I think the choice of recovering books with white or off white covers is weird. These shelves would be better suited with some interest, like greenery, and vases in the accent colors or even plain white vases mixed in with real book covers. I think the art on the left wall is hung way too low, as if only a three year old could appreciate it and the giant lamp hanging over the sofa is really difficult to sit beneath. A really big lamp in red or pink on the table behind the sofa would be great. I do like the comfy upholstered chairs that flank the fireplace but I am not wild about that cocktail table.

That said, the overall transformation really captured what the clients wanted – a comfortable and functional room in which they could relax and entertain.

Photos from Southern Living


A New Stenciling Project

We were so fortunate to travel to Cincinnati for Thanksgiving this year and visit with both our children and grandchildren. Of course, Mom came too. Our good friends, Mike and Ann Hall were visiting their daughter in Pittsburgh and offered us their home for our reunion.

Well of course we had the best time holding the new grandbabies, laughing, eating and visiting with each other. For a thank-you gift, I told Ann and Mike I would stencil their powder room. Now, I have stenciled many times before, so I should have known it would take me a long time, but I am ambitious and knew I could complete the project.

Mike and Ann are such great clients and friends. They completely trust me and this time that trust came in handy. We chose a stencil together from an internet site, but it failed to arrive on time. I found a stencil here in Rochester, changed the paint color we had chosen previously, purchased a valance and drapery rod and Mike and Ann took off for Pittsburgh without ever seeing any of it.

The stencil is a medallion style and I worked on it over the holiday until it was completed. I took some good photos for you so you could see the progress.

I will give you a few stenciling tips:

  1. Use a good stencil brush as the hairs from the inexpensive ones fall out very quickly.
  2. Buy the small bottles of acrylic paints, (they are about $1 a bottle and you need very little).
  3. Buy as thick a stencil as you can find and if it is less pricey, buy 2 so you can cut one for the difficult corners.
  4. Get yourself a can of spray mount so you can spray it on the back of the stencil. It will adhere to the wall and move very easily—tape just does not work as well.
  5. A roll of Scotch Blue Painter's Tape is a must for the baseboard work, around the light fixtures etc.
  6. Never be without a damp Handi Wipe or paper towel to clean up smudges.
  7. You need a good pencil with a clean eraser and a measuring tape and ruler.

Stenciling takes patience but it is truly one of the best ways to inexpensively decorate. And if you are unhappy with the way it looks, it is so simple to paint over it, unlike wallcovering that is so difficult to remove.

If you have any questions, e-mail me at beckybarras@hotmail.com or leave a comment and I will be happy to help!


ScotchBlue Alert!!

Can you believe it? I recently wrote an entry on “Baby Andy’s Bachelor Pad” and mentioned that I used ScotchBlue Painter's Tape when striping his nursery and they picked up on it! ScotchBlue tweeted about my project earlier today, so please take a look at their twitter page. They say "Baby Andy is lucky! Check out Becky's amazing striped nursery."

Since decorating Andy’s nursery, I have stenciled Adie’s hallway and my good friend Ann’s powder room, always using ScotchBlue Painter's Tape to guarantee perfect results! Please check out their twitter page today!


An Incredible Cranberry Salad

OK, I know most of you love that jellied cranberry sauce right out of the can with the ridges still on it, but sometimes there really is something more delicious you can at least try.

For many years, my mother-in-law experimented with new cranberry recipes – relishes, citrus dishes with cranberries that were way too orangey etc. etc. A number of years ago she served a wonderful cranberry/fruit mixture and I have been making it ever since. Just having made it recently for Thanksgiving, I thought I would share it with you so you could give it a try at your next holiday dinner.

Cranberry Salad
1 small pkg. raspberry jello
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained (save the juice)
Boiling water to make 1 c. when combined with reserved pineapple juice
1 large can mandarin oranges, drained
1 can jellied whole cranberry sauce
½ c. chopped walnuts

Dissolve jello in water/juice mixture. Add oranges, pineapple, cranberry sauce and nuts. You can pour this into a pretty holiday mold if you have one or just pour it into a serving bowl. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. This is not a thick jello, but just a nice, smooth salad. My mom loves this so much, she will make a recipe and enjoy it for days. And we all know how picky she is! Merry Christmas.


A Moose Thanksgiving

I know I just wrote about Mom and her social whirl but I spoke to her yesterday and she had just attended the Thanksgiving event at her club, The Moose. This happens every year, the Thursday before the holiday. Everyone brings a dish and they all share a meal.

So, I said “Mom, how was it?” She said, “As always, a load of crappy food, but the ham was good and they gave you a big slice.” So there you go – no turkey but a nice big slice of ham. Mom took cranberry salad but only after I told her to make something. Her original idea was to buy a can of jellied sauce and put it in a glass bowl. Like that’s going to fool someone. So she made her salad – everyone liked it but she said the sweet potatoes were a weird brown color and the pumpkin pie was not cooked in the middle and that was crappy as well. And of course no REAL whipped cream. Mom better get used to that – in Cincinnati next week she will be having Cool Whip with her pie.

Speaking of Cincinnati, my family is gathering there next week including both the new grandbabies and their parents and Mom, too. Our dear friends have offered us their house on a lake and I have been going nuts trying to please everyone and organize everything – meals for 8 adults and 2 babies etc. etc. It’s almost like planning Adrienne’s wedding all over again.

Anyway, I am so stressed out I did something crazy today. I was in a dressing room in the mall and looked down and saw I was wearing TWO DIFFERENT SHOES!!! And one of them, the cheetah flat is part of a really old pair I only wear out to the mailbox or to sweep the porch (I don’t ever actually sweep the porch but I do wear them outside).

Have a wonderful thanksgiving, filled with cooked pies, a nice turkey and SHOES THAT MATCH. Blessings to all of you.


Mom's Social Whirl

I know I write about Mom a lot, but that is because she is such a funny character. I talk to Mom on the phone every other day and she ALWAYS has news for me. It is so true, since she is one of the busiest 85 year olds ever.

Here is her schedule for the last week:

Sunday - First Mom reads three Sunday papers (my sister calls her house the Library of Congress - there is so much reading material), then, off to the Moose Hall for a potluck to watch the Cleveland Browns play. Of course, since it is a potluck, she is expected to bring a dish to share. When I ask what she is bringing, she tells me she is tired of cooking and is bringing a bag of potato chips. She must be feeling old today since she is always the first in line to bring something home-baked and yummy. The Browns lose again of course.

Monday - A short, quick trip to the grocery to buy the latest “scandal sheets”, like the National Enquirer etc, and a few groceries. In the evening, she has a St. Mary’s Women’s Guild meeting. My best friend from high school keeps in touch with Mom and is her usual chauffeur. Debbie will chauffeur her mother and mine to the meeting and believe me, I am very grateful. Tonight is a guest speaker that talks about the history of Lorain and Mom pronounces it boring. She is however, very happy that she got two compliments on her pretty outfit.

Tuesday - Mom has lunch scheduled with 4 women she used to work with a gazillion years ago. The youngest is 76 and Mom is the oldest. They call themselves the “J and F Cuties”, since they worked for a clothing company as seamstresses called Joseph and Feiss. They each take turn picking the restaurant and today its Mom’s turn. She chooses Red Lobster, which amazes me since she hates the smell of seafood, but man, she loves their shrimp scampi and apparently the cheddar cheese biscuits are perfection. She and her cronies always ask for more biscuits and then fill their handbags with them!

In the evening she meets at the Orthodox Church she still belongs to and its sisterhood group. The sisterhood had about 50 members when I was a child, but now is down to about 10. They plan their bake sale set for Election Day at the church. Mom will cook for this one, her Burnt Butter cookies. At the meeting she learns of another death - always someone dying in mom’s life and she has a funeral pretty much every few weeks. Her comments on how the dead person looks in the coffin are truly hysterical. These old people really compare notes on how the undertaker did his job, like how their hair looked or if the makeup was too orange.

Wednesday - Mom has another lunch scheduled, this time with 4 of her HIGH SCHOOL girlfriends - since Mom graduated 67 years ago this is quite a feat. By the way, she is also on the reunion committee. They go to Perkins and Mom orders the crepes suzette with orange sauce that she calls “craps” suzette. After lunch she is off to the funeral home for the “viewing” wearing what she calls her “funeral jumper.”

Thursday brings two events - first, its Bingo Thursday at the Moose and Mom is a regular. She wins a few bucks and that makes her happy. Then it’s back to St. Mary’s for the senior luncheon, an incredible value - for only $2 she gets lunch, (of course she won’t eat any of it because the food is so bad she says) and a program for seniors - like how to manage their wills, or Irish dancing or how to make a wreath. She says they talk to the seniors like they are not quite bright 5 year olds and she hates the crafts!

Friday brings another fish day - apparently there is something about fish that does attract her. It’s off to the local Slovak Home for a perch fish fry, fries and coleslaw. This is a place that serves on paper plates and still gives you a coke in a small bottle like they did years ago. But, before fish, she goes and has her hair done with a standing Friday appointment - $6 and she is washed, curled and dried and with that $1 tip that hairstylist can surely retire soon.

Saturday is her relaxing day - she goes to 4:30 Mass, then makes herself a little dinner and then watches old Lawrence Welk reruns from 1955. Don’t any of you be calling her between 7 and 8 on Saturday night, since she will not answer her phone.

Mom is so busy, driving herself around, visiting friends in nursing homes and going to funerals, it is amazing. She recently sent me a pretty photo of herself taken wearing a cute pink suit with a note that I should use it as her obituary photo. Let’s all hope that is a long time coming. In just a few weeks Mom will meet her first two great-grandsons when we all gather in Cincinnati for Thanksgiving. I hope you are fortunate to have a Mom as wonderful as mine!