Some recent purchases

I’ve given myself a 30 day challenge and I’m going on a diet. A shopping diet. After returning from the Tennessee trip to celebrate my good friend’s birthday  go shopping recently, I realized I have a huge slight problem with shopping and bringing home things I have no space for. Decorating and design are my jam, ain’t gonna lie. A junk store is my happy place, shopping is  therapeutic. BUT when I come home with NO money left and piles of things I “HAD TO HAVE” but have no space in which to put a.single.thing…. It’s a problem that leads to buyers remorse and negates the therapeutic part. It’s actually stressful. So I’ve challenged myself to 30 days of no shopping. NOTE…this diet pertains only to shopping for the house. Food (I like to eat), personal hygiene items (I enjoy being clean and sweet smelling), and clothing ( I must have shoes and clothes, the alternative would be frightening), are exempt. Just want to be clear. I also apologize for the awful photos in this post. No excuses, they’re just bad.

No fabulous junk, no great vintage pieces, no more wonderful old stuff. In the next 30 days I must use whatever I have stashed in the attic or closets to change up my look. I will finish projects growing mold waiting patiently in the garage and attic with materials we have on hand. OK…. if Mr B needs supplies to finish those projects he’s exempt from the shopping diet. (Mr B, if you’re reading this….. we need beadboard). He’ll have no problem sticking to the plan, he already said I’ll never make it 30 days. HA! I’ll show him! I have will power! (No, I don’t……. Is will power something I can buy??? Where? Does Amazon carry it? I have Amazon Prime!) I  am determined to find will power. I may need help.

REMEMBER THIS? THE SPOILS FROM OUR RECENT TRIP       Please note…no one in our home needs training pants.

In the next 30 days I’m not only going to stop shopping, I’m going to spend some time catching up with my dead relatives on I’m going to hunt my history. I’ve neglected my ancestors and they have stories that need to be told. Some are still waiting to be found. I want to find them and help tell their stories as well.

WHO IS THIS MAN? Ebenezer McCormick from the Danville, IL area? possibly

In the next 30 days I’m going to catch up on reading. I have a pile of books beckoning with stories of far away places,  murders to be solved and all manner of mayhem to prevent.

I buy books by the bag at Goodwill, or anywhere there is a good discount

In the next 30 days I’m finally going to teach Lily, our second rescue furbaby to walk properly on a leash.

Lily thinks a leash means she should run and jump and hop and then run as fast as possible while choking

In the next 30 days I’m going to add to my music library, rip and burn some CDs to share with the Grands, listen to some music I normally don’t listen to….. and find at least one new artist to love.

I’m going to copy some CD’s to share with the Grands who are also music lovers


In the next 30 days I’m going to spend some time organizing my 20,000 photos.

Photos from the past 40 decades are housed in these bins and boxes, they need to be categorized and placed in scrapbooks or at least organized by decade and family name


Yep, the next 30 days are gonna be BUSY. BUT I WILL.NOT.SHOP.

I’ll keep you posted with my  extremely successful  what-am-I-thinking-30 day challenge. I’m confident hopeful I can do this.  If you hear the faint sounds of  laughter coming from Central Florida it will be Mr B…. who is convinced I will fold and head to the shops within a week, like a dog searching for its buried bones. But I am WOMAN. Hear me ROAR….. in my case it may very well be the sound of piteous whimpering.

Create your sanctuary no matter where you live.



We Southerners take our traditions seriously. And even though I am a yankee transplant I adopted a couple of those traditions as my own. If you drive far enough into the south you are likely to see one, or more bottle trees. Bottle trees are one of those things that northerners don’t “get.” Oh, they like them, they may even attempt one in their own gardens, but in the south a bottle tree is a necessity. Because. They capture bad spirits. Genies, and imps who want to cause problems. It’s true! I have a bottle tree in my back yard and I have yet to see a bad spirit, genie or imp in my home. So there. Proof positive these trees work!

Bottle trees are a southern tradition to protect against spirits

The practice began in the ninth century in the Congo according to historians, and since I don’t know anyone from the ninth century to ask….well, I have to believe the historians know what they are talking about. Or maybe they have a direct line to the ninth century. Anyway….. Central African people believed that they could capture imps and bad spirits in glass bottles and began hanging bottles in trees to attract the spirits and trap them before they could enter their homes. The practice  was taken to Europe and North America and the Caribbean islands by slaves and over the years became embedded in the south.

The Smithsonian  says, “Bottle Trees have a long history as an element of spiritual, cultural and aesthetic significance in American History and garden design.” WOW! Who knew? Mr B says it’s just another way for me to add junk to the yard and advertise to the neighbors that we may have a drinking problem. Let me just say up front that I have no problem, zero…. with drinking and some of the nastiest tasting wines come out of the prettiest bottles. Make of that what you will.


Legend says that the bright colors attract the spirits and when they enter the bottle they can’t get out. Makes perfect sense…..I can’t get IN a bottle, much less get out of one. I have enough  trouble getting in and out of my jeans. HOWEVER…… once trapped inside the bottle sunlight fries the little pranksters before they can do harm. Good thing, I’m not sure I’d want any mess making imps in my home….I still remember the Grands when they were toddlers….. I never thought about trapping them in bottles…………I did, however threaten to send them to “Hell Western Crooked,” a place my Grams always threatened to send me. It sounded like a very bad place and I never, ever wanted to go there. Glad she didn’t have a bottle tree….. Just sayin.


You can purchase pre-made bottle trees from on-line sites or through many  local garden centers (if you live in the south). You can also add individual bottles to your garden just by sinking a length of rebar in the ground. You can find rebar in the building section of Home Depot or Lowes. If you don’t know what rebar is, just ask one of the friendly associates.  Or use any sturdy metal rod, copper works well and has the added bonus of developing patina with time. (Make sure your metal rods are a smaller diameter than your bottle opening.) You can suspend the bottles from your tree branches by tying them with sturdy twine around the neck of the bottles.  A glob of glue for outdoor projects will hold the twine around the neck of the bottle. For the record, I do not recommend  pruning tree limbs and placing the bottles on the end of the branches. It causes unnecessary trauma to the tree and improper pruning may actually kill your tree. Just stick with a pre-made one. Unless you have a sturdy dead tree (Is that an oxymoron?) Then prune away and add bottles to your heart’s content.

You can add individual bottles by using lengths of copper or lengths of rebar.

Author Eudora Welty (1909-2001) made the southern bottle tree famous in her short story, “Livvie.”

“Coming around up the path from the deep cut of the Natchez Trace below was a line of bare Crape Myrtle trees with every branch ending in a colored bottle, green or blue. There was no word that fell from Solomon’s lips to say what they were there for, but Livvie knew there could be a spell put on trees and she was familiar from the time she was born with the way bottle trees kept evil form coming into the house… Solomon had made the bottle trees with his own hands over the nine years, in labor amounting to about a tree a year, and without a sign that he had any uneasiness in his heart,  for he took as much pride in his precautions against spirits entering the house as he took in the house….”

Special note: Clean your bottles before using them in the garden. You don’t need drunken bees hurtling around. They like wine. You won’t like tipsy bees.


If you want to protect your home and take the necessary  precautions to catch evil spirits, make a bottle tree. You don’t have to become a wine-o. Just do what I did, ask your neighbors to drink the wine and save the bottles for you. They’ll be happy to help. Trust me.

Create the home you see in your heart. You deserve a sanctuary, no matter where you live. 





I’m a collector of things, which means I’m also a buyer. But what happens when buying becomes more than adding a sought after item to a thoughtful, curated collection and becomes….. just buying more stuff? Is there a line between being a collector and becoming a hoarder? How do you know when you’ve crossed that line? Can you see the line? Is it marked in your mind’s eye? Is there a warning bell that lets you know when you are approaching the Hoarder Line? Like the flashing lights and clanging bells at railroad crossings? That would come in handy.

I “have a thing” for lots of things…..skeleton keys and padlocks, door knobs and hardware in general. Scales, oh yes, I surely do have scale love. And I suffer from a terminal case of grain sack love. The more the better.  I get a bad case of heart eyes over crocks and stoneware bottles. Throw in a love of McCoy Pottery, (the matte white “Floraline”)  and an obsession with old clocks, vintage radios and fans, Royal Copley Dog planters and old bottles, and my home could be a museum with me as the curator.


I’ve been getting rid of things I’ve outgrown or anything that no longer supports my style for a couple of years. YEARS! And during that time, I’ve also purchased more things. Mr B routinely asks, “What are you going to do with that?” “Don’t you have X  number of those already??” “Oh, I see you’ve purchased something else for the attic.” You know….all the helpful statements and questions that frankly make me a bit angry and defensive. “I know what I’m buying”. (no, I really don’t) “I know exactly how many of “those” I have” (No clue) ……. “I routinely rotate things so my collections don’t become overwhelming” (sounds good in theory but I don’t do it) …..“I have a place for this” (Not without a second house.) …… All those responses that I make to justify whatever it is I want to buy.

Not too long ago I announced I was cutting back on shopping, I actually heard his eyes roll. It sounded a bit like ball bearings clanking around in an empty drum. Not that Mr B’s head is empty or remotely drum shaped….. I didn’t even have to look, but I was surprised he could still see to drive….. what with the eyeballs rolled all the way back in his head. I was serious.  He was scoffing. This took place in the car when we were going to pick up the commode I recently wrote about.

Mr B loaded the commode in the back of the car and said he was going to “browse” the Play It Again Sports store located a couple of doors down from the antique shop, meaning he would speed walk through the store and be out the door within a minute, purchased item in hand. An item I might add, from HIS shopping list….. which he had researched the pros and cons and price checked.  He was gone for only  a few minutes and during that time, I decided I couldn’t live without a WWII phone, a sewing machine drawer, a mirror, a feedsack pillow and a large vintage bowl. WHAT???? I have a problem.


On a recent trip to Tennessee to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend, Mr B said the rest of the trip was mine, we could do anything I wanted to do. I had a glorious week in the mountains. We enjoyed Nashville of course, because I’m a Honky Tonk Woman. And we both love music. Then there are all those antique malls and a town with a section of shops that I MUST visit each time we go. And one of us loves those. I had a list of several items I needed (relative term) to finish a display or fill a space (we have no empty space at the Brown abode). Did I buy any of those items? NOOOOO. I bought other things. Things I HAD TO HAVE. Little things. Inexpensive things. Things I had no use or space for. Things that I didn’t even like after I got them home. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?  I obviously looked at the things, I apparently thought I wanted or needed them, so why was there even ONE THING I decided after plunking down my cash that I didn’t really need, want or…..even like???   I require an intervention.


I have to face the ugly truth. I have a shopping problem. Actually I have an IMPULSE SHOPPING problem. When the impulse registers in my brain that I need, want, must have that key, vase, sack, scale, pot, crock, bottle or clock I simply cannot resist it. But this it! I have acknowledged my problem. I am going to stop with the shopping…. I’m calling a shopping moratorium…Except my Granddaughter is coming for a visit and she has a love of vintage cameras and “stuff.” We enjoy junking together. I cannot deny her that pleasure…..right?

I don’t have a handy tip or trick to circumvent the impulse buy dilemma, if there is one, please let me know. My good friend, Iona shares this affliction, but she’s much more philosophic about it than I. I’m betting we are not alone. The desire to feather our nests runs deep, there may not be a cure. Perhaps I should be more thoughtful about what I bring into my home.  BUT…… As I look around, I see things that bring me joy, make me smile, or bring back a precious memory……and not many clunkers.  That, in the end is what keeps me returning to those shops….. I’m  buying memories…. and those memories are priceless.

Create the home you see in your heart.  Surround yourself with things you love, things that make you smile. Love the home you’re in no matter where you live, it’s your sanctuary.



Buying antiques can be risky. There are clever reproductions of almost every vintage item available, original, authentic pieces may be damaged beyond repair or have hidden problems.

Problems are myriad; musty smells, unidentified odors or….yuck!  dead animal smells, wobbly and weak joints, pieces are repaired or refinished in such a way that the original value is destroyed. Valuable pieces are painted and those of lesser value are restored. There is no way to tell if you are getting an authentic vintage item or a knock-off without doing research and buying from reputable dealers.

Even after years of buying furniture I get suckered now and then. My last purchase proved to be a bit (understatement) of a problem. I had been looking for a vintage commode for about a year to use as a nightstand. I was using a singer sewing machine, complete with machine and working treadle for several years. I loved it. I beat my bestie in a race to nab it. But it didn’t function quite as well as I liked for its intended purpose. I didn’t want to get rid of it but had to face the fact that if I wanted something else, the sewing machine had to go. So I sold it to a friend who loves it and uses it as her nightstand…. and I made space for a new piece.

I finally found a vintage commode at a decent price in my favorite local shop. I know some of the dealers, am friends with one, and at least know others by face. I didn’t know this particular vendor but I felt safe buying there. (you already suspect something, right?) I looked at that commode several times, I did the smell test, pulled out the drawers and took big whiffs. It passed. The drawers worked fine. The cabinet door opened and closed, it needed a new magnetic catch, but that’s an easy fix.  Bonus, it had casters! Y’all know I love casters! And it had some yummy hardware.

Great original hardware on the two drawers and original wood casters had me drooling

So I bought it, paid for it and put a sold sign on it. Mr B enthusiastically agreed to go with me to pick it up. In the meantime the women at the shop unloaded it and it was empty and ready for me by the time we got there. Mind you, I had never moved it. It had been loaded with small items for sale and even the drawers were full, so I never pulled it out to see how sturdy it was. Big mistake. As it turns out….HUGE mistake.

It wobbled. I looked at Mr B. He was looking at me. The shop owner was darting her eyes around looking everywhere except at either of us. “Um…it wobbles,” I announced. Duh. One of the other dealers came to observe and said; “You can fix that with a bit of wood glue and some clamping.”  Mr B rolled his eyes. I asked if he could stabilize it. “Maybe. Won’t know until we get it home.” Since I’d already paid for it, we Mr B loaded it in the car and we went home. By this time I was having a severe attack of buyers remorse. What if it couldn’t be fixed?

Mr B worked on it for a WEEK! Glued and clamped, removed the top, put it back on, glued and clamped that and replaced the stripped screws where someone else had attempted to fix it. It still wobbled like a drunk on Main Street. Added a new back and screwed that on. Still wobbled, just not completely drunk, more like tipsy. I asked if he could take it all apart and rebuild it.  He stared at me for 3, maybe 4 seconds and then said; “I think it’s as good as it’s gonna get.” Translation: “I love you, but ain’t no way I’m gonna do that.” Sigh.

My poor Mr B… the rescue again

So I shrugged and proceeded to the fun part, paint. Yep, painted it. Before you start sending me hate mail about painting vintage pieces and destroying their value, let me just say this: “Some pieces are enhanced by painting.” Some aren’t really all that valuable, no matter how old. And some, like this old girl just aren’t built well or have already been refinished by someone else. Painting it doesn’t devalue it at all. And I have a vision for the bedroom and it includes painted furniture.

Someone had obviously refinished it. With shiny, glossy poly. Don’t do this. Vintage and/or antiques shouldn’t be shiny.  Unless you’re into mid century lacquer finishes or oriental furniture. Otherwise, gloss is not a good look. If you want to add a soft authentic sheen, go for furniture wax and buff. It’s a lovely finish. For furniture that will see hard use, like table tops and dressers, opt for a matte finish. Don’t do shiny. Ever.

While inspecting this old girl I fell in love with the graining on the sides. It looked like oak. I was tempted to refinish it and leave it natural.  But the top…… it had open grain, ditto for the top drawer, not the tight grain of oak that I love. Those sides tho. And even the back in its raw wood state! Oh, if she had been like that all over, this post would be a lot different.  This was a commode obviously pieced together with whatever wood was on hand. Like many pieces were in the early days of america when fine furniture was hard to come by. I felt no guilt in painting this. None. OK, I got a bit of a pang when I looked at the sides. In the back of my mind I thought, “hmmmm….if I hate it painted, I’ll just strip it.” (I should close the door to the back of my mind.)


Oh, that wood grain


Shiny is not a good look

Out came my “go-to” color, Valspar “Honey Vanilla” in flat latex. I like this color because it plays nice with other creams and ivories. I favor warm ivory tones or creamy whites. The stark whites or cool whites don’t appeal to me, they work better with modern or contemporary style and I’m in love with the vintage american farmhouse furniture. I like the warmth of age and this color gives the illusion of a white that has aged with use and time.

I cleaned the entire piece with a 50/50 vinegar and water solution to remove dirt and oil and then lightly sanded the top with 200 grit sandpaper to give it some tooth. Wiped it down again with the vinegar solution, let it dry and it was ready. Application was easy. I just used a brush.  I did two coats, letting each coat dry over night. I kept the old brass pulls in their original state, I love them. I’m not crazy about the run-of-the-mill replacement porcelain knobs that came with it. I’ll be changing those out for brass as soon as I find some that play nice with the original pulls. For now, the knobs are functional.

Look at that yummy vintage brass pull!

I’ve not been distressing my pieces as much lately, preferring to let them get dinged up on their own. I used a paint scraper along some of the edges to remove a bit of paint here and there, but not much. I debated waxing the top or doing matte poly. In the end I did matte poly. This is going to get some use. I pile books on it. Magazines. My reading glasses. Sometimes a drink. But now I’m not liking it so much. It’s too shiny. So in the near future, I’ll take it back outside, sand the poly off, repaint the top and then wax it. Because I love doing things over and over. (This may not be true.)

Oh….so much better, but you can still see the left side of the top is warped


A perfect bedside “table”

“You need to make decisions and stick with them,” said someone to me…. Once. After living with me for many years, I no longer get that advice. It’s pointless.  I second guess myself. Sometimes I even third guess. Or I’ll love something for awhile and wake up one morning and I don’t love it anymore. But that’s the beauty of paint. It can be removed, re-applied. Changed. The power of paint to make ugly beautiful is amazing. It’s cheap. It’s usually a quick fix. I’m pretty happy with the new look.


Moral: Inspect your prospective piece carefully. Ask to move it to see if it’s stable, do the smell test. Open and close drawers. Look inside. Decide if you have the skill to repair loose joints, rotted sides, or rebuild. And if you are buying something to paint, don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  If you don’t like it, don’t force yourself to live with it. “IT’S JUST PAINT” is a mantra of decorators for a reason. It’s true, it’s just paint. Or in this case, poly. So keep trying until you get it right. My little commode might benefit from multiple layers of paint, it might even become sturdier….. you know…. “held to together with spit and baling wire?” Maybe it should be, “held together with love and paint.” Why not? It’s as good an idea as any other, and who wants to sleep next to something held together with spit? eeuuuw, gross.

Create your sanctuary, one room at a time. Create the home you see in your heart, no matter where you live.



For many Americans Memorial Day is a three day weekend designed for parties, backyard BBQ’s, boating, swimming and fun signalling the start of summer. Just what is Memorial Day really? How did it start?


While there is some debate over where it officially began, Memorial Day started as “Decoration Day.” Toward the end of the Civil War in the South, women began placing flowers on the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers. The practice spread by word of mouth, and by the end of the war women from both sides of this horrific conflict placed flowers on the graves of the men and women who never came home.  In 1863 The Gettysburg Cemetery was dedicated to honor both sides and the laying of flowers became an unofficial way to honor those who fell in battle. And Decoration Day began a long tradition of honoring active duty military killed wile serving.

Photo from the Gettysburg Cemetery showing men from the Indiana Regiment.
This peaceful field was the site of the bloody battle of “Picket’s Last Charge. The aura there is solemn and there is a feeling of great sadness.

After President Lincoln was assassinated in April of 1865, more ceremonies were held across the nation to honor the fallen and a movement began. The sheer number of deaths in the Civil War, over 600,000 meant that ceremonies took place all across our nation and gained more importance. Boalsburg, PA claims the title as the “Birthplace of Decoration Day in 1864,”   but the first organized and publicized event was held in May, 1865 in Charleston, SC.


General John Logan of the Union Army declared Decoration Day to be held on May 30th each year because it was the time of year when most flowers would be in bloom across the country. Although Decoration Day began as a way to honor the Civil War soldiers, by the end of WWII it expanded to include all men and women in all branches of service who died while on active duty.

The Boys Scouts of America began placing Flags on each one of the 150,000 graves in the Jefferson National Barracks in St Louis, MO. That idea also spread and since the 1950’s Flags are placed on each grave at Arlington by volunteers. Each sitting President places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And all National Cemeteries offer solemn, dignified ceremonies while volunteers place Flags on graves on both Memorial Day and Veterans Day. If you’ve never been to a National Cemetery I highly recommend it. You will come away with a thankful, grateful heart  for the sacrifices these men and women made.

The Tomb of the unknown soldier, Arlington Cemetery


Arlington National Cemetery. The sheer number of tombstones is overwhelming.

The title, “Memorial Day” became official in 1968 but it wasn’t until 1971 the law was enacted to have it celebrated on the last Monday in May, giving Americans a 3 day holiday.

All American Flags are supposed to be flown at Half-staff until noon on Memorial Day, but this is a tradition, not a law.

The Viet Nam Memorial Wall in Washington

Because so many lost sight of the real meaning behind Memorial Day, in the year 2000 a law was enacted titled; The National Moment of Remembrance Act. At 3:00 p.m. local time each person is to stop for a moment of silence to honor all those who died while on active duty.  I can’t help but wonder how many americans actually do this.

Eugene Lowe made the ultimate sacrifice while manning a gun on board a ship attacked by Japanese suicide bombers in WWII.

I still remember the importance this day had, and still has for our family. My Grandmother and Aunts would make a special trip to the cemetery to lay flowers to honor my Uncle Gene, who died in WWII. His loss still defines how I see this important, but almost forgotten holiday. I share his photo and also the photo of the name of one of my friends inscribed on the Viet Nam War Memorial Wall. I hope you will take a moment this year, to pay homage to those who were brave enough to wear a uniform to serve this nation…..and who made the ultimate sacrifice.

I know I will.


My friend, Wayne Decker, killed in battle within a week of of his first tour of duty in Viet Nam. Rest in Peace












I’m so happy with my latest addiction purchase….I thought I’d share it with you. It’s my, wait for it….. letter board! I’m thrilled with the quality and how much fun it is. Letter boards take me back to the old days, growing up. I remember them in diners and mom and pop stores, listing everything from sodas to burgers and blue plate specials. They were standard for advertising the day’s menu or what was fresh and on sale at the market. They fell out of use and were replaced with white boards and later, flashy digital signs. But like all vintage goodies, they started showing up  in recent years at coffee houses and organic food markets where everything vintage is trendy again. I began seeing them in magazines and blogs in the last year or so. I knew I wanted one but wasn’t thrilled about the prices. They can be pretty spendy.

I finally found one at a price I could tolerate, in a size I liked, not too large so I could move it around the house if I wanted, (this one is about an 11 x 18, including the frame) and I wanted one already framed with wood. Some of the less expensive ones are framed with aluminum, and those are fine and actually look a bit more vintage….but you can certainly use reclaimed wood, or even new wood and make a new frame.  I wanted one already done.


I found mine on Amazon through the RIVI company. (Just search felt letter boards, there are a number of companies and price points.) It’s great quality. The frame is well made, the felt is smooth and tight and it comes with dozens of letters, including numerals and punctuation. The only down side was removing the letters from the plastic shipping frame. That was a pain. I finally got a single edged razor blade and a cutting board and separated them cleanly.

Of course I wasn’t organized enough to have any sort of plan for storing the letters, so I just threw them all in the vinyl storage bag that comes with the board. Duh. I had to spread them out all over again on the kitchen island to create my first message….. “Queen of my Domain.” Appropriate since I am Queen. Of my domain. Or at least that’s what I call myself. And there are hints that I am a queen….The nickname given to me at the office was, “Queenie.” I have a mason jar embossed with the words, “The Queen,” Mr B  calls me a royal…. pain, and I have a mug that says, “It’s Good to be Queen,” so I’m pretty sure I’m truly Queen. Whatever!  I finally separated the letters into a little plastic bin with compartments for storing beads and other bits and bobs. It works great, and bonus….it was cheap and I found it in the craft aisle at Walmart. Now I only have to look through 2 letters in each compartment. Easy peasy.


Queen of My Domain quickly gave way to, “I am not a Hoarder.” That got a Mr B chuckle and and his famous eye roll. I’m not a hoarder…..I’m a collector. A curator. A Keeper of History! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Of course I want to change the message from time to time and come up with slogans and quotes, seasonal greetings and family jokes, and inspirational phrases. I’m going to become the family philosopher of the letter board!  I feel like I did when I bought the first magnet letter set for my son to use on the fridge. A pile of letters gets my creative juices flowing. I played with those magnets more than he did. Of course I could read and spell and he was just a toddler. Let’s not quibble over details….. But it’s never too early to foster your childrens’ creativity right?? (Or take over their toys.)



My oldest Granddaughter, Shelby came for a quick visit before starting her summer job and we had a fun filled 5 days of shopping, LOLing, binge watching “The Last Kingdom,” swimming, and of course eating all her favorite foods. On her last day it was a flurry of packing, deciding what would be shipped to her home, a last minute hair cut and lots of hugs. Like her father and yes, her grandmother, she is a prankster. When she asked about the box of letters I didn’t think much of it. (I should have known better.) Later I noticed her picking through the letters and figured she was going to create a new message.

The Bigs (the two oldest Grands) have always written notes to me or drawn pictures. I’ll find one after a visit, tucked away somewhere to surprise me. I was touched by Shelby’s effort to take the time and sort through the letters to change up the letter board.  I knew she’d leave a message or quote to inspire, she has a big heart.

Every time I walk past the kitchen desk I smile. I know I am loved.



I highly recommend getting a letter board. It’s fun, it can be inspirational, reminding us of our dreams and goals or even a “To Do” list.  Maybe your family will leave you messages, and I don’t know……. um…..sweet?? Or at least more traditional in their pronouncements of love for you. But I like my message just fine. It’s a reminder my Grands feel safe and loved, they can express their humor without fear of reprisal, (OK, that’s a lie. I am so gonna embarrass her at the first opportunity)  and that they’ve inherited my sense of humor. It could be worse.

It’s the little things that make a house a home. Add your personality.

No one does you better than YOU.

Create your sanctuary one room at a time. Create the home you see in your heart.



I was raised by my Grandparents. I am proud to say that. I learned about hard work and honesty from them. I learned that every person has a story to tell and every stranger met is a new friend in the making. I learned about the joy music brings, that learning is a life long process. Mostly I learned about loyalty and unconditional love.

We lived in “the country.” Back then my “neighborhood” was a rural community dotted with farms, a few tract home developments, lots of open areas and one small corner store with a lone gas pump. We were only 6 miles from our small town but it seemed like an eternity to get there. Saturday trips to town were an all day excursion. Sundays were for family dinners and an “open house” atmosphere where anyone was welcome.

Life changed dramatically when my Grandfather died just before my 13th birthday. He took care of things. How would we live and get by? Who would take care of us? I was frightened and I can’t imagine what my Grandmother felt…… My Grandma…..Flossie to her friends, Mae to her brothers and Grandma Flossie to my friends. She was Gram to me and called herself Grams. She was also my life teacher and anchor.

Flossie Mae had to quit school in the 6th grade to help her mother raise her siblings. She was the oldest and there were ten kids in the house, plus some cousins needing a home. Eight of her siblings lived to adulthood and the various cousins came and went. Life was hard then, harder still for poor families and often their children were sent to the mines or farms as day laborers. The older boys began their working lives as teens in the coal mines,  and then enlisted in the Army and Navy. The younger girls went to school and the older ones worked in the garden or were sent to farms to help during “the season.” My Grandmother helped with the laundry and ironing, cleaned the house and wrangled the young ones to and from school. She really had no life as a young girl. She didn’t really get a childhood. When she was sixteen my Grandfather swooped in and decided he would marry her. She went from being the mistress of her mother’s home to being the mistress of her own. She was well equipped to handle the chores and duties of running a household. She’d been doing it for years.

Flossie at 16

She never said, but I imagine getting married and having a house of her own was actually a blessing. She no longer had to wrangle all her siblings. It wasn’t work and chores from sun up to sun down. My Grandfather took her dancing. To movies. He doted on her. They had friends and she finally had a life. She had my mother, born before most girls my grandmother’s age were even out of high school. A second girl, born a year later lived only a few days, and even though Grams had no more children, there were always kids around, nephews, nieces and the odd child seemingly belonging to no one. My grandparents shared a love of music and performed at county fairs, schools and prisons throughout the state. Their early practice sessions took place in a neighbor’s barn…. the audience….. cows and chickens. Siblings and their spouses were frequent visitors, there were rousing card games and seeming endless Yatzee and Parcheesi competitions. And always music and laughter.

Her greatest shame was her lack of education. But she never stopped learning. As long as I can remember she had a pile of books on a small table by her rocker, a dictionary always on the top of that pile. She’d learn a new word or two every week and practice using whatever the “word of the week was.”  Of course her brothers made fun of her. My Great Uncles were cruel (and became the bane of my existence). But my Grams just laughed them off and continued her self teaching. She learned her words, knitted and crocheted and read. She was an avid reader. And passed her love of reading down to me.

If reading was education, music was joy.  The old Victrola saw heavy use, later it was an 8 track player and finally a battery operated cassette player. Television was an avenue to musicals and variety shows. I still remember lyrics from the songs of Singing in the Rain, The King and I, Oklahoma, South Pacific and Westside Story. I would sing those songs to my cats as I carried them around the yard in the evenings. (The tradition of singing to livestock was apparently an inherited thing.)

My Grams, me, and my son. circa 1970’s

She was a big fan of  musical variety shows. I grew up to the sounds of Your Hit Parade, The Perry Como show, The Andy Williams Show, Lawrence Welk, Glenn Campbell  and of course, Hee Haw…. Bing Crosby movies and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers rounded out my musical education.  My Grandmother’s love of music is the reason I impress Mr B with my mental “musical library.” He used to be surprised when I could sing along with obscure songs, or was familiar with the latest song for his Barbershop chorus. My music library today holds everything from Adele to ZZ Top with a sprinkling of show tunes,  Rachmaninoff, and Puccini. He’s no longer surprised by what I remember. He now says he’s surprised only if I DON’T know. Thanks to my Grams.

Grandma Flossie had an immense sense of humor. She laughed. A lot. Her laugh was infectious. My friends were made to feel instantly at home. When I started dating, I was mortified that my Grandma was at the door to greet my dates and saw nothing wrong with involving them in conversations while I stood, tapping my foot with impatience, ready to bolt out the door as soon as humanly possible.

After high school, a young man I dated always brought a pizza and a six pack of Coke over for “Grandma Flossie.” He would laugh at her jokes, invite her to play a vigorous game of checkers and leave me sitting on the sofa for hours. We were late for everything. I came to the conclusion he would rather spend time with Grams than take me to a movie. I dumped him. Grams complained for months and compared every boyfriend after that to that one boy. There was always some fatal flaw with the “new ones.”

She had to learn to drive after my Grandfather died. She had to learn how to fire up the temperamental oil heater in the winter in order to keep the house warm.  She was in her 50’s and had to make a living without a formal education, learn to make do with even less than we had when Grandpa was with us. She made an income babysitting and doing laundry for others. Her early skills taking care of her siblings once again came into play. She was “good with kids,” and her “families” loved her. They invited her on their vacations, took her out to dinner, invited her to birthday parties and graduations long after the kids stopped needing a sitter. One of the families bought her new kitchen appliances for her birthday. A Coppertone refrigerator, gas range with the oven on top! A new toaster and wonder of wonders, an electric skillet! I neither understood, nor appreciated how hard she worked to keep that roof over our heads. How frightened she must have been. How determined she became.

Her best friends were her sisters. Especially my Aunts, Vi and Ruby. They’d pile into the car and head out to find yard sale bargains amid laughter and sibling banter. I learned the joys of thrifting and junking from my Grams. Many of my birthday gifts were those scored at yard sales. And every Friday night the “girls” got together for manicures and doing each other’s hair. I lurked in the background listening to the stories of the old days, gossip and talk of life. I learned about men, marriage, making a dirty martini and how to attach flowers to a hat…. all the important life skills.

Besides music, she loved plants and gardens. Our yard was filled with flowers;  Peonies, Heirloom Roses, Lilac bushes, Tiger Lilies, Lily of the Valley, and Sweet Pea vine. Containers filled with Moss Ross, Hens and Chicks and buckets of Ivy were placed on the patio. Daisies grew with abandon. Daffodils and Tulips. Caladiums and Ferns. If it could be grown in our area, my Grams had it. House plants filled our sunlit living room. She was as good at raising plants as she was raising kids. I’m guessing along with all my other loves, I also got my love of plants and gardening from her.

She was a great cook in spite of her experiments with Campbells Soup. She was the Queen of Casseroles…..I ate some very strange concoctions involving pasta or potatoes and “mystery meat” smothered in various creamy soups for years.   Some of my fondest memories revolve around weekend mornings, my Grams at the stove wearing one of her “total body aprons” cooking breakfasts of bacon and eggs, always fried in a cast iron skillet with bacon grease.  A container of bacon grease sat on the back of the stove and the cast iron skillet was always on one of the burners, ready to go in the event of a hungry guest. She made mint chocolate cake for my birthday because it was my favorite. I may not have had big themed birthday parties, nor was I showered with expensive gifts…..but I had cake.

I didn’t realize then what an incredible woman she was. How strong she was. That realization came much later. She had to learn to be self sufficient in middle age, to teach herself the skills needed to be an adult woman in the 1960’s and 70’s. She had to learn to be watchful, become a bit on guard to ward off advances from men who wanted my Grandfather’s property. She learned to drive, to manage finances, to lock the doors, to survive during a time when widows could become easy prey. And raise a girl two generations removed during a time of social upheaval. I never heard her complain, but she did often say to me, after a particularly hard conversation with a smart alec  teenager….. “Crystal, I hope you get one just like you!” (I did. My son was just like me and I heard myself quoting her words to him more than once.) She was wise, with the wisdom coming from a life of hardships and happiness, hard work and fun…. a life well lived.

Her Birthday was the day after Christmas. How she loved getting special gifts!

Of course I never listened to her wisdom back then. I was a typical teenager. But I hear her voice in my mind now. As I go through life, I often think of her and remember things she would say. To this day I use her words; when something is wrecked beyond repair, it’s “rammycacked.” (Mr B particularly likes that one and has adopted it as a description of the way I open packages.) When I’m annoyed with my Grands, I tell them, “If you don’t stop, I’m gonna knock you hell western crooked!” I never knew where hell western was, but was pretty sure I didn’t want to be crooked.

When she died, I lost my anchor. I lost the one person I could depend upon to guide me, the one person who had, if not all….. at least most of the answers. The one who believed in me and gave me unconditional love. I never really recovered from her loss and I mourn her still today. I often wish I could go back in time to tell her how much she meant to me, to let her know that I loved her and appreciated her…. to give her an easier life. I still hear her voice in my head. I think she’s still around, maybe in Hell Western with Aunt Vi and Aunt Ruby. Someplace where there are flowers, books, and music and she’s sitting with that dictionary in her hand….. trying to figure out LOL and OMG.

When one of my Grands says, “My friend, so and so wants to meet you.” And when those friends begin calling me, “Grandma,” or “Grams,” or friend me on Facebook, I know I’m doing something right. Thank you Gram, for every little…. and large thing you taught me….. gave to me. Happy Mothers Day.



OK, I’m late. Late for a very important date…. (apologies to Louis Carroll and Disney), I know I should have posted all my spring stuff before this. I mean, geez, other bloggers have had their spring decor out for weeks. Somehow April got away from me and here it is the first week in May! The older I get the faster time goes. I used to hear that from my elders growing up and I was……”What?” “That doesn’t make any sense. How can time go faster?”  But I sure get it now.

Some nests under glass

For my spring table this year I rounded up a couple of bird nests left over from my Easter centerpiece and added a few things that evoked spring to me. I didn’t want to buy anything new so everything here is stuff I had already had. Greenery….zero dollars. Feathers…. Zero dollars. Nests…. Zero dollars. Free Spring centerpiece? Priceless.

Putting the nests under cloches gives them a little more importance. And what says spring better than greenery in peat pots?   Two vintage crystal glasses with bird feathers and rolled up music sheets, and all of it on my favorite chippy wood base layered on a grain sack remnant. It’s low enough that guests can see one another and converse over it, narrow enough that I can still set the table without dismantling or moving everything.

I added an old book as a riser for one of the peat pots because it was green and had a nifty title. Five acres and Independence. I bought the book months ago for $2.00 with the intention of taking it apart for another project. I didn’t pay particular attention to the title until I got it home. It struck a chord. And I couldn’t bring myself to take it apart.

Old brass candlesticks from Goodwill add height and warmth

All the time I was growing up I said I wanted to live on a little farm. Five acres sounded like a pretty good number. I wanted all sort of animals. I didn’t actually want to FARM, I just wanted a farmhouse and animals. Farming looked like hard work and I wasn’t into the whole plowing the field part, but I was into the animal part. Life had other plans for me and I never got my five acres. (Or the farmhouse.) I did, however, get to share my life with various critters over the years. And still have two furbabies. So as far as dreams coming true, I got half of that one. A win surely…. plus I didn’t have to plow any fields. Bonus.

Where was I? Oh yes, the book as a riser. I’m still looking for another vintage book or two….. maybe a gardening or botanical tome for the other end of the table, to balance the arrangement. It’s a bit lopsided with just the one book. I noticed after I added the photos that I still have a crusty little twig hanging out for no apparent reason. It has some great lichen on it but it feels sort of….off…. in the arrangement. Should I remove it?  I like to tweak things after I get the basic plan down. This one isn’t any different. There may be other changes besides adding a book and subtracting the twig. Or not. Sometimes an arrangement can feel static and boring without something a little “off.” For now, this is my spring table. I hope you approve.

This book brought back lots of childhood memories

Create the home you see in your heart. Create a sanctuary, no matter where you live.



Oh boy, ya know how satisfied you feel when your list gets shorter and stuff is getting crossed off?? GLOWING AND GIDDY, that’s how ya feel.  The kitchen desk is finally in its place. It’s been a long project due to unforeseen “stuff”….you know…. life stuff that happens whenever you have a plan of your own…. but it’s done now. That ugly builder’s built-in desk is finally gone, replaced with a desk that fits my style. I’d had the idea for quite awhile that I wanted a replica of the  primitive desk in my office for the kitchen. I bought that desk in the 80’s in a shop in Sisters, Oregon.

It was love at first sight. The little desk had started life as the check-in desk in the town’s first hotel. Then it was the desk in the old grange hall and then it languished  for many years in the back of a storage room close by the original hotel. Until renovations were being made to most of the buildings in town and the desk ended up in the shop. I paid waay  more than I had to spend. I remember telling my son, Trevor, that we would be eating beans for a week or two. He thought I was kidding. I wasn’t.


Few things have me spending money designated for food, I mean, come on……I love to eat. But this desk grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I bought it and never regretted it. It’s simple style and  old worn finish spoke to my heart. It moved with me. Many times. It was one of the few things that I never sold, nor even thought about selling in order to move to a new place. It had to stay with me.

As luck and the stars aligned, I met Mr B and the desk became part of our home together. Then we decided to move into a new house. Imagine my horror when we went to place the desk in its designated spot and it was two inches too large. TWO INCHES!!!! The builders got it wrong. Geesh! and other bad words. So the desk went to live in the family room until I could decide what to do with it. And I got a built-in from the builder. Eeeegad. I hated that thing. Eventually my desk ended up in the 3rd bedroom, aka my office, where it still sits today. It’s home to my computer and several piles of papers. I love it as much as I did when I ate beans for two weeks. Altho I’m never again going to eat beans for two weeks. I have my bean eating limits.


I knew I wanted a replica of my desk for the kitchen. Mr B spent a couple of days eyeballing and measuring, and then built a sweet little desk for me, almost like the original. The drawer in the new one is bigger (we have lots of junk  supplies to store in it) and of course it’s sized to fit the space. But otherwise it’s a petite version of my desk. When he finished the building part he turned it over to me for the finishing part. I am also responsible for all the patching, texturing and painting in the house. We make a good team. Division of labor and all that. Besides, building things involves math. I’m allergic to math. I get hives when faced with a problem that requires any knowledge beyond ¼,½, ¾ or an inch. Those I have mastered. Beyond that I plead ignorance. Hives are not fun. Just sayin.



I am in the process of lightening the look in the house, and if you’ve been following me for awhile, you know I love modern farmhouse style and painted furniture. I decided to paint my new desk.  Our kitchen has stained cabinets and there are lots of them. I wanted needed something to lighten the look  which is why I went with creamy subway tile and light granite. But I wanted needed more white. I stained the desk first so a bit of wood would show as the desk aged and got dinged up. I did a few dings just for fun and then painted it.


I used my go to color from Lowes, Valspar”Honey Vanilla,” in flat (previously known as “Hotel Churchill Vanilla”). It’s a creamy ivory, very soft, and blends well with my other favorite white paint, Rustoleum’s “Shell White,”  (in a spray) that I use when I want a hard finish (it’s oil based so dries hard). Valspar also offers Honey Vanilla in a spray in both a flat finish and gloss. A nice change for painted furniture without the brush strokes.

Can I say how much I love this little desk??? I have LARGE LOVE, it gives me the feels and heart eyes. I would love to find a vintage look phone that is wired for Caller ID and voice mail and all the modern technology we need today. But for now the ugly cordless stays…. marring what would be a perfect vignette. But as I told someone earlier today, we actually live in our house, I don’t hide the TV or the stainless appliances. We’re all about function here in the Brown house. OH, THAT’S A BIG FAT LIE. There’s no WE, only one of us is all about function. The other one is all about form. If I told you I was the one all about function would you believe me?



Now that I have two desks will I be any neater??? Um, probably not, OK…..nope. Oh, the new desk is staged and looks so cute. But wait a couple of weeks and it will be covered in coupons, torn out sheets of magazines and unopened mail  reminding me that my subscriptions are due for those magazines that I enjoy ripping apart.  Junk mail that lies there for days because I hate touching junk mail, I detest having to rip out the little cellophane windows and going through the contents to remove what can’t be recycled. GAH! For now it’s too cute to junk up with papers and bits… maybe because I love it I will keep it neat. Pray for me…..and World Peace.


For now the vintage stapler has pride of place. And the old silver goblets for supplies… Who would want to cover those up with junk mail???  It’s always the details that get me. Today I am a happy woman with at least one neat desk….. Someday when we change up my office I want to get a desk for the computer so that I can keep my antique desk just for writing, as in hand writing notes to friends, in cursive. Yeah….someday.

Create the home you see in your heart. Create a sanctuary no matter where you live.



Sometimes we are are own worst enemy. We allow envy and jealousy to control the way we look at our homes and the things we have.

You get up in the morning and walk through your home and instead of smiling and feeling grateful, you look around and sigh and wish you had…..more….. better….. newer…..the house that belongs  to your neighbor, your favorite blogger, your best friend. And just like that, your day is spoiled. You lose sight of what you HAVE by playing the envy game.

The ability to head to facebook or instagram to look at the beautiful photos can be relaxing and fun. It can also lead to discontent. Everyone seems to be happier than you, have more. Every aspect of their lives seems perfect. Trips you’ll never take, movies you won’t see, a loving marriage. Beautiful, intelligent children. Even their dogs appear to be smarter than yours. Don’t these people ever get a pimple??? Have a sink full of dirty dishes? Have a room in their home that’s less than perfect??? The answers are of course; Yes, yes and yes…..of course they do. But the only photos shown are rooms perfectly staged, kids with clean faces and sinks that sparkle.

Social media can help us connect or reconnect with friends, it can inspire us to become better humans, it can give us information to help make our lives better, it can amuse us or provide support during times of crisis.  It can also be a slippery slope into envy and depression…..the “why-can’t-I have,  be-like-them, I-want-that…. thought process that robs us of contentment. Pinterest is loaded with images that are stunning, yes, but those images can also lead to feelings of,  “I’ll never have a beautiful home”. “I can’t do that.” “I need a bigger house.” “I wish….”

Before you allow yourself to tumble down that slope, take a look around. Do you have a roof over your head? Clothes to wear? A bed to sleep in? Food to eat? Clean water to drink? You are blessed!

Stop wanting what everyone else has and think about what you already have. Can you improve it? Then take steps to do so. Clean it until it sparkles. Purge junk and outdated decor. Save your pennies and wait until you can afford to take that trip, buy those shoes, get a new bed. Small homes and rooms can be as beautifully designed as large ones. I’ve been in large, million dollar homes that had no personality or character, filled with the latest fad, but without warmth.

I’ve also been in tiny homes that were decorated in such a way that they lived large and were filled with beauty. Decorating your home with things that speak to your heart is much more important than having the latest trend.  This doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun and follow a trend…..if you love it and can add a bit of it to spice up your decor, go for it and enjoy it. Just don’t let it consume you and lead you to forget to treasure what you already have.

Realize that whatever your financial situation, you can have enough. Opt for classic, never go-out-of-style materials, and decorate your home with what YOU love, not what the magazines and blogs are pushing at any given moment. Instead of thinking, “oh geez, I want that!” Stop for a second and remember in six months or a year these people may be living with out-dated things and will be spending money on the next big thing, while trying to unload the crap that now one wants. While you??? You are basking in the home that is decorated with things that stand the test of time. It won’t give you a bigger home or one with bigger rooms, and I can’t promise you won’t be living with a sink full of dirty dishes from time to time, but great style isn’t about bigger or newer. It’s about heart. As in the things that speak to yours.

Make your home your sanctuary, no matter if yours is big or small, located in the city, the country or the burbs. It’s a matter of heart, not money. Create the home you see in your heart. You deserve to live in a sanctuary.



Wife, Mother and Grandmother, lover of junking and vintage stuff, photography, music, books, and critters. I heart Hersheys, Barqs Rootbeer and Keds. Join me as I create my own suburban sanctuary and help you create one too.

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