All Decked Out!

All decked out!

This weekend I finally decided to make a start on making my screened in deck/back porch into a more comfortable space. When I asked you all for advice on lightening and brightening up the deck, I was surprised to get several responses that said I just needed to continue what I was doing.

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I loved getting that response because, continuing is SOOOO much easier, and quicker, than painting ūüôā I started moving stuff around and trying to finish up the incomplete project.

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I had made these chair cushions above a couple of years ago, and they were fine. But I remembered that I had bought some cushions last year for outside that I never used and the color scheme would be PERFECT for the deck.

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My color scheme was inspired by the green that I was already using and this flower pot that I found at the drug store on clearance. I also had bought blue fans last year. I love the blues!DIY

Now that I have a color scheme in mind, things are starting to fall into place.

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I also had purchased these other cushions at the same time and they work perfectly in the chair swing.

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So far, so good! I am really liking the way this is turning out.

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Now for the other side of the deck! Here is what it looked like before:

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I changed out the little table between the chairs for a taller one that is also in the new color scheme.

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Much better! It is actually a stool but the height is perfect to hold a glass of tea.

Then I stole this rug from the basement “mud room” and put it underneath the swing chair.

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Next I decided to move the table and put the chairs in its spot. I feel like I will sit in these chairs more now since they are where I can look out into the yard.

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But it needs something. It just looks bare. ¬†I think I know just the thing! I have some shelves out in the shed that are the perfect color….

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Now we are talking! AND if I take the other rug out of the “laundry room” ……

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This shopping in my home is really working and FUN! Although, I now have to find a new rug for the laundry room.

After I got the table set up in the corner, I started thinking about what else I needed. I went into my kitchen and got this ladder and brought it out. I am hoping it will work to hold towels and swimsuits to dry after hot tub use. Those items are usually hanging on the backs of chairs and on the swing. Maybe this will make it look a little neater.

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I first put the ladder in front of the stationary part of the sliding glass doors. Later that night when I went inside, I realized it blocked too much of the view from inside and made it feel darker inside. I sure couldn’t have that. So I moved it down past the glass door and against the brick wall. Much better from inside.

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And here is the corner where I moved the table. Its a little bit cramped, but I like the change up.

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I plan to hang the blue shelf on the wall above the table.

In fact, the next thing I have to figure out is what to hang where. You may have noticed the hanging lamp behind the ladder, and my helicopter landing sign. Both of those need to be rethought and I am waiting on inspiration for the other items you see sitting around that I haven’t done anything with yet. Please give me any¬†suggestions you might have to spur me on to get this job done! And I can’t decide on what color curtains to use. What do you think?

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Thursday Favorite Things

Hit a Brick Wall

Hit a Brick Wall

My house has great curb appeal as you can see HERE. But the first thing you see as you approach my house is this end wall. This big brick wall, with its one tiny window and all the utilities.

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Pretty ugly, blah and boring. So, early on, I came up with a plan to give this end of the house some curb appeal. It has been in the works now for a couple of years, but it’s still not obvious from the road yet. I am thinking maybe by next summer it should start to make an impact.

I decided I wanted evergreens¬†to break up the expanse of bricks. So I began my search at all the nurseries in Birmingham for Italian Cypress trees with absolutely no luck. My favorite nursery suggested a substitute¬†so¬†I bought 7 and planted them. That evening I did some online research to remind me what kind of trees I had bought, (and of course I’ve forgotten again) and discovered that they would not work at all for my plan. These trees would grow 10′ wide and I had planted them 3′ apart! Nope. Nope. Nope. I dug every one of them up and transplanted them to the outskirts of our 1 acre yard.

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Baby Italian Cypress planted in 2014

Then I searched online and found the trees I wanted at Fast Growing Trees. I waited until they had their 1/2 price sale and order 7 Italian Cypress trees. They arrived in great shape.

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Italian Cypress right after planting in 2014

The next step in my plan was for some old fashion color with hydrangeas. I moved several tiny ones in front of the cypress trees and I have had a time keeping them watered and alive, but I think they are finally established and are going to make it.

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This is the same plant, above, shortly after it was planted, and below, this summer. I think this will be a show stopper next year.

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Next, I decided to add a bit of English vibe to go along with the Italian flavor going on. I planted a whole flat of creeping fig to grow on the side of the house. Ivies can cause damage to the brick and mortar but creeping fig is suppose to be safe.

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My next plan is to transplant some small growing gardenias here in front of the hydrangeas. I think this will be a great combination. But it will have to wait until cooler weather. Nothing will survive a transplant right now.

Here are a few current pictures. I can hardly wait to see what it looks like in one more year. And then again in two more years.

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The Italian Cypress trees have grown a lot and are really starting to look good. The creeping fig isn’t visible from any distance yet, but I can just imagine it covering half the wall! And then when all the hydrangea are blooming……. *swoon*

 

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The Shoals ~ Part 3

The Shoals ~ Part 3

In Part 1, we visited right around our hotel in Florence, AL. In Part 2, we visited Tuscumbia, AL. And now for Part 3, we are visiting Ivy Green, also in Tuscumbia.

I thought it was going to be closed, so we just planned to ride by and take a few pictures, but we were surprised to find it open! We were able to tour the grounds and the beautiful home.

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The grounds were beautiful. The oak leaf hydrangea and the gardenias were in full bloom when we visited. The scent was intoxicating.

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This herb garden is exactly what I aspire to!

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There were two outbuildings. The first one was directly behind the house and was the kitchen and the cook’s living quarters. The second one was much fancier and was beside the main house. It was used as Helen’s playroom and later as an office.

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And just out the back door of the main house was the well. The famous well and pump where Helen signed her first word “water.”

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I didn’t take a single picture while inside the house, but it is FILLED with memorabilia of Helen’s life and all her accomplishments. Just fascinating to see it all and to see pictures of her as a grown woman traveling¬†and meeting with famous people and lecturing in many countries.

Playwright William Gibson’s epic drama, “The Miracle Worker” is performed on the grounds of Ivy Green each year on weekends from early June through mid July. It is on my list to see!

Read about Helen Keller.

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We rode to Wheeler Dam one day, the second dam built by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

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These core plugs show the layers of sediment from the earth under the river. These plugs are studied to determine the solidity of the ground before building such a monstrous building such as the dam.

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We hiked several trails and visited several parks.

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We have become quite fond of our crows at home and maybe this one at the hotel could tell that because he seemed quite friendly and enjoyed posing for me.

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I think maybe one of Mr. Menace’s favorite stops was the¬†Palace¬†Ice Cream Shop in Tuscumbia.

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Or possibly it was supper at the Rattlesnake Saloon! After parking in the huge parking lot, you can wait at the “bus stop” for the shuttle. Some people chose to walk it, but I highly recommend the ride in the back of the pickup.

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The drive down to the cave was amazingly steep and a bit scary, but also pretty cool. I can’t imagine trying to drive back up it.

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The saloon is built under a huge rock and it is VERY family friendly. There is a live band and dance floor which is mostly filled with children and sometimes their parents. The food is pretty good too! All in all it is a MUST SEE!

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Another night we ate at the River Bottom Grille. Great food and even better views!

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We made one more stop on our way home, and we both have decided that it may have been our favorite. The Dismals Canyon is privately owned, but was designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service in 1975.

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The day we stopped was extremely hot, but down in the canyon the air was a good 10 degrees cooler. We took the 1.5 mile trail to the bottom of the canyon and the sights were truly amazing, from the gigantic boulders to the waterfalls.

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I desperately want to go back for the night tour, in which you can (hopefully) see the Dismalites!

“Past twilight the canyon lights up with tiny bioluminescent creatures we call Dismalites. These “glowworms” require a select habitat to survive and are unique to only a few places on Earth. They are ‚Äúclose cousins‚ÄĚ of the rare glowworms found in Australia and New Zealand.”

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My washed out photos do not do justice to the beauty we saw.  In reality it was so green and cool.

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I have read on Facebook that lately there has been a rash of vandals, destroying parts of this great natural resource with spray paint and by scraping the rocks where the dismalites reside. I simply cannot understand people who get pleasure out of destruction.

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Selfies at the Dismals. I had a TON of phone/camera problems on this trip and I am so disappointed at how bad all the photos are.

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I can’t believe how much there is to see and do in this area. We didn’t even get around to seeing everything I had hoped. Oh well. I guess that means there is another trip in store for us.

 

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Dishing It & Digging It

Gettin’ Figgy Wid It

Gettin’ Figgy Wid IT

The figs are starting to ripen around here and so its time to make fig preserves. I never liked figs as a kid. Well. Maybe that’s not true. I never tasted figs as a kid. They looked gross. I am sure that’s how the whole “make fake strawberry jam outta figs” got started! Some mother decided to trick her kids into eating figs and it caught on.

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Anyway, my old house, the cottage, which is now a rental house, has a huge fig tree and while I was living there I felt guilty to let the figs go to waste, so one day I called mama and asked her how to fix them. I’ve been in love with them ever since.

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Ripe figs will¬†have some good color on them and they should pull off the branch easily. The only hard part about picking them is reaching all the ones at the top of the tree. I will have to bring a ladder next time! ¬†And of course it’s a law that your nose will itch while yours fingers are all sticky with fig juice.

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It’s easy really. Preserves are nothing but fruit and sugar. Some recipes add some extra ingredients but I prefer them plain and simple.

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First thing to do after picking, is to take off any stems that remain and rinse off any bugs. Ants love figs, so be sure to get rid of them.

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Put them in a pot with a cup or two of water. I don’t have an actual recipe, but roughly 2:1, figs to sugar. I looked up some recipes to get the ratio, but when I tried that, they seemed just a little too sweet to me. So I go a little less sugar. I’m not sure if it does anything, but I also added a tiny pinch of salt as some recipes included.

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Last year, I tried a recipe that included some lemon juice. I didn’t care for it. Mama also told me that Granddaddy used to add slices of lemon when he cooked them and that the lemon would be candied when he finished cooking. Now THAT sounds good!

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Boil for 2-3 hours, stirring to prevent sticking. Burnt sugar is not a good smell. Trust me. It takes at least two hours, but cook until liquid is thick and mostly non-existent. I like to mash the figs when I stir. The figs should be cooked down to almost 1/2 of the original amount.

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Notice how thick they are in the above picture. This is how the final product should look. You can easily see from these pictures that fig preserves are not beautiful things. And in fact, are not particularly appetizing looking whatsoever. Brown just does not lend itself well to food. Again, I believe that’s why some smooth mama decided to add some color and call them “strawberries.”

 

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I got about 12 jelly jars (half pints) from this cooking. I was giving all these to friends and co-workers to be eaten immediately, so I didn’t bother with sealing the jars. My next cooking will be going into my pantry for use during the next few months, so I will be taking the precautions to keep them fresh. I will run the jars through the dishwasher and fill them while they are still hot. The hot jars and the hot preserves will quickly seal the lids if you get them on quickly.

These do not last long around our house.

Is there a food¬†you’ve discovered as an adult, that you were wrong about as a child?

 

Divide and Conquer!

Divide and Conquer!

I was in Lowe’s this spring to buy vegetable plants and seeds and of course I can’t go there without walking through the flowers, but I managed to get out with only purchasing two.

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The colors of this canna lily just shouted my  name! I love the burgandy foliage and the orangey/coral blooms. I immediately decided they had to come home with me. I knew I wanted to put them in pots by our hot tub, so I also got some creeping jenny to make the pots more interesting. Then I thought one pot might look a little lonely, so I bought 2 of each so I would have enough to do two pots.

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I loved the way they looked sitting by the hot tub. And when I get my new deck built, they will be show stoppers! But have you ever noticed how things look better in threes? Yep. I needed another one. So a few weeks later I went back to Lowe’s to get another one and they were sold out. Insert sad face here.

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I knew what had to be done. DIVIDE and CONQUER! I put potting soil in my third pot and then inspected the two plants I had to find a likely looking suspect. I was looking for a sprout that was a little removed from the center cluster of leaves. This would make it easier to separate from the pack. I then took my trowel and ruthlessly cut down into the soil between the one I wanted and the ones to remain! You could use a knife and if it weren’t potting soil you would probably need to, but the soil in the pot is so soft, the trowel worked fine. I then plopped my newly separated plant into its new home. I then did the same thing with the creeping jenny.

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Now I have three beautiful pots. hmmmmmm When I get that new deck built around the hot tub, I just might need three more!

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I did the plant surgery and LOOK! I have a new sprout in the newest pot!

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I love these so much, I really have to control myself not to go overboard and plant more. I’d love to have a greenhouse and/or conservatory to do some major plant starting, dividing and propagation. Do you get new plants from the plants you already have?

 

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Ain’t it Grand!

Ain’t It Grand!

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Mr. Menace, 5 yr old Autumn, Me, 7 yr old Chloe

Last Friday, our grandkids came from Tennessee for a weekend of fun, and FUN it was! They arrived around lunch time and we hit up Dairy Queen for some chicken and burgers and the main event…… ICE CREAM!

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When “Ninny” is around (me), they get to have special drinks! You know the ones… sugar filled, caffeinated… but only one, haha! The rest of the time its still water. There was much giggling and laughter and tall tales during lunch.

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Mr. Menace went back to the office after lunch. Mom wanted to go clothes shopping but Chloe was against it, so we sent Mom off to Maurices to buy herself some clothes, and we three went to the grocery store and dollar store for supplies. Supplies? Yes, supplies. Not only did we need some food to eat, but we had some grand plans for fun!

It was H O T,¬†¬†so when we got home we played in the hot tub (or maybe I should call it a cool tub since we didn’t heat up the water in it) all afternoon and on into the evening!

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They have learned the art of silly photos from some older cousins. LOL

Later that evening, when Mr. Menace came home, he had a new outfit for the girls to try on.

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Chloe was excited and ready to explore the bees. Autumn thought she would just watch from a safe distance with Ninny.

But first, bed. The girls asked me if they could sleep with me in our king size bed. I told them it would be up to Mr. Menace because that would mean he would have to sleep somewhere else. Of course when they asked him, he agreed.

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Both girls were tired and went to sleep pretty quick, with me scratching their backs. I, however, felt like a grilled cheese sandwich all night. LOL And BOY do they put out some heat! It was totally worth it when they’d sleepily open their eyes and put a tiny arm around me. And since I could catch up my sleep after they went home!

Saturday morning, before it got too hot, Chloe and Mr. Menace suited up and went out to explore the hives.

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Mr. Menace enlisting help getting zipped up from Autumn.

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Ready to go!

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Next on our agenda was preparation for our feature plan, a Lemonade Stand! We took our poster board and markers outside and made signs for our stand.

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Then we started decorating our sales table and guests tables and hanging the signs. And finally it was time to make the lemonade and bake the cookies!

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Open for business! Sugar cookies and Lemonade, only a quarter each.

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Our first customers were some strange people from a far away land….

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Maybe discussing the rate of exchange??

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They seemed to enjoy their visit to our country and said the snacks were tasty!

Our next customers were fun! Two more of our grandchildren came to purchase snacks and play.

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Four of our seven grands: Phoebe 4, Sadie, 6, Autumn 5, Chloe 7

After all that work, we decided we should indulge and get ourselves a cookie before we sold out!

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And then it was play time. They all got on the trampoline, held hands and sang one of their Sunday school songs. It was so sweet.

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Trampoline

The girls then decided to create some art with the left over poster paper and markers.

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After lunch we bounced back and forth between playing in the hot tub (cool tub) and jumping on the trampoline. To make it bearable on the trampoline, we set up the sprinkler underneath it to keep us cool.

 

Are you having an extremely hot July? How are you keeping cool?

 

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Furniture in the Kitchen

Furniture in the Kitchen

Our house had a kitchen FULL of built-in cabinets when we purchased it. In a way, I was excited about that because my little cottage that I was moving out of only had 2 cabinets. I couldn’t even buy a weeks worth of groceries because I had no where to put it! However, I much prefer antique furniture to built-in cabinetry. So I was contemplating how to add some unique furniture to my kitchen. Like this inspirational island made from a beautiful antique piano, or the antique hardware display cabinet:

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We actually own a display cabinet much like the one above, but ours is much too big to fit into the kitchen. I am seriously considering asking Mr. Menace to cut it down to size…..

Anyway, I did come up with an idea that wasn’t hard to implement and is working very well for me and gives some character to the room.

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This area of the kitchen was the obvious choice for a makeover. We didn’t need it for a breakfast nook because our table is right through that door on the left. So I decided to remove the tall cabinet beside the fridge that houses the microwave. All it took was a screwdriver and that cabinet was GONE!

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When I got this bookshelf from my mama, I intended to use it in the spare room for storage and display. She had painted it a mustard-y gold color and it worked for the room I first put it in.

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But then, plans changed! After I saw this inspiration picture below, I knew what my shelf was destined for.

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So. With the tall microwave cabinet out of the room I moved in the “book shelf” against the small wall. And we put this huge butcher block table under the window and beside the fridge.

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Then, as you will recall, I painted the Kitchen and Study,¬†and I needed to paint the shelves. I considered painting it the same color as the walls so that it blended in, but I didn’t consider it for long.¬†

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And now the funnest part of all…. to style the shelves like the inspiration picture.

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I am very pleased with the final look. It was such a simple update and yet it took my kitchen out of the cookie cutter category and gave it a personalized look like no other.

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Thoughts of Home

Sunday Side Trip

Sunday Side Trip

We had an afternoon date¬†with a dear friend in Vestavia (suburb of Birmingham) on Sunday. We had a very pleasant lunch: I made a tomato pie. YUM!, and a great chat: several¬†weeks of life experiences to catch up on!, ¬†and then we watched the movie “Monuments Men”: great movie based on a true story from 1944.

Right about the time we were suppose to leave, a thunder storm blew up and we had to wait¬†it out, so it was 6:30 or 7 pm before we left. On the way to our date earlier, I had asked Mr. Menace about a house I saw up on the mountain, so as we were leaving he asked if I wanted to ride up the mountain and see it. The rain had stopped and I’m always up for a scenic drive.

We didn’t actually locate the house that I had seen. But, we stopped at Lover’s Leap to take in this view:

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Lover’s Leap, Vestavia, Alabama

Lover’s Leap takes it name from an Indian Legend in which an Indian Brave stabs his Indian Princess and then, filled with remorse, jumps over the edge with her body in his arms.

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Mr. Menace is a poetry buff and he recited to me the poem etched in the rock here. Colonel Thomas W. Farrar carved these lines from Lord Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgramage”, in 1827, while he and his wife camped here on their journeys.

To sit on the rocks, to muse ore flood and fell,

to slowly chase the forest’s shady scene,

where things that own not man’s dominion dwell,

and mortal foot hath ne’er or rarely been.

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A little more investigation reveals that the original rock carving was removed from this area in 1930 and this one is a replica. The original was given to the Masonic Lodge in Elyton, AL. I think another Sunday afternoon drive is in order!

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Path leading to rock carving.

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Tuesday Talk

Deck Decor

Deck Decor

The back of our house has a great deck! Beautifully made and gorgeous wood! But we never use it. It is sufficatingly hot out there during the summer. And there is no comfortable furniture. I am working to fix both of these problems and I thought you might have some ideas to help me.

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Realtors picture from 2011

I was very excited about the back deck when we bought our home. I was excited to decorate it and start living out there! In fact, the day of our closing, we took our air mattress over to the house and slept on the back deck! And during mild temperatures, and a/c outages, we have slept out there on several occasions.

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Decorating the deck has been fun. I found these two bar stools at a yard sale for $5 each. And these two cane back chairs at the thrift store for $10 each. Of course they all had to be painted. (ps. They call me the spray paint Queen! I think I have every color of Rust-oleum that Home Depot carries.)

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Bar Stools – Before

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Bar Stools – After

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Cane Back Chairs – Before

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Cane Back Chair – After Paint

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My first upholstery job.

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The finished cane back chair.

I am not happy with the decor yet. I want a couch or a lounge chair or a sectional or SOMETHING we can lay down on. Plus, it needs paint. It is SO dark. And while I love the wood, it needs to be lighter and brighter.

Here are a few of my inspirations:

Painted Walls & beams from BHG

Painted Walls & beams

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Painted floor & ceiling

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Painted walls & ceiling

The deck in that last picture looks remarkably like mine! I love how bright it is. And now, here are some pictures of my deck right this minute. Dirt, shoes, and all.

Standing in the doorway, to the left is a gas heater and the two cane back chairs.

Standing in the doorway, to the left is a gas heater and the two cane back chairs.

The left front corner has our bar table, that Mr. Menace made and the two bar stools.

The left front corner has our bar table, that Mr. Menace made, and the two bar stools.

Front right corner has the chair swing that we bought in Mexico.

Front right corner has the chair swing that we bought in Mexico.

Standing in the doorway, to the right is a cabinet and all my bird food.

Still standing in the doorway, to the right is a cabinet and all my bird food.

Here you can see the door to the house.

Here you can see the door to the house.

In the last picture you can see the dark brick wall, the dark wood shingles above it, the dark wood ceiling, the dark wood floor and the dark wood surrounding the screens and the railing.

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Full view from the house doorway.

Now, I need help. Any hints? What would lighten and brighten it up the best, without painting every single piece of wood?

 

Link Parties:

Thoughts of Home

Over the Moon

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Inspiration Monday

Tuesday Talk

Our Simple Homestead

 

 

The Shoals ~ Part 2

The Shoals ~ Part 2

For our anniversary trip (aka Memorial Day weekend) we went to northwest Alabama to the four-city area known as The Shoals. We stayed in Florence and you can read about our awesome hotel and the immediate couple of miles HERE in Part 1.

One of the four cities that makes up the Shoals is Tuscumbia. Right in the center of town is the largest man-made natural stone waterfall in the world. Coldwater falls is feature point of Spring Park and is built with local sandstone.

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The waterfall feeds into a pond with a large fountain which shoots 51 jets and is dedicated to the memory of Princess Im-Mi-Ah-Key the wife of Chief Tuscumbia.

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The park and pond is home to many ducks, geese, and swan. A friend told me she always takes bread to feed them but has to stand on the picnic table because she is just a tiny bit scared of them.

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It is a beautiful little park and after we finished walking around, we then went to see the Tuscumbia Depot, built in 1888 and is in the restoration process.

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And then, we rode by Ivy Green.

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I thought it was going to be closed, but we lucked out, and it was open and we were able to tour all the grounds and the house. However, this post is way too long already and so that tour will be Part 3.

Pleased stay tuned!