Thursday, April 21, 2011

Decorate for Spring on a budget!

We are on the cusp of Spring and my house is sparkling clean!  Well...its getting there.  After a good thorough scrubbing, I always want to open the windows and freshen up my winter decor.  I'm fluffing and puttering hither and yon around my little Jewel Box® home, touching up paint here and switching out rugs and curtains there. I want to let the outdoors in this time of year and send winter away on a song.

Here are a few tips to help us get in the spirit of the new season:

Photos Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens
yellow room overall

Create a casual living room that sings "spring," brimming with juicy citrus colors. Adding brightly colored vases, spunky patterned pillows, a painted jute rug, and flea market finds to your space for a fresh feel without spending a fortune. Bold throws, pillows and lampshades add pop to your springtime decor!  I love the addition of colored beads to the flower vase!  A simple but elegant touch.

Freshening up your boudoir is as simple as a coat of paint and some fabric.  Add punch to a headboard by wrapping it with a yard of mod floral fabric. Try inexpensive album frames filled with patterned paper to adorn bare walls. The bedside table is tres chic with the addition of a coat of metallic paint.  I love it!

Replace winter rugs with light jute or sisal for a clean, airy feel.  Floral pillows and jugs of flowers as accent pieces add a fresh look that will last throughout the summer months.

Get a fresh perspective on your bathroom by swapping out a typical bathroom mirror for a decoupaged beauty. Purchase a mirror with a flat frame and cover the frame with vibrant fabric using decoupage. A new shower curtain and a few new towels or bathmat can revamp a room without breaking your budget.  I love the floral lampshades on the wall!  A glue gun and some faux petals would make a great weekend project and give your creativity an outlet!

What says springtime more than our feathery friends?  Find a classic bird-watching field guide at a used book store. Carefully cut loose sheets from it and use finishing nails to hang them in a grid to get the look of vintage prints without the cost.

I love paint!  What better decorating tool than paint to turn an old piece of furniture or some bland walls into a work of art!  If you don't like the outcome, you're out nothing but a can of paint and some time.  Hinging together unfinished bifold doors creates a decorative room divider or large work of art. Paint it to your heart's desire.  One side could be for your winter decor and then turn it around for spring!

Replace heavy draperies with light panels or sheers to celebrate the new season.  Use cafe clips for a casual look.  Remember sheers come in all colors, not just white, so they will match any decorating scheme and let the sunlight fill your room!

Dress up Roman shades with decorative tape or fabric paint for a whimsical touch to any room.

Bring the outdoors in, literally, with these sun catchers.  Sandwich a leaf (hosta, fern, caladium, or palm) between two framed panels of glass, available at imports stores. Fresh leaves will turn brown, so you'll need to swap them out every few weeks, or use dried leaves and coat them with acrylic artist's spray to prevent discoloration.  What a wonderful way to showcase Mother Nature's handiwork!

Have fun sprucing up your little home to welcome Spring!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Keep Smiling!

This post has nothing to do with Jewel Box® homes.  I just had to share the most wonderful photos from NPR of the new baby giraffe at the Cincinnati Zoo.  This little guy made me grin from ear to ear.

These days, I mentally catalog anything that makes me smile.  It distracts me from the constant stream of little crisis that keep popping up. Like my younger son crashing both our cars this past weekend.  And my mother-in-law, who we moved into a nursing home two weeks ago, falling three times on Sunday and ending up in the hospital. By the way, The New Old Age blog carried by the New York Times, is filled with information and solutions covering aging and elder care.  I highly recommend it.

Anyway, at least my life is not dull!  I tuned into Oprah the other day for a rerun on people facing financial challenges.  It seemed a good place to pick-up some tips.  The first guest was a single mother trying to pay the bills.  Oprah's advice, "You are still alive and breathing, focus on that."  That life changing advice made me feel soooo much better!!!

My motto these days, survival equals success.  

So here is that glorious baby giraffe.  Enjoy!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Mexican Fiesta!

I made this tonight.  It was in the latest edition of Better Homes and Gardens.  It was so delicious I wanted to marry it...

It was a beautiful day here and I longed to be outside.  So I put these babies in the crockpot and went out to play in the sunshine with my girls!  I made some sangria, a little pico de gallo and we had a tiny little Mexican Fiesta on a Saturday night.  I just had to share it with you!


  • 3 1/2  pounds  boneless pork shoulder (or chicken)
  • 1  14-ounce can  chicken broth
  • 1/2  cup  chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 6  cloves  garlic, minced
  • 1  tablespoon  ground cumin
  • 2  to 3 teaspoons  ground chipotle chile pepper or hot chili powder
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 3  10-ounce cans  enchilada sauce
  • 1  tablespoon  snipped fresh cilantro
  • 1  4-ounce can  diced green chile peppers
  • 8  ounces  cojita cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 8 to 12  8-inch  flour tortillas
  •     Snipped fresh cilantro
  •     Diced tomato or quartered grape tomatoes
  •     Sour cream (optional)


1. Trim fat from pork. In a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker combine pork shoulder, broth, onion, garlic, cumin, ground chipotle chile pepper or chili powder, and salt. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 10 to 11 hours or on high-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove pork from slow cooker, reserving cooking liquid. Using two forks, pull meat into coarse strands.*
3. In a large bowl combine pork, 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce, 2 tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid, and the 1 tablespoon snipped cilantro. Set aside.
4. In a medium bowl combine the remaining enchilada sauce, 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid (discard any remaining cooking liquid), and the diced green chile peppers. Spread about 1/2 cup of enchilada-green chile pepper mixture in the bottom of a 3-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside.
5. Divide pork mixture and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese among tortillas, placing meat and cheese near the edge of each tortilla. Roll up tortillas. Place filled tortillas, seam sides down, in the prepared baking dish (place tortillas close together); top with the remaining enchilada-green chile pepper mixture. Cover with foil; bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 5 minutes more or until heated through and cheese is softened and starts to brown slightly.
6. Sprinkle with additional snipped cilantro and tomato. If desired, serve with sour cream.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Most Beautiful House I Know - Part I

This past week I had the pleasure and privilege of spending the evening at the home of two dear friends.  My son and I were visiting colleges over spring break and our friends invited us to spend the night at their house.

This lovely home was built for the sole purpose of bringing family and friends together. It has never been photographed for any magazine or book, the owners want this to remain a private retreat, but clearly this house could grace the cover of 'Architectural Digest' or 'House Beautiful'.  The proportions of this home are perfect for family gatherings and get togethers with friends. So don't expect a Jewel Box®,  but I know you will appreciate the remarkable beauty of this home.  And many of the interior design arrangements work well in a small space. You are in for a rare treat!

The architecture of the home was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie Style.   Japanese and Italian styles are also woven into the design.

The house seems to grow organically from the landscape.  

Take a look at this garage!  Perhaps the loveliest place to store cars I have seen.

Antique Japanese stone planters can found throughout the grounds.

A bridge connects the main house to the coach house.

A river birch and Japanese deity greet visitors.

Let's go inside.  This red lacquered bench in the side entrance to the house, makes is a convenient place to remove shoes and outerwear.  In keeping with the Japanese undertones of the home, only slippers or stocking feet are worn indoors.

A stunning unique trait of this house is the flooring.  It may look like wood, but this is actually stone. 

Red lacquered bench in side entry.
A close-up of the stone flooring.
Pocket doors are used throughout the house.  This is a great space saver in a smaller space and also adds functionality in a larger house.

Pocket doors are used throughout the house.

The front entrance with its matching ginger jars and Japanese styled wooden chairs on either side, greets guests with a calming, welcoming, beauty.

A magnificent feature of the front entrance is the large white sculpted chandelier that hangs from the ceiling.

This one of a kind chandelier is more like a sculpted work of art.

Front entrance chandelier lit and seen from above.
Two ancient Buddhas also flank the entrance.  It is difficult to describe how lovely these pieces are.  The muted colors and peaceful poses radiate tranquility and a tangible sense of calm. 

The Buddha to the left of the entrance.

A close up of detail on the Buddha's face and robe.
Buddha to the right of the front entrance.
The Japanese influence flows into the living area.  This room combines comfort and elegant design.  But even with all its beauty, this house is made for living.  Lounging, chatting, eating and even dancing are all encouraged! 

The clean lines and restrained use of accent colors would work well in smaller spaces.  The large seating cushions are especially practical for extra seating.

Close up of the armless couch also showing ginger jars flanking the front entrance.

An antique ginger jar in the corner of the living room.

One of a pair of slipper chairs positioned to take in the lake view.

The fireplace mantel.

Original art work in the living room.

The view from the living area.
For me, one of the most beautiful rooms in this most beautiful of homes, is the Japanese dining room.  Tatami mats surround the table with cushions for seating.

The Japanese dining table with space carved for feet below.
Dining utensils in a basket by the sliding screen doors.

Early antique sepia photos of Japanese life hang in the dining room.

Not one detail in this house is overlooked.  Including the first floor powder room. 

River bed stones surround the stainless steel bowl.  The faucet and handles are installed directly into the stone wall.  Colored glass block allows light into the room, but maintains privacy.

A bamboo teakettle to the side of the sink.

A small lavatory for a small space.
In the study, dark wood is replaced with cherry.  Green and brown print and striped fabrics are pulled together by brown silk pillows. This is a stunning room!

The fireplace in the study.
My photography does not do justice to the kitchen.  I really needed a completely different camera and more skill at photography.  Actually, none of my photos show the true beauty of this home.  But back to the kitchen, the backsplash over the stove runs the entire length of the wall up to the ceiling.  It is a combination of small stainless steel and irridescent tiles, all hand laid. Convenient pot filling faucets are installed over the stove.

Frosted glass cabinets flank either side of the hood.

A creamy marble tops the kitchen island.

Original artwork in the kitchen.
The kitchen sitting area has a view to the living room.  The white leather chair seats compliment the dark wood.

Chairs from the kitchen table can easily be moved to the living area for more seating.

Close-up of a serving platter on the kitchen table.
Stay tuned for future posts covering the upstairs and lower levels of the most beautiful house I know.  And a big thank you to our hosts, who so generously allowed me to photograph and share their home.