Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Horrified Hostess - PART 2: What are you afraid of?

What are you afraid of?

House . . . not clean enough?
Not nice enough?
Not big enough?

Food . . . not edible?
Not suitable for guests?
Not ready on time?

Guests . . . not comfortable?
Bored? (Boring?)
Arriving too early? (Staying too late?)

Tip # 2 of this series:  Figure out what you're afraid of when it comes to entertaining.

Until you figure this out, you can't you tackle it.


If you're afraid of entertaining, but you're determined to conquer that fear and get into the game, you'll be happy to hear that the best way to do that is to ease yourself into it. No one who's afraid of the water gets into the pool by doing a reverse 2 1/2 somersault in the pike position off the 3-meter springboard.  It is perfectly acceptable -- and, in fact, highly recommended -- instead, to simply take one step at a time down into the shallow end of the pool with the idea of just getting your suit wet! (Whew!  Isn't that a relief!  Don't you feel better already?)

photo from lovemaegan.com

I really do think that any fears we have about entertaining fall into one of those categories listed above -- our houses, our food, or our guests.  (I know that some of you would put a big, fat check by each of those categories, but if you really focus on those scary thoughts, one category probably dominates the others. If not, well, pick one and just go with it for now. We'll get to all of them over the next couple of weeks.)

I know that at the top of this post, I listed our houses first, but I'm actually going to start with our guests.  And there's a reason for that. After all, WHO you invite into your home -- your "guest" list -- is the component you have the most control over in this whole entertaining equation!

In the pool of entertaining, who better to make a little splash with than friends?  (My motto is What good are your friends if you can't use 'em?)  That's right.  FRIENDS.  CLOSE friends.

There are huge advantages to choosing close friends as your first guinea pigs guests when you're just getting back into your entertaining groove. 

Advantage #1) You know them well, so you know their likes and dislikes. (These are the folks it should be easy to make feel comfortable).  

#2) You should have plenty to talk about (so neither they nor you should be bored or boring). 

#3) And perhaps the biggest advantage of all, you can be honest with them. (If this isn't the case, you need some new close friends.) You should be able to tell them that you haven't had anyone over in quiet a while and you're a little nervous.  (You probably don't want to tell them that you thought they'd be easy, but you get the idea, right?)  You can even tell really close friends not to dare show up early!  (If I knew them well enough, I've actually been known to tell prospective guests my Golden Guest Rule:  Come on time if you must.  Come late if you can.  Don't EVER come early!)  

#4) Close friends aren't going to be concerned with your house.  (Do the best you can with your house, and then forget about it and have fun!  More about  our houses, remember, in a later post.)  

#5) Close friends can usually tell when everyone's had enough fun and it's time for them to head home.

#6) Close friends want to spend time with you, so just about anything you do together -- regardless of your house, the food, or the ocassion -- will be a success.  And that's important when you're doing something that scares you. (NOTE:  Learn to set yourself up for SUCCESS!)

Photo from Laine and Abby's Ccookie Exchange on facebook

One success under your belt will give you the confidence to try for another!  (And before you know it, you won't be just sticking your toe in the water; you'll be doing laps at champ time!) 

Next time we'll talk about house horrors -- imagined or real -- and how to overcome them . . . 

Meanwhile, call a friend to stop over for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate in between last-minute Christmas shopping, or call a couple of friends to come over for an impromptu wrapping party. (Hey, wrapping Christmas presents is supposed to be messy, so as long as at least one bathroom's clean, you don't even worry about the rest of the house! And just pop some pre-made chocolate-chip cookie dough into the oven or pick up some cookies from the grocery store or local bakery, and you're set!)

Ahhh, the sweet smell of coffee and cookies success! 


Friday, December 16, 2011

The Horrified Hostess - Part 1

 Photo from dress4dinner.com.
[And for those of you wondering, yes, of course this is a picture of me. Why do you ask?] 




I ENTERTAINED! After our early dismissal from school last Friday, I had a group of women over for lunch and then a mere few hours later had friends over for dinner!

Big deal, some of you are thinking.  Well, for me, IT IS!

In my younger years (the ones that I miss in so many ways), I loved having people over to my casa. But somewhere along the way, I got out of the habit. 

And then, I somehow lost my confidence about the whole thing. 

[Before we continue, let me state for the record, that in other ways I LOVE being a 50s-something -- 54, to be exact -- woman. )

I'm not a great cook, and I'm a worse housekeeper, so I guess I worried that if the "entertaining"  involved cooking, the meal would flop. And/Or that the house wouldn't be clean enough -- that maybe one of the dust bunnies I had come to think of as beloved pets would jump from behind the couch and bite a guest on the ankle or something.  

You fellow Horrified Hostesses out there can attest to the things-that-can-go-wrong-nightmares the imagination can produce. And it doesn't help if you, yourself, are, in turn, entertained frequently by friends who make Martha Stewart look like a slacker. (Or that your very own mother cooks for groups of 75 or more without breaking a sweat and actually thinks it's fun.) 

Considering our phobias, why in the world then would any of us want to entertain?

Aha!  FIRST TIP IN THIS SERIES:  THAT is exactly the question you have to ask yourself and then honestly answer:  Why do I even care about this whole entertaining thing?

If you want to entertain simply because you think you should (or someone else told you that you have to), you want to impress people with your hostess-with-the-mostest skills (which we've already determined that we Horrified Hostesses probably don't naturally have), or you want to show off your new house (or your new flooring, your new sofa, your new whatever), or you're trying to make people to think you're someone you're not (hey, let's get real, here). . . well, then stop right now where you stand.  I can't help you.

But . . . if you find yourself genuinely having a deep desire to share your home with people you know and love (or want to get to know) because you feel that to share your home is to share yourself, then you're on the right track.  

The best hostesses I know (and I'm blessed to know many), more than any other skill, have the ability to make others feel truly welcomed not only into their homes but into their hearts.  

If you're wanting to gather friends and family into your home for that welcoming-and-lovin'-on reason alone, then I believe you can overcome anything that's keeping you from flinging open the doors and saying, "Ya'll come on in!"

And, that, I think I can help you with.  (Trust me, sister, if I can do it, so can you!)  So tune in later this week for the next Horrified Hostess post.



PS  Okay, I realize there is no burlap in this post.  Sorry.  The first post just kinda took a different turn.  But if it excites you (and it seems to be exciting lots of us in Blog Land these days), then I promise some burlap will be coming!  

NEW SERIES: The Horrified Hostess!

From thesaurus.com: 
Beginning tomorrow, I'm starting a new series of posts for those women who,  like me, somehow lost their entertaining groove but would seriously like to get it back . . . so stay turned! (There'll be pictures and everything!)

Hint for tomorrow's first post . . . BURLAP! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Believe it or not, this is the only 
picture from my Canton trip!
(Well, at least I made it a fun one!)

Bev and I had a great time on our Girl-Trip, despite my losing ALL of my money before we even left our motel.

Yup.  You read that right. 






I have no idea how it happened.  Bev had gone down to the lobby ahead of me to check on something.  I patted the wad (yep, it was a wad) in the front pocket of my jeans as I left our room.  I took the elevator downstairs, checked my E-mail at the motel's computer center, used the downstairs ladies' room, and then Bev and I drove across the street -- literally -- to grab breakfast. As I reached into my pocket at the drive-thru, I realized my pocket was empty. 
We rushed right back across the street to our motel, alerted the staff, and then looked everywhere, as we retraced my steps, but no money.  NO money. No MONEY. None. Zip. Nada.

Y'know what, though? I decided that we were not going to let a rocky start ruin our trip, and it didn't!  I prayed that I'd find my money, but then I did something kinda crazy . . . I reminded myself that everything I have belongs to Papa-God, and I asked Him to use it to bless someone who really needed it. (Bev said she'd pray that whoever found it would feel guilty for not turning it in!  LOL!) 

Don't get me wrong -- sure, I was disappointed that I'd somehow lost my "fun funds" (and truth be told, I felt like a big dummy -- make that a HUGE dummy -- for losing it), but choosing to trust Papa with it made all the difference, I think, in being able to enjoy the rest of the trip and not think of it, instead, as a disaster.

That being said, I did find some fun things to bring home, most of it coming from the Goodwill store in Tyler. (Goodwill accepts debit cards!  And we always stop at the Goodwill in Tyler as part the whole Canton-trip experience.) In fact, I have one project-buy that I found there, but I'm saving it to show you later (like "before" and "after" later -- maybe after Christmas 'cause, hopefully, I'll be able to get it done while I'm off from the School House). 

Meanwhile, enjoy this wonderful pink . . . uh . . . sculpture?  I've seen this every time I've been to Canton, and it always says the same thing to me:  


And I'm all about sharing the fun, so here it is for you to enjoy, too!

I hope you're doing something fun this weekend!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Canton Trade Days!

 All pictures in this post are from a feature Country Living magazine did on Canton Trade Days.

[Look at those scrumptious colors!  BE STILL, MY HEART!]
I'm going to CANTON for First Monday!  

No, not Canton, Ohio -- Canton, TEXAS! 

Every weekend before the first Monday of each month, Canton, Texas, hosts a huge flea market, antique show, craft fair, yard sale . . . well, an EVERYTHING sale!  If you need something or just plain ol' want something, it gonna be in Canton.  Sister-friend, Bev, and I are leaving right after school for some much needed Girl-Time and some shopping!  I'll try to take some pics and then give you the scoop when I get back to Casita 422!  Until then . . . 


[Yep, this is what Bev and I are going to be doing!]

 [I just LOVE me some junque-diggin'!]

 ["The stars at night . . . are big and bright . . . deep in the heart of Texas" . . . 
but I'll take this kind, too!]

[Stained glass, anyone, IN OLD WINDOWS (!) ? ]

Everything sparkles at Canton!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

 Wasn't it just yesterday that I told you I use cake pedestals primarily for displaying things other than CAKES?  But I came home today to find this sugar-free brownie (complete with candle!) waiting for me here to celebrate my birthday!  (Awwwww, thank you, Honey!)  Just more proof of something I've learned over the years:  The "little things" speak love just as loudly as any "big things" I can think of. 

Now, speaking of little things -- as in those fun details that so many of us enjoy when it comes to our decorating -- here are a few up-close pics of some of those little details:

Oldest Daughter met and married her husband in San Francisco and sent this sweet star ornament to me when they lived there.  I'm using it to top off the "Charlie Brown Christmas tree" this year.
 These goodies hang on the "Charlie Brown Christmas tree" that sits near the entryway from the foyer into the den.  Of course, the police car has a story behind it . . . let's just say I'm glad I'm "free" for the holidays!

 The bottom couple of shelves hold hydrangeas (love hydrangeas!) tucked into an old leather cosmetic case, old dominoes, a favorite crock, and more family photos.  Simple poinsettias snuggling into places here and there make everything immediately more festive and holiday-ready.  (Remember, I'm all about cheap, fast, and easy!) 

Obviously, I love being surrounded by pictures of the people I love!  The pic in the background is my favorite childhood pic of Oldest Daughter, and the laughing face in the ticking-striped frame is Grand-diva.  (The little antique oil lamp was my great-grandfather's.)

 I love this old framed print of Santa that I found in a thrift store a few years ago.  I have no idea how old it is, but the style has a 20s-30s look to it.  When I like something, I don't really care about its pedigree, I just care about enjoying it!

Here's another view of the den (what you'd see if you came in the back door, through the laundry room and the breakfast area).  I'm not an expert at taking pics, so forgive the glare of the lamps I left on when I was snapping away.  

I'm including this next pic 'cause I'm sooooo proud of my Baby Sister. She said she was inspired by my latest posts to hit up Goodwill on her way home today.  (She's in Virginia, but teaches in North Carolina, so this might be a NC location; if it is, then I've been to this one with her, and it IS great!  The GWs here in my part of Texas are a bit too proud of their $tuff for me.)  Anyway, this was her incredible score today:

Yes, it's a LEATHER chair!  A BASSETT LEATHER CHAIR!  In perfect, like-new condition!  (The little spot you see toward the top of the back of the chair is not a flaw -- it's the price sticker.)  Now, are you ready for the best part?  That little price sticker says "$35"!  YES!  She paid $35 for it!  And it will match the furniture she already has in her family room perfectly!  Yep, I am a proud sister tonight!  (She also got a slip-covered ottoman for $15 and some other Christmas odds and ends and household nick-knacks, but it's the chair that still just blows me away!)

Way to go, CT!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"All Is Shiney and Bright!"

One of the easiest, cheapest most economical ways to bling-up for Christmas is to  gather up all of those shiney orbs balls rolling around the bottom of the Christmas boxes and then just fling scatter simply nestle them in, around, and amongst the everyday things you already have displayed throughout your house.  Everything on this table -- except for the Christmas balls and the lone poinsettia -- is sitting exactly where it sits year-round.  (Well, where it probably would sit year-round if we'd been in this house a year!) Slipping a few shiney ornaments into the distressed tray that holds family pics makes all the difference for the holidays!  Fast, easy, and cheap!  (Sounds like . . . never mind!  We won't go there!)

The picture of that handsome devil in the left foreground is the Saint's high school senior picture.  It was taken the same year as the large 8x10 of me in the background!  I love to point that out to visitors!  (Of course, the man has darn good genes, and these days you would never guess that there's a fifteen-year age difference between us.  I live in fear that in a few more years we'll show up places together and people will greet him with, "Oh, how nice that you brought your older sister!"  Then again, I should look as good as his older sister!)

Now, how cute is this little face!  (The one on the right!)  That's the Saint as a little boy; I love this picture!  And then there's my favorite Reading Rabbit who hopped off the Hob Lob clearance shelf a few years back to come home with me.

I use cake pedestals for displaying just about everything BUT cake!  (I need cake sitting around the Casita like I need another head . . . I mean, let's just say that it wouldn't be sitting around the Casita very long before it ended up displayed on my backside.  Besides, remember, I don't cook or bake.) 

I told you I LOVE letters of all sorts:  The "M" is our last initial, and the "Q"s?  They stand for QUEEN, of course! :-)

Hope you are feeling shiney and bright as we prepare to jump into a brand new week of possibilities!



Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Heart of the Nest

I know that most folks think the heart of the home is the kitchen.  (These are people who've obviously never eaten my cooking.)  For us, the heart of Casita 422 is the family room (or the "den").  This is where I sit and drink coffee and talk with Papa-God in the early hours of the morning (or sometimes late at night) and then unwind at the end of the day.  (And the Saint has been known to watch a football game or two here. I have to admit, we do love our television.) 

When you step into the den from the entryway, our fireplace and this built-in bookcase are to your right.  (I love this old green cabinet that sister-friend Beverly and I found at a Houston estate sale for $35.  I immediately fell for its original, chippy, crackled apple-green paint and knew that it would for sure be making the move from the Casa to the Casita.) 


When the girls were small, my Little Mama made the Santa that's sitting on the green chest in the previous pic.  She can make just about anything, and for this project a friend gave her some wool straight from a real, live sheep, so she used that for Santa's hair and beard.  (I painted his face on, and he has become a beloved Christmas treasure.) Baby Daughter brought this little clay church home to me from Germany several years back.

I adore old wooden alphabet blocks (actually, I think I'm a sucker for anything having to do with letters and words), and I found these at a thrift store.  (Duh!)  The lamp sitting to the right of them (in the first pic) was a $5 grab from a Hob Lob clearance shelf last year, and the barn-red wood book holder hanging on the wall above the green chest was a thrift store find during our visit-family-in-Ohio trip summer before last.  (The Saint had a great time playing golf with his sister while I hit every thrift store in all areas surrounding Medina, OH!  One of the best vacations ever!)

Look to your left from the doorway of the foyer, and you'll see the cozy space where the Saint and I really live.  (Cozy 'cause I cram so much stuff into one space!)  I told you that the Casita is much smaller than the Casa, but what we did not give up was living space in the den and in the master bath -- those areas are actually much larger here at the Casita. (Where we did sacrifice space was the kitchen, other bedrooms, and storage areas -- all areas where we could easily adjust.)  

Just for fun, here's a run-down of the cost of the major pieces in this room:

  • Overstuffed brown chenille chair - $100, Craigslist
  • Navy blue leather overstuffed chair, matching ottoman - $125, Craigslist
  • Brown velvet Century sofa slip-covered in painters' dropcloth (by my Little Mama) - $425 at a resale shop (but I traded a well-used faux-leather (yuck!) couch and loveseat set for it, and even made $175 on the deal!  I found the sofa on Century's website for just over $1,500!  Admittedly two legs are kinda broken, but we've learned to move the sofa when necessary and then just stick the legs back in where they belong!) 
  • Round oak pedestal table (covered in fabric) between navy chair and sofa - FREE (left at the Casita for me by its previous owner; I paid $25 at a flea market for the large piece of glass sitting on it)
  • Red antique kitchen cabinet (with its original "Macy's" tin plate affixed to the inside) - FREE (left at the Casa 28 years ago by its previous owner)
  • Dark wooden antique chest sitting on sewing machine base - FREE (traded for a wooden "Baylor Bears!" necklace I painted for a friend's daughter years ago)
  • Singer sewing machine base with butcher block top - FREE (inherited from "Uncle Dave")
  • Solid wood coffee table - $10 at a neighborhood garage sale (paid more for the baskets that fit onto the shelf underneath it than I did for the table!  But worth every penny -- they hold lots of books and magazines out of sight)
  • Red wicker footstool - $10, garage sale
  • Pistachio green tea cart serving as a side table in the left foreground - $3, church garage sale
I do loooooove a bargain! 


The is the view from just behind the navy chair and the green cabinet.  The recliner is also covered in painters' dropcloth (half slip-covered, half upholstered by me; I'm not quite as adept at making fitted slip-covers as Little Mama).  The tall bookshelf used to belong to Baby Daughter, but since it wouldn't fit into her little SUV to take to California, I was the designated beneficiary.  It's flanked by two old shutters from a garage sale.

Another view of the recliner side of the den.  The cabinet the television sits on was a dark wood for years, but when we moved into the Casita, it needed to be lightened up for the space, so I antiqued it "Country Tan," and painted the brass drawer pulls red. The Saint made the simple wooden frame on top to hold the cable box and DVD player.  Once I painted and antiqued it to match the chest, you'd never know it hadn't been made as one piece.  (Pretty handy living with a Saint!)

Thanks for stopping by!  Come back tomorrow, and I'll show you some close ups of some of the nick-knacks that make me smile at Christmas!

I hope you're feeling cozy and enjoying the weekend out there in Blog Land!


Friday, November 25, 2011

Getting Our Bling On!

This is a long post, but there are lots of pics!

I brought my girls up believing that to decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving Day was absolute
sacrilege, but I couldn't resist getting a jump on the season during my week off from school. And I've had a ball decorating these past few days!

I know that I mentioned it on my other blog (Texas Preacher Woman), but we down-sized last April from two-story
Casa St. Michael to one-story Casita 422 (maybe a hundred yards from each other), and along with less square footage, we have MUCH less storage space. For some reason, this made St. Michael think I needed to move MUCH less Christmas stuff across the street to our new home. (I cannot tell you how much Christmas went out the front door of the Casa and off to new homes during our estate sale last spring!)

I wondered how that would work out when I started decorating for holidays, but I shouldn't have given it a second thought! LOL! Somehow there seemed to be plenty left to play house with this week! (And, okay, I
did make a few small purchases at my favorite thrift stores this past week. Being the Queen of Cheap, you know I love me some bargains!)

All of our friends come through the back door here at the Casita, but I'm going to start us off just inside the front door and move right on into the dining room (which I think might be just a tiny bit bigger than the one at the Casa.)

This mirror that we inherited from the Saint's childhood friend, "Uncle Dave," hangs in the casita's small entryway and reflects the dining room. (Everything in the garland -- the greenery, the poinsettias, the wired ribbon, and the balls) came from a variety of area thrift stores.

The gold bling-y "ball" that hangs down in the center of the mirror was a gift from Middle Daughter a few years ago . . . it's made of dried beans pushed into a styro-foam sphere and spray-painted gold! Love it! (I'll have to end this post with a pic of what she did for Thanksgiving with dried beans!)

Being a Texas gal, I LOVE yellow roses, and the postcard in the lower right corner of the mirror is one Middle Daughter sent me years ago, and it's lived in the gilded mirror ever since.

Turning to the left, you can look into our dining room (and beyond into our tiny kitchen). I don't know if you remember from earlier posts, but my dining room set was a gift from a friend who moved into a large, fancy new home that didn't have a place for this quaint cuteness. (The Saint stripped it down for me, re-stained the top of the buffet and the table and then painted out the remaining parts as well as the chairs.)

I remade curtains from the Casa's breakfast room and used leftover fabric to recover two of the chairs and a leftover, coordinating stripe to recover the rest. (The hutch is an old piece from my girls bedrooms when they were little. I just painted it to coordinate with the table and buffet, and voila! Extra storage!) Oiled bronze chandy from Craigslist for $25! (Including the simple white drum shades!)

A favorite pic of Oldest Daughter and
her hubby on their wedding day sits
nestled among silk poinsettias on one
of the hutch selves.

Middle Daughter and her husband take
their place on another shelf. (Whoops! I'd
better dig out a pic of Baby Daughter and
her intended, Sailor Man, or
I'll be hearing about it!)

A front view of the buffet. (The lamps
were a gift from a designer friend when
she worked for a local builder who liked to
"dump" things from their warehouse on
a fairly regular basis. The red silk lamp
shades came from Ross and used to
live in the master bedroom at the Casa.)

Another view of the buffet. (The round
silver tray was a gift from the Saint's
late mother. She bought it as a young
woman shortly after she married the
Saint's father and had the first initial of
her new last name, an
M, engraved
into the center.)

A small picture of the Saint's parents
as a young couple shares space on
a silver-plated tray with the dining room
Christmas tree. (The footed tray came
from a neighborhood garage sale; it's
ridiculously heavy and was
a steal at $15!)

An assortment of silver spoons from
"Uncle Dave's" family treasures sits in
my grandmother's candy dish at the
other end of the tray.

All of the ornaments on this tree
came from local thrift stores or garage
sales. This cross (and two others) on
the tree were among this year's
purchases from a thrift store than
provides shelter for women seeking
refuge from abusive relationships.

Looking at the table from the
kitchen-side of the dining room.

Red-trimmed giant linen napkin? Yup,
thrift store. Church ornaments, Christmas
balls, cake plate, glass com? Yup, thrift
store. Poinsettias?  Yup.  Shimmery red
beeswax candles? Yup, even
they came
from a thrift store!

It took me five or six years to gather up five gold decorative napkins (the first one was the wrapping for a gift from one of my students years ago) but, yes, they, too, came, one or two at a time, from area thrift stores, as did these napkin rings. (Fortunately, most of my thrift store napkins came in fours, like the red ones tucked into the gold ones.) The dishes were an anniversary gift from the Saint a few years ago.

This Lenox-wanna-be nativity set was
a hand-me-down from Middle Daughter
(not quite her style), and the crystal
candle sticks were a gift from one of my
sister-friends, Debbie. (The silvery
chargers came from Hobby Lobby.)

And speaking of Middle Daughter, here's the pic I promised to end with . . .

THIS is what she did with dried beans,
and orange burlap on her
Thanksgiving Day table . . .
AND she cooked the dinner!

Hope you are feeling blessed this week!