Category Archives: Good Stuff

Just generally something that I think is pretty good.

Sofa Table Turned Credenza

Sometimes you see a piece of furniture, and you just know there’s a place for it in your home. That’s how I felt about this table.

I wasn’t big on the knotty pine and the top had some deep scratches, but I knew it was meant for my house. And for $35 —well yeah!

So I get the table home and I study it for a couple of weeks. My first thought was to use it as a sofa table. It would fit beautifully behind our tall, camel back sofa. But I really didn’t need a sofa table. What I needed was a credenza behind my desk. But the measurements were very specific.

Of course, this was one of those MTB (meant to be) things. The measurements were perfect, within an inch. Plus, I desperately needed that extra table-top and storage space in my office.

So how should I finish it? My first thought was to paint it red like my office walls. Raspberry Truffle (Benjamin Moore) is the most gorgeous red. But then I realized if it was red and sitting against a red wall, well that wouldn’t work. So then I thought I’d paint it black and stain the top a dark wood. That seemed like a good idea.

So I stripped the table top, sanded down the rest of the table and wiped it with a deglosser. Once the table top was down to the wood, I stained it. And then I stained it some more. And then some more. But it wouldn’t take the stain. Okay, Plan B. I painted the entire table black.

I thought the handles would need to be replaced, but after polishing them up really well, they were MTB with the table.

Here’s the final table. I love it.



Last Look Mirror

Remembering back when Older Daughter graduated from college and started her first “real job,” we helped her move in a cute, tiny apartment near downtown Dallas. As we were hanging pictures, she mentioned that she’d like to hang a mirror in the entry way. We agreed that a mirror would look really nice in the space above a small entry hall table.

I told her, “I’m on it.” In no time I had salvaged a mirror from a local thrift shop, painted the frame and whisked it to Dallas. She hung it in the empty space. It was perfect.

A few months later when I was at her apartment, we were headed out the door, and I noticed she took a last look in the mirror, checking her lipstick, hair, etc. From then on we called it the “last look” mirror, for that last look you take when you head out the door.

Many times, I wish I had taken a last look before I headed out the door. Often I’ve had a chive in my tooth, really needed lipstick or had no idea that the glasses I often wear on my head had tussled my hair into the perfect birds nest. Since I generally go out to my car through the laundry room, I have decided I need a “last look” mirror on the wall that leads to the garage.

As well, Older Daughter now needs a different last look mirror for her new apartment. The configuration of the new place makes it impossible to use the bigger mirror from the last apartment. She has repurposed it in another place.

So I’ve been on the hunt for last look mirrors. Small ones, round ones, square ones, rectangle ones. Five dollars is the most I’ve spent.  I intend to paint and give one to Older Daughter, to Younger Daughter and whoever else wants one.

In a future post I’ll show the afters.



Keeping your New Year’s Resolutions

My younger daughter contributes to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Living pages on a regular basis. From time to time in 2012, I plan to post some of her articles. This one was especially noteworthy about keeping New Year’s resolutions.

By Bailey Shiffler

Special to the Star-Telegram

Early January is always filled with resolve, but by March, that resolve has often turned to regret.Follow our expert-driven 10 steps, and you are sure (or at least more likely) to have shed those extra pounds, quit smoking or written more thank-you notes by year’s end.

Here’s what the pros say you need to do to keep your New Year’s resolutions.

Set SMART goals.

1. Susan Steinbrecher, president and CEO of Steinbrecher & Associates leadership development company, says the most critical component of sticking to a resolution is setting it. She uses what goal experts call the SMART test, advising eager resolution makers to ask whether the pledge is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.”The first problem is that people make statements, not goals,” Steinbrecher says, adding that “I want to lose weight” is not a goal –“I want to lose 10 pounds by March” is.

Envision the end result.

2. Mike Armour, president of Dallas-based Strategic Leadership Development International, says setting a goal is the first step, and the second is envisioning what the end result will look like.”You should make a mental picture of yourself and make it as appealing as you can,” Armour suggests. That mental picture can range from a snapshot of yourself sporting a new beach body to an image of your newly organized pantry. Elliot Connie, a Keller-based licensed professional counselor, agreed that picturing an end result is crucial.”If your goal is to fight less with your spouse, you need to say to yourself, ‘I know my goal will be accomplished when x happens,'” he says. This is especially important for the more abstract goals, like “being happier” — defining what that happiness will look like is an important step to achieving it.

Create a timeline for your resolution.

3. Getting fit, organizing your home, spending more time with family, getting out of debt, taking more photos — it’s clear that the most common New Years resolutions are lifelong goals with no expiration date. That’s why it’s important to set a timeline or mile markers to help you stay focused.”You have to take it one bite at a time,” Steinbrecher says. “Set up a milestone or checkpoint then celebrate and re-evaluate when you get there.”If your goal, generally, is to get organized, promise yourself you’ll have your bedroom closet detailed by the end of January. On Feb. 1, celebrate your clean closet and set your next task — perhaps organizing the pantry.

Define your motivation and surround yourself with it.

4. No goal can be met without the proper motivation, and the tougher the task, the more motivation you will need. Take time to define why you want to lose that weight, take more photos or stay in closer contact with your family. Write down your reasons, and then give yourself regular reminders of them.”Surround yourself with motivation, purposefully,” Steinbrecher says. If the Victoria’s Secret swimsuit catalog inspires you to work out, tape a page to your bathroom mirror. Save a photo of your grandparents as your smartphone background if it helps you remember to call them.

Get your tools ready.

5. It’s easy to put off tasks when you don’t have the supplies at hand. Sit down and write out all of the tools that you will need to meet your goal, our experts advise. If weight loss is your resolution, know that you will need exercise equipment, workout DVDs or a gym membership, along with a pantry full of healthy food.If you want to take more pictures, be sure you have a camera and some photo-organization software for your computer. If you have the motivation and the tools, it will be tough(er) to justify procrastination.

Block out time.

6. “I don’t have enough time” serves as an excuse for putting off almost any goal, so it is important to cut off the age-old scapegoat immediately, the experts say. Determine how much time you will need to devote to your goal each week and schedule it — put it on your home and work calendar so you aren’t tempted to double-book.If organization is your goal, devote three hours each Saturday morning to the big projects and promise yourself that the 10 minutes before bedtime is for putting away the day’s clutter. Schedule morning workouts if your afternoons are booked, and block out commuting time for talking (hands-free, of course) on the phone with relatives.

Know your weaknesses.

7. Identifying your trip-up triggers is crucial to staying on task, Steinbrecher says.”You have to know what gets you off the wagon,” she advised. Does stress push you to smoke, or do you binge eat at lunch if you skip breakfast? Take a deep look at your behavior and identify what causes you to slip up — then find ways to prevent goal-blockers.Armour suggests subduing any cravings to cheat with a physical activity. Answer three o’clock sugar or cigarette cravings with a walk around the block or a jaunt up and down the office stairs — the physical exertion will help take your mind off the craving.

Identify your strengths.

8. Connie quoted a friend when he said that no human is perfect, but in the same tune, no human is perfectly imperfect. Chances are, there has been a stage in your life when you were achieving your current goal — identify the bright spots, and examine the behavior that surrounded them, he advises.Look at the last time you took a lot of photos, were super-organized or were getting along better with your family. Ask yourself what spurred that behavior, and try to emulate it.

Find a partner or support group.

9. “Commit to your goal with a friend, or find a support group,” Steinbrecher says. “It will help you with accountability.”Going at a goal alone is tough work; finding a support system makes it a lot easier. If none of your friends or family shares your resolution, look for a support group in your area or find a helpful online community. Connie warned against asking an uninterested friend or spouse to commit to a goal with you — if they aren’t dedicated or motivated, it’s not worth having a companion goal setter. Instead, voice your goals to your friends and tell them what changes they can expect to see as you complete your transformation. It’s better to have a support system than a partner.

Get help from pros.

10. “I think most of us believe we are a lot more capable of doing things on our own than our track records suggest,” Armour says.When it comes to achieving New Year’s resolutions, there are often professional options for help, whether it is hiring a personal trainer, a professional organizer, a therapist, enrolling in a sponsored diet program or using store-bought aids to help you quit smoking.Armour suggests setting a timetable — maybe a few weeks — for trying it on your own, and if the date expires with little results, it is time to seek help.

Read more here:

Coupon Love

I was up in the attic looking for something and found this little Valentine’s candy box.

I was fuzzy on why I had held onto an empty candy box, but I knew it must contain something special since there was a little tag on the top of the box labeled “Mom.” It was full of coupons, of the homemade variety, made by Youngest Daughter, for me for Mother’s Day.

Looking at the writing, I’m guessing she was about 10 or so. I love the fact that the coupons never expire. The first coupon cracks me up: “I will let you lay out my clothes.” But there’s a caveat with that coupon. This coupon was only usable for one night.

To this day, Youngest Daughter is still very particular about what she wears and “her style.” Through the years of her growing up, she was very partiular about what she wore. Sometimes when we are shopping I’ll show her a dress or some shoes and generally I get this response: “Not my style.”

Also note the coupon for me to redeem that she would make her own lunches for a week. I don’t think I ever redeemed that one, but I do remember making thousands of lunches through the years. Youngest Daughter didn’t like too much variety in her lunch. PB&J, Doritos and a cheese stick. She would buy milk and ice cream at school.

I remember how tired I got of making lunches. I loved the days that the girls circled on the menu what they liked and would eat in the cafeteria. But those days were few and far between. Today, I would jump at the chance to make their lunches. Interesting how something I once got so tired of doing, today would be an honor. Time changes things like that.

I really like the last coupon. It’s blank. I can write my own coupon. I haven’t redeemed that one yet either. But I think I’m going to do so soon.


The art of a nap

Among the best things in life is a relaxing, refreshing nap.

Remember when our babies would wake from a nap? Both of mine would wake from a nap all happy and sweet, their cheeks rosy and the hair on the back of their necks damp and curly. We used to make our babies take naps because we knew that sleep is good for them. If they got cranky, the best remedy was to put them down for a nap.

As adults, we don’t take enough naps. I think the business world should embrace naps and allow employees a 30-minute nap time each day. It certainly would make the world a better place.

When you do have the opportunity to take a nap, you should make sure that you make the effort to take a quality nap. What’s the difference between a nap and a quality nap? Well in my opinion a whole lot.

If you just take a regular nap, on the sofa, in a recliner or even on your bed, you are apt to experience a ho-hum nap. Sure you might have caught a few Zs, but a quality nap requires just a bit more preparation. A quality nap will leave you feeling rested, rejuvenated and offers a needed sense of well being.

Quality naps involve three things: time, comfort and calm.

First off time. You have to have the time for a nap and plan for the time you will need to take a nap. A good nap should last 20 to 60 minutes. Any more than 60 minutes and you may go into a deep sleep and could wake up feeling groggy and disoriented. Save deep sleeping for night-time. The perfect time for a nap may vary from day to day. It could be that you can plan to nap for 30 minutes of your lunch hour. It may be that the only time you can nap is on weekends, so be sure to plan the time for your nap. On Saturdays, I generally plan for a nap about 4 to 5 p.m. On Sundays, I like to nap after lunch.

Second of all, a quality nap requires comfort. I have a settee in my office that I used to use for napping. However it was awfully uncomfortable. I’d have to squish up and I’d often wake up with a crick in my neck. Plus it’s in my office, where I’m apt to think jump up to take a call or answer an e-mail. 

As well, I don’t recommend that you nap in your bedroom. That’s where I sleep at night, and if I nap there, I’m apt to sleep too long. My perfect nap room is our guest room, which I have purposely made nap ready. When I go into the guest room to take a nap, I lie on the bed but I don’t pull down the covers. I have a nap blanket that is just the right weight for napping. I push the pillow shams aside and use a firm pillow covered in an ultra soft pillow case. I switch on the ceiling fan so the temperature is just right. I shut the blinds and sometimes, if it’s really bright outside, I will close the curtains as well.

Calm is the third element of a good nap. The environment in which you have to nap is important to the quality of the nap. Now some people can nap with the television on or the radio playing soft music. I cannot take a quality nap with either of these on, especially the television. While I might doze while watching the television, a quality nap cannot be had with the television on, or even muted. I find when I take a nap with the television on, I wake up a lot and tend to hear what’s being said on the television. So it’s important to have a nap space that is calm. I prefer the whir of the ceiling fan. Before I nap, I like to do a couple of simple stretching exercises — reaching my arms to the ceiling and getting up on my tip toes as well as bending down to touch my fingers to my toes. It’s also nice to do a neck and shoulder roll before climbing into the bed for a nap. The goal is to assure a calm, comfortable place for a nap. I use the guest room because the living room couch is too busy a place. There’s nothing worse than having the time for a quality nap and to have it interrupted. Find a place that’s calm, cool and comfortable.

There’s one more thing about preparing for a quality nap and that’s what you should wear during a nap. I generally nap in the clothes I’m wearing for the day, most likely work-out clothes or sweats. Any type of binding clothing or too much clothing can hamper your nap. I know some people who keep a t-shirt and soft pair of shorts or pajama pants under the pillow of their nap room. Again, it’s all about comfort.

I generally don’ t have to set an alarm clock when it comes to napping. I usually fall asleep quickly and wake up 30 to 40 minutes later feeling refreshed and relaxed. To take a quality nap, you may have to work on relaxing your mind and calming your thoughts. I can generally do this through relaxed breathing and visualizing a place that is secure, safe and peaceful. Prayer is also a good prelude to a nap. Whatever it takes, you have to figure a way to let go, banish your worries and  rest your mind so that that soft sleepy feeling can take over.

I will write more about naps in future posts. I never knew there was so much to say about a nap.

The Gift Closet

There are so many fragrances and these never burn black. I like them because they are made in Tyler too, where I was born.

One of my favorite things to do is give gifts. I just love the feeling of giving someone something that they want, that they wouldn’t buy for themselves, that they don’t expect. When I go to a friends’ home for dinner, I try to take a little something — perhaps a wine cork, a small pot of flowers, a candle, a pretty kitchen hand towel, even a pack of seeds.

Every time I’m out shopping, I find little things that are suitable hostess gifts, birthday gifts, hospitality gifts, etc. Most of the time I purchase these little things and stick them in my “gift closet.”

Well actually it’s not a closet just for gifts. It’s a closet in my office where there’s a little shelf on which I put these little treasures until I need one of them to give to a neighbor who has put our paper on our porch when we’ve been gone or to give to a co-worker who helped me with a tough project. It’s amazing how people are so happy when you give them a small gift to thank them for being a part of your life.

To me, giving a gift is a gift in itself. (Wow that’s a strange-sounding sentence.) I just love to gift people. It just feels good.

For my daughters, while they were in college, I always kept an open box in my gift closet and filled it with stuff they might need or want. Back then, we called it a care package. They seemed to really love receiving my (sometimes weekly) care packages. The week before finals I’d send them a box filled with highlight markers, snacks, post-it notes, a cute pair of pajama shorts, hoop ear-rings and the like.

I remember one year Oldest Daughter was in college and it was raining all the time. She told me she was ruining her shoes in the mud and was wishing for some rubber boots. (We called them galoshes when I was young — isn’t that a great word, galoshes?) That afternoon Younger Daughter and I found the perfect pair at Marshall’s and rushed home to box them up and send them to her. I didn’t have one box large enough to fit them in so I sent them in two separate boxes — a boot in each box. She told me about opening the first box and seeing the one boot. Her roommate asked, “Why would your Mom send you one boot?” Of course my daughter knew the second package contained a second boot.

You can often find a cocktail recipe book or bartender guide for $3 or $4 at Marshalls, Ross or T J Maxx.

I’ve pretty much had a gift closet ever since getting married. We received a few duplicate wedding gifts, and rather than go to the trouble to take them back, I just put them in a closet and gave them as wedding gifts when that occasion would arise. When the girls were in pre-school and grade school, it seemed like we went to a birthday party a week. So rather than go buy a gift for each party, I’d just go buy six Candy Land games, six Barbie dolls, etc. and put them in the closet so there would always be a gift ready for the next party. You can save a lot of money this way if you catch toys on sale. You will spend more if you are rushing in to buy a gift before a party than if you have one in the closet ready to give. (Also, the girls would often get duplicate gifts for their birthdays and so often I’d re-gift the duplicates, making sure not to give it to the child who gave it.)

I’m also an advocate of what I call “signature gifts.” This is the gift you always give for certain occasions. For instance, when the girls were in high school, for all their guy friends at graduation, we gave them a monogramed laundry bag and a little basket filled with detergent, dryer sheets and quarters. For the girls, I found really nice down throws on which I had their names monogrammed (in their college colors). For 21st birthdays, I always gave the kids a book titled “2001 Cocktails” and a box of martini glasses or cute highball glasses. The books were often sold at Marshalls or TJs and I’d stock up on them. Sometimes they were as little as $3 each. Just about all the kids in the neighborhood have turned 21 so I’ve quit stocking that signature gift. Now it seems I’m giving baby gifts. As of late, my signature gift is silverware sets for babies/children. I just bought three sets on Amazon for $14.95 each. I pair them with a pink or blue bib.

Look on the sale table at Anthropologie for interesting hand towels.

At Christmas, Youngest Daughter told me that the magazine she works for had an article about assembling a gift closet for Christmas hospitality gifts. That’s such a good idea. In November of each year I start buying decorative pumpkins to give to my friends and neighbors as gifts. Then in late November I start stocking my gift closet with holiday-themed gifts — hand towels, pot holders, candles, beautiful ornaments, serving dishes, etc. Following are some of my “go to” gifts.

Hospitality/Hostess gifts

1. Tyler’s candles

2. Wine cork

3. Scented soap

4. Coasters

5. Small plates or bowls for serving appetizers, olives, nuts, etc. (Pier One is a great place for these sorts of gifts. Last fall I found these great little plates shaped like vegetables — a tomato, green pepper and yellow pepper. You can find fall-leaf shaped bowls/plates in the fall months.)

6. Small bag of seeds. (This spring, Target offered a little burlap bag of seeds. One was a butterfly garden and one was a wildflower garden.)

7. Hand towel, cups, dishes from Anthropologie (you can find all sorts of neat gifts in their sale rooms)

8. A cute pot in which you plant basil, mint or rosemary

9. A set of fun wine glasses/martini glasses

10. A couple of cute votive candle holders with votive/ tea lights.

For sweet little toddler hands.

For sweet little toddler hands. These are made by Oneida.

11. Silverware

12. Bibs (seven — one for every day of the week)

13. Goodnight Moon book with a pair of mittens

14. Bath toys and hand puppet scrubbers

15. The Polar Express with a silver bell (at Christmas)

Shower power

Everything about a shower is good. There’s nothing like a quality shower head to make a hot shower more satisfying. For years Sweet Hubby and I have searched for the perfect shower head. Traveling around the country, we have written down the names of shower heads that we liked at various hotels. We’ve tried WaterPik, Moen, and Kohler. Once I ordered a $75 shower head from one of those airline catalogs. The catalog claimed it was a true hotel shower head, but sadly it wasn’t. We didn’t like it at all.

All that said, a couple years ago I took a photo of a shower head (in a hotel) that was really excellent. It was a Speakman AnyStream. These are the best shower heads made, in my humble opinion. Sweet Hubby and I still talk about the joy of our showers

Simple Pleasures are the Best!

What’s better than a hot shower?

now that we have this shower head. I have recommended these shower heads to lots of people. When the girls move into a new apartment, the first thing Sweet Hubby does is go to Home Depot and get them a “real” shower head.

Ours is the Anystream Classic Hotel shower head. I think we paid about $45 for it at Home Depot. What I always say is that “Simple pleasures are the best.” Regardless, a good shower is a simple pleasure!

Body scrubber

Scrubbing down!For my birthday I received a wonderful bottle of Philosophy Inner Grace shower gel, which inspired me to purchase an old fashioned body scrubber. I don’t remember if I’ve ever owned a shower brush, but something about this one ($4 HEB) caught my attention. Standing there looking at sponges and other bath mitts for the same purpose, I thought that a scrub brush would be a good way to exfoliate my aging skin, especially from places I can’t reach so well. Anyway, I bought one and I love it!

With a squeeze of shower gel, this brush works up a beautiful lather and then works wonders. Sometimes I just soap it up with Dial soap rather than the expensive shower gel. The first few times I scrubbed a little too vigorously – I left the shower feeling all tingly and raw. Now I’m a bit more gentle, all the while knowing that the yucky dead skin I was wearing around is down the drain.

As well, don’t you just love the word exfoliate? Apparently, according to Wikipedia, “credit is given to the ancient Egyptians for the practice of exfoliation. In the Middle Ages, wine was used as a chemical exfoliate, with tartaric acid as the active agent. In Asia, the practice of exfoliation started hundreds of years ago. The etymology of the word exfoliate comes from the Latin exfoliate (to strip of leaves).”

The nails of Texas

OPI Texas Nail Polish

OPI nail polish is the best. Besides the fact that it hardly chips and that the colors are always great, I just love the way they market their colors. Each season they come out with a color scheme theme. One year it was London and my favorite color from that group was “Double Decker Red.” Another theme was Mexico. All summer long my toes were painted “My Chihuahua Bites.”

So now OPI has introduced its Texas theme. Oldest Daughter sent me a link about it. So clever. Now everyone in Texas will be running out to buy this Texas themed nail polish. Well, except Dallas girls. Apparently they are all in a tizzy because OPI didn’t name a polish after Big D.

The names they did choose are so cute. I wish I had been on the team to come up with them, although I’m not sure I could have come up with anything better. I think the Houston one is the most clever – “Houston We Have a Purple.” If I had been on that naming team I might have mentioned some really dominant colors of Texas, like Bluebonnet blue and Indian Paint Brush red. Here’s what they came up with for their Spring/Summer 2011 line of nail polishes:

San-Tantonio (Honey tan); Y’all Come Back Ya Hear? (Texas tangerine); Gal meets Galvestion (Engaging Coral); Big Hair…Big Nails (Rosy Blush); I Vant to Be A LoneStar (Starry Silver Blue); It’s Totally Fort Worth It (Shimmering Lavender Grey); Austin-tacious Turquoise (Bodacious bluegreen); Don’t Mess with OPI (Lean, Mean Kick-grass Green); Too Hot Pink to Hold’em (A hot pink winning hand); Do You Think I’m Tex-y (Berry); Houston We Have A Purple (Galactic Violet); Suzi Loves Cowboys (Rich Campfire Chocolate).