Goodbye to Bliss

What?  She’s back to just to say good bye?  Kind of looks that way.  But let me explain…

…Yes, I left you hanging months ago, I know.  And more than likely, you have gotten along just fine without my posts popping up randomly in your life.  But it wasn’t my conscious intention to leave the blog world.  Life…and almost death…decided it for me.

I mentioned in one of my last posts that hubs and I have made some big, life changing decisions.  Big enough that I knew it could curtail my online life.  Well, before we could really even get any of those plans underway, we had a huge health crisis with my dad.  Early/Mid May he was diagnosed with several blockages to his heart.  Two days later he was in the hospital for stents.  Prior to doing the stents, a heart cath was done which determined it was too dangerous to do stents…a five by-pass was needed.  Life came to a grinding halt for all of us.  The next 3 weeks was a waiting game to find the “perfect” doctor (his prior doctor does not perform open heart).  Once he was found, dad’s appointment coincided with the doc’s already scheduled vacation starting the next day.  So, it was another week and a half before he could have surgery.  All of this waiting was scary because one of dad’s more serious blockages was at 95% in the left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery–also known as the “widow maker’s spot”.  Lovely.  We made sure he took it very easy, put him on major rest restrictions and waited.  Surgery day came without incident and surgery happened without it too.  He came through it swimmingly.  I was able to spend time with my parents, both prior to and after the surgery, which was a major blessing.  I am so thankful to still have my dad around.  And even though he is still recovering (takes a good three months or longer), he looks and feels great.  I am sure many of you can relate to how a serious health crisis can really impact how we view our loved ones and the time we have them.  Blogging–the blogging world– became very unimportant  for many months as you might imagine.

There is one more thing I would like to share before I jump topic…consider this my own personal public health service announcement.  It was truly a blessing that my dad’s heart condition was diagnosed before he had a heart attack.  His only symptom that he complained of was shortness of breath/slight tightness in the chest after walking or exertion.  He started noticing this back in February while on vacation.  When walking the beach he thought he was getting winded rather quickly but chalked it up to being out of shape from living in a Northern winter climate.  When Spring hit, he realized it was a little worse when doing yard work, Spring clean up, etc.  This is what prompted him to seek medical advice.  He passed the initial tests–chest X-ray, blood work and EKG.  Once a stress test was ordered (and failed) and angioplasty was done, the blockages were discovered.  The man had no other symptoms, on no medications, and prior to this surgery, had never been hospitalized.  LISTEN to your body.  BE your own advocate.  DON’T let the fear of feeling foolish (oh, it’s probably just heartburn) stop you from seeking professional help when something doesn’t feel right.  If dad hadn’t noticed his shortness of breath and followed up (which probably should have happened sooner), he wouldn’t be here now.  Seriously, take heed!

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OK.  Off the soap box.  Moving on to my other big topic.  Literally, moving on.  Back in the Spring, hubs and I did some major soul-searching about our life/lives.  With the Kiddos living upstairs, we realized we can live in a smaller space.  We were pretty much just living in our downstairs anyway before they moved in.  Well, in the Spring they gave us news that they were moving on.  That gave us pause to think about what we wanted to do.  Frankly,  we decided we want to live smaller, minimize our possessions and open up opportunities to travel more.  Easy peasy, right?  Wrong.  Simplifying and minimizing are a lot of work.  Plus, we had to figure out where to go if we sold our house.  My 86-year-old mother-in-law was also a huge consideration.  While in good health now, that literally could change overnight.  We decided to be proactive about her future care now…and not wait for a crisis that would only allow for knee-jerk decisions to be made later.  After discussing our idea with her first, the decision was made to finish off her basement for us to live there with her.

Yikes.

Yes, I know this is huge.  I have endured many raised eyebrows and blank stares since announcing our decision to friends.  The only people who really “get” it are ones who have been in care-giving situations with their own parents.  Here are some of the facts that helped us to make the decision:

Truth:  we could live where we are and still provide care if/when needed because we live in the same town.  BUT should she need 24 hour care or maybe someone to stay nights with her, that would still mean separation and stress for us.

Truth:  she is currently in good health, do we need to do this NOW?  Yes, we feel now is best because it creates an easier transition for all of us.

Truth:  bunking up with MIL will free us of many financial burdens–namely a mortgage–and provide us an opportunity to travel while MIL is still enjoying a measure of good health.

Truth:  we had already decided (and essentially had been doing it) to live smaller.  Her basement has daylight windows, was already plumbed for a bathroom and will provide just enough living space for two people and a dog.

Truth:  when my MIL dies (not to be morbid just factual), we will already have a place set up to care for my parents should they agree to it.

My husband works in management at an assisted living facility.  He has taken classes on caring for the elderly, especially for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s (either direction is where we see MIL headed with age).  One thing that is emphasized by the professionals, is to keep individuals suffering from those maladies in familiar/routine scenarios as long as possible.  We did think about moving MIL in with us, but her home is what is familiar to her and, in all honesty, should she be wheel chair bound or have to use a walker, her floor plan is more forgiving than ours.  Obviously, lots of thinking has gone into this plan of action.

After things calmed with my dad, we got more serious about getting the wheels churning.  We met with MIL’s lawyer.  We found a contractor.  We helped move the Kiddos out.  We cleared out the entire upstairs (except of a bed and dresser).  We had a HUGE garage sale.  We hauled stuff to Goodwill.  I closed my Etsy store (haha!  not that it was a big thing).  We’ve met with tradesmen.  We have shopped for a kitchen and bathroom.  We’ve had a realtor come and assess the house.  Oh, and we had about three weeks of back to back family visiting from late July into August (which was lovely–not complaining at all.  it was a great respite!)  And that brings me to now.

Now.  We are almost ready to list the house, my house…my dream home.  My Bliss House (built in 1838!) will soon be on the market.  In a matter of weeks (if we are fortunate) or months (if we are not)  there will be different souls bringing life to its rooms.  Amazingly, I am OK with it…all of it.  I am looking forward to starting again.  I am excited about how this change will enrich our lives–not only with the promise of traveling but also the eventual care-giving too.  Bliss isn’t just a house.  It’s a state of being.

Bliss is whatever and wherever you want it to be.

For now, au revoir.   We may just meet again.  Thank you, as always, for taking time to read “Chez Bliss”.

~~Heather~~

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vintage ~~ another coach classic to love

Hello, hello!

Well, what can I say?  There still hasn’t been much to share…at least nothing exciting or post worthy.  I am pretty sure you don’t need to read about my new obsession of getting rid of things.  My need to minimize has hit a whole new level of crazy.  In my  mind, I see a basement with only a handful of boxes, cupboards containing only what we actually use, a garage used only for cars, bikes and seasonal storage. And yes, this is easier “typed” than done.  My goal is to have a major garage sale next month…whatever doesn’t sell will be loaded up and hauled to Goodwill. I both love and hate doing these type of purging projects.  Hopefully the end goal will make it all worth it.  Yes, this is the dream that keeps me going.  Ha!

Yet, despite my best intentions of minimizing, I always seem to find room in my life for a “new” handbag.  It’s a serious weakness (sigh.).  However, to my credit (!), I have sold a few handbags recently and I am down to my lowest number of bags in years.  So that’s something, right?  But the love is always there–unfortunately.

You may remember my post about my lovely Adora bag acquisition.  I absolutely love this bag.  It is bigger than what I am used to carrying but the color is just exquisite.  And having such a fun pop of color has made me analyze my other handbags which I have found to be rather–neutral.  I won’t say “boring” but they definitely lack in pizzazz.  Black, cognac, leopard, and grey pocketbooks are all well and good in a wardrobe but color is great to have too.  My orange Adora adds great punch to my usual black or grey palettes.  So if the orange bag can provide such a lively change to my neutral world why not some other colors too?

Enter my “new-to-me” vintage Coach bag in a beautiful true red!  And, in fact, this vintage bag appears to be in unused condition.  It is absolutely beautiful…one of my best Ebay finds.  I can’t even remember how it happened to cross my radar but the style immediately caught my attention.  The bag is made in the USA and its model number is  #9998.  I had never noticed this one before.  It has a soft body look (which I am really into lately; simple lines, hobo style, no frills) but has a frame interior which is used to provide a secure, tight closure.  This bag came with its original Coach booklet and the Coach printed tissue paper.  Whoa.  It is very roomy and spacious but still smaller than my Adora bag.  And that pop of color?  Fabulous.

The most exciting thing about this purchase was finding a new old style (Classic) by Coach.  I have long loved the classic Coach bags, with the Willis bag being my all time favorite.  And to find this one in such perfect condition and pay a fraction of what a new Coach bag would cost me?  Perfect!  I love vintage style.

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Now that I have added a gorgeous red bag to my wardrobe, my quest for color has continued.  But the cobalt blue bag will have to wait for a future post.

If a colorful handbag is your thing too, and you are possibly searching for a great new Spring or Summer bag, please check out Adora Bags’ newest addition on Adrienne’s blog.  It is stunning! (as is its namesake ; ) ).

Happy Spring!

~~Heather~~

P.S. I am linking up with A Well Styled Life and StyleMindChic for their new, lifestyle link up.  Great idea, gals!  I guess vintage is a lifestyle??? : )

simple life ~~ happy spring!

Simple life indeed.  My apologies for not posting anything lately but I am afraid there has been nothing to post about.  If I just randomly list things that have happened in March it would look like this:

Read (a lot).

Saw the new Cinderella film (twice).

Continued my addiction to Brighton charms/beads (crazy–long story).

Searched every day for my first robin until seen on March 15 (happy day!).

Spent time with friends (love!).

Spent time with my parents (double love!).

Devised a new life goal/plan with hubs (exciting!!).

Walked the dog a lot more (thank you sunshine).

Obsessed about how much stuff I need to get rid of this Spring (purge to come).

That’s about it.

SOOOOO….since I still have nothing of importance to share, I thought I would post some photos of the Spring things I am looking forward to.

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I think you get the idea.  I am ready for green and blossoms.  We still have a few weeks before we will be blessed with these simple things around here.  So I wait.  And I wait for something thrilling to blog about.  I wonder which will happen first??

Hope you are having a wonderful Spring so far!

~~Heather~~

vintage ~~ kitchen desk

You may remember that I recently wrote about the mini-makeover that we did to our kitchen/dining area.  I am still loving the results of our little labor of love.  I enjoy being in the kitchen/dining room so much more than I used to that I got it in my head I should have a kitchen desk in this area–for meal planning, crafting, keeping track of calendar events, etc.  I love kitchens that have desks in them–especially the built in ones.  I started surfing through Pinterest, as I do, to get ideas.  Initially, I got a little disheartened because most of what I saw was of the “built-in” variation. Like so:

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(via apartment therapy)

 And then the question of (my) available space started hounding me.  I definitely had no room in the actual kitchen area to put one.  But could I make it work in the dining area?  And do I buy a “new to me” desk or use what I have?  Such ponderous questions.

My thoughts soon turned to a little cream-colored desk that was upstairs being used by the Kiddos.  Dimensions wise, it would be a perfect fit.  And being that I recently removed my bedroom desk, I thought I could swap them out.  The Kiddos are currently out-of-town, it’s my stuff, my house…so yes, that was a viable plan!  Down came the well used, and somewhat abused, desk to find a new life.

I bought this desk years ago for ma Belle Fille to use in her bedroom as a desk/vanity while growing up.  Belle Fille has come and gone ( a few times) and the little desk has gotten moved around the house but it has been forever since used as a desk…until Belle Fille moved back home this last time.  Don’t worry.  I didn’t leave them desk-less by stealing this one back…they still have a desk to use AND they will be getting the one from my bedroom.  It’s all good.

In studying my space in the dining area, I determined that my best bet was to move the bench seat that was against the back wall of the sink/counter over to the table and use it for seating.  I had my wicker baskets (filled with art/craft supplies) stored underneath the bench seat so I decided to stack them pyramid style and place the desk next to them.  In a cabinet to the right of the newly positioned desk, I cleared out an area to store all my cookbooks (that were previously on the island and in a far corner on the counter).  Now I could easily menu plan at my desk, and/or do crafts when needed, instead of taking over the dining room table and leaving it  as an unsightly mess, always needing clearing when it is time to eat (what a hassle!).

kitchendeskbefore

Once everything was in place, I was super excited and really liked the results.  Not a built in but definitely cute and functional.  However, the desk itself was in a heap of sadness (see above photo). When I first got it, maybe 15 years ago, I painted it off white.  Well, many years and moves later, it was looking stressed out and a little dejected.  Plus, when I painted it, it was before the advent of chalk paint (thank you, Annie Sloan!) and I had never been happy with the paint job.  I decided to remedy that issue and I picked up some chalk paint this past Wednesday.  On Thursday, I had a re-energized and happy new desk.  Painting the cubbies a pretty turquoise blue really gave it some character too.

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Just imagine the genius that will happen in this room now.  Amazing.

Hope you all have a great weekend.  Until next time…

~~Heather~~

chic ~~ booties!!

Shoes, people!  I am talking shoes.

Today I am joining the “How I Wear My…Booties” party with Adrienne and Jill.  I have challenged myself to do these “How I Wear My…” to keep myself in the “trend”/”fashion” loop.  I tend to get into ruts and this is “something” to help me keep things fresh.  I am excited about this month’s theme because I just got these Earth Origins booties a few weeks ago.  I haven’t worn them yet because it keeps snowing and frankly, I need tall boots–and will probably continue to need them until May at this rate.  So I got to have some fun “styling” these booties with my first pair (ever) of “boyfriend” jeans and my new Adora bag.  Humor me–I had to troll around Pinterest to even know what to do with boyfriend jeans and booties.  This is the best I could do.

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(awkward pose for the benefit of seeing the button details on the booties–you are welcome)

And while I play around with shoes and jeans and bags inside, outside it keeps looking like this:

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Only 16 more days to Spring.  I am hanging on.  Hope you are too.

Click on over to The Rich Life on a Budget and Everything Just So to see more bootie fashions.

~~Heather~~

chic ~~ pre-spring splurge

Hey y’all!

Thought I would check in with my blog and actually write something. Novel.  The world outside still pretty much looks like this:

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So other than being adventurous one Saturday afternoon to hit the lake shore for some photos, there hasn’t been a whole lot going on except some serious spring fever.  I am so ready for it and sooooo looking forward to it.  The only hope I have had in the “spring is coming” department has been an increase in bird sounds…more singing and chirping around these parts.  Of course, I only hear them when I let the dog out to go potty or run from my house to my car because to actually be out in sub-zero temperatures is painful — I don’t care what the sun is doing– so I haven’t actually seen them but they are there.  And who are these birds?  They must be loons to be around here so early.

I have done some purging and cleaning out of some closets.  I made a shadow box of our trip from last summer.  I changed some furniture around.  Putz, putz, putz.  Potter, potter, potter.  That’s all I do.  Oh.  That and shop online.

Recently, chere Adrienne of The Rich Life on a Budget featured a beautiful bag on her blog.  You can read it HERE.  I fell in love with the Adora bags as soon as I saw them…especially the orange bag.  I love the simple lines, the minimalist style and that color!  Not long ago, I sold my Kate Spade tangerine orange bag on eBay with the idea of replacing it with another orange-colored bag in the future.  I liked the KS well enough, but the orange color was a little too *wow* for me.  When I saw this shade of orange on the Adora bag, my heart went pitter patter.  The bag looked a little larger than what I am used to carrying but I thought I would take a chance on it.  I am so happy I did. It is beautiful.

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(the above photo captures the orange color the best)

Adora Bags are made in Vinci, Italy by experienced craftsmen, adhering to generations old traditions of leather tanning and workmanship.  The brand is newer and I had only heard about them through Adrienne’s post.  After visiting their website, reading up on the men behind the bag’s design and remembering how much I adored my visit to Venice last summer (yes, it was a deciding factor), I decided to take the splurge.  For me and my budget, this was definitely a splurge but through Adrienne’s blog, I was able to get a 10% discount.  Yay!  (which is still available I might add).

A really nice feature of the bag is the detachable clutch that come with it so you can stow your phone or other smaller items in it and thus they are saved from floating around in the “black hole” of a larger tote.  And a little leather-bound notebook comes with it too that shares the Adora story and provides some pages for note jotting.  A lovely touch.

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I carried my new handbag on Saturday when we headed to the lake shore for some winter beach photos and a little antiquing.  It was easy to carry, although, I will have to admit, is was a bit heavier than what I am used to. But it is so pretty that this little faux pas has been completely overlooked by her carrier–“keep Adora and carry on!”

In other whimsy.  Aren’t these “aloha” shoes adorbs?

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And if I were a petite little gal, I would ride this bike in a heartbeat:

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They were some of the cool things I saw while antiquing.  But no acquisitions were made.  Good thing too.

That’s my update.  I will share some “decorate with what I have” changes (in the dining room again!) in the near future.

Have a fantastic week!

~~Heather~~

PS~~ this post is dedicated to the lovely Claudia.

vintage home chic ~~ small changes with big rewards

A couple of months ago the Mistress of Bliss (moi!) got all grumpy and dissatisfied with her kitchen/dining room surroundings.  A change was needed or I was sure to go mad.  Perhaps I exaggerate a tad but, nonetheless, the darkness shrouding me in the kitchen was getting on my nerves.  And, of course, the days getting shorter at that particular time did not help the situation at all.  After some brooding, I decided to broach the subject with the Master of Bliss (hubs).  Together we decided some changes were needed to “update” the kitchen/dining area a bit.  As usual, there was a budget to adhere to–a small one at that.  But Hubs agreed to:

new paint job

back splash

window treatments

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either/or new counter top laminate and metal edging around the counter (for ultimate vintage/retro look).

Woo hoo!  Let’s get crackin’ (which reads: I shop, get the ideas and Hubs does the work).

New paint was the hardest decision to make.  I really wanted to lighten up the dark, mustard-y, flat painted walls.  And I didn’t want to paint trim–I hate painting trim (or, er, I hate watching Hubs paint trim.  Just kidding!! I would’ve helped when my guilt kicked in).  So it made sense to stay in the “yellow” family.  And that’s what we did.  With the help of Sherwin Williams’ paint chip app, I found the lovely “Jonquil”.

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(via Sherwin Williams–go have some fun!)

We also brought home some samples of back splash.  One was a stainless steel block look.  The other was a multi-colored glass and metal tile one.  We chose the latter over the former because it was really cool.  More on that in a minute.

stainlessbacksplash      OR     homedepotbacksplash

via                                                                                             via

When painting commenced, I took down the bamboo blinds and  curtain panels we had on the dining room windows.  I couldn’t believe how much lighter the room was without them on even though we had them opened most of time.  Interesting.  The key seems to be in keeping the upper half of the window free and clear of…anything and everything.  This helped me decide that the new window treatments would be a more of a café tiered curtain look (from half-way down only)….very Parisian cafe…which would then work with my vintage Paris scene tablecloth that I will never part with.  So I started shopping (online) for those.  More on that in a minute too.

Here’s what you have to understand.  I love vintage kitchens (shocker, I know).  During this whole process I was using  Pinterest to find vintage kitchen inspiration.  Interestingly, I saw this look on a few of the true retro photos I found:

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(via)

(and by the way, my Grandma had those exact cabinets in her kitchen–above)

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(the above photo really makes me want the metal edging!)

Ummmm…I kind of have that already. My laminate on the counters extends up the wall for a back splash.  After thinking more on it, I nixed the new back splash idea (much to the relief of my dedicated DIYer).  I said I would work with what I have for now.  Plus, most of the looks I REALLY like would involve painting my cabinets and installing either butcher block counter tops or maybe stainless, like so:

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(via)

We have painted a butt-load of kitchen cabinets before (in my previous home’s kitchen, which I adored) and I didn’t want to tackle that again.  Not because of the work but because I am not sure I want to paint the wood of these cabinets.  They are really pretty.  And how long will the white/cream/distressed/cottage look really be around (I hope a long time)?  Would painting what we have devalue the kitchen for resell later?  Too many things to consider so I opted with “working with what I have”.

Once Hubs got the painting done, things already looked so much better…fresher.  I did a run to Goodwill to find some tier curtains to hang for privacy until I found exactly what I wanted for my curtains (this is a hard job for an anti-curtain person).  I found a pair of creamy white linen panels for $4.99 plus 20% off.  Perfect.  They would do the job nicely.  I got home, laundered and ironed them, placed one panel on each window and VOILA!  Privacy and light.  After a couple of days of living with them, I started really liking the minimalist look they provided.  I asked Hubs what he thought about just leaving them there–he agreed.  We both like the simple look of them.  Perhaps a little unconventional but they work for us.

The un-fussy look of the curtains got me thinking about other things in my kitchen.  I had a lot of stuff sitting on the top of my upper cabinets, filling in that voided space between them and the ceiling.  And I had to ask my myself, why?  They are just hard-to-reach-dust-collectors.  You could snugly wrap the earth–twice!– with the amount of dust webs I have cleaned up there.  I decided to keep that area clear of knick-knacks.  I kept just one sign up there.  The rest was gifted or donated.

And then I realized I was content in my kitchen again.  It was brighter, cheerier, there was less clutter and I was happier being in it.  So our ultimate plan got whittled away to basically just new paint, Goodwill curtains and clearing out some crap.  I have even decided about holding off on the metal edging around the counters.  I may still pursue it…and/or change the pulls and handles…but since I am undecided I am giving my creative genius a break.  And, thereby, Hubs gets a break.

So while “my” kitchen doesn’t fit into some sort of decorating niche…it’s fitting into mine.  It’s “vintage french eclectic” (I think).  It has touches of Paris (tablecloth, bistro curtain, photos from Paris) in the dining area and more vintage/retro things in the kitchen (Pyrex bowls, aluminum canisters and bread box, repurposed kitchen island, etc).

You’ve patiently waded through my drivel.  Now for the reveal.  Brace yourself to NOT be shocked.  The small changes are bigger in person, trust me:

BEFORE

I kind of forgot about the before photos until after we started working. I wasn’t thinking in “blog”.   But I found this really old photo to share:

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AFTER

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Did you notice the lovely new tulips?

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As before, I purchased this lovely arrangement from OfficeScapes.  Previously, I had bought my peonies from them too which are in my living room. I find that silk flowers work well for me.

So…as I said, we ended up doing only “small” things.  In a couple of years we will have to replace the flooring in the kitchen area.  When we do that, I may push for some other changes too.  Until then, it’s all good.

Have you ever started into a big project but then realized only a few changes were really needed to perk things up?

~~Heather~~

chic ~~ i love rocks

I adore rocks.  The bigger the better.  Alas, I am not speaking of the rocks that glitter and shine…and have the potential of setting you back thousands of dollars.  I am in love with actual rocks, stones, minerals.  With a little polish and creativity a rock can send my heart all a pitter-patter.

I think I can trace my love of rocks back to grade school–5th grade in particular.  I had a BIG thing for tiger eyes.  And, actually, even before that I remember being completely enchanted by my little turquoise ring that I proudly wore on my little sausage ring finger.  During these years of grade school, I loved finding rocks native to a particular region.  When we traveled, I would gravitate to those cards that had a bunch of little stone affixed to them with their names printed under them, found in many a souvenir shop across the USA.  So pretty!

As an adult my stone collecting continued.  I  always pick up interesting stones along the Lake Michigan coastline.  I brought home a couple of “red rocks” from Nevada.  This pass summer I tucked away small rocks from Switzerland and Austria in my suitcase home.  I just find them intriguing.  Despite this deep, professed love of rocks, I found 9th grade Earth Science completely boring (on reflection, this might have had more to do with the most boring teacher in the Universe).  I would probably love a class like that now.  Life.

A few years back I started collecting rock/stone/mineral pendants.  Sliced agate, druzy, indigenous Michigan stones, beach glass (OK, not a rock but still unique and rock-like).  I love that they are naturally beautiful and can add a unique touch or story when worn as an accessory.  Agates with druzy are probably my favorite.  Yet, Michigan’s Petoskey stone (our State stone) is a close second.

I have a couple of necklaces that I can use with my pendants.  One is an average length sterling silver omega chain.  The other is a longer silver chain.  During the colder months I like the versatility of wearing the latter because then my beautiful rocks can still be seen even if I am wearing a scarf…which I always do when it is cold.  Here is an example of the desired look:

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And here is the line-up of my favorite players:

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(from left to right: aqua druzy from etsy; amber druzy by nashelle, gifted to me; sliced agate from etsy; beach glass from south haven, mi; sliced agate from antique store; sliced agate from etsy; petoskey stone from saugatuck, mi; “lightning stone” found on lake michigan and made by my cousins).

This close-up helps you to see why druzy is so easy to love:

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Taaadaaaa!

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I am joining Jill and Adrienne today for this month’s “How I Wear My…Long Necklace”.  Peek on over to their blogs to see many, many more beautiful long necklaces.

What is your favorite long necklace to wear?

Thanks for coming by today!

~~Heather~~

vintage chic ~~ classic coach makeover

It is no secret around here that I adore vintage, classic Coach handbags–especially the Willis style (for immediate memory joggers, click HERE or HERE).  The Coach Willis is my go-to bag.  If I could own only one handbag (gasp!), she’s the one.

Naturally, I flit about on Etsy and Ebay looking for amazing deals on a Classic Coach.  I have been able to score my mom a couple of great looking Coach City bags at a fraction of what they would cost new–yet, they look new.  Whenever I buy a gently used vintage Coach, I enjoy getting it cleaned up with my Coach brand leather conditioner.  I like the process of putting some love and life back into my “new-to-me” bag.  I thought I was doing a really good job of it too until I found this store on Etsy:

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Warning:  If you click on the above link, you may just buy a bag because her bags are beautiful and very fairly priced.  Where else can you get a genuine alligator/crocodile bag for $53.55 (no lie)?

Anyhoo.  I was perusing her fine stuffs one day and I couldn’t help but notice how much shinier and healthier most of her vintage Coach bags looked in comparison to my own.  I decided to ask her to share her secret.

Debbie, the shop’s owner, was both flattered and forthcoming with this valuable piece of information.  Someone had in fact told her about the magic of Lexol leather products and she passed on the information to me.  I found a cleaning set on Amazon (cleaner, conditioner, cloths/buffer) for about (or less?) than what I have paid for Coach’s brand.  Here are my results as shown on my recently acquired Mahogany Coach Willis (because, shockingly, I did not already own a dark brown bag…sorry, justifying):

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BEFORE

The above photo was taken BEFORE I used Lexol but after I had already spiffied it up with Coach conditioner.

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AFTER

Even though the difference isn’t remarkably seen from these iPod photos, the AFTER has a healthier glow to it.  And if you need further proof take a peek at these:

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Quite a bit of dirt came off the bag with the Lexol products.  I am happier knowing this since we women know what germ and dirt magnets our handbags are.  Gross.

If you are looking to take care of your leather goods, I highly recommend trying Lexol.  I am not saying that Coach’s conditioner isn’t a good product, but I do like the results I have had from Lexol better.

I hope everyone is surviving the recent blasts of winter weather.  We got rather iced up over night.  Our driveway is a skating rink.  I knew this when I took my dog out but still fell (hard) on my arse anyway.  And then I couldn’t get back up because it was too icy so I had to slide on my knees over to the patio.  Seriously.  Where are the cameras when I need them?

~~Heather~~

travel ~~ my florida fix

Bonjour!  I hope everyone is enjoying January.  In just a few days, we will be rounding that corner of the long winter and settling into the pleasantly short month of February.  And then, my friends, Spring is just a short journey away (I hope).

I have returned from a glorious week in Florida.  Sadly, the weather had nothing to do with it being glorious.  Boo.  Most of my days there were cloudy, cool and rainy.  But it was glorious because I got to spend a week with one of my besties.  She used to live here in Michigan but moved to Florida over a decade ago.  We usually see each other for a day (or half day) when she comes to visit her family in the summer but it is hardly enough time to catch up on everything.  So, while hubs was safely tucked away in a week-long class, I pinned on my wings and flew to Florida.  We had a wonderful time!

One of the things I did get to do while I was there was travel over to the Atlantic seaside town of St. Augustine.  In all the times I have been to Florida I have never had the pleasure of strolling those ancient streets and soaking up some history.  Our day trip to St. Augustine was very cloudy and eventually very wet.  But I was able to tip my toes in the ocean before the rain came.  (sorry about photo quality…all shots are from my iPod)

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And I tried to get a bit artistic with my iPod.

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Once it started raining we donned our monster umbrellas and walked around St. Augustine.  My friend was able to show me some her favorite shops.  We ate at a delicious Greek restaurant where I nearly gagged on my authentic Greek coffee.  Who knew Greek coffee was chewy and tar like?  I love dark, dark roast coffee but this little cuppa scared the crappa out of me.

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The next couple of days found me relaxing at the house with these two

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while my girlfriend had to work. I fell in love (and no, Rockefeller is not aware of my infidelity and we are going to keep it that way).  I kept her up-to-date with the little Moppets shenanigans.  I stole brief glimpses of sun when I could, took a couple of long walks.  It was quite nice.  And it helped me to reserve my energies for….

….WALT DISNEY WORLD!

When I first called my friend about coming down, we discussed the possibility of doing a “girls only” trip to Disney, namely the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  The more we talked of the possibility, the more excited we got and soon we found ourselves booked at a Disney resort for two nights.  Watch out…here we come!

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We spent our first day at Epcot.  The crowds were bearable and the weather was…cold.  But we endured.  Endorphins are good for that…and Disney is good for endorphins.  We were able to see and do just about everything we wanted.  I even got to see some of my family from Oregon who were at Disney that same week.  Not to mention my must do stops:

France

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Almost like being there.  Not.  But still fun! And I can eat stuff like this:

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I bought kitchen towels (made in France!) as a souvenir.  Yes.  I am obviously an old person visiting Disney now.

Morocco

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So I can eat this:

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I adore the shop in Japan.  And I tried really hard to pretend I was in Venice again while in Italy.  So hard.  Sigh.

We stayed until the Illuminations show completed.  I am always blown away by the fact Disney does this show every. single. night. It is so impressive!

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We marched our tired, cold and aching bodies to our hotel.  Slept maybe six hours and we were back at it again for the Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom  holds dear in my heart.  It is really all about the nostalgia of this park, and the characters that I grew up with (Cinderella! Donald Duck!), that makes the Magic Kingdom my favorite.  Getting on some of the same rides I rode when I was seven is just so surreal and right up my vintage alley.  Where else can I feel a part of my childhood again?  My parents long ago moved from the home of my early childhood…and the one of my tween/teen years.  So I can’t visit my old bedroom(s)…or the porch we played on…or the living room we made tents in.  I do drive by my old elementary school once in a while.  But if I stop and hang out on the playground, I might find a new home in a 8 x 8 cell and I would be wearing orange– so pas chic!  I can’t get arrested at Disney.  I can let that inner little girl go wild.

The day began with using our well planned Fast Passes. And the weather was a perfect sunny 70 degrees. The first couple of hours had very light crowds and low wait times.  But by 11:00/Noon, the park was slamming with people.  “Thunder Mountain”, “Peter Pan”, “Pirates of the Caribbean” and the “Jungle Cruise” were all done by then so we headed over to the newest attractions at Disney…”Under the Sea” and “Seven Dwarfs Mine Train”.  But first we stopped in at “Be Our Guest” to see if we could do counter service there since making reservations for dinner never transpired (not for a lack of trying though).  The line for lunch was an hour wait at 11:00.  Thanks to our “My Disney Experience” apps, we could stay apprised of wait times for other rides…”Under the Sea” was creeping up there, “Seven Dwarfs…” was 140 minutes.  Waiting an hour for food was not a high priority…being a kid was.  As we were standing in line, I noticed a woman off to the side with a clip board (FUTURE DISNEY TRAVELERS TAKE NOTE).  I meandered over to discover she was taking dinner reservations!  Zippity doo daa!  One caveat, we had to be a party of at least four.  I told her to reserve us for four and figured I could find some of my family in the park to join us.  Haha!  No problem.  Two of my cousins would happily join us that evening.  We were thrilled to have reservations so we now could endure some of the long wait times for other things.  We scampered all around Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.  We ate lunch at Pinocchio Village Haus and pink cotton candy by the Big Top.  Before we knew it, it was time for dinner.

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They have designed the Beast’s castle to look very much like the movie inside.  There’s a big foyer to enter and then we were lead  through the main dining room (looks like the ballroom) to the Beast’s own special quarters where our table was.  This room was dark and decorated with shredded curtains.  In one corner was the glass domed rose.  Thunder and lightening heightened the mood of the room.  But our table was beautifully set.  And our meals were delicious.  My friend even ordered the “grey stuff” for a shared dessert…but none of liked it and it got sent back.  Not delicious.

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After dinner we had our picture taken with our host…he was very gracious.  I didn’t think to inquire after Belle…my bad.  All in all, it was a great Disney dining experience.

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We bammed out a few more rides.  Revisited a couple we had already done.  Ariel’s “Under the Sea” is darling.

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 The “Seven Dwarfs” ride is smooth but short.  We MISSED THE FIREWORKS while in line for “Space Mountain”—grrr.  But we stayed at the park until the clock struck 12 Midnight.  A propos.

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Again, after a short night of sleep, my friend and I took off the next morning for Downtown Disney.  We first ate a yummy breakfast at our hotel (the best waffles ever!) and then took the bus over to Downtown Disney.  We didn’t stay very long.  We were feeling the fatigue of the previous two days and we had a bit of a drive home.  Satiated, we left Walt Disney World with sketched out plans of definitely doing a girl trip again.  We both felt it was the best time we had ever had at Disney.  I loved it in 2009 with my family (hubs, parents, brother, sister-in-law, and nephews) but we did it in June.  For a week.  In the 100F heat.  We had fun but were seriously miserable much of the time there.  And as much as I love traveling and being with my husband, he is not a Disney fan.  He has a list of 1005 other places/things he’d rather do…I am not sure Disney is even on his to-do list.  However, he has gone with me before because he knows I love it and he loves me.  But why make him go and spend all the money if his heart isn’t in it?  I am happy to have a new Disney travel partner.  And thankfully, her husband feels the same about Disney as my husband does.  Maybe they can go golfing next time while we play at Magic Kingdom.

Once we got back to her house, I had to pack up to leave the next day.  7:00AM found us back on the road to the Tampa airport.  I arrived home early afternoon.  Got to get in some serious snuggles with my boys, went to bed early and found myself in some sort of coma on this past Monday.  Yeah.  Go figure.  Unpacking.  Laundry.  Cleaning.  Parents came to visit on Wednesday.  Helped a friend on Thursday and Friday with some major stuff.  And now, here it is the weekend again and I am writing this really long blog post only because I needed an emotional break from “All The Light We Cannot See” that I am trying to speed read through because it is due back to the library soon and I love it and can’t put it down but I have to just so I can breathe once in a while.

Phew.

Spending that week in Florida with my friend was incredibly special to me.  It would have been even without Disney.  But being with her was a cathartic experience…helping me to appreciate the value of beautiful friendships, hearty laughs and long talks over great coffee. She’s someone I am myself with and can just relax…and I love her for it! Friends Forever.

Hope you are having a good month.  Until we meet again, may I suggest some highly candid, very thoughtful and always entertaining reading over at Have Some Decorum.  Ellie has a great voice…and although living with a very serious illness, she has maintained her dignity and joie de vivre.  Inspirational stuff.

~~Heather~~

PS  A couple of things I forgot to mention–oy vey!  No, I did not get to see the Fountain of Youth.  Bummer.  It was raining too hard when we were there and I decided to get soaked through the actual streets of the town instead of in a tourist park.

Also, if you haven’t been to Walt Disney World in a few years, you will like some of the changes.  I mentioned the app you can download.  Well they are also now using wristbands at the parks.  Everything is tied to this band; it is your room key, your credit card, your Fast Passes.  Very convenient–also potentially dangerous as far as spending goes and/or if you lose it.