Collecting Memories

It all started with my new job.

We were responsible for the marketing for a wine festival, then the fourth largest in the country. I started that job only days before the event and barely knew what was expected of me, let alone what was the protocol at a wine tasting. One of the agency’s account executives taught me about sipping the wine, swirling it around in my mouth and spitting it back. That’s the proper thing to do at a wine tasting. It’s also a little unseemly.

Each of the guests, and the publicity team members were all guests, was given a hand-painted pewter winestopper and a small bottle of Pinot Grigios. What happened to the wine I’ve long forgotten, but that stopper started my bottlestopper collection, and what a collection it is.

The first winestopper I ever got is the one in the front row on the far right — the latest is also in the front row, but on the far left.

There are only ten, but each is a work of art. Or not — a few are very commercial. But the rest are made of finest crystal, hand-spun glass or, like the first, pewter. They are beautiful.

The second stopper I added to my collection was another hand-painted pewter piece my mom had received as a gift from a man she briefly dated. It’s the only one that’s been used. After that, I went to craft fairs, specialty shops and most recently, Pier One, to find the latest addition.

There’s the Map of the World, bought with a friend visiting me from overseas. The two made of Murano blown glass, given by different friends in the same year. The leaf I bought with my friend Karen.

The Versaci Medusa Head crystal stopper is the showpiece of my collection. My mom gave it to me years ago, and I treasure it. She also gave me the Arkansas Razorbacks souvenir bottle stopper for the other end of the class spectrum (it has none).

For years I searched for a way to display them, and finally my mom found a bottlestopper display rack, which she gave me a few Christmases ago. Or for my birthday. I forget exactly. It took awhile to find the space to set the whole thing up, but finally, I have it.

It reminds me of better times, of lost and lasting friendships, of challenges that seemed overwhelming yet were inevitably overcome. People who might otherwise be forgotten are brought to mind, and I smile at the memory.

The irony, although it will help preserve these pieces, is I rarely, if ever, drink wine, or any other alcohol, for that matter. But I love the stoppers.

Collections tell stories. They are worth more than their pieces. They are our history.

A Simple Change

Far be it from me to give home decorating advice. There are plenty of experts out there, as well as people like my mom, who know exactly what they’re doing and can work miracles with MacGyver-like skills for interior design. I can put a room together, and it’s comfortable, but my mom has a sense for what works like no one else I know. I didn’t inherit that skill.

rose-knobsStill, I’ve been working on a couple of projects lately, and two simple changes have updated portions of my home so dramatically I can’t wait to go into those rooms. What did I do? Paint — and update cabinet knobs.

The reality for many of us is we’re forced to work with elements we can’t afford to change — in my case, I can’t renovate the incredibly outdated bathroom. First, I’m renting, and second, even if I owned this home, it’s expensive. So allow me to present some ideas you won’t find in a decorating magazine, since few of them would ever allow some of this to be seen in print as part of the updated work.

When I first moved into my new townhome, my landlord and I both looked at the bathrooms with great dismay (downstairs full bath, upstairs half). They have that faux marble gold-sparkle countertop, and there isn’t much I can do about that. I hear there’s some sort of epoxy you can apply, but that takes considerable skill and patience. I have neither for that job.

The cabinets were probably last painted when the home was built, more than 30 years ago. White. Worn, dirty white. The hardware was also likely original to the home, therefore, pretty dated. I had no plans to write this blog post when I started or I would have taken “before” pictures, but if your bathroom has the same problem, no pictures are necessary. You know what I’m talking about.

These rose cabinet knobs are from Pier One, and the rest can be found at Hobby Lobby.

So I took it upon myself to do something I’ve rarely done before. I painted the cabinets. I chose an attractive taupe color, but let me say right here: Get samples. What looks like the perfect taupe at Home Depot ends up pink on the cabinets, or possibly an ill green.  I saw both.

I surprised myself by picking out some white ceramic rose-shaped cabinet knobs. I’m not typically that girly in my decorating, but these are classy, and as it turns out, I had some coordinating rose “accessories” I’m trying out in there. It looks kind of nice.

You can see the outdated toilet, counter top and floor — but the paint job, as well as the accessories (which you can’t see here), have really updated it!

I was fortunate that my landlord had replaced the faucets with some attractive brushed-nickle pieces, and I almost chose a grey to play up that feature, but for me, the taupe worked better. In the downstairs bathroom my shower curtain is a vintage travel-postcard design in grey and taupe, and I have brushed-nickle accessories that do coordinate with the faucets. The walls are painted a light, fun blue, so I got dark, smoky blue towels to play off of that as well as add an anchor color to the room. And just last night I found vintage travel-postcard cabinet knobs that coordinate perfectly with the shower curtain. Yippee!

armoireNow, you’d really have to see a before shot of this armoire to fully appreciate just how bad it was. Not only was the finishing job horrid, but the cats liked to climb up the side so they could survey the room from on high. That resulted in deep scratches all along the side, and I debated even keeping this piece. But I need it.

armoire-knobAgain, I chose a taupe, and I’m loving the result. And look at those cabinet knobs!!!!! Since I painted the interior a sort of dusty blue, that blue edging on the knobs helps make these perfect. This armoire is currently my “linen closet.”

This three-drawer dresser serves as my TV stand — outdated colors or not, it works well just as it is!

This last piece I finished some twenty years ago, which likely makes the dark green stain outdated. But I’m not in the mood to paint it, nor do I have any idea what color I would choose. Still, these knobs do a fair job of updating the little three-drawer dresser. What’s kind of funny is the tan color in the knobs  works with those spots where the dresser is scratched down to the raw wood — that same tan color.

So if you’re looking for a simple update to some outdated furniture, or bathroom cabinets, paint and new hardware will do wonders. Try it! And it’s remarkably inexpensive as well.

I used three different shades of taupe in my painting: the upstairs bathroom was “Perfect Greige” by Sherwin-Williams, the downstairs bathroom (full bath) was “Perfect Taupe” by Behr, and for the armoire, I chose “Rustic Taupe” by Behr.

I’ll Take a Gnome, Please, but I’ll Wait on the Flamingo

It’s so much fun decorating my new place. Since I live in an area replete with similar townhouses, I’ve had the opportunity to see how some of my neighbors have fixed up their homes, and it’s given me some great ideas.

My neighbors to the right.

One area I haven’t touched yet is the front of the home. You don’t have to go far to see the variety of opportunities for beautifying the facade of the buildings. They range from tasteful to tacky, conservative to wacky, and my neighbors on either side of me are great examples of the range of these options.

I do plan to add a planter  or two of flowers out front, and for Christmas no doubt I’ll find something to tack on the front door. This may be the perfect time to pull out that latch-hook door hanging that says “Noel.” I made it in high school, I think, or shortly thereafter. It does, admittedly, veer to the campy side, but hey, it’s Christmas. And compared to what they’re likely to do next door (to the left), it’s downright classy.

There are four units in each building, and the buildings are in various stages of upkeep. One group of my neighbors recently painted their building a charming springy-green, and each door is now a different color, rich shades of red and blue and other colors I don’t remember. It looks wonderful. From seeing this outside view of their homes, I believe they are good neighbors.

My neighbors to the left.

I’m not big on gnomes, but even so, the doorsteps down the block that hold two or three of them are welcoming. Even the pink flamingo sends out a happy greeting. I suspect the latter may reveal a bit of the owner’s sense of humor.

I love that such a large group of homes — and there are dozens of these townhouses nearby — offers such an opportunity to display the owner’s (or in my case, renter’s) personality and hospitality.  It makes coming home every night a delight.



Some Things Do Work Out

Home Improvement. Ladder, Paint Can And Paint RollerWow, did I get lucky. This new townhome I’m moving into has everything I want — including an owner who’s putting in new carpet and has re-painted the entire place. Downstairs, the color will work perfectly with my bedroom decor; upstairs matches the living room better than I could have dreamed.

And yes, it has an upstairs and downstairs! My cats are going to be in heaven. So much more room than they’re used to, and great big windows to boot. If I owned the place, I’d screen in the upstairs deck so they could go outside. As it is, there are too many trees they could leap onto and I’m afraid I’d never see them again. So they’ll have to be content staying inside…and they will be.

This situation helps me believe in the future again. I had some setbacks this last week, and it was discouraging, to a point of despair. When your life is not in your control, when others have an inappropriate power, it is a challenge. I have been the victim of vicious people who believed a lie of their own fabrication, and the consequences don’t stop. But many more people know who I am, and believe in me.

All I can do is move forward. I believe God is in control. If the good things are not a coincidence, than the bad things aren’t either. There is a reason and logic for what has happened that is beyond my comprehension.

Counting heartbeats not sheep pe2Right now my kitty Walter is curled up in my lap, purring and cooing his comfort. He and his sister Mimi showed up at the door of my current apartment, lost and lonely, abandoned and needy. They are delightful cats and I never would have met them if the bad things in my life hadn’t happened.

In fact, I probably would be living in a different state,  and I’m happy here. This is where I’m supposed to be.

Now I have to pack and prepare for my move. I’m so excited the new place will be so happily painted, and it reminds me I’ll need to do a little touching up here if I hope to get any part of my deposit back (I actually don’t, but it won’t be for lack of trying). Bring forth the Krylon!

Photo Credit: (painting walls) © Bigstock



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