Hang a Star on the Highest Bough

StarOldI’ve had the same tree topper for years.  I bought it on sale after Christmas one year and added a string of lights so that it lit up.  I loved it, but it was always so heavy and cumbersome, requiring a rod to support it and a special extension cord to be run to it for the lights.  After fussing with it for 15 minutes this year and still not liking how it was sitting, I decided it was time for a change.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted exactly, but figured it would be another star because that just seems right to me.  I know an angel is traditional, and I think that’s what I had as a child, but many I’ve seen are down-right creepy or psychedelic.  I like the symbolism of the star, which guided the wise men to Jesus’ manger and being an Alaskan, the North Star is always a favorite.  So star tree topper a-hunting I went.Picture 2

My first stop was Target, which had tinsel options, but nothing that seemed to fit my style.  I was considering researching DIY options when I decided to stop in at Pier One because I had a 20% off coupon.  They didn’t have any tree toppers but I did find this large glittered star ornament.  They called it a snowflake, but it sure looked like a star to me, especially in gold.  I wasn’t sure if it wold work as a tree topper so I carried it around with me as I browsed other areas of the store.

Something told me that even if I didn’t end up using it as a tree topper it would find a use in my holiday decor so I went ahead and bought it.  It was already a good price at $6.95, but I also got my coupon discount on top of that, so it was a super deal.

Once I got home I climbed on a chair and placed it at the top of the tree, arranging branches to make it sit just so.  After a few times off the chair to check and make sure it was straight, I was completely happy, so I cut off the hanging string and left it atop the tree.  It’s just the right scale to complete the shape of the tree and it coordinates with other decor in the house, so I think we have a new annual topper!  And for less than $6 it’s the best deal I’m likely to find, perhaps even after Christmas!



O’ Christmas Tree

Although I had the movers put the Christmas tree box in the family room because I intended to put it up right away, I didn’t actually get to that task until about a week after the move.  We’d just bought the tree last year, but we had to send it off to the tree infirmary after Christmas because as the Grinch says “there’s a light on one side that just won’t light” – although in our case it was a whole section. This was the first time I’d opened the box since it had been shipped back to us and had to chuckle when I spotted a tennis ball right on top!  Apparently the workers found it somewhere in the tree and put it back in the box to make sure we got it back!  Only us!


I initially planned to put the tree in front of the windows next to the fireplace, but once we arranged the furniture there wasn’t room for it there.  So I tried it on the other side of the fireplace next to the TV, but it was too big for that spot.  Then I decided to try it at the corner of the family room where the dog bed had been placed.  I moved the dog bed – much to Sangria’s dismay – and started setting up the tree near the hallway, only to decide I didn’t like it there either.  It still felt crowded.


At that point I stood in the middle of the main area and looked around trying to decide where to try next.  It was about this time that the hubs woke up from his night shift sleeping and saw me standing there pondering.  I explained my dilemma and he agreed that it didn’t fit right next to the TV or fireplace.  I told him I was considering placing it next to the back door where I’d just placed the curio cabinet – one of the few pieces I hadn’t ‘envisioned’ a spot for before the move – to see if I liked it there.

Notice the fixed doggie door gap?! 🙂

The problem was I did like it there.  I knew my brain would see wherever the tree was placed for our first Christmas in this house as “the spot” it would go from here on out and I didn’t want to commit to moving the curio each year to put up the tree.

Hubs said he thought that was the best spot for the tree and then wandered off to wake up further.  I continued to stand puzzling, like the Grinch over Whoville.  Finally, I decided to try it just to appease my curiosity, which required moving the curio to three different spots before finding it’s temporary home in the guest room.  I started again with just the base section and liked how it looked, so I added the other two sections and started fluffing branches.  About that time the Hubs returned and noted that the tree looked good there.  I agreed and stated that he’d been right all along.

Unfortunately, I got distracted with some other project at that point and the tree remained undecorated for several days until I scheduled time to finish decorating this past weekend.  And here’s the final result!  I love the traditional feel of the white lights and this model has flocking and faux pine cones that make it feel real, especially when I get the sugared pine wax melts going!


Our family has a tradition of letting each child choose a new Christmas ornament for themselves each year so that when they move out on their own they have an entire collection full of memories to decorate their own first tree.  I continue the tradition for myself, choosing a new ornament to add to the tree each year.  This year I found a wonderful vendor at a local craft bazaar who made ornaments from clay and I just couldn’t choose between two, so I got both.  One is a reindeer with a strand of lights tangled in his antlers while the other is a classic truck, much like my own 1955 F-100.


TreeOrnamentNew2Although I love the look of themed trees seen in the magazines and stores, I still like having my eclectic grouping of ornaments at home because they remind me of the stories behind them.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Still my #1 favorite, an Egyptian hand-blown glass ornament my mom got for me many years ago.

I bought this little guy on my first trip to Kodiak. He’s lost an antler since then, but I still adore him.

Found this at a craft bazaar in Kodiak and loved the simplicity of the design. I actually bought a few for my nephews too!

Antler slice ornament with an otter I picked up at another craft bazaar.

I loved the otter but also loved the reindeer on this one, which is why I bought both! I’m sensing a trend.. 🙂

One of my top faves – The Grinch, which I ordered from another crafter.

I bought this ornament for my husband to commemorate his time with the Coast Guard. He’s not super fond of it, but I am because it reminds me of his character and desire to help others in all he does.

I don’t remember where this ornament came from – probably one I picked out and mom bought me, but I love the different designs on the deer.

I picked this up on my layover in London on the way to Prague. Another great memento.

The ornament my sister got us after our wedding.

And the one my mom got us too!

Do you have favorite ornaments?  If so, what makes them special to you?

See Dog Run

The last critical move in project was a dog run for the girls, who have a doggie door at the deck.  We had planned to install a fence near the clearing line, but now that winter has frozen the ground solid that isn’t an option until spring.  Instead, we created a temporary dog run along the back of the house from used kennel panels I scored for just $100 on a local buy/sell page and free pallets from companies around town.


We closed off two sides of the deck by layering pallets on top of and next to the deck, screwing them together and then to the deck itself. A design the Klampets would be envious of! LOL


We tied the kennel panels together to make the main area of the run, from the deck to the hot tub, which also ended up acting as a portion of the run’s barrier since it’s so close to the house.  It’s not ideal, but it gave us a place to strap the kennel panel and a single pallet to, to complete the enclosure.  As you can see the girls don’t much care what it looks like, as long as they have toys to play with in the space.


It’s certainly not pretty and it’s not a big space, but it allows them to go outside during the day to go potty and play when we’re not home, so it accomplishes the goal.


We open the gate when we’re home so they can wander in the woods and explore a bit further, which they are totally enjoying.  They are pretty good about sticking close to the house so that if they are out of sight it only take a few moments for them to reappear when called.  Sangria has also learned that she can go out the gate and around to the front of the house when she hears someone working in the garage, so she quite often ‘shows up’ to help if you leave the garage door open!  That girl is one smart cookie!  Tequila on the other hand, apparently doesn’t care enough to leave her toys to see what’s happening, because she rarely follows Sangria around to the front.

Unfortunately, the snow on the roof slides off right into the run, so we’ve had to be vigilant about keeping the area shoveled so it doesn’t accumulate high enough to block the gate, or encouraging anyone to jump over – either the girls to the outside or critters to the inside!

I’m not sure how moose proof the run is as we haven’t seen any on the property since moving in, so I’m guessing that the girls make enough noise to keep them at bay.  I’m certainly ok with that, especially if it means I don’t have to shoo a moose out of my garden come summer!

So I Went a Little Shoe Fanatic..

After the pantry, the Master Closet was the next priority project.  We had a plan all drawn up and ready so the hubs just started cutting and installing.  Unfortunately, he was transferred to an overnight shift just before the move, so this drastically affected how much he could get done in a day.  That meant that the ladders and tools that had cluttered the kitchen for the first few days post move, now resided in our bedroom and closet for approximately a week.



For those of you who know me personally, you’ll understand that just thinking about that makes me itch because I can’t stand clutter in any sense.  Finding an outfit for work from the wardrobe boxes each morning was wearing thin and I still hadn’t found my office shoes, jewelry or purses.  Although I was trying to keep my side of the room as organized as possible, the hubs had gone the ‘man route’ and had stuff everywhere and anywhere.  I involuntarily twitched every time I walked past his side of the bed.

My side of the room.
And his side...
And his side…

About the time he’d gotten my side of the closet almost finished, I found the box with my shoes and purses.  I pulled out a few pairs of heels to get me through the upcoming days and put them along the wall in the closet, because well, that’s where shoes belong.   I knew he would be cutting a hole in the wall to flush mount my full length mirror jewelry cabinet soon, so I held off unpacking my wardrobe and spent a half hour covering all of my shoes to protect them from the dust that would be created.  Apparently I didn’t do a good enough job, because I came home to this the next day.


He’d realized that my shoes had gotten dust on them, so he thought the best option was to move them into the bathroom away from the dust.  So there they were, on my bathroom counter.  Who knows what germs those beauties held on their soles, which were now on my counter!  When I noticed there were also Sasquatch sized “dust” foot prints on the bathroom rug, I asked if Big Foot had broken in to try on my shoes while I was at work!


I began cleaning shoes individually, which resulted in pockets of saw dust being spilled out of the inside of each all over the floor.  It was at this point that I pitched a full on fit, which the hubs believed was fully directed at him and his efforts to install the closet.  Many huffs and puffs from both of us and a long talk later, I was able to explain that it was the feeling of living and unpacking “in construction” that had me irritated rather than him.

We set a deadline to get the closet done and tidied up what we could for the time being.  Luckily, he finished up a few days later and I was finally able to unpack all of my clothing and organize everything in the new space.

Well worth the wait!  The trim leaning against the mirror will be used to cover the gap between the cabinet and the wall.
Well worth the wait! The trim leaning against the mirror will be used to cover the gap between the cabinet and the wall.
My side!
My side!
My side also has long hanging space and room for my boots!
My side also has long hanging space and room for my boots, which I’d planned to keep by the mirror!
His side
His side

The ottoman under the mirror holds the laundry bags I use for dedicates and at-home dry cleaning, but it also makes for a great spot to sit in the mornings and put on my socks or nylons.  You might have noticed the trim molding on our access panel is missing.  The builder’s foreman said he moved the panel a few times and it “just fell off.”  Sure… whatever, it’s a moot point now.  I’ll eventually get a rug to cover the panel anyway so it’s not a huge deal, and it worked out because that’s right where the laundry baskets sit so it would have actually been in the way.  I also still need to add the crown molding shelves to hold all my heels, but that will come in time.  For now they can live lined up against the wall.

Overall it’s just what I envisioned.  There’s a spot for everything and there’s still room to grow!  Which most women would probably agree is worth the week or two of stress involved to get to say that. 🙂

We’ve Got Mail!

The first necessity at the new house was a mailbox!  Because our home was new construction, we had a brand new address which required a new mailbox.  Out here in the boonies the route carriers call the shots, rather than the main post office and its common practice to have a ‘group row’ of mailboxes at the entrance to the neighborhood rather than individual boxes at each driveway.    Boxes

Our route carrier requested that we either add a new box to the group row or rent a lockable box in the group terminal next to the row.  When we discovered that the rental box was almost $200/year and required an annual contract we opted to go with a personal mailbox.

We picked out one we thought would stand up to the elements and I had grand plans to paint our address on it with the same gold paint I used for my gold dipped wedges.


That idea quickly went down in flames when the stencil didn’t fit well and the first letter turned out like this.


My next option was to use my Silhouette, which still had to be unpacked and set up. So the next day I found the Silhouette and set it up along with the computer.   I chose a simple font and measured the size I thought would look good, then arranged our name and address for the front flap.

Sorry, not sharing our address just for safety. :)
Sorry, not sharing our address just for safety. 🙂

Once the design was cut, I applied it to the front of the box, pulling off the excess vinyl and leaving behind the necessary text.



I was quite proud of my handi-work and went to show the hubs who noted that we didn’t have to put our name on the box, just the address.  My response: “Oh.”  I wasn’t about to tear off my hard work, so I just removed the name when I resized the same art or the side of the box.

The un-distorted address really does look sharp. Wish I could share it with you all, but better safe than sorry.

Once my portion was done, the hubs rigged an extension for the row and added our mailbox at the head of the line.  Come spring, when the ground thaws, we’ll install our own post, since we’re not sure how long the extension will hold up over time.


It’s simple, yet functional.  I might jazz it up a little more later or I might forget about it and focus on other projects.  Either way, we now have a spot to receive mail and that’s what really matters.

It’s Pantry Time!

The pantry was the second project on our to-do list upon moving in.  It’s kind of necessary to have a space to store all your food before you can get the rest of the kitchen in order.

Although I had planned out the Master closet in detail, I hadn’t fully worked out the plan for the pantry, so the hubs and I sat down and thought about the types of food we’d be storing and how tall certain containers typically are.  That helped determine the height needed for each shelf and then we just fit as many shelves as possible in the space we had.

The materials were fairly simple: prefab melamine boards and 1x2s.  The hubs used the 1×2’s as cleats along the side and back walls, then cut the boards to size and placed them on top.




He secured each with screws into the cleats and then used his new Kreg Jig tool to join the two boards together where they met. There was a bit of trial and error, but overall it turned out pretty darn well.


The pantry also doubles as our recycling station, with containers for paper, plastic and cans on the floor along the back wall.


Because I’m a soda fiend, I knew I needed a can crusher or I’d be emptying that bin every week.  We found this one for just $10.


The hubs mounted it on the wall inside the pantry, just above the trash can that holds the cans.  It works really well, but we’ve discovered that if you dent the can just a bit it relieves a great deal of pressure, thus requiring less effort to completely crush the can.  The dogs are still not fond of this strange new noise making device, but I’m loving the efficiency of it.


We also purchased a large galvanized trash can to hold the dog food so we didn’t have to squat down to scoop it out every time anymore.  Now we just lean!  This was the last can the store had and we got it for $5 off because of the dent in the lid, which when you put it on the right way is in the back under the shelf and not even noticeable anyway!



There was still room left over once I loaded everything in!  Guess we’ll have to do some bulk shopping soon and put it to use!  I still have some organizing to finish up in here and want to get some bins to hold onions and potatoes, but overall it’s done and functioning well, so we’re calling it finished for now.


The Reality of Moving

It’s been a while since my last post, so I apologize, but we’ve been super busy moving into the new house and getting settled, which means we have lots of stories to share.  So I’ll dive right in.

The girls watch as the moving truck pulls into position.
The girls watch as the moving truck pulls into position.

The move itself went pretty smoothly thanks to a great moving crew, who were not only super efficient, but very personable.  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for our builder.  There were several outstanding issues after our home inspection and the foreman was working on the list of items until 1 am the day we moved in!  Because of the late hour, there were many areas that didn’t get cleaned like they should have, including paint on our floors.



Although the builder said we could request it to be cleaned, that would require us unloading all of our stuff into the garage and delaying moving into the house, which was simply not acceptable after all the planning we’d done.  We were already doing an “early occupancy” before closing due to delays on the builder’s part and didn’t want to wait further because we both had work schedules to contend with.  We chose to accept the cleaning “as is” and proceed with the move in, with a few repair items still to be addressed before closing and a few more to occur in the spring when the snow is gone and the ground thaws.

Three different sub-contractors came that very day to address several of the items, but there were still two remaining when we closed the following week – the major one being the mis-matched closet doors in the entry way.


I’m still dumbstruck at this.  Maybe they thought we wouldn’t notice, or care.   But I’m sure they knew it was different because they had to drill a hole outside of the flat plane made for the knob in order for it to line up with the others!  **Face palm**

The lack of cleaning by the builder meant up that we had to clean every surface before anything could be unpacked and put on it, including inside cabinets, which of course makes unpacking take twice as long.  And because there wasn’t a span of time between closing and moving, we were trying to install the pantry shelves and closet systems while moving in.  That’s a combination of projects I don’t recommend, although both turned out really nice (watch for a post about both soon).

The reality of all this is that for the past two weeks some rooms look pretty good with just a box or two remaining:




While others look like a tornado has struck.

The kitchen as Matt begins to organize his army of cooking paraphernalia.
The spare room currently holds everything that doesn’t have a ‘home’ yet.
Boxes waiting to go into storage in the crawlspace. And that’s not all of them!
The view into the Master. Piles o’ stuff was not the vision I had for this space!

Most of the spaces are starting to take shape and resemble the ‘vision’ I had for them, but it’s a process.  I’ll do a whole house tour once I get it mostly done.

We did have a few unexpected issues pop up as we started setting up things.  The first was the height of the doggie door. Apparently our previous slider was a wee bit shorter than the new one!


We stuffed a piece of cardboard up there while the movers were working, but the hubs later filled the gap with a nice piece of melamine scrap from the pantry project (post coming soon) so it looks almost built in.

The second issue was that our “bar height” chairs from the dining table weren’t tall enough for the new kitchen island bar.  We have 8 of these chairs and planned to use them for both the dining table and the bar, but that obviously won’t work.  You literally feel like you’re sitting at the kiddie table because the counter is about 6” above the middle of your chest!  So I’m now on the hunt for super tall stools instead and have my eye on these at Target, but just can’t bite the bullet at $120/chair (AK price)!  I’m holding out hoping for a super sale and being able to find enough in the same color at one store.

Another revelation of the move is that magnets don’t stick to stainless steel fridge doors.  I guess that should have occurred to me earlier, but I’ve had a few hundred other things on my mind as of late.  At least it keeps the fridge clutter free.  Apparently they do stick to the sides still, so I moved our little dry erase board to the side for writing grocery items on as they become low, otherwise I’ll never know what I should buy at the store.

Luckily, the dogs have adjusted well to the new house, although they had a few days there were all the activity was overwhelming and they clung to anything familiar – especially when they were doubled up and extra cushy!


Now that we’re finally in the new house we’re looking to get another dog and possibly a cat, which will definitely be another adjustment for them, but I’m sure they can handle it.  Especially if there’s treats involved. 🙂

Waiting on Go

I really HATE waiting.  Sometimes I think it’s because of my creative personality which tends to flit from one idea to the next and is already onto another by the time someone else catches up, but deep down I think it’s because I perceive waiting as inefficiency – my #1 pet peeve.  Unfortunately I’ve had a lot of practice waiting on things, especially over the last few years as my husband and I sat in “limbo” waiting to see what would happen with his military career due to a knee injury.

So obviously, patience is definitely not my strong suit.  It’s an on-going lesson plan God and I will likely continue until I enter those pearly gates.  And what little patience I do have is wearing thin on the eve of our move to the new house.  There is still plenty to do and prep before the movers arrive tomorrow morning to begin packing.  We have a re-inspection and final walk through to complete tonight.  Packing of the ‘necessities’ for during the move must occur this evening and we’re still getting all the utilities and mail delivery arranged for the new house.  But with all this still to do I was sitting at work this afternoon with all my projects wrapped up, watching the moments tick by and wishing I had a fast forward button.

If I did, I’d zip right to the inspection tonight and hit play to listen in and confirm all systems are go, then fast forward through the walk-through so I wouldn’t hear the little details that will hopefully be handled before we arrive Friday morning to start unloading.  I’d certainly skip over the entire process of packing, sorting and unpacking until we’re working on the final boxes and things were neatly organized in their new home.

Although I’m excited for the move, I’m still nervous after all the delays and issues we’ve had with the builder.  I’m sure once we’re in and settled my ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’ attitude will disappate, but it’s still not ‘real’ to me yet.  The entire project has been a dream for so long that it’s hard to beleive it’s really happening.  And it’s happening NOW.

I plan to document the move and the first few projects once we’re in – but it might take a while to get them posted as we still have to figure out internet access at the new house.  The options are fairly slim because we ARE in the boonies and the prices are steep to set up new service where there wasn’t a connection before, so it might take longer than we hope.  I’ll still be posting on Facebook thanks to my cell phone, but that might be it for a while.  So stay tuned and be sure you’ve liked my Facebook page to keep tabs on all the details in the mean time.

Crossing the Finish Line

Now that the new house has been cleaned, final touches and repairs are are being completed.  We are scheduled to move in on Friday, although we won’t officially close on the house until sometime the following week.  Due to the extended delays the builder has granted us early occupancy because we already had our military movers scheduled and canceling would have meant a possible 6 week delay or denial of service!  YIKES!  There are still a lot of little details to work through, which make me rub my temples constantly, but it’s almost done.  Here’s a little sneak peek of everything in its “clean, but empty” state.