Project: Add Some Bling!

An Outdoor Clock

An Outdoor Clock

I love bling. I love wearing it. I love seeing it. And I really love it in an outdoor living space.

By ‘bling’ in an outdoor living space, I’m referring to something a little sparkly or shiny or metallic that can add a pop of color and pizzazz.

Take my outdoor clock for instance. I bought this last summer, and finally got it hung this week. It’s on my west side patio, which is underneath a deck so it has shade from the sun. The copper edging harmonizes well with the rest of my space. It also has temperature and humidity guages, which make it interesting conversation piece. I have it hanging above my outdoor sectional, which really gives it a ‘”living space” feel.

As I sit here writing this, I realize I forgot to put batteries in the clock. OOPS. Oh well. One thing at a time. 😉

Outdoor bling can be anything from a brightly colored candle in a candleholder, some neat colorful tiki torches, or colorful or shiny metallic flowers or glass globes. Even the solar ones that change color are eye candy, and are really pretty inexpensive.

One word of caution: Resist the temptation to overdo outdoor bling. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. We’ve all seen the yards where people have gotten carried away by lawn ornaments: Your eyes are all over the place, and you can’t focus on the space as a whole. It’s like having a head full of bumblebee’s, it’s so busy! Depending on the size of your space, one or two well-placed pieces are usually enough.

The season for outdoor living is short, so make your space one that you’ll really enjoy. Happy living! 🙂

Project: Move Your Houseplants Outside!

On My Front Deck

On My Front Deck

Moving your houseplants to your deck or patio can really add visual appeal to the space, making it feel more like an outdoor living room. With some plants and a few potted annuals, your outside space will have both color and a cozy, homey feel!

Once the mercury stays above 50 degrees at night, your houseplants can safely be moved outside. They need to be protected from direct sunlight, although a few early morning hours is no problem. Up next to the house or in a corner is usually the best spot. (Of course, as I write this, it is 48 degrees and raining here in Kirksville. My plants have been outside for a week, so they’ve had some time to acclimate to the temperature.)

Keep an eye on them for the first week or so; if they start to look discolored, they probably need to be moved to another spot that’s more shaded. You may have to water them more often if you aren’t getting rain periodically. During the high heat of summer, some plants may suffer if the temperature stays in the upper 90’s or higher for a prolonged period of time.

Don’t do this if you have low-light plants; they will get too much light. Which means you will have fewer plants!

Your plants will love being outside. Not only will they thrive, if they are in the right spot, but the rain will wash the dust off. It’s one less thing you have to clean! If you have several houseplants like I do, you’ll be amazed at how much it opens up your indoor space. The house seems almost bare and cooler with them outside, which is a nice change of pace for the summer.

At the end of the season (usually about mid-September), I’ll water them well and spray for bugs a day or two before I bring them in. Your plants will be cranky for a couple of weeks after coming back inside and lose some leaves, but they will adjust.  And by fall, you’ll be ready for the warmth and coziness that plants bring to your home. 🙂


Project: Great Room Color Splash

I love quick and easy home projects that are unexpected, or that add interest and freshen up a room. I also love repurposing: finding a new use for something that’s functional and not what it was originally intended for.

Colorful Sofa Pillows

Colorful Sofa Pillows

Sometimes it pays to think outside the box.

I was at Home Depot the other day picking up a few things, and saw some outdoor pillows that were eerily familiar. I have one set of deck furniture that is looking somewhat tired, and the pillows are very faded. These pillows were exactly what I needed to spruce it up for the summer!

Or so I thought. I got them home, and I was somewhat less than enchanted with the results. I brought them inside and stuck them in a corner to return later.

Yesterday I realized why I was drawn to them. Do you see what I see?

Who says outdoor pillows have to only be used outdoors? The Mattress Police?

Not only do these really add a splash of color to my Great Room, but at roughly $12 each, they are pretty inexpensive. Pillows seem to have short life spans at our house, so I am always looking for something that adds pizzazz but not at a pizzazz price. Especially when you stop to think that if someone spills something on them, you can take them outside and hose them off!

I’d say these were perfect for summer, wouldn’t you? 🙂

Talking With Dogs

Maggie With Her Treasure

Maggie With Her Treasure

So, this wasn’t really the blog post I’d planned, but this is a lot more fun on a dreary day. Enjoy!

Dogs are amazing creatures. They live by a whole different set of rules than humans do, but like people, they have different personalities and varying levels of intelligence. And some can communicate better than others.

If you don’t allow your dogs inside with you, you’re missing getting to know the nuances of their personalities and the joy that brings. Taking the time to “tune in” with your dog creates a deeper bond plus you’re rewarded with better behavior and lots of good-natured fun. We treat our dogs as individuals, which really allows their personalities to blossom.

Living with dogs is like having a houseful of 3-year olds. Forever.

And then there’s Maggie.

Maggie is more like a 5-year old. The Animal Planet says that the average trained dog’s vocabulary is about 160 words. This does not surprise me in the least.

Maggie is a doofus-maximus. Think Marmaduke. And because she’s a Rottweiler mix, her communications usually come out as demands. If I’m not clear on what she’s saying, I simply tell her she’s going to have to show me. And she does.  We even have conversations. Granted, they are brief. But it is still a series of questions and answers that take place between the two of us with an understanding of the message on both sides. (Isn’t that a conversation?)

My favorite Maggie-speak:

I’ll start with an easy one. See the picture above? Even if you’re a novice, you can tell that she is saying, “I want to come in.” (No.)

“Take that bone away from her and give it to me.” (No)

“Make her move so I can sit there.” (No)

“Give me that steak/chicken/pizza/tacos/hamburger….” (No)

“I want to sit there.” (No. That’s where I sit.)

“Help me up.” [in the car, truck, steps, etc.].  “Well, that sucked.” (If you didn’t do it properly.)

“I want to go for a ride.” She used to bring me my purse with this one. She trained me early on not to buy expensive purses.

“Give me some of that.”

I’m in the kitchen, cooking. “No, you do NOT come in here and demand something! You know you only get treats when you’re being good.” I continue my dinner preparations.

About five minutes later, I realize I’m hearing a very low whine. Maggie is laying on the rug by the back door.

“I’m being good now,” she says.

What would you say to this?!

One of her jobs over the years has been to come into the bathroom with me and lay on the rug while I was showering.

“Where’s the rug?” she asked.

“I’m washing it. I’m sorry it’s not here. I won’t be long.”

About a minute later, she sticks her head around the curtain into the shower. “Are you done yet?”

“Just a few more minutes. I’ll hurry. I promise.”

She sighs. I hear her pacing a little bit in the bathroom. (There’s no rug, remember?)

Sixty seconds later, her head comes back around the curtain again. “Are you done yet?”

This time, the sigh was mine.

My all-time favorite:

I noticed a sizable spider on the kitchen floor.

“Maggie, there’s a spider! See the spider? Kill that spider!”

Her ears perked up excitedly. She ran over to me and sniffed at the spider.

She lifted up her right paw. SPLAT! She looked up at me proudly. “Dead now!” she said.

“No, it’s not dead yet. Kill that spider!” I told her.

“What?” she frowned,  surprised. She sniffed at the still wiggling spider, then picked up her right paw again. SPLAT! She looked up at me again, proud and happy. “OK, dead now!”

Just think what I’d miss if I didn’t “tune in!” 😀

Why Cash is the Best Donation After A Disaster

Kirksville Tornado Debris

Helping with Tornado Cleanup

Without a doubt, our hearts ache for the people of Oklahoma. We wait, almost holding our breath, for additional news and stories of hope and survival. Disasters unify us. They bring all Americans together in support and encouragement like nothing else can. They are a testament to the strength and power of the human spirit. Disasters  bring out the best in most of us, inspiring us to help and bring comfort.My years in emergency management, both responding to and supporting disaster response, helped me gain a whole new perspective on this issue.

Why money is the best way to help following a disaster:

1. Money is easily transported. It doesn’t require fuel, trucks, drivers, travel expenses, warehouses, volunteers or hired labor to load or unload it. I promise you, right now, communities all over America are working to fill trucks with toiletries, bottled water, non-perishables, etc. They will rent or find a donated truck, someone to drive it, incurring fuel and travel expenses to drive all this stuff to a community which already has an overloaded response system.

Incident managers or church disaster leadership will now have to find somewhere amongst all the heavy damage to store all these donations, and recruit volunteers or hire people to parcel it out. This means that volunteers will have to be pulled from other, more critical functions (like helping in shelters, feeding and providing comfort to victims, or from cleaning up the community) to manage STUFF. Most likely they will receive enough deodorant, toothbrushes and razors to last for years! Systems are already in place to take care of these kinds of supplies. I promise you, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross are all over this, and have been for years.

2. Victims can purchase what they need. Every family is different, and every family’s needs are different. Within the Red Cross, all monies donated to a particular disaster are used just for that disaster. (I can’t speak for the system in place for the Salvation Army, I don’t have the experience with them.) Based on need, families are provided with essentially a loaded credit card that they can use to purchase the supplies they need. Isn’t it sort of judgmental of us to think, “I want to help you, but I don’t want to give you money because I don’t know how you’ll spend it. I want to give you things you’ll need.” But really, is it? So WHAT if a family uses their card to buy their 9-year old an Xbox? They just lost everything! Does it really matter, in the large scheme of things?

Or maybe you feel that giving money seems impersonal, because it wasn’t something you chose yourself. It didn’t require any effort. If it happened to you, wouldn’t it give you warm fuzzies that people cared enough that they gave unselfishly so you could purchase what your family needed?

3. Money is good  for the local economy. People who receive assistance use it to buy supplies in their local community. This helps stimulate their economy, which brings businesses back. I heard a statistic on the radio that says over 40% of small businesses don’t reopen after a disaster. So spending money locally is a really, really, really good thing.

4. People in shelters will have medical needs, or other special care needs. And don’t forget about the pets! After Katrina, most disaster response organizations are now partnering with other organizations or planning for people’s pets. Money will help provide care for the victims on this level. These organizations do a GREAT job of looking after these folks!

This community will be recovering for years after this disaster. People’s needs will be ongoing, and rescue organizations will be on the ground helping. So please, make your donation count, and give the gift that’s truly going to help them: money. 🙂



When Mars and Venus Collide

Marathon SunsetJimmy and I get along famously. We’ve never been The Bickerson’s in front of anyone else, or been cranky and irritable with one another. Or just flat out mad. No way.

And if you believe that, you clearly don’t know either of us very well. Sometimes when we’re trying to communicate, we collide. Or flat out just miss each other entirely!

One recent Sunday, Jimmy asked me, “Would you have time to pick out plants for the new duplex tomorrow?” Happy to help, I agreed I would go pick out the plants. After all, I was experienced at this. I had done it numerous times before. A 20-minute trip to the duplex told me all I needed to know. We agreed on the layout for the landscaping, I already knew which plants I was going to buy. Piece of cake. It should be quick and easy.


Midday on Monday, my phone rings. “Have you picked out the plants  yet?”

“No, I was just going to do that now,” I responded, feeling slightly guilty because I was at Wal-Mart.

“Well, are the guys still there? This wasn’t an all day project, you know.” (This should have been the first Red Flag that there was a breakdown in communication somewhere. But no, I didn’t get it. Remember, I’ve done this before, multiple times. We had a formula for success. I was following the formula.)

“No, was I supposed to?” I responded.

“Well, I’m not there. I just thought you’d check in with them before you went. They might already be done by now!”

Red Flag. I sense urgency. “Okay, I’ll go do it right now. Am I supposed to go ahead and BUY the plants?” (Remember, he said PICK OUT the plants. He says yes.) “Okay, I’ll go buy them and take them straight down there.” A trip to Home Depot, plants delivered, crisis averted. I pick up the phone.

“I dropped off the plants, the guys were still there, and I told them where to plant them. They are working on it now.”

“Good. Did you pick up fabric and edging? And whatever you want to use as mulch?”

I sighed. But only inside. “No, I didn’t know I was supposed to. You just told me to PICK OUT the plants. You didn’t tell me anything else.” At this point, we digressed slightly into the ‘who said what’ discussion, but fortunately Jimmy has gained wisdom with his years and opted to take the safest route and end the conversation.

Two more trips to Home Depot, one of them my own fault, would be made that day before I was done. And I was crabby. And irritable. Because I hadn’t planned for this. This was  not my emergency! I stewed. I stewed at least for a good 30 minutes after I got home from the last Home Depot run. It didn’t matter that the last run had been my fault. It was still HIS fault in my righteous mind.

And then I thought about it. I could continue to be mad and carry a grudge, but all I would be is mad. It wouldn’t change anything. And what I didn’t get done that day wasn’t rocket science or lifesaving or even really mattered when it came to the big scheme of things. I just did it another day. And Jimmy drove by the duplex that night and told me that yard looked good, which was all that really mattered anyway. Life is good.  🙂

The Best Projects to Add Value to Your Home

House with decks

House with decks

Spring is a time when most of us start to think about home improvement projects and sprucing things up a little after a dreary winter. Completing those projects is always a GREAT pick-me-up!

Not all home projects are equal though. Especially if you’re planning to sell your house at some point in the future, some projects are going to help you out, and increase the value of your home, more than others.

Even if you aren’t currently planning to sell your home, it’s still a good idea to keep these things in mind. Circumstances change, jobs change, relationships change; heck, priorities even change! The bulk of my very informal research seems to agree that the average American owns a home for 5-7 years. (That’s average, I am well aware there are some of us who blow that statistic out of the water.)

The reality is you might be selling your home in the future even if you don’t know it yet!

The latest Cost VS. Value report from Remodeling Magazine for the West North Central part of the country (which includes all of Missouri and the states immediately west) lists the approximate addition to the value of your home per dollars spent. (You can find this, and lots of other great homeownership information, at

The top 5 remodel projects to return the most value to your home are:

1. Steel Replacement Entry Door – 85.6%

2. Wooden Deck Addition – 77.3%

3. Garage Door Replacement – 75.7%

4. Minor Kitchen Remodel – 75.4%

5. Window Replacement, wood – 73.3%

The worst return on your money is a home office remodel, which has a return of only 43.6%.

The bottom line is that most any kind of improvement will add value to your home, unless it’s an extremely customized improvement. Say, carving two Jedi’s out of the posts at your front door. Or having light sabers for light posts. Yeah, I wouldn’t necessarily say that would increase the value, unless you happen to find another big Star Wars fan.

And if you are selling your home, some of your improvements may not necessarily increase the amount you can ask for it, but they may well help your home sell faster. But that is another story for another time. 🙂



Happy Mother’s Day!

Lorene_Gunnels[1] Whether you are a mom to human children or animal children, I hope you enjoy a wonderful day filled with the blessings of family.

Meanwhile, there are many of us whose mothers have moved on and are hopefully having a blast in Heaven. (Since my parents met at a dance, I like to think of them dancing together there, and having a party with all the friends and family who’d gone before them.)

I miss my momma. I remember she said to me one time, “You miss your mother when they’re gone,” meaning that not only would I miss her, but she still missed her own mother. And she was right.

Even though I tried to rack my brain and think, “Is there anything I want to ask her before she goes?” I couldn’t think of a thing. Until about a week after she was gone, and now I think of all kinds of things.

She had a lot of fun in her life, and she said a lot of funny things, and I’ll have those memories forever. And someday, I’ll see her again, although no offense mom, I kinda hope it’s later than sooner. 🙂

So Big Hugs to all of you who are missing your mothers today right along with me. Let’s have some cake. My mom loved cake. 🙂

‘Eggs’cellent Jewelry Organizer

Egg Carton Organizer

Egg Carton Organizer

I am obsessed with finding better, quicker, simpler ways to do anything, including organizing my closets. Messy, cluttered closets are not only maddening, but also the quickest way to ratchet up my stress level when getting ready for work.

Several years ago we remodeled and added a master bath. I had a larger vanity with several drawers, and no idea what to store in them. (Imagine!) I also needed a better way to organize my jewelry. I was getting tired of digging for a matched set of earrings; I looked at jewelry boxes, but not only did I not really have the space to have one, I couldn’t find one I liked.

Necessity is the mother of invention, of course, and, inspired by an omelet one Sunday morning, the light dawned. An egg carton would make a perfect jewelry holder!

Being the home stager that I am, having a clean, uncluttered space is priority one. Therefore, I went for the clear plastic egg cartons over the regular cardboard ones.

In this picture, I’ve combined two cartons. The cartons I used had two sections with egg cups, and the third section was flat. I cut apart the sections of the second carton, and placed one of the egg cup sections in the flat lid. If you don’t have that many pairs of earrings, you can always use the flat side of the carton for bracelets or watches. You can also cut apart the sections to place them to fit your space best.

Ta Da!!!  No more searching for matched pairs of earrings, and my bracelets and watches are in one place. This super simple organizer is an easy stress reliever, and best of all, it’s free. Free rocks. Happy Organizing!

Throwback Thursday: Ray-Bans!

Vintage Ray-Bans from the 80'sI loved the 80’s. The 80’s rocked. And I mean that literally.

Hair metal bands, such as Bon Jovi, Warrant, Poison, Mottley Crue, Foreigner. Is it any wonder they are still going today as us baby boomers are aging? (Thank goodness without the leggings and makeup. EEK.)

Dallas. Dynasty. Knots Landing. Miami Vice.  Was anybody hotter than Sonny Crockett?

Saturday Night Live, Animal House. American Bandstand! Madonna, and the birth of pop culture. Leather. Big hair. And…RAY-BANS!

If you were somebody in the 80’s, you had a pair of Ray-Bans. Ray-Bans were cool. People noticed if you had a pair of Ray-Bans. I just liked saying the word: Rayyyy-Banss. Ray-Bans!!

I was cleaning out a drawer recently and it was with great excitement I stumbled upon my old Ray-Bans. AHHHH, that old feeling came back. I ran to the bathroom and put them on again. Black lenses, with the gold across the top. These.Were.Bitchen.  (I’m wearing them here, with half a can of hairspray and Bret Michael’s signature pout.)

I immediately had to tell Concrete Man. He loves the 80’s as much as I do. “Hey! Guess what?! I found my old Ray-Bans! Aren’t they cool?”

He looks up at me from the project he’s immersed in. Pause. “They make you look like a bug.”

So perhaps there’s a time and a place for my Ray-Bans. And it’s not out in public. 😀

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