Lights

I love playing around with bokeh at Christmas time – or anytime, really. You’ll be seeing a few Holiday Bokeh shots over the next week because I can’t help myself!

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One of my vintage putz houses and the tree lights in the background.

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This little guy is an ornament on our tree. He graciously agreed to pose for this shot.

Speaking of putz houses, a package arrived on my doorstep yesterday. The return address was unfamiliar. When I opened it up and undid the bubble wrap, this is what I saw:

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I gasped! I had no idea who sent this to me until I read the lovely note attached to the present. A reader named Chris wrote that she read my blog every day and was inspired to start making putz houses when I did my first post about the Necco Snow Globe (which has a putz house as part of the snow scene.)

She made this. Oh my goodness!

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Simply beautiful. And pink bottlebrush trees! I mean, what could be better?

She included a bulb because….

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It lights up!

I’m blown away. Thank you so, so much, Chris!

It’s funny. I haven’t put up the little white tree this year. I don’t know why, but I haven’t felt moved to. I also didn’t put up any of my white bottle brush wreaths. I just wanted ‘simple’ this year. So the only decorations in the living room are the ones in the dollhouse.

After I ran upstairs to show this to Don, he said that this seemed to be the perfect substitute for the little white tree this year. And I think he’s right; it’s the perfect touch for that room. Last night, I turned on the switch and the gentle glow from the light filled the room.

I love it.

I am blessed. For whatever reason, this blog has attracted the most loyal, giving and kind readers. Don thinks I have the best readers in the world.

He’s right.

Happy Wednesday.

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Christmas in NYC: Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center is a huge complex situated between between 48th and 51st Street. There are many buildings in the complex, which covers 22 acres. I love the architecture and the design because it was constructed in the thirties – the height of the Art Deco era – and you can see amazing Art Deco details everywhere you look.

This is a picture-heavy post. I’ll add some commentary here and there.

As you approach the complex you’ll see:

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Radio City Music Hall, currently home to the Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes.

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And The Tonight Show, starring Jimmy Fallon.

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And the famous Rainbow Room, the Observation Deck and NBC Studios. Sigh. Love, love that Art Deco look.

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And suddenly, there it is. The massive Christmas Tree. And it is massive. There were people everywhere. Seriously, it was hard to move around. It was, after all, a Sunday, so there were lots and lots of people determined to take in the Christmas displays – just as we were.

The tree is amazing. (It also makes me a little sad to see this glorious tree chopped down.) I wonder how old it is?

It must be stunning at night.

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Next to the tree is an area surrounded by flags and and decorations and people everywhere. The sunken area is the famous skating rink.

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The famous statue of Prometheus.

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Looks like fun, but it’s been a few years since I’ve strapped on some ice skates!

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You can see it was wall-to-wall people. If it was any other kind of day, I would have found it overwhelming and irritating, but it’s the Christmas season, so everyone is full of good cheer, including Don and me.

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Sak’s Fifth Avenue.

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NBC News.

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The sun finally came out.

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Gorgeous Art Deco details at the entrance to 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

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Need I say more?

Christmas time or not, this area of Manhattan is gorgeous and well worth the visit. Normally, if I’m in the area, I’m too busy to linger. That’s what made Sunday special. We gave ourselves the time to linger and celebrate the season.

From your tour guides:

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Don

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And Claudia.

(New post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page.)

Happy Tuesday.

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Grand Central & The Final Episode of Newsroom

We watched the series finale of Newsroom last night.

I’m in mourning.

After three seasons, creator and writer Aaron Sorkin decided to end it. And I want to scream, “No!” In fact, I did.

There’s so much over-hyped drivel on television. It’s all a matter of personal taste, of course, but I find the vast majority of American television series, especially those on the networks, to be poorly written, overblown, not very well acted, sensationalized, and in some cases, laughable. Every new season, I start out hopeful and end up disappointed.

Aaron Sorkin writes smart dialogue. He creates vivid characters on the page and then casts actors who are really good at what they do. He doesn’t dumb down the plot or the words or the pace of the show. We, as viewers, have to pay attention and keep up with the dialogue. We have to use our brains.

What a novel concept.

I’ve been a big fan of this show from the beginning. It makes me think. Don and I invariably spend an hour discussing it after we’ve watched an episode. It’s the reason we keep our subscription to HBO. It’s simply excellent. Sorkin has a streak of idealism running through his veins that I find refreshing and heartening. He examines the issues of the day; in this case, framed around the changing world of 24 hour news. He asks tough questions. He doesn’t play to the lowest common denominator – he raises the bar.

And the cast is uniformly excellent, especially Jeff Daniels.

Can you tell I’m going to miss this show?

And, now on to NYC.

I took a lot of photos. Today I’m going to concentrate on Grand Central Station, one of my favorite buildings in the city.

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The taller building on the left is the MetLife Building. During the blackout several years ago, Don was caught in the city and he had to spend the night sleeping on the floor in the lobby.

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Grand Central in the foreground. My absolute favorite building, The Chrysler Building, in the background.

Inside:

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The soaring windows. The gorgeous hand painted ceiling, showing the constellations.

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The stars light up. I remember seeing the Holiday Light Show several years ago. Music played and the constellations lit up and it was magical.

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This sort of carving is everywhere. They don’t make them like this anymore.

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The holiday pop-up shops in Vanderbilt Hall are an annual event. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore them this year.

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People everywhere. That’s an Apple store you’re seeing at the top of the stairs.

It’s the perfect place to people watch.

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There are tracks upstairs. There are tracks downstairs.

Also downstairs: a giant food court, but a thousand times better than the kind of food court you see in your average mall. I’ve grabbed a meal there more times than I can count.

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And look what we saw! Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while are familiar with my love for Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes. We laughed when we saw them here at the station because we had already purchased 4 cupcakes from their store located near Rockefeller Center. (We almost bought more, but we ran out of time.)

Tomorrow: Rockefeller Center and more.

Happy Monday.

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Baubles, Bangles & Beads

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I’ve taken to stringing beads.

There was a time, a few years back, where I became excited at the possibility of making jewelry. I purchased beads and tools and wire – everything one might need to fashion an earring or a necklace. And, in fact, I did make some earrings, some of which I still wear. And I made a necklace, which remains unfinished to this day.

It wasn’t for me.

But I have these supplies, you see, and I find myself dipping into them occasionally for the dollhouse. For example, the doorknob on the front door is made from a jewelry finding.

Since I want the newly made dollhouse Christmas tree to last, I am hesitant to glue anything to it. Ideally, I’d like it to be like a real-sized Christmas tree; ornaments go on, ornaments come off, and the tree is unchanged. That would give me some decorating leeway from year to year.

Today I planned on making tiny individual ornaments. However, I quickly realized that I did not have either the skill or the patience for that little exercise.  Oh, no.

“What about a beaded garland?” said I. Which led to a long bead stringing session, longer than I had planned. I took breaks to do the dishes, vacuum, dust, take a shower, and do the laundry.

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Lots and lots of beads.

I ended up with this, which I will most likely tweak and tweak again. I also plan to add another garland in multi-colored beads.

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Caroline might like a bit more on the tree. We’ll have to negotiate.

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Caroline has been wrapping presents. I haven’t even bought any yet. Caroline, you’re embarrassing me.

But it’s not quite enough. Caroline agrees. Off to string more beads.

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Better! Those are pretty little glass beads that I had in my jewelry stash.

The wreath is on the front door:

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And a quick shot of the new bedroom rug – this time with accurate colors. I didn’t want it to be pink. That’s why I went with this rug. There’s a little bit of pink in it, but it’s predominately ecru and light brown.

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We’re off to NYC today. It will be a quick trip. We have our girl to think of and we have to make sure she’s not alone too long. We’re taking the train this time because it arrives in Grand Central Station, which is absolutely glorious at Christmas (or any time of the year) and then we’ll head over to Don’s new agents’ office, near Times Square. I’ll hang around waiting for him, then we’ll head up to Rockefeller Center. After gazing at the tree and indulging in hot chocolate, we’ll hightail it back to the station and head on home. I wish we could spend a bit more time there but when both of us are going, we just don’t have that luxury. Little Scootie (another of my nicknames for her) is more important than anything.

Happy Birthday to my cousin Eileen! Eileen, I hope you’re reading this today. Sending lots of love your way.

Happy Sunday.

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In & Out With No Stops Allowed

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A trip into the city for professional purposes, whether it’s an audition, in Don’s case, or some coaching work, in mine, is always a whirlwind. Drive to the bus station in a neighboring town. Take bus into the city, which takes about an hour and a half, exit the bus at Port Authority and either briskly walk to the destination or grab the subway. Audition. Or coach. Grab some food to go. Return to the bus station. Wait for the bus. Return home, which takes another hour and a half.

You can see why I very seldom do any window shopping or travel to another part of the city. There’s really no time. So, tomorrow will be fun change for us. We’re going in to see Rockefeller Center all lit up for Christmas. (Don has a ten minute meet and greet with his new agents, but we’re not really counting that.)

It was very cold and windy as it often is in a big city where the streets and tall buildings end up being a sort of wind tunnel. My destination was about 12 blocks from the Port Authority and I got there in time to order a hot chocolate to go. I needed something warm to drink!

I was there to coach an actor who is replacing another actor in a play that is currently touring. He needed some help with a Scots dialect. I also worked a bit with the other two actors in the play. They couldn’t have been nicer. My friend and former colleague from back in the Old Globe days is the producer of this production and he’s the one who called me in.

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I was right around the corner from the former Ed Sullivan Theater, now home to the Late Show with David Letterman and soon to be home to the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

I love, love Stephen Colbert, but I must confess that I’m curious as to how he will transition to being a late night talk show host without the persona we’re so used to seeing on the Colbert Report. And I’ll miss David Letterman, of course.

Today, I’m going to work on the mini Christmas tree and take care of some other chores that need to be done.

The big news? It’s sunny today. I can hardly believe it. I feel like I’ve emerged from a dark cave.

Happy Saturday.

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Off to Manhattan

I’m off to Manhattan this morning, so I’m a wee bit rushed as I drink my much needed coffee and gather my things together for the trip into the city. Any trip in ends up being a rather big deal, simply because of the amount of time it takes to get there. The Kindle is charged, as is my phone. I know where I’m headed once I get off the bus.

But it’s cold out there!

Two more items arrived yesterday for the dollhouse, and that’s the last of the deliveries for a while. I purchased these from an Etsy shop called Green Gypsies.

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This extra large rug is perfect for the floor in the bedroom. The floors needed some softening and, besides, Caroline’s feet were getting cold. This photo is making the rug look a bit too pinkish. It’s more muted than that. I’ll try for a better photo soon.

And in the kitchen:

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This charming retro design that I’ve had bookmarked for almost two years. I finally hit the purchase button. Isn’t it perfect for Caroline’s kitchen? And we all know it helps to have a nice rug underneath your feet when doing dishes.

That’s a carton of egg nog on the counter that Judy sent me last year.

Photo taking has been difficult because it’s been so dark and dreary around here. My kingdom for a sunny day.

Ah well.

I’m off, friends.

Happy Friday.

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The Tree & The Snow Globe

Yesterday was one of those days where I was mildly, and sometimes not so mildly, irritated all day. It started with the discovery that my email had been hacked (don’t open any links from me) and went on from there.

You know that sort of day, don’t you?

When the time came around to decorate the tree, neither of us felt like it. I started to doze in my chair. Don started to doze in his chair. Thank goodness for my husband, who eventually said, “Let’s put on some Christmas music.”

And off we went.

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Simple. I have to tweak a few things, some segments of cord are bit too evident, but this is basically it. Our ornaments are a collection of vintage Shiny Brites that I’ve gathered over the years and ornaments that have a special meaning for us.

Since the tree is in the den, I can’t really get a distance shot. Even these shots involve some gymnastics on my part.

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I love them all, but my favorites are the bottle brush ornaments. They’re big and old-fashioned and I think they provide some wonderful contrast to the rest of the ornaments, giving the eye a place to land for a moment or two.

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The Necco Snow Globe is in its new holiday home on our bookshelves. For those of you who are newer to the blog, I found this vintage Necco Candy jar a few years ago and fell in love with it. It’s quite large and was clearly used for display in a store. I lived not too far from the factory where Necco candy is made when I resided in Cambridge, so that makes this even more special. It has graduated sides with a definite Art Deco feel (love Art Deco, always have.)

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The font on the lid of the jar is definitely Art Deco.

It holds various things throughout the year. Sometimes I leave it empty. At Christmas time, it becomes a snow globe. By the way, I use Kosher Salt for the snow. The kind of fake snow you can buy in the store doesn’t do it for me. The pieces are too big. Kosher Salt works beautifully.

There’s a wreath on the door. The lights are up on the porch. I’m still debating whether to put the little white tree in the living room this year.

I probably will.

I use less and less each year. I think it works better. Those decorations that I do use stand out more.

I got a late night call from a former colleague of mine last night and I’m going to do a wee bit of coaching for him tomorrow, which means I’ll be traveling to Manhattan. Don and I are planning to go into the city on Sunday, as well. He has a quick meeting with his new agents and then we’ll pop on over to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, something we always plan to do, but rarely get to do.

There will be a book review on Just Let Me Finish This Page today. I’m off to write it right now!

Happy Thursday.

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After the Glue Dries: A Mini Christmas Tree

First up: My AOL email address was hacked. I think it was my AOL address. It’s hard to tell because it looks like the email is coming from me, but it’s actually coming from another address. I’m going to change the password of all my email addresses today. I’ve already changed the AOL password.

So if you get an email from me with a link, don’t open it.

We haven’t decorated the tree yet. Why? Because I was working on a project or two for the dollhouse and Don was busy and by the end of the day we both agreed that today would be a better choice.

The biggish project for the dollhouse involved a bottle brush tree, a product called lycopodium, lots of glue, and lots and lots of patience.

For the past couple of Christmases, I’ve used a small white bottle brush tree in the dollhouse living room. I’ve never liked it precisely because it looked like a bottle brush tree with no depth or irregularities, not to mention the fact that it was too short. You know I strive for realistic looking minis in this dollhouse. This year, I happened upon a couple of tutorials that showed me that I could, in fact, have a real looking Christmas tree. I’ll link to the one I used at the end of the post.

I found a green bottle brush tree last week. It wasn’t easy. Michael’s, for example, had sold out. It had to be a certain height and width, which made the search all the more challenging. I finally found one at a local market.

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There it is. I had to snip off all the glitter at the ends of the branches and I ended up trimming the whole thing so it was a bit narrower.

Next, a bag of lycopodium, which I ordered from miniatures.com. Lycopodium is preserved princess pine – so it’s real and you can use it for trees, wreaths and garlands.

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It comes in a bag and there’s lots of it. There’s more than enough on hand to make more than one tree.

You also need glue. I used my favorite, Quick Grip.

Basically, you measure how long you want the bottom branches to be. They need to extend beyond the bottle brush branches. Then you start cutting pieces of lycopodium to match that length. Then you add a drop of glue to each branch and start inserting them in the bottle brush tree. The tutorial advised filling in the bottom first, then doing the middle, then filling in the rest of the tree.

I deliberately clipped the lycopodium branches in an irregular manner. I wanted the tree to look real.

It’s somewhat tedious work. It’s messy. It took me a couple of hours to add all the pieces. And, if you’re at all like me, you’ll end up with glue all over your fingers and you will spend the rest of the day peeling it off the aforementioned fingers.

But gosh, does it look great in the end!

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I’m so excited about this tree! Now I have to figure out how to decorate it.

I’ve got ideas.

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It’s too big for the living room because of the fireplace, so Caroline decided to put it in the den this year. And, of course, furniture had to be rearranged.

Note: the rest of the runners for the stairs have been installed.

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Caroline’s getting ready to decorate.

Finally, in preparation for the rooftop garden, some ironwork has been installed.

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I’m thrilled with it. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner! It really finishes off the roof. Don says it looks “elegant.” There’s a segment of the iron work that extends from the back of the potting shed to the edge of the roof on the right, but you can’t see it in this photo.

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All in all, a very exciting day at Hummingbird Cottage. Carpet installed, ironwork installed, Christmas Tree in place. Looks like both Mockingbird Hill Cottage and Hummingbird Cottage need to do some decorating now!

The tutorial I used was from the blog, My Projects in Miniature. Here’s the link.

I’m off to change some more passwords.

The book review I promised for today will be posted tomorrow instead. I’m just now finishing the book – and I really love it, so I don’t want to rush my reading experience. It’s that good.

Happy Wednesday.

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A Chatty Post

So far, the weather ‘event’ is simply rain and lots of it. But I expect that to change as the day goes on. Predictions still vary, but the prevailing thought seems to be a wintry mix.

The dire predictions sure spurred me on, which probably is a good thing. We got our tree yesterday (a few days earlier than is our norm), I hung the outdoor lights on the porch railing, the ornaments have been brought inside from the shed. We’ll decorate the tree this evening.

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Not sure why the upper portion of the tree looks like it’s a different color. It isn’t. Probably the early morning light combined with the lamp light in the den. We always buy a real tree and our preference – since the days in which we first celebrated Christmas together – is for a Noble Fir. I’ll say this: it sure smells good here as I sit in my blogging chair!

Even with the weather predictions, I am proud to say I have stayed true to my ‘nothing until the second week of December’ rule. Of course, that probably only matters to me, but it does matter, because it nicely separates Thanksgiving from the Christmas season. Two different holidays. Two different seasons. Don feels the same way, maybe even more so, because he always needs to be motivated to get the tree. I think even the second week of December is too early for him!

And though I admire and applaud everyone’s Christmas decorations and tours here in Blogland, I would feel overwhelmed by having to meet a deadline that is just too soon for me. Besides, we decorate for us. Except for a slight variation here and there, we use the same beloved ornaments on our tree every year. We’ll put up the little white tree in the living room. I’ll put together the little Christmas snow scene in my vintage Necco jar. We’ll hang a wreath on the door. And that will be it. Oh, and the dollhouse will be decorated, of course!

You know what? It’s just the right amount for this little cottage. Simple. Serene. And, hopefully, pretty!

So far, except for the bare tree, the only decoration I have is this:

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On sale for $3.00 at Target. I have an excessive fondness for bottle brush anything.

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I also found this agate bookend at Target. It’s really heavy. I love agates and geodes and crystals and there were only two left (on sale) so I grabbed one. After all, the books on the new bookshelves need bookends, right?

I’ve given us a deadline. By Thursday night at 10:00, each of us must submit a list of what we want for Christmas. Right now, neither of us can think of anything except socks. Pathetic. As a girl who has a birthday in late November, it is sometimes hard to come up with yet another list of ideas. I’m trying.

By the way, Don just came in and presented me with a plate of hash browns, raisin toast and an avocado omelet.

Oh my god. That man makes a great breakfast.

I have a few dollhouse-related projects that I’m going to tackle today. It seems to be the perfect day for little projects. Hint: one of them has to do with Christmas.

Happy Tuesday.

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Clean = Exhausted

Scoutie is clean once more.

We did the whole thing as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, the whole ordeal really takes a lot out of her. She used to love getting a bath, but since arthritis and achy joints have taken over, she doesn’t feel confident standing still so long. So she tenses and gets stressed and, eventually, starts to complain. I can’t say that I blame her.

She did feel better afterward and for a while she was quite frisky.

Then it hit her.

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She slept – very deeply – on the loveseat. Over the course of a few hours, her head got a wee bit closer to the floor each time I checked on her.

Finally, when I was putting freshly laundered sheets on the bed upstairs, Don called out to me: “You’ve got to see this!”

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Umm….Scout? How can you sleep that way?

As I watched her, her head started to inch downward and I jumped in and grabbed her, moving her to a new position.

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She slept through the whole thing.

Getting a bath is exhausting.

But she sure smells good!

(You can see the swelling on her leg in this photo. It’s due to her arthritis.)

I grabbed a slightly better photo of the shower curtain and rod in the dollhouse bathroom.

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I swear, I have to take hundreds of photos of the dollhouse bathroom and kitchen to get a good shot. The rooms are long and narrow, so the back of the room is at the end of a sort of tunnel. It makes for an often frustrating camera adventure.

Today is a busy one. I’m getting my hair cut (it’s way too long!), we’re talking to our plumber about replacing the hot water heater (long overdue), we’re picking out our Christmas Tree. I’ve got to grab the ornament bins out of the shed and haul them inside. And, because we live in a small cottage, furniture needs to be rearranged to make room for the tree.

All this is happening today because we have a Nor’easter headed our way. The weather report sounds dire. They are using the word ‘event’ as in, it will be a Three-Day Event.

Crap. Crap. Crap.

Snow, ice, sleet, rain, wind…you name it. We’re getting it.

If you don’t see a blog post on any given day, you’ll know it’s because we’ve lost power. Fingers crossed that it stays on. The snow is supposed to be heavy and wet. I’m already sick of winter.

Sigh.

Remind me again: Why did we move here from San Diego?

Two more things: There’s a new post up on Just Let Me Finish This Page (I sure hope you’re enjoying that blog…I’m not always sure people are reading it.) And my longtime blogging friend, Connie, is selling one of her slipcovers – it’s quite lovely – and she asked me if I would link to her post. Absolutely!

Happy Monday.

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