Thirteen of My favorite Things

Monday, December 16, 2019
Bloggers and celebs everywhere love to wind up the year by getting their Oprah on, and sharing their list of favorite things. So, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon.

None of the following are affiliates or paid product endorsements. These are the items that I love for all kinds of reasons. Maybe you will see something that strikes your fancy, something you did not know about, or something that solves a problem for you. That's my hope! 

Seeds from Pinetree Seeds

I've purchased gardening and crafting essentials from Pinetree for years and am never disappointed. They sell not just flower and vegetable seeds, but plants, gardening tools and supplies, natural pest repellants, loose spices and teas, soap molds, yarns and knitting patterns, craft and gardening books, and everything needed to make your own natural cosmetics and toiletries.

What I especially appreciate about Pinetree is that their seed packets are sized right for home gardeners. You don't have to buy 250 seeds when all you want is 15. You won't find better seed prices anywhere.

Celosia flowers I grew from seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds. 

Original fabrics from Spoonflower

No matter what kind of fabric craft project I'm imagining, I know I'm going to find cloth to suit it at Spoonflower. Known for custom printing anyone's original designs on fabric, gift wrap, or wallpaper, they also sell dinner napkins, blankets, pillow shams, duvet covers, curtains, and wallpaper, including the peel-and-stick kind. So many mouthwatering designs in all categories, it's difficult to make a selection!

Spoonflower is a terrific source of fabrics for some stylish dinner napkins, placemats, tea towels, and other accessories for home staging. Lately, I've stitched up potholders to give as gifts for friends, after carefully choosing the perfect Spoonflower fabric for each person

If you can't find a fabric or wallpaper with just the right
 personality at Spoonflower, I don't know where you would go! 

Ghiradelli baking chips

As a chocoholic with a sweet tooth but also someone who values good health, I need something that strikes a balance. My go-to chocolate treat is a small portion of Ghiradelli dark chocolate bittersweet chips. I can nibble on these slowly and be satisfied, instead of destroying a whole chocolate bar! 

They're not cloyingly sweet, and I can remind myself that research shows dark chocolate has numerous health benefits. It contains antioxidants, minerals, and fiber that help your heart and blood profile, and that it improves brain function. Yay!


I like to listen to music, podcasts, and YouTube, but don't want to impose my choices on Mr. Lucky. My music tastes run the gamut from The Stones to Tchaikovsky. With this headset, I can relax, indulge in sounds I like, exercise, or watch movies and not disturb anyone.

Even without a soundtrack, these headphones soften background sounds I want to block. I chose orange, but they are available in five other colors as well, including neon pink, turquoise, lime green and bright blue.

Yeah, that's right, they are wired, as you can see in my photo. But they're adjustable, versatile, comfortable, affordable, and give me good sound quality.

Buckwheat hulls

The only pillow I sleep on is one I made at least 10 years ago. It's filled with buckwheat hulls.

You can buy a buckwheat hull pillow for $85, or you can order enough hulls to make your own for about $15.

The fabric cover you make will take less than half a yard of fabric. That cover stays on all the time, the way traditional ticking used to cover feather pillows.

Over that cover you can use a standard pillowcase folded over a few times, or make pillowcases especially for your pillow's shape. What a delight it is shopping the Spoonflower site for novelty prints!

The best part is that this source for buckwheat hulls comes from a small North Carolina company begun by a mother so her daughter, born with Down Syndrome, and others with special needs could be part of a business. It's a  win/win purchase.

The beauty of buckwheat hulls is that they support your head and neck gently, and never get warm, so your pillow will always be cool and comforting. Make your pillow just large enough to let the hulls move around a little, so you can adjust it when you sleep with it. My pillow is a lumbar style, but I have made square ones to use and give as gifts as well, and they are equally comfortable.

Unlike pillows made from synthetic materials, buckwheat hull pillows never take on a rancid or funky scent. You can wash the cover to your pillow by removing the hulls first. That's why I added a zipper to one end of my pillow.

This is my pillow, minus a pillowcase. The cover is made from two fabric circles, each one 6 inches in diameter, that are sewn to a single piece of fabric 18 inches (the circumference of the pillow) by 15 inches (the length of the pillow).  

Polymer clay

Polymer clay is fun to play with. It's versatile and just challenging enough as a craft. You can start turning out cool stuff without years of practice. It's not expensive to get started because some of the tools you'll already own.

I've used polymer clay mostly to create beads for jewelry, but also to make Christmas tree ornaments and garden art.

This medium does have some drawbacks. It takes adult supervision if kids use it because it's plastic and you don't want anyone ingesting any, so cleanliness is important.

Also, the clay has to be baked in something like a small toaster oven in a well-ventilated space. I bake mine in the garage because the fumes are toxic to both people and animals, although odorless.

Still, unlike traditional clay projects, what you see is what you get, you can get results relatively quickly, and the color choices are unbeatable because you can blend your own combinations.

No one guesses that my turquoise beads are not the real thing.
Imagine the possibilities for turning out your own
original jewelry using polymer clay to mimic different
stones, woods, metals, and plastics. 


My daughter and my younger son gifted me an iPad recently and I although I am still a novice at finding my way around, it's changing my game, making it easier to cruise around the web, to see more interesting feeds, and to be more creative and active on social media. I'll still use my computers, cell phone and camera, but I'm looking forward to expanding my horizons with my sleek, new device!

Watering can with long spout

It's just a simple vessel, but such an effective tool, I had to include it. There's no other way to water plants, indoors or out, without wasting water or splashing water where you don't want it, on a tabletop, for example. I also use it to efficiently rinse a shower stall after spraying and wiping the walls. It's kinda cute, too, pretty enough to leave out as part of a plant display.

My green plastic watering can holds just 6 cups of water
but is surprisingly helpful around the house. 


For home staging, the etagere is super useful. It's as functional as a bookcase, but has more style. Staged lightly with a few decor pieces, or more densely with books and other objects, it fills space without crowding a room. 

This etagere has smoked mirror
shelves, which add to its appeal. 
I deliberately purchased one that had an Asian tone, with the pagoda-like top. I wanted to display some chinoiserie collectibles all in one place. 

My etagere is a piece from Wayfair and was priced at less than $150, a bargain compared to others I looked at. It's an investment piece that didn't break the bank.  

The finish was a bronzey-gold, so I sprayed it with gold that had more of a glossy finish. I can't think of a staging job where an etagere wouldn't add just the right touch.         


A mini-trampoline has always been a favorite of mine. I gave the last one I owned to my youngest grandson, and when I started missing my bouncing routine, I replaced it with this rebounder.

I need a way to get moving no matter what the weather or my daily schedule. Spending just 20 minutes on the rebounder gets my heart rate up, tones muscles, and improves lymph system functions, all in a low-impact way.

I realize that a 20-minute workout session sounds lame, but, hey, it's better than nothing at all, and a rebounder delivers impressive benefits in the shortest amount of time. I have never been athletic, but have always been active and healthy. At age 77 now, I'm not going to become Ms. Fitness Fanatic.

My headphones can reach me when I'm on the rebounder, so I can listen to music, which makes it more like dancing than working out. The handle makes it accident-proof.

My keto cookbook

I know I raved about the Ghiradelli chips I love, but I've been eating a keto diet for the past month. After a week of adjusting ("keto flu"), I'm losing weight and feeling great! This book makes it easy to track macros. It gives me menus and recipes. Those chocolate chips are for binge days, because, you know, chocolate!

The author is an authority on eating well. This book tells you everything 
you need to know about following a ketogenic diet.

Bergamot essential oil

Since my favorite tea to drink is Earl Grey, it's not surprising that my favorite essential oil is bergamot. The scent of Earl Grey tea is what makes it unique and so appealing. Having the essential oil on hand means I can savor that scent in other ways as well. My fave brand? Aura Cacia, for its absolute best quality.

I mix it with coconut oil and sugar for a wonderful sugar scrub. Combined with sweet almond oil, it's my go-to makeup remover. And added to witch hazel and some lavender essential oil, it makes a delightful air freshener spray.

Bergamot oil possesses health benefits as well. It reduces anxiety, promotes sleep, reduces cholesterol, combats food-borne illnesses, and fights inflammation.

I've blogged about the importance of using natural essential oils rather than artificial air freshener sprays, candles, and diffusers for adding fragrance to a home when it's on the market. Bergamot, along with other feel-good scents like lemongrass, peppermint, orange, lemon, pine, and cinnamon, are perfect for giving a home a clean, pleasant scent.

I encourage you to read labels. The terms "natural oils," or "perfumes," or "fragrant oils" are not the same as essential oils. 

Bathroom wallpaper

Sure, wallpaper isn't usually recommended for home staging, but in our master bath remodel this year, I decided to paper one wall with something that would cozy it up and also add some life to a windowless room. Every day I see it, it makes me smile. The pattern is called Palm Leaves Banana Leaf, and I ordered it from Wallcoveringsmart. One roll was enough, and the cost was less than $60 -- so worth it!

Wallpapering just one wall in our master bath made a big difference.
It created the feeling of an exotic oasis! 
Everyone has favorite sources, products, foods, people, places, and activities. Although I usually limit my blog to topics that benefit people staging their own home, I enjoyed compiling this list for you and hope you enjoyed learning about what I value on a daily basis. Now it's time for you to make your own list!

The Hidden Dangers of DIY Projects

Monday, December 09, 2019
Homeowner enthusiasm for DIY home improvement projects keeps growing.

It makes sense because enhancing your home with your own hands saves money, and gives you a feeling of satisfaction and pride.

But as fun and fulfilling as doing it yourself can be, many projects can lead to falls, cuts, burns, and bruises. Whether you're putting in a new bathtub, painting over old paint, or repairing a fence, it's never wise to ignore the old adage, "Safety first!"

Did you know that over a fourth of U.S. patients reported in 2016 that they had visited an urgent care center in the last two years? For someone in the midst of a DIY project, that visit could represent pain, long term injury, financial expenses, and a postponed or canceled project at home.

It's all preventable if we review some basic safety measures to keep you on the job, healthy and happily creating a more valuable home.

Start right 

Every DIY project makes a mess before it makes something better. Clutter is your enemy when you begin because it only complicates the chaos as you work.

Starting with a clean work area -- whether it's a workbench in the garage, your kitchen's center island, or a full floor of a house -- is essential. When your surroundings are neat and organized, you'll feel more in control of the project. Less stress equals better focus equals fewer accidents.

I always designate a central spot where tools and supplies are returned, even if it's just a simple project like framing a page from a book to hang as artwork. When I paint a room, I keep everything I need in one place, in the center of the room. It lessens the chance that I'll trip over something or knock over a can of paint. When I have a hot glue gun project, I collect all the supplies I will be using before I even plug in the gun. You don't ever walk away from a hot glue gun if you have children or pets.

In fact, keep things like sharp tools, moving machinery, and toxic material way out of reach of young children.

These are the kinds of practices that save injuries, save steps, save time, and save frustration. They can also save you the cost of emergency room care, physical therapy sessions, and chiropractic treatments!

For projects that take up room, like installing overhead light fixtures, upholstering chairs, cleaning gutters, tiling a backsplash, or painting a deck, give yourself working room. Clear pathways to eliminate tripping hazards.  Keep cords, ladders, equipment, and other obstacles out of your way.

Another important part of starting a DIY project is a tool check. This is an especially important step if you're planning to use anything electric or sharp. Is every tool you'll use in good working order? Batteries charged? Drill bits and utility knife blades sharp? Electric cords in perfect condition?

I would not think of doing any kind of gardening, no matter
what time of year, or how messy or brief the task, without gloves
and long sleeves. They both protect me from insects, cuts, thorns, and dirt. Yesterday I pruned this overgrown Chindo viburnum with my loppers. 

Dress for the job

While you probably don't need to wear a HAZMAT suit for most home improvement projects, you do need to wear what's appropriate for the job at hand. The wrong clothing could make you uncomfortable, distracted, and vulnerable.

For example, if you're wearing loose clothes like floppy sleeves, an unzipped jacket, any dangling jewelry, or untied shoelaces, they could snag on a moving piece of equipment, or make you trip.  Keep long hair out of the way as well.

Please don't wear open-toed shoes like sandals or flip flops. Wear waterproof boots if you are pressure washing. Wear workboots that support your ankles if you move around on uneven surfaces. Wear heavy-duty workshoes if you will be moving heavy things that you could drop. Wear comfortable athletic shoes or Crocs if you'll be standing on your feet for long periods. Wear shoes with good sole support if you'll be going up and down a rung ladder.

Don't drink while you DIY 

More than 7% of the population aged 18 years and older — nearly 13.8 million Americans — have problems with drinking, including 8.1 million people who suffer from alcoholism.

If you drink or use recreational or prescription drugs that alter perceptions, do so separately from any do-it-yourself home improvement projects. Even a glass of wine can impair your judgment. Postpone the drinking until the work is done. I know people like to have friends over for a beer-and-painting party, and that's just foolish for all kinds of reasons. It's not good for your home or you!

When I gave a demonstration for my garden club on making a hypertufa container for planting, I stressed
the importance of protecting yourself from airborne
dry cement and toxicity from wet cement. 

Protect your eyes, ears, and lungs

Work glasses or safety goggles are designed to protect your precious vision.

You don't want any foreign objects in your eyes that can irritate, cut or scrape. Get a good pair and then use them loyally if you are subject to sawdust, cement powder, wood chips, tile dust, tree branches, metal slivers, chemicals that can splash or outgas, insulation fragments, or airborne sand particles. Sunglasses are not the same as safety goggles. 

You can protect your hearing by wearing earplugs, headphones, or some form of hearing loss protection. Wear them when you are around anything accompanied by high levels of noise and intense decibels. Many people ignore the negative effects that loud, sustained noise can have on their long term hearing. The damage can be irreparable, and hearing aids aren't sexy, convenient, or cheap.

Project your lungs from the fumes that can come from paints, solvents, and cleaning supplies. Read labels. Use adequate ventilation. If necessary, wear a full-face respirator, not just a dust mask. Those little white masks screen out only airborne particles, not vapors. Buy zero-VOC paints. Take painting and staining projects outdoors, especially when using spray paints and especially if you are pregnant.

Take care of the little repairs in your home early, and you'll keep
big repairs at bay. This photo and top photo: Family Handyman

Keep up routine inspections

Home improvement DIY projects are more fun when they are upgrades rather than repairs. Routine inspections minimize repairs. Part of being a homeowner means there is always something to inspect before it becomes a problem.

Make sure your home doesn't have exposed surfaces that are asbestos or lead paint. Removing these materials calls for pros, but covering them with safe paints and new, impermeable surfaces takes care of the problem.

Check your air filters monthly. Watch that your gutters aren't full of leaves. Look for cracks in your foundation and any concrete surfaces like driveways, patios, and sidewalks. Check the expiration dates on fire extinguishers. Make sure no mold is forming in basements, window openings, or under sinks. Inspect your roof once or twice a year for loose shingles and damage from animals or trees.

When you keep on top of these systems, your home will be safe for everyone inside. And you'll save money because you'll identify potential problems before they turn into costly, larger problems.

Practice good work habits

People who work every day in the blue-collar trades learn safe routines for the work they do. Use your own common sense and awareness to do the same.

Tackling home improvement jobs yourself can be enriching and fulfilling, but also dangerous. Stay safe as you work, and you'll be encouraged to handle additional projects to make your home look and function better. For more about working safely while doing home improvement, check these additional simple safety tips.

And for more tips on staging your home when it's time to sell, be sure to download my $4.99 eBook DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast for Top Dollar

Curb Appeal: Front Entrances That Say "Happy Holidays!"

Thursday, December 05, 2019
If you're like most people, your schedule is crammed during the holidays. And if you are marketing your home during December, there's additional pressure to make it look inviting and neat every day. Tall order!

You don't need to tackle new craft projects or break the year-end budget to have your home looking stunning. Just simplify your decorating and seasonal staging! Make the entrance of your home -- what greets people coming to tour it -- the focus of your curb appeal and homestaging.

Here are easy ideas for making your home inviting to buyers during the winter holidays. As always, it's about curb appeal!

Create a plan

Start by selecting a simple decorating plan. Maybe it's a two-tone color scheme, or a candy and cookies motif, or a Santa theme. If you have something that looks like a collection of antique toys (teddy bears, an old wagon, sleds or skates) collect them all in one place to create a unified look. Maybe the nativity is your theme, or angels, or greenery, or plaids, or snowflakes.

This is the approach professional decorators in upscale department stores employ to cast a spell over shoppers, setting a consistent, feel-good, mood. That's how you want home buyers to feel when they enter your home on the market, that everything they see is intentional, not lazily thrown together. It builds their confidence in the maintenance and quality of your home as a whole.

You'll need to clean up your outside entrance of the stuff of summer and autumn. You want a blank slate to spark your creativity. Collect the props and outdoor decor that you can press into service to cast your Christmas spell! With luck, you'll have what you need from previous Decembers, but you may choose to add some new filler items to freshen the look and pull it all together.

Start with a seasonal wreath on the front door.
I've blogged about
how to make a greenery wreath,
a rag wreath, and
felt wreath. 
This twig wreath cost me 90 cents at Salvation Army,
and the silver poinsettias are from Dollar Tree.

Add something to ground the doorway and add seasonal personality. I spray painted these branches white and tucked them into the nursery containers of
three small juniper shrubs nestled in a lightweight plastic urn. 

An assortment of evergreens on your steps is a simple way to give a
nod to the season and greet people coming to the door (be sure to de-ice the steps!).
The greens can be real potted shrubs, artificial topiaries, or just branches cut from your tree or shrubbery. Their containers don't even have to match,
the winning way the gals at TheMerryThought set up their front entrance. 

Keeping it clean and still festive, this entrance plays with simple signs of the
season -- a holly wreath, an evergreen garland draped casually over the doorway,
some logs and winter boots. Photo: InTheFields 
If you have a front porch or even a small landing where you've staged with
chairs or a bench, now's your chance to add some
welcoming winter accessories. Photo: One Sutton Place
Make your outside decor local as well as seasonal --
reflecting the charm of your area, whether it's an
urban or rural location. This wreath has a coastal theme.
Don't forget to add a fresh and cheery welcome mat!
Any garland or wreath you add can be real or faux as long as it is weatherproof.
This red door makes quite a statement. But I'm not suggesting you paint your front
door just for the holidays! It's not a good idea to cover it with a holiday wrap either,
because buyers will want to see your real door if they are serious buyers. Photo: BHG
The holidays are a time to go bold. So don't be afraid
of color combos you might ordinarily avoid for homestaging.
Pepto Bismol pink and bright red? Yes! Photo: JuliaRyan
Instead of a wreath or other decoration on your door,
the siding or trim near your entrance can be the
background for that festive touch. This wreath is
attached to the exterior light fixture. Photo: CitrineLiving 
This wreath of plastic sandwich bags I made years ago and it
comes out to play and get a makeover every Christmas. One of its best qualities is that
it looks attractive from both sides, so it's perfect for glass doors. 

Streamline your decor

I love seeing home exteriors decorated during December with outdoor lighting. Who doesn't? The more lights the better, but it seems to me that the fun of putting up the lights and enjoying their sight turn into their opposite when it's time to take them down. Talk about unpleasant chores!   

My advice is to skip the elaborate lighting displays and make your entrance the star. This simple approach will free you so you'll have more time and energy for what counts, being with family, neighbors and friends at the end of the year and observing the traditions you honor.

I'm wishing all my readers the happiest of holidays!

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