Thursday, December 31, 2009

It’s Almost the New Year’s Holiday


I hope everyone is enjoying their New Year’s Eve. I’m planning a simple evening at home, attached to my computer(s) like most nights. Still working on transferring files but I may have to take both computers to Apple on Sunday to have them do it. Don’t you just love holiday weekends? I’m so happy to have another day off although I always have way more to do than I’ll ever get done. But, the monthly flea market is this Saturday and I’m super excited about that since I missed it the last two months. When I last went at the beginning of October, the weather was still warm. It will be a different experience being there in the winter. After the flea market, I have a New Year’s open house party to go to which will be fun. I just need to figure out a switch-a-roo on the clothing since I won’t be coming home between them.

Other than that, I’m especially looking forward to reading my new issue of Somerset Life that I got today. The photos in it just make me swoon. Then, I must get to work on the Vintage Valentine fabric fat book swap that I am participating in. I have lots of items gathered for it but am still in the design phase. Oh, and sometime this weekend I must work on my New Year’s resolutions. Do you have yours yet? Each year, I write mine up and then I look back at the previous year to see how I did. I’m lucky if I get to half of them but then again I know it is always an ambitious list. Still, it’s good to reflect and know what your goals are for each year. How will you spend your holiday weekend?

Oh, the pansies above belong to my neighbor. He has a beautiful little patch of pansies in front of his house that I admire each day as I drive by. So nice to have pansies all year long!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Spreading a Little iPhone Love


Somebody was a very good girl this year and made it to the top of Santa’s “Nice” list. Congrats to Miss Jodie, who just got an iPhone! I told you that you would love it. And yes, Jodie, you will sleep with it, believe me. It is so addicting. Today, our IT department added iPhone remote to my phone so I can now access my work email on it from wherever I am. Honestly, I’m not sure I want that feature!

One cool app I have to recommend is Shazam. Simply hold your iPhone up to any radio or speaker that is playing music and Shazam will respond back with the name of the song, artist, album, biography and more. How cool is that? So here are a few reasons why I “heart” my iPhone:

  • I can check and send email from anywhere (including my bed!)
  • I can take photos when I’m out and about and send them to people
  • I can see who is calling me once I’ve placed their photo in my contacts (their face appears on the screen)
  • I can check the web when I’m out and about (say I want to find a shop, phone numbers, directional maps, restaurants, movie times, etc.)
  • It takes video! So far, I’ve only practiced doing a few of Nippy rubbing her head on the celery but I plan to do more
  • Apps, apps, apps! Over 100,000 available in many different categories. So far, some of my favorites are: Facebook, AP Mobile, Target (find the sales each week!), Flixster (for current info on movies including locations, times, ratings and more), Craigsphone (so I can locate garage sales), Shazam, Red Laser (hold up any UPC code and it finds the product price and availability), CamZoom (to zoom in when taking photos), The Weather Channel, Wikipanion…. oh, I have to stop now, there’s just too many!
  • It’s also an iPod so I can listen to music anytime
  • I always have something to do when I’m waiting somewhere (except at a stop light, of course)
  • It’s made by Apple. Apple = Intuitive and that makes it soooo simple

Now, maybe you are telling yourself, “well, I can do that too”. However, I barely used my old cell phone except to make an outgoing call once in a while. I didn’t even know its phone number! So all these kinds of features are new to me. Yes, I have finally joined the modern age. (Note to self: change the “bark” ringtone so Gracie and Nipper won’t get scared and go running down the hall anymore).

I haven’t used my new iMac very much yet (still need to get data transferred from my pokey PC) but I can say I’m loving that too. I feel like such a dinosaur – I was so amazed at the whole iChat feature. I did a video chat with my niece in Washington and it was so flawless. There she was, in clear living color on my screen and we talked for two hours. Since we don’t see each other very often, it was really great to be able to see each other and talk instead of just emailing or talking by phone. Of course, I held Miss Gracie up to the screen to show her off and just pointed the screen towards Nippy who was sleeping in her pink donut bed (natch). So Miss Jodie, listen closely…I think there’s an iMac that might be calling your name.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Vacation Days


Today is my last day off work and I’d like to tell you how I spent the last four and a half days. But honestly, I’m so tired right now, I can barely remember! However, I do know that I went to Bed Bath & Beyond and found this fabulous ornament. It’s covered in gold glitter, drop pearls and lots of swirls. This little gem had to come home with me where I have it hanging from a lamp. Gosh, it makes me happy!


Another thing I did was buy myself an iMac. Yes, I have officially gone over to the other side! I have been having problems with my pc for the last few months. It has been running really sloooooooowly and I’m just tired of all the virus/malware/spyware issues that abound on the pc. It can be so frustrating! However, my external hard drive seems to have stopped working now that I am trying to transfer the files from my pc to the Mac. Once I get that resolved, it should be smooth sailing. If I seem to be missing in action the next few days, it will be because I may have to bring both my pc and the iMac to the Apple store to let them transfer my files. I’m hoping not to have to do that as these puppies are really heavy!

I didn’t get to many of the items I had on my to do list for the last few days, but I did enjoy the days off. I do hope you enjoyed your holiday time as well.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Music Makes Me Weep, Too


Last week I was doing my Saturday morning tradition, that is, reading the morning paper while I ate my breakfast of oatmeal. There was a column called Real Life in our San Mateo Times that I could have written. The author talks about how some Christmas music makes her cry, especially two songs in particular. As it happens, those are the two that always make me cry as well. You may remember one of the songs as it debuted in Meet Me in St. Louis, a great old movie starring Judy Garland. I have wonderful memories of Christmas as a child and it makes me sad that it can’t be like that anymore. I think Christmas truly is for children. I so enjoyed the article, I wanted to share it with you, so here it is. I’m getting weepy again just writing this!

Real Life: Why does Christmas music make me cry?

By Karen Marshall
Contra Costa Times Contributor

Posted: 12/19/2009 12:00:00 AM PST

It's the time of year when Christmas carols are everywhere. Old standards and new can be heard in every store, salon and coffee shop. There are even radio stations that deck their playlists with holiday songs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Happily, I do like Christmas music. My favorite songs put me in the holiday mood and help me shake off the crazy drivers who cut me off because they are all in such a rush.

To my surprise, though, I've noticed certain songs that bring tears to my eyes. I'm not talking about "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" or "Jingle Bells." But two songs in particular — "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "I'll Be Home For Christmas" — almost invariably make me misty-eyed.

I think it has a lot to do with how magical Christmas seemed when I was a child. Growing up, Christmas was always the most special time of the year. There were the sparkling decorations, the beautiful tree (not to mention the large pile of presents beneath it), and of course the large family get-togethers.

Changes in Christmas

Over the years as I've grown and changed, Christmas has changed as well. Maturity sets in and, once we learn that the role of Santa Claus is played by our parents, innocence is lost.

Even then, though, Christmas remains a wonderful time to be spent with family and those that we love. So why the tears?

It's not how I've changed that causes Christmas to be different, it's simply the changes that can't be helped. It's the fact that once a single family member is lost, Christmas is never quite the same. My grandmother died when I was 12, and from then on something was always different about December. Something was missing because she was gone.

As the years go by and more family members leave us, Christmas continues to change, and it can be in good ways as well. When our families are blessed with new babies, it brings joy back into the season. As we watch the wonder of the holidays unfold through their innocent wide eyes, suddenly Christmas becomes all magical and sparkly again.

Christmas mourning

Still, it will never be the same as when I was a child. And this, I believe, is why certain songs move me to tears. It's not so much about sadness as a bittersweet nostalgia, perhaps a bit of mourning, for Christmases past. When my eyes water it's in remembrance for how it used to be, and for the simpler days of childhood.

When those two emotion-triggering songs come on, I don't change the dial or turn down the volume. And I don't fight the tears. Instead, I sing along. I sing for the spirit of the season, for Christmases past, present and future. I sing for the loved ones who have gone as well as those who remain.

Karen Marshall lives in Livermore.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas at Hillsdale Shopping Center


Once again, my trusty iPhone has come in very handy. Recently I was shopping at our local shopping center and saw some incredible Christmas displays. So I whipped out the iPhone and snapped some photos. Above is a display in the Macy’s window. I wish I had a fireplace like that!


More from Macy’s… a sparkling tree and shiny presents.


Near this window, they also had some kitties from the SPCA for adoption. I do hope they all found good homes.


I love looking at all the displays and usually find myself wanting to purchase the display items that are made just for the window displays.


In the middle of the mall, there was a large display that was Santa’s village as he was nearby. These ultra special animals surrounded the village.


They are super fabulous and I couldn’t resist getting their photos.


Look at how elegant each one is, dressed in their finest clothing for the holidays.


Kind of reminds me of the Nutcracker ballet. If you haven’t seen that, I highly recommend it as it is a delight during the holiday season.


This is the village area where those wonderful animals are located. You can make out some of them if you look very closely. It looks small here, but trust me when I say it was much bigger in person and those special animals were much bigger than me.


And of course, there is a very large, tall tree in the middle of the mall.


I was so mesmerized by the decorations, I barely noticed Santa!


There was even a large, life size nutcracker. Can you even imagine the size nut that he would have to crack?


And finally, some happy elves greet people as they enter. Once again, I’m pretty pleased with the results of the iPhone camera – it’s great to be able to capture some images when I’m out and about without my Nikon. It was a lot of fun taking these. I tried not to spend too much time at the shopping center but I have to say the decor was just amazing and I enjoyed seeing it. It just made me happy and I hope you enjoyed taking this little tour with me.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Seasons Greetings


Wishing each and every one of you a joyous holiday season. I so appreciate each person who takes the time to visit me here and read my blog. I am truly thankful for this wonderful community and appreciate every comment. Little did I know last February when I started this that I (and Miss Gracie) would meet so many wonderful people. Merry Christmas to you!



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Just a Little More Christmas Decor


The poinsettia garland was wound around the tall topiary. There are little touches of French country around the living room, such as on the top here.


Normally I hang pine garland across here, but since I was doing quick and simple this year, I just hung a little gold garland for a bit of sparkle.


Simple is okay for me this year. How about you? Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Little Christmas Decor


No, there’s no Christmas tree in my house this year. But that doesn’t mean there are no decorations. I got my boxes down from the garage last week and selected some decorations to put up. This holly sprig is now adorning the ribbon around my mannequin’s waist in the kitchen.


Oh, I wish I had a big tree like this! It’s just a pretty white candle atop a shelf, surrounded by photos and a little Christmas bear.


A sweet bird sits atop the topiary. I really love this topiary plant which has little white twinkle lights on all three green balls. Unfortunately, Nipper knocked the topiary over last year and now only one ball lights up. Note to self: purchase some new twinkle lights while they are still in the stores! So how did you decorate this year?


Monday, December 21, 2009

Sparkly Glitter Ornaments


Some years back, my sister and I bought a bunch of old glass ornaments at Four Paws thrift shop. I had always wanted to glitter some and the time was finally right. You know… so many projects, so little time!


We covered them in glue, then sprinkled different colors and sizes of glitter over them. Of course, my fingers were also glued and glittered by the time we finished!


During Christmas, I bring them out and place them in a glass bowl to display.

Unfortunately Four Paws, where I had purchased the ornaments, is no longer in business. It was a great thrift shop that benefitted the local humane society and had tons of inexpensive goods. It was so much fun to treasure hunt there, especially for any holiday. I had even purchased my very favorite garden fairy skirt there. Well, I still have my flea market and garage sales, even if Four Paws is just a (very pleasant)memory.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Gracie, the iPhone Cat


One of the things I love about my iPhone is the ability to take photos on the fly when I don’t have my “real” camera. The resolution is lower as it’s a 3 megapixel camera but I’m finding many of the photos look pretty good. I have 138 photos on it currently but a high percentage of those are of you-know-who.

Today I spent part of the day practicing some new photo editing techniques and I finally loaded my iPhone photos onto my computer. The photo of Miss Gracie above is one of the those. She happened to be in my Whole Foods Market holiday grocery bag (I bought it last year – it was bright pink and it’s my favorite grocery bag) that was on the kitchen table when I took this photo. I added a texture and frame to it; not too bad for a phone camera.


I added a texture to this poinsettia photo to give it an aged look.


I did the same to this photo but also adjusted some of the color so it’s a bit brighter. This is a large, very beautiful poinsettia that my staff gave to me when they arrived for the end-of-year party last Thursday. It’s just gorgeous and looks wonderful in front of my house.


They also brought me this winter white bouquet of flowers. So pretty, and so far Nipper has not taken a bite (that I know of!).


I did put up some decorations last week, but I don’t have a tree anymore as I donated it some years back when I was doing major reorganizing. Now I’m in the mood to get a tree again; I think I’ll see what’s left over after Christmas in the stores so I have one for next year. Some years I just don’t have the time or energy to decorate but I’m so inspired after seeing the beautiful decorations you’ve all been posting on your blogs!


Friday, December 18, 2009

Annual Marketing Staff End-of-Year Party – Woo Hoo!

dec17-1 Yesterday was the staff party that I host at my house each year for our marketing department. And here are the velvet ribbon bookmarks I made for each person.

dec17-3 You may have seen the Oct/Nov/Dec issue of Somerset Life which inspired me to try this project. Andrea Singarella created such beautiful bookmarks that I knew I had to make some too. And what better time than the holidays?

dec17-4 I loved using the bling to embellish these. It was the perfect project for these lovely pieces.

dec17-6On the other end of the ribbons, I placed charms including hearts, keys and a rhinestone bauble.

dec17-5These are super easy to make; why not make some for the special people in your life?

dec17-8 All of the ladies received one with bling. The two gentlemen received a theme oriented bookmark as I thought the bling was a bit girly. One likes to takes cruises and the other was raised in France, hence the charms used on each.

dec17-9 I had been looking for uses for my chandelier pendants for quite some time so I was happy to use one on here.

dec17-10 I think each person was quite pleased to receive the bookmark.

dec17-11 They were made with love, by me.


And packaged in little bags with each person’s initial.


But first, we spent time socializing and noshing before the lunch was served.

dec18-2 Martinelli’s sparkling apple juice was poured as we nibbled on cheeses and crudités. 


Well, actually, they did while I continued to prepare the luncheon. I was not quite as organized this year as I usually am, so I was running a little behind.


I made a vegetable lasagna and a butter lettuce salad with blue cheese, mandarin orange segments, toasted hazelnuts and cranberries which I served with rosemary olive oil bread (and olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping). Dessert was a strawberry cake made with almond torte cake, whipped cream and strawberries (I didn’t make that but it was delicious!).


Everyone had  a good time being away from the office for the afternoon.


We are lucky in that we all really enjoy working with each other, have a lot of fun together and support each other.

dec18-7 It's a great way to end the year.