I've often heard children say, "There's nothing to do today". I beg to differ. I'd like to inspire you to do something. Anything. Read. Bake. Hike. Fish. Plant. Sail. Climb. Play. Reach. Move. Laugh. Dream; and take time to sit with me on The Old Granite Step.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Simple Painted Easter Egg

One of my most prized possessions is my collection of bird eggs.  It started over forty years ago when I found a whole robins egg in the yard.  I put it in a small box, kept it warm with a light bulb and waited....and waited....and waited.  No baby robin.  The egg stayed in that box for years.  While I was away at college, after I was married and after I had children, the egg was still in that box.  During this time however, I started picking up other eggs and pieces of other eggs.  Most of the time it's half and egg; I'm assuming the baby bird has begun his new life of flight.

Understandably, collecting bird eggs is not allowed in many places around the world.  Rest assured, my entire collection has been found on the ground!  I have since found a wonderful antique box with a glass top and my collection has blossomed into a piece of unique art.
Birds are unique among egg laying animals because of the variety of color patterns and sometimes spots or speckles.  I found it interesting to know that speckling is most pronounced in songbirds!

This is a wonderful time of year to celebrate the egg by making our own speckled eggs for decoration purposes.  I chose to use old fashioned "blown out" eggs.  You may prefer a method using a syringe or straw.  Directions for safely blowing out eggs can be found here.

Once the egg is hollow, dye it using a commercial egg dying kit or food coloring.  Remember, the egg will float once it's hollow.  Choose realistic, more natural colors or go crazy with brightly colored eggs!  Once the dye is dry, it's time to "speckle" it.
Set your egg in a box such as a shoebox. 
Using dark brown (or your choice of color) latex craft paint, tap the brush over the egg (without touching it) so the paint lands randomly on the egg.
Don't touch the egg with the brush, as you want to avoid brush strokes.  Once the first side is dry, turn it over and speckle the second side. 
Let the eggs dry completely before handling.
You've done it!  You've imitated nature in a way that's perfect for your spring decor.
Attach a ribbon with glue if you'd like to hang your egg.  Nests can be found at craft stores.  Display them throughout the year or carefully pack them up for next spring.

These make wonderful gifts!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Using a Mantel for Decoration


1.  a construction framing the opening of a fireplace and usually covering part of the chimney breast in a more or less decorative manner.
2.  also called mantelshelf; a shelf above a fireplace opening.
A mantel can be a wonderful piece of architectural detail whether you have a fireplace or not.  You can find them at antique or consignment stores or perhaps, like me, you'll find one on Craigslist.  We even answered an ad once for a house that was being torn down.  The ad said "Come with your hammer and crowbar.  Everything has a price."  We were there first thing and sure enough, there was a very large, beautiful mantel that was exactly what we were looking for.  $100 plus a little elbow grease and ten minutes later it was in the back of our truck.  Don't be shy about where you put your mantel but be sure to securely attach it to the wall.  If you can't do it yourself, a local handyman can help.  
This mantel is in a small summer cottage.  The cottage doesn't have much original architectural charm so the mantel adds that element.
We purchased this mantel at a tag sale.  It held a spot of honor in two of our homes but alas, we honored the buyers request to leave it in this one.  The mirror was given to me by a friend.  It is from a New York City brownstone and is still part of our family.  It hangs above a different mantel now.
This room always seemed like a room in an old tavern.  I'm sure the beautiful old floors helped give it that appearance, but the mantel seemed to help that cause. 
 The mantel gave this wall the detail it needed.
 Mantels are wonderful for decorating.
Although there is a fireplace here, I found this mantel for sale on the internet.  The original mantel had been removed for refinishing before we purchased the house.  Unfortunately, it didn't fit with the gas fireplace surround.  We weren't living in the house yet, but the Christmas greens added a seasonal flair.
The mirror in it's new home.  We moved the mantel from the other room when redecorating.  Cozy.
I answered this ad that I saw on craigslist.  I drove about 100 miles to pick it up but she sold it for $75.  Perfect.
 I love this mantel; distressed and all.
This mantel is in pieces in our barn.  An old inn sat on our property at one time but was moved to a new location many years ago.  It's rumored that this mantel was part of the inn.  I will eventually find a great spot for it.
This mantel has yet to find a permanent home.  It's been leaning here for over a year and seems to be a spot that collects other things without a home.

Have fun and use your imagination when decorating!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Continuing our weekend in Montreal; visiting the Biodome and Botanical Garden.

We discovered the Biodome over ten years ago when we took a ski vacation to the Montreal region.  Our youngest son had a broken arm, so we needed to find things for him to do that didn't involve a pair of skiis!  The Biodome is located just outside of the city and it's very easy to get to.  It offers several different climates and until you get to the penguins, they are all relatively warm.  It's a wonderful place for children and adults alike.  This was a terrific weekend trip for us.  We stayed at the Bonaventure Hotel and although I could have spent the entire weekend in the rooftop (heated) outdoor pool, I'm glad we visited the Biodome and the Botanical Garden
The humidity in the rain forest affected the first photo, but the warmth felt so good!
Efforts have been made to create habitats for the animals that mimic a natural habitat.
It was nice to see green leaves and color cocooned inside of the outdoor snow!
The fish were oblivious to the cold outdoors.

We could hear the bats squeak but the flashless photos are black.  I think it's the way they like it.

Ahhh, the warm sand.
This little guy wouldn't sit still.

The displays are beautiful.
A cardinal; reminiscent of the ones at my bird feeder.
Flowers!  Dirt!  Things we haven't seen at home for months.
The sound of trickling water was peaceful.

Recognizable by the tail....
.....the racoon seems quite content.

The beaver dam is impressive, but where are the beavers?
A hidden camera allows us to see them in their home without intruding.

The lynx is a gorgeous creature.  Notice the tufts of fur on his ears.

He is keenly aware of the female next door.  This lynx was born at the Biodome.

Now we're at the shore.  There were many shore birds in this display.  Some were swooping over our heads.

We finish the tour in a colder region where penguins are right at home.

 We left the Biodome and returned to the Botanical Garden to experience the warmth and the color!
We don't often see signs like this around town.
 We can imagine planting our flower boxes.
 When I was a child we had Lady Slippers growing in the woods behind our house!
 Pretty and petite.
 I wish I could see the stepping stones in my garden!
 Gorgeous color.
 A fabulous diorama.

We took a drive through Old Montreal on our way back to the hotel.

Plan your trip to Montreal.  You won't be disappointed.  
Bon Voyage!