Friday, August 31, 2012

Making Your House a Home! Part 1

Copyright 2006 Melissa Galt

Now that you’ve got your decorating project well underway by placing rugs, ordering upholstery and selecting a color scheme, it is time to add the finish and polish.  Here we’ll touch on ideas and sources for some wonderful window treatments, awesome accessories and charming collectibles, and delightful artwork to add personality and character to your interior.

Window treatments are made to dress the windows, simply framing the view or providing light and privacy control.  They have valuable acoustic benefits, especially in the soaring spaces so popular in today’s homes.  With the vast quantities of glass and hardwood floors found in so many new houses, draperies can be an important softening element against rooms that echo.  In addition, they provide an easy and effective means of bringing some pattern and color to a higher level, thereby balancing the room.  (Otherwise, it can tend to look bottom heavy!)  Be aware that we are talking about fabric based treatments here, not wood blinds or plantation shutters.  While both are an option, they do not offer any acoustical advantage and, in fact, may compete with the profusion of architectural detail prevalent in interior spaces today.

Often window treatments can be used successfully to frame a terrific view or highlight an outdoor feature. For a more tailored look, an upholstered cornice board may be used.  (These are often best balanced by adding side panels for a grounding effect.)  By using simple, stationary side panels with a valance or swag design cost is reduced, and the effect is optimized.  Unique and creative decorative hardware, such as a fluted wood pole or twisted metal rod with delightful finial ends can be incorporated for a more airy feeling.  You can fudge the height of a room, visually lifting the ceiling height, by installing valances and such at least 8” above the top of the window molding if space allows.  If there is very little room between the bottom of the crown molding and the top of the window frame, then mount the valance at the base of the molding.  Make sure that your top treatment is deep enough to cover the top of the window frame so that the effect is maintained.

Remember to pay attention to the type and size of pattern you choose.  In many instances, the fabric will be gathered so that the pattern will be distorted.   Surely you’ll want to consider the wealth of beautiful tassels and trims that can be added to treatments. These can range from whimsical to elegant and serve to personalize your look.  For ready made window treatments, check out some of the bed and bath stores, like Bed, Bath and Beyond, Linens and Things, Home Expo, and The Curtain Exchange.  For a custom look contact your favorite local designer.

On accents and accessories, consider mixing your elements again.  You’ll want to include elements of glass or crystal, a variety of metal finishes, wood tones, stone looks, and even ceramic.  For a more traditional formal feeling, use pairs of objects to create a symmetrical balance.  For a casual, more contemporary mood, work in odd numbers, providing a more asymmetrical look and dynamic. Try to group like objects together for maximum impact.  Always keep your collections together, rather than scattered throughout the house.   Do use bookends, and not the kind from the office superstore!  There are a host of intriguing ones to choose from including fancy ornamental ironwork, globes on stands, any manner of animal (monkeys and elephants seem most prolific), and, of course, architectural features like columns, finials and acanthus leaves.  Avoid running books clear across a shelf, because it is heavy looking.  Create interest by adding art objects and photographs between clusters of books.  Photographs are most effective when grouped by like frame, such as all gold together, all silver, all wood and such.  Vary the sizes so that they can be stacked with tall in the back and smaller in front.

The key to accessories and accents is to make it personal.  Try to get pieces you really enjoy rather than just space fillers.  Be sure to include family mementos and treasures from your travels, even children’s crafts can be shown off.  Display your collectibles, no matter what the item. When effectively presented personal collections add personality and interest.  If you aren’t going to enjoy it, why have it?!  Even sports memorabilia (not just for guys!) can be well arranged and handsomely showcased.

Consider putting decorative accessories on an angle. Placed at an angle, objects are easier to view from all sides, have a greater sense of movement and are less static visually.  Great places to shop for decorative accents are Hill Street Warehouse, Pier 1 Imports, Home Expo, and your favorite local designer who probably keeps special accents on hand for just such an opportunity.

Personalizing your home may seem overwhelming, and you may feel like you don’t know where to start. Just use these steps, take your time and have fun with it.  If you are more inclined to get it all done at once and don’t know where to start, call a qualified design professional.   Their expertise and guidance can be invaluable, and many work by the hour, both consulting and sourcing.  Your home is your castle, your haven, your place to enjoy, so take the time to make it reflect who you are!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Keeping Kids Active This Summer

Experts say that kids need 60 minutes or more of physical activity a day. With childhood obesity on the rise, it’s even more important to keep our kids interested in sports. Keeping these tips in mind could help your children enjoy activity even more.

Let them lead the way.
    Kids stay active when it’s fun for them, so try to keep it that way. Don’t force them to do any activity that they’re not comfortable with. If your child would rather play tag than swim, do it. You’ll both be moving, and having a great time.

Mix it up a bit.
    Different sports are fun for different kids. Introducing your children to as many activities and sports as you can, will allow them to discover what they truly like.

Don’t keep score.
    Pushing kids to excel could lessen their interest in certain activities. Forget about the score, and let them invent their own goals. The true measure of a successful season for any child is whether they want to play next year.

    Remember to make sports a family affair. Your children will be more enthusiastic about physical activities if you lead by example. In the dog days of summer, try to devote an hour each evening to being active with your children. Turn off the television and have some quality fun!

Monday, August 27, 2012

It's Not Too Early To Be Thinking About A Great Halloween Mask!

Although historical Halloween has some sinister beginnings, today Halloween means dressing up in costumes and having a wonderful time.  Parties, dressing up at work, decorating the house all are part of the festivities that have become Halloween.  To really get into the whole Halloween thing however must include not only a great costume but also a great Halloween mask.  The costume is rather simple to obtain as there are costume shops in most major cities and it's even possible to order a particular costume on the web for delivery just before Halloween.  Although you may now have the clothing to look like your favorite character or monster, your face still is easily recognizable.  This is where a high quality Halloween mask can really come into play.

If there's a choice between a fancy costume or a great Halloween mask and makeup, definitely take the mask.  The reason is that although the costume can complete a certain "look" any character you can imagine can also wear basic street clothes.  Consider the strong heavily made-up character, a clown.  Yes, it's great to have a funny costume and big shoes, but a clown could also wear a business suit or some pajamas and be just as fun.  How about a basic witch or warlock?  A good Halloween mask and makeup and a cape can make a wonderful witch.  So if the character you want to be for Halloween needs face or hand makeup, remember it's the Halloween mask and interaction with the character that will be memorable, not the costume.

Halloween masks come in a variety of styles and types.  The most popular and easiest to obtain is the full head latex type masks.  These are the type that are available in all the Halloween shops that seem to open up the first part of October and disappear November 1st.  These masks come pre colored and decorated and unfortunately also look like you're wearing a mask.

Another option is simply makeup.  Theatrical makeup is easily obtained and does a fairly good job if used along with "stick on" type appliances.  Appliances are small pieces of pre formed costume latex in shapes like scars, gashes and other more gruesome things.  The only problem is that many of the appliances that are easily available tend toward the more gruesome type characters,  The idea is to apply the scars etc. first then finish off with the makeup to hide the edges of the appliances.  All in all, a good, though somewhat limited Halloween mask idea. 

The best idea of all however are full facial appliances.  These are theatrical grade latex masks that can are applied directly to your face and give an extremely realistic appearance.  These appliances can literally transform anyone into a wide variety of characters.  Wizards, warlocks, clowns, monsters, etc.  They can even age someone into their 80's or 90's.  The biggest benefit of these types of Halloween mask is that they allow you the opportunity to become the character.  You friends and guests will not remember that you "dressed up" for Halloween but that you actually were that favorite hobbit or troll. 

Now however is the time to order your Halloween mask, adhesives, and makeup.  It will take a few tries to get it right and you don't want to worry about it on Halloween night.  Take the time now to find that perfect Halloween mask and learn how to make this Halloween the most memorable for everyone.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

In Search of Yesterdays

Les feuilles mortes

The falling leaves drift by the window
The falling leaves of red and gold

The little boy was curled up in the curtain at the left hand side of the bay window. His name was Choo, the spelling is unknown but he couldn't pronounce his own name and had adopted that. Memory is said to begin about four, so that would be his age and this would be one of his earliest.

A little girl was curled up in the curtain at the right hand side of the bay window. She was his sister and was two years younger. She had a beautiful name but he did not think she merited it yet so he called her Podge.

They were both watching the leaves fall from very tall trees on the far side of a large overgrown lawn. As a leaf floated from side to side on the wind their eyes would follow it lost in the wonder of their dreams.

All was at peace with their world. The room was now dark and unlit. The afternoon was drawing in and soon their Nanny, Lily, would arrive with something sweet to eat. Lily was about sixteen and from the village. She accompanied them everywhere, even on holiday. That meant their mother could keep elegant and happy for them untroubled by the daily chores of childcare. It must have been after four o'clock on an autumn afternoon in the Cotswolds.

An autumn of 1943 when war was tearing the world asunder.


Yankee doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
He stuck a feather in his hat,
and called it macaroni.

Lily and the little boy stood by the road to watch the columns of American tanks roll by.
The GIs threw chewing gum and chocolate for them. The little boy had never had chocolate before. He ran to pick it up. When Lily said that it was for her the little boy replied that that was a silly idea; she was only a girl and of course it was for him. Such is the pragmatic confidence of a child.
There were Canadian soldiers on the farm. But they were Empire and not yanks and Choo would go and talk to them seriously about guns and things. The guns were as tall as he was.

Choo had a Shetland pony. He and his friends would take it to ride around the woods and hills and fields. The world might be at war but a little boy could still walk his native land without fear.
One day more Americans came to the farm and used some outbuildings as offices. They were making a film and they wanted some children with a pony in their film. So Choo and his friends signed up. Each day in the evening they would line up to be paid. A lovely big piece of silver. Always a half-crown.
Capitalism felt good. They did nothing as they were on standby. This lasted two weeks, but Choo couldn't count time, and they had got bored and went back to going over the hills. When they came back one day they found the scene had been shot without them. The producer had had to rustle up some village children and Choo lost his chance at stardom.

And such was the exploitation of England's children by the yanks during the war.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

In Home Child Safety

Steps can be taken to ensure that various components around your home are safe for youngsters. For example, baby walkers can become very dangerous for children, as they can result in children falling down stairs. Ensure that safety gates are installed properly and that the cribs meet current standards for safety. Gates that fasten to walls are ideal for the tops of stairs, while spring-loaded gates are a superior choice for the base of stairs. Next, check various aspects of cribs, such as the mattress, the screws, and the frame. In regards to bathtub safety, keep these tips in mind: A child can drown in just a few centimetres (1 inch) of water, within the duration of seconds! Within seconds, hot water from a faucet can burn a person’s skin. In fact, a child’s skin burns in a quarter of the time required for an adult’s skin to be burned! Before placing your child in the bathtub’s water, use your elbow to test the temperature.  When running a bath for your child, consistently begin and complete the process, with cold water.  If you must leave the bathroom while bathing your child, take your son or daughter long with you. Instruct your child to sit in the bathtub 100% of the time.   While certain components in a house can pose threats to children, remember that child safety products from a child safety store can help to secure their safety.  Be careful about what your child puts in his or her mouth. To prevent your child from choking and strangling on objects, remember that if a child can fit an object in his or her mouth, your child could choke on it. Therefore, keep all tiny objects out of reach of infants and toddlers. Objects whose consuming pose a threat to young children, include small toy parts, seeds, chips, small candies and nuts, popcorn, wrapping paper, batteries, broken balloons, and hot dogs. To prevent your young children from choking on food, shred or cut foods that is hard and round, into narrow strips. Also, children must always chew their food slowly and sit up while eating meals or snacks. Lastly, as a parent, it is wise to master the indicators of choking and what steps to take when it occurs.    

In addition to choking on tiny objects, remember that the majority of homes include 200-300 poisons. Teach children the hazard symbols on containers, so they will realize the danger of consuming such products. Keep items such as cleaners; nail polish; holly and mistletoe; perfume; and cosmetics away from children, as they become poisonous when consumed. Even party leftovers certain medicines, and holiday ornaments can be poisonous to children! Lastly, remember that “child-resistant” caps vary from “child-proof” versions.

Friday, August 24, 2012

How To Design A Little Girl's Fairytale Bedroom

Every little girl dreams of having a fairytale bedroom, even the ones that can act like a real tom-boy!  =)

Use your daughter's childhood years to create memories that will stay with her for a lifetime. It's really not as difficult as it sounds!

All it takes is some creativity and a little bit of shopping. It doesn't even have to cost a lot to transform a ho-hum bedroom into a little girl's dream land fantasy world. This is the time to let out your own little inner kid and have some fun!

The fairytale concept covers alot of themes, from castles, princesses, knights and dragons, to fairies with lots of glitter and lace (of course), so the first step is to figure out what your little girl would really enjoy. That's an easy one to figure out...just ask!

Let's look at some designs that might be perfect for a young lady's dream bedroom.

ZZ Designs is a pretty popular bedding designer that you may have heard of- they offer several selections you may want to consider.

The first is their Fairy Princess Bedding set which includes a quilt featuring a castle motif with a creative hem that reflects the shapes of the towers of the castle. Placed over a white bed skirt with white frilly or billowing drapes, this choice of 100% cotton can begin your dream bedroom design.

The color scheme of the bedding includes white, pink, lavender, and purple. You can even add a canopy for her bed with 10 yards of shimmery fabric to really finish off look. Just put a nice stable hook in the ceiling at the center of her bed and then let the fabric halves hang and billow from the center down, and attach toward all the corners of the bed. There are other more detailed instructions for creating your own canopy type effects, just type it in to your browser! Pretty nifty!

Another ZZ Designs selection you'll want to check out is called A Little Sugar and Spice. Shades of pink vary from very light to a more dark pink. The 100% cotton quilt features bows, hearts, butterflies and flowers. Each pillow sham features three beautiful hearts. This set is available up to queen size.

California Kids Company offers a quilt that could become the decorating center piece of the perfect little girl's fairytale bedroom.

The hand-made 100% cotton quilt features appliqu├ęs of a castle, carriage, slipper and other princess designs. This line provides lots of choices because the same design is available as a duvet cover, and both the quilt and duvet cover are available up to queen size. Matching print sheets, pillow shams and bed skirt, dust ruffle, window dressing, bed canopy for camelback or regular canopies and a whole collection of other accessories give you lots to mix and match to best fit your space.

No matter what bedding you choose, you'll definitely want to add something like the Princess Castle lamp by CK Designs. A pink castle with blue accents holds a pink shade on the tallest tower top. The lamp is operated by a pull chain which features a glow in the dark quarter moon to make the lamp easy to find in the dark.

This is a thoughtful choice for any little girl's fantasy bedroom. It's often difficult to teach children to sleep alone in the dark but the comforting presence of the shining moon can be used to comfort her that SHE is in control and can get to the light easily if she wakes up frightened or has a bad dream.

A beautiful touch for a bedroom with few windows but a lot of wall space is That's My Room's Castle Window Mural. It creates the feel of a stone arch window facing toward another beautiful castle in the distance. This can add an airy touch to a bedroom that has no attractive outdoor scenery to open the windows toward.

You could hang a billow length of satiny cloth around the mural so it looks like real drapes- and you'll have a very realistic looking window added to your child's castle!

How about adding some neat little finishing touches like a glittery wand, some sparkly little shoes that you could customize with glitter and lace. You could buy a few little castle figurines and place them just so for the perfect daydreams!

Decorating for your little princess can be fun. If you never had the dream bedroom you always wanted, you know how much a perfect bedroom can mean. So fulfill your little girl's dreams while you can!

All too soon she will grow up and move into her very own castle.