Friday, October 26, 2012

Happy Harvest Hearth

How's that for alliteration?

I've mentioned before that I find the shelves over our mantel hard to style.  I finally decided to stop whining about it and do something about the problem.  I cleared all of our knick-knacks off the shelves, moved all the candles, dusted everything thoroughly... and started from scratch.  Here's a hint of how they're looking now.

A quick tour of some of the near-and-dear things that I've styled:

Bottom center shelf:
Books!  Yay books!  I don't tend to like reading hardcover books (I find their size unwieldy), but we do have some.  I removed the dust jackets (I know, sacrilege!) and arranged them here.

A pair of prints by Cate Parr.  Love the colors and detail in these!  I have two more that I haven't yet found a home for.

A leather tankard that I found years and years ago at the Maryland Renaissance Festival.  It holds a copper rose that Mr. Handyverger gave me for our Copper Anniversary.  He gets me a rose every year, so I have a collection of roses in quite a variety of materials.

The tray in the center is one that my father brought home from Okinawa in the '70s.  He had given it to his aunts as a Christmas gift.  When both of my great-aunts died, my uncle Steve found the tray and tea set in their house, and passed it down to me.  It's inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and I treasure it!

In front of the tray, a glass hummingbird dangles; I found it in Juneau, AK.

My glass skull from target sits next to a bookend; geek points if you recognize the bookend!

Center shelf, second from the bottom:
In the center, a lovely feather fan, again, purchased at the Maryland Renaissance Festival.

Beautiful red, green and blue goblets that were given to us as a wedding gift.

More books!  A few Harry Potter titles are on this shelf, and appropriately, a couple wizard and dragon statuettes given to us by my brothers.  We're such nerds.  I considered putting all my nerdity away and trying to be trendy... but that's just not me.  Gotta let my geek flag fly!

My plush pumpkins, most of which I made.
Halloween cats!
Candelabra, which was a housewarming gift from my mother.
Woven basket, which was a part of a wedding gift from my maid of honor.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dressing up the front porch

Before I went to Alaska in September, I did a little bit of outdoor decorating in honor of my mother's impending arrival for our adventure.   A little craft paint dressed up a few pumpkins, making it much easier to spot which house was #72.

I decided, during the first week of October, to move the pumpkins further back from the street.  We live in a nice neighborhood, but occasionally teenagers (I hope) wander through and wreak a little havoc; we've had eggs thrown at our cars, as well as actually having something spray painted on our car.  I'm a fan of spray paint, but not in that application!  And while I like the band Smashing Pumpkins, I didn't think these ones deserved to fall to that fate.

Quite a few of my plants were still doing very well in early October, as you can see.  As we reach the end of October, the only ones that aren't still looking great are the impatiens.  I suspect some critters decided they needed to put on a little extra fat for the winter, and my impatiens made a tasty try.  I found them all stripped of their leaves and flowers - just naked little stems jutting up from the potting soil.  Ah well.

You can see that our evergreens are a wee bit shaggy, here, but you can also see that I've hung a fall wreath in the front door.  I still plan to paint the front door a pretty color - that's on the project list for next summer.  Don't tell Mr. Handyverger, but I'm also hoping we can replace the dated screen door next summer.  I'd love to just take it off, but with five cats who think the outside is fascinating, it's not a great idea.

Also, I didn't realize just how long alyssum stayed in bloom!  It might finally be losing its last petals now, but there are still quite a few tiny white flowers on my plant, even now.  I consider them a must in my planter garden.  When they're in bloom, their fragrance wafts through the front door whenever it's opened.

Here are my pumpkins, happy as can be.  I've added a few Halloween-type decorations to celebrate the season, such as a few black cats and a cauldron.

I just love the color of the coleus here!  One of them is a Hot Lava Coleus, and the other is a something-something Dragon coleus.  Helpful, right?    You can see my potato vine (the purple one) is still quite happy.  At this point, a couple weeks later, it still looks good, but its leaves are turning a little bronze.  It's so pretty!

My peacock blue chairs have found a home for the winter.  Hopefully this will protect them from the elements.  Also, I'm a giant sucker.  Neighborhood cats often come and curl up on chairs on our porch when the weather's chilly.  We don't discourage this - I like them to know they can have a little shelter if they really need it!  (Of course, I'd much rather folks just kept their kitties safe and sound indoors, year-round.)  I'm realizing just now that the welcome flag is practically an advertisement for them to hang out there, but I swear they started showing up before I hung that!

Finally, a peek at how my margarita potato vine is doing.  This was a few weeks ago, but it's still going strong now!  Love, love, love the bright green, especially next to the purple elephant ears.  This is on the steps leading to the other front porch, the sunroom.  I realize this makes the door difficult to access, but that's intentional.  The cats like to spend time out there (while we're home), but I've found that delivery people will just open the door and put packages inside.  We lock the door, but making it clear that this isn't the main entrance helps, too!  This also discourages packages from being left on steps that are completely open to the weather.

That's where we're at with fall decorations in the Handyverger household - at least, outdoors!   How are your outdoor plants faring where you live?  I'm amazed at how well mine are doing in a New England October!

Mrs. H.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012


Hello, all!

I'm sorry to have continued to be so absent - I can't believe it's October 14th already!  We've had some trouble with one of our cats, so he's generally been the focus here at the Handyverger household.  You see...

Lancelot came to us in April, and he was initially a very fearful kitty, but his reaction to fear was aggression.  We gave him lots of time and love, and even after a month, he hadn't gotten much better.  Our poor little guy was so miserable!  So in May, we started him on an antidepressant, at the recommendation of our vet.

It definitely helped, and Lancelot began to come out of his shell.  He and our alpha cat, Karma, still don't get along, so we've been continuing to do a lot of work introducing them - and separating them as necessary.

Lance explores our friends' baby carrier.  
Or, "My new bed," as he likes to call it.

In August, Lancelot scared us by having a seizure.  Mr. Handyverger was working in his office, and he heard a loud thump.  When he came into the dining room, he found Lancelot in the middle of a seizure.  It stopped, Lance had an emergency trip to the vet (who stayed past closing on a Friday to take care of him), and then he had blood work the next day.  Almost everything came back normal.  Except one result that suggested he might have FIP (feline infectious peritonitis) - or he'd been exposed to the virus that causes it.  This nasty little virus normally just causes a stomach bug for cats, but in some cats, it hides in some of their white blood cells, then mutates to make the cells start attacking the cat's body.  It's one of the Big Bads of cat diseases.  There is no cure.  There is only supportive treatment, and it is ultimately fatal - and we lost a cat to it six years ago.  The test only showed that he'd been exposed to the virus, but we were on high alert.

Lancelot did fine until the end of September, while I was in Alaska.  He had another seizure then.  And he had a third on October 4th.  We were pretty sure it was "just" epilepsy, but it could have been quite a few other things - liver disease, some infectious disease infecting his brain, a structural abnormality, a tumor... that's the scary list.

So last Monday we took little Lancelot to the neurologist.  He was not a happy kitty, so instead of doing the work-up bit by bit, and bringing him in multiple times, we did the whole thing at once.  Lancelot had a liver work-up, including a pre- and post-fed blood test.  He had a spinal tap.  He had an MRI.

Lance snuggled up in blankets between procedures, while his anesthesia wore off.

So that was Monday.  Monday night, we came home and Lance was doing great - until the last of the anesthesia wore off, and he started feeling miserable.  He went and sat in the litterbox - which he never does.  Not just used it - sat in it.  Poor kitty.  After a panicked call to the hospital where his procedures were done, we decided to wait it out, since it probably was just the anesthesia.  We moved Lance to our bed, turned the lights out and let him rest.  It was a long, scary night, but he was back to himself by morning.

Lance stalking moths.  Moths are awesome. 
And yummy.

And later in the day Tuesday, the neurologist called with the good news that everything came back normal - it really is "just" epilepsy.  We started him on medicine Wednesday, and he seems to be doing just fine.  And that's the story of why I've been absent. I hope to have a few posts in the upcoming week, now that we're sure what's going on with our boy.  Thanks for understanding!

Yes.  That's an inhaler in the background.  For one of our other cats.  
And pills.  For another cat.  Aren't cats supposed to be easy? ;)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall Entry

Monday, Monday, Monday.  Ugh.  Even if I'm not working, there's just something about Mondays.  Of course, maybe it's the dentist appointment that's coming later in the day... never my favorite thing!

On a brighter note, I did a little updating of the Handyverger entryway for fall.

I'm still waiting for a nice, sunny day to be able to take better pictures, but patience has never really been my strong suit.  The wreath on the door is looking a little sparse, so I think it might be time to update or upgrade.

However, behind the door is one of my new acquisitions - another owl!

He's actually a felt placemat from Bed Bath & Beyond.  At $2, how could I say no?   I had no idea what I was going to do with the placemat, when I saw it in the store, but once I got the owl home, I realized I had the perfect spot - there was even a nail there, just waiting!

Although it's not the clearest of pictures, this one shows the pretty candlelight, and a hint of one of my weekend projects.  I made plushie pumpkins!

The only one I didn't make is the patchwork pumpkin, but I whipped the other three up Saturday afternoon.  I used this tutorial from Brown Paper Packages, and it wasn't hard at all.  I sewed them by hand, since I was way too lazy to get out my sewing machine for this.  The tutorial is really well laid out, and it should be easy for even a novice sewer.

The only advice I would give is that when you're gathering the vertical seams (the ribs in the pumpkins), gather them as tightly as you can and tie the thread off.  (This will make more sense if you read the tutorial and/or try it yourself.)  Once that's done, start stuffing, and make sure you take lots of little pieces of stuffing and wedge them into all the little pockets that the gathering has made.  The rust colored pumpkin looks a little flatter than the others, and I think that's because I didn't gather the seams as tightly as I could have.  That made it harder to stuff the pumpkin to wonderful plumpness.  The green microsuede pumpkin is the last one I made, and by then I'd gotten the hang of the gathering and stuffing. I plan to make a few more, here and there, just because I think they're adorable.

Mrs. H.

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