Pump-kin Up the Volume: Quick Halloween Home Decor Tip

Here's a quick and easy Halloween home decor tip. Most grocery stores like Kroger and Trader Joe's have affordable fall mums. I know I regularly throw one into the cart.

Halloween Home Decor Tip

Next time you are at the store, also pick up one of the $.99 plastic pumpkins. My daughter hates these things. (I believe it's because they don't hold enough candy.) 

Anyway, I love them. They are so nostalgic to me. I have old photos where my brother Jim and I are running through our lawn in Massachusetts with pumpkins in hand. I believe we played with these pumpkins for months around Halloween time. 
Here's the easy way to combine these two fall favorites. 
Halloween Home Decor TIp
  1. Slip your mum out of its floral wrapper. 
  2. Remove the pot and throw it away. 
  3. Place the mum back into its floral wrapper. This is very important so you don't water your counter when you water. 
  4. Slide the mum in its floral wrapper into the pumpkin. 
  5. Done! 
The pumpkin looks a little like its wearing a punk rocker (or Pumpkin Rocker) costume for the season. Remember to water your new dude. 

Halloween Fall Decor Tip Plastic Pumpkin

From Williamsburg to Gettysburg and Why You Can Never Go Home Again

There’s an old saying that “you can't go home again.” It comes from a Thomas Wolfe novel. And though I’m a fan of Southern literature, I found the book to be perfectly unreadable. So the phrase’s meaning has never been clear. For our recent vacation, we combined a trip to Williamsburg and Gettysburg with a visit to my old home in rural Virginia. I think I now understand the meaning of that phrase. Here’s my story of our old fashioned road-trip.

Beautiful murals of the Homestead Hotel in the Homestead Hotel in Hot Springs, Virginia. A must-see sight. 

Our first stop, once we entered Virginia, was my hometown of Hot Springs. Though my family has long since moved away, the 1899 Victorian where I grew up has become the King Family Victorian Inn. Our hosts and everything was elegant, right down to the breakfast served with crystal and china. But, more about going home later. Down the road, we toured our town’s resort, the Homestead. Part of the National Trust’s Historic Hotels group, it is a beautiful sprawling place, steeped in history. As part of our visit, we also swam in the 250-year-old Jefferson Springs and visited my old BFF Nancy.

The water at the Jefferson Springs really is this crystal clear and beautiful.

Next, we drove to see Yorktown, site of the last major battle of the American Revolution. It was hot as Hades that day. We drove the historic driving route in our air conditioned car and got out to walk quickly around the sites before running back to our car. The funniest thing of all was an entry in the Visitor’s Center registry where guests share comments. One person had written, “It is so hot I could cry.” That was it. Nothing about history or the park. We cracked up.  

Our trip went next to Williamsburg where we stayed in a Colonial Lodge right beside the historic area. The best part of all was walking the deserted streets at night. Looking through a Tavern window (tip: make dinner reservations in advance), we saw women wearing colonial caps and a man played the fiddle. It felt like a hundred years ago. It was eerie and thrilling.

By day, Williamsburg is a must-see site. It was preserved in time because of a passionate history buff with a big idea and a Rockefeller with loads of money. There are blocks and blocks preserved in the colonial period and reenactors. We were pleased to get our walking tour guide all to ourselves. We strolled at our leisure and learned all the great stories. Did you know Martha Washington was probably a babe? And a rich babe at that. It turns out that many scenes from the AMC series Turn on Washington’s spies are filmed there. And like proper parents, we endeavored to show greater excitement for the real historic sites than the filming sites. I think we pulled that off pretty well.

Gettysburg was our last stop and well worth a full day. We took a bus tour, but walking the hallowed grounds would have been even better. Many Americans died there and fought for their beliefs during the Civil War. The Gettysburg Address was of course delivered there too. The kids will hopefully remember that or at least the apples they fed to the re-enactor’s horses. We can only hope.

With this trip back through the past, I find myself thinking more about home. The house where I grew up was restored by my dad and mom. As kids, we spent our weekends helping sand floors, sheet-rock walls, paint, wallpaper and garden. 

As I walked around the old place, I found myself looking for traces of my family. I snapped a picture of an old bathroom heater switch my dad installed to show it to him. 

All touches of my late mother’s wallpaper are gone. But she would be pleased at that. Ever a woman of class and style, she would eschew wallpaper now too. She would certainly be proud of the elegance too. I told our host Mrs. King that. 

As I toured my mom’s old room though, I found myself whispering her name, “Mom.” Really. I did. I'm not kidding. I guess I was missing her. But she’s not there. She’s elsewhere, someplace better. But not there. My siblings, aren’t there either. They are all well and living elsewhere from California to New York to Georgia. But my mom, it has been a long time.

So from this trek through the past, I think I finally understand the bittersweet truth of why “you can't go home again.” 

It's because truly, home is only a memory. 

It really never was just a place. 

Margee Moore is a marketing professional and mother of two. She is author of the book, Sleeping with the Laundry and you can follow her on the Facebook of the same name.  

How I Almost Threw Out the Most Beautiful Part of My Kitchen

When we purchased our 1870s home, it came with several pieces that were very appropriate to the period of the home. The previous owner Mr. Hoffman who had restored it was a collector and a fan of period pieces. One very distinctive and lovely piece was this Reliable, American Made Stove. This thing is lovely. 

However, it was restored to the original condition meaning open flames that were constantly on like a pilot light. 

Old House Diary Reliable American Made Antique Stove

When we were first in the house, we tried to work with it. One Sunday, my daughter and I were cooking up our meals for the week, when I turned my back to it. It went Vroof. I looked back at my daughter. 

"Are you alright Mom?" She asked looking at me with large eyes and blinking.

"Yes," I said. "What happened?"

"The flames shot out from the stove but seemed to part away from you." 

Well chalk that up to the Old House Diary ghost or my guardian angel I was fine. But the stove had to go. 
Old House Diary Reliable Antique StoveI did some research on the web and found a place in Michigan that specialized in old stoves. (AntiqueStoves.com) The owner was fantastic. He could date my stove to the 1920s and said some of its parts were from Germany and had the original "swastika" on them which was a symbol that meant love and peace before Hitler took over the symbol. 
He valued it at about a couple grand. It would be $3,000 to bring up to current standards, but when that was done its value would be about $18,000. 
Sounds nice, but who has $3,000 sitting around. So I was going to sell it.

But after looking around the kitchen, I realized the previous owners had designed the entire kitchen to match this stove. I needed to get clever. 
Old House Diary Reliable Stove Close Up

So what we did was we searched for a "drop in" range like the kind you would drop into a counter top. We needed the exact dimensions to fit. 

We got pretty close. Our plumber Phil then shut off the gas to all the ovens and units, essentially making it into a counter top. 
Old House Diary: How to Retrofit an Antique Stove
 Phil cut a piece of laminate to fill in the space that didn't fit to the right. He dropped in the range top and it works great. It's now more safe for an active family.

When people stop in to visit, the kitchen always gets a complement for the stove.

Margee Moore is a marketing professional and mother of two. She blogs about family and restoring her 1870s home for Old House Diary and Moxiemom. She is author of the book, Sleeping with the Laundry: Notes from the Mommy Track. 

The Power of Gratitude

Here's a quick lesson in marketing from a cottage industry crafter on the other side of the globe. Earlier this year, I purchased a unique poncho on Etsys from a lady in Turkey.
I had reached out to this Etsys shop owner Bilges to see if she could create her striped poncho in custom colors of the Irish flag for St. Patrick's Day. 
We spent time back and forth on the site looking at the colors. We agreed and she hand knit my poncho. It arrived in time for the holiday, directly from Turkey. The global community of crafters that is Etsys never ceases to amaze me, one world indeed. I truly believe commerce and trade is the way to world peace.

So here's the lesson we can take back to our savvy digital marketing world: it is that there is power in authentic gratitude. Along with my poncho, a handwritten card was included in the package.
In the note, she shared her joy in creating the poncho and included a small token from her culture before asking sincerely for a rating which would help her grow her business. Of course I happily helped out by spreading the joy with a 5-star rating. 

Sometimes it's the small thoughtful extra touches that build a relationship. In business we can apply this to something as simple as sending a handwritten card at the close of a project. Maybe even a gift basket of cookies or fruit for an office. The reminder here is to pause to say thanks. 

Margee Moore is an inbound marketing professional, digital marketing consultant and mother of two teens. She is author of the book Sleeping with the Laundry: Notes from the Mommy Track available on Amazon. 

Much Ado About A Do

The other day I tried on this new fake hair scrunchie that's a long ponytail style. 
"You look like Barbie," my daughter said.

OK. I was thinking. Barbie has been an architect, scientist, paleontologist, astronaut, maybe even President. So I'm thinking, OK, compare me with Barbie. That sounds good. 

"Yeah," she continued, "Barbie's Mom. You look like Barbie's Mom."

"Umm. Thanks?" I said. I don't think that's quite a complement. 

HomeHack Tip 101-103: Everything Old Is New Again

There's a time and a place for IKEA furniture so don't get me wrong. I like an IKEA sofa as much as the next person. But there are times when you need a stately, high-quality, kick-a** impressive piece of furniture. 

As the steward/keeper/number 1 fan of an old home, we've been taking our time to purchase select pieces one by one. If you know me you know this is also because we are very, very frugal too.

TIP 1: So in this week's OldHouseDiary home decor hack, my tip for affordable decorating is to find a small local antique dealer who loves what he or she does. There are sleepy little antique stores everywhere once you start to look. 

Near us, we found this great place Every Now and Then. 

You are looking for a place has their fingers on the pulse of sales. Dereck seems to know the estate sales and gets new pieces in each month. Keep in mind you don't really want a fancy shop like the ones on King Street in Charleston, where everything is overpriced.
TIP 2: Also look for pieces that can be redone. This little table above was stripped, darkened and amazingly underneath had a beautiful inlay on the top. 

TIP 3: Stop by your antique store every now and then. That way you can see what's new and scoop it up as well as keep your eye on the pieces you are watching. This amazing bedroom furniture set was made locally. It is made of mahogany and has mother of pearl inlays as well as brass and walnut inlays too. 
We know it was made locally because of the letter in it from 1928 where they are matching the beds to the dresser, back when America and particularly Cincinnati and the Midwest were places where people made stuff. Hopefully, with things like local craft beers on the rise, other locally made items will come back too and I'm hopeful for an American Renaissance. Meanwhile, I'll just keep my eye out for special pieces. Hope these tips are helpful. 

Our Lady of Grace: Remembering My Late Aunt Evie Byrnes-Mast

If we are lucky in this world we are surrounded by women who are kind, inspiring and good friends. If we are truly lucky, we may have a special role model. My late Aunt Evie was that person for me.

She was taken too soon by pancreatic cancer at the age of 81. She was a bright light in my life. Most of all I would say she was a woman of grace. She was a true lady of calmness and kindness. She spread wisdom everywhere and in every conversation. This seemed to be a natural outcropping of being the oldest daughter in her family of 11 children. It’s hard to describe what made my aunt so special, but here are some stories that I hope show ways she lived with grace.  

Putting Family First
As my mom’s older sister, my Aunt Ev was there right after my birth. Though my family moved all over the country, my aunt made it a point to visit every year despite her busy career. As a young child, I remember singing, “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes” for hours before her arrival. And she didn’t disappoint. She greeted us with hugs and excitement.

Family was important to Ev. She was a natural for her job as eldest daughter. After college, Ev got a job working for AT&T and was ready to move to the big city. But a trip home helped her realize that she didn’t know her younger siblings well. She decided instead to move back home to live with her family at a time when people didn’t typically think about moving home.

Giving the Gift of Time
Most of all, my aunt Ev made everyone around her feel special. When my mom had passed away, Ev was the one to be there for my daughter’s birth. She came a week early to get to know my son’s routine. On the day of my daughter’s birth she was the first person besides my husband to greet her. 

She and my son arrived at the hospital with a playdough birthday cake they had made together that morning. She was there for my daughter’s birthday every year after that.   
Her way of making people feel special was to spend time getting to know each person. When I went with my kids to visit her and my Aunt Ellen one time in Highlands, North Carolina, I watched as they all found sticks, safety pins and strings to create fishing poles. My aunts then took the kids to a pond to fish and feed the ducks. It all felt so familiar. And then I remembered trips with them myself as a child to the riverfront near their family home in New York. Some things stand the test of time.  

Living a Strong Belief
My Aunt Ev’s faith was strong and abiding, both in the almighty and the people she loved. As part of my first job, I was in a 10 week training program with a “Pass or Fire” test at the end. I was worried about passing the test. “When you were young,” she told me, “You would put your nose in a book and you would concentrate so much, you could not hear anyone around you. You have great concentration skills. You can do it.” I quit stressing and passed the test. She paid attention to each person in her life.    

Her advice and beliefs also shaped my life. As a young person out of college, we were watching the TV in her kitchen and I asked her thoughts about gay marriage or something. “Marg,” she said. “I believe everyone deserves a little happiness.” This shaped my view on so many things in life.  

Ev also welcomed me into her Atlanta family. While I lived there, I was often invited to family dinners with her husband Kurt and step kids. I was making the salad one time and left too much water on the lettuce. She patiently showed me how to do it correctly. (Who knew the “Salad Spinner” existed?) She said, “What’s worth doing, is worth doing right.” This also shaped my life, plus I never made a soggy salad again. 

Walking with Grace
Ev was a woman of grace. Her words were always kind and thoughtful (even with the soggy salad incident). When I visited her this January, she was struggling after a bout with pneumonia on top of the cancer. She told me a story of how she cried all the way home after a visit with our family and her sister, my mom. She teared up. I asked her why she was crying. She said, “It just feels like such a very long time since we’ve been together.” Well, they are together now.

It seems hard to believe Ev is gone from this world and I’m not sure how to get through it. So, rather than look at the loss, I count myself lucky to have had the time I did with Ev in my life. I have a ring she gave me and I’ll wear it often as a small reminder to strive to walk with grace like her.  

Margee Moore is a marketing professional, mother of two and author of Sleeping with the Laundry: Notes from the Mommy Track.