“Ketchup” Time


Isn’t this the truth?

Well, this is a “ketchup” blog post. Even to me, it seems like forever since my last entry. One of the reasons for the delay is that Greg and I were on vacation the week of August 22nd. We stayed in the Florida panhandle town of Seaside, which is a quaint little venue like no other. It is full of great restaurants, million dollar “cottages”, an outdoor ampitheater & an oudoor marketplace called Perspicacity. And of course, it boasts one of the world’s best beaches:



We rented a guest cottage that was part of a larger property. Since this is our only alone time of the year, we always opt for 1-bedroom accommodations, and have always been pleased with our stays. That is, until this year. Our choice of properties was awful! For instance, the interior of the cottage had not been painted in (my estimate) 10 years, the floor tile was cracked, the kitchen was ill-equipped and ugly, the bathrooms sported leaky faucets, and the downstairs toilet flushed hot water constantly. (Sitting on that toilet was a bit unnerving; the bowl was hot, and it felt like a powder keg that would blow at any moment!  ;>()

The master bedroom was okay, but the floor was white painted plywood, with black nails used to tack it down, and in lieu of a closet, there were wooden pegs on the walls. Unfortunately, when you tried to hang something on them, they would fall off the wall!

Needless to say, we have lodged a formal complaint with the rental agency, and are awaiting a reply. However, lest you think that the problems with our accommodations ruined our vacation, you would be mistaken. The weather was perfect; we did not encounter any rain, and some days there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Also, the kids were back in school, so the property was so quiet. Most days, we had the entire adult pool to ourselves.

We did a lot of this:



And a whole lot of this:


No families with kids meant no waiting times at our favorite restaurants. Our first morning there, we had brunch at the fabulous Great Southern Café in Seaside (whose motto is “good grits”, and yes, of course I bought a t-shirt ;>). I had a fried green tomato eggs Benedict with smoked gouda grits that was out of this world. The rest of the week, I feasted on crab cakes!

We ate a lot, drank our fair share of wine, slept in, read books, and watched the sun go down from the third floor deck on our cottage (it’s only saving grace!)


And as much as we love our mountains, there’s a piece of us that now feels like this:


And by February, this will certainly be true!


Another “ketchup” item: Faith is finally is Georgia, living with her Nana (LeeAnn)! Her brother opted to stay in Virginia with his uncle. Thankfully, the state of Virginia’s Child & Family Services finally gave the green light for her to travel here on August 4th, just in time to start school on August 5th! She is so lovely. Below is a picture of her on the first day of school:


and on school picture day:


Apparently, living in Georgia agrees with her.  On her first report card, she scored all As & Bs!

And the final “ketchup” item is what I accomplished before vacation. (Hint: Not a lot, unless you consider doing 4 weeks of ironing worthy of consideration.) The only big, creative spurt (sputter?) I had, resulted in fixing the framing of a print I purchased at a local thrift store that benefits pet adoption services. I loved the art, but the dark matting, surrounded by a thin, white, badly painted, embossed wooden frame, reminded me (alright, I know this is a weird comparison) of a man wearing white socks with dark sandals (trust me; it’s a Boston thing!) Unfortunately, I forgot to take the pic before I removed the frame :>{


So I thought it would be a piece of cake to just flip the mats and cover the frame. However, upon opening the frame & removing the print, it became clear that the print and its matting were glued together, in a bond that would never come asunder. OK, it was time for a Plan B. I got out my trusty paints, and painted the large navy blue mat a light gray (still not sold on the color, but it is what it is). On the inner, pine green mat, I used a gold Sharpie-like pen to add a hint of bling. The frame received my usual torn paper bag treatment, which I stained a dark color prior to clear-coating. I really like the results:



While on vacation, I thought of all the things I wanted to do to our downstairs apartment. It is so messy down there, primarily because not all of the new cabinets have been installed (due to the eternal plumbing work that must be competed). Upon returning home, however, the reality of the energy required to accomplish all of my wish list items left me defeated before I even got going. As usual, the Minions express my thoughts so perfectly!


However, after pushing aside the mental whining, last week, I finished painting the downstairs kitchen/living area walls. I am also refinishing 2 chairs (Greg’s hand-me-down classic wood desk chair, and a unique hand-made chair that sported a hideous streaky brown finish; Greg’s sister & her husband bequeathed it to us. Pics to follow…

It’s had to believe that summer is over. For those of you who are bummed at the thought, this is a reminder of the beauty that awaits:


Posted in catching up, luv those minions, reframing a thrift store print, vacation | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Living Room Re-Do, The Reveal

First things first: Bear was demoted on Friday night. We went out to dinner at a new (to us) farm-to-table restaurant in Jasper (a town that’s about 16 miles south of Ellijay). Our pup sometimes gets very “put out” when he’s not invited to go along for a ride. Clearly, he was miffed on Friday night. When we walked in the door, we were greeted by a carpet of torn foam rubber; he had eaten his dog bed! Not immediately noticed in the debris was one of two throw pillows I had just made for the new armchairs! No applause for that prank. I was definitely not amused. Bear is once again what he has always been: Chief Home Destructor.

Next, I have to give a huge helping of thanks to my wonderful husband. He pitched in to get the living room in order today, so I could photograph it as we will probably never see it again. :>{. Greg is in the process of constructing 2 outbuildings on our land. One of them (the smaller one) is nearly completed. It will house Dad’s riding mower & miscellaneous yard tools. The second building will be quite a bit larger, and will serve as his woodworking shop. Anyway, after working for hours in the scorching sun, he willingly worked to put the living room into a presentable state.  Love that man!

Now, here is an aerial view of the finished space. Sorry that the chandelier is in the way, but from this perspective, you get an idea of the furniture placement and the scale of everything:

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Here is a close-up of the new chairs (minus their custom pillows!) with my thrift store table between them. I also swapped out the picture that was under my great-grandfather’s gun with a favorite one from the Sonoma wine country, that pulls all of the room’s colors together:


And the coffee table:


This is the reupholstered love seat; it is sporting new bolster pillows (which we must store out of Bear’s reach, since he also ate one of them several months ago!)

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Here is the back of the sofa. You can see the upholstery tacks that hold it together. Thankfully, the table that resides behind it hides a multitude of sins. From this vantage point, it looks almost professional, eh? Also prominently displayed in this picture is a Bombay treasure chest that went from plain mahogany to colorful Moroccan with decoupage & and tinted wax:

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And finally, here is a shot of the rug with the coral wall color. The slipper chair is wearing the surviving throw pillow. If you look very closely, you will see a pile of dog toys that didn’t quite make it out of the picture’s reach!  ;>}


And the last item is a cute little collapsible table that I bought on ebay. It sports removable brass trays.  I am not a fan of those, so will be looking for replacements (or maybe spray paint?) fot them. I love the size and utility of the piece, since it leaves lots of walking space in our very narrow area:

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Well, that’s all folks, except for this Minion pic that I think is hilarious (especially since I can relate to it!). Enjoy!


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Living Room Re-Do, The Process

OK…Before I start rolling on this newest post, I must make a major organizational announcement. (Drum roll, please!) Bear’s position has been elevated from HDE (House Destruction Expert) to CDC (Chief Design Consultant)! He is very full of his bad self as a result of this promotion.


What, you are probably wondering, caused this change of heart on my part? Well, as I was working on putting our living room back together (in advance of several groups of friends who are coming to visit next month, and because the Holidays will be here before you know it!), I realized that the pieces (the loveseat & the wool area rug) that Bear destroyed during his puppy days, were not good design decisions on my part. Truly, I never liked the fabric color and texture on the loveseat (the back of the loveseat is visible below):

moved sofa table

 The rug was nice, but the colors were very subdued, and it wouldn’t stop shedding:


Truly, I love the replacements so much better. Bear clearly understands my design style, so he zeroed in on the pieces that just did not work. That, my friends, is talent! In the future, if something gets eaten, we will react with applause instead of tears! ;>}


Back to the process of re-decorating the living room. Just before the Memorial Day week-end, we hauled our faded, 20-year-old wing chairs, whose seat cushions had mashed down to “pancake status”, (sitting in them killed Dad’s back!) to a local consignment shop, along with Dad’s end tables, & his heavy, federal-style round coffee table.


He is actually the one who stated that the table just didn’t seem to work in the room. (Hooray! I was glad he came to that conclusion on his own!) Truthfully, I doubt any of the pieces sold, but at least they are no longer in the house.

Once the green light was given, I found a coffee table online on clearance (at Overstock.com). It was exactly what I wanted, & the price was extremely affordable.


Next, I found an end table at a local thrift shop for $35. It was solid wood, with a maple finish. I used chalk paint, and it now matches the finish on the new coffee table. Even the legs have similar turnings!


The rug is the big “pop of color” in the room, along with the coral walls. I wanted something lively & different. When I found this one on erugs.com, I knew it was THE ONE! (The listing described the background color as hot pink, but there is a lot of orange mixed in with the pink, so it works fine with the walls.) The good news is that it is polypropylene, so no shedding; and, I defy anyone to locate stains on it (very important with 2 dogs, & 2 grandsons!)


With all of that color (many would say “too much color”!), it was imperative to keep the upholstery very neutral. You saw a preview of the chairs several posts ago, but here are close-ups of the real thing; I love the carvings!


The loveseat, likewise, is very neutral. I used an off-white denim fabric to reupholster it. The original plan was to use a bright yellow fabric as piping on the arms & the seat cushion, but my zipper foot couldn’t handle the original plastic material used for piping, so that design detail was eliminated.

Let me be very clear about the re-upholstery project: it ain’t for the faint of heart! The how-to video I used was very clear about the process you should use when removing the original cover. First, as they are removed, each piece must be labeled, i.e., left arm, top, & bottom of the piece. (This may seem stupid, but I never made a firm determination which was the actual left or right of the loveseat; i.e., as you are standing & looking at it, or as you are seated on it.) Don’t laugh…an upholstery piece, when removed from its home, looks like a giant puzzle piece, & is generally unrecognizable as a left or right arm cover!

Next rule: Take lots of notes & pictures as you deconstruct the piece. I took a few notes, but since my writing is unintelligible even to me, they were few and far between. My phone & ipad were not conveniently located, so I never took any pics. :>{

However, as we all know:


My project required a lot of sewing, unlike the one on the video. No problem with that, except the large, single seat cushion that I ordered on the internet. It was not the prettiest job (on the sides & back), but looks fine from the front, which is really all that matters.

Lessons learned: It takes a lot of hand strength to successfully reupholster anything. You need 2 people to do the job. However, it is important when you are pulling and stretching the fabric that it gets pulled equally in every direction. The mistake that Dad & I made when we applied the seat back (in the front of the loveseat, as opposed to the actual back!) is that the fabric was tugged too far to the left, which meant that there wasn’t quite enough fabric to fold over and cover the staples on the right arm cover. Fabric glue (E6000) helped, but I am thinking that a strategically placed throw might be a good decorative accessory for that side of the loveseat. ;>)

Our big “waterloo” came when we tried to attach the back piece (which, naturally was the LAST PIECE!) Theoretically, you only staple the back at the top of the loveseat; the remainder of the fabric folds down over those staples. Easy enough. The real issue comes with attaching the sides. Clearly, you cannot staple them, because the staples would show. The professionals use stretchers, which are flexible bars with long metal prongs sticking out of them. We saved the stretcher bars from our loveseat, but no matter how many times we tried to install them, we got saggy, baggy-looking sides. Plus, the metal teeth were falling out at an alarming rate! (Why is it that the last step in a difficult project always seems to be the most treacherous?)

It was time for Plan B. With the finish line in sight, I had to figure out a “kludge” to make the back of the loveseat presentable. (In our living room, it’s the first thing you see when you enter the house!) So I got out my trusty stapler and tacked the sides down. Ultimately, to cover the staples, I ordered Dritz upholstery tacks on a strip, so the spacing of the tacks would be would be uniform. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we could do.

Another thing I did (which in retrospect was probably a mistake) when the loveseat was in pieces, was to paint its wooden feet an off-white. Now, it looks like the piece is not grounded. Lesson learned!

The next post (Part 2) will be the living room reveal. You might wonder how difficult it would be to just take a picture & add it right here. Well, the entire family is needed to clean up Bear’s toys, torn boxes, empty juice bottles, and his personal favorite, plastic bubble wrap in order to make the living room presentable:


Also, the CDC spends most of his day relaxing on the newly upholstered loveseat:


Clearly, it gets his stamp of approval. He especially likes the fact that there is no crack between cushions. The problem is, it must be constantly covered with a painter’s canvas to keep it clean.

This weekend we will all do our best to clean up the space so that it will be picture-worthy!

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Sitting Pretty!

My apologies to my readers (if I have any left!). The post below was written on June 30th, and I flat forgot to publish it!  The total living room reveal will be disclosed this weekend (unless I forget to write about it) :>{


The living room chairs arrived yesterday. UPS always delivers to our house late in the evening, so we just left them, unopened, in their boxes after they arrived.

Now it is time for me to fess up. I have secretly been hyperventilating over those chairs ever since I have pushed the “confirm purchase” button online. In fact, I was so sure that I would hate them, that before I even got out of bed this morning, I had an online “chat” with an Overstock rep, just to find out if the return shipping would break the bank! (Please note: Self-flagellation over decisions made seems to be my favorite pastime, lately ;>} When I was told that it would be all of $16.31 to ship each chair back, a flood of relief washed over me!

But you know I just had to peek inside one of the boxes. Greg told me that one of the cardboard boxes had a hole in the side, and one of the top flaps was open, anyway. Being careful not to disturb the wrapping inside (no problem on that front, since someone had removed the chair, and then replaced it in the box, and not in a very neat fashion, either!), I pushed aside the packing material.

What I saw of the chair totally exceeded my expectations! The wood carvings on the arms and legs were beautiful, and the upholstery was well done. I had pictured a muslin-type fabric (why? I have no clue. It’s part of the “why on earth did I order that” syndrome!) The reality is that the chairs are covered in what looks like an oatmeal linen, but is probably more akin to a duck cloth. What’s not to like?

So Greg screwed the legs on, and we sat in it. Now, comfort is a personal thing. The chairs are quite stiff, so your posture definitely improves when you’re seated. Dad loves a stiff chair, so after taking it for a road test, he pronounced that he could “deal with it” (which, in Dad-speak, means he loves it!) Greg said he thought they were uncomfortable; his tush prefers a nice, soft cushion, so he chooses to occupy the loveseat.

Clearly, the chairs have found a home. The second one will be sprung from its box and the legs will be assembled. They have not been Scotchguarded (why the heck not?) so, before anyone starts using them on a regular basis, that is job one!

Speaking of the loveseat, it has been half disassembled, in preparation for the big reupholstery event. Am I nervous about tackling it? Hell, yes! However, in the spirit of thrift and timeliness, I watch the same online video every day that shows step by step how it’s done. Of course, my loveseat is much more complex than the video diva’s (mine requires sewing; most are no-sew re-dos).

The upcoming long weekend is “do or die” for the loveseat project; it will be finished (successfully or otherwise), by Sunday. The good news is that the fabric I chose for this job is a natural denim, so pattern matching and directional issues won’t be factors. In fact, it should look very similar to the material on the new chairs. The only difference will be the addition of contrasting welting on the loveseat’s arms and seat cushion.

And now for a “Flynn” update…you remember my “Howdy Neighbor” post about Brian Patrick Flynn? Well, I saw him yesterday, sitting outside the Cantaberry restaurant in downtown Ellijay. There was no, mistaking that it was him. I was so excited. My daughter was driving (I can’t drive anymore :>[). I yelled “there he is”, but of course she had no idea who “he” was. Maybe, my next sighting, I will be able to say hello. The good news (for me) is that he clearly still lives here!

Finally, since this is a true confessions post, I must admit that I love the Minions! Pinterest is full of hilarious quotes by those funny little whatever they are.   For me, the draw is that these cuties are able to say the really politically incorrect things most of us think, but are afraid to utter. So these adorable creatures speak them for us!


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Serious Stuff, & Then “Whatever”…

First, I must ask for your prayers for my dear friend LeeAnn. She learned on Father’s Day (which was also her husband Mark’s birthday), that her daughter, Christin, had been shot and killed in Virginia..  The circumstances of how this happened are under investigation; the original phone call suggested that it was suicide, but that notion has been dispelled, I think.

This incident is particularly painful, since Christin, whose past problems necessitated the removal of her children to foster care, seemed to be getting her life back in order.

On Monday, on the trip to Virginia to claim her daughter’s body, LeeAnn felt ill (difficulty breathing, and a weight on her chest!), and had to be rushed to the hospital when they arrived at the hotel.  Thankfully, her son and his family were with her!

Everyone thought it was a heart attack, and she was scheduled for stent surgery.  However, it was determined that she was suffering from “broken heart” syndrome, as well as pneumonia, so no surgery was performed. She was released from the hospital today, and is on her way back to Elllijay.

The funeral will be held on Sunday.

Love you, my friend…


Speaking of Ellijay, we hit the big time!  “Garden & Gun” magazine (one of my favorite publications!) listed Ellijay as one of the South’s best small town escapes, in their June/July issue. If interested, check out the following article:



Have you ever wanted to replace an item in your home, but were unable to find anything you liked, or could afford?

For months, I have been shopping online for arm chairs for our living room. Should be easy, right? Not at all! If you have priced chairs lately, you know how expensive they are.  $700-1000 per chair is not uncommon for the really quality pieces. That might be do-able for a single seat, but I need a matching pair!

If I found a style I liked and could afford, the wood and/or upholstery colors were not suitable.  If style and color were ideal, the price eliminated the possibility.

Ideally, I wanted small profile chairs, that are styled with exposed wooden frames and arms. Since we use the living room constantly, the chairs get a lot of use; the upholstery takes a beating, especially the arms. When I couldn’t find anything affordable that met my criteria, I ordered a pair of leather chairs from Grandin Road:


I loved the size and color of these, but was very concerned about the leather holding up to dogs’ toe nails!  When the shipping date of my order was delayed from July 13 to August 10, I canceled it, and went back to the drawing board.

On Tuesday of this week, I spent the entire day shopping for chairs. I looked at 5000+ chairs, and finally found one on Overstock.com that fit the bill:


However, there were no reviews available for this item (and I definitely rely on reviews from other customers, before I place online orders). The cover is white, which is far from practical. But I went ahead and placed my order for a pair, with the hope that the frames are sturdy; they can be easily reupholstered.  UPS delivers them on Monday…

I guess you wonder how a French-y style chair fits into a mountain home. Well…I no longer even pretend to decorate to fit the style of my house. It is what it is, and my taste, clearly, is not going to change, at this late date!

We ordered a 7×10’ rug (polypropelene, this time, instead of wool!) to replace the one that Bear chewed up. It is a very bright color and pattern.  Also, I am going to undertake my first attempt at re-upholstering anything.  After calling the pros and being told they might be able to work on my loveseat in January or February, I ordered a pneumatic stapler, and 12,000 staples (hope that’s enough! ;>) I also have, as reference, a couple of video tutorials that explain all.

Pictures of the new living room will be forthcoming shortly. I still have to order a replacement seat cushion to replace the one that Bear ate. Instead of the 2 cushions that the loveseat originally sported, I will use a single one. That way, no one has to sit on “the crack”, and (theoretically), a single cushion will be more difficult to “attack”, than smaller ones.

It is pretty sad to have to think about such things, but such is life with a Bear! ;>)

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Tray Chic!

Betcha think I’ve been lolling around on a chaise, popping bon-bons in my mouth!  Not a chance.  I have been very busy, but by the lack of blog posts, you would never know it. Now that the rain has stopped for a while, my attention is on gardening tasks. My flowers are going bonkers from all of heavenly moisture they have received!

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There are so many half-finished indoor projects, too!  I finally tackled one that has been underway for the last 3 months!  It is the transformation of a large wooden tray that was once attached to a metal table base.  I removed the tray from the table, because its high sides made it impractical to use as an end table.  The base now sports a piece of cement board, and is going to be given a glass tile top, whenever I get a “round tuit”.  ;>}

Before I could start re-working the tray, it became apparent that Bear (who else?) had snacked on its wooden sides, causing the veneer coating to start peeling, not to mention all of the puppy tooth marks implanted in the wood.  Hmmm…stripping the finish on this inexpensive (i.e., cheaply made) piece was not high on my list of things to do, but there were serious craters and gulleys on the surface that needed to be camouflaged. Not to mention that I had tiled the tray bottom, and there was no way to remove it without destroying the piece.

So, I decided to use a low-tech solution involving brown paper bags and homemade Modg-Podge. This technique was successfully used on a previously tacky gold picture frame on the picture below.  The result looks like leather, and I love it!


The process I employed is embarrassingly simple.  It requires only that you tear the brown paper into irregular shapes, and glue (i.e., Modge-Podge) them onto the surface, overlapping as you go.  Warning:  it looks really ugly until it dries.  (I had to stop working on the tray several times, because I couldn’t believe that the end result would be worthwhile!).


Once everything was covered, (including the tile), I had to decide how to finish it. Unlike the picture frame, which received a coat of provincial stain, I decided to just leave it the original “brown paper bag”color.

I also decided that it needed something extra to “class it up”, but didn’t want anything seasonal, since the idea was to use it on the new coffee table, in the living room, year round.  I found some beautiful luncheon napkins online; they had an old-world olive motif, and I decided to go with that look.  Like a dummy, I really did try cutting out the pieces to be decoupaged from a napkin, but that was about as much fun, and productive, as herding cats.  So, I scanned the napkin patterns into my computer, pulled the images into Microsoft Publisher (for sizing and print set-up), and then copied them on my  wonderful new HP color laser printer.

The remainder of the process involved carefully cutting out the pieces of greenery and olives, finding a pleasing arrangement for the motifs on the tray (which turned out to be the most difficult part of the whole project; I’m not sure I entirely succeeded), and decoupaging them in place.


After everything was glued down, I must be honest…It looked like a tray covered in torn brown paper bags with pictures of leaves and olives glued on.  Very disappointing, and not something I wanted to display or take credit for.  :>{

However, the enormous investment in time (not to mention Elmer’s glue!) that went into this debacle made me resolve to see it through to completion.  So, I top-coated the surface with Minwax Polyshades, and…then…a miracle occurred!  My tray went from dime-store trash to family heirloom in less than 15 minutes!

And here is the finished product, perched proudly atop the new coffee table:



What a little “shine” will do!

‘Til next time…

Posted in decorating on a dime, life with a pup, tchotchkes | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Definition of Success

A woman I have known for many years lost her Father on Monday. It was his birthday, and he was 88 years old. A mutual friend delivered the news, along with a copy of a beautiful tribute her nephew wrote about his Grandfather.  Although I never met the man, reading those touching words, I felt like I had known him, too.

Which got me to thinking…What is it that constitutes a successful life?  These days, one would believe that “he who dies with the most toys wins” is the gold standard for success.  It’s all about “stuff”.   l wonder how much of the contraband we accumulate is procured to impress others, as opposed to stuff that we really want or need (like more shoes?  ;>)

According to this grandson, this Grandfather was a mountain of a man who left a huge mark on his life.  Here are some excerpts from the tribute, which recounts memories of time spent on his Grandparent’s farm:

  • Papaw has a great sense of humor.
  • You will get to ride the lawnmower and perhaps even help steer it. You’ll think you’re driving, even though Papaw is in complete control.
  • You will sit on the back porch, eating watermelon or home-made ice cream with the family. You’ll catch fireflies in the early evening. You’ll jump (or fall) off the porch and skin your knee. Papaw will be there, taking it all in and enjoying the moment.
  • A loud crack of thunder will bring you to tears because the noise scares you. But that thunder pales in comparison to when Papaw raises his voice. Fortunately, he doesn’t do it often. He rarely has to because when you get into mischief, he only has to tell you once to knock it off. Message received.
  • You might get a nickname. Like Whistle Britches. Depends on what you do when Papaw is around.
  • You’ll sit in an oversize recliner, watching sports. If our team wins, you and Papaw will enjoy the game. If they lose, you and Papaw will opine about how long the coach will last. Or you might fall asleep in the recliner. The sleep will be peaceful, satisfying. You are in a sanctuary at the farm.
  • Papaw is a man who is deeply devoted to his wife, a.k.a. Grandmama. It is their love, kindled nearly 70 years ago, that has brought to life their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Those three generations now number 32 individuals (and counting). Every single one of them is kind-hearted, loving, generous. That all comes from the example Grandmama and Papaw have lived.
  • Big Papaw loves his family. He recalls conversations he has had with people who ask if he ever wishes he had more money. His response is that he gets to watch his grandchildren grow up and that fact alone makes him richer than any man who has walked this earth. You realize Papaw has things figured out. You realize Papaw knows what’s important in life. Papaw is content. Papaw is free. Papaw is at peace.

This was a life well lived, as  a loving husband, father and grandfather. He was a role model who imparted the importance of integrity, honor, and respect in everyday life.  His grandson was allowed to witness a love that lasted 70 years.  In this age of quickie celebrity marriages and divorces, this young man knows that true love and devotion to one person are possible.  He respected his Grandfather.  Respect is a word that is sorely lacking from our vernacular today.  We don’t respect other people, their viewpoints, or their religious and social differences, and we especially do not respect our elders.  He felt safe and loved on the farm.  How many children have lots of toys, but are lacking in attention, discipline, and a structured family life?

I believe that the essence of a successful life really isn’t about money or stuff. It is about being “in the moment” with those you love.  Your time, given freely, is the greatest gift you can bestow on anyone. It is what memories are made of.  I would be so honored if my grandsons love me, and the time we spend together, the way this grandson loved and revered his Grandfather.

Rest in peace, sir.  You earned it.

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To Your Continued Health

I promised myself that this blog would be totally apolitical, and contain only breezy, newsy articles about our mountain life, and a few of the projects that I start and actually finish!  ;>)  But that was before I was diagnosed with Lyme disease.  And believe it or not, there is nothing quite as politically charged as Lyme disease in the medical world.

Bear with me on this subject, please.  It is almost summer. You and your loved ones will be spending lots of time outdoors, and the ticks can’t wait to meet you! Ticks are everywhere, and you can get Lyme disease in Charlotte, NC or Ellijay, GA as easily as you can in Lyme, CT!  Ticks never hibernate, but since most of us spend more time indoors during the cold months, and when we do emerge, we are bundled up, so we are hard to bite. Bring on the warm days and sunshine, and you are at severe risk.

To quote from the founder of the state of Kentucky’s Lyme Disease Association (almost every state has their own Lyme site; that alone should be a clue about how widespread the danger is!), here a few facts about ticks and prevention:

  • Deet is ineffective against ticks. Using a permethrin-based insect repellent is the best way to stay tick-free. (Use a light product on skin, and a heavier one on clothing.)
  • Wear tucked-in clothing and hats if in a wooded or high-grass area.
  • Ticks can sense your BREATH and come toward you!
  • If you sleep with your outdoor pets, you will have ticks on you. Our dog Pip is a regular “tick taxi”. The meds he takes prevent him from being bitten, but the bugs don’t ever turn down a free ride! :>{

Chronic Lyme is a beast that invades every nook and cranny of your body.  It affects your brain, heart, neurological system, sight, hearing, speech….you name it, and it robs you of your ability to do the simplest tasks. Your brain does not comprehend what it used to instantly understand, and the ability to multitask or even stay on task is gone.  In my case, I can barely walk, and when I do, my legs feel like jello. I have chronic pain that travels around my joints and musculature, and I can no longer write a thing that anyone, including myself, can decipher.  Add to that the clumsiness, and the falls that result in being so “out of balance”.

Lyme is caused by spirochetes, that burrow into organs; they have an amazing ability to “hide”, making it difficult for antibiotics to locate and destroy. Also, they can go dormant for months at a time, giving false hope to the infected, only to spring back with more vengeance than ever.  To add insult to injury, many Lyme patients are also the recipients of a growing list of co-infections that ticks also carry.  Each of these co-infections produces a veritable smorgasbord of symptoms and added misery.

Lyme disease, if caught early, can easily be cured with antibiotics. If you have a bulls-eye rash, that is a sure sign that you have been bitten, and are infected (although not everyone bitten develops a rash!).  You need to visit your doctor ASAP.  Don’t be surprised if you have to tell the doctor what the rash means.  Most will not recognize the most obvious symptoms, so bring a picture of a bull’s eye rash with you.  Stick to your gus; demand the meds.

The three major problems prohibiting the early detection of Lyme are:

  • Its symptoms mimic so many other diseases, such as Multiple Scleropsis, Parkinsons, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, etc. You have no idea how many people are mis-diagnosed, leading to chronic misery! I personally saw my primary care physician, 2 orthopedic specialists, 3 neurologists (one of whom was a teaching doctor at Emory, and he told me that, beyond a doubt, I had Parkinsons disease, altogether dismissing the unexplained white lesions on my brain scan!), and an infectious disease specialist, who upon meeting me, said “I don’t think you have Lyme disease”! (what a pompous jerk!)
  • The testing for Lyme is SO inaccurate! There are so many people who truly are infected, whose tests come back negative. Using Quest Labs or LabCorp standard testing procedures is a waste of time, IMHO. For an accurate assessment of your results, send your bloodwork to a qualified lab such as IGenex, (& even they sometimes return false negatives). New, more accurate tests, such as I Spot Lyme are showing great promise, but they are quite expensive, and if you choose that route, expect to pay upwards of $700 out of pocket. (Please note that as we speak, the CDC is trying to disqualify the competent labs, such as IGenex, from performing the testing, in favor of the run-of-the-mill Quest type labs. The reasoning behind this is that such a move will “level the playing field” for generic labs (i.e., Quest) to compete with the specialized labs, in order to play in the Lyme disease diagnosis arena.
  • Probably the most insidious problem with the diagnosing and treatment of Lyme is the CDC’s set of guidelines regarding Lyme disease: 1. How many new cases are reported each year (not even close to being accurate!); 2. The US map that shows that the the majority of tick bites occur in the Northeast corridor (in your dreams! They are everywhere!); 3. And the treatment guidelines for chronic patients, which are four weeks of antibiotics and BANG! You are cured!

These guidelines, drawn up by the Infectious Disease Specialists Association (IDSA), have been accepted by the CDC, and as a result, by most doctors, and insurance companies.  So when 4 weeks are up (and oh, by the way, that timeframe precludes searching for the correct combination of meds, based on an individual’s needs), your requests for reimbursement for medical treatment, medication, bloodwork, etc. are rejected.   No wonder people are going bankrupt trying to get well!

But the story really gets much murkier and more insidious.  There are doctors (too few and far between) that are very well-versed on Lyme, and its treatment protocol.   We refer to them as LLMDs (Lyme Literate Medical Doctors).  Most official Lyme blog sites will not allow you to publish your LLMD’s name, if someone asks for a recommendation. That correspondence must occur via private email.  Why?  Good question.   The reason is that many LLMDs are being sued, by the government, for misdiagnosing and mistreating  patients! Below is an appeal, published last month, by a doctor that is facing serious legal problems. Read it and draw your own conclusions:

” I have been writing this BLOG since 2008. It has been widely read with over 1.2 million page views. I hope it has been helpful. I have intentionally tried to keep this BLOG non-political. But alas, Lyme is a political disease and this is an inescapable fact.

I am in trouble now and asking for help. I have been investigated by the medical Board 3 times since 2008. The first two investigations were dropped. I am no longer under investigation; I have been charged by the Medical Board of Maryland with serious violations. The last investigation was initiated by a complaint from a major insurance company with which I previously participated with, 3 years ago.

A number of patient charts were reviewed and sent to “peer review.” My reviewers were IDSA infectious disease doctors. One of the reviewers is a well known Johns Hopkins faculty member — well known to be on a mission to stamp out doctors such as myself.

I am charged with violating the standard of care for each of 6 patient charts evaluated. In the charges ILADS’ views are entirely nullified; the standard of care is solely based on IDSA guidelines. The charges against me are serious.  I face prosecution by the Attorney General’s office of the State of Maryland at the behest of the Medical Board. The Board has informed me that the charges are public; the details are available for anyone to read. The penalties may be wide ranging and may include suspension of my license to practice medicine.

I am asking that current patients and former patients of mine to write me a letter of support describing their experiences with the medical system and their experiences with care I provided for them.  For now only send these letters to me, by email or snail mail. Thank you for your support.”  –Daniel Jaller, M.D. 15245 Shady Grove Road Suite 315 Rockville, MD  20850

This blog entry was written to enlighten and warn my readers about ticks and the diseases they carry.  Be vigilant and take preventive measures. If you get a bite, now you know what to do!  Be well, and have a safe & wonderful summer.

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Must Have Been Thinkin’ ‘Bout Drinkin’

Hey, folks!  It just occurred to me that on May 17th, we will celebrate our 4-year anniversary of mountain home ownership! The time has flown by, and so have the changes.  So…I thought it might be fun to do before and after pics, so you can get a sense of the progress that’s been made!

Spring has arrived in the Georgia mountains in a big way, bringing with it near record-high pollen levels, and of course the gorgeous plants and trees that cause our unending misery! Greg and I have been sneezing, coughing & nose-blowing for close to 2 weeks now, with no end in sight.  He claims it’s a cold, in which case he’s definitely not on my “best of buds” list, since he got sick first and gave it to me!  On the other hand, I think our sinuses are totally overloaded, because this odious malady does not resemble any cold I’ve ever had.  But you know what?  If a box of Kleenex a day is the price for this kind of beauty, right outside my front door, I will gladly pay!  Below are pics of my lonicera (honeysuckle) “Major Wheeler”, which the humingbirds love, as well as some of the azaleas under the front porch:



My current project is exacerbating the nasal misery. This week, since there was a break in the rain, I have been painting exterior doors. The original color for of the doors was no-color & no trim, either. I then painted them a SW flavor called “Robust Red”, which is really a shade of coral; it was chosen to coordinate with the faded tomato-soup-hued metal roof that was on the house when we be bought it.  However, the exteriors of the new French doors, that were installed last year on both ends of the dining room addition, were chipping badly.  Whatever plastic-y material on the doors that is used to frame around the glass did not hold paint.  So Dad primed the bad spots with Zinsser shellac primer, and we hope for the best. (Note: the first 2 pics are the front of the house when we purchased it; how sad, right?ellijay house 006)

ellijay house 001

The Robust Red door:

ellijay house sept, 2011 003

Now, I must admit that when it comes to color, I am a bit “coral-ed” out.  Having used it so liberally in the main living area, I was ready for a new hue outside.   The goal was to find a color that would complement all of the plants and trees surrounding the house, but still be bright enough to spark the grays on the siding (SW “Cityscape”) and trim (SW “Iron Ore”). On a trip to Lowe’s, I found an Allen & Roth paint chip called “Spritz of Lime”, and had a quart mixed up in a semi-gloss finish. (As an aside, I chose Olympic paint with primer, and I have to say, I will never paint with anything other than SW paint, ever again! I applied three coats, and would swear there is still some coral peeking through!)

I love the results!  The color reminds me of a Mojito, or a Lime Rickey, or a Margarita, or Sprite, or Mountain Dew.  (Perhaps I was very thirsty when I made this color selection?)  At any rate, painting the front door sparked a whole exterior spruce-up plan for the property (many pics forthcoming soon!).  Below is a photo of the front door, adorned with a newly-made wreath:


And here is a peek at the back deck (before and after), with newly painted French doors, and my work-in-progress rock garden.  Greg has a structural project build going on there, that I will unveil very soon.

ext back beforeIMG_8791

One of the best roses I have ever planted resides in this garden. I think I paid $4 for this miniature variety, whose colors resemble a Jacob’s Ladder climber.  This little plant blooms all spring, throughout the summer, and never quits until the first frost; it is also free of black mold or insect pests that stress other varieties of roses.  The only thing I do to it is sprinkle chopped banana peels around the base of the plant every other month (or when I remember to do it!)


And now for a few words of wisdom about shoes, which I must admit, are my shopping downfall (or Achilles heel? ;>) I love shoes, and try to buy a pair in every color of the rainbow, especially for this ”toes exposed” time of year.  Greg does not understand this need of mine, but I try to patiently explain that underwear and shoes are the only wearables that I cannot make myself.  For instance:

 I can (and do) make my own jewelry

I can sew my own clothes (and sometimes do)

I can make my own purses (never have, but I can!)

But I cannot make blue, pink, turquoise, lime green, or yellow shoes.   (I mean, really, unless you are decked out in a LBD, who wears black shoes in the summer??)

For those of you who share my love of souliers, here is a little printable I made just for us:

luv those shoes

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Two Surgeries in One Day!

Dad had surgery to repair his abdominal aneurysm on Friday, 4/17.  I am so grateful to report that he made it through with flying colors, with his sense of humor still intact.  Upon arriving in his room after a stint in recovery, the nurse renounced his vital signs as “perfect”, to which he replied “Good.  Can I go home now?”  ;>}

It was a very long day for all of us.  Since the operation was scheduled for 7:30 am, he had to check in by 5:30, so they could prep him for surgery. The hospital was over an hour’s drive away from home, so we were up by 3:00 am, and in the car by 4:00 am.  Not surprisingly, we made it to Cumming in exactly one hour (no traffic, for a change!).

The surgery took over 3-1/2 hours to perform.  Greg and I subsisted on Starbuck’s coffee and lots of high-carb junk food (my diet! :>()  Dad then spent 2 hours in recovery, during which time Greg and I ran out and did a little shopping (the retail possibilities near the hospital were amazing!  This mountain girl was like a kid in a candy store! The opportunity to buy stuff at a venue other than Walmart was a temptation my weak spirit could not resist.) By the time we returned to the hospital, we were notified that Dad was moved to a room.

We made sure that Dad was resting comfortably, and then left for home.  The goal was to beat the homeward bound traffic. We were so tired, and by that time, had already been gone from home for 11 hours.

Upon arriving home, we entered the living room through the garage door. The reality of the sight that greeted us did not register at first.  Denial!  The living room floor was covered with white foam rubber, and the source was a rectangle that had black springs “sproinging” out of its innards.  On closer inspection, there was a large swath of green fabric that closely resembled a prominent piece of furniture from the living room.  Horrors!  It suddenly became clear that Bear had launched a surgical strike on the not-even-1-year-old loveseat.  Clearly, he was not happy about being left alone all day.  Well, now the trifecta of destruction is complete.  The tasty wood blinds that he munched on, the wool area rug that he chewed holes into, and finally, the loveseat that now resembles a single–seater chair, all gone in a blink of an eye!

I didn’t even have a chance to capture the results of this drama with my camera. Greg was so afraid of a wifely meltdown, that he scooped up the destruction and disposed of it immediately.  However, the look on Bear’s face reminded me of this pic I found just a couple of weeks ago:


Based on this extremely bad behavior, I bet you think I am ready to kill this dog. I should be, but strangely, I am not.  The depth of love I feel for Bear surprises even me.  Something about the soulful, baleful look in those eyes, his exuberance for life, and his innocent “puppy-ness” gets me every time.  According to what I hear, he won’t outgrow his destructive urges until he is 3 years old (should he live that long!); last month, he turned a year old.  Looks like this the pup is going to be spending a lot of time-outs, locked in our bathroom, when he is left unsupervised.

On Saturday, Dad was well enough to return home!  He is doing so well…hasn’t taken a single pain pill!

Many, many thanks to all of you for the prayers and happy thoughts you sent to our family during this stressful time. Clearly, they had the desired efffect, because my Dad is still with us, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

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