I Have an Idea: 50 Shades of Christmas



Sometimes ideas don’t turn out as planned.

Let me explain. You may want to get yourself a cup of tea, or something stronger and settle in. This may take awhile.

Every year I struggle with what to get my husband for Christmas. I really enjoy giving an unexpected gift, but he doesn’t always make it easy.

A couple of years ago I came up with what I thought was a great idea: a destination present. After some research, I found The Harry Houdini Museum, which was within driving distance and would be a surprise!


My next problem was thinking of a good way to wrap the gift. How do you creatively wrap an experience?

I saw the above picture of Houdini on the website and was inspired. I remembered I had saved some hardware off a purse I had thrown away thinking they may come in handy…

Then I remembered the Sock Monkey my niece gave me…

On Christmas morning, I was so excited for him to open his present. When I handed him the present I explained in a rush, “It’s more of an experience.”

This is what he saw when he opened the bag.

CM Houdini Monkey.JPG

I was confused when he looked confused and embarrassed. Our children looked embarrassed. I realized I maybe was too good at surprising! Sock Monkey did not resemble Harry Houdini- at least not enough.

To add insult to injury, the museum wasn’t open anymore.

Lesson learned: Sometimes fun isn’t as functional as one would hope.


Back to the Basics for his Birthday!



I Have an Idea: Avocado Gone Wild

CM lone avocado in wine rack v2

I always wanted to grow an avocado from the pit.

I remember my sister starting one when we were kids and thought it would be fun to start one myself someday.

I never thought of what I would do with it if, in fact, it actually grew. I never really thought about what an avocado actually grew on–  a bush,  a tree, a vine like a pumpkin? I didn’t grow up around them.

I guess I never thought I would actually successfully start an avocado and would figure it out once it happened.

So one day after eating a delicious avocado I thought- why not give it a go?

CM Avocado and pit

I remember my sister suspended the pit over some water with toothpicks so that it was partially submerged in water. I found some toothpicks and checked online which end should be submerged.

The water became cloudy, so I replenished it.

I waited.  No roots or leaves after several weeks. (It may have been months since I stopped looking.)

I noticed it doing nothing one day and wondered if I should just give up. I was planting some herbs so thought I might as well just stick the pit in some dirt and see what happened.

CM avocado outside

It grew.

I put it outside its first summer, and that almost did it in until I read that it should be shaded. I put it under a tree.

It grew some more.

CM Fotor Avocado tree v2

I brought it in for the winter and soon I needed to provide it some support with something long and steady. I used my large umbrella. It stood a little straighter. I never thought it would grow so large.

CM avocado plant current_Fotor

I am running out of room for it. But I love it.

I’ve read that it won’t bear fruit unless I have another one.

CM Fotor Avocado couple

And that’s how my house became overrun with avocado bushes. I may need to build a shed!

I Have an Idea: Entrance Poster (Part 3)


Once again, it came time to switch out the poster in our front hallway.

I realize my next choice might be controversial, since people are intense about their sports allegiances, but here goes.

As I mentioned before, my husband and I are from the Detroit area. Being a Michigan fan hasn’t always been easy over the last decade, that is until Coach Harbaugh came on board. I didn’t follow football too closely until he was hired, but now I have gone all in! My next choice may seem extreme but it is a fun way to celebrate the football season.

Harbaugh Poster Kindle

Jim Harbaugh and Coach Schembechler circa 1986

I wasn’t sure I was ever going to take my Go Blue Poster down– but I did. It took a very special picture to replace Coach Harbaugh, and I don’t think I have ever seen a picture that made me laugh as consistently as my next choice does.

Jurassic Park Poster

It was taken at the Jurassic Park Ride at Universal Studio Theme Park in Orlando. I have blurred out the faces as best as I could to protect the innocent but I hope you can tell how much fun it was!

I Have an Idea: Entrance Poster (Part 2)


Once winter passed, I was on the hunt for a new picture to put up in our entryway.

My husband and I went to the Philadelphia Boat Show to as they say, “dream a little dream.” Along the way, we decided to instead dream big and went aboard a huge pontoon boat that we called the “Party Boat.”

We shared the picture we took and got a good laugh about it with our family. It was at this time that I decided I wanted to put the picture up in our entrance.

Party Boat Poster

Who doesn’t enjoy seeing a party boat upon entering their home?

I enjoyed the Party Boat Poster so much I wasn’t sure how to replace it. We’ve been looking at old family photos trying to unlock genealogical mysteries when I remembered a picture of my father-in-law running on a beach looking like joy personified.

Of course remembering it and finding it were two different tasks. My husband ended up asking his sister if she knew where it might be. Thankfully she did find it and sent us a copy! My husband adjusted the dimensions and ordered it as a poster. This is Pure Joy.

Beach Poster

I Have an Idea: Entrance Poster (Part 1)


The entryway in our home has been an important space for me. I like the idea of a welcoming entrance to our home. Our entrance isn’t grand – like most of our home its dimensions have inherent problems when trying to do something with it! Mostly I try to keep it picked up and the closet doors shut.

But one year I was decorating for Thanksgiving and came upon a turkey and pilgrim my children had made in elementary school. They were packed away with Thanksgiving decorations, but I never knew what to do with them!

I decided to put them in a poster frame and hang them in the foyer. They looked surprisingly good there.

Pilgrim Poster

In fact, it looked so good that the space looked bare to me when I took them down.

That’s when I decided to hang a poster-sized picture, which I would change out periodically to fit the season.

My first choice was a picture I took on our daily walk. It was a peaceful winter scene.

Winter Poster

As much as I enjoyed the poster, when the snow was gone, it was time to move on and store it away until next winter with the hats and gloves!

I Have an Idea: Bourbon Bottle Vanilla


How many bottles is too many bottles?

I may be a pack rat, but I prefer to think of it as being a “saver.”

Part of the reason why I save things is that I like the idea of a new use for an old thing. I think that most things can remain useful even if I haven’t figured out in what way yet.

I especially like bottles. This became an issue when my husband became interested in visiting craft distilleries. When we finished the bourbon we bought after visiting Tuthilltown Distillery in upstate New York, I couldn’t get rid of the empty bottle. It was just so lovely.

Tuthilltown Sign

Where it all started.

It wasn’t until my son was visiting for Christmas and mentioned he made his own vanilla for baking that I realized I had found a way to repurpose my bourbon bottles!

(Side note- most baked goods are better with a splash (or 2) or vanilla instead of a teaspoon as usually suggested!)

Vanilla with filter

We ordered vanilla beans online and bought the least expensive vodka available, since my son said, “the cheaper the vodka the better.” We cleaned out our bourbon bottles, added the vanilla beans, then poured in the vodka. The beans soaked in the vodka bath, and after a week or so it was ready!

Unaged VanillaUnaged Vanilla in cabinet

Aged Vanilla

Wish you could smell it!

That’s how I ended up with a bourbon bottle full of vanilla.

I Have an Idea: Barn Door Desk (Part 4)

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I finally had all the materials I needed: my old door and two amazing sawhorses.

Unfortunately, the sawhorses were just a bit too tall to be the right height for a desk. Since sawhorses are on an angle, cutting them wasn’t as easy as I originally thought it would be. I mentioned earlier that I married an engineer.  My husband was enlisted.

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You know it’s serious when you break out the calculator!

Next—time to use some elbow grease! We washed and sanded and removed the paint from the door.

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It was surprisingly stubborn, but finally the wood grain could be seen. We decided to stain the legs ebony and the desk top natural.

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Three coats of polyurethane later, and we were ready to construct the desk.

We used angle irons to fix the door to the sawhorses. We were lucky that the door we found fit perfectly and was easy to attach—I was right to be so particular!

We moved the desk into our office, where I use it every day. It is a fun and functional addition to our home!


(I cleaned it off for this photo.)


I Have an Idea: Barn Door Desk (Part 3)

As I have discussed in my previous posts, I was on a mission to find the owner of a pair of sawhorses, and I had put my daughter on the case. Since I still don’t know how she actually found out the guy’s name, I asked her to explain it herself. Here is what she said:

Daughter here.

I’m sad to say that tracking down the owner of the erstwhile Weed Shop was not my first foray into internet sleuthing. First I tried to do a reverse address search, but I didn’t have any luck.

Then I remembered that property tax information is open to the public, so I searched the records online to find out who the owners of the property were. From there, it was a quick Google search to track down the phone number.

All told, it took me about a half hour to track down that name, and in the process I discovered that I was maybe a little too good at internet stalking.

Me again.

I had a name and a phone number, now the ball was in my court.  I wondered how to start the conversation with him.

“I was trespassing on your property…”

“You don’t know me…”

“I really love your sawhorses that I saw while I was on your property– deep into your property.”


What I imagined his reaction to these introductions would be.

Well, I’m not sure how I started, but it ended with the owner suggesting that I call her husband about it, and he wasn’t home. She suggested that I call back when he was home. The ball was moved forward.

I called him when she suggested, and he was agreeable! We set up a meeting time for the upcoming Saturday since he was planning on being there working on restoring the house on the property. My husband agreed to join me.

My last hurdle to jump was the price. “How much would you like for 2 of them?” I asked.

He said, “How much were you thinking to pay?”

I threw out a number. “How about $10.00.”

“How about $5.OO?” he said.


I had never been negotiated down before. I really liked this guy and his sawhorses! I hoped they would be as nice as I remembered them! (They were.)

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It just goes to show that you never know what the day may bring, and sometimes people can really surprise you in a good way!


I Have an Idea: Barn Door Desk (Part 2)


With this picture in hand, the hunt for sawhorses was on.

Next, it was time to hunt for the legs.

I liked the sawhorses pictured in my inspiration picture. Where do I find sawhorses? I checked out the usual suspects- Lowes, Home Depot- and they had options. I was leaning toward wood over plastic, since the sawhorses in my inspiration picture were made of wood. I was going to continue to investigate but knew I had a fallback plan.

Before I had a chance to purchase the sawhorses from a big box store, I had a stroke of luck that I would never have been able to see coming.

I was driving back from an antique store hunt with my daughter on, as they say, a dark and stormy night (or at least it was dark and rainy.) We were passing the road to an old haunt of mine when I was a visiting nurse.


It was the kind of place only visiting nurses would know about, because we know the nooks and crannies of our territory. I innocently told my daughter that it was called “The Weed Shop,” which led to some confusion over the term weed—after all, who would actually go to a store that sold weeds?! In fact, it was an old barn where they sold dried flowers, ribbons, and baskets.

We decided to take the detour and see if it was still there (and if I could find it.) Winding through the back country roads, I located the shop by memory. Because it was dark and raining, I couldn’t see a sign, but I remembered the entrance had a long driveway, so I decided to drive deeper into the property. I thought it might have changed since I was there last.


As I drove up to the building it became apparent that The Weed Shop was no more. Disappointed, I started turning around to leave when my headlights illuminated 4 wood sawhorses by the side of an old barn. They were piled up along other debris. I couldn’t believe my eyes. From what I could see from the car, they appeared to be handmade, stout and strong looking. They would be perfect.


How to contact the property owner to inquire about them? My daughter was on the case.

To be continued…

I Have an Idea: Barn Door Desk (Part 1)

I enjoy looking through magazines to get inspired. I cut out pictures and sometimes, just sometimes, I follow through, but I can’t live long enough to do all that I want to do. Luckily, I married an engineer, an engineer that rebuilt a 1965 Sunbeam Tiger with his best friend when they were 20. And when I say rebuilt, I mean rebuilt.

Sunbeam Tiger blueSunbeam Tiger strippedSunbeam Tiger finished001

I am so fortunate that he is also very patient, because often my projects become “our” projects.

I was watching an episode of Fixer Upper when a desk made from an old door with sawhorses for legs caught my eye. When I saw it again in a Life: Beautiful magazine featuring Chip and Joanna from the show, I immediately cut it out to use as a guide to turn my idea into reality.

Our current desk never really worked for us. It was too narrow to be of much use, so I felt justified to get started on this project!

The hunt for the door began. I scoured architectural salvage warehouses, antique stores, and flea markets, but I wasn’t having any luck. I had no idea old doors were so expensive or how picky I was going to be. Since it was going to be a desk, I didn’t want cut outs on the face of the door. Old doors were beautiful but not flat!

Just when I was considering making my own (or, more accurately, having my husband make one) I had a Miracle on 34th Street “Stop the car!” moment.

If you haven’t seen the 1947 version put it on your must see list!

We were driving by a small antique store when I saw a blur of green out of the corner of my eye.


I thought it could be door, so I asked my husband to turn the car around. To my delight, it was a sea foam green door propped up against the store.

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It was affordable, flat and a good size. My project was started!