Music Candles

We are into music. Charlie is a piano player and has been working on one of my favorite pieces: Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin (which has about 28 pages). I thought it might be fun to musicalize some plain candles we have around the house a la Pottery Barn which sells pillar candles wrapped in sheet music. Gail from Can’t Stop Making Things has a great tutorial on how to replicate these candles.

I didn’t have the exact same supplies as Gail so I’m going to go about it another way. I do have on hand two (old) pillar candles.

3-wick pillar candle

 And I wanted one of the candles to have Rhapsody in Blue on it. Basically you can use any music that’s meaningful to you.  If you don’t have the sheet music on hand you can google any of the sheet music websites where you can usually print the first page of a song for free. Or, why not some French script?

I printed it not on tissue paper but on some old-fashioned pale blue airmail paper which is a very light weight paper that can be put through the printer or copy machine. Trim the paper to the size of the candle and wrap it tightly around the candle adhering it with small strips of double stick tape or glue.

Wrap the music (or any text) tightly around your candle.

Using a hair dryer, heat the candle and music until the wax permeates the paper. The first candle I heated lying on its side but found heating while it was standing in upright position gave a smoother finish.

Heat the outside of the candle with a hairdryer until the wax melts through and absorbs into the paper.

 The larger candle is covered with music from Gail’s website.  This all-over design really makes the candle look like the Pottery Barn model except mine are pale blue.

Large candle covered with music sheets on airmail stationery

 Here are two candles ready to light up the room.

Music candles

My technique improved with the second candle.  What’s your learning curve?  Do you put your own spin on instructions and recipes?

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Clutter Challenge: My Side of the Bed

I like to read, design, think, puzzle while sitting in bed. Therefore, many of the things I’m working on get tossed on the floor and tabletop on MY SIDE of the bed.

Every paper from the past year is here.

 Truly it gets to be a mess.


 I took time today to go through those piles and make some storage decisions:

  • house design inspirations in the red binder

    Red binder for renovation notes and inspiration
  • writing paper and cards on the shelves in the pink bedroom
  • books in the pink bedroom or a box destined for giveaway
  • project designs and inspiration in a file box (which I found under the pile)

    Great file for inspiration and projects
  • paint and painting swatches and materials in a shopping bag
Even the side table is cleared.

 How’s that for decision making and action?

After the renovation this room will be painted an entirely new color.

 How’s the clutter in your little corner of the world? Move it or lose it! (If only it were that easy.)

Inspiration: Marché aux Puces

I tried, while in France, to be inspired by things that we could accomplish back at The Glade when we returned home. The potted boxwood are a case in point.

The antiquity, the scale, the culture, and my own personality make some things impossible to replicate. Not everything is ruled out, however.

One of 2500+ stalls in the Marché aux Puces

  In the Marché aux Puces (over 17 acres of flea market on the edge of Paris) I noted a simple topiary planting that we could do at The Glade with supplies we have on hand. 

A column of ivy

A closer look revealed the ivy growing on a circular column of fence much like the supports we make to hold up our tomato plants.

A detail of the framework for a column of ivy

Charlie found some pots in the dumpster near his work in which he drilled holes for drainage.

Drill holes in the bottom of 3 gallon pots

 We have some fencing and

Rusty metal fence will do just fine for this project.

  and loads of ivy.

I pulled strands of ivy for the project.

 Charlie made the trellis.

Cut a piece of wire fence and bend into a column.

  In the meantime, I filled the pots 1/3 with foam peanuts (to reduce the weight) and 2/3 with soil.

Pots with foam peanuts

 The trellis is snugly set into the dirt.

Filled the pot with soil and nestled the trellis in the dirt.

 Then transplant ivy tendrils all around the pot. I used 9-10 cuttings for each pot and wove the ends through the fence.

Stick the ivy vine in the dirt and hope it roots.

 All that’s left now is to let them grow and see how they looks in the spring. Then we’ll make a decision where to put them. 

They look sparse now but should fill in over the winter

  They would probably look great as party decorations with strands of white Christmas lights.

From where does your inspiration come? Can you see beyond the mundane and label it extraordinary?

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The Choir

It’s Sunday morning, I’ve had my coffee and oatmeal but without yogurt because I have to sing a few phrases solo this morning in church. Dairy products are not a singer’s friend. (Just ask Celine Dion, she never eats dairy when she’s working.)

Anyway, I’m the choir director of a choir of 12 or so lovely people. They are each talented in their own way and they depend upon me to lead them in music each Sunday morning. Although I have been singing all my life and professionally for the past ten years or so, I have mostly shied away from choirs for a number of reasons.

First, I have an unusual voice, one that “sticks out”. I can put on my “choir voice” but there’s not much to it.

Second, when I sing professionally every song is transposed into MY key; the key that falls most comfortably for my particular voice. All your favorite singers (unless they’re perhaps classically trained opera singers) change the key to suit themselves rather than sing a song in the “key in which it was published.” Think Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald. (It just occurred to me that I could have shortened the previous three to Judy, Barbra and Ella and you would have known.)

Third, how I became leader of the choir was really an act of God and not something I sought for myself. I’m still not exactly sure how it happened but now I truly love the position. It’s a kick.

See you in church.

Easy, Corny and Likeable

We have the blessing of being extremely close friends (like family) with a bona fide trained chef. He loves to cook and entertain. Someday I’m sure I’ll talk him into a guest post (or at least let me interview him here). And, yes, we’ve been invited to his place for Thanksgiving and Christmas. YIPPEE!

I’ve been asked to bring a dish which I make according to my mother’s super-simple recipe: corn pudding.

This recipe card is the one mother gave me many years ago.

 It’s the kind of thing people think they won’t really like until they taste it.  Then it’s hard to get enough at one seating even when the Thanksgiving menu  is so vast and delicious.

The ingredients: milk, eggs, creamed corn, flour, sugar and vanilla

 Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Melt the butter in a casserole dish.  (I like a long shallow dish so golden brown top is available with each spoonful.)

Melt the butter in the casserole dish either in the oven or on the stove.

 In a bowl mix the milk and eggs, add the sugar and flour, then stir in the can of creamed corn. (The flour doesn’t mix well and that doesn’t matter.)

Mix it all up and pour into a baking dish

 Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes and there’s your corn pudding. 

The crusty bits are my favorite

 In the past I’ve added minced hot peppers or sauteed minced onions but it seems the original version is the favorite.  I’ll be making two batches this year (and I predict they’ll be gone by the end of Thanksgiving Day).

What’s your go-to casserole for holiday celebrations, pot luck and covered dish dinners?  Are the ingredients always in your pantry?

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Trip to France: Mont Saint Michel

We spent 13 days in France, mostly in Paris, but I remembered from my high school study of France a magical place on the western coast: Mont Saint Michel.

The vision you can see from miles away as you approach Mont Saint Michel.

 Mont St. Michel has been an important pilgrimage center since A.D. 708, when the Bishop of Avranches heard the voice of Archangel Michael saying, “Build here and build high”.  Today the abbey is built on the remains of a Romanesque church, which stands on the remains of a Carolingian church. The monks ferried granite from across the bay and hiked it uphill.

The highest pinnacle pierces the sky above the ancient walls.

  Monks built on the rock to get as close to heaven as possible. Three and a half million annual visitors make the trek. The village’s 30 full-time residents continue to live solely for its visitors. 

Copper pans hanging on the outside wall of a restaurant on Mont Saint Michel

 Since the sixth century, hermit monks in search of solitude lived here. Back then, before the causeway was built in 1878, Mont Saint Michel was an island. During the French Revolution church property was taken over by the government, and from 1793 to 1863, Mont Saint Michel was used as a prison. Its first inmates were 300 priests who refused to renounce their vows. From these prison days, Mont Saint Michel still has a big tread wheel — the kind that did heavy lifting for big building projects throughout the Middle Ages. A large palette on an incline wall was controlled by teams of six prisoners marching two abreast in the wheel (like an exercise wheel in a hamster’s cage), raising two-ton loads of stone and supplies up Mont Saint Michel.

Palette on a track used to get provisions into the abbey.

 Pilgrims would approach across the mudflat created when the tide was out mindful that the tide swept in “at the speed of a galloping horse” (12 mph, or about 17 feet per second).

The shadow of the abbey on the sand below.

 Quicksand is another peril. But the real danger for adventurers today is the thoroughly disorienting fog and the fact that the sea can encircle unwary hikers. 

Danger sign warns of peril in 4 languages

 And yet people were out strolling on the sand.

Let's go for a walk in quicksand, my dear.

“The river below Mont Saint Michel marks the historic border between Brittany and Normandy, who have long vied for Mont Saint Michel. (In fact, the river used to pass Mont Saint Michel on the other side, making the abbey part of Brittany. Today, the river’s route is stable and the abbey is just barely — but thoroughly — on Normandy soil.)” (Quoted from Rick Steves’ website.)

The causeway

 After the causeway was built pilgrims could come and go without hip boots, regardless of the tide. While this increased the flow of visitors, it stopped the flow of water around the island. The result: Much of the bay has silted up, and Mont Saint Michel is no longer an island. A new bridge and dam (barrage) on the Couesnon River should be completed by 2014 (dam construction is well underway), allowing the water to circulate — so Mont Saint Michel will once again be an island.

The fortress has plenty of steps to climb.

 Drive in slowly on the causeway, enjoying fine views and dodging crossing sheep. Park in the pay lot near the base of the island. Very high tides rise to the edge of the causeway, which leaves the causeway driveable…but any cars parked below it could be submerged. (You’ll be instructed where to park under high-tide conditions.)

Plenty of parking near the island was 6 euros a day

We didn’t visit the actual abbey of Mont Saint Michel because we arrived too late in the afternoon. Saint Michael, whose gilded statue decorates the top of the abbey’s spire, was the patron saint of many French kings, making this a favored site for French royalty through the ages. In 2001, after more than a millennium as a Benedictine abbey, Mont Saint Michel’s last three Benedictine monks left, and a new order of monks from Paris took over.

Grounds of the abbey

 Visiting Mont Saint Michel and the Normandy coast was a hightlight of our trip to France which gave us an opportunity to meet some very helpful French people about whom I hope to write in a future anecdote.

Where’s your magical place?

Vintage Gobble

I’ve tried finding these two turkeys a new home many times over the past few years. They’re part of the inherited items Charlie received from his grandparents.

Turkey candleholders

 It seems they’re destined to keep shaking at The Glade. Honestly, that was a ridiculous comment but I was thinking they were salt and pepper shakers when, all the time, they’re candle holders. 

Detailed ceramic turkeys from the front and back

 I always thought they looked ridiculous with tall candles sticking out of their backs. Just a little of the gobbledygook we have cluttering up our little corner of the world.

Vintage Napcoware marked on the bottom of each turkey with a sticker

 Are you having trouble parting with someone else’s precious belongings? Can’t give it away, can’t throw it away, don’t want to keep it — what do you do?

Happy Thanksgiving! Eat a ton and I’ll see you at the gym Monday. Jo