Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spooky Book News: Stephen King, Frankenstein’s moon and a gothic-looking recipe.



This post is for all my fellow book lovers. Today I have two bits of slightly quirky, but current book-related news, that seems especially fitting as we enter into the season of ghosts and monsters and things that go bump in-the-night.

I also have an incredibly gorgeous-looking Halloween recipe to share with you because every post about scary books should include some mouth-watering treat, don’t you agree? Especially gothic-looking ones.

So wouldn’t you know? I just had a conversation with Patrick the other night, about his current reading list for his English course, and he tells me that he’s just finished reading Frankenstein. Really, I say. And then I wonder, how have I gone my entire life without reading Mary Shelley’s most famous classic? So I brought it home yesterday and discovered two more reasons why I have to read it.


Mary Shelley and the love of her life, poet Percy Shelley who died tragically at the age of twenty-nine.

First, it seems that Shelley was considered an early feminist of her time; she was a rebellious, progressive social thinker who married the love of her life despite her father’s objections. Throughout her writing career, she suffered the heartbreaking loss of four children, experienced bouts of depression, and endured the drowning death of her husband Percy Shelley, only six years after their marriage.

Secondly, she withstood years of negative reviews for her writing, in fact, she once wrote a dejected journal entry questioning the value of her own work, “What folly is it in me to write trash that nobody will read.” Wow,  poor Mary. She apparently received no respect from critics, who even questioned her mystical inspiration for her most popular novel, Frankenstein.


Photo: Google Images

According to her own words, moonlight was the key to Mary’s inspiration for Victor Frankenstein. It happened on June 1816, when she was staying at the Villa Diodati, overlooking Switzerland's Lake Geneva. Only sixteen years old at the time, Shelley  was reportedly in a late-night conversation with her future husband, poet Percy Shelley, her stepsister Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron and John Polidori. This engrossing conversation about the supernatural aspects of life, went past the witching hour of midnight, until Lord Bryon made a challenge. (Now doesn’t this sound like the titillating beginning of a mystery story?)

Each person was told to come up with their own ghost story. After she went to bed, Shelley  tells of a terrifying “waking dream” in which she saw a man attempted to bring life to a cadaverous figure via the engines of science. She remembers seeing moonlight streaming in through her window, and her story of Frankenstein had been born.

Except for one problem; her version has been attacked over the years. Critics went so far as to suggest she fabricated her entire story.

But today, I read an article in the Huffington Post on this topic and it finally appears that the Mary Shelley bashers have been silenced. That’s because a team of researchers from Texas State traveled to Villa Diodati (yes, it’s still there), and took extensive topographic measurements of the terrain, which helped them complete their astronomical analysis. Their findings have confirmed that indeed, a “bright and gibbous moon would have cleared the hillside to shine into Shelley's bedroom window just before 2 a.m. on June 16.”


Whoa, I know what you’re thinking. But if you need evidence that this meticulous investigation actually occurred, you can check out the November 2011 edition of "Sky and Telescope" magazine.

In the meantime, I'm reading Mary Shelley’s book whether she saw the moonlight or not.

My second bit of book news involves the highly anticipated sequel to “The Shining.” Apparently Stephen King has read an excerpt of this sequel titled, “Doctor Sleep,” during a George Mason University awards ceremony last weekend.


Photo: Google Images; Danny Torrance 

And remember poor, traumatized Danny Torrance, the boy who survived the horrors of Overlook Hotel and his father’s maniacal attempt to kill him? In this sequel, he’s using his psychic abilities to help others, except now there are new dangers in his life. Yes, it seems that a group of traveling vampires called, “The Tribe,” are able to feed off his powers.

King shared a passage from this new book to an enchanted audience. And he concluded with this creepy line.

“The Tribe doesn’t like dogs, but they like certain children. Yes, they like certain children.”

Stephen-King-Dr_-Sleep Photo: Google Image

Boy. I bow down at the feet of a masterful storyteller.

And now, how about a gothic-looking treat ?

I love this picture!!!

It’s courtesy of Matt’s Bites. Matt has a wonderful food blog that’s been recognized by numerous publications, including Martha Stewart Living.

Please visit his website for more wonderful recipes. I’ve included his recipe for this dish below. Thanks Matt.


Red & Black Candy Apples

8-10 medium sized apples
8-10 wooden twigs, trimmed
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup of water
several drops of cinnamon flavored oil
1/4 teaspoon of red food coloring
1/4 teaspoon of black food coloring
Clean and dry the apples. Try to remove as much of the wax as possible. If you purchase them from your local farmer’s market then chances are they have not been treated with the food grade wax that makes then shine. Remove any stems or leaves and insert a twig into the end of each apple. To facilitate easier twig entry you can carefully sharpen the end of the twig or use a candy stick to create a guide hole. Set apples aside.

Heat and stir sugar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan until sugar has dissolved. Boil until the syrup reaches 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. Don’t go over 310 degrees or your candy burns and then you’ll be sad.

Remove from heat and stir in flavored oil and food coloring.

Dip one apple completely in the syrup and swirl it so that it becomes coated with the melted sugar candy. Hold the apple above the saucepan to drain off excess. Place apple, with the stick facing up, onto a baking sheet that’s greased or lined.  Repeat the process with the remaining apples. If your syrup thickens or cools too much, simply reheat briefly before proceeding. Let the apples cool completely before serving.

A note about the black apples: Lighter colored apples (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious) work well in making the red appear bright and glassy; darker apples like red delicious help the black candy appear as dark as possible. Muy spooky!

Also, Adam made one batch with red food coloring and after he had a few red apples he reheated the candy mixture and added black food coloring. Adding black to red will make it darker. He repeated the dipping process. Black food coloring can be found online or at specialty baking stores.


I hope you enjoyed today’s post. What are you reading? Drop me a line and let me know…


*Resources: Mary Shelley; wikepedia; Karen Karbiener’s Notes & Introduction (to Frankenstein) 2003

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Halloween Party Invitations…DIY ideas and wording…just for you.



Sigh, I have a confession. If you know me, you already know this quirky, inexplicable thing about me because each year, I can’t resist rolling out the tattered, blood-red carpet and welcoming my most creepiest of friends into my haunted home. Yes, I’m absolutely smitten with the spooky, magical world of Halloween and I’m especially crazy about the entire process of creating DIY Halloween invitations. After all, once you’ve committed to the wild idea of transforming your home into a frightening spectacle, your invitations should be worthy of such a highly anticipated evening.  Don’t you agree?

Sadly, I haven’t been very good about saving my invites over the years, however, I did find a few to show you. Last year’s was my most labor intensive, but it was absolutely worth it. I had been inspired by the amazing talents of Mrs. Limestone at Brooklyn Limestone, who sent shivers of inspiration throughout the entire bloggersphere when she shared her very original monster slaying kit on her blog. If you’ve never checked out her blog, you should, there’s something for everyone there. But, back to the invitation.

Here was my version:

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Each invitation came inside a simple brown Kraft box wrapped with a piece of black lace or a red velvet ribbon. When you opened it, this is what you saw. (above)

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Underneath the Halloween invitation was a “Monster-Slaying Kit.” My version consisted in a wooden stake (for vampire slaying), a small mirror (for seeing the Undead) three matches (for torch lighting), and a list of Hungarian phases (for travels through Transylvania).

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I actually found the original in a children’s picture book about vampires, of all things. It was too perfect. I simply made a copy, crumpled it up, smeared Distressed Ink on it and added it to my Monster-Slaying Kit. The title reads, “Hungarian Phases for the Intrepid Traveler.” I have no idea if these are actual translations. Anybody know Hungarian?

This is what the invitation looked like inside:

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The key to doing an invitation like this, is starting early and giving yourself plenty of time. You have to enjoy it, otherwise, what’s the point?

This year I’m really EXCITED about my invites, but I can’t show you quite yet. Only, don’t worry, I’m taking pictures for all of you DIYers!

In the meantime, I dug up some quicker invitations that I did some years back. I simply picked images that I liked and put them on black cardstock. I always enjoy coming up with fun text, but I can’t find the final copies of these.

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You might add dried, faded rose petals inside, or tie a red velvet ribbon around a card like this.

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I made this card after taking a year off from having a Halloween party. That was the year we skipped the adult party, and instead, had a big one for the kids. So the words on the front of this card read, “We’re Baaaaack…” 

But you could come up with wonderfully creative text for Jack. And you could use this card as inspiration for your party’s theme. How about decorating your party using scenes from the movie, “The Shining?” 

shining_typewriterPhoto: Google Images; The Shining

I loved that book and to this day, I think the scariest movie scene ever, is the one at the typewriter when Wendy sees the evidence that Jack has indeed, lost his mind…oh, I get chills just thinking about that scene. For this party theme, you’ll have to decorate with a vintage typewriter!


Here’s a Halloween invitation I did with an emphasis on wording. I printed it on clear vellum and put it between two sheets of textured cardstock, added pieces of excelsior grass and tied it with a ribbon. I wanted it to look like a medieval document.

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But as you can see, I only have a copy on orange vellum to show you. Can you read the words?


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And this is another invitation I printed on vellum…


And here’s a cheaper, easier version of Martha Stewart’s wonderful severed finger invitation. Simply use one of those witch’s fingers sold in Halloween stores everywhere, tie some rustic string around it with a warning, “Don’t you DARE forget!” Or, you could write “Hello, my little pretties…”

Hot glue the finger in a small box with dried moss and enclose a rolled-up paper inside with party information on it; distress the paper and burn the edges for an added touch.

Well, what do you think? I hope I inspired you to start working on your own Halloween invites. And stay tuned for more Halloween images and party ideas coming soon….

Thanks for visiting!




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Sunday, September 25, 2011

How to decorate your living room for Fall

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Welcome to my home. Recently I did a post on four tips for decorating your home for the Fall season, but at the time, I didn’t have my own home decorated. Since then, I’ve been hard at work (at least in some parts of my house) and I thought I’d show you how I used those four decorating tips in my own living room.

1. Adding rich golden hues, deep reds and shades of brown and rust to your décor helps  transform your home for the fall season. 

Nothing I did was expensive. You can choose wisely from last year’s decorations. I bought the pumpkin colored pillow (on my cream couch) for $12.99 from a local Ross store. It blended well with my burlap pillow and brown floral already on my couch. I also repeated this color with a candle under a glass dome and a vintage pumpkin placed on the coffee table.

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2. I added texture with pillows. Here a woven floral pillow (from my bedroom) is added to my Chartreuse green chair. I’ve decided that this color green goes with every season, I just love it.


3. I added fabrics to the room.

A wooly red throw on the couch.

And I purchased a silk-blend fabric remnant to throw over my burlap table skirt. The fabric was less than five dollars and I didn’t even sew it. No time. I simply cut it and pressed the edges with an iron. Then, for a finished look, I applied thin dots of hot glue to the pressed edges and it worked beautifully! And I love mixing  silk next to a rustic fabric.

4. Next, I decorated my mantel by mixing finishes. smooth silver, Rough terra cotta, and a textured oil canvas.

This is where you can get truly creative. This is my ‘before’ mantel after I removed my plants I had there from this summer. A blank slate.

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I decided to move my oversized clock to another wall but I didn’t have a mirror that was big enough for this space. What to do? I took a vintage oil painting off another wall and moved it to the mantel. I crossed my fingers about the size of the painting, but it fit perfectly. Funny, but I’d never considered a painting in this spot before, see what happens when you’re trying to keep costs down, all of a sudden you discover new creative possibilities!


I originally found this painting for $5.00 in a thrift store. It’ true. To this day, it’s the best find I’ve made. But getting back to the mantel, I brought my little terra cotta pots over and placed small miniature pumpkins in them. Added some additional vintage books, tied pressed leaves ( from the yard) around the candles for color and texture, added berries, and voila!

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I moved a plant.


I finally hung up an old chalkboard in a perfect spot…


And here it is. My Fall living room. I  can still add a basket of pumpkins or pinecones someplace. Place some candles in the fireplace. And a cowhide rug is on my “wish list” for this room, but for now, this is it.

Now wasn’t that simple? Tell me what you think…

My dining room is next. See you soon!



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Friday, September 23, 2011

Looking for something?



Click HERE to see the sweetest image in the world…

Just because.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A moment of Zen with Brad Pitt? What do you think?


This morning, I was working in the office when I happened to overhear Matt Lauer’s interview with Brad Pitt. And something he said made me stop and think. In fact, I rewound the interview and gazed at the screen.

Yes. Brad Pitt, the hunky, talented actor and activist who was being interviewed about his latest movie, “Moneyball,” spoke words that deserve repeating.

First however, to appreciate his words, we must first context the latest over-blown controversy swirling around Pitt; he has recently angered those curious “Jen-Team” followers by some comments he made about his life during the nineties, comments about his “uninteresting” life, in which he alluded that his marriage with Aniston seemed lacking in substance. Nothing shocking to the average person. In fact, it sounded to me like the utterances of a maturing man trying to make sense of his past, looking back with some unflinching honesty.

Which is true, except for one tiny fact. Apparently if you’re Brad Pitt reflecting on a life that included Jennifer Aniston, EVERYONE pays attention. And most women seem to have a strong opinion about this now repetitive scenario. Was he dissing Jen or not? This seems to be the singular touchy point in all the dramas that follow Brad Pitt. Only it seems that your answer to this question depends on your vantage point.


Jen vs. Angelina

Do you see Jennifer Aniston as the poor victim, the archetypal “good girl” who had her husband stolen by the seductive, plotting “other” woman? A reasonable point of view to many. Or do you see Aniston as a Hollywood starlet who grew apart from her husband because he wanted a family years before she was ready to give up a work-filled, glamorous lifestyle? The point is, relationships are complex experiences and from the outside, rarely are things the way they appear.

So here I am, listening to Brad Pitt being questioned by Matt Lauer. And Matt wants to bring up this juicy drama. After all, it’s the latest dirt. It’s a hot story. People want to hear more details in order to dissect this man’s intentions.

And Matt Lauer begins to read back Brad Pitt’s controversial words, looking for more reaction.

And this is what Brad Pitt says.

 “No, please don’t read it. Because I don’t read these things…by choice, I don’t want to be encumbered by any of that. I know my intentions and I know what I believe and I know things get misconstrued and I…I live outside of THAT…and it’s a much healthier place to be…”

And just like that, Brad Pitt took back his sense of control over the latest, gossip-fueled controversy waiting to drain every last bit of bright, positive energy from his mental outlook.

He made a choice right there, in the face of inquiring, demanding questions to avoid diving into the negative pool of gossip. He made a decision to avoid flirting with the kind of negative energy that weighs on our minds, and distorts our lives by making us spend precious moments of our day worrying; wondering what other people are thinking. And defending ourselves against dark, imaginary words that suck all our positive energy.

Whether you like Brad Pitt or not, this is a teaching moment.

At any moment in our lives…

We all have a choice. At any moment in our lives, we can allocate our energies toward positive places; we can choose what thoughts we allow to luxuriate in our mind’s living room. We can say “No” to those provoking questions from others, that often lead us into our own unnecessary personal dramas; because the truth is, a lot of negative things are tempting. Yes, it’s enticing when someone calls us a jerk, and of course we want to respond immediately, but a wiser person realizes that we have limited resources. We don’t have to engage in all life’s temptations, especially those that destroy the quality of our lives.

When Brad Pitt said, “I live outside all that, and it’s a much healthier place to be…,”  he was also taking a detour around an seductive option. Oh, how good it might have felt to offer more self analysis, to over-explain from a bully pulpit and instantly create more tabloid headlines. Ironically, his refusal to indulge in more explanations will continue to make the headlines.

When you have the choice, do you wallow deeper into dramas?

But a relevant question for us plain folks is, “Would we have done the same? Given a chance to have an audience hanging on our every word, would we have stopped Matt Lauer from reading our words back to us? Would we have halted the dialogue or would we have continued to stay Negative-Negative-Negative? Do we continue to wallow deeper into dramas when given the chance? Because each time we talk about a depleting issue, without offering a problem-solving action, we’re stuck in an unhealthy place. Each time we’re embroiled in our latest conflict we have a choice.  Toward which direction do we turn our lives?

It’s worth thinking about. The idea is that the world will always be hurling negative words, gossip and emotional dramas our way, and we can choose to live outside of all that. As usual, life is about choices. And in the face of a challenging situation, or a angry person, we can remember who we are and we can choose sensible, quieter words. Or, we can choose the powerful sound of silence.

Because sometimes detachment is the healthiest option you have.


What do you think about Brad Pitt’s comments?  Do you agree?  I’d love to know your viewpoint, just leave a comment here or email me at

Thanks for visiting!





Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A fall arrangement for your front door; How to

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This is a quick post to show you how E-A-S-Y it is to make your own front door arrangement. Are you in the mood for something different? This is what I made using a simple basket I found in a thrift store. Remember this basket from my last post? I couldn’t resist the price: $7.99

It’s long (19 inches) and narrow (8.5 inches) but I loved the rich colors of the basket and I thought, “why not?” Here it is on the floor with some other “finds” of mine.


Not sure where to get your basket? I happened to see optional baskets at our local Michael’s Crafts Store; choose one that has a nice flat backside that would work well on a door.

1. First, pick a basket.


2. Next, gather your items. You can use fall flowers, like sunflowers or black-eyed Susans for your base flower. And you can add foliage, vines and berries. You may even add a pumpkin or small gourd to your arrangement.

These were my materials.

  • Dried green moss. This is my favorite stuffing but it’s pricey.
  • Excelsior grass. This is option to moss. I used both because I had some on hand.
  • 5 stems of tall (fake) grass for the back of the arrangement.
  • 4-5 stems of fake flowers; tubular shaped
  • 4 fake clusters of short filler flowers (see rust colored ones above)
  • Dried grass (real) and dried hydrangeas (from my garden)
  • 3-4 stems of miniature pumpkins on stem
  • Florist wire (optional); I used the excelsior grass to hold my foliage in place.

Be sure to select colors of foliage, flowers, grasses, vines and berries that will compliment the color of your door and your home's exterior paint.

3. Think of a Staircase.  Organize your items by height. Tallest and most dramatic grasses in back. Shortest and fullest flowers at the bottom of your arrangement. I put the green moss in front poking through the cracks of my basket. I also put a couple of small rocks in the bottom for added weight. If your front door is exposed to a lot of wind you may need weight to help hold the basket in place.




4. I added my “fillers” last. I picked dried grasses on a walk. I added some dried hydrangeas I’d originally picked from my garden and I purchased some tall pumpkin ‘picks’ for texture.


5. Add bow and hang with ribbon.

What do you think? I made a bow from the same ribbon I used for my wreath. Do you know how to make a bow? Click HERE for some simple directions.

Also, my basket had a loop on back for hanging. In order to stabilize it on the door, I used two adhesive backed hooks (the white, plastic ones) behind the basket. I hung the basket on one and attached the basket body to the other one. This keeps the basket from swaying since it’s so long. The directions on these adhesive backed hooks say, “damage-free hanging” and they should pop off with no residue on the door.


Now. I have these two large pots that were given to me from a friend who is relocating. Initially, I didn’t think these would go well with my home’s exterior paint color and my traditional style. But they are a perfect shade for fall decorating. Hmm…all of a sudden I can envision spectacular gold and rust colored flowers in these, right next to some plump pumpkins. Oh well,  to be continued…

I’ll show you my front entrance whenever I get it finished. By the way, how is your fall decorating going?


Thanks for visiting!




Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall front door wreaths, which style are you?



Have you decided how to spruce up your front door for this Fall?  It’s time to start pulling out those boxes of  fall decorations and figure out what you can use. But are you tired of last year’s old wreath? Here are a few that might fit your mood. What do you think?

In the photo above pumpkins and gourds are wired on a wreath for an authentic harvest theme.


Fresh fruit against a rich wood door looks casual and friendly.


I love the chipped old patina on this door. This simple grapevine wreath is dressed up with the elegant ribbon and silk leaves, and it looks lovely when contrasted with the rustic door.


If you’re a fan of dried flowers this might be the wreath for you.


And this unique wreath made up of corks and simple dried berries looks wonderful against this shade of blue on the door. I imagine drinking a glass of hearty red wine with French bread and cheese at this home.


Are you in the mood for the simple, elegant shades of bronze in this wreath? I envision silver candlesticks on a damask tablecloth at this house.


And what about this gilded wreath for a chic, formal welcome at your front entrance? This wreath is easily created with cans of shimmery silver and bronze spray paint.

But wait. You don’t have to start over. You can keep last year’s wreath and update it with a different ribbon. This is my old wreath. I found some ribbon that works better with the color theme inside my home this year.


Do you want to change your ribbon?


Simply turn your wreath over and find out where the ribbon is tied.

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I removed it and made a new bow. Here’s the wreath with the new ribbon. I placed it in my dining room which I’ll show you soon. Just a few more things to add.


Oh, and here’s my inspiration for my new front door arrangement. I found this basket at the thrift store (see my latest purchases above) for a great price and I decided to create something different this year. No wreath. I’ll show you my new front door arrangement with some simple directions shortly.

To be continued….

Hey, I hope these ideas help motivate you to start your own Fall decorating. Thanks so much for stopping by!






Thursday, September 15, 2011

Four tips for Fall decorating…


p_100214356Photo: BMG

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.

Emily Bronte

I absolutely love Fall. I love everything about it. The colors, the smells, the recipes!

When the temperatures begin to drop, I consider it an invitation to make our home feel warmer. Here are four tips to get you thinking about welcoming the natural beauty of autumn into your home. And some lovely photos to get you inspired.

Tip One: Begin by adding pops of warm, vibrant colors. Unsure about the colors? Simply go for a walk and look around. Use nature as your guide: the golden hues of fallen leaves, the shades of a burnt, orange sunset, and the rich brown colors of a coarse old tree trunk.

Front Door Ideas


  Do you see those caramel apples? Looks like they’re ready for me.

pumpkin-wreath-on-door-x southernliving

The black door is a perfect backdrop for the orange and red hues. But this dog makes this photo my absolute favorite.

hay goolge

What a clever way to take advantage of all that glass on the front door. I don’t see double wreaths very often, do you?


I appreciate how simple this concept is. Pumpkins stacked on moss. Love it.


The repetition of orange mums makes this a dramatic entrance. And simple white pumpkins are all that’s needed.


You can add touches of gold into your pumpkin display…


Photos: BHG, Country Living, Google Images, Southern Living

Or you can go for the drama of a gilded front door welcome.

Tip Two: Mix up your finishes. Combine metals and wood finishes together. And be daring. Adding simple rustic pieces with modern pieces creates a comfy, eclectic look. Consider placing an old landscape picture with it’s rich colors on your mantel, and arrange layers around it with branches, old frames, fall foliage and candles. Remember to stack items. What if you don’t have a picture that will fit? Use a mirror instead.



display_artwork_lr4liPhoto: Google Images

And of course, you can’t forget those pumpkins…

Tip Three: Add Texture. Here are some easy examples.

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  • Place baskets, wood crates, wooden bowls and pottery pieces around your home. These are easy to fill with red apples, pumpkins, gourds, or pinecones.
  • Try adding black shades to your chandelier.
  • And small berry rings around your chandelier arms.
  • Add fillers to your hurricane lamps with nuts, or candy corn.

Natural Autumn Decor 3 pink roses and teacups

Photo: pink roses and teacups





Photo: Pottery Barn, Country Living, décor pad

Tip Four: Add Fabrics

This is the season to bring out those soft, luxurious fabrics that feel wonderful to touch. Velvets, fur, knitted, and woolen fabrics are just some that add warmth and comfort. And where do you add them?

  • Toss a jewel colored throw on your favorite reading chair.
  • Add a vintage paisley shawl to your buffet and create a lovely vignette by adding old books, silver pieces and a small lamp.
  • Replace your pillows with earthy-colored ones. Paisley and brocade pillows add rich warmth.





Photos: Google Images, Pottery Barn, BHG

Hmm…Now where do I start?


Happy Decorating!


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