Saturday, March 28, 2015

ten favorite "winter" things



Winter?? you ask.  
Yes, "winter!" 
 While I realize some of you are enjoying the arrival of spring and others are already experiencing 90-degree temps (ouch!) we still have snow on the ground and it is, in fact, snowing as I write this post.  This is New England, after all!  Spring is still a good month and a half away.
While I call these my favorite "winter" things, many of these items are year-round favorites, and I dare say one of them has been life changing for me!
If I were Oprah, I'd give each of you a package of all my favorites;) , but since I'm not, I have linked to each product to make it easier for you to find and to find information about them.  I've done several "favorites" posts in the past and I will link those posts in the bottom of this page, if you are interested. 

Disclaimer from Amazon:   " I,  for the love of a house, am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. "
What this means is that I make a (very small, but very much appreciated ;) commission on anything - not just the products that I link to- that you buy after clicking on any of the links from this blog, or the Amazon links on my sidebar.  Thank you very much for supporting this blog.

Fyi- not all of the links go through Amazon.  Many take you to a company's website or are informational sources for you.
Other than the possible fee I would receive if you were to click on, and purchase, through my Amazon links I have not been paid by any of the companies that I am recommending.  They are simply favorites of mine and I wanted to share.



I love to share my home, my designs, my life, ideas, favorite products, etc. with you... all of my passions, which I suppose is one of the main reasons I blog, so I am really excited about this post!
Here are ten favorite winter things in no particular order...


Fresh flowers.  I keep fresh flowers in the house year-round, but in the middle of winter they become a necessity.   I buy simple flowers so am able to get them at the grocery store or Trader Joe's.  I have two floral departments of close-by grocery stores on my phone and I know the days they get their fresh arrivals!  I love this time of year as tulips are a favorite.  This gorgeous display was two bunches of $4.99 tulips!  And they last for a week.  I love how they "dance."





I've mentioned them before, but I can't do a "winter favorites" without talking about my BOGS boots!  These are the boots I wear on walks in the snow and cold.  They keep your feet and legs dry and toasty.   I love them so much I talked Dan into getting a pair.


These are Dan's- he chose the Muck boot.  He loves his boots too!





This next product has been life changing for me.  And, I do not say that lightly!!  Organic, unscented, alcohol-free witch hazel.  Witch hazel is a deciduous shrub that has many medicinal uses.  This is not the witch hazel from your adolescences- it does not contain alcohol and is not the 
"astringent" form of witch hazel.  
In the winter months I suffer, like many, from really dry skin.  I can start itching between the shower and getting to the lotion in the medicine cabinet.  I have a hard time wearing lotions to bed as, no matter the brand, they always make me feel a bit sticky.  If I use lotions I don't sleep well, weird I know  (but do continue reading for a new favorite- oh wait, that makes 11 favorite things now! Oh well ;)  So when I read a blog (unfortunately I can not find it now to link to) about the wonders of organic, alcohol-free witch hazel and that one of the medicinal uses is that is helps moisturize the skin by sealing in moisture I was happy....okay, desperate to try it!  From the first use I was amazed and delighted!  I lightly... very lightly, toweled off and then poured about a teaspoon in my palm and applied.  I repeated until I was completely covered.  Since I began using this product about four months ago I have not itched once.  Not once!  I now have the witch hazel in a small spray bottle that I keep in the shower and I spritz all over after lightly toweling off and then let it air dry.  I also spritz my face and recently started spritzing my feet (which were so dry I was embarrassed to even go get a pedicure:) and they immediately (okay, maybe it took two applications) looked and felt wonderful.  I kept staring at my feet for days because the skin looked like I had just gotten a pedicure.  Then top it with lotion before going to bed and your feet will look and feel amazing!  
My dermatologist recently gave me several samples of different lotions for some red (non-itching;) bumps I had on my arms and while I don't have eczema, per say, I must say I love this lotion and have already purchased a large bottle of it.  Seriously, my feet have never looked (or felt, i.e. no paintul cracks on heels) better and I can even wear it to bed without feeling sticky. Come on sandal season!
.
The Thayers brand of witch hazel products is made of non-distilled extract from the witch hazel shrub maintaining the highest levels of therapeutic tannins.
I have a very difficult time finding this alcohol-free "unscented" witch hazel locally, so I order this 2-pack from Amazon (though I'm not allowed to use my own links) and this is the best deal out there! 

It also comes scented in Rose Petal, Cucumber, Lavender.
For some additional information on the different uses of organic witch hazel HERE and HERE.





I light candles all year, but during the winter months they become essential for creating that warm and cozy feeling in the house.  My go-to candles (always "unscented") are Ikea tea lights, for the price and the fact that they burn all the wax in the tin, and Ikea votives.
Please ignore my hording tendencies, I get it from my mother :) - my Ikea is over an hour away and I don't make it there very often!  We also recycle the tins fyi)


For tapers these Trader Joe's candles are the best.  The are dripless (well, that's a bit of a stretch as I do find they can drip) and they self-extinguish (this they do every time) which is wonderful.  I can find them year-round in some stores, but others say they are seasonal.  So when I see them I stock up! 





With the house all buttoned up tight during the winter months there is nothing like the scent of fresh lemons (which is my absolute favorite smell!)  to brighten a room.  "Happy" in a spray can!  
Citrus Magic is a safe and natural, non-aerosol odor eliminating spray made from the natural oils of citrus peels.  (Interesting video on the Citrus Magic website- bottom left, HERE.)  
I buy it in the 3-pack as it is the best value HERE and then keep a can upstairs and down.  But, it can also be purchased as a single can HERE.
It also comes in Tropical Citrus Blend, Lime, Orange and Lemon-Raspberry if you prefer those scents.  In addition to the Lemon, I have the Orange and the Lemon-Raspberry, which are also wonderful.  I am able to find some of these fragrances at the grocery store, but the only place I can find the lemon is at Amazon.)





I hate taking things to the dry cleaner.  I found this product almost a year ago and I absolutely love it!  Eucalan Delicate Wash is non-toxic, biodegradable, free of optical brighteners, phosphates, synthetic fragrance and dye. (ingredients)  It is a no-rinse product. Here is a video.  You can use it to hand wash (or machine, depending) cashmere, wool, silks, etc.  A very small amount goes a long way.  It's a great eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning.
I purchase the unscented HERE
I even use it to bathe Ella as it is made of lanolin.  I think her coat stays cleaner longer using this product and I love that it is unscented (a dog's sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 more intense than a humans (source) .  I feel very strongly against using perfume laden shampoos, unnecessary chemicals etc.on dogs.)

It is also available (click on the scent) in Eucalyptus, Lavender, Grapefruit and Jasmine- all scented using essential oils.





This one might seem really silly, but if you live in an area where it snows, and salt & sand is used to keep the snow off the road, OR if you live in a salt-air coastal environment you'll get it.
Stainless steel license plate screws.  When we first moved to New England I would notice almost all cars (including very high end cars) to have rust "tears" streaming from the metal screws on license plates.  I was shocked at how prevalent it was.  We purchased a new car after moving and the screws holding the license plate were indeed plated steel- i.e. they rust.  After discussing it with Dan  I suggested we might trade them out for stainless.  And that's what we did.  We simply went to a local TrueValue store and found stainless steel screws to use in their place.  Problem solved.  You're welcome!! :) 
I just love New Hampshire's state motto "Live Free or Die" on the licence plates.  
Please excuse the dirty car and license plate ;)





 Sweet Ella modeling the PawZ flexible booties. 
From the website: PawZ are the world's only disposable and reusable waterproof dog boot.  Made of natural rubber, they are 100% biodegradable.  Designed to go on easily and fit securely without zippers or straps.  They offer serious paw protection.  PawZ is the most natural-feeling boot your dog can wear because without padding your dog feels the ground, providing a needed sense of security.  Like a sock, PawZ moves with your dog, allowing full paw motion and maximum comfort.  And imagine never losing another expensive dog boot again.  They come 12 in a package and each boot can be worn many times.
These are amazing!  Think strong little balloons on the paws!  The red are the small size and the blue (they were sweet Amelia's) are medium.  They are easy to put on (if you have cooperative dogs I guess;)   Ella will react to the salt that is put on the road for snow removal (it burns as it melts in her paw) and by wearing the waterproof PawZ we were able to walk all winter long.  It also helped her to wear them even if there wasn't fresh salt on the road, but it was simply very cold.  The snow gets up in her paws and melts from the warmth of her body and then her feet get cold.  These totally eliminated that problem.  They are great for other uses too, not just the snow and cold.





Ugg Boots as house shoes!  (We do NOT wear these outdoors-  not that there is anything wrong with that; I just don't think that it is age-appropriate for us!)  These are Dan's.  Now, why are Dan's Ugg's on my 10 favorite winter things?!  Because they were the best purchase I made all last year!!!  I no longer have to listen to a certain someone constantly complaining about his feet being cold.  I bought a pair of the knock-off  (but real fur) Uggs from Costco when we first moved here and for years I extolled to Dan their virtues as winter house shoes!  Costco only sell the women's boots. Last year we were in Boston and walked by an Ugg store; I talked Dan into trying a pair on. He had been resistant as he didn't fully believe me (silly husband) and because they were expensive, especially when buying them as house shoes!  He loved them!  Sold!   He wanted me to make sure that I tell you they are the Ugg boots, not the Ugg slippers (which they also make) that warm the legs and ankles and really keep your bare feet warm.  I swear to you, he still thanks me at least 3 times a week for them!  He looooooves them!  They really can't be beat as house shoes if you live in a cold environment!  And, the best part.... no more whining!!:);)
HERE 





I find in winter I take more tub baths.  And while I love a good epson salt bath (with a martini on the side please :) I also like to fill a vintage tea ball with dried lavender.
(Antique brass soap and sea sponge holder)


Would love to hear any winter favorites you have!

Thank you again for supporting the blog! xxoj.


To read other "favorite" lists...


To stay in touch between posts, follow me on Instagram HERE





Sunday, March 15, 2015

the farmhouse in snow... lots of snow


Hello and welcome back.  
I want to thank  you ALL once again for the love, support, prayers, comments and emails you have sent to me, Dan and Ella in the unexpected loss of sweet Amelia.  We are slowly healing and have felt the undeniable comfort of the power of prayer by having so many people say a prayer for Amelia and for us.  Every night when I light candles around the house I say a prayer of gratitude for you... each and every one of you.  Words can not express the depth of my gratitude and appreciation for all of the love you have sent to us.
From my heart I thank you.


I felt it was time to start blogging again and I have been asked by quite a few people (especially those of you in the south;) to show the farmhouse in all the snow we've gotten this winter- and it has been a lot!  Some of the photos need an extra foot or more to depict the true height of the snow, but every time I would take photos for you I couldn't imagine that we'd get even more snow on top of what we already had! (I think that is called "survivalist thinking" :)   We heard on the news several weeks ago that this is the third snowiest winter in New Hampshire on record.  Considering that we landed in New Hampshire smack in the middle of the second snowiest winter on record back in 2008 we feel we have definitely earned our "New England winter survival" scout badge!

I once wrote on the blog, years ago, regarding living through the snowy winter in New Hampshire...
"It is absolutely beautiful, but what truly surprises, delights and amazes me on a daily basis is how natural this winterscape is to the soul of this born-and-raised Texan."
I feel sooooo grateful that I still feel this way.  While it has been a long, snowy winter (even as I type this post- with feet of snow still on the ground and a snowstorm blowing outside:) I have loved every second of it.  Winter in New England is magical to me.  Yes, I'm sure in a month I will be antsy for spring to arrive in May, but it "is" winter here and it is beautiful and I am embracing it.  That's why we moved here to experience all four seasons fully and.... we are!

So, take a look around and see how pretty the farmhouse looks in all this snow!






The stone beehives at the entrance buried in snow.









The snow came up to the top of the porch steps after this snow storm.




Ella loves the snow!




The south french door in the barn room.  Needless to say we weren't using this door;)




The snow up against the north french door in the barn room.




The "snow trail" out the front door.

\


We have amazing sunsets all year, but they are especially beautiful set against the snow.




The cutting garden.








The terrace off the barn room.








Note the footprints in the snow on the gravel drive to see the depth of the snowfall after the tractor has scooped away the snow.








Sweet Ella ready for a walk wearing her sassy coat and her protective Pawz boots to keep the road sand, salt and cold snow off her little feet!


Warmest regards, 
xxojoan



Saturday, January 24, 2015

we are so grateful....for Amelia, and for you



Dan and I are absolutely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support and prayers you have given to us and to Ella.  We have read each comment on the blog, each email, and each comment on Instagram aloud to one another and we have cried and sobbed.  We have felt so loved and held in this time of shock and grief over losing sweet Amelia so suddenly and too soon.    Your words have soothed our broken hearts, your tears have made us feel understood in our grief, and we have felt the love of your comforting hugs.
Knowing that so many of you are saying a prayer for Amelia has brought us the most special gift.  It is as if  all your many prayers are carrying her on wings of love and she is being ushered into heaven by you.  I can never thank you enough for making us feel this and making Amelia so loved in this moment.  She was our gift, and you are our gift also.  I cherish each and every one of you.  While we might not know each other personally I feel we know one another's soul- the soul that loves house and home and dogs (pets.)
To all of you who have mentioned your lost beloved pets- our sympathies to you. We are so grateful that you told us about your loves.
Tonight when I light our candles we will do it as a family and say "Thank you" for each and every one of you- you have given us the gift of love and prayer and understanding and we are so very, very grateful.
Through tears we Thank you.  
with much love,
Joan and Dan and Ella



"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own,
live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way.
We cherish memory as the only certain immortality,
never fully understanding the necessary plan."
- Irving Townsend -



Several days ago I realized that we did not have any photos or video of Amelia running through the woods,  We always assumed we would have the luxury of time.  
Then, last night I found this photo on my phone (Amelia is on the left.)  
This is how we will always remember her...



"They come to us,
from shelters or friends or in any number of ways,
these beings of fur or feather or other outer shells.
They come to us wanting only
to be fed, sheltered, and loved.
And we take them into our homes and our hearts.
They may have prized pedigrees,
or they may be abandoned or abused
and rough around the edges.
But there is something about them,
some sort of light in their eyes
that tells us they are meant for us.
And a sweet dance of love
begins with our new friends.
We watch them delightedly discover their new home,
laugh at the antics of kitten or puppy,
smile as the former lost soul
settles comfortably into our arms.
They become a beloved member of our family,
a reminder of the uninhibited joy
that we have often forgotten how to feel.
The dog that excitedly runs
to greet his human friend returning home,
or the contented cat curled up on a lap
remind us of how large
unfettered love can be.
They come to teach us to remember how to love.
They come to teach us that our hearts,
so often battered by this world that we struggle through,
are still open enough to feel wonder and mystery
and a precious connection to another being.
And we love them, and care for them,
and experience the joy
we thought was lost from our lives.
But life is fragile.
One day, perhaps unexpectedly,
or perhaps after a long struggle with illness,
our precious friends are gone.
And we mourn them deeply.
We feel lost, and alone,
and that the joy is once again gone from our lives.
We feel anger, and pain, and fear.
We question Deity, and wonder why.
Life is fragile.
Their lives are more fragile than ours.
We cannot escape death,
and for it to take our most precious friends,
who ask so little,
seems unfair and too much for us to bear.
But they leave us always with a gift.
They leave us with that love they gave, that joy they sparked.
Our hearts are larger for having loved them.
We are enriched by having these special souls in our lives,
even if it was for too brief a time.
Love never dies.
And the love that was created
by our special friends who came into our lives
is a living thing,
always a part of our being.
We may think our hearts are closing again,
but we cannot erase the fact
that they have been opened.
They teach us love for a reason:
so that we will have it in our hearts always.
Each day, each act of kindness or love,
is a tribute to our pets who have moved on.
Honor your special friend with kindness and love.
Each day, reach out to your living companions
and let them know how precious they are.
Reach out to others in your life
and let the love your friend brought you live on.
Reach out to others in need, whether human or animal.
I can think of no better gift than the love they teach us.
And I can think of no better way to honor their memories
than by extending that love.
In this way, they will truly live forever."

- Ginger-lyn Summer -


Dan has said many, many times over the last several days that I have the most wonderful readers on my blog.  I could not have said it better or agree more. 
Right after Amelia passed Dan said a quote from the movie "Shadowlands"...

"The pain now is part of the happiness then.  That's the deal."



We both thank you so much for reaching out to us.  We are blessed to have you here,  
We are so very grateful to have had sweet Amelia in our lives, and for you.




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