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Backsplash Redo

After surviving performances in seventeen (17!) Christmas concert events of one kind or another, I had to nap…but after a few days I crawled out and decided it was time to deal with my outdated kitchen backsplash. Here it was:ImageVery late 80’s/early 90’s, no? Ah, hunter green. I loved you then. But that was so very then.

Someday I’ll change several things about my kitchen, not least those horrid orange cabinets, the countertops, and of course, the boring tile backsplash. But until that day comes, I decided ditching the green would be a happy interim solution. What’s the worst that could happen? It could look atrocious and then I’d have to chip out that section of tile and replace it with mosaic or something. I figured that was worth a $6 gamble (cost of paint & brushes). And indeed it was. Here’s the after: ImageThat’s Martha Stewart’s multi-surface paint in Tartan Red. I cleaned the tiles, wiped them down with alcohol, then taped and painted. I found the best method was to get paint on the tile with a small foam brush, then run over it with a foam roller to smooth it out. Once dry I applied a coat of sealer and there you go. My Williamsburg pub sign is attached with those Contact adhesive strips, everything goes better with the new color, and I’m a happy camper.ImageWill it hold up to heavy cooking & cleaning? We’ll see. If not, well, that will be an excuse to do a little tiling.

Next project: writing down everyone’s phone number–you know, the old fashioned way, with pen and paper–just in case I lose my phone and want to talk to anyone ever again. What’s next on your project list?

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No, not toppings for your toast. Tops for your toaster. And therein lies a story . . .

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One day Julie Condy saw her husband spraying down the kitchen counter with cleaner. He must have gotten a little carried away with the spraying part because the toaster was sitting on the counter and some of the spray went down inside the toaster slots. “Right after that,” Julie says, “I was getting ready to make some toast and thought that’s really gross.” (And, when you think about it, it is.)

 So Julie started looking for some kind of topper for her toaster. She didn’t want one of those granny fabric cozies; she was hoping for something a little more modern. But there didn’t seem to be anything out there . . . so Julie decided to make her own. She applied for a patent, found a manufacturer, and started making Toaster Tops.

Don’t you love that kind of attitude? How often have you had a great idea but let it die on the vine? I spoke to Julie the other day about her Toaster Top adventure and asked about her biggest challenge getting her concept off the ground. “The hardest thing at first was to find the right manufacturer for the plates,” she told me. “Because it was a new idea and obviously I wasn’t going to buy a lot to start with it was hard to get anybody to even return the phone call.” But she persevered and “now I have one I’m really happy with; they’re actually here in Garland.” Garland, Texas, that is, home to the Toaster Tops empire, which is currently taking over Julie’s house. “The whole dining room has been converted. We have a sign that says ‘Toaster Top Studio’ because it has tables all around with shelves and the garage and now the office…”

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Not only are Toaster Tops functional, they’re adorable. Here’s the fun thing: the top itself is a metal plate that comes in various sizes so you can find one that fits your toaster. That part isn’t so adorable, but the knobs…they’re cute as all get out. They’re interchangeable, too, so you buy one plate then you can change out the knobs according to season, occasion, or mood. You get kitchen décor that doesn’t take up any extra space on your counter. Christmas shopping, anyone?

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Now, I think the product is great but even more than that, I love hearing stories about people who saw a need and decided to fill it. Especially when they’re practically neighbors.

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“It’s sort of a family affair,” Julie said. “My husband and I have a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old; they have been living and breathing this the whole time with us. Now my daughter is coming up with a whole line of clothing and starting her own business. It’s been great to see them getting so involved and learning so much from it.”  The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Texas!

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 Quick Q&A w/Julie

How many toasters do you own? Nine.

Do you eat a lot of toast? I just went gluten-free so I’m trying to find gluten-free toast.

What’s next? We’re planning to open up a retail store then also sell toasters and wine stoppers—fun gift ideas.

Any plans to branch out into other appliances? We have so much we can do with the toasters right now.  We’re going to keep trying to make that work really well, then we’ll look at different areas. Maybe more decorative knobs, maybe get into wine stoppers. There are so many exciting things!

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You can see the whole line and order a Toaster Top or two at http://www.shop.toastertops.com/main.sc

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Keeping it legal: this is not a sponsored post, but after we spoke, Julie did send me a sample Toaster Top. The little cat knob looks just like my Henry, right down to the slightly worried expression. Love. Guess I’ll have to break down and replace my dead toaster now.

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Cook Off Today!

If you’ve been following our Spar for the Spurtle adventure (and really, isn’t everyone?) you may recall that I sadly, did not make the finals but, happily, Kerri did.

Well, peeps, the cook off is today. Kerri is in Portland touring Bob’s Red Mill (with Bob himself) and preparing to create her delicious dish this afternoon. She’s going to do some guest posts when she gets back, to give us an insider’s view of the competition.

But today, she’s cooking for the chance to go to Scotland and compete in the World Porridge Championship. So prayers and good wishes appreciated and when I find out the results I’ll let you all know!

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That’s what the bumper sticker on my car says and it speaks the truth. Last week I was involved in the Berlioz Te Deum. (We got excellent reviews, btw—but then it was mighty loud and we Texans do like loud. Five cymbals. Count ‘em. Five.)

This week it’s all about Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, which we’re doing later this month. It’s a wonderful work, but it’s also quite long, in German, and my part alone has roughly a zillion notes. (Some of them are not quite what one might expect, either. Ol’ Johann was tricky like that.) I’ve about determined that my choir (there are two in this piece) is pretty much there to call down curses; it seems like we’re always spitting out German in a hostile manner. But the ending…ah, the ending. It’ll rip your heart out.

So I’d love to stay and chat and upload pics of my daffodils and tell you all about landscape school…but I can’t (right now). I have rehearsal.

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Charles Dickens would have been 200 today.

My first memory of Dickens’ work was reading Great Expectations in junior high English class. I hated it. (Pip was a loser, Estella was a mean girl, and Miss Haversham needed to suck it up and get on with her life. I was full of grace and forgiveness at twelve.)

It’s a wonder that I ever gave him another chance, but I’ll always remember reading A Christmas Carol for the first time. In the first page or so the author wanders off into a tangent about “why do we say ‘dead as a doornail’? Wouldn’t a coffin nail be more dead than a doornail?” and I realized I had discovered a kindred spirit.

Then there was the time I waded through A Tale of Two Cities only to find I could hardly read the last few pages through my tears. (When they’re going up the steps to the guillotine and Sydney Carton is so sweet to the doomed, innocent, little dressmaker in the face of his own imminent death. . . oh my.)

Mind you, such noble characters are kind of counteracted by that useless little twerp David Copperfield married (clearly I’m still working on that grace and forgiveness thing). But never mind. The point is that such characters (even the annoying ones)—and the talented author who created them—deserve to be celebrated.

So happy birthday, Mr. Dickens! You’ve provided many happy (and some irritated) hours of reading pleasure to millions. Thanks for sharing your work with us.

Do you have a favorite Dickens story? What is it and why do you like it?

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Groundhog Day

I gather Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning so we’re in for 6 more weeks of winter. As today’s winter forecast for my little corner of Texas heaven calls for a high of 75, I’m OK with that. (Although a good hard freeze to kill some of our insect population would not come amiss. Just sayin’.)

Remember the movie Groundhog Day where Bill Murray had to keep reliving the same day over and over again? I wonder how many of us feel like that every day? Do you find yourself stuck in the same attitude, the same actions, the same everything most days? It’s so easy to fall into a mindless routine as one day merges seamlessly into the next.

I don’t think we’re designed to live that way. A friend told me about an idea called “God’s pocket” where they set aside an amount of money to give away. The amount can be anything from $5 on up, depending on their circumstances. Once that money is set aside it no longer belongs to my friend, it belongs to God. Her job is to listen and look for the person God intends to have the money. The fun part is the feeling of discovery when she realizes, “Oh, you’re the one who’s supposed to get this.” It transforms an ordinary day into an active partnership with God.

I believe that God has hidden opportunities and blessings like Easter eggs along our path. Sure, we’ll stumble over a few, but we’re more likely to find them if we’re looking. That will take each day out of the daily routine and turn it into an adventure.

 So let’s start looking!

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Warranty Expired?

After spending much of the summer battling sinus infections and bronchitis, I’m now a pink, puffy mess due to an apparent spider bite. I’m also itchy. Very, very itchy. (Oh, sorry, did I make you scratch? My bad!) This is one of the things they don’t warn you about when you ask to sit on the restaurant patio.

My doctor assures me that no matter what dread disease the lab results will say I’ve picked up, she has medication to fix it. I sure hope so. She’s a trustworthy woman, so I expect she’s right.

This all began not long after my birthday, which makes me wonder if my warranty has expired since parts of me seem to be falling apart. Fortunately, I have a direct line to the manufacturer and I’ve been assured that my model is not yet obsolete.

“So we do not give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16

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