Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I am Canadian...Happy Canada Day!!

Although I began my life far across the ocean in Northern Ireland - and I am Irish, first and foremost - I definitely identify as a proud Canadian. I love that my country is a wide expanse of terrain that changes dramatically as you travel from east to west. Rich culture, diverse cities, prairies, staggering mountains, two oceans, the Niagara Falls, and the northern territories...a trip across the country is one I plan to take someday, and I look forward to acquainting myself with the beauty and wonder of this country I call home.

It may seem smug, but I think we can lay claim to some of the most talented singers (Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Bryan Adams, Nickelback, etc.), comedians (John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers) and designers (Debbie Travis, Candace Olsen, Sarah Richardson, Karim Rashid, Patricia Gray and more!) in the world. Like I said, I am proud to be Canadian, and when I sing our national anthem, I feel such a rush of that pride.

Canada Day, for us, always means fireworks, a parade, a few tattoos, outdoor games and a barbecue with all of the trimmings (thanks to well-organized and generous friends!). While the boys have outgrown their tolerance for donning a matching red, Canada Day t-shirt, Sophie is still game and wears the maple leaf with pride!
To my fellow Canadians - and as those of you south of the border head into your own Fourth of July celebrations - celebrate and enjoy what your country means to you. Fire up your barbecue and submit to a (temporary) patriotic tattoo or two. Fly those flags high and take a moment to reflect on what your country means to you.

Happy Canada Day, one and all!!

Take a Bow Tuesday

I don't mind saying I am struggling with this commitment thing. I am not a blogger who does well with an organized posting schedule. True to my nature, I am a bit of a fly-by-the-seat -of-my-pants kind of blogger. When a thought or post idea pops into my head, I start writing. Still, I am bound and determined to stick with my Tuesday feature of honouring my talented blogging friends.

And here is this week's edition:
Now, please go and visit these bloggers and enjoy the view!!
Stay tuned till later in the week, when I announce some very exciting news. I'd love to hear any guesses...and no, there is absolutely no baby involved!!

Time Magazine Real Estate Article Quotes Alex Shay Perspective On Higher Taxes

Time MagazineThe following is a reprint of a Time Magazine real estate article, quoting this writer:

Florida's Property Taxes Go Wacky in Housing Slump

By Tim Padgett
Monday, Jun. 29, 2009

In Palm Beach County, buyers who find fire-sale bargains at foreclosed-home auctions — picking up, say, $400,000 houses for $100,000 or less — are realizing they're required in many cases to pay the same property taxes if the homes were still valued at $400,000.

In Miami-Dade County, to the south, where 1 in 4 homeowners is 30 days or more behind in his or her mortgage payments, residents are bracing for what Mayor Carlos Alvarez says could be an imminent property-tax hike to fill an almost $400 million budget hole — a move that veteran Miami realtors like Alex Shay insist would set recovery back. "It's out of line," says Shay, who recently took Alvarez to task on his Miami Real Estate blog. "A lot of people here are barely holding on to their properties, using credit-card advances to pay escrow, and the county wants them to take another hit?"

Welcome to Florida, the land of no income taxes — and killer property taxes. Whether it's a nightmare for someone who just purchased a Florida foreclosure or a tax hike that proves the last straw for some struggling homeowner, it's bad news for the individual, and increasingly for the state. It's also a painful reminder of the halcyon days when Florida's economy could lazily rely on soaring real estate prices — and related taxes — to pour ever more money into government coffers. Now local governments say they're broke, thanks to the housing bust, and many are trying to maintain the lofty property-tax rates levied during the housing boom or even increase them — even though that could exacerbate the housing bust.

Truth is, a dysfunctional property-tax system has been haunting Florida, if not many other states, far longer than the recession has. Over the past generation, Florida's explosive but fecklessly managed growth drove up real estate values, and therefore property taxes, beyond the reach of more and more families. In the 1990s the state adopted a "homestead" measure which, when homeowners become eligible for it, caps their assessed property-value increases at 3% a year (part-time residents don't qualify). But when houses are sold, a far higher base assessment usually applies, creating absurd situations in which neighbors with similar properties pay wildly disparate taxes. And during the boom, in expensive markets like South Florida, homeowners who had yet to qualify for the cap often saw their property levies double in just a few years — a big reason half of all South Floridians in a 2007 Zogby International poll said they were considering moving out of the state.

But lately the situation has gone from bad to, well, perverse. "One of the frustrating paradoxes of the recession is falling real estate markets and rising property taxes," says Kurt Wenner, research director at Florida Tax Watch in Tallahassee. A 2008 state reform, as well as another scheduled to go into effect next year, has reduced some of Florida's property-tax burden by making the cap more generous and accessible to more residents. But because of arcane provisions in the homestead law, government appraisers can tell a homeowner that although his house's current market value may be as depressed as a Florida sinkhole, its taxable value is still high or rising. More important, many of the state's county and local governments are raising their millage rate (the rate per $1,000 of assessed value that determines the property-tax bill) to make up for budget shortfalls.

One element of confusion, if not contention, is the tax bill due on dramatically discounted homes bought at foreclosure auctions. Those purchases, which represent about 40% of new home purchases in Florida now, are driving any home-sale revival the U.S. is seeing (even if they also help drive down surrounding home prices). But in many if not most cases, people buying foreclosed homes have budgets "that can afford the taxes on a $100,000 house but not necessarily a $400,000 house," notes Brian Paul, CEO of the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches. Of course, Palm Beach County executives take a different view. "Introducing foreclosure into the [property appraisal] equation may be an interesting idea," says John Thomas, director of residential appraisal at the Palm Beach County Appraiser's Office, but "people should remember that property assessments are made based on the surrounding neighborhood more than a specific house."

Of course, homeowners can appeal to their county's value-adjustment boards to negotiate lower assessments. And real estate experts like Paul say onerous tax bills aren't proving too large a hindrance to foreclosed-home purchases. The bigger concern is that during the boom, many local governments spent their revenue windfalls like sailors, which makes taxpayers less sympathetic to their budget whining. Mayor Alvarez insisted this month that "it's almost impossible that we can achieve an acceptable budget" without a property-tax increase. But because Miami-Dade residents saw so much official profligacy during the housing bubble — county commissioners were famous for having cops chauffeur them around town, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in police overtime — Alvarez's suggestion is being met instead by calls to further streamline the county's bloated bureaucracy.

My Study..........

Here are the photos of my study


Pretties to Share

I thought I'd share a few pretties today. The first being that pretty little "J" that you notice up there by the http://.
It's called a blog icon or fav icon. It replaces the big orange square B that's next to almost every blog address. It makes my blog name stand out and be unique. I love it! Cara, the RockSTARRMom, designed it for me. Thank you Cara! She can personalize your blogicon too. Just go visit her at Your Blogicon and tell her I sent you. She'll create something wonderful for your blog and give you step-by-step instructions on how to install it. She's such a sweetie!

As you know I've been a little light on my posting lately which has given me time to catch up on things.
I've been doing some yard work (finally!). Of course there's still more to do. Lots of flowers to plant and the weeding is never done. But I wanted to share a few photos of my yard.
The roses look spectacular this year.
My clematis has never had so many blooms. I'm amazed that everything has managed to thrive even with my neglect. I learned a lesson from my flower beds. They look great because I planted plenty of perennials. I applied that lesson to my huge flower pots and planted perennials in them this year. There's beautiful hostas in the pots under the trees. And fragrant lavender in the pots out back. With perinnials in my pots I can enjoy their beauty this year and for years to come.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Not so naff now!!!!..........

The following cupboards/dressers have wallpaper at the back which, when I was a child, was thought of as really naff but I think these look lovely.My daughter has this decorative shelf, which she bought from Cox and Cox. This is where I got my inspiration for my cupboard, a picture of which is at the end of this post.
This one, from Country Living, is a little too fussy for me but still looks good and just gives it a bit of a twist.

This is my favourite as the dresser has such a mellow finish and the wallpaper at the back just lifts it. This dresser is from No.eight.

.......... and here is my little effort. It's quite subtle but I think that you can see the wallpaper. It was just a plain, pine cupboard /shelf that I painted with Farrow and Ball Lime White, rubbed it down with sandpaper to distress it and finally gave it a coat of wax (from Annie Sloane) and it is now in my study. I will take photos of my study to show you how it looks in the room,

Romancing the Old

I'm joining Rhoda's party today and showing off my recent thrift store finds.I seem to be having an attraction to all things vintage. The old stuff like books, bottles, and silver seems to bring such a feeling of romance.

The Orchard, Grantchester, Cambridge..........

The Orchard today. The Orchard 1910

The weather here is absolutely glorious. I don't know why everyone thinks that our weather is so awful. I don't think that there is anywhere better than a hot English summers day. Yesterday was one of those days and I went to The Orchard in Grantchester, Cambridge. The Orchard is a corner of England where time stands still and the outside world rushes by. Apparently, more famous people have taken tea there, than anywhere else in the world.
The Orchard, first planted in 1868, became a tea garden purely by chance. A group of Cambridge students asked Mrs. Stevenson of Orchard House if she would serve them tea beneath the blossoming fruit trees rather than, as was usual, on the front lawn of the House. They were unaware that, on that spring morning in 1897, they had started a great Cambridge tradition. In order to supplement their income, the Stevenson's took in lodgers at Orchard House, and, in 1909, a young graduate of Kings College took up residence. His name was Rupert Brooke, the poet.

Some of the famous people who have taken tea in The Orchard Tea Gardens are:

Emma Thompson, John Cleese, Hugh Laurie, Peter Cooke, Stephen Fry, Tim Rice, Clive James, David Frost, Virginia Woolf, Prince Charles, King George VI etc. etc.

The weather is even hotter today and long may it continue,


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Just Passing Through...

While many of us focus our energy (and budget) on decorating the major living spaces of our homes, how many of us actually focus any attention on the hallways, corridors and foyers of our homes?Indeed, few of us are lucky enough to have large hallways that can be adorned with artwork on the walls and where children run carefree for more than a few feet. Still, the hallowed halls of our homes are the perfect spot for the following accessories and/or details:

Family photos
Collections, on shelves, in shadow boxes, or simply hung on the walls

A beautiful clock, to be glanced at as we hurry about our day

A gallery of our children's artwork, either framed or clipped causally onto dollar store clip boards

A great mirror to sneak a peak at our frazzled reflections as we rush out the door

A smart, stylish rug

Wallpaper, for those hesitant to "try it again for the first time" anywhere else:

A chalkboard wall, for those gutsier homeowners:
(photo: Wish magazine)

functional built-ins:

A mural, or other fun wall treatment (like this decal):

Architectural detailing, like this panel moulding:

Walls painted in bold, snappy stripes:

Or kept simple but highlighted by a fabulous lighting fixture:

So, as you walk down your hallway, don't just pass on by a great opportunity to decorate the passageways of your home. Look at them differently.

Because, as we all know, sometimes the journey can be so much better than the destination...


(all photos, unless otherwise noted, from House to Home UK)

Friday, June 26, 2009

...and I am a Mother.

I have been thinking about my role as a mother lately. As I embrace the return of my children to my twenty-four hour care, I find myself not overwhelmed by them, but overwhelmed by the depth of my belonging to this role called mother. I have yet to feel the full effects of this thing called summer, but I am certainly feeling the finality of a series of endings.

Maybe it was the noticeable change in my youngest son's voice. Once husky and sweet, it is now hesitant and monotone, deeper, and not yet familiar. Perhaps it is the independent streak in my daughter, the baby, who still climbs up on my lap. yet skips away happily when another offer comes forth. More certainly, it is the transition of my eldest who is leaving behind junior high for the lofty heights of high school. The realization that I really love him as a person, has sent new fears to my heart that in three years time I will lose him, in the way that is expected, yet dreaded by mothers not ready to deliver their children to adulthood. As I watched him receive his diploma (a now common rite of passage from kindergarten to high school. apparently) and enjoyed the slide show of changes as the students travelled the path from grade seven to nine, I felt like bolting. I cannot explain it. As tall as his father, I don't feel ready to hand him over to this rapid transition. I remember feeling the same way on elementary registration day for my daughter: half annoyed that "these people" were dictating the submission of my youngest child. Preposterous really, when you think if it. Someone else is to be trusted with the children you had previously not let out of your sight?

The emotion ends full circle. I feel such a deep sense of gratitude that I have been entrusted in this role. I am so proud to wear the label, and honoured that these children love me back. I have always known it and felt this way, but somehow knowing that a season is closing in on me faster than I'd like sobers me, and makes me appreciate this gift I have been given.

This role, and these children, has and always will be my greatest gift.

One word of advice: the tough parts of parenting will ease, but the depth of your feelings will multiply until the day you die. Of this I am certain.

Appreciate your role.

A Fourth Explosion

This year I took a "more is more" approach to my holiday decorating. Instead of scattering it throughout my home, I concentrated on a few prominent areas that I filled to the brim with all that I had.

A room with a view..........

Bradley Shawn Roben
What I wouldn't give for this lovely English view .decorpad
Wow. Fancy having this view. To sit here with an espresso and a good book would be inspiring.

I love this one. You can just imagine what is going on in the street below.

I was here last year and it was one of my best holidays. Venice is so beautiful.

Imaginative interiors
.......... and if you haven't got a beautiful view, maybe you could have a trompe l'oeil view, like the one above, painted on your wall !!

Vintage Home on Vacation!

We are currently enjoying a summer holiday but it's business as usual at the Vintage Home website. There will be a slightly longer delivery time for orders but we have sweetened this with a little holiday surprise - see the website for details! Our prize draw is still running too - see the post below for how to enter.

We'll be back soon to top up the shop with a fresh supply of beautiful vintage treasures for you all - and hopefully a suntan for us! See you soon! Clare & Mike

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nautical By Nature...

(all images, Coastal Living.com)

As I chill out to the drone of my newly re-installed air conditioner, I am led to thoughts about the importance of keeping cool in the summer. While this summer has been highly anticipated after the long snowy winter we had, one only has to suffer through a day or two of high humidity and temperatures to crave cool breezes and/or a refreshing dip. While my pool is a bit too cool for me to take a dip just yet, I have done plenty of life-guarding for my more hardy offspring.

As I sat on the lounge chair today - sweat trickling down my lip and hair growing frizzier by the second - I tried to distract myself from my raging inner thermostat by planning how I can pretty up my pool deck. Things are almost complete on the little change house/area the handyman built, the flowers have been planted in their pots, and I have picked up some nautical accessories from my local vintage store. Still, I am pining for a more beachy feel, cooler colours and snappy style.

Basically, I am craving a little bit of this:

nautical done well,

and pretty on the inside and out!

If the threat of rain and the incessant humidity ever subsides, I will finish up my projects and share them with you. Stay cool!!


Head on over to Julia's Hooked on Fridays event for more creative ideas from your favourite bloggers (and some sure to become favourites!).