Tales of a Haven Newbie


It’s late and I can’t sleep. I should be in bed, recovering from my trip to the Haven Conference in beautiful Atlanta, Georgia.

I was officially a Haven “Newbie” since this was my first year attending the conference. It was amazing. It was dazzling, and I have never been so terrified in my life.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

I drove for two days to get there. Do you know the things that go through your mind when you are under the spell of highway hypnosis?

I was sure they would not let me in.

I was sure I would be the only new person there.

I was sure it was going to be a terrible waste of time and money.

I was afraid my kids would be wearing dirty clothes while I was gone.

Or that they would be living on junk food.

Or that the world would end without me being at home to save it.

But, none of those things happened.

I walked into the conference dragging my shabby old luggage past the valet parking, and was immediately captivated by the beautiful hotel.


This stunning display of furniture by Ballard Designs met me at the door.

I began to feel faint at the sight of it.

I felt completely of my league.

I was a little fish in a BIG sea.


I waited in line to check in.

I am not good at waiting. It is very difficult for me. I was so nervous I almost threw up standing in line at the counter.

I was certain the girl at the counter would know how many page views my blog gets per month. Wasn’t it tattooed on my forehead? 

She would smile sympathetically at me, knowing I didn’t really belong there, and instead of giving me a room key, she would hand me the keys to a broom closet down the hall.

But, that didn’t happen either.

This is a true story.

The imagination is a powerful thing when you are terrified.

Upon checking in, I was handed this beautiful swag bag. It was full of complemetary goodies from dozens of vendors who were so happy that we were there.

I almost passed out with shock that I actually got a room key and a bag of great free stuff.


I really thought I would have to get into the car and drive home again.


After I found my room, it was time to explore the hotel.

The garden was fantastic.

It was full of beautiful southern plants we just don’t see much of here in Wisconsin.

I wanted to take this beautiful Sycamore tree home with me.


The garden was also full of incredible water features. I thought died and went to heaven.



Later, they served cocktails and horderves and had music in the garden while we all got to know each other.

It was magical.

Just like magic, all of us “Newbies” got to know each other.

I met my room mate and so many other sweet people.

I could even eat and drink without having butterflies in my stomach.


The next day we visited the hall of vendors and sponsors. There were so many of them.

They all had such wonderful displays.

I loved these teal chairs from Ballard Designs.

I decided I need to sell everything I own and buy one or my life won’t be complete.


These fabrics from the Online Fabric Store were made into pillows!

Ooh, la la!


I found out GMC sponsored a group of bloggers to go to the 100 Mile Long Yard Sale and purchase items to decorate a home for Habitat for Humanity.

How cool is that?


On to the classes! I had a great time learning to use Ryobi powers tools. I even won an Air Strike stapler!

I can’t wait to use it!

Everyone was super nice and helpful, we all were snapping pictures right and left.

You can see lots more fun shots of the action on Instagram with the hashtag #havenconf.

It was a blast and I learned so much!


The last night, there was a fabulous good bye party.


There were chocolate fountains and champaign…..


there was cheese, and wine…….


there were orchids and candles on the tables.

We ate and drank and danced until the wee hours of the morning.

We talked about 80’s music, blogging, kids, and husbands. We had so much in common!

Those of us that started out as Haven Newbies became Haven Mavens!

Everyone was so sweet and fun, I can’t imagine why I was so nervous in the beginning!

I really need to get out more!

I can’t wait to go back again next year!

What I Wore to the Midwestern Blogger Meet-up







I had so much fun today at the Midwestern Blogger Meet-up! The big event took place in Lisle, Illinois and was put together by Jennifer Rizzo.  If you haven’t read Jennifer’s blog, you should hop on over and check it out. She’s very talented and as sweet as sunshine.

  I was equally charmed by her selection of location for the event: inside an old train depot at a local historical museum.


I was able to have some time to explore this quaint museum before the festivities began, I love old buildings.


The train depot was amazing, it was built in 1881. I am into train depots lately. And trains.


The depot had beautiful architectural features.


The inside of the depot was every bit as charming as the outside. Did you know they used to have separate waiting rooms for the men and women? Neither did I.

I love the big graphic on the wall. I wanted to take it home with me.


My great grandfather had a brass hanging lamp just like this one. So charming.


Great grandpa also had a clock just like this.  I loved the train bulletin chalkboard on the wall.


The corners of the depot were full of other old treasures like wooden barrels and these lovely trunks and boxes.  The walls in this room were beautiful unfinished wide boards.

I loved how rustic they look.

It was the perfect place for a bunch of bloggers to meet up.

We all took tons of pictures. You can see why.


Jennifer put together this lovely table of refreshments for us all. In between chatting about blogging, social media, SEO’s, websites and taking pictures, we sipped coffee, chewed on brownies and complete strangers became friends.

It is amazing what food can do.

Everyone was so sweet and friendly, and it was so nice to put faces with blog names. I can’t wait to go back again next year.

It was a great day!


By the way, this is day #2 of my Photography Challenge (see yesterday’s post for more details here). 

Todays’ assignment,  photograph “what you wore”.  I interpreted this to mean “what I wore to the blogger meet-up”. 

I wore my favorite butterfly necklace.

See you tomorrow!

In Love with Orchids




Coming back from vacation has it’s perks. The snow is now gone, and I actually saw a robin in the yard today. It seems like overnight, winter has finally given up and warmer days are ahead.

Returning from vacation has it’s down side also, I can no longer avoid all the things I have been worrying about, and I am still suffering from the time zone differential, a.k.a., I need a nap. A long nap.

For today, I will share our vacation visit to this fantastic orchid greenhouse. I have never seen anything quite like this, an entire greenhouse full of just orchids.

It was absolutely amazing. I could have wandered around in there for days.


The woman who ran the place, had the most interesting way of organizing her orchids, rows and rows of vertical hanging baskets. Each one was connected to the one above by a simple metal hook. It gave the impression of being an entire wall, but it really wasn’t a wall at all.

Orchids do not need soil, some varieties thrive purely on air and water, others require bark or moss to cover the roots. These hanging “vines” are photos of all the bare roots, just hanging down from their little wooden or plastic baskets. I would love a greenhouse full of these!

It felt like a jungle. 

It was a jungle.

 This particular variety of orchid only blooms every 6 years ( I can’t remember the name of them, sorry!).  These are only 4 years old, and won’t bloom for two more years. I can’t imagine having that much patience waiting for them to bloom would be so hard for me!  Wow, this woman had PATIENCE!


I especially loved the orchids planted in the wooden baskets. They look so gnarly and rustic, what an inspiration! Don’t you just LOVE it?


Another wall was covered with wire fencing, then with rows of tiny orchid baskets on hooks. This system was part of how she propagates her orchids, and these were not for sale. Each one was labeled with the latin name, and she knew all of them!

 I would love to learn how propagate orchids, although I guess I should learn to grow them first without killing them. Sigh.

First things, first.


My son had the best time in this place, he found an orchid to take home with him as a souvenir. This variety, Phalainopsis, is quite common, you can buy them at Home Depot or your local greenhouse. They have the most dazzling blossoms.  Keep your orchid in indirect sun, and evenly moist. The bathroom is a great place for them, they love the humidity. You can put them in the tub with a bit of water if you have to go out of town, they will be happy until you return.

I must say, I really don’t know that much about orchids, I killed one once that I had been given as a gift. Fortunately, my son is very good with plants and I am hoping we can keep this one alive for a while. Forever, actually.

Next time we are on vacation, I am bringing home a dozen of them, at least!

White Christmas

It’s a beautiful clear morning here in Wisconsin. The last few days have brought us quite a bit of winter weather. A layer of ice and 8 inches of fresh snow make for a lovely view on Christmas Eve Day.
I have always wanted to go skiing for Christmas. I pulled out my vintage skis and took them for their maiden voyage around the cornfield behind our house. Skiing is one of my all time favorite things.

Come on, I’ll lead the way….

I love how the trees are covered in ice. They sparkle in the sunlight.
I can hear the ice crack in the wind. Nothing else, just the sound of the wind in the trees. All my lovely song birds are long gone to warmer places.
I follow the path of the deer along the edge of the field. I know they are there, I wish they would show themselves to me.
More tracks………I am still waiting for that big buck to visit our yard. I just know he is going to waltz up to my deck and drop his beautiful antlers there for me. He knows how great they would look above my fireplace mantle. 
We saw a TV special recently on how the deer camouflage themselves in the trees. You can be standing right next to them and not know that they are there. After I turned my back from taking this photo, two does ran across the field. I knew they were there even though I couldn’t see them.

More snow is on the way, I hope you have enjoyed the tour of the field. 
Time for some hot cocoa!
Merry Christmas Eve!

Lingerie that Every Woman Should Own

Spirella representative @designerssweetspot.com
One of the best kept secrets for the fashionable woman is great lingerie. Just as a wise man built his house upon a rock, the wise woman starts her look with great fitting undergarments.

Unfortunately, today we tend to over look this area. Generations ago, corsetieres came into homes and gave the lady of the house a custom fitting. Corsets were not sold in stores. My ancestors were corsetieres in Niagara Falls, Canada. The Spirella Corset Company began in 1904, and would send a female professional into customers homes to fit them for the perfect bone corset.

Back then, proper fitting of a corset was a literally a life and death matter, as if a lady had a fall, or was accidentally poked in the ribcage, the fragile stays could break and puncture her body. Can you imagine? Corsetieres were often nurses, and corsets were many times part of the doctor’s prescription for various aliments such as chronic back pain. Here’s what one of the original garments looked like:
We have it so easy today, don’t we?
This is a poorly fit corset.
This is a properly fit Spirella.
Spirella was making corsets well into the 1960’s. Wonder why women in vintage photos look so grand? Guess what they are wearing underneath?
My Grandmother used to say, don’t ever wear undergarments you would be embarrassed to have a doctor see if you got hurt and were sent to the Emergency Room. What a thought process!
Since we think that no one really sees our undergarments, they get put on the bottom of our priority list.
Did you know????
It is estimated that approximately 85% of American women wear the wrong size bra. Particularly in the Midwest, the average is supposedly higher. Given the popularity of Oprah’s Bra episode which first aired in November of 2005, you can tell this is a major issue with women today. Oprah even has dedicated a page to the subject, she calls it “The Bra Revolution”.  Here’s the link:
Did you know that a proper fitting bra can change your figure by as much as 2 inches? It can make you look bigger and fuller, or it can even make you look like you lost weight! Do you wonder why you can’t find blouses to fit? Perhaps it’s time to shop for some new foundations instead of new clothes.
I love lingerie. Designing lingerie was my specialty in college and I worked for a lingerie company for a number of years in Chicago. I guess you could say it’s in my blood. Every woman should build her wardrobe from the foundations up. If your “girls” are headed South, it’s time to pick them up and put them back where they belong!
How do you know when you need new foundations?
1) Have you gained or lost more than 7 lbs. since you last purchased undergarments?
2) When you look in the mirror (fully clothed), is your bust point centered between your shoulder and elbow?
3) Has it been more than 6 months since you purchased new braziers?
4) Are wearing your bra on the last or smallest hook, and the band is still loose? Are the under wires are protruding into your side? Are your breasts are spilling above or below the bra?  Do you feel confident wearing your undergarments, or do you feel frumpy and grumpy?
If you have answered YES to any of these questions, it’s time to go shopping!
Where to begin?
Correct fit is essential. Since we no longer have the option of in home fittings, we need to find a specialty shop dedicated to filling this need. Here in Madison we are blessed with Contours Lingerie at 6102 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI.
Contours is a great place to find a beautiful selection of foundations and specialty sleepwear. Personalized service, and a wide selection of larger sizes adds to the package. Contours specializes in bra fittings (no charge), and has a wonderful selection including European style garments. I stopped in recently for a fitting, and picked up a coupon for a discounted wax at the Bella Beauty Salon next door. You also get a free pantie with a wax! You can’t go wrong with this deal!
If your not local, getting a proper fitting can be as close as your local department store. JC Penny’s offers free fittings, plus you get an additional 20% discount on your purchase! Call today!
Don’t be afraid to try some new styles. Designer Issac Mizerahi gives this list of lingerie must haves in his book ” How to Have Style”:
1) At least one T-shirt Bra, preferably in several colors, such as beige, white and black. Avoid prints and unnecessary wild colors.
2) A Convertible bra, including X and T back styles,usually they come with removable straps for an optional strapless look.
3) A Push-Up Bra.
4) An all lace bra, preferably in a great color like red. Step out of your box on this one!
5) A Minimizer Bra, you just never know when you might need it to fit under a certain blouse!
6) Various pantie styles and fabrications including lace, cotton and tricot. Vary the waistbands to include bikini or boy short and high waisted. High waisted pants are coming back, be prepared!
I am adding the following must haves to his list:
6) Several different styles and colors of Spanx or smooth fitting spandex type undergarments including a camisole, a T-shirt style, and a bottom such as a bike short or full body hugging style for wearing under clingy dresses.
7) You should also own long winter underwear, especially for those of us in cold climates. Try Cuddle Dudds for a warm fleecy type feel, or the lighter weight silks from Land’s End. Do not under any circumstances wear the old fashioned thermals! They are SO unfeminine and will add inches to your figure! Yikes! Who wants that?
8) At least one silky fabric camisole. They fit great under clingy T-shirts and blouses, giving you a smoother look.
Always remember to wash your lingerie in a lingerie bag on the gentle cycle. Don’t ever dry them in the dryer. Undergarments will last infinitly longer by air drying them.
Two things that are completely passe’ are girdles and slips. Spanx are a hundred times more effective, they don’t ride up, and they are a thousand times more comfortable. Need I say more?
In closing, I will share with you one of my favorite stories. We were at a Christian couples weekend when our keynote speaker told us this story. He was shopping at his local Mall, when he noticed a band of Amish ladies MARCHING down the Mall, all of them carrying Victoria’s Secret shopping bags. Just because you look plain on the outside doesn’t mean you can’t look GREAT on the underside! Happy Shopping!