Saturday, October 30, 2010

Simple Pleasures

Our niece Ava:

She's quite the crawler these days! 

Friday, October 29, 2010

My Ghost Story - La Concha Hotel, Key West

This is a re-post from last year - where I shared our very true ghost story.  Thought I would re-post for new readers, and because I think it's festive! 

I'll start out by saying that I know people have mixed feelings about ghosts/spirits/etc and that's fine.  Some believe, some don't.  I'm not offended at all if you don't believe, and don't believe my story. It's one of those seein'-is-believin' kinda things.

I personally have always had an irrational fear of ghosts for no reason whatsoever - as a child, I would always lay in bed with my eyes peeled open afraid but waiting to see something.  I think it's because my parents' house was built right next to an unmarked 19th century grave yard, but that's a different story!  (No, seriously, it is).

As I've gotten older, I wasn't scared really and slept through the night, although I was sure I would be petrified if I really saw one.  I always believed though, although I don't pretend to know what exactly "ghosts" are or why they are here, etc. 

So, here's the story. 

A few years ago, Tony and I were visiting Key West.  It's an awesome place if you've never been!  You may know that the La Concha Hotel (I think it was a Crown Plaza at the time) is the tallest building there, at only 7 stories.  (I'm noting these details from my poor memory, so don't quote me, fyi). There is a roof-top bar at the top of the hotel that overlooks the water and is a great place to watch the famous Key West sunset.  

Well, we didn't make it for the sunset, but it was about 10:30 pm and we wanted to go up to grab a drink and see the city lights.  Mind you, I hadn't had anything to drink yet (so that's not an excuse, naysayers!) and we didn't know anything at all about the hotel besides the fact that it was in the same hotel group as Holiday Inn (our lovely alma mater where Tony and I met!) 

So we headed up the hotel elevator to the bar, just in time to see the bartenders shutting everything up for the night.  But they let us know that the open-air balcony was always open even when the bar wasn't.  So we sat outside on the small balcony for a while enjoying the evening, and there were a few other people up there doing the same.  

We watched the bartender leave down the outside steps and most of the people also cleared out.  So we decided to head back down and be on with our night. 

The balcony leads straight inside into the bar and right past it to the elevators.  It's an open but small area.  We were totally alone in that room.

You have probably had this experience: you walk up to an elevator right as the doors are closing with people inside. If you jab the button, the doors will usually open, resulting in some annoyed people who thought they were going to be on their merry way down, only to have to let your late self in.  So... the polite thing to do is take your time walking to the button as the doors close and wait until they are permanently closed and then push your button.

As we approached the mirrored elevator, this happened, as a man was in the elevator with the doors closing.  Without discussing this or thinking anything of it, we both paused, then hit the button once the doors were firmly closed to wait for it to come back up for us. 

The doors popped open right away, with an empty elevator.

There was absolutely no time for the elevator to have gone anywhere, and there was no other door.  We both got on, apparently thinking the same thing (what just happened??) but didn't say anything.

We had both unthinkingly done the same thing - waited to push the button because we saw someone.  We both saw a man in the elevator, reflected in the mirrored sides as well, in a suit, wearing a hat.  Not a baseball cap, but one of the old fashioned bowler types. His hat stood out to me most.

He was there.  I KNOW I saw him.  Tony KNOWS he saw him.  But he had vanished. 

Once on the ground, we finally said aloud - hey, wasn't there someone in there??  We weren't scared, just in shock that the same experience had happened to both of us without us discussing it at the time.

Coincidentally, as we left the elevators into the lobby of the hotel, we saw that the hotel lobby was where the Key West ghost tour starts... because it's one of the most haunted places in the area.  We didn't know this beforehand.

Once home, I did a little research and found this:

"The stories continue, with the tale of the160 room, seven story La Concha Hotel, haunted by a man who lost his life in the hotel after falling into an empty elevator shaft. Guests of the hotel report having someone tap them on the shoulder, but when they turn to see who tapped them, they find no one there. Despite the fact that La Concha was approved as a Holiday Inn franchise, this lurking spirit has proved to be an enduring nuisance to guests."

And this:

"One ghost in particular is a tormented spirit who in life worked as a waiter during the early 1980s. It was New Year’s Eve 1983 when this young man, a native of Key West, was picking up dishes from the fifth floor en route to the kitchen on the lower level. The festivities were well under way, and it was around 1:45 A.M. when the waiter was finishing up for the night. He was hurrying to get back to the kitchen to unload his cart, picking up the streamers and confetti as he went along, hoping to go home in time to celebrate for himself. Sadly, however, this was not to be. As he was pulling the heavy cart along, backing up to the elevator, and glancing over his shoulder to push the button to go down, he struggled to keep the dishes and trays from toppling over. Trying not to make a mess, he heard the door open behind him and backed up, cart in tow. In what must have been the most frightening moment of his abbreviated life, he stepped backward into an empty shaft, falling five stories, cart and all, to his death. You see, the elevator had not landed on the fifth floor but the sixth, one floor above him."
There were other stories I saw at the time that I can't find now, but they all revolved around a man dying in the elevator shaft - some placed it during the hotel construction decades ago, others placed it as recently as the '80s.  We saw someone wearing dated clothes (the suits and hats that were everyday wear for men in the first half of the 1900s).  Regardless, the important fact is this happened in the elevator. 

If I had been the only one to see it, I probably would have explained it away to myself.  But you can't dispute two.

We saw a ghost, spirit, or something we can't explain.  I have no doubt.  I get chills just thinking about it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Deck Dreams

Not to sound like a broken record here, but work is still crazy (everyone on my team is in baby-land - which makes me totally happy and excited for them!!  Just a little busy too..).  So for lack of inspiration, here is a cool tool Tony recently found.

As mentioned here,  we want to add a deck to our backyard.  Something that will take up space and will not require watering.  Decks can't die, take that stupid dead grass!  Need I remind you of this conundrum? 

Lowes has a pretty cool Deck Designer, where you can actually adjust the exact dimensions you want, add railing, stairs, fire pit holes, etc - and it spits out a 3D version of the deck, and a detailed list of all of the materials you will need, down to the screw.  Granted, it told us we needed hurricane straps for our 12in-off-the-ground deck... but you can't say they aren't thorough...

I wish I could bob my head, Jeanie-style, and this would magically appear in our backyard.  Maybe then our dogs - and carpets - wouldn't look like the woodlands.  A girl can dream.

Has anyone actually used this to build a real-life deck?  Or any other tool like this?  I'm hoping if I build a plan, the deck will come... once we save a ton of money slowly over time and I convince Tony to spend a month building it...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Simple Pleasures

This beautiful wreath, a crafty gift from my newly-crafty sister, Courtney.

She was inspired by Thrifty Decor Chick - using a wooden frame as the wreath's base (I've taught her well...)   :) Thanks sis.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Goldilocks and the Three Coffee Tables

Our front door is like a revolving door for coffee tables.  The tricky part about having a small ranch-style house is that our living room serves as living room, of course, but also entryway, hallway, and general center of chaos.  Thus, we haven't yet been able to find the perfect place to put both our feet and our drinks, without totally blocking traffic flow, or cluttering up the already-dark space with more heaviness.

The tables we have tried turned out a bit like the Goldilocks story.

The first one was too big.  Beautiful, but too heavy.

The second one was too soft.  Comfy, but looked shabby with our new couch.

The third one was juuuust right.

Well, it's good enough for now.  

The new little table is from this store in Forsyth, GA, where they collect and sell furniture and accessories from hotels and businesses when they remodel.  The store is pretty cool - hundreds of headboards, rows of armoires, thousands of lamps.  The mirror section makes me drool.  Most of the stuff is either too ornate (from the Ritz) or too big (from office buildings) or too gaudy (from Disney resorts) for us, but it's still fun to look.  It's all pretty cheap for what it is.

Luckily, we saw this table at Kacy's mom's house, and she pointed us to Forsyth (thanks for the inspiration Barb!).  It was the perfect size for what we needed.  The table came in bright white, with blue crosshatches.  It was pretty, but didn't quite fit in with our color scheme.

So I busted out my fancy Dremel tool that I got for free through work (and fell in love with it in the process!) and sanded this baby down.  Um... it took... a while....

But once I got into all of the nooks and crannies, I was able to paint it a less-harsh offwhite, and make the crosshatches a camel brown.  I used Krylon acrylic latex enamel paint (the offwhite) and regular $.99 craft paint for the brown.  I'm quite pleased with the result!

The hotel furniture store is pretty cool.  Kacy got a great armoire there for super-cheap.  I think it would be a great resource for a big kid's room - most of the Disney stuff is themed, so your kid could have the coolest bunk bed in town, for a cheap prices, and minimal work by you!  

ps - I've mentioned how I hate my camera.  I'm pretty sure it knew I posted about that, and it has been slowly disintegrating it's own lens in retribution.  That, and I take all photos in our cave of a house after dark, since it gets dark at 7pm (what the heck daylight savings time!).  So, just pretend I took all of my photos with a Blackberry, and give me a pass for the next month or two!

pps - pretend that I actually took the time to clean the glass table top before photographing. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mini Thrift Store Makeovers

I've found an abundance of paint-able junk at my favorite thrift store lately.  Here are my mini transformations:

This discotastic skull was only $2!  I was so excited to find it!  It needed a little mirror rearranging (I unstuck ones from the bottom and filled in the gaps on top), and a little silver paint - good as new!  The eyes even flash.  Again, it creeps Tony out.

$3 brass crab, now silver:

This was my first usage of the metallic silver paint - and I love it!  Can't wait to turn more things into silver! 

The crab also opens for a little secret compartment.  How fun is that?  I could totally keep one very tiny, minimally useful thing in there.

Another $3 heavy brass creation, now a lovely white.

This now sits in our living room, bringing a dash of sealife to the space.  

I've been scouring the globe for a tray for our ottoman.  Nowhere to be found.  Isn't that always the case - when you don't need something, you see it everywhere, and then when you are really looking, it disappears??

Well it didn't matter - I found this tray for $1.  And while I do want our house to be blessed, not sure I want to advertise it quite this way.  So now it's a lovely Almond.  Perhaps I will get ambitious and adorn it.  Perhaps not.

Ok, this needed no makeover, it was just a pretty vase.  It was $1.50, and it's very thick, quality glass.  You can't even buy a vase this size at Walmart for that price.  The stamp on the bottom says it's made by E.O. Brody.  Sadly, not a famous long-lost piece worthy of Antiques Roadshow, but still fairly old and made in good old Ohio.  Not bad.  

I love thrift store finds!  My imagination goes crazy walking the aisles, just imagining what a little paint can do...  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Simple Pleasures

My husband, Caesar Milan:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall Projects #3

This one was absolutely free!  

I decided our artwork needed a little festivity, so taking MAJOR inspiration from Suzonne at Urban Comfort, I turned a nice framed wedding photo into a scary skull.  Tony tried to block me from putting it up because it scared him.  I enjoy scaring him, among other mean things, so I put it up anyway. 

I took the skull image from The Graphics Fairy, and since I had no good scrapbook paper, I just printed it on newsprint (full disclosure: I printed it on the rival newspaper of the one my column runs in!).  

I glued it to the only relevant color of paper I had (ornj - as we say here in Georgia), and it was just a little too stark.

So I took a piece of burlap and laid it over the paper, spray painting over it with flat black.  This added a little color without adding too much.  Instant spookification. 

My next little art project was taking a Wordle made from a "fall" story (called The Anxious Leaf - how cute!)  and sticking it in a frame.  Very complex and rigorous process folks - I would advise you to take care when trying this at home.  I spent four seconds framing it, and I'm pretty sure it shows...

This is an awesome card my mom sent us last year - saved for instant decor! 

There you have it - a few little Halloween tweaks that were F.R.E.E.  

I'm currently obsessed with both The Graphics Fairy and Vintage Printable.  Both are awesome sources for fun, free art.  I never know how private usage of images found on my bff Google really works, so it's nice to know you can go here and not worry.  Yay for the Internet! 

Here's some fun ones I have found and have big plans for:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


We all know I have an unhealthy relationship with fall.  Love it.  Stalker kinda love.

So it's a natural extension that I am fascinated by the autumnal fruits of the earth.  Well, veggies I guess... but you get the idea.  I love pumpkins, squashes, those little baby gourds with the bumps all over, you name it.

Much to Tony's chagrin, we have 8 pumpkins in our midst now.  My next dream is to actually grow the things like Kim, but until then - I am happy to support local farmers by buying their fall-tastic wears.

I got five baby white pumpkins at the Cotton Pickin' Fair.  They are totally cuter than baby kittens.  My mom was kind enough to buy me this lovely Cinderalla pumpkin too.  It is beautiful.  It's inside our house, because it's waaaay too pretty to sit outside.

Our local fire department sells regular pumpkins this time of year, so we headed over with Mikey and Kacy to grab a few.  Aren't they adorable??  Yes, M&K are, of course, but I was referring to the pumpkins.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The One Where Claire Goes to NY

As evidenced by my last post, I spent part of last week in New York.  

Drawbacks:  1. It was for work  2. It rained  3. I look like a country bumpkin every time I go there. 

Totally Cool Parts: 1. I got a window seat  2. I got to eat some fancy foods  3. I stayed in a pretty amazing hotel.

Let's explore, shall we....

We stayed at The Standard, and I can assure you, I was definitely not hip enough to even sleep there.

The place did not skimp on attention to detail.  My bed was straight outta Ikea.

Showering in complete, 100% privacy transparency

 You could essentially shower and look out at the city skyline.

This was my view while laying in bed. 

I think maybe someone important flew by in helicopter formation, but I'm totally too lazy to Google it.

The hotel from the outside:  Apparently people take improper advantage of the floor-to-ceiling windows to put on a little nighttime show...

Elevator lobby:

Once the clouds parted, I could see the Statue of Liberty.  From my bed.  

French benefits of my job, I tell ya.
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