Halloween in the Guest Bath

6.JPGI usually don’t decorate any of the bathrooms in my home for any holiday. I’ve always thought that a tablescape and a pumpkin or two  were quite sufficient for Halloween.  I don’t know why I had the sudden urge to decorate the guest bath/daughter’s bath with halloween items this year. I can’t really say that I decorated it,  but I did want to at least give a nod to one of my favorite times of the year. 1That little plastic jack-o-lantern soap dispenser was a cheapie item that I got at the grocery store a couple of years ago pre-filled with soap. I hadn’t expected it to last this long since it was so inexpensive, but lo and behold…it’s still intact and quite refillable, it pumps out soap perfectly.

4.JPGThis glass vase is usually filled with seashells the rest of the year. The black and silver spider is from the Bombay Company and it’s part of a set of six. They’re fun because the legs are flexible and you can put them into all different positions.I’ve been searching Ebay for a couple of years now to try and find more of these but haven’t had any luck.




9This little raven watches from his perch and greets guests with a beady eyed stare.  Always sitting, never flitting. Watching, watching…evermore.


12.JPGOn the other wall, halloween knick knacks replace the every day figurines that usually fill this shelf and black and orange towels substitute the usual green ones.









Instant Granite


Last year when we remodeled the bathroom shared by our two daughters which also doubles as a guest bath, I decided that I was tired of the large pastel green pedestal sink. It had looked fine in the 90s when we installed it (to match the pastel green toilet, ugh.) but today colored fixtures  look so dated and I figured that a little modernizing might not be a bad idea. So we bought a smaller plain white water efficient toilet and a matching white sink with a vanity  that had drawers and cabinet space underneath so that my daughters would have a place to store their make-up, blow dryer and flat irons


I had searched high and low for a solid wood vanity small enough to fit into the space where the pedestal sink had been but I was unable to find anything in real wood. There were plenty of vanities made of laminate covered particle board that were just the right size but I was hesitant to buy anything made of laminate because it’s not very durable, particularly in humid conditions like a bathroom. I’ve had several items made of melamine covered particle board and eventually have had to throw them out. I was sure this laminate vanity wouldn’t last too long but I had to settle for what was available to fit the tiny space so I went ahead and bought it.


Just as I predicted, not even two months later my housekeeper accidentally knocked down a small wall shelf in the bathroom with the end of the broomstick as she was cleaning. Naturally the shelf hit the edge of the vanity and cracked the laminate in three different spots. I tried to paint the cracked spots so as to protect the now exposed interior particle board but the paint didn’t last long and the cracks became larger and more unsightly as the months went by.




I was bummed out thinking that I’d have to replace the entire vanity after less than a year but after a quick online search for possible solutions, I came across a product called Instant Granite. Instant Granite??? Of course I snickered and rolled my eyes at the mere thought of such a thing but after weighing all the options I figured this stuff would probably be the quickest and cheapest fix at around $39 dollars for a 6 ft roll plus $8 dollars shipping. I went ahead and ordered a roll on Amazon which arrived within two days. Talk about quick shipping!


It’s a very thick self adhesive vinyl that you just measure, peel and stick. It comes with a little squeegy to get all the air bubbles out.  Before attempting to install it, I watched every Youtube video and tutorial that I could find. Apparently people have had great success with this stuff and they report that it’s held up quite well even on kitchen countertops. And supposedly it’s so real looking that it’s difficult to distinguish from the real thing.


Although it can be cut around sinks and faucets, hubby was patient enough to remove the sink for me because I didn’t want to risk leaving any space for water or moisture to seep in between the laminate top and the instant granite.

To get sharp tight fitting edges, you can heat the instant granite a little bit with the blow dryer.

To get sharp tight fitting edges, you can heat the instant granite a little bit with the blow dryer.


I was actually quite pleased with the result even though it’s not as simple as most of the Youtube videos make it out to be. I had problems getting the corners to look smooth and seamless but maybe that was just me.  It took me about an hour to install it (I spent most of that time trying to get those pesky corners just right) As far as the claims that it looks like real granite, well I can tell you that my son and my daughter in law came over in the evening and used the guest bath and neither one of them noticed a thing. They just assumed it was granite. When I told them that it was vinyl, they were so shocked that they went back and ran their hands over it and examined it carefully because they didn’t believe me.





Now I will have to wait and see if it will hold up well to the everyday bathroom use, but so far so good.


Joining: Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage



I usually post about home related topics and gardening, but this week I wanted to talk a little bit about my DNA test results, which I am really intrigued and excited about.  I just got back the results of my second test a couple of weeks ago and boy were they surprising this time!

First let me go back a couple of years to when my son decided to get tested with a company called 23andme. These people not only tested his DNA for ethnicity but at that point in time they were also testing for any possible genetic propensities to a huge number of illnesses.  After seeing the results of my son’s test and arguing back and forth about what he likely inherited from his dad and what he inherited from me, my curiosity was piqued and I just had to know.  The only way to find that out was for either my husband or I (or both) to get tested as well. Hubby immediately balked at the idea, as I knew he would. He stated in no uncertain terms that he thought DNA tests were dumb and a waste of money. Furthermore, he had no desire to know what his ethnicity was. I, on the other hand was itching to find out and I went ahead and ordered a test kit at that time and sent my sample off to their lab for processing. When I got the results back a few weeks later, I was not surprised by most of it but a little bit confused by the trace amounts of DNA that showed up from places that were completely foreign to me. (clicking on the photos will make them larger)test1

My father is a Christian Maronite from Lebanon so it was to be expected that the test showed an almost 36% of Middle Eastern and North African DNA. North Africa includes Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, all majoritarily arab countries so that part of the test made sense. It also showed roughly a 40%  European ancestry mostly from Southern Europe and that was further broken down specifically to the Iberian Peninsula and Italy with just a sprinkling in of Northern European. The Iberian portion wasn’t a revelation because my mother’s maiden name is Portugese and she is descended from two Portugese brothers who travelled to South America and settled in Ecuador in the 1600s. There are also several Spanish surnames in our family tree on my mother’s side. What really took me aback though, was the Italian bit. There had been persistent rumors in our family that we were “Italian” but nobody could really say for sure how that happened. There are no Italian surnames in our family that I know of. However, there was an old family rumor that there had been some shennanigans going on with one of my great-great-great grandmas who had an affair with an army general of Italian ancestry. I had always brushed it off as fantasy and had never believed it.  But if the story is true, then I guess we all carry the evidence of her indiscretion. Another non surprise was the 16.8% of Native American and Yakut DNA that showed up in the test. My mother is from Ecuador and despite her blonde hair, light skin and light eyes, this DNA was contributed by her and by her mother before her and so on. My mitochondrial DNA (A2p) was identified as being Native American, specifically Inca. So I can be certain that this came from my maternal grandmother.test 2

The small percentage of Yakut (a Siberian group of people)  isn’t surprising either because as the theory goes, America was first populated by people who crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia and travelled downward from there.

A Yakut Girl (Source: Pinterest)

A Yakut Girl (Source: Pinterest)

What I found very interesting was the trace amount of DNA from Oceania that 23andme identified. What?? How did THAT get in there?  After doing a bit of research I discovered that among people with Inca ancestry it is not uncommon to find Polynesian DNA as well. This is because Easter Island, or Rapanui as it is called in the language of it’s inhabitants, which is located off the Coast of Chile, was populated entirely by Polynesian peoples who crossed the Pacific Ocean eastward in canoes and settled there hundreds of years ago. Being expert navigators many of them continued on from there to mainland South America where they mixed with the Native American inhabitants of the continent, thus contributing Polynesian DNA to many of the Inca people. Who knew. The test also identified a small amount of Sub-Saharan African DNA, specifically pinpointed to West Africa but they didn’t specify which country. I discovered that the majority of people who have Iberian ancestry also carry trace amounts of African DNA because of the very close proximity of Morocco to Spain. During the period of Al Andalus, which was the Islamic period of Southern Spain and Portugal, many moors crossed over from western Africa through the Strait of Gibraltar and into Spain. The kingdom of Al Andalus flourished for over 700 years but this all changed when the northern rulers Ferdinand and Isabella aka as “The Catholic Kings” from Aragon and Castille conquered the Southern part of Spain and expelled both Jews and Muslims from what would be known from then on as strictly Christian lands. Many of them however converted to Christianity and stayed put, gradually mixing into the general Christian population. BTW this was the same Ferdinand and Isabella who funded Cristopher Columbus’s expedition in 1492.

Fast Forward a couple of years to 2016. I dicovered that DNA tests can be addictive. Seriously. I was browsing through Amazon one day looking for something else, when much to my delight I saw that they were advertising Ancestry dot com’s DNA test for only 89 dollars. I thought…what the heck,  I’ll order it and see if the results match up with my 23andme test. But this time some of the results were very surprising.


While the overall percentages were roughly the same i.e. 36% middle eastern, 43%  European, and 17% Native American, this test showed zero Polynesian ancestry (so much for my Easter Island explanation)  and only a 1% amount of sub-Saharan DNA specifically pinpointed to Mali in addition to the 2% North African.  That’s not unexpected because Mali shares a border with Algeria…again, an arab country.

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It was Ancestry’s breakdown of my European DNA that confused me the most. They identified it as mostly Italian/Greek with only 3% Iberian. Greek?? Now, I am certain there are no Greeks in my family. Or are there? Well maybe. In the late 1800s there was a large influx of Greeks into Lebanon and there is also a large Greek Orthodox community who settled there hundreds of years ago. So it’s entirely possible that the Greek ancestry comes from my Lebanese side. But, how is it possible that there is such a large amount of Italian ancestry and so little Iberian?  Very odd indeed. Aside from my alleged cheating great great (great) grandma in the 1800s, I am unaware of a single Italian person in my family. Ancestry’s test detected no Scandinavian/Eastern Europe DNA but I know for a fact that my great grandmother Julia’s mom was from Denmark and her last name was Eskildsen. That’s where my mom’s blonde hair likely comes from as well as that bit of Ashkenazi that both tests detected.

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Ancestry dot com also identified a 4% of DNA from the Caucasus region which they indicated could be from Syria, Turkey or Armenia. 23andme didn’t catch that, they just lumped it all together as Middle Eastern. It makes sense though, considering Lebanon’s proximity to Syria as well as the strong Turkish influence over the entire middle east during Ottoman rule which only recently ended in the early 20th century.

Since both tests yielded very similar results in the overall percentages of each ethnicity, but significant differences in the detailed breakdown, I am not quite sure which one I should believe. My son says he trusts the 23andme test more. For no particular reason. But I am inclined to believe the company who has the larger data base to draw from…which would be Ancestry dot com.  Or maybe I should just believe whichever parts I like best from both tests.


One of the more interesting things that the first of the two tests showed was my percentage of Neanderthal DNA. Apparently pretty much everyone with European ancestry carries at least some Neanderthal DNA handed down to us from the days when Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals interbred upon encountering one another in Europe. My Neanderthal DNA is less than 4% which is about average. I would really love for hubby to take this test because I am almost certain that his Neanderthal DNA has to be pretty close to 100%.  At least, that’s what his behavior seems to indicate at times. Hehe.


Fragrances and Flowers


Even though the rainy season has not officially begun yet, my roses have decided to get a head start and they’ve  been happily blooming for the past few weeks. I’m certain that it’s in response to the fertilizer I applied over a month ago.  They were quick to show their gratitude for the nourishment, bless their fragrant little hearts and I didn’t have long to wait before I began to see buds popping up on almost every single one of them. I honestly felt guilty for having been forgetful with the fertilizer lately. A couple of weeks ago I went out to the garden, scissors in hand and began to snip off bloom after bloom, tossing them into a water filled plastic bucket to keep them fresh under the blazing sun until I could get them in the house and into vases. I guess I must have gotten carried away because I didn’t realize I had cut so many until I brought them inside and began to separate them by colors.


The best thing of all was the heavenly fragrance! The whole house was perfumed with a myriad of different rose scents some light and lemony, others more heady and intense. I am always in awe of the smell of flowers and can’t help being dissapointed when I come across one that has no fragrance.


I was tempted to leave them all lying on the counter in a lovely disorganized mess but I needed the countertops for other things and they desperately needed water to quench their perpetual thirst.


These went into a crystal vase and onto the round dining room table in the smaller dining room.


These dark violet roses with a delightful lemony scent were placed on top of the piano in a goblet with a matching violet stem.


Others were set atop the kitchen island

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Pastel colored roses were put into a little cut crystal Mikasa vase and set on a countertop


The fiery orange roses were placed in a globe shaped container with dark blue glass pebbles for contrast

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This is the nearest to black rose I have ever seen. They didn’t tell me the name of it when I bought it at a local nursery but I think it might be Black Baccara. The blooms are on the smallish side but the unusual shade more than makes up for that. They aren’t really black, as there is no such thing as a black rose. But when the buds are closed most of them really do start out quite black. As they open, the petals begin to turn a deep dark blood red at the base, but the tips always remain black. I put it next to a couple of yellow Queen Elizabeth roses for contrast in a matching yellow stemmed glitter goblet.


yellow vase

But it’s not just the roses that have been blooming. Other residents of the garden are flaunting their colors too.  These bright blue hydrangeas bloom year round here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them without any flowers and they seem to thrive in the humid foggy weather up at the mountain house. Sometimes when I get tired of blue I let the flower heads dry on the plants and then dip dye them in different colors.


Hollyhocks were blooming in my city garden. That’s very unusual because I don’t think hollyhocks normally like tropical weather . But they seem to be oblivious to the heat and they have grown almost as tall as the house. I planted these from seed that I ordered on Ebay. I have never grown hollyhocks down here in my city garden before where it’s so much warmer than our mountain house. I wondered if they’d make good cut flowers. I discovered that they aren’t as long lasting as other flowers but they look pretty in a vase for at least a couple of days.




These are ruffly hollyhocks in a darker shade of pink than the other ones. They are just beggining to bloom.

double hollyhocks

My potted bougainvillea hadn’t bloomed in over a year and I didn’t know why. I fertilized it, watered it, pruned it, scolded it and still no flowers. Then I read that bougainvilleas need quite a bit of sun in order to bloom, so I moved it over to a sunny spot in the courtyard and within a week the flowers began to appear.


Then there is the frangipani. Oh the intoxicating fragrance of this beautiful flower! It’s just impossible to describe it in words. Sometimes I go out to the patio on warm evenings just to inhale the delicious perfume that  hangs and lingers heavily in the air.  It’s so much stronger at night. The flowers burst forth in clusters, like little ready made scented bouquets just waiting to be put in a vase. I always thought that frangipani (or plumeria as it’s also called) was a hawaiian flower because it’s what leis are made with. But I was surprised to discover that its not native to the South Pacific at all, but rather to Central America, where I live. No wonder it thrives in my garden.

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silver tray

These giant Amaryllis have been piled inside this plastic bucket without any soil for over a year. I dug up about 50 bulbs last year and replanted most of them in a different location but I got lazy with these last few bulbs and forgot about them. Much to my surprise, they bloomed anyway despite the neglect.


This waxy ivory water lily with a yellow center grew from a seed that I ordered from China. Actually four of them germinated and grew into adult plants but as is common with seed grown water lilies the new plant is never the same as the parent plants. Two of my seed grown lilies have bloomed but I was dissapointed with the first one because it produced an insignificant little flower about the size of a quarter, barely visible among the giant pads. However, the second plant produced large showy cream colored flowers that look lovely floating gracefully on the tranquil surface of the pond and the leaves themselves are beautiful, speckled and multi shaded. Since it is a new and yet un-named variety of water lily grown from seed, I was free to name it anything I wanted. So I named it Samia Gamal, like the famous Egyptian dancer of the 1940s who also seemed to float gracefully when she danced.

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And that, dear friends is what has been blooming in my neck of the woods lately.-



Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Saturday Show Off at Rose Garden in Malevik

Egg Sighting

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I think I may have gone a little overboard with the Easter Eggs this year. I’ve had far too much time on my hands since my laptop charger decided to suddenly stop working a few weeks ago. That meant that I had very little computer access and lots more free time to work on other things. Long story short, I made easter eggs (alot of them!) so I would’t die of boredom in the meantime. I’m glad I did because it brought back warm memories of making Easter crafts with my mom when I was in elementary school. I still haven’t been able to find a new charger. I went to Radio Shack as well as to several computer places and nobody seems to have that model in stock. Drat. I guess I’ll just have to order it on Ebay or Amazon but that can take a couple of weeks or more to get here from the U.S. so I decided it was time to dig out the old MacMini desktop and set it up temporarily. I was tired of using the ipad and having to type entire paragraphs with my index finger.

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These lace eggs were actually inspired by Hakan over at The Rose Garden in Malevik who had some lovely ones on his blog several weeks ago. I used foam egg shapes in different sizes for these and I added bits of rhinestone chain and beads over the lace.

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I also made sugar eggs, sometimes called Panoramic eggs. I hadn’t made those in years. When I was in about 5th grade or so, my mom took cake decorating classes with Wilton. Among all the wonderful things she learned to make in that class were sugar Easter eggs. It wasn’t long before I knew how to make them as well, my mom loved to teach me what she had learned and she was very patient. We would always make a few extra ones to sell. I remember carefully packing them in a cardboard box and taking them to school much to the delight of my classmates. When I recall the ridiculous prices we charged back in the day, I have to laugh. We sold the small ones for 50 cents, the medium sized ones for 75 cents and the very large ones cost $1.25 because they were a bit trickier to make and they used up alot of sugar.  I couldn’t believe my eyes the other day when I saw a small sized one for sale on Etsy for 35 dollars. How times change!

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These are just made out of damp sugar which is packed into a plastic egg shaped mold, turned out onto a countertop and then left to dry overnight.

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My rose making technique was a bit rusty, it took me a while to get the hang of it again.

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They have a little opening or peek hole on one end and an Easter scene inside. This one has rabbits playing in the grass.

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And lastly, I made blue and white decoupaged eggs just because it’s one of my favorite color combos. These are made with real eggs which I blew out and emptied. I used small blue and white floral decals on these eggs and then gave the eggs a few coats of spray varnish. So, it’s not a true decoupage in the strictest sense, but close enough. Once they are varnished, they’re so shiny that they almost look like porcelain even up close.

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Wishing everyone a blessed Easter!

Joining the blog parties at:

French Country Cottage-Feathered Nest Friday

The Rose Garden in Malevik-Saturday Show Off

Mirror makeover

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When I stopped teaching dance a couple of years ago, I converted the little dance studio behind our house into a guest bedroom. It came in pretty handy because we often have visitors who stay with us when they come down to Costa Rica on vacation. However, I didn’t really know what to do with all the mirrors that still hung on the studio walls. Although they had been a necessity in the dance studio, they now looked odd and out of place in a bedroom. They weren’t even pretty. They were just plain ordinary aluminum framed mirrors quite large in size, the kind you might find in a gym. Last year, after we renovated our kitchen and dining room I ended up with a large empty wall that I couldn’t think of anything to put on. Then I remembered the aluminum mirrors that were still hanging in the guest bedroom and decided to bring one of them into the house and hang it on that bare wall. It was a good fit and it filled most of the space, but it looked just as unattractive there as it had looked in the guest room.

Close up of the frame

Close up of the frame


The frame was very narrow so there weren’t alot of options as far as updating it. I wondered if perhaps it would be possible to glue some appliques on it and then paint the whole thing a different color to hide the aluminum. I had a few left over appliques from a previous furniture project as well as an assortment of silicone molds and a huge bottle of resin in the tool shed. So after a couple of months of thinking about it I figured it was worth a try and surely it wouldn’t look any worse.

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These scroll like curliecues were just the right width


It took me several days to make enough appliques to cover the entire mirror. I made roses and curlicues and cherubs until I was bleary-eyed. Then I began to glue them on with No more Nails, crossing my fingers that they wouldn’t fall off the slippery narrow frame. I think I used about four tubes of No more nails and thankfully they held fast. That stuff is good! I had given the frame a couple of coats of white paint before putting on the appliques because I knew that it would be very difficult, if not impossible to get into all the nooks and crannies with the paintbrush after the appliques were glued on.

I gave the mirror a couple of coats of white paint first because I knew it would be nearly impossible to get into all the nooks and crannies with a paintbrush after the appliques were glued on.




I added a small rose to the center of this curlicue applique

I added a small rose to the center of these scroll appliques

Two sweet little cherubs quietly watch over the dining room from the top of the mirror.

Two sweet little cherubs quietly watch over the dining room from the top of the mirror. I placed one on either end.


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After the appliques were set in place I allowed them to dry completely for a couple of days before applying a final coat of white paint.  In the empty space between the top of the mirror and the molding  I hung a few blue and white plates that I had stored away which matched the blue and white plate collection on the other wall.



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It’s a very tiny dining room, it actually used to be my daughter’s bedroom right off the kitchen. That was a sort of weird Costa Rican floorplan. Or lack of floorplan, I should say. The previous owners of the house had added on rooms wherever they had fancied a new room without giving any thought to the logic of the layout. So there was this fourth bedroom that could only be accessed through the kitchen. How weird is that. When my oldest daughter moved out last year, my youngest daughter moved into her bedroom and I turned her “kitchen bedroom” into a little secondary dining room, which made so much more sense.

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I think the mirror helps make the dining room look a little larger than it really is.



Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage


From my garden this week


There were many things blooming in my garden this past week-end.  In spite of having neglected my roses for the last couple of months, Mother Nature has been forgiving and has given me an extraordinary gift of color and fragrance.  I was able to cut enough flowers for several bouquets to bring down to our city house and enjoy all week long.



For the past couple of months I’ve been organizing the storage rooms in our store and haven’t had as much time to spend in the garden as I would have liked. I found weeds sneaking their way into the rose beds and algae threatening to take over the pond, embracing the water hyacinths and creeping up on the lily pads.


Everything was thriving. The Lilies and the Amaryllis were in full bloom. The little fig tree was laden with small green figs that will very soon ripen into plump black giants which will be turned into a delicious fig compote to be eaten with fresh cheese.  Even the nameless pink rambling roses that cling to the fence all along the property line were almost exploding with bouquet-like clusters.



Roses with regal names like Miss Amber, Mr. Lincoln, Princess De Monaco, Queen Elizabeth and Diana Princess of Wales all contributed fragrant blooms which were placed in pretty vases.


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And in pitchers high atop cabinets where curious kitties wouldn’t reach them or nibble them like the ones on the table



Someone is very sleepy and probably not even thinking about nibbling flowers…..


Joining the fun at these parties:

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Saturday Show Off at Rose Garden in Malevik