A Time Saver, A Comfort Addition & A Bit of Whimsy for the Christmas Holidays

Hope you had a fun Halloween evening! I had a lot of Trick or Treaters, as usual. I think it grows every year. I had over 75 last year so I purchased even more candy this year. I lost count, but I think I exceeded last year’s numbers. The ones who are trick or treating for the first time are so adorable!

Halloween has always been one of my most favorite holidays because I have such good memories of Trick or Treating from my own childhood. One of my favorite moments last night was when I dropped several pieces of candy into one little girl’s bag, she looked into the bag and then looked back up with the biggest smile and exclaimed, “I got something I liked!” πŸ™‚ It was the cutest thing ever!

Here’s how the porch looked last night. If you follow Between Naps On The Porch on Instagram HERE, you saw this when I posted it last night. I found the Black Cat needlepoint pillow for 60% off in the Atlanta location of Ballard Designs a couple of days ago. I think they may still have them online, but not sure.

Halloween Porch, Black Cat Pillow, Ballard Designs


A Life Changer!

Changing gears, I love using Google’s Message App on my phone because I can easily speak a message to family or friends so much faster than I can type it. For some time I’ve been thinking that there must be a way to do this for email on my home computer. Well, there is! If you use Chrome as your browser, you can add the extension called “Email Dictation” to the browser and dictate away!

I think my laptop has a microphone built into it, but  when I’m using the computer during the day, it’s always my desktop. I mainly use my laptop when traveling. Unfortunately, my desktop computer doesn’t have a microphone built in/attached.

After doing a bit of research, I purchased this microphone below, and it’s excellent!  Plus, it was only $22! All I had to do was plug it in to a USB port on the back of my computer and my computer instantly recognized it and loaded the drivers. I didn’t have to do anything! Love that! Then I added the Email Dictation extension to my Chrome browser in just 2-3 clicks of the mouse, and I was off and running.

You’ll find the microphone I’m using here: Microphone.  Check out the reviews, it’s really good!

You’ll find a tutorial explaining how to add the Email Dictation extension to your Chrome browser on your desktop or laptop here: Email Dictation Extension Tutorial . It’s super easy, but I love that tutorial since it shows exactly how to dictate an email once you’ve added the extension. I love using it for Google Searches, too. You can also use it for Google Docs which I’ve just started trying out.

Definitely a life changer and a big improvement over how I was emailing before!


It’s Back!

I have the unique ability to discover something I MUST HAVE about 5 minutes after it’s been discontinued or is out of stock. Truly, I’m the master at this…it’s a cultivated talent!

Last year when I was stalking boot trays, looking for one to put by my front door to hold gardening shoes and rain boots, I found this adorable Moose boot tray. Of course, it was a previous year’s model and no longer in stock. There were plenty of other cute boots trays available online as seen in THIS post, but no Moose boot trays to be found. Stubborn that I am, I decided to just wait.

Moose Boot Tray

I just started looking again this year and I found several cute ones, but I was super excited to see the one I most liked is actually back in stock! I’m not sure how long it will be available since I think it’s an older style. Maybe they just came across a few extras somewhere…not sure. Anyway, if you have a hankering for a Moose boot tray, you’ll find this one here: Moose Boot Tray.

They have tons of other designs, too! Mine is scheduled to arrive today and I can’t wait to use it for my garden Sloggers that I keep near the door. It will also come in handy for the rainboots and duckboots I wear occasionally.

Cute Moose Boot Tray


A Comfy Place to Put on Boots

Recently I gave my closet a mini makeover. If you missed that post, you’ll find it here: Closet Update. Usually when putting on tall boots, I plop down in the middle of the small rug I have in this closet, stick my foot/leg part way in, then stand up and while balancing, pull them the rest of the way on. I’ve been thinking how much easier it would be if I had a little chair or something to sit on here in the closet. You can’t see it in this photo, but off to the right side inside this closet is a space that’s perfect for a chair or small bench.

Shelves for Shoe and Boot Storage


At first I searched for small ottomans or poofs, but ultimately decided I needed something firmer and more stable for wrangling on boots, especially my Frye boots that don’t have a zipper. In my search, I came across this bench. It had pretty good reviews and was the right size to fit in the space I have available in my closet.

I also liked that it didn’t cost a lot, only $64. I didn’t want to spend very much because once I renovate the bathroom that’s just outside this closet, there’s a good chance this closet will no longer exist.

If you need a small bench for a little mudroom or closet area, you’ll find this one in several finishes here: Small Bench. I have plans for the storage area underneath and purchased THESE canvas storage bins. I’ll share how this looks/works once it arrives and I put it together. It’s nothing overly fancy, but it should meet the need for a place to sit while pulling on boots.

Bench with storage, for putting on shoes and boots

I loved the look of this cute bench below, but it’s about a foot too long to fit in the space I have in mind in my closet. It’s also $40 more and doesn’t come with a cushion, although I could have lived without a cushion since I’ll only be sitting long enough to put on my boots/shoes. If you have more space and won’t miss the cushion, it’s available here: Bench.



Christmas Lit Houses

I’m starting to think buying Department 56 houses is a better investment than the stock market! lol Recently someone messaged me, I think on Facebook, asking if I would sell my Christmas Vacation, Department 56, “Margo and Todd” house because they couldn’t find one anywhere. That seemed so strange since I wouldn’t have thought Margo and Todd’s house would be that popular.

Do you remember this little house when I shared it last year in an antiquing post to A Classy Flea? Normally Department 56 lit house go for around $80-125, or something like that. It depends on if the house has been retired and how popular it is, etc…

I was surprised to see this house was only $10 in A Classy Flea! It was missing its little light, but I have plenty of those and they are easily ordered online. It also had a small chip in the snow down on the left front corner, but I knew that could be easily covered by “snow” when it’s on display. For $10, there was no way I could pass it up.

Photo taken in the store while antiquing


This is what the house normally goes for, or at least it did when it was available: $110.



I was wondering why the person who messaged me was having so much trouble finding it. Out of curiosity, I googled for the house and my eyeballs about fell out of my head. This is what it’s selling for on Amazon right now!

Department 56, Todd & Margo's House, Christmas Vacation


This year I went ahead and ordered Clark’s home for fear it would shoot up in price one day. If you’re a big Christmas Vacation fan and love Department 56 lit houses, I wouldn’t wait too long to buy them. The season is upon us, so I’m not sure if they will become scarce like Todd and Margo’s house has, or not.

I may just be planning a little Christmas Vacation table setting, so look for that soon. πŸ˜‰ You’ll find The Griswold’s home available here: Griswold Home in Christmas Vacation. It has several light settings, including a flashing setting. It’s a riot! I made a video of it the other day and emailed it to my son. I love these little lit houses!

Griswold Holiday House, Department 56


In the meantime, here are two Christmas table settings where I’ve use some of my Department 56 lit houses in the centerpiece. View this table here: Department 56 Christmas Table Setting.


View this table here: Department 56 Christmas Churches Table Setting.

Christmas Table Setting Tablescape with Dept 56 Churches


See you tomorrow for Tablescape Thursday!

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  1. Elizabeth Anne says

    I LOVE the Christmas Tree!

    I will use your wonderful ideas to make one for my home.

    Your tables capes are always stunning and they inspire me.

    Have a wonderful holiday.

  2. A Halloween doesn’t go by that I don’t remember my mother who had very starchy ideas on what should and shouldn’t be. When children came trick or treating she would not give candy out until they did their “trick.” One little girl started singing “Silent Night,” all 427 verses of it (at least it seemed that way) and wouldn’t shut up. My mother was stuffing her pillow case with candy and still she went on and on and on. Mom wasn’t as adamant about the trick after that.

    That bench goes perfectly with your closet shelves.

  3. Your tablescape with the houses going down the middle is my all time favorite. I love little houses and your creative display is really magical!

    I like the info on the speaker too, that’s great.

    Your closet is amazing. My closet is like Halloween all year long, very scary!

    • Thanks, Mary, appreciate that so much! That’s about how my closet worked before I finally got my winter boot storage under control! πŸ™‚

  4. I was reading the info on that Dept. 56 house – the last line says that they have been creating houses since “2072” – now, that’s a very odd time frame! Your tablescape looks lovely!

  5. I have the large collection of the Department 56 Dicken’s Village.
    Years ago I had a designer come over to help set up so Christmas things for us. He placed my village in a bookcase and used mini lights. It was subtle glow under the blankets of snow and several clustered in each of the houses. I loved it.
    We are in a new home and I’m considering getting a ladder and setting up the village on top of my upper kitchen cabinets.

  6. I purchased the Dept. 56 Dicken’s Village set many, many years ago and loved it. Then I got some rambunctious kittens and realized it would not last with them around. I advertised it for sale and someone offered me $1000 for the set, in the original boxes. I purchased it for $125. I could not sell it fast enough! I still love them but those type breakable things don’t work well with cats who love to explore. Besides, my mom has the same things and I know I will inherit them some day as I am an only child.

    • I love the Dicken’s Village. I think I have a few pieces of it stored away. I can see how cats would be drawn to the soft snow blankets that are always around the houses when displayed. πŸ™‚

  7. LOOVE your Christmas village homes on your table! Please let me know how you hide all of the lighting cords?!? THANKS!!!

  8. My boot tray is an old ammunition box, works great, i like the moose also. I rather talk my message too i hate trying to get it all correct, it’s so much easier, thanks so much for info. I love little lite houses to, don’t have those but i have some that were my mothers, they’re old and don’t have any information about them, i found them in a closet,after she passed away. I have a chair in my closet, almost got rid of it glad i didn’t. My word i didn’t mean to write a book, lol!

    • Yes, hold onto that chair! I put my bench together this evening and it’s perfect. Gave it a try by putting on some boots and so much easier than sitting on the rug to do that. lol

  9. Ohhhhh how I absolutely love the tablescapes with the lit houses. The churches are just perfect. I hope you haven’t ‘flung a craving on me’ πŸ™‚ I can just visualize my dining table with all those pretties, but I am trying to refrain! You set the most lovely tables.

  10. Years ago we had a voice to text, computer dictation program called “Naturally Speaking” (I think). You had to “train” it to recognize your voice, and pronunciations. It never could learn my name. Invariably, Bernadette, was transcribed as “Burn a Debt”…… Even now, you really have to go back and check voice texting…auto correct can be really frustrating!

    • Forgive me, but laughing to tears over your name translation.

    • Bernie, that is too funny! You would think after a while it would know you name and stop that! I think the software/system has gotten better, so far the voice recognition via the extension I added to Chrome has done really well. The only thing it does that I don’t quite understand is sometimes it randomly capitalizes the strangest things. I need to google that and see if it has something to do with how I emphasize words or something.

  11. Where do you get the energy!!? I am so jealous. I love the houses but I am afraid that at this point they would never get out of the box…so I will just enjoy yours. I used to go all out…2 real trees and I decorated every room in the house. Now I feel lucky if I get a wreath on the door (homemade) and decorate the family room. What is your secret? Loved the orange cat pillow and tried to get one but, you were right…they are gone. I was really disappointed…if anyone knows where I can get one please share!

    • rebecca, I remember Susan saying that she sleeps very soundly. Her head hits the pillow and she doesn’t wake up until morning! I honestly think that’s the secret of her incomparable energy! I suppose that sleeping through the night sounds normal for many people, but I have never been able to do so and I think that’s why I never quite feel refreshed and energetic.

    • Rebecca, they had lots of them in the Ballard Design store on Defoor Avenue in Atlanta when I was in there…I saw at least 6-8 pillows there, right by the front door. I wonder if you called them and paid over the phone, if they would ship one to you. I have to warn you, though, they aren’t very customer service friendly there. I’ve not had the best experience in there in the past. But it never hurts to call and just ask.
      I just googled for the location and here’s their phone number: 404-603-7033. Good luck, hope they will send it to you.
      About energy, I have no idea where mine comes from. I know when I get excited about something, I usually get a burst of energy. I think Pam is right about getting a good night’s rest. I sleep soundly through the night and on the occasions when I stay up too late and only get 5-6 hours, I’m dragging the next day.

  12. I am a retailer and work with Enesco, who does the Dept 56 Villages. FYI, Friday, Nov 3, Enesco will be making public the retired pieces for this year. You can check their website for info then! A lot of the retiring pieces ARE available, but limited quantities. Retailers who carry the Village pieces CAN get them, so if you have a shop in town that sells the line, maybe they can get you a retiring piece!

  13. Beautiful tablescape! Do this houses run on batteries? If not, how do you plug them in (hiding cords, etc)

  14. Bunny Rogers says

    Be careful with that dictation feature! I found it recently and used it in the hospital while laid up with TWO broken legs. When I checked over the written words I had dictated, I had several big chuckles because what it heard definitely was not what I said!

  15. Margo Kuhn says

    I have a nice round ottoman to sit on in my closet to put shoes, pants, etc, on. I think that was the first thing I bought when I moved in 7 years ago. Love, love, love Dept. 56. I have the Dickens Village (most pieces now retired). But how do you put them on the table without tripping over the cord to light them?

  16. That was truly a FUN blog read!! You GO GIRL!! franki

  17. Oh Susan,
    what a bargain! I’m so glad for you! Love that “Todd & Margo’s” house and I look forward to seeing the “Griswold’s home” on your dining table as well! πŸ™‚ Love Clark and the movie! lol
    Susan, I also love that fairytale “Dept. 56 Christmas Table Setting” of yours!
    So many lovely and unexpected details: the bride and groom, the pizza delivery boy, the doctor’s office… β™₯ I enjoyed seeing all those beautiful pictures again and I can only say if I owned any of those magical houses I’d NEVER put them away and my dining table would look like that all year round… πŸ™‚ Thank you, Susan, for cheering me up, as I spent several hours at our local cemetery, today.

  18. That is a lot of trick-or-treaters! Funny that one child was excited to finally get something she likes. Maybe she spread the word that your house had the good stuff πŸ™‚

  19. Cyndi Raines says

    Like your bench for your closet. I have a chair in mine and yes, it is so helpful for putting on to the knee boots. Just ordered the canvas cubbies for storage of items, thanks. Love both your Christmas villages, especially the churches. Also, like the added touches of the pizza delivery boy and the man pushing his car out of the snow. We get a lot of that in MI with a heavy snowstorm , lol.

  20. I love the moose tray for wet shoes.
    Thanks for letting us know it’s back this year. I may have to order the bench for my mud room, I’ve been hoping Jeff would build one for us. Now I put my shoes on in my office and lower the chair as far as it can go to get my shoes on. lol Going to check out the voice feature for emailing too. πŸ™‚
    Linda C in Seattle

  21. Susan, re the boot tray thank you sooooo much for jarring my memory as it is a perfect gift for someone on my Xmas shopping list and I totally had forgotten about it. Regarding Halloween, I too had a fair number of children this year and felt so badly when I ran out of goodie bags and had to turn the lights off around 8:00 p.m. I include Halloween novelties in them plus packaged treats that are more along the lines of snacks/desserts. i.e.: Goldfish crackers, animal or bear paw cookies for the very young. Oreo cookies, rice krispie bar treats etc. for those older and for the teenagers chips, cheesies, micro-wave popcorn … that sort of thing; ‘all’ with a few bits of candy of course for their sweet tooth. My husband thinks I’m crazy but the kids are so excited when you hand them out so IMO it is well worth the extra effort. -Brenda-
    P.S.: Glad to hear that the bench seat in your closet is working out and trust me, when you get to be my age you will appreciate it even more.

  22. Great find Susan. I have approximately 75 Dept 56 houses (Dickens Village.). Started collecting them when they were all the rage with prices escalating upon the retirement of a piece. I have not taken them out of storage in 15 years! Never thought to use them on a table!!

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