Saturday, March 19, 2022

our previous home - the guest room

I can't be the only one who feels that the past year has simultaneously crawled by and passed in a blur? It feels like I finished this room ages ago, and yet, I can hardly believe it's been an entire year, practically to the day. Nevertheless, what a year it's been.

Anyway, regardless of how much time as passed, I'm happy to finally be sharing it with you. I think it's my favourite room to date. 

First, and most importantly, the colour. After much consideration, I decided to go with my instincts and actually select a colour I fell in love with - Farrow and Ball's Calke Green. In the past three homes we've owned, I haven't strayed from my usual Simply White. But a guest room is a unique room. I feel like it's a room that needs to be a little more special. And because it was a room that wasn't used each day, I felt like I could go with something a little more bold. It was a room with lovely high ceilings, and two massive original windows, so I felt it carried the colour well. I also felt the green, while natural and still neutral feeling, was also serene and inviting. I decided to paint the window frames and all the trim work to match the walls, and in my opinion, this is what makes the room. It adds a richness to the space and it feels more historic. I also painting the cabinet and the bed frame Farrow and Ball's Old White which works beautifully with the green, without feeling stark.

The green reads slightly more sage and a bit darker in this lighting, but you can get an idea of it's vibrancy in the window sills.

I am still absolutely in love with it and I plan to use the colour again (or one of a similar tone) in our new house. I love how it feels with the warm natural woods, and I love how the blue and white looks against it.

I'm not surprised I settled on green. When I started looking at some of the pieces I had collected, it was clear there was an underlying theme. 

When thinking through the layout, and how I wanted the space to be used, I decided it needed not just a sleeping area, but a sitting area as well. I wanted it to be a retreat for our guests - a room not just to retire to, but their own space in our home where they could get away and read, or spend some time alone.

Every piece of furniture in this space was something we had previously had. The sofa and chair set belonged to my inlaws. In fact, it they used it for about 40 years of their married life. I always liked the green damask, and was happy to use it in this space.

To give the space some character, I started collecting things to display - little things found while beach combing, old books of historic significance, all the rusty treasures we dug up while gardening. These are the things that add depth to a room.

Then I added things that would make a stay more enjoyable. A collection of some of our favourite videos,  baby items, candles, fresh flowers on the night table and lots of extra linens and pillows.

I like having a lighter quilt on the bed with the option of a heavier, warmer duvet, as well as both firmer and softer pillows.

With travel restrictions, we didn't have many opportunities to use the room before we sold the house, but we did find ourselves occasionally sneaking into it to quietly read and enjoy some quiet. And while I do miss the room, I now have an entire little guest cottage to plan, so I'm not too heartbroken.

I'm looking forward to sharing more on that space soon.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

thanksgiving week in the highlands - a trip around the cabot trail

We are often asked, as fairly green Nova Scotians still, what we love about this place we call home. There are many answers that come to mind, but one that I feel many people aren't aware of, is how beautifully diverse the landscape of this province is. There are parts that feel so classically New England-like, where the coastline here seems to blend seemlessly with those across the waters belonging to Maine. There's the fertile Valley that runs between the mountains, parallel to the Bay, a patchwork of farmland, fruit trees and vines.

And then there are the Highlands.

It's as though the last of Scottish blood flowing through me is drawn to this place. As though part of me knows the hills of a home from generations past lie just beyond the horizon. The fog that rises from the lochs there, rolls across waves and settles on the hills here. The same salty waters come swirling in with the tides at the base of each cliff along coastline. The highlands leave me feeling like I've returned home.

When Ryan's family decided to come and spend Thanksgiving here, we wanted to make it extra special, so we decided to head up to Cape Breton for a few days away together. We booked a cottage right on the water in Ch├ęticamp, with the ocean to the front and the mountains behind. We took our time heading up, stopping to stretch our legs in Margaree Harbour. We follow the sign for Sandy Bathing Beach, and parked at the bottom of the dunes. We wound our way up through the roses well past their bloom, and stood at the lighthouse steps overlooking the harbour below. An old, white farmhouse sits at the top of the hill, flanked by two lighthouses. Just beyond the tall dune lies Margaree Harbour Beach.

When you climb up the dune, you smell the water and hear the waves before you can even see the beach. 

This is the view from our cottage. We could watch the sun rise behind the mountains from the back and see the sun sink below the horizon in the front.

If you've never heard of the Cabot Trail before, it's Canada's version of California's Highway 1. Honestly, before driving it, I didn't realize our East Coast had mountains like this. You wind along the coast, hugging the edge, climbing the mountains and descending down into the valleys. Lookoffs line the road at every beautiful vista so you can get out and take in the views.

Add the beauty of the changing leaves and it's a grand tour.
Not to mention those gorgeous October skies.

We kept things easy and usually ate out, or we picked a charcuterie and sipped wine at dusk.

On our way home we showed them Inverness Beach - one of our favourite beaches in Nova Scotia. It was grey and moody, but it didn't stop us from enjoying a stroll on the beach in the drizzling rain.

There are so many other places we stopped - Ingonish Beach and Neil's Harbour are other favourites. And if you're really adventurous, go all the way out to Meat Cove.

Whatever you do, just give yourself plenty of time to stop. It's the kind of drive that on paper is three or four hours, but will end up taking you the entire day. But trust me, you won't mind one bit.

Friday, October 22, 2021

thanksgiving weekend

I've long loved the week before Thanksgiving. It's probably one of my favourite holidays of the year, and I love that we celebrate it in October here in Canada. However, Thanksgiving weekend in Nova Scotia is just perfect. The weather isn't too hot, or too cold yet. The colours are pretty much at their peak. It's harvest season, so all of the necessary ingredients seem to be in abundance locally, at market or in all the little farm stands from town to town. But it also means that there's more time to enjoy preparing for Christmas, which already seems to come way too quickly.

The only issue I seem to come across is that with so many I follow being American, everything seems to be Halloween inspiration! I mean by the time you're ready to do Thanksgiving, I'm still not quite ready to decorate for Christmas, so I enjoy a longer autumn, but it just means I need to dig a little deeper for my own inspiration.

Thankfully over the years, I've amassed quite a collection of favourites.

Out come my most favourite back issues of Martha Stewart Living (the early 2000's issues of which I've purchased double and triple copies). I pull old Williams Sonoma cookbooks and reread a couple favourite articles, like when Ina Garten used to have an entertaining column in MSL! Then I lay it all out on the table, put the kettle on and settle in to plan my week before, as well as my menu.

This year we had Ryan's family come visit, so extra planning ahead was required. I wanted to have meals and snacks made ahead and I wanted to spend as little time in the kitchen as I could. That meant I could spend more time enjoying our time visiting with them.

Anything that could be done ahead of time was. I ordered all the groceries online and popped into the market days before to pick up ingredients. I avoided long waits at the liquor store by picking up everything I'd need for the week ahead of time. I made cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and squash and stored them until the day of. If I was making a mess in the kitchen already, I would tried to make a pot of soup, something to freeze for a quick meal later, or prep a quick breakfast for the next morning.

Every little bit of prep meant less stress the day of. That being said, it's never perfect! Something always goes wrong. This year I burned the marshmallows on the sweet potato casserole not once, but twice! It was a first for me and broiling them at the last, most hectic moment required more attention than I could give them.

I even like to set aside what I need for the table. I purchase tapers, make sure my linens are clean (I should probably iron them but can never be bothered), and I usually plan my centerpiece. This year I intended to do an arrangement with flowers but didn't really find anything I loved. I ended up finding these two perfect little squash and the table went in a slightly different direction.

The day before Thanksgiving was absolutely stunning. We awoke to one of our first frosts of the year. Everything just looked completely idyllic.

I had prepped Pumpkin Brioche French Toast the night before, so I just had to pop it in the oven when we woke up, and then sit and enjoy my coffee - my extra special, holiday coffee.

This is a total indulgence, something I only make on Thanksgiving weekend.

We took a picnic up to the Lookoff to show his parents the Valley in colour. 

We had our dinner on the Monday evening, as that's when his sister was arriving. I had all day to putter around - setting the table, getting the sides ready etc, and this year, packing for the road trip we'd be taking to the highlands the next morning!

At first, I set the table with some simple pumpkins down the middle and a simple arrangement of wheat. I planned to add some clipped sage in little antique pots near the ends, but while I was clipping them, I noticed the frost had started killing our grapevine.

Feeling very inspired by Jamie Beck, I clipped some vines and wove them throughout the pumpkins. I laughed because I loved the little curly tendrils and the clusters of grapes and (if you know her, you'll understand!) I started imaging adding a few insects and moisture droplets to really go for it. I didn't though, I just thought she'd appreciate the effort...

The clipped sage ended up making the perfect garnish for the turkey, along with a couple stolen pears from the neighbor's pear tree. Don't worry, I sent payment in the form of Pumpkin Whoopie Pies,

In the end, everything was delicious. But really, it was just such a blessing to sit and enjoy a meal with our family again. We could have been eating takeout and it would still have been lovely!

If you've already celebrated, I hope you had a memorable Thanksgiving day with those you love. And those of you who aren't even ready to think about Thanksgiving plans just yet, I look forward to seeing how you all celebrate soon!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.