Monday, January 31, 2011

Sitting Pretty

* This photo was mis-credited in the original post as being from Never Enough Thyme.

I came across this image, while looking for some seating inspiration for our sun room. I have a gorgeous cast iron daybed already, as well as two wicker chairs, which could be used for seating. I think however, after seeing this photo, that I'm going to keep my eye out for two pretty sitting chairs. They're relatively small frames, so they won't take up much more space, but they look so much more comfortable!

I love the look of a slipcover, so it makes for a cheap update of an older chair. The trick is to find matching ones!

I'm off to start browsing online to see what I can find...

Happy Monday.

PS. I will be sponsoring a giveaway, starting tomorrow until Valentines Day, over at Secret Garden Cottage. It's going to be a lovely little package, so be sure to check back tomorrow for details!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Additions To The Shop

[Vintage Milkglass Holder - $15.00]

Here are some newly listed items, available in the shop.

Follow here to check out the rest.

[Silver Fork Set - $40.00]

[Vintage Dutch Tin - $12.00]

[Farmhous Kitchen Scoop - $10.00]

[Letterpress Character - $5 each]

To Market

After meeting the entire family for breakfast this morning, my son and I took my mom and sister to the market.

Today, on this almost rainy winters day, it's was all about two things.

A bunch of fresh flowers, and chocolate croissants for with coffee.

I was happy that my flower man had finally returned from his winter escape, and that he brought with him pails of lovely cream and pink roses.

The croissants are from a local patisserie - De La Terre. They are everything a perfect chocolate croissant should be; not too flaky, but still airy, moist, but not chewy and stuffed with lots of dark chocolate... none of these tiny little bits of chocolate.

If I'm going to enjoy a chocolate croissant, I would like to taste the chocolate.

I found these gorgeous sap buckets last weekend, and couldn't wait to fill them. When I have my tag sales, I have a flower stand out of old orchard crates. Rusty old sap buckets hold all of my hand-tied bouquets and loose flowers. It's perfectly rustic.

Some of the roses have the slightest hint of pink in them.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Baking Day - Blackberry, Bueberry Muffins

One of my cousins, whom is really more like a best friend, called this morning to let me know she needed to get out of the house, and was on her way over for tea. I've been trying to not keep anything too sweet around, because it's a major weakness of mine, so I thought I would whip up a batch of my go-to muffins. They're easy, they're quick and most importantly, they're delicious!

Blackberry, Blueberry Muffins
[adapted from Martha Stewart's Basic Muffin Recipe]

Makes 1 dozen muffins.

1 stick (1/2 c.) of butter, softened
1 1/4 cup of sugar
2 cups of flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup of milk
2 cups of berries
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with large baking liners. In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside. In your mixer, on medium high, cream butter and 1 cup of sugar together. Add one egg at a time and mix until incorporated. Add vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add half of flour mixture and mix just until combined. Add milk and mix until incorporated and then final amount of flour mixture. Mix only until just combined.

In the small bowl from the flour mixture, add berries and toss with a good sprinkling of flour. Fold into the batter and divide evenly, with an ice cream scoop, among the cups. In a remakin, mix remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with nutmeg. Generously sprinkle over muffins. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate, and the finish baking for another 15 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and the transfer to a wire rack.

Coating the berries with flour will keep them suspended in the batter so they won't sink to the bottom. I use 3 parts blueberries to 1 part blackberries but you can use 2 cups of whichever. Or, switch it up and use cranberries or cherries or raspberries. If you're going to try raspberries, switch out the nutmeg for some fresh ground cinnamon. Or, with cranberries, through in some freshly grated lemon zest.

Doesn't the batter look divine? I really only use the blackberries because they streak the batter with pretty pinkish swirls.

The nutmeg adds an earthiness to the muffins, which compliments the blueberries perfectly. Plus, the muffin tops are better with a sugary crunch and they look more rustic.

For an extra special treat, I like to have one warm with a cup of Earl Grey tea. I use the remaining nutmeg and sugar mix instead of plain sugar, which tastes so delicious in the tea!

Sun Room Makeover - Before Photos

Okay, so here are a couple before photos of our sun room. I will be posting the layout photos of the room, so you can get the whole visual, in a week, when I'm ready to clear everything out. For now, here is just a preview. The above photo is the wall colour, and floor tile. It's an older photo, but neither will be changing with the makeover.

This was the sun room when we purchased the house. Ugh - I hated this colour. It's so dark. It defeats the purpose of a sun room, which should be bright and airy and full of light. Also, it really brought out the burnt orange and browns in the floor tile, which drove me nuts. Painting it cream really neutralized them and blended them in, which meant saving money on having to re-tile.

As you can see, it's not a huge room. It's 8" x 11". There's a great view of the back yard, lots of windows, and on the left side, it's a double french door that goes out to our back deck.

So, 1 more week to finalize some sketches and create my design. Then, it's makeover time!

But right now, I'm off to make a fresh batch of blueberry muffins for coffee with my cousin (she's bringing be kids, which means a play date for Willen and a brand new baby for me to enjoy!)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Makeover Inspiration

[Country Living]

This gorgeous daybed is similar to the one I intend on putting in the sun room.

My husband and I have been dreaming up ways to create a room to enjoy our back property more. We long for a living space, full of natural light, and gorgeous french doors that walk out to our back deck. It could be a place to sit and read, while taking in the view of our wooded lot. Or, a small space for entertaining, where, in good weather, the doors could be opened to the deck adding more space.

The only catch is, in order to make that happen, we'd have to give up our main floor master bedroom. It would be a huge renovation, and not entirely worth the time and money.

After much thought and planning, we think we've come up with a fairly easy solution. Our main entrance is currently the back door. We have a small front entrance with a little breezeway and closet that is never used. It's just always been that way I guess. Our back entrance is accessed from our back deck, through a set of french doors and into our back sun room. It's a smaller space that's off the kitchen, looking out back.

It's the perfect candidate for this lovely little room we've been dreaming of. It already has big, bright windows, allowing lots of natural light. One wall is almost entirely the french doors going out to our back deck. Since we have a front entrance, we can just make use of that. It would eliminate the constant traffic through the back room, making it feel more like a large, open mud room. It doesn't even need to be painted!

Needless to say, it should be a fairly simple transition! I've decided that this is going to be the major makeover for the month of February. Before pictures will be posted very soon, as well as some ideas for how I hope to transform the space.

Check back soon!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dining Room Updates

I've been spending some time in my dining area this week and I thought I would share some updates. I had a bit of wall space (above) that was bare and I've been meaning to fill it with something but didn't want to go out and buy a piece. So, I dug through my garage and found this old vanity. It was actually my first "steal" at one of my first auctions. I bought it when I was in high school for about $15. This past summer I stripped it and my mother-in-law helped me paint it before I distressed it. It fills the space without adding clutter and compliments the rest of the furniture in my dining area. It also adds some extra storage, which is always a bonus.

I kept the original hardware for now, until I find matching ones to my buffet (which are just small, square glass knobs). They don't look bad dark and actually add a bit of contrast.

I also threw an old rusted egg flat basket under the desk (since I don't want a chair at it) which fills the space underneath in nicely. I had bought it at a garage sale this summer for $5.

So, again, that was $15 for the vanity and the paint was left over from a previous project.

This mirror was a find at an auction this week which I picked up for $5! It's chipped and aged but it has nice patina and it matches the other ornate, large empty frames in my living room.

Above my buffet, I hung 3 simple ironstone plates that I had purchased about 3 years ago when White on White, one of my favourite local shops, had closed. It was fill a box for $25, if I remember, so they worked out to be a couple dollars a plate! It was a really simple way to fill out that wall, which has two small windows on either side.

And finally, my little pail of spring! I took and old white enamel bucket that I had, and used the fourth ironstone plate from the set above as a bottom (since I neither wanted water damage, nor rust damage on my vanity top). I filled it with paper whites that my dad brought me home from the greenhouse. They add such a vibrancy to the room and they will look so lovely when their pretty white blooms are open.

So, all in all, the entire mini-makeover cost me a total of about $35 and took me only an afternoon to arrange.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reclaimed Rustics - The Old Window


Aren't these windows gorgeous? They have so much character.

I've been inspired by a pile of old windows, sitting outside of a local antique shop, that I often pass. I've inquired about them, but I just can't seem to commit to buying them all. It's a set of 6. They all match and they're all simple, white, six-pane wooden windows.

To be honest, I've had this idea for the perfect use for them for a while now, but I'm not brave enough to tackle it just yet. Maybe in a year or two.

I've seen, a few times now, old windows attached together to make a small greenhouse. Wouldn't that look so charming in amongst a garden? And, it would be functional too! But, alas, it would require quite a few windows and quite a bit of handy work - hence, the future project.

So, until I tackle that project, here are a few clever uses for these old windows. They're fairly inexpensive ways to add a ton of character to a room.


[Country Living]
These two long windows have been used in this gorgeous bedroom to replace an existing door.

[Country Living]
This is a really great way to divide off your bathroom, giving a bit more privacy, without closing anything in.

[Better Homes and Gardens]
Or how about this room? Who says that a window has to look outside? A window into an adjacent room can bring possibly non-existing natural light in, making the room much brighter. It also makes the space feel a lot larger.

Or how about this? You don't get character like this from a modern cabinet door. This is just gorgeous! And, how simple would it be to make something like this?
[Country Living]
And finally, simply hang an old window from a wall as a decorative piece or from a fence and use it as a make-shift window box. There are so many possibilities!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Inspiration - The Garden

While flipping through this month's issue of Better Homes and Gardens, I especially enjoyed their Fresh Living feature. It was a garden inspiration work space.

The idea is to collectively store your seed packets, catalogues, garden plans and inspirations in one space. I found this especially useful for myself, as my seeds and markers are in one place, my inspirations in another and so on and so forth.

One thing my garden has always lacked is a vegetable garden. I have a rather large yard with a rather large vegetable patch, but it's most definitely not being used to it's potential. Year one of it's un-use was excused because of a very pregnant me. In year two, I had my husband make me 4 small plots to make a more manageable garden. I figured it would be more successful if I started out small. This year however, my goal is to optimize the space to produce a bountiful crop from late spring until early fall. It's something that will take a lot of work and maybe most importantly, a lot of discipline. I just feel as though it's my responsibility to make the most of what I've been blessed with.

Here in Ontario, in the heart of the green belt, we have rich soil and optimal growing conditions. I have the opportunity to plant a large variety of crops. I have the time to maintain a garden and I have a son who can learn the rewards of harvesting something you've planted and tended to. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and try to prepare my meals with fresh, farm stand ingredients so why not ones I've grown myself?

This morning, I took my first step in the right direction. I ordered my Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalogue. I've been collecting photos for inspiration and I've been making lists of my favourite produce that I would love to have readily available. I'm assembling my own garden inspiration workspace in my basement until spring arrives and I can transform my potting shed.

With thoughts of juicy heirloom tomatoes and crisp lettuces, I'm sketching out my garden-to-be. I have a trip planned to the library this afternoon to try and find some helpful gardening resources. There's no point in planting a garden if you don't know how to properly tend to it, right? Gardening is in my blood - I come from a long line of green thumbs so I think it's time I exercise mine!
The Baker Creek Seed Catalogue is mailed out to over a quarter of a million gardeners each year. It's available on their website here and is free (a $5 shipping charge is applied).
This is the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Bank in Petaluma, California. It's quite literally an old bank.
Baker Creek has over 1,400 heirloom seeds available and is a favourite of many a gardener, including Martha Stewart!

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Lovely Weekend

The hyacinths in bloom.

I just had a lovely weekend. There seemed to be a few things each day that made it a little extra special. Little things that I was grateful for.

It started with date night on Friday night. One of the perks we often get to enjoy are some social events that come along with my husbands job. We were given tickets to an icewine gala which meant a fancy night out for a change. We were spoiled with tastings of various icewines from all of the major wineries in our region, as well as the most indulgently delicious food. Stations of intricately plated sample dishes from local restaurants and a dessert buffet that was nothing short of a sweet shop. Seriously. There was everything from candy floss wrapped strawberries, to shelves of truffles, miniature pots of creme brulle and even cheesecake on a stick. It was beyond heavenly! The best part of the night though? Feeling like we were back on one of our first dates, laughing our way through the evening and doing all those fun things you tend to forget to do after you've been married a while.

The next morning found us enjoying our Saturday morning greasy spoon breakfast over one of the best cups of coffee in town. However, this weekend, my son had spent the night at Nona and Opa's house. This meant that after an early morning breakfast (since Saturday is a work day for my husband), mummy got to go back home to bed and actually enjoy reading her book for a little while longer. Sometimes I forget just how much I love getting lost for a while in a good book - especially when it's a small blizzard outside.

Eventually I did drag myself out of bed. An auction was beckoning. I navigated my way through the wintry storm to a tiny community hall not too far away. It was a decent morning and I managed to nab 3 gorgeous glass cake stands to add to my collection.

Sunday was a lovely sermon, something I'm always grateful for and Sunday afternoon was spent catering a lunch for my sister's upcoming mission trip to Ireland.

Today was a lazy day that allowed me to catch up on some cleaning and puttering around the house. Since my husband is home on Monday's, he gets to spend some time with our son, and I get a chance to do some things I don't always find the time to do. Like leisurely bake a beautiful pie.

I love the smell of an apple pie baking. It's not near my favourite pie to enjoy, but there's something homey about it that I love. It's that sweet, cinnamon smell that fills your entire house and the way it looks sitting on your counter, cooling. It just says home.

And finally, throughout the entire weekend I was constantly stopped by the most fragrant smelling hyacinths! My entire kitchen is filled with their beautiful scent and I'm reminded of spring every time I walk past them. It's amazing how such a simple thing can bring so much joy.

I hope you all had a weekend that was full of things just as lovely as mine was.

Two of the three cake stands. Aren't the gorgeous?

The apple pie, right from the oven. My secret touch? Freshly ground cinnamon!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Baking Day - Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Having nothing sweet to munch on with my tea (I purged my cupboards of junk yesterday in hopes of sticking to new years resolutions), I decided to make a batch of cookies. I justified said baking because I will send some in with my husband to work tomorrow. But I'm not going to lie, they were just as much for me.

This is just a small adaptation of my Aunt Jeanette's Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, our family's favourite. The small adaptation? Why use chocolate chips when you can use chunks of three different kinds of chocolate - good chocolate?
So, here we go.

- Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies -

In a large bowl, add all of the following ingredients together and mix, with hands, until combined.
This is for a double batch which makes about 2 1/2 dozen large cookies.

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. Crisco* shortening
1 c. Crisco oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups of chopped chocolate (any kind or use the same amount of chips).

* Crisco is just the recommended brand. Use any you may have but in my opinion, it gives the crispest, yet still crumbly and moist texture.

These are a few things that really make the difference I think:
Good quality, pure vanilla extract, Crisco shortening and oil, farm fresh eggs, cream of tartar, and of course, good quality baking chocolate.

Mix all the ingredients together in the bowl, with your hands. Use an cookie scoop for equal sized cookies. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet with no parchment paper (this makes them crisp), and bake at 350' for about 12 minutes until nice and golden.

Of course, sampling the cookie dough is a must!

Quick Kitchen Makeover

When my husband and I bought our house, we knew the kitchen would be an investment.

It's not that it needs a huge overhaul, it just needs some updates. A full renovation however, is not in our budget right now. In the mean time, there were a few things I've done to at least freshen it up. It always amazes me how much of a difference a simple coat of paint can make.

I painted the walls, previously a buttery yellow, White Chocolate by Benjamin Moore. Ideally, I would love to replace the cabinets, which are currently darker hardwood, with nice white cabinets and a chop block counter top (which would look lovely with a farm sink!). But, to be honest, I don't see the point. I have solid wood cabinets. They may be dated, but they're good, quality cabinetry. I've been toying with the idea of refinishing them and painting them myself. With a fresh coat of paint and some new hardware they could look like a million bucks!

Because I don't have a lot of counter space, replacing the counter with chop block counter from IKEA wouldn't be that expensive. Adding a simple white subway tile back splash would also be fairly cost efficient.

Anyway, until I can afford a kitchen overhaul, here is one quick kitchen makeover that has really helped me out, and didn't break the bank.

This was previously a blank wall (I know right! Hello wasted space.) The previous owner had a cafe set here, but it was just so impractical for us. I, for a long time, had a white armoire here as a pantry. It worked, but it wasn't the most efficient use of the space.

Then I got my hands on this old barn cabinet (for free). It was from a family friends barn and it was previously a mauve colour. My husband fitted a huge slab of wood on top and finished it off, thus creating my bakers table. I painted it to match my walls, but kept the inside the original wood. It's absolutely perfect. It's a huge workspace, perfect for any baking that I do. It's extra counter space and it houses my small appliances and pantry items. It's also really handy when I'm entertaining and can double as a bar or buffet.

Two simple IKEA shelves (which I actually got out of the As-Is section for $10 each), house my collection of cake pedestals as well as simple everyday things like my tea set. Because I don't have much counter space, I have no room to display any items. It just adds clutter. But this little space gives me the chance to display a few choice pieces. The display changes with the seasons, or when I'm in the mood for something different. Swapping a few items out is an instant mini makeover.

I use a flower frog to hold my recipe cards, which sits on the shelf in front of me at eye level.
Yesterday, I redid my display. I kept only the basics, mainly glass and white pieces, to keep it simple. I planted white hyacinth bulbs in an old ironstone serving dish to add a bit of freshness and colour to the space. It's also a lovely reminder that despite the snow, spring is soon on it's way.