Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sweet Thursday - Super Quick Chocolate Cake

Hello everyone on Sweet Thursday. I have been looking at all the yummy cakes on Jerri’s Blog, Simply Sweet Home.

This cake mixes in the pan and needs no icing. And who needs the extra calories of icing? Just put ice cream on it!! Very quick to put together.

Wonder Chocolate Cake or I call it Dump Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tbs baking cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbs melted butter or cooking oil
1 tsp vanilla 1 tbs vinegar
1 cup cold water
Mix the dry ingredients together & sift directly into the pan. No need to prepare the pan.
Make 3 holes and pour in the butter/oil, vanilla and vinegar.
Pour cold water over all.
Stir with a fork until well blended.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Cake will be dark brown.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Coastal Living Beach House

In keeping with the beach theme of the last post, here is Coastal Living's 2008 Idea House on Galveston Island.Inspired by Galveston's rich architectural past, this house on was designed in the Carpenter Gothic-style. Notice the number of windows which allow for natural light and ventilation and take advantage of the ocean views. The house survived the hurricane of fall 2008 with minimal damage while its neighbors were destroyed.

Wonderful tall windows and great built ins in this room. There is lots of texture with sheers, a wicker table and an unusual rope chair.

This is the other side of the living room. This soothing color scheme lets the emphasis be on the ocean views. Plaid rugs unite all of the colors. One of the decorators, Susan Bozeman said, "We used sand tones, soft blues and greens, and a little pop of aqua on the lamps for contrast...."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Perfect Chapel at the Beach

Don't we all dream of living in a cottage on the beach? While I was looking at beach houses online I found this photo.This is the "Chapel by the Sea" on Captiva Island, Florida. The color of the pews is the exact color of the water in the photo below. The whole effect is cool and calm. Just lovely! Can't you imagine a wedding in this chapel using shades of teal and white with a pink accent?

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Lick and a Promise

Our country furniture store in Gordonsville was open seven days a week. My husband and I worked every weekend and holiday. Now that we are retired, even though we have no schedule, we have reversed our activities and tend to relax more on weekends and save the chores for the weekdays. That means Monday is clean up day. When I was a child and we did routine housekeeping between the larger cleanings, my mother always said we would give the house “A Lick and a Promise.” So today I gave my house a lick and a promise.

Don’t things get cluttered quickly? Piles of magazines, newspapers and junk mail were first on my list. And while I was at it I culled my catalog pile. Everything that was discarded went into the recycling bag.

When I want the house to look “just cleaned” without doing a big clean up, I scrub the kitchen and bathroom sinks and faucets. When they sparkle everything seems clean. Add a few flowers beside the kitchen sink and you’re halfway there. I am currently using chemical household cleaners but when they're used up, I plan to switch to a cleaner that is better for the environment such as EccaPure Multi-Purpose Green Household Cleaner.

Another biggie is to quickly go over the floors. We live in the woods and that makes for lots of tracking in. I use this really handy Cordless Swivel Sweeper
and I love it! It is incredibly maneuverable and what a relief to have no cord. Very good for quick pickups. I even bought two - one for upstairs and one for downstairs!

Last chore - water the house plants and the flowerpots on the porch using a Watering Can that is cute enough to be part of the decor. I’m finished just in time to write my blog! Tell me - what are your secrets for a quick clean up?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Shower of Utility Aprons for Dorothy, 1922

Needlecraft Magazine
Published Monthly by the Needlecraft Publishing Company,
Augusta, Maine and New York, N.Y.
10 Cents per copy
May 1922

A Shower of Utility Aprons for Dorothy
Dorothy was going to be married. Her four very dearest friends, Maude and Marjorie, Molly and Madge, suspected this before even they were told, because was all at once so interested in cookbooks; she didn't study the fudge-receipts either, they discovered, so they were pretty sure it meant something.

And so, one afternoon, they presented themselves at Dorothy's home, each carrying a little package. Dorothy was in the kitchen, because this was the cook's afternoon off, and every opportunity must be improved; and straight to the kitchen went Dorothy's four dearest friends.

The packages were deposited on the table beside the mixing-bowl, without a word; and when they were opened, Dorothy owned right up. First she laughed, and then she cried a little, and then she hugged the girls all around and declared they were positively the best and dearest in all the world. As for the aprons, there was never anything half so lovely, useful and altogether desirable for a little new housekeeper-to-be. She tried them all on in turn, and there were "Oh's!" and "Ah's! to the heart's content of five girls.

Checking in with the Hooked on Fridays Blog Party, hosted by Hooked on Houses, I have been going down the list of participants and have read many of the blogs (and left comments). When I found this old article about aprons, it reminded me of the post by Sustaining Creativity about sewing aprons and her Etsy store. It seems women need aprons in 2009 as much as they did in 1922. In reading this old article did anything strike you about it? What about this phrase, "for a little new housekeeper-to-be." This is a magazine written for women and marketed to women. Isn't that phrase condescending? The whole tone of the article is condescending. Thank goodness attitudes have changed. Anyone have a comment on this?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fabric Collage

I used to do a lot of weaving. At the moment my craft room is not large enough to house my loom and all the yarn. What I always enjoyed about weaving was how much texture I could put into a piece of fabric. So I am doing these small collages and putting together many textures.
You might recognize this picture as the top of my bedside table from the last post.

Here you can identify some of the materials I used. There is lace, both black and white; three colors of ribbon; three fabrics; one golding netting fabric, and the solid brown is a piece of panty hose. Keep your mind open for unusual sources.

In this close up you can see two colors of unspun wool; some gold beads; and a star button. I save little scraps of things because it only takes a tiny amount. I even save little tufts of my kitties' hair. In one collage I used some rabbit fur. These are fun to make because there are no rules and no fear of making a mistake. You can make anything work!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Some of my Favorite Things

I'm not an early morning person, but if I can sleep as late as I need to, then I'm fine with mornings.I love my bed! We put a memory foam topper from Bed, Bath and Beyond on our mattress and it is sooooooo nice! I love my bedside table! My oak table is an antique (bought at auction in Maine) and I think it might have been a school desk. It has a small, shallow drawer with a pencil tray inside. On the right it has a writing surface that can be pulled out. There is room on top for all the necessities - photo of children, lamp, tissues, place for a drink, a plant, decorative items, a folder and pen for jotting down ideas, my latest craft project and plenty of room for a book. In fact sometimes there is a stack of books. I always read in bed before I go to sleep. Underneath are a basket and a tub full of folders and magazines. There is a lovely view out my window of the creek across the street. When the leaves are off I can see the lake with the morning sun sparkling on the water.

I love my ancient, soft, oft' washed sheets! They feel like your favorite, soft, worn out jeans! My comforter and shams are in my favorite warm colors. I like to mix patterns.
And what is morning without a cup of fresh-brewed, aromatic coffee? I love my morning coffee! And I love my husband who makes it for me every morning! Melita Classic decaf is my favorite. I don't drink it for the caffeine, I love the taste of coffee. No flavored coffees for me in the morning - just plain and strong! Of course I have a favorite mug. I love my kitty mug! It has a nice curved lip and a picture of three yellow tabbies. Appropriate for me since I have three yellow tabbies - Big Guy, Paws and Cindy.

What are some of your favorite things?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bedroom as a Retreat

Do you have place in your house where you can retreat when you don't want to hear the TV another minute? When one more football or baseball game will drive you insane ?! How about your bedroom? Below are three bedrooms that would make nice getaways. A place to curl up with the latest historical romance or a good mystery. Be sure to make yourself a mug of hot chocolate, or maybe a pot of tea. A few cookies might be nice too. Pamper yourself!This looks like a nice escape - romantic without being too frilly to share with a husband.
This bedroom is simpler but inviting. It is in an addition to a craftsman style house. The flat board woodwork was chosen to go with the craftsman style. Isn't the transom a nice touch?
This room is inviting without being too fussy. A soothing atmosphere and a comfy looking bed.
Photos : Country Living, BHG

Where do you retreat when you want to be alone - the bedroom, the guest room, the porch?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Design Rules & Guidelines

I majored in Interior Design in college. It was the only thing I wanted to study. As a young girl I used to pour over the house magazines and tear out pictures of my favorite rooms. My mother was artistic and arranging flowers and putting colors together came naturally to her. Sadly, her mother died young - before I was born. From the stories I heard about my grandmother, I think that is where the artistic abilities came from. We had a joke in our Hoffmann house after I married that the artistic trend came from my family, the Stuarts. My son who is now the actor (see side bar) announced in kindergarten during Show and Tell, “I’m artistic. I’m a Stuart!

There used to be definite design rules - all woods in the room must match; arrangements will be symmetrical; all the furniture styles in the house must be the same. In today’s design world those comforting rules are out the window and anything goes. The goal is to have a room and house that pleases those who live in it. Maybe it is more difficult to have no hard and fast rules to abide by, but there are still some guidelines.

Proportion - the relationship of parts or objects to one another based on size.
Balance - the arrangement of things in the room to create an even feel. If things are not balanced you may feel uncomfortable in the room but not realize why. The balance may be symmetrical or asymmetrical.
Rhythm - repetition creates rhythm. It may be repetition of color, shape, texture or theme.
Contrast - can be used to create interest.
Harmony - when these guidelines are followed, the resulting room will be harmonious. The furnishings and decorative elements will relate to each other.
Focus - this one I added. Usually when you walk into a room there is a dominant element that your eye goes to - a brightly colored sofa, a large piece of art, a fireplace, an indoor tree, a picture window. Then as you take in the rest of the room, the rhythm keeps your eyes moving around the room.

Which of the guidelines do you think were used in this room? My eye goes to the window and sofa as the focus. The next thing I see is the rhythm created by the print lamp shades and the print pillows. The room is balanced and harmonious. Certainly everything is in proportion. You could say the darkness of the furniture is the contrast. Eventually these guidelines become instinct.

Monday, June 8, 2009

We’re keeping rabbits?

Women love distressed furniture - things that have been loved and used and bear all the marks of that use. When I was running Sweetwater Country Home, we had some antique, very distressed pieces on the floor. While looking over our pieces one woman told me the story about how she had found a distressed, rustic cupboard with wire on the door fronts. She loaded it into her van and excitedly took it home and asked her husband to help her unload it. He took one look at her “find” and said, “Are we going to keep rabbits?”

This photo is from an old Country Living magazine (9/08). I keep my old magazines and enjoy them again and again. Country Living is one of my favorites.

I checked online and found this great site, Cottage Chic Store.
If you can’t find a naturally distressed bed you like - buy a new one.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cherries - red and sweet!

We have been enjoying fresh cherries and I couldn’t resist taking a picture of them. While spitting out the pits I was reminded of Mutt, the cherry-eating dog, and the story I had just finished reading.

“The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be” by Farley Mowat
A hilarious true story of a family and their dog, Mutt, who liked to climb trees and ladders and do other eccentric things.

In this excerpt it is the 1930s and the family is on a trip in their open car which has a rumble seat. They are driving from Saskatoon, Canada to the Pacific and it is dusty on the prairie. They are wearing driving goggles (including the dog) to keep the dust out of their eyes and eating fruit.

“...Mutt shared our appetites, and for three days he ate nothing at all but fruit.

“He preferred peaches, muskmelon, and cherries, but cherries were his undoubted favorites. At first he had trouble with the pits, but he soon perfected a rather disgusting trick of squirting them out between his front teeth, and as a result we had to insist that he point himself away from us and the car whenever he was eating cherries.

“I shall never forget the baleful quality of the look directed at Mutt by a passenger on the little ferry in which we crossed the Okanagan River. Perhaps the look was justified. Certainly Mutt was a quaint spectacle as he sat in the rumble seat, his goggles pushed far up on his forehead, eating cherries out of a six-quart basket.

“After each cherry he would rise his muzzle, point it riverside, and nonchalantly spit the pit into the green waters of the river.”

What a picture that dog must have been spitting cherry pits!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Revenge in the Garden?

I always plant marigolds near my tomatoes because the marigolds repel nematodes (soil dwelling microscopic white worms) that are harmful to tomatoes. Actually, marigolds are natural insect repellents but they are vulnerable to slugs. Well, the tomatoes are fine but the marigolds took a direct hit from the slugs. The slugs must be fat and happy with their tasty meals, yet I can’t find them on the plants, just their dried slime shinning in the sun. Guess I need to get up earlier and sneak up on them. I considered using Diatomaceous Earth (DE). I have had good results in the past with this powder which is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. The DE acts like razor blades and cuts up the slugs, but DE works only when it is dry and with the weather here I am feeling like I live in the rain forest. Yesterday one of the roads near here was closed due to high water and on the main road to town we could see the creek was just barely below the bridge.

Another thing that has worked in the past is beer. We had a terrible slug problem in Cooperstown, NY. I would fill a shallow cat food can with beer and bury it so the top of the can was at ground level. Maybe the slugs thought it was a beer party and they dove in en masse! Every morning I would empty the cans of dead slugs and put out fresh beer. I bought the cheapest beer available. So why didn’t I do that now? The only beer in the refrigerator was bought for my son Matt. I kept forgetting to buy something really cheap. And it just keeps raining so the slugs are thriving. I was waiting for hot dry weather, anathema to slugs. The marigolds are dead - just little brown stems sticking out of the clay/dirt. Should I say “live and let live,” or get revenge?

Friday, June 5, 2009

It was a wet dark day .....

I woke with a cool breeze moving across my face. From the open window came the sound of a steady rain. It was a dark morning and I could snuggle in, no place I had to be - but there were hungry birds and cats to be fed.

Would there be any birds out and about in this heavy rain? It was dark under the trees and everything was soaked. The moment the feeders were hung (they have to be taken in at night because of a persistent raccoon) the wet birds arrived. A thoroughly soaked female cardinal was the first customer for breakfast. She tried to shake off the rain as she ate. Her mate sat in the bushes, politely waiting for her to finish before he ate. Then the woodpeckers arrived in force - the red bellied male, the downy couple and the male and female hairy woodpeckers. They were wet, hungry birds and they cleaned out the feeders by the end of the day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Save $ Money on Entertainment!

Have you been to your library lately? Yes, your local library! As well as books and computers, libraries have a nice selection of VHS tapes, music CDs, books on CD and movies on DVDs. We recently checked out 4 DVDs of the “Campion” Series from the BBC. Another movie from the library we enjoyed was “Bread and Tulips,” an award-winning comedy about a woman who realizes there is a lot in life she is missing.

And then there are the books - thousands of volumes. You can find nearly any subject you want from science to genealogy. And in fiction, everything from mysteries to romance. And don’t overlook the new-book-section for both fiction and non-fiction.

I have always been a library user and taught my children to be. But we still bought lots of books and movies. Now the bookshelves are full and with retirement there is less money to spend. So we go to the library every week.

Our library has “Fine-free-Friday,” so if I slip up and don’t get a book back in time, I return it on Friday. How cool is that? My hubby and I go to our Orange County Library every Friday and we each get a bag of books plus a couple of movies. That is hours of entertainment - all free. We have movie night, complete with popcorn. Can’t beat the price!

If your county has more than one library, they will swap books within the system. So if the library you go to doesn’t have the book you want, they will check the computer and if it is in their system, they will get it from another branch. If you have a state college nearby, you can also use their library.

Using the library gives hours of entertainment at no cost, other than a one-time small charge for a card. Another benefit is, if your bookshelves are already full, you aren’t adding to the overcrowding since you return the books to the library. Having said that, I sometimes check out a book I decide I want to own. The kind of book I will read over and over again - usually a reference book - maybe about gardening or crafts. Then I go to where I often find my book of choice used. I have bought used many times and have always been pleased.

So, if the entertainment budget is a bit tight, I’ll see you at the library!